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Hansen Economy under threat

 
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brian-hansen
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2009 1:19 pm    Post subject: Hansen Economy under threat Reply with quote

Dateline: Portland, Oregon

As the general economy contracts, more and more people
are being forced out of their previous commercial patterns,
and into patterns consistent with the Hansen Economy.

They're doing without, buying less, buying at extreme discount,
buying used, making do, buying with cash, not taking on new
debt, and generally hunkering down.

This puts a strain on those of us who were doing this already.
If we want to maintain our strangely high quality of life, we
need to adapt. Finding DVD's at the library is harder now since
so many people are cutting their entertainment budgets. To avoid
diminishing one's quality of video entertainment, one now needs
to research the catalog and place holds.

The competition for second-hand goods intensifies, and being
first in responding to a craigslist ad is more important than ever.
The bike rack on the bus may be full more often now during
certain hours. Free lunches are in short supply. Grocery
coupons have lower value, or greater restrictions.

There are a few bright spots for Hansen Economy denizens,
especially if they've saved some extra money over the years.
Bargains in higher-priced goods are starting to appear.
The availability of restaurant discounts is increasing. Buying
a house is starting to become a reasonable proposition in
some markets, after being bubble-priced for much of a decade.
Manufactured goods can still be found at very inexpensive,
chinese-import prices (this is not likely to last for too long).
This is a good time to buy that 10 ton bottle jack you wanted
for less than $20, $14 if you are paying attention.

If you are selling goods or services (as in your labor), you
are going to find that more difficult now, most likely.
Once again, I apologize.

-Brian
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just wondering, is Cash for Clunkers, part of the War on the Hansen Economy? I say this because it takes working vehicles and removes them permanently from the market (what they do is pour a silicate into the engine which then hardens and makes the car or truck unusable).

Also, I have noticed that at work, when they "retire" old servers, they are no longer putting them into surplus stores, but throwing them out!

Surely the Hansen Economy will be starved if the new paradigm is to remove hand-me-downs from the supply chain.
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brian-hansen
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

yes. Cash-for-Clunkers would reduce the pool of used cars, and drive
up prices. For servers, it seems like a different kind of situation.

First, I'm not sure about different locations, but for many areas, you
can't just "throw away" electronics like this. One way or another, they
may be diverted. Even so, the general point is valid, that they are
not re-used at their highest level.

But then I also wonder. Isn't it the case that old technology like this,
often without manuals, perhaps damaged or infected, would require
a large degree of added labor to make them useably functional?

None of the scenarios that I imagine would want them. A typical,
relatively naive consumer would not have much use for them. I could
imagine a hardware hacker that wants to add to his farm of processors,
but, maybe I'm not following the trends, but I don't see much sign that
hackers/nerds/etc are homebrewing a lot of parellel processing,
mini-server farms. And real server farms wouldn't want anything
to do with these. Anything that makes you think of server hardware
as a "count noun" instead of a "mass noun" would be a problem.
If you've got hundreds or thousands of servers, you don't want them
to have different set up and maintenance requirements, or possible
damage.

So many objects can have a "second life" when the original owners
no longer want them. But servers might not be in this category.
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brian-hansen
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From the NYT:

Quote:
DRILLING DOWN
A Growing Appreciation for Cents Off

By ALEX MINDLIN

When the history of coupons finally gets written, 1992 will go down as the Year of the Coupon, a time when consumers redeemed about 7.9 billion of them. But every year since, that figure has shrunk, whittled down by years of relative prosperity, changing demographic trends and manufacturer policies that shortened each couponís redemption period, among other changes.


But in the fourth quarter of 2008, the slump bottomed out. Coupon use has risen every quarter since then, making 2009 the first year of ...


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/08/business/08drill.html?nl=your-money&emc=your-moneyema4


Last edited by brian-hansen on Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The New, New Rich: Wealth After the Recession

Quote:
For more than two decades, Diane Saatchi has worked as a luxury real estate agent in Long Island's glitzy Hampton neighborhoods, helping some of America's wealthiest men and women find their dream homes, or more likely, their second dream home. Saatchi's work has given her a front row seat to the decadent lifestyles of the country's elite, but in the last year or so, she's seen a subtle but surprising change in some of her clients.

