The Other Economy?
I heard a news story the other day about how moving textiles to China will save Americans maybe 10% on clothing costs and that for the working poor that adds up to a lot of money, considering that people might spend $300-$400 for back to school clothes for their kids.
I don't think we spend that much for clothes for all 4 of us in a year. So what does that make us? Poorer than the poor? Not even registering on the radar?
...Not that we're complaining.
I wonder how many people are part of The Other Economy.
(I wonder if the number might parallel how many people lived by way of workarounds in the old USSR.)
But it doesn't stop with clothes. Our lower-than-low status is barely scratched by clothes.
We've never paid more than a few thousand for a car. And, sure, old cars need more repairs, but we end up paying about $2000 a year for our whole fleet for all expenses but gas.
We couldn't imagine buying a new car and then insuring it. What a laugh!
As regards our house, ours is in a wonderful parklike setting, it's well-made---and it cost us one-quarter of a similar new house.
So where's the radio show about people like us? Where's our economic indicators? I want a TV network and political party for The Other Economy, for the Below The Radar people. Well, of course, OYB is for this group to an extent. But I'd really like to see a Consumer Price Index for the Other Economy---How are thriftshop prices doing this year compared to last? Are $2 sweaters holding strong? There are some "used" market prices presented occasionally---but I bet the house resale values aren't usually for 50+ year old houses, nor used car values for 10+ year old cars. How's the $2000 car market doing this year? Is it solid or lagging behind expectations? Oh, it's rich, I tell ya. But we're out there!
Then there are restaurant, entertainment, medical and hobby expenses---we don't see or do hardly any of that stuff via the regular market.
We don't fly at all or go hardly anywhere. Well, we do go on missions and small-scale adventures, but we're not on any circuits, we have no meetings or events. Sure, we drive, but it seems to be peanuts compared to so many out there. We go thru maybe $1000-$2000 a year in gas.
What would tourism economic info look like for those who stay in tents and don't go to destination resorts? There are millions of us out there!
I don't think I've stood in a line in over 10 years.
What if people wouldn't stand in lines? All the business that requires lines would go bellyup! Ha-ha! What kind of loss would that be? What real worth is there ever in something that involves standing in a line? OK, emergency rooms have their lines, but if people didn't fly for fun and did business via 37¢ stamps, would there be lines in airports?
I've explored Europe a couple times, spending about $100-$200 a week when over there, having a great time. We'd like to go as a family sometime and would spend at the same level. Who could do a rental car or pay for hotels and taxis? We'd ride bikes and camp out and do whatever kind of hosteling that families can do---stay with friends or friends-of-friends.
When we travel in the US, that's how we do it. They say the average tourist family spends $500 a day (vaguelly recollected stat). I'd say we're $50-$150, including gas, food, lodging, campsite, admissions, trinkets.
There are hundreds of stores around here that we never go into, that we can't imagine ANYONE going into. Actually, this area is such a wasteland that we basically only go to the grocery store. There's no earthly reason to go hardly anywhere else. We sure wouldn't miss it if 90% of the others disappeared. (Maybe it's enough to keep them all afloat if everyone each has just one different place they go into.)
I've never bought a bike, boat or gun at anything but pennies on the dollar. (I do buy innertubes, car tires, ammo and targets at the store, though.)
I often make our own beer and wine---at less than half the usual cost (for great drink). And I plan to do my own distilling now that the laws are changing. (Why pay more?) I'd be happy to shoot all our meat and catch our fish---and I make significant progress in that direction.
I've tied a lot of trout flies and made plenty of arrows. As kids, as soon as my gang realized we liked fishing and archery we started making our own lures and arrows. It was the only option! No money? Make your own!
As soon as we were old enough to hunt, we immediately thought to get into ammo reloading as well, and did a little bit with cheapy Lee Loaders. (Real reloading was too capital intensive for us and resulted in more ammo than we'd use.) Mostly our world was one edible critter per cartridge. There was very little fun-shooting. We used firearms like aboriginals do, and we mostly had repaired-up singleshots. I still do the one-shot per critter routine and get most game close to home. Hunting saves money. But what would happen to the billion$ sportsman industry if everyone was a one-shot-per-critter hand-me-down local sportsman?
Basically our whole world operates on the garage sale level and always has.
We don't run credit card debt.
And we're doing pretty good, thanks.
But what if everyone lived like we do?
And, again, how many people do? Maybe there's a whole stealth economy out there whose habits simply do not register.
I know a guy who lives on maybe $2000 a year and basically has no possessions. He's doing fine and is connected to no social services. He has enough friends who have spare rooms and such and who appreciate what he has to offer. He's an itinerant teacher of the old school. He's spent years in India and lives the same way over here no problem.
Again, what would happen if lots more people did this or even something close to it? All those hundreds of wacky stores by our local freeway exit would close, wouldn't they? All the trashy, pricey, mass market entertainment would go kaput in a month.
But nothing exists in a vacuum, least of all money. So would this be a bad thing? Would people lose their jobs? Because they wouldn't be wasting their money or time, wouldn't there be some new kind of wealth that appeared? Maybe it would be called CULTURE? Maybe it would even involve cash. Who knows!
It sure wouldn't be like a SINGLE THING you ever see mentioned in the media or reported in any social statistics that I know of.
What would happen if everyone bought nice old cars for $3000 and $200 a year barebones liability insurance?
Well, maybe used car prices would go up---they'd be more scarce. But what about new car prices? Would they go way down?
Wouldn't the insurance companies go broke overnight? Man, that would be cool to see!
What if people didn't build new houses---just moved into the nice old ones that are out there. There are jillions of cheap ones in the cities. If people moved back into them, they'd insist on local amenities and safety. The cities would renew in a heartbeat.
What if far fewer people propped up the illusion? For one year?
Lastly, are there any terrorists or worldviews out there who have any legitimate grudge against sustainable Other Economies like this wherever they may be found?