Monday, July 30, 2007

Death by Middle Man

My wife and I went to the public library book sale the other week and noticed dozens of people clogging the aisles using Palm Pilots equipped with scanners to scan the bar codes of books. Obviously they are trying to find little gems to sell on eBay at inflated prices. I stopped one guy and he showed me how he would scan a book and his handheld device would tell him if it was valuable or not. We saw another couple work in tandem as the wife cleared every shelf methodically as the husband scanned each and every book right behind her.

As I watched this battle of the book scanners, it hit me: America has become a place for Middle Men to thrive and grow. People, like these scanners, get in between our love for books and inflate the price so they can make a little extra money. So many concepts in our society follow this same pattern, whether it is the housing market or a person just trying to buy a concert ticket, the Middle Man is there to inflate the price so they can get a cut.

This greed leads to inflating prices, such as the current housing market, and it will one day end in doom for us all, but it appears that our society has gained this mindset that we should grab all we can, while we can, and don't bother thinking about what the consequences could be. It is horrifying to see how Middle Men will flock to a newly built condominium and buy the units only to resale them to the average consumer at an inflated price. People have become obsessed with "flipping" houses so they can make a fast buck on the wanting consumer. It has become almost impossible to beat the Middle Man to the punch, and we often find ourselves at their mercy.

Our country has a history of success due to our competitive nature, but it is strange to see that ever since the fall of the U.S.S.R., our uncontested reign as the powerhouse of the world has made America more corrupted and egotistic. The other day Mikael Gorbachev stated his anger in how the United States has handled world situations since becoming the superpower of the Earth and said, "The world is experiencing a period of growing global disarray." This disarray comes directly from our failure to stick to morals and principles we should live by, rather than our descent into letting our greed guide our decisions and attitudes. The seven deadly sins capture the current mode of America today better than the concepts of love and benevolence, which are the ideals we should cherish and live by.

So, as I watched the red lasers scan the books at the library, I saw America in those aisles. A desperate nation trying to get an extra dollar or two by coming between a person and their desires. I saw our future turning into one that resembles a pack of wild dogs fighting over a piece of meat. The countdown clock to our destruction has already begun, and it is only a matter of time until it reaches zero.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "Death of America" you posted is a public service. Thank you for that considered case.

"Death by Middle Man" could be said of any system of capital. The essence of buy low, sell high that drives the market engines.

That is a lot of focus on death, and the death metaphor is nihilst if you carry it to an extreme.

How do we solve these dillemmas in practical terms? I'm not asking for "practical steps you, as an individual can take" but rather for some balance, even if it is blue sky brainstorming on how to bring America back from the dead.

Since it is also a trait of Americans to remake themselves, what positive steps would you dream up to do this?

DanCoyote Antonelli

10:55 PM  
Blogger allthewhile said...

I challenge your assumption that the people in that book selling were attempting to be "greedy". How do you know their stories? Did you talk to them? I really doubt that those who were using palm pilots to find good book deals were in any danger of being fabulously wealthy. Regardless, I challenge the notion that you can judge someone's financial state in life or their financial motivation based simply upon them looking for cheap books.

Second, and I feel like I need to be gentle about this because it seems so obvious to me, THEY ARE PROVIDING A SERVICE. I'll give you a perfect example. My friend used to (but doesn't anymore) go to Goodwill and buy vintage t-shirts. It just so happened that one time he found an old and very rare Rolling Stones concert t-shirt. When he put it up on ebay the price blew up to over $100. He was ecstatic and started searching specifically for those types of shirts. He was happy, and I'm sure the collector of the t-shirt was as well, which resulted in mutual positive feedback. Both sides were happy. The chances of that buyer finding that shirt he wanted were close to none. But because ebay creates a worldwide marketplace, he was able to find it. How is this anything other than a service? And shouldn’t we think that even more so with books?!?!? I can't believe you would use books, supposed purveyors of truth and knowledge in your example. How many college professors have found that hard to find philosophy book that was found only on ebay? How many historians and museums added books to their collections because of ebay?

You are absolutely right in that they are trying to make a buck. That’s patently obvious. But what is so wrong is that they are not in any way coming between people’s desires, they are in fact, helping to fulfill them. If that weren’t the case, then the people wouldn’t buy the books.

12:06 PM  
Blogger atheistika said...

You aren't actually suggesting that Ebay is a bad thing. Or that these poeple shouldn't be doing this.


People that dig up the un-dug bargains out there and then post them to ebay are working to earn their money.

I, on the otherhand, am then able to go to ebay, click, search and buy.


The world is continually getting better ALL the time and yet you wallow in pessimism.

Wow, just wow.

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with booksellers is they go in bookstores, scan tons of books at a time, toss out the ones they don't want, and in general get everything disorganized. They leave, buying just a few books. bookstore owners can't stand seeing these people come in. They are greedy and grab at stuff. They will hoard an entire section of the bookstore so that other customers can't browse. They are a nuisance.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous jezebels(riot) said...

Where did you go, Southern Fried Blog? I was clearing my out comments this morning and came across yours from years ago. I wasn't worthy of them then. They entertained me so much I had to internet-stalk you. Thank you for them once again.

7:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your essay is one of the truest things I've ever read. "Allthewhile" and "Atheistika" are right there in the 'middle' of that pack of wild dogs.

9:08 AM  

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