I understand how economics work – supply and demand, all that stuff. But there’s one thing that consistently bugs me about how things are priced. Here, I’ll illustrate what my complaint is through examples.
Going to the movie theatre (unless it’s the dollar theatre) costs about $10. Fair enough. But for that same $10 you could buy the DVD of the movie and own the movie for the rest of your life. Now how does that make sense? It seems like the latter is worth a lot more than the former. But, you say, you’re only going to watch the DVD once anyway, so why do you need to buy it? Well, first of all, if it was a movie worth watching you’re probably going to watch it more than once. And maybe want to reference it on occasion. But also, do you not get a feeling of immense power when you own the movie?
And compare going to the movies to buying a book. A hardback copy of a book costs only $15. Would you rather go to the movies 1.5 times, or own a book? If it’s a book that you’re interested in owning, than surely you would rather own the book. For one, it will give you more entertainment (after the 3 hours of movie-watching, you’re done, but reading a book can take days). But also you can use the book any time in the future. You can lend it to friends, you can reread it if you find you can’t remember it very well… and all for essentially the cost of going to a movie. It seems like movie-going is pretty much a waste of money, no? And this applies to pretty much all ‘activities’ monies spent. I love going to baseball games, but if I had to pay for it… wouldn’t I much rather spend that $20 for a ticket and $10 on parking on a brand new copy of The Tolkien Reader?
The distinction, I suppose, is between transient objects and permanent objects. Of course, some transient objects are necessary. You need food to live. But I find it amazing how high the price of a meal at a medium-class restaurant can go – $10 per person, minimum. So if I just don’t go to a restaurant 4 times in a row (and instead live off ramen noodles or something, which cost $0.25), I can ‘save up’ $39. I can than spend that money on getting LEGOs.
LEGOs are probably the perfect example of permanency vs. transience. LEGOs give endless entertainment. People often say that they’re overpriced, but it seems to me that they’re really underpriced. For the amount of entertainment you can get from one box of LEGOs – building with it, rebuilding with it, displaying it, engaging it in mock combat with other LEGO creations – you pay, depending on the set, between $5 and $80. But any size LEGO set seems to me to give much more entertainment than a trip to the ballpark, or to the movies, or to a restaurant, or any food whatsoever. The entertainment is permanent. LEGOs are forever.
So if economics are supposed to lead to things being priced according to how much pleasure they give the buyer… well, it seems to me that books, DVDs, LEGOs, etc, are all woefully underpriced. They’re worth three, four times their actual costs. And if I have a choice, I’d almost always prefer to buy the permanent object rather than the transient experience.
Must be the dwarf in me. I did always like Thorin Oakenshield.