Capitalism 101, For Jerry Rivers

Since War Correspondent Geraldo is having trouble finding his way to the front, he’s decided to (at least temporarily) revert to his leftist roots and whine about the free market in Afghanistan.

He did a little segment on FNC tonite, in which he wandered around a bazaar in Kabul with his cameraman, showing off American aid goods for sale. Can of cooking oil, five bucks, sack of wheat, ten bucks, etc. Then he complained that it wasn’t reaching the people, but the benefits were accruing to some evil “middle men.”

Now there are circumstances in which middle men are indeed superfluous (usually only with government connivance via various trade rules and laws), but the reality is that commerce and distribution of goods would not occur without them.

I had an artichoke for dinner tonight. I’m damned glad that I didn’t have to drive all the way from LA to Castroville (a 350-mile trip one way) to buy it from the farmer. It was more convenient to go to the local grocery and buy it, and I thought it a bargain, even at $1.69. Unfortunately, in order for me to be able to do this, it had to go through not one, not two, but probably at least three of those evil “middle men.”

They had to expend energy and resources in order to find the artichoke, negotiate its purchase from the farmer, transport it (while keeping it cool and refrigerated), negotiate its sale to the grocery, get it into the store, have a place in the produce section for it (with continued cooling and occasional watering), enter it into a computer system so that I could purchase it without a lot of inconvenience to either myself or the sales clerk, etc. They (or any sane person) wouldn’t do all of this without being compensated.

That this is occurring in Afghanistan, considering the ghastly times that they’ve gone through, is not something to be lamented, but rather to be positively rejoiced. The market is still (or newly) functional there, and if we can get enough food and other supplies in there quickly, the same market that is delivering these goods to the wealthy will ensure that the price will drop (law of supply and demand, doncha know) and the goods will become available to all.

But of course, rather than using it as a lesson for how markets work in the real world, Jerry Rivers chose to make some mindless point about “exploitation.”