Sunday, March 9, 2008

Used Bookstores & Attention Deficits

I sometimes buy books at a local used bookstore. I've also occasionally scrounged a few books that I don't want anymore and taken them down to that store for credit. But not too often. I figure over the years I've spent easily more than twenty times the amount of money on books at that store than I've obtained in credit from the books I've taken to the store.

Fortunately, my wife doesn't think that I'm crazy for doing this. In fact, she's not worried at all by my not having gotten as much credit from taking in books that I no longer want as I've spent buying books there. She doesn't whine about how the money isn't balancing out with this store.

And that's probably to the good, because I wouldn't want to have to point out to her that our one-sided bargaining with that bookstore is nothing compared to the amount of money we spend at the local supermarket for groceries each month. We never bring in anything for credit to them. We just buy food and such.

I'm sure by now there are some people that are confused by our behavior, wondering how we can keep doing it month in, month out. Well, as with most people, I have a day job. And interestingly, that company is happy to give me money, a paycheck they call it, twice a month for the labor I give them. Oddly, my company isn't too worried about getting any money back from me. And that money they give me ends up paying for the supermarket groceries and for the used books and for a number of other household bills.

But there really *are* some people that are confused by all this. They count things differently. They're very rigid about it. They only look at one relationship at a time, and they pronounce judgment on whether that relationship is healthy or not.

So, they think that my relationship with my employer is great for me but terrible for my employer. And they think my relationship with the supermarket is terrible for me, but great for the supermarket. And they are pretty worried about my relationship with the used bookstore; they feel it is unhealthy and that it will lead to trouble.

You see, these people are actually a group of economists; not all of them, just a few. (But they *do* have access to several large newspapers.) And they have funny names for my various relationships.

For example, they call my relationship with my employer a trade surplus because I take in more money from selling my labor to my employer than I give back by buying things from them. Of course, I don't buy anything from them. And they call my relationship with my used bookstore a trade deficit because more of my money goes out to that store than comes back in (in the form of store credits).

It's weird the way this small group of economists rationalize things. They can't seem to understand that whether I have a trade deficit or not with a trading partner, like my used bookstore, is actually irrelevant to whether I'm making enough money overall -- irrelevant to my own household economic health.

Oddly enough, this group of economists has the same comprehension problem with the relationships between America and a few of its trading partners; like China or Japan.

[Click on the title above, or date stamp below, to see the full post.]

But then, being myopic is a chronic problem for some economists. Apparently, they have an attention deficit with the concept of trade.

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