Basic Capitalism

At the farmer’s market, everybody sells garlic scapes in jumbled, messy piles except one smart woman. Here’s how she sells hers:

Of course, she sold out faster than anybody and at a higher price because she’s selling product + additional labor. There was one seller who charged 25 cents per shoot, and you are supposed to stand there, in the scorching heat while your kid’s exhausting her already thin stock of patience as you dig shoots out of a messy jumble one by one and count them. It’s worth a premium not to have to do that. I happily paid $3 a bunch, which comes to 30 cents a shoot.

I remember how hard it was for the post-Soviet people to learn this lesson in basic capitalism. We had been trained for generations to take every shortcut we could think of and expend the least amount of effort. If competition doesn’t exist, nobody learns to take an extra step and do a little bit better than strictly necessary.

11 thoughts on “Basic Capitalism

  1. “how hard it was for the post-Soviet people to learn this lesson in basic capitalism”

    Now I’m having flashbacks of trying to explain to people that no, it doesn’t make sense to travel half an hour (one way) to buy a product on sale to save 2 zloties…. is an hour of your time really only worth that?


    1. It may not be worth it to you, but the people doing that get more out of it than just saving a few cents. Feeling good about finding a bargain and saving money counts for something too… To you, it is a lot of bother for very little (or even no) gain. To them, it is a joy of victory. Think of it as a game. It is not what I would do, but I do know people like that.


      1. You have to count the gas too. If you burn 1 gallon to get $2 dollars off, you are still $3 bucks behind.


        1. Of course you are right, but these things are not based on logic. Moreover, if you are using a public transportation with prepaid monthly or yearly fare, the only extra cost is your time.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Trying to beat the capitalist system is as capitalist as anything else. 🙂 It’s a time-honored practice that I don’t engage in myself but my husband loves it and is very successful at it.


  2. OT: The ever charming Margarita Simonyan compares the US to a kingergarten for mentally disabled children (the translation is apparently a bit nicer than her original comment).


    1. Simonyan is rumored to be the inspiration for the following Russian joke.

      A Russian mother brags to her friend. “My daughter is so successful! She has a yacht, a house in Monaco, and a Maserati.”

      “My daughter is also a prostitute,” says the friend. “But she’s not as good at it as yours.”


    2. More to the point, the narrative of “stupid Americans” became popularized in Russia around 1993. We watched a lot of Russian TV in Ukraine back then and I ended up believing it. I arrived in North America prepared to encounter blethering idiots who practically drooled on themselves they were so mentally disabled.

      It was a rude awakening to discover how much more informed and intelligent the general public was than the smartest of us could ever hope to be.


    3. This charming line of Margarita Simonyan keeps running in my head like a poem:

      When I was studying in America at 15
      In America
      At 15
      When I was …

      When I wanted to visit America with my mother (shekels have always been worth much more than rubles), the cost of the trip was extremely high, compared to visiting England, for instance. Then covid came, don’t know if I’ll ever visit it now. Obviously, I am capable of even imagining visiting it because as Jews we had the option of immigrating to Israel. In Ukraine in the 90ies my mother was worried an old TV would break, and the only trip abroad would be to visit relatives in Russia.

      To pay for a trip to USA, let alone a study program, would require from Russian parents great wealth.

      Her Russian viewers are ready to explode from envy, listening to such nonchalant mentioning of study abroad programs in USA itself. To mask the envy, they invent ‘Americans are stupid, nothing to see’ narrative, but deep down the truth keeps gnawing.

      Btw, read posts in Russian lj that many Russians are glad their oligarchs will be prevented from going abroad or/and having property there like the rest of the people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The hypocrisy of these people is something else. They all keep swarming around America. Buying property, using American healthcare, enjoying the vacation spots. And in the meantime, they are obsessed with lecturing their compatriots who don’t have two red cents to rub together how horrible, dirty, stupid and crime-ridden America is.

        But every nation has the elites it deserves, so it’s all fair.


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