This article, written by Jack Perry, was originally published on LewRockwell.com on April 26, 2017.
According to the news, the economy is in bad shape. See here. Look! Chain retailers going out of business! Malls closing! Whole shopping malls abandoned! Another chain retail giant bites the dust! The end is near! The shelves will be bare! Break out the sackcloth and ashes! Where will America find overpriced kitchen gadgets they’ll never use?!
This is, quite simply, ridiculous. I’m probably going to get a lot of static about what I’m going to say because I’m not an “economist” (whatever that is) and I’m not an “expert”. But the truth is, the “experts” have been wrong time and again when it comes to the economy. If this were not so, why do all their economic “plans” fall into ruins, both figuratively and literally, around a decade afterwards? For example, what fruit has “Reaganomics” borne into this future? Or George W. Bush’s “Ownership Society”? Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s “economic recovery plans”? Experts advise them in the same fashion the Titanic was advised to press full speed ahead into an iceberg field because it was allegedly “unsinkable”. However, as we all know, the Titanic is currently returning to the Earth from whence it came.
The “economy” is not some granite block that remains unchanged for decades and decades. Like any other thing, manifestations of it arise and then pass away. But they do not disappear. They become something else. It’s like people think the Earth came into being, it’s a done deal, and everything here is permanent and remains the same for thousands of years. No. Things come into being here, pass away, and become something else. A river wears away solid rock and a canyon is formed. Species pass away and more successful species flourish. This brings me to my next point.
Nature teaches us that bigger is not better. Now, this fact was demonstrated by the dinosaurs who went extinct and smaller species became successful. Since that time, no megafauna such as dinosaurs have arisen. Thus, Nature dictates that something huge is destined to pass away and something smaller come into being. People can deny that all they want, but the fossil record proves that “bigger” was already tried and the verdict is: It doesn’t work.
We see this with everything around us. World empires are all destined to fall apart and smaller republics come into being. This, too, will happen to the United States. Sure, people will stubbornly cling to this figment of their imaginations called “the United States and it’s interests (empire)” but it will pass away one day without fail. The same is obvious of what we call “the economy”. Historically, huge corporations have arisen here and fallen apart even before the sentimentalized 1950s. Despite this, huge corporations have arisen in the “consumer era” and flooded the market with cheap goods and 100 choices in a pair of pants. On and on, the consumer goods flowed from these retail dinosaurs in the tar pits of the shopping malls.
However, the economy is not some permanent structure, as I have said. It will and must change. And, as Nature shows, the bigger will always fall to be replaced by the smaller. Thus, the big retailers will go out of business. Of course! The malls will fall into ruins. Of course! And why? Because people can shop online, yes, that’s one reason. But another is because there are literally tons upon tons of consumer goods, clothes, and various other things in perfectly good condition out there to be had for a penny on the dollar of original purchase price. That is, the items can be had used from second-hand stores and thrift shops, often with original price tag still attached. The distribution centers with tons of new stuff they can’t move dump it at cost to the .99 cents stores just to cut their losses.
None of this means the economy is getting ready to pop another Great Depression on us. It means the economy is changing as all things must. There is no such thing as any human creation being a permanent structure. Even the Pyramids will be reclaimed by the wind and sand at some point in the future. The stolid faces of Mount Rushmore will one day begin to break away and turn into a massive pile of broken rock. And the American economy will pass away from huge corporations and malls and smaller variations will come into existence as is happening right now.
The little restaurants of the shopping mall food courts discovered they could do better business as “food trucks” and not bother with paying rent or having furniture. The smaller shops of the malls found they could move into lower rent strip malls. Chain retailers flooded the markets with thousands of tons of consumer goods that thrift stores sell used and, therefore, no one needs to go get this stuff from the chain retailers anymore. In a word, what is happening is a free market is coming into existence right under everyone’s noses and few see it.
How so? Because those food trucks have found a way to beat the government out of property tax or the malls out of rent. The second-hand shops have found a way to sell goods without buying them from major corporations. What’s more, ethnic populations often import goods direct from their own countries, often from their own families, and sell them in their own independent shops and offer new goods at a fraction of the price of what the mall would ask. I can find a new teapot at the mall for $19.95. Or, I can go to a Middle Eastern grocery store and find a new teapot for $8.00. The Middle Eastern grocer is not relying upon a corporation, it’s distributor, and then the product dealer all adding in a profit margin. He buys direct and sells direct.