"I've noticed more wealthy people talking about shopping at Costco (Nasdaq: COST - News) and bragging about deals they found on Groupon," said Saatchi, who works for Saunders & Associates. "And by wealthy, I mean the kind of wealthy people who own two or three private jets."


http://finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgeting/article/112131/new-rich-wealth-after-recession;_ylt=Ai75Fd4yH5ycNnjv5WKvgARO7sMF;_ylu=X3oDMTE5OGM1a2JzBHBvcwMyBHNlYwN3ZWVrZW5kRWRpdGlvbgRzbGsDdGhlbmV3bmV3cmlj
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2011 4:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Extreme couponing

Quote:
Enter the world of bargain shoppers who have mastered the art of saving! In Extreme Couponing, meet the everyday people who save hundreds of dollars in a single trip to the store.


http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/tv/extreme-couponing

We Use Coupons: 'Super Couponers' Clip Their Way to Savings

Quote:
The 28-year-old from Villa Hills, Ky., spends almost no money on groceries -- and sometimes walks out with a credit. His garage is filled with astonishing quantities of Jell-O, freezers full of veggies, and shelves of shampoo and toiler paper -- all booty from his extreme couponing trips.

"The last time I purchased toilet paper at the store was in 2007," he said, boasting that a three-year supply cost him $30.


http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/super-couponers-clip-savings-grocery-store/story?id=10198247
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 8:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Like the famed tulips of Holland, could the Hansen Economy be turning into the Hansen Bubble? People frenetically pursuing the low cost bottom-fishing goods driving their prices to absurd limits?

Now used cars are becoming a better investment than homes!

Quote:
It's the best time in years to sell your car.

People are holding on to cars and trucks for about a year longer than they did before the recession, which has created a tight supply of used vehicles. So few are on the market that prices have risen to their highest in at least 16 years.

Dealers are paying an average of $11,660 for a used car or truck, up almost 30 percent since December 2008.


http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2015081127_apususedcarsprices.html
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PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 9:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not used to thinking of it this way, as a possible bubble, but I guess it makes a certain amount of sense. It's all a matter of supply and demand, so in a situation where used goods, for instance, are undervalued, a market will develop that will drive those prices up to be in balance with the market for similar new goods. This may be happening already with refrigerators (see "The stainless steel renovation revolution").

In my area of business, online retail sales have collapsed, while wholesale markets (commodity prices and sales volume) have remained strong and even increased. It would seem that there are a lot of "Hansen economists" out there getting ready for the next resurgence of the retail market.

Likewise, with dropping housing prices, eventually renters will be enticed into buying, which might feel like a rental bubble to landlords.

Finally, the extra costs associated with frugality (extra unscheduled maintenance, time invested, lower social status, etc.) might change the equation for some people. I already see some evidence for this in Elisabeth Leamy's new book, "Save Big". Her argument: shop around for your best 15 year mortgage (along with dozens of other ideas) that will save at least $1,000 (if not tens of thousands), and then go ahead and have as many $4 lattes as you like. It's easy to think that this approach makes for a better book, but it also reveals something about her, that probably isn't true for most of her readers: amounts below $1,000 just don't mean much to her. In other words, she is quite well off, and her mindset reflects that.

So, I guess I don't see a bubble so much as "over-fishing" the bottom, which limits future arbitrage of used goods, and a bit of "frugality fatigue" setting in. I can see it emerging as a meme: "I don't sweat the small stuff". Naturally, any excuse to increase consumption will be met with enthusiasm, and the next post-frugality spokesman is likely to be well rewarded.
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the next post-frugality spokesman is likely to be well rewarded.

I can see your name in lights (used Christmas Tree ones) ...the Michael Lewis of the Yard Sale Set.
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PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's not me. I'm firmly entrenched in the frugality mindset. I think you might be hallucinating.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2011 3:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With the end of 2011Q2, I see this trend continuing to the point where it has become alarming. In my business niche, I see wholesale / commodity prices tripling, without any increase in the online retail sales volume. With a few tiny pockets acting otherwise, retail sales have collapsed. It would be accurate to parrot others online and say that this little corner of the economy is in free fall, one result of which is that I have changed my business model at least a half a dozen times in the last 8 months.

