So Bernie Sanders has become the butt of a lot of jokes because he said something disparaging about the fact that there are so many brands of deodorant on the market when kids are starving. He chose the wrong example and maybe he’s just never been stuck on a subway train with a few dozen people with stinky armpits. Personal hygiene products should not be considered a luxury item and, if one brand just isn’t doing it for you, you can just choose another. If you hate roll-on liquid deodorants or your skin had a bad reaction to a scented deodorant, you can switch brands. If I wanted to really tweak the guy’s nose, I’d be royally pushing a product called Electro Antiperspirant, whose main selling point is that it can help people with such a severe perspiration problem that ordinary deodorant and antiperspirant products just aren’t doing it for them. Seriously, though, the existence of a whole supermarket aisle’s worth of deodorant brands should be seen as an example of why free market capitalism is a good thing.
The thing about free market capitalism, though, is that a lot of people tend to confuse it with crony capitalism in which the government chooses winners and losers in the business world. If you run a business that can afford to do favors for government officials, you’re more likely to get the corporate equivalent of a “get out of jail free” card when you get caught cheating or violating regulations. If you run a little local business and run afoul of regulations that you knew nothing about, you might as well forget about running a successful business. That’s not a free market system in which businesses can compete on a level playing field with little to no interference from the government beyond playing referee when there’s a dispute.
You may have noticed that I like Bitcoin. It’s cool. Really. When you know that 40% of the human population does not have access to the financial services that the rest of take for granted, you obviously start seeing that we should cut out the middleman as much as possible. Western Union charges fees for international remittance services that are way too high when Bitcoin could do pretty much the same job for the equivalent of only a few cents per transaction regardless of how much is sent. When you have an international payroll, services like Bitwage can make international payment of salaries and wages a cinch. You’re basically participating in a free market for labor when you can pay in cryptocurrencies without a bank sitting in the middle, charging huge fees, and maybe denying you service and closing down your account simply because it doesn’t like what you’re doing even though you know you’re perfectly legit. That’s what Bitcoin in its pure form is good for. It doesn’t make value judgments. It just relays the payment without thinking about what the payment is for.
What Bitcoin can do is include those 40% of humanity that don’t have access to banks in a free market system. As an incorrigible fictional capitalist named Quark once said, “Earning money — and spending money!” The idea being that if you win, that doesn’t necessarily mean I lose. We can simply trade goods and services over a free market system in a way that benefits both of us depending on our needs at any given time. When you’re looking at this pesky little economic concept called Gross Domestic Product, you may notice that it tends to go up when more people are participating in a free market system. Basically, more people are creating resources when they can provide goods and services on an equal footing with large corporations who shouldn’t have any reason to feel threatened by that basket weaver in an open air market and individuals who are used to having easy access to financial services.
The big international financial centers probably wouldn’t like such a model, but when they ignore that 40% of potential customers, that’s their own fault. They’ll probably try to use cronyism to shut down such a model and, in fact, this is likely exactly what is going on in countries like Russia, which is clearly no friend of Bitcoin. However, I like the idea of using cryptocurrencies as a workaround for the fact that banks are ignoring a possible market that includes countries where Paypal will not work or have all the economic woes that come with having an unstable currency.
Anyway, despite what Bernie Sanders says about ride sharing services, I can sympathize with the people who drive for Uber and Lyft even though taxi cab drivers seem to interpret these services as some kind of threat. In a lot of cases, Uber and Lyft is how these drivers even afford to keep their cars in the first place. I know people who have problems with the fact that states require people to buy car insurance on the grounds that it tends to penalize people who can’t afford the insurance premiums. I say that requirement is meant to protect the rights of people who are involved in an accident that was not their fault. If you’re driving for Uber at the risk of picking up some guys who have been drinking and might vomit in your car, it’s probably not because you want to. You just need to make the car insurance premiums because you might be the one who causes an accident and your life shouldn’t be ruined because of one mistake. When the free market system helps you afford to keep your car, I don’t support anything that’s going to get in the way of that. I just hope you’re earning enough from both Uber and your day job to maybe upgrade to a better car. There seems to be an epic legal war between Uber and traditional taxi cabs going on right now and, while it would be easy to say that I hope Uber comes out on top, I would rather see an environment in which both can coexist on an equal footing in a free market environment.
So, obviously, I disagree with Bernie Sanders on some things. If you’ve ever been stuck in close quarters with people who don’t use a good deodorant, you may have been one of those people who laughed at him for his disparagement of the existence of so many brands. I’d probably be right there laughing with you, simply because I believe that personal hygiene should not be optional and you should choose the brand that works best for you. That’s the point of having a free market. You choose what works for you even if it’s a choice that I wouldn’t have made.