Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Frugality and the Market

I just returned from a long and wonderful journey through ten states. I saw a lot of ecology and evolution and I want to tell you all about it in upcoming essays. Meanwhile I will post this general essay until I can get the new ones written. On this long journey, I ate out a lot. I was more frugal than most travelers but less frugal than I am when at home. Which leads to the topic of this essay.

I am almost off the charts for being frugal in my use of energy and my consumption of processed materials. I am not a Scrooge; I actually enjoy frugality—I greatly enjoy the few things I spend money on, as well as the free things like taking a walk with my wife.

For example, I just do not eat out very often. Sometimes, as I noted in a recent blog essay, my frugality has made me a target for people who, perhaps with religious motivations, want to disrespect me for the carefulness with which I treat what they consider to be God’s creation.

But when I do eat out, I like having variety to choose from. I will admit that I have a hard time telling Cheesecake Factory apart from Applebee’s, but I wouldn’t want my only choice to be sushi—even though I love the new sushi restaurant in Tulsa (Sushi House, on Lewis near 71st) very much.

If everyone lived like me, however, the bottom would drop out of the restaurant business. Tulsa would have a couple of sushi places, a Japanese steakhouse, Marley’s Pizzeria, India Palace, and that’s about it. The very diversity of market experiences that I enjoy depends on people living the way I think they shouldn’t.

I’m not too worried. If America goes frugal (which is about as likely as the sun going supernova next year), the loss of market diversity would be a small price to pay for the promotion of a healthy local economy full of farmer’s markets, ecological sustainability, and personal financial responsibility. I find fast food establishments to be useful on rare occasions, but if they all closed up I wouldn’t be too upset. Meanwhile I will continue to enjoy, on rare but memorable occasions, the diversity of restaurant food that is made possible by people who are too busy eating out to read this blog.

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