Meanwhile, as a result, I surmise, of TV programs about "extreme couponing", I see some coupons selling for more than face value on eBay, leaving no room for gaining value there.

While, happily, I can afford to treat these trends as a kind of game, I know that others must be feeling the pinch pretty severely by now. I've already started making adjustments, buying a new (discontinued high-efficiency floor model) fridge for thirty cents on the dollar, rather than wade into the now competitive fray for upgrade-based kickdowns of past years.

It is not easy to see this turning around anytime soon. I'm considering vacuum-wrapping a considerable portion of my business sales stock and putting it in the attic until better times come, maybe 5 years from now. That would free up space to let me pursue the next few business model changes that will likely be forced on me in the next few years.

I read plenty of conflicting views about how to improve the situation. Some folks want to cut taxes, but this seems quite implausible to me. After all, people who make less income pay less income taxes, people who buy fewer products pay less sales taxes. you could increase taxes without causing much harm, and cutting them won't do much good, in this economic environment. Incentives for creating jobs seem plausible, but I do have one idea that might help a little. My suggestion: increase incentives to export goods abroad. Two ways to do this occur to me: 1) a negative tariff, and 2) subsidized international shipping and mail. I honestly haven't thought very deeply about the first one, but the second one spurs my imagination. Currently, USPS provides flat rate boxes for shipping the rough equivalent of a shoebox anywhere in the US for about $11, no matter what the weight. If this also applied to Europe, I could foresee a cottage industry rebirth in the US, as we sell our excess Beany Babies, hand-crafted lamps, and Pez collections to our European friends. Anyone want to take this up with Congress?
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's A Free Concert
comment by me in response to article Bjork Displays 'App Album'
Quote:

As they said at Woodstock when the crowds rushed the fences...it's a free concert!

Yes, because they had no way of stopping it. Because there was so much demand for Woodstock, because the ethos was the this was more about everyone getting the message than people making money (up to the point that they could put together a concert) and because the mechanisms for "monetizing" Woodstock prior to the concert were not robust enough..it became a free concert.

And so the Web, has been the greatest Free Concert ever created...the D-Generation's Woodstock, permeable by bittorrents or parents credit cards because of $1 tunes and albums.

Android is free, my browser is free, my new feeds are free. I write all day and all long in blogs and on blogs nearly for free. (My friend's friend coined the term Free Fatigue...she just can't churn it out any more with out a penny coming back!)

What we are witnessing in fact is Super Stars who are trying to be more like regular folk, having all the fun on YouTube...doing mashups for the last 5 years. Look at Charlie Sheen wearing a baseball cap and streaming a show in what looks like a suburban rec room. Look at the movie "30 Minutes or Less" about childish disaffected adult losers who act like...well, me and you, the people going to the movies!

We're all down there in the muck and mire of Freeness trying to make something that someone somewhere will pay for! Or not. Maybe we're all just having fun. I wish money did grow on trees....I'd stay home all day and make multi-media gamified albums like Bjork and not care if anyone paid for them!


http://www.internetevolution.com/messages.asp?piddl_msgthreadid=240795&piddl_msgid=434540#msg_434540
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am reading the book Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail) as a free e-Book for Kindle from my local library.

(I bought myself a Kindle, the $79 e-ink one, on Saturday and it's a fantastic thing. But you can also read Kindle formatted books, for free, on standard PC with the Kindle for PC software.)

He doesn't have much good to say about selling e-content

Quote:
After examining mental transaction costs, Clay Shirky, a writer and NYU lecturer, concluded that content creators would be wise to give up on dreams of charging for their offerings: For a creator more interested in attention than income, free makes sense.

In a regime where most of the participants are charging, freeing your content gives you a competitive advantage. And, as the drunks say, you canít fall off the floor. Anyone offering content free gains an advantage that canít be beaten, only matched, because the competitive answer to freeóďIíll pay you to read my weblog!Ēóis unsupportable over the long haul.


He cites the Transaction Cost which is the mental barrier that people experience when they have to pay anything at all...even a penny!

Quote:
The truth is, scaling from $5 to $50 million is not the toughest part of a new ventureóitís getting your users to pay you anything at all. The biggest gap in any venture is that between a service that is free and one that costs a penny.


