The day after Thanksgiving is a tale well calculated to keep you in suspense, as the old radio show tagline goes.
Black Friday is a monumental shopping day for the consumer to return to his natural habitat: the brick-and-mortar store. Rising from his slumber at 3 a.m., the consumer is fueled by a Starbucks latte, equipped with a piece of plastic in his pocket, and filled with a ferocious appetite for a $99 television and a $5 toaster. He rushes to the front entrance of a nearby Walmart or Best Buy to ensure he can be at the head of the pack. Disappointed he is fourth in line, he counts down the seconds until the retailer opens its doors. Finally, with saliva dribbling out of the corner of his mouth, a clerk lifts the gates and allows the fierce shoppers to stampede through the store with reckless abandon.
Our hero locates the TV of his dreams – that is until next year’s model – but he finds out that his chief competitor is interested in the same toaster. Gnashing their pearly whites, the two men embark upon feats of strength. Fists fly, kicks land, and teeth sink into skin. Following a 23-second battle, our hero emerges victorious – he shall carry his toaster and TV to the checkout lane.
After an exhausting hour, the knight in shining debt returns to his fortress of solitude, ripping apart the packaging and plugging in these consumer goods. He streams old episodes of Dragnet and takes a big bite of toast. This king of kings prepares for next year to claim another victory.
A Bad Reputation
Every year, the madness surrounding Black Friday grows. The annual event has a poor reputation because, as cynics say, it brings out the worst of consumerism. It is always hilarious to witness dozens of people engage in battle for junk they’re just going to toss in the garbage in a couple of years anyway, or to observe petty shoppers steal from little kids.
Perusing through the YouTube comments section of one of these viral videos, you’ll typically come across condemnation because there are starving children in Africa. While the question of “why would human beings grapple over USB flash disks and video games?” is an interesting one, the follow-up question is: So what?
The intellectuals furrowing their brows and looking down at these consumers are assessing Black Friday the wrong way. This isn’t a tragedy of the modern man – it is a sign of contemporary prosperity.
TVs Versus Grain
In Caracas, supermarkets are bare, prompting security forces to either police the premises or hand out bags of grain to help feed impoverished families. When there is nothing left, people are determined to fend for themselves, often relying on pigeons and lost cats. At the moment, they are indifferent to a pair of $300 sneakers or $500 ripped denim; they are focused on searching for their next meal.
These are chaotic scenes that are the norm in parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. They should serve as reminders to be grateful for living under the free-enterprise system in the U.S. or the U.K.
That’s America – now have a look at Venezuela:
Today, the world is more prosperous than it has ever been – in some areas more than others. The average American or Briton is far wealthier than the typical Venezuelan or North Korean. A person from Biloxi, Mississippi is enjoying a higher standard of living than one from Caracas.
It is true that the U.S. maintains a higher poverty rate than other developed states, but it is also correct that the American impecunious have higher median incomes, poverty incomes, and living standards. In other words, it is better to be a poor household situated in Eastport, Maine than in Alentejo, Portugal.
Because the U.S. is so affluent, millions of people do not need to go to war over a loaf of bread or corn flour. Many Americans already have the essentials and disposable income, so they can go out and sprain an ankle for a tablet or a coffee mug. The same cannot be said for those struggling in Uganda or Kyrgyzstan.
Thankful for Black Friday
Everyone’s subjective value is different. You might appreciate 4K televisions and blu-rays, but your neighbor may find greater worth in bourbon and murder mysteries. However, you both share the luxury of not having to hunt for water and toilet paper like they do in other regions of the globe. Before you scoff at those 123 perturbed shoppers fighting for a discounted lamp at 5 a.m., remember that it is much better to squabble over an available luxury than a scarce necessity.