Intermediate All The Things!

A population that endures centuries of persecution eventually evolves to be pretty damn wily. Each successive generation gets sneakier, trickier, uniquely problematic.

gopher traps ca. 1870

I’m speaking, of course, about gophers. After futzing with old-school Macabee traps and digging enough trenches to destroy an entire lawn, I found this GopherHawk device on Amazon. Works great, clean kills. Only problem is, my gophers show up in droves, and the trap gets bent out of shape after a few uses.

Then I found the Chinese gopher trap knockoffs.

The sentimental part of me thinks I ought to support honest American small business. The rational part of me understands that The World is Flat, Patriotism is the new Racism, and the Chinaman shilling knockoffs from Shenzhen is just as deserving of my dollars as any American worker.

People complain about big tech monopolies and their greedy platforms: Amazon charges an average of 15% commission for seller listings, plus another 30% of the item’s price for fulfillment. Apple and Google take 30% of app revenue in their app stores.

Why is that a problem? Maybe 30% is an extortionate cut, but sellers could simply pass the cost onto consumers, like they do with any other tariff. The thing that prevents a price increase is the fact that American retailers will be undercut by overseas merchants Every. Single. Time.

There are online courses on how to dress up wholesale Alibaba garbage with a swanky ad, then drop-ship the lot to an Amazon warehouse. Your margin is my opportunity, says the intermediary for Chinese wholesalers.

Same with the app store: Got a killer app? Clones are sure to follow.

The only type of app that can still turn a profit is something like Spotify, which itself is a monopolistic platform. While Spotify complains about Apple’s innovation-stifling fees, musical artists complain about Spotify’s oppressive take.

Why does anyone even bother making anything anymore?

If you’re gonna make something, make it rent-taking. Manufacturing is dead and not coming back, but there is one place where we still have a competitive edge: Capitalism. In America, anyone can finance anything, from used cars to pants to an 8-year degree in humanities.

Rents on real estate make up 13% of our GDP. Foreign investors have pushed Bay Area home prices beyond middle class affordability, but online platforms open up investment opportunities in bustling metropolitan areas from Memphis, Tennessee to Gary, Indiana.

Own a piece of the American Dream by renting it to someone else!

Memphis residents who find themselves priced out of the local housing market can become absentee landlords in Mozambique or Tajikistan. That’s right, a rising flood of cheap capital lifts all boats. Instead of producing anything of value, we’ll find new ways to intermediate and extract. That’s American Exceptionalism!

3 thoughts on “Intermediate All The Things!

  1. The first question that comes to mind is, if you’re talking to typical denizens of silicon valley, aren’t you supposed to use the word ‘disintermediate’ instead, especially when you’re setting yourself up as the new intermediary?

    The second one is that there’s probably a big untapped market for tech and/or venture capital and/or silicon valley news that doesn’t look like an example out of _Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds_.

    Third, if you’re going to buy the chinese traps, shouldn’t you at least buy them straight off of Alibaba, and at least disintermediate Amazon? I mean, if we’re NOT going to make the stuff here anyway, let’s cut out _all_ the middlemen. Democracy dies in markup!

    1. I would love to Disintermediate Amazon by buying traps straight from Alibaba, but they have a minimum order size of 500,000 units (!!!). A good tech venture might be to do group buys of cheap Chinese crap and secure a discount for those who commit to the group buy. Gloupon :b

      More seriously, the best market for (dis)intermediation that I can think of is group buys of experimental drugs. There are bodyhacking forums where people pool money to hire an Asian drug fermenter to produce non-FDA-approved drugs. This is technically legal, as long as the drugs are not marketed for human consumption.

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