The big retailers and malls need to understand that their time has passed. The free market is coming into existence as we speak. When I can buy a 14″ disc of flatbread baked just an hour prior for only .49 cents, what need have I for some big retailer to sell it to me for $3.99? When I can get a Sonoran hot dog from a cart for $2.00 versus $4.99 from a chain, what need have I for the chain? And when I can find clothes new or like new from the thrift store, what need have I for the mall? Enterprising people found that rather than trying to compete with the “big guys” in their arenas (malls), they’d just create their own markets on-the-fly. And, in so doing, they proved this is what people want. The free market does not come into being because people will it into being. It happens as a natural process of the bigger species passing away and the smaller ones coming into being.
So, no, the economy is not tanking. It is changing. And to some people, it will look like it is collapsing. And it is—for them. For them, and the people that rely upon them, it will be a disaster and they’ll lose these figments of their imaginations they call “fortunes”. In fact, wealth does not just disappear. It changes forms. However, the big retailers and malls cannot adapt to this change. But like the dinosaurs, their ideas were given time and are found wanting. Thus, they are passing away and the smaller markets are coming into being. And the government is actually powerless to stop this. They can try and save the big retailers and malls all they want but they can’t make people shop there. The government can give them tax breaks all they want, but it doesn’t help them if they aren’t making any money to be taxed in the first place. These entities are passing away and nothing will change that.
The free market scares the government because it carves huge chunks out of government revenue garnered through taxes. Food trucks alone represent huge losses in property taxes they can’t levy against a moving vehicle that parks where it pleases and vends food. The free market scares Wall Street because they’re locked out of it. Thrift stores move into abandoned or vacant buildings paying cheap rents to landlords just grateful someone moved in after Big Retailer, Inc. went belly up. And they sell all the tons of goods the big retailers flooded America with for decades.
The thrift stores will be moving this avalanche of consumer goods for decades. Because the big retailers still haven’t gotten the message and are still demanding it be created when the demand does not exist to the extent they are stocking these goods. In a very real sense, the big retailers and malls are hastening their own demise and inadvertently stocking the shelves of thrift stores in the process. And the government helps the process by trying, through various charades, to increase “consumer spending”. Which happens, but not in the way they desire.
This free market changes faster than the government can adapt and come up with new taxes to go after them. I have seen de facto swap meets pop up in vacant lots and just garner passers-by as customers. They sell out of vans and pickup truck beds and communicate locations on Facebook and through text messages to their customers. They move around from abandoned storefront parking lots to empty lots where buildings once stood. Food trucks passing by see them and pull in and set up. Sometimes it’s all coordinated between them. And the cops don’t care. The presence of people like that deters crime.
Yes, this scares people. It looks like a Third World country to see abandoned malls and shuttered store fronts with peddlers, street vendors, and food carts sitting in front. But, see, there’s something Americans forgot. The Third World lives within their means. They don’t just throw stuff away and buy more. But, with that, they don’t erect tons of roadblocks in front of opening and running a business or a small shop. All over the world, people have food carts and street stall shops without the government putting up tons of regulations to stop them and favoring big malls who can afford to abide by those regulations. This is where we are in the process of going. And this must needs be, because Americans haven’t got the disposable income anymore to support massive consumer spending and an “economy” that is nothing but a beached whale, unable to return to the sea.
The free market does not mean Wall Street gets to continue to exist and run it. In fact, Wall Street is passing away as we speak. If you look at photos of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, it more closely resembles what it must have looked like on the Titanic in the final moments it was sinking than anything looking even remotely like success was commonplace. These men and women are still clinging to the hope that some ship is coming to rescue them. No one has heard their SOS calls. More to the point, no one cares, even if they did hear it. The free market is also serving notice on all levels of government that as the “economy” changes, so must they. There is no “if” and “when” because the free market is already coming into existence as we speak. And certainly not because of anything the government has done, either.
I have seen the future and the future is the true free market. It is being created by people. Not the government, not some political party, not corporations, and not Wall Street. All of them are headed for the same destination as the dinosaurs: Museums.
Jack Perry [send him mail] is a writer living with his wife in the Sonoran Desert where he writes, reads, bakes bread, makes arrows, walks, and documents the foolishness of government itself. When the government is speaking or acting, Jack observes his own Rule Number One: Always Assume It’s A Scam. A perennial desert rat, wayfarer, and path pilgrim, Jack also enjoys silence—especially from the government.