Friday, November 02, 2007

Economic Indicators

Sometimes when we advertise for shop help, no one responds. If two or three people respond, we think it's a big deal. So when we advertised this fall and at least half a dozen applicants gathered almost immediately, we knew something was up. And more call in every day.

How bad must the economy be for so many people even to consider working as a sport shop grunt? The real proof that things are on shaky ground came in the form of strong-handed men, smelling faintly of sawdust, telling us that they've been working construction for the past several years, but "people are cutting back. There just aren't as many jobs."

I can't say how much these guys might actually want the job with us. They may just have to apply for a certain number of jobs a week while they're on unemployment, and we are one of the few businesses advertising a position. But that in itself tells you something.

Prosperity based on constant construction feeds on humanity's metastatic growth. It isn't sustainable. But the change may be hard, because we have been able to rely on that model for so long. We are now finding the limits, as science and economics start to be able to tell us how much growth we can get away with. We can say with confidence how much area certain animal species need to survive, but shy away from facing hard numbers about ourselves. We count on our own ingenuity to come up with ways to have our cake and eat it. So far, it seems to me, the bulk of the cake goes to people who are willing to have that status supported by debt and slavery. But that's "big picture" bullshit. Construction workers are out of work now because fewer people are building things. If that turned around and money started flowing again, few people would complain. Those who did would be branded with the usual labels and shouted down.

I'm in the bike business because, in good times and bad, it gives me nothing to feel guilty or uneasy about, except to wonder what bone-headed technological decisions the industry might make next. The basic concept of cycling is and always will be good.

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