Subsidizing Defective Products

Last year, Walmart began a public relations campaign to highlight just how much they lose every year to theft. A week or so after this site went live, that campaign seems to have been re-visited. I think I should say something obvious about it.

Losing $3 billion per year on $482 billion in goods transferred is 0.6% losses. Over my lifetime, I have lost perhaps around $3000 to theft -- a television, air-conditioner, desktop computer, a laptop, some CDs. That's depreciated value, by the way. The laptop alone cost over $2000, and was fairly new. At the same time, over my entire life, I can safely approximate that less than $12,000 per year in goods transits my doorstep. So that is $83 in losses, per year, on $12,000 in goods. That's nearly 0.7% loss, to theft, that I have suffered.

I feel like I shouldn't have to point out the obvious differences, here. I am not a retailer. My doors are not open to the public. Also, I was a minor child for a good portion of my life, during which my possessions were minimal. And that's included.

The fact that Walmart feels it needs to complain publicly about its losses to theft, is ridiculous.

That they seem to have timed this announcement to coincide with the theft of the Dees Ranch, is evidence of complicity.

But Walmart is a distraction. They are a symptom of a much larger issue.

The larger issue is this. I've tried to put a lot of useful information on this site, and I know that a lot of it just ended up being me ranting. I'm sure 90% of you don't care at all about what has happened to my family. And I'm sure a good portion of those reading just find it all quite humorous. But, ultimately, even if you think none of this affects you, or will never affect you, this is what it all comes down to. We all know, deep down, that we live in a society that is fundamentally broken. And I don't mean morally flawed. I mean just completely broken, in a dozen different ways.

As I write this, I'm beginning to read Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation, in full. I bought it a while back, but don't think I ever got more than a dozen or so pages into it. Even then, I remember what a revelation those dozen pages were. My neighbor really likes to use his riding lawnmower. He mows his yard. He mows my yard. He mows empty lots around the neighborhood. There is no reason for it, of course. I mow because I want the clippings, for mulch and for chicken bedding. So I laboriously use a bagger and save and transport all of them to storage. His mower doesn't even have a bagger. He mows just because he can. Or perhaps he mows because he needs to. He's a frustrated farmer recently-removed from the land. That's what I always figured, at least.

The quote on the first page of the book says "The simulacrum is never what hides the truth -- it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true." And I remember, upon reading that, realizing that my neighbors lawnmower is a simulacrum. It isn't just a psychological crutch, as I assumed. It isn't just fulfilling a human need to engage in agriculture, even in a suburban cultural wasteland. The image of the riding lawnmower long ago morphed into the simulacrum of the riding lawnmower sans bagger, just as the riding lawnmower had emerged as the denatured representation of the tractor in wasteful suburbia. And before that the tractor simply reflected the obsolescence of the plow -- the profound reality of the end of small-scale agriculture. So, by now, we're way past the point of simply hiding the truth about our reality. That guy twirling around in circles across the street, in his zero-turn, is our new reality.

It's unbelievable how much of this reality that Baudrillard foresaw, 35 years ago. The book was written at the cusp of a lot of nonsense that we now consider 'normal' -- things like reality television, the unbacked US dollar, staged shootings (presidential assassination attempts, back then), and even staged nuclear terror. He was witnessing, not just the death, but the absurditization, of work, media, all of culture -- not just the end, but the active suppression of reality itself. Disneyland exists, according to Baudrillard, as a childish, miniature double, in order to hide the fact that it is all of America that is itself Disneyland. Prisons, similarly, hide the fact that society is itself punitive. The book describes this deliberate, psychologically self-defensive reflex of mass-culture to promote a hyperreal, absurdist image of reality, while subconsciously navigating the steps of accepting its inverse, like a double-hinged pendulum reaching a standstill -- one piece moving slowly towards the middle while the other flails wildly to the extreme.

My experience predicting, perhaps even setting, the price of oil, ten years ago, proved (to me at least) that there is no economy at all, in the United States. None. It's just a bunch of people consuming fossil fuels. And when those fossil fuels are priced at something approximating a true market value, the so-called "economy" evaporates. That is literally what happened, in 2008. My experience working in the software field, and my experiences dealing with the legal system at all levels, have only reinforced this. And that would be fine, of course, if the oil-burning "economy" could continue forever. I would like more than anyone for it to continue. But it really just can't.

