I'm going to start by stating that I am not an economist and therefore will not speak as one. I recognize that I'm totally oversimplifying this entire concept, however in light of what we talk about on this blog I found this old video amazing and worth discussing.
It takes 8 minutes to watch but it's worth it.
First, the farmer has an incredible, sustainable idea. His product is made in the USA from 100% recycled materials and built to last 20 years. These are two main keys to the thoughtful consumerism movement. Source it well and make it last! So many of the items we purchase are planned to break as part of the design. They're made poorly so they can be made cheaply so that the company can increase their profit margin. The cost saving measures don't really trickle down to consumers as much as we think they do and in the long run we end up spending more because we have to keep replacing stuff.
Secondly, he addresses two needs with the same product. The farmers need to protect their trees and save money on water. Our society needs to use less water (especially in California). Win win.
The third thing and the most poignant is the businessman's logic behind how much he sells the product for. He only makes $1 on each piece. But he literally has the potential of selling millions of these units if he can get the distribution figured out. Millions. He can be a millionaire by only creating a small profit margin. In thinking this way he creates a situation in which everyone could win. He wins because he's gonna be freaking rich, the investor wins because there's very little risk and a ton of payout, the farmers win because they can actually afford these investment pieces and WE win because the savings can be passed on to consumers, not to mention the bazillion gallons of water that won't be wasted.
The problem? The problem is people who think like the greedy Shark Tank guru who suggested that the farmer up his price nearly 300% more than what he'd already been selling for. In the guru's system only two people 'win'. In the farmers system, millions of people win. Again, I recognize this is a super dumbed down understanding of this concept but really, it's just not that hard to figure out. In this 8 minute clip it's easy to see how a free market could work if we would all just stop being sooooo greedy. We are so used to the idea of multi-millionaires I think we forget that 80% of the country is living on less than $100,000 a year. Our ideas of what it means to be rich, successful and happy are so screwed up. The guru is thinking 'why wouldn't you make more money if you could?' The farmer is thinking 'why would you make this product so unattainable to hard working people?' Like, he appears to be genuinely confused by the question. I like the farmer. I hope he's crazy successful and that the example he sets is one that others can follow. However, a system in which everyone wins can only work if everyone plays fair. Our system is so broken because we are a broken people. Perhaps it's not the systems but our hearts that need fixing. Free Market + Fair Heart? I think I could get down with that. What do you think?