Saturday, January 26, 2013

De-Regulate the Atari Market!

Recently my mother ordered my brother and me to clean out the closet in our old bedroom. According to her sadistic worldview, since we're grown men and we've moved out of her house, she doesn't want our "stuff" taking up her so-called "space." Whatever. Parents just don't understand, am I right?

Anyhoo, we got all of our priceless stuff out of there; Luke had some Phoenix Suns ties and the outfit for his 1970s alter ego "Darren Denver," and I found the DVDs for seasons one through eight of the X-Files (consequently available for purchase here). Another thing I found was an old Atari 2600 video game system, emphasis on the Old. This clunker was popular when Carter was President (no insult intended towards Atari Corp). It has a lot of games with it, too.

I brought this box of fossils home and figured I'd take it to the local Play N Trade, which is a really fantastic video game franchise if you're into that sort of thing. I'm not that much into video games---I only play Halo 3, and not very frequently---but there's a video game coming out in March that I've been waiting to get for about four years now, so I thought, hey, I'll sell this junk to the Play N Trade and reserve the game there.

I looked up the prices on their website. A fully-functioning Atari 2600 with all the cables will net me about $30 in store credit, which is more than enough to put the down payment on the game. I also called them up and asked how much I could sell each game for. The lady told me about twenty cents per game (she added that they sell them at Play N Trade for a dollar). "Well," I said, "twenty cents is more than I'm making off them right now." We shared a laugh.

It got me thinking, though. Lots of lefties, statists and even conservatives and so forth sometimes like to complain that a price or a wage isn't "fair." For instance, we're told that price controls---i.e. those put in place during a gas shortage---exist in order to ensure that proprietors do not charge "unfair" prices. We're also told that the minimum wage exists because without it, workers would be paid "unfairly."

Well, then, why not a minimum price for old traded-in Atari games? That is to say, why hasn't the government looked into this? The lady herself admitted that they buy them for twenty cents and sell them for a dollar. Shit! That's a 400% markup. Aren't I being exploited? Not at all, of course, because I am free to sell the games somewhere else---eBay, for instance---or keep them until the price appreciates, perhaps. Or, God forbid, I could actually play them. So there's a number of options here.

Now, some folks might say, "Well, Daniel, Atari games are one thing, but not everything is like Atari games. You can afford to sell your Atari games for twenty cents a pop, but people can't afford to sell their own labor for twenty cents an hour. Everyone would starve to death. Ergo 'we as a society' must decide upon a minimum wage rate that allows people to survive. That's what fairness means."

No, that's not what fairness means, and it's not clear where people came up with the idea that a third party can arbitrate "fairness" for two other parties. For instance: at my current job, I recently took a significant cut in hours from just under thirty-five to just under twenty-nine a week. It's obviously not coincidental that many other large employers are doing the same thing to many of their employees to avoid Obamacare's thirty-hour-per-week health insurance requirement.

Now, I would be happy working thirty-four hours a week, or even forty hours a week, without health insurance from my employer; I have a personal, individual health insurance plan, and I could afford it on my prior schedule. Now it's going to be pretty tight until I find a new job. In any case, even though I am perfectly willing to work far more hours than I am now without my employer's worrying about my insurance, the government has declared that I am not allowed to do so. Even if you flip the terms and say that my employer is not allowed to employ me for thirty or more hours without providing me health insurance, the result is still the same! This third party regulator business is clearly non-beneficial for me, and is even demonstrably detrimental.

You might say, "Well, Daniel, maybe the Affordable Care Act is bad legislation, and maybe the government shouldn't dictate how many hours you work to qualify for health insurance, but you shouldn't go from that to the conclusion that we shouldn't have a minimum wage. A minimum wage is still necessary."

Maybe so. But as the old joke goes, now we're just haggling over the price. A minimum wage still functions the same as the health insurance mandate viz. it alters the terms of employment and makes me more expensive to employ at or above a certain level. Before, I was producing enough services to justify working thirty-four hours a week; now, I'm evidently not producing enough services to justify working thirty-four hours a week, or even thirty, while receiving health insurance from my employer at the same time. Hence the reduced hours. Naturally, the minimum wage will act in the same way against the lowest-skilled employees; employing one very low-skilled worker at a minimum wage above which he produces, is the same as employing me at thirty hours + health insurance benefits. Neither my employer nor any employer will wish to do so. Hence unemployment and/or underemployment. At this point, twenty cents per Atari game starts to look really good.

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