Worse, my experiences in actively recognizing the fraud in which we are all living, and in attempting to escape from it, has shown me that it will continue for a lot longer, regardless of what almost anyone does. I hate to say that. But whether it's voting for an outsider candidate, creating a small garden, using Bitcoin, or just supporting open source, it probably won't end up being worthwhile. You will be attacked. And if your parents or grandparents also happened to be the type of people who moved out of the city, or didn't vote, or invested in precious metals, then you or your children might even be targeted as well, from birth, as I seem to have been. And there will be absolutely no way to defend against that.

This is not just the world we are moving towards, it is the world in which some of us are already living. And it doesn't have anything to do with politics -- republican, democrat, libertarian, conservative, my family contains all of them. Politics is a lot of bullshit, after all. It's just people who go along with the bullshit, and people who don't.

This is just a tiny example. But all it takes, sometimes, is a tiny example to illustrate a point. This lawnmower was bought new, at Walmart, just a few years ago. It has been stored in a shed, and not used much at all since then. Frankly, I haven't had the time to use it much over the past several years. But this is exactly the kind of crap I feel that I have spent my life dealing with. This mower replaced a similar model (of the same brand) that worked very reliably for many years, and which only stopped working because I ran over a rug. I ran over a rug, and it wrapped around the shaft, stopping the engine for good. It was a stupid thing to do. So that's understandable. It was a good lawnmower, regardless, for many years. So I bought a new one that I hoped would be just like it. But a month ago, the new one broke. It didn't break because I ran over anything, with the blade. It broke because it ran over, with the wheels, a rock.

mower1 mower2

And, apparently, amazingly, on closer inspection, this lawnmower seems to have been designed to FUCKING SELF-DESTRUCT, WHEN THE GODDAMN WHEELS RUN OVER A ROCK.

Maybe that sounds a little hyperbolic. But just look and see. The only thing holding the (metal) axle to the lawnmower is a couple of little plastic clips. No screws. No bolts. No large, substantial pieces of plastic. Just little, bendable... clips. And, amazingly (as if that weren't stupid enough), the axle is, also, SPRING LOADED by a fulcrum, in the middle, so that the slightest hint of failure, at all, OF THE FUCKING PLASTIC CLIPS, causes the entire apparatus to come flying apart, in an apparently irreversible fashion.

Now, you can argue, if you'd like, that I did this to myself -- that I shouldn't have bought such a flimsy piece-of-crap lawnmower in the first place. In fact, you might argue that there is a legitimate market for plastic piece-of-crap lawnmowers, for people whose yards don't contain rocks, for instance. Maybe you could even argue that I should have inspected the lawnmower more closely, before buying, and seen that it was in fact a self-destructing lawnmower and not the reliable long-lasting one that I expected. And perhaps IF I HAD KNOWN ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF MY FUCKING RANCH, I probably wouldn't have bought it. In fact, I definitely wouldn't have.

But this is what it all comes down to, ultimately. Walmart and Stan Kroenke, and the Federal Reserve ultimately, seem to believe that peddling defective crap like this is a legitimate trade for a 20,000-acre ranch. And the US government, at all levels, the sad sacks-of-shit pretending to be presiding over this cluster-fuck, not only seem to agree that this is reasonable, but actively collude to enable this fraud -- by literally attacking people like me and my family, by hiding our property from us, by sabotaging our educations and careers, by spying on us and front-running us, and then even (when all of that fails to stop us) by bailing-out the banks and other economic losers who can't seem to rub two fucking sticks together and create a real economy (even with billions in other peoples wealth), and then stealing my fucking ranch to pay for it.

Instead of actually governing or creating any kind of economy at all, all they seem capable of creating, is defective crap.

In my discussion with the common-law judge on Pitcairn, he asked what, hypothetically, one would offer to people like the Polynesian natives who inhabit the surrounding islands, who are materially quite wealthy, in exchange for a piece of their land. My reply was basically, you supply the capital, they supply the labor, and you're in business. And that's a simple enough answer, for a libertarian to give. People are dependent upon physical resources. And capital (real capital) enables the more efficient use of these resources. If people are willing to exchange a bit of work and a bit of their resources, for a bit of capital that enables a higher standard of living, as a result, then those same resources can support more people, and everyone is happy and better-off for the trade.

Of course the real reason for that question is clear, now that my ranch is involved. The roles are reversed. But the answer is the same. And this plastic crap is not capital. It is the material equivalent of an exploding mortgage-derivative purchased from a scummy bank that bets against its own customers. It is simply theft.

Last Updated on 02/07/17