Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Happy Science

So, what's new this week as we slide from late summer into the early fall? General Petraeus, author of "Surge" strategy, decides to no one's surprise that he likes the strategy and manages to turn regularly scheduled troop rotations next year (locked in because of the lack of replacements) into a 30,000 "troop reduction". Nice piece of spin, even for a general. Senator Craig says he's innocent, especially of being gay. Internal consultations within the Bush administration force the odds of war with Iran up to 2-1, so it may be time to buy stock in bomb makers again.

Let's go elsewhere. A small town that bills itself as "A Victorian Village" had a town yard sale last weekend. The turnout was huge. Some places were selling to raise funds, others just seemed to have extra things. No doubt a few businesses were trying to cut losses on slow-selling stuff. The prices were ridiculously low. I got abalone shells for $.25, and a VHS tape starring Leonardo DiCaprio for a buck. I was tempted by a paperback full of sex advice for a quarter, but didn't buy.
It all got me wondering: Has there ever been a master's thesis written about garage/yard sales? We used to call economics "The Dismal Science", and not much has changed to make it anything else. Lots of graphs with intersecting curves that measure just about anything that has a value. But what about things with little or NO value? We noticed a device meant to be used in the microwave called the "Chip-O-Matic" that makes.....potato chips. Are they better that way? We passed at $1 when we recalled that perfectly good potato chips could be had straight out of the bag for a modest price, with no more labor involved than opening it.
But I'm serious about the question, sort of. Do other countries have yard sales? If the revenue from such sales is so little, why bother with the sale at all? If we're trying to free up storage space, why not just throw out the old exercise bikes, vinyl records, plastic dinnerware, nameless paintings, kitschy toys, outdated golf clubs, paperbacks by the pound, stained coffee makers, Christmas gizmos, seed company hats, long-empty bottles, candles and candle holders and puke-stained baby clothes?
Maybe we're a little more attached to our things than we realize, trying to put a value on something, even if the value is tiny, because we just can't think of it as worth nothing. After all this is our lives we're talking about here, or at least its little non-decaying leftovers. I admit it. I love these events, including finding old political stuff and pop psychology books, so I'll keep stopping regardless, but will someone please get busy and come up with a theory as to why this is so much fun? In your honor we'll put your name on it and call it "The Happy Science".


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