Pitch in times of abundance or why we don’t buy nice things

There are no consoles, no graphics. Nothing is. Why can’t we have nice and convenient things? Is it just a problem for manufacturers to underestimate demand and neglect to prepare for the launch of a new generation of products? No, it turns out that a lot of unavailability is to blame for traders, modern money changers who go on an industrial scale.

Lack is nothing new – not even in technology, not even in capitalism. Under Sinclair, there was such interest in his computers that even in Britain, queues were made and the number of items sold was often limited to a maximum of two per person. For example, Microdrive units were sold, but the Sinclair QL was also expected. The thing is that he offered something really in demand for really good money – and in fact violated the equilibrium price concept.

Market theory says that the equilibrium price is one where supply and demand are the same. Different people want the same things at different prices – some more and some less, so rare goods are typically auctioned off, looking for the one who wants it most, and the price they are still willing to give. This concept is understandable if you necessarily want to have the original Kupka painting in your kitchen, but it does not make sense for many mass consumption products.

There, the price is determined differently, by adding a reasonable margin to the production price. In fact, the selling price may be lower than the production price if you have a well-planned plan for how to earn otherwise: For example, the device you sell must use only your services and therefore you are not actually selling the device, but the service itself. Get broadband – and you have a modem borrowed in the price, it costs you zero. You will pay its price in monthly fees!

Then there are essential things, such as medicine or food, for which the price must be kept low, even if they are not – and if they are not, a rationing system is usually put in place. Theoretically, it is possible to use the invisible hand of the market for such cases – and when there are as many rolls as there are people in front of the store, declare an auction for them and sell them to someone who has a lot of money and wants to feed them their precious puffs. In that case, however, there is an acute risk that the rest of the people will get angry – and you have a revolution around your neck, which no reasonable person wants.

I talked to a descendant of a noble family, and he explained to me that the basic rule of the feudal lord is that he must never get his subjects into a situation where they will be really desperate. There are always more poor people than rich people – and if they really get angry, they will probably outnumber you and your bodyguards, and then you will hang on to your own gate, regardless of the contents of your wallet. That’s why such things are usually divided rather than people competing for them in auctions.

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