Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Supply and Demand: Introduction to Bagel Economics

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Supply and Demand: Introduction to Bagel Economics

Article excerpt

Although the Soviet Union is dead, Marxism-Leninism lives on - in, of all places, my corner supermarket.

I'm thinking of economic principles here - of an economy in which production outranks consumption. In the old days, Soviet bureaucrats in Moscow told factories what to make, and set quotas.

So Maximov Trouser Factory No. 38 in Chelabynski would get the word from Moscow: This year, turn out 800,000 pairs of men's work trousers. The factory manager, no fool, would resolve to beat his quota. And if raw material was tight - well, make the trousers out of floral print fabric meant for dresses. Then, to stretch the supply of fabric, make all the trousers size Extra Small. At year's end, the manager could boast to his workers, "Comrades, we have exceeded our goal by making a million trousers - and for this, the plant will get the Molotov Medal!" Of course, the trousers still sit in a warehouse, unsold and unsellable. But consumption wasn't the point. Production was. We Americans prided ourselves on doing it the other way around, and mostly we meant it. Oh, you could see a few examples of companies building things nobody would ever buy. When I lived on Long Island in the early '70s, the Ford Motor Co. stuck a dealer with an LTD in a shade of purple that would embarrass Frederick's of Hollywood. Even by the overstated standards of Long Island, the car looked garish. The LTD languished for months outside the dealership door; it finally disappeared, probably when the dealer hired an auto thief. Anyway, it's on Long Island that we'll begin that trip back to my corner supermarket. Long Island introduced me to Jewish cuisine - specifically, the bagel. …

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