Sunday, February 15, 2009

If We Are All Socialists Now... your burnt out light bulbs.

Newsweek's cover story this week proclaims we are all socialists now. If that's the case, you will need cleverness to circumvent bureaucratic regulations and maintain some barely reasonable standard of living.

Here's an object lesson in what I mean, courtesy of the collapsed Union of Soviet Socialists Republics:
For most of us, it is hard to fathom the rationale for a market in burnt-out light bulbs. But in the scarcity-driven Soviet economy, the market was entirely reasonable. Light bulbs were rarely available to individual consumers, but were obtainable for state-sponsored activities. Thus, it would be difficult to purchase a light bulb for a new lamp in one's home, while burnt-out bulbs in state-run offices or factories were routinely replaced. So if someone purchased a new lamp and needed a bulb, he would buy a used light bulb for a small fee and replace a functioning bulb at work with the dud. He would then take the functioning bulb home for the new lamp, while the burnt-out bulb at the office/factory would be replaced with a new functioning bulb. Meanwhile, the maintenance person at the office/factory would take the used bulb and sell it on the used light bulb market.


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