Socialism sounds nice. Everybody takes care of each other, nobody goes hungry, etc. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Capitalism does. It enables everyone to take care of himself or herself so nobody goes hungry, etc.
Capitalism makes it possible for people to purchase the greatest variety of goods for the lowest possible prices. (Government subsidies, by the way, artificially lower prices temporarily, but eventually lead to recession-like economic declines, if not the eventual downright collapse of the entire economic system.) It also keeps prices at their lowest level possible, thanks to true competition (something a government cannot manipulate).
Example: I purchased a Kindle e-reader from Amazon.com in March 2009. It was a revolutionary development, one that intrigued me so profoundly that I went out and added Amazon.com to my stock portfolio immediately.
I paid $359 for the gadget, well worth every penny. Well, lo and behold, here it is January 2010 and competitors are now flooding the field with their own versions of e-readers. And these products aren’t just clones. No, instead, they’re next generation devices … new and improved.
As a result of this wonderful competition, that same Kindle I bought in March is now available for $259; that’s $100 less than just nine months earlier. And I expect the price to keep dropping.
A teachable moment (or three lessons about competition and capitalism):
1. It keeps prices low. When a McDonalds and a Burger King set up shop at the same intersection, it pretty much guarantees that they will keep their prices as low as necessary to keep your business. (No, this is not collusion; it’s competition. Close one and prices at the other will increase. Add a third and prices will decline even further, until each reaches what is called the “break even point.” That’s the minimum a business can charge without going broke. It’s also the ideal price from the point of view of a customer.)
2. It gives us more choices. Remember the images of Russians in the now defunct Soviet Union back in the 1960s standing in line for the next shipment of low-quality sausages (or any product, for that matter)? Centralized management and government-run, non-competitive planning destroyed their choices under the “government knows best” theory. Sorry, but it doesn’t.
3. It leads to innovation. Kindle’s competitors are offering new features (not just lower prices) to get your business. That means Amazon.com must improve its next generation of e-readers. The reason we got from the Model T Fords to the incredible cars of today in just 100 years is because of competition.
The bottom line: Competition is good and capitalism builds wealth. It is the ONLY economic system that does so. Enjoy the day and celebrate the competitive advantage created by the bold thinking of Capitalists in what is left of our free-market economy.
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