Anderson is an unabashed cheerleader for free stuff...mostly as a guise for getting you to buy stuff later on or in some other channel, thus skipping over the initial transaction barrier. He also is a super optimist, seeing free as long term trend in economics possibly for everything. On a good day, I can see that happening, if even housing comes back down to the point of being as expensive as say, a high end SUV (and in some parts of the country...that's already true!)

Free, read in a certain way, could be a macroeconomic bible for the Hansen economy.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Certainly, it is fair to say that I was heavily influenced by this book when I read it several years ago.
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jabailo



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2011 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I nearly finished "Free" (or most of it, until the 21 day borrowing period ended yesterday and it cut me off) and quite frankly, I was a bit disappointed...or perhaps elated in a way.

Disappointed because yes, he did present an array of how Free is permeating one part, the electronic part, of the economy. But certainly there was a lot more cheer leading going on than need be. However, the biggest failure to deliver was the most important...how do you form a paying business around Free? It's almost as he waits to tease us as if yes, if we wade through it all, there will be The Answer. But there isn't. His 2009 book seems only be more of a warning buoy, that if we continue down this road alone, we'll end up...well, we'll end up here in 2011 where you get a few Winners Take All and whole lot of Losers who would love to consume all this free stuff...if they only had a job to put a roof over their heads!

The elation comes from thinking that the Hansen Economy is really a far more significant insight when it comes to what to do. As in, yes, recognize now all the things that are free, and thence, figure out all the ways to cut costs rigorously in your physical life! Free doesn't mean spartan, it can mean wealth, but the effort right now is to "squeeze the money out".

People are fighting hard for dollars still. It's very hard to get dollars and getting harder, not easier, every day. At the same time, cost of living is plunging. Just yesterday I was looking at real estate near me, zip: 98030. In the mid-2000s I was wringing my hands as condos soared above $200,000. Now I see those same exact condos...3 bedroom...selling for $45,000! That's a $200 a month mortgage.

So, yes, if you're used to the Old Economy, then you think, hey, I'll spend $15 for this subscription instead of the $5 that has 80 percent of the service, because it's only $10 difference.

But $10 is now a lot of money! And really, if you are not working full time, then use that time to go to the library instead!

One way of looking at Free is as the Ultimate Deflation of the Dollar!
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2011 1:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Underwater and Upside-down: It's not regulations, high taxes, and speculative bubbles, its the long-term trends, baby.


I would start with an analogy.

There has been continued alarm in the Pacific Northwest about diminished fishing opportunities in the Columbia River, particularly salmon. In recent years, there has been a rise in concern about sea lions at the mouth of the Columbia, and moving upriver. They are considerable predators of Salmon, depleting fishing in both the river and the ocean.

When I investigated this, I found that there was significant sea lion predation of salmon, but that this factor was small, compared with the effects of overfishing, and habitat destruction / degradation.

Likewise, there is a germ of truth in complaints about, regulation and taxes depressing the economy.

But just a germ, not a very major factor in the scheme of things. * Meanwhile, the causes of our economic meltdown lay elsewhere. After all, the economy didn't suddenly go sour because of extra regulations, or suddenly higher taxes.

We could agree that it was "speculation": people leveraging themselves and making plans that required continued growth and prosperity for their success. Add greed, stupidity, and corruption, and stir well. Unfortunately, it seems that the idea of categorizing the economy we have now as being the result of a speculative bubble is misleading. Misleading because it obscures the underlying trends that are driving events. The bubble is "popped" when the distance between what is assumed and what is real grows too much. It is when we notice what is real.

What is real is that jobs are evaporating. It's popular to blame offshoring, and it is a major factor, but automation surely is too. Because, with automation, since I don't need to have a staff to accomplish my goals, I also don't need to hire a staff. I can do things myself, find things I need online for free, or, if I need to, I can pay someone $5 to do it for me. You showed me that site, John. Incredible. Less labor is needed, and less specialized labor, outsourceable labor, so less wages flow into the economy. Less wages mean housing prices fall.

Money is harder to come by, but it is becoming somewhat more valuable. A little can go a long way.

I think you are right about this being a "sea change", and a warning. Oddly, a "Free" economy favors the wealthy. That is because not everything is free, as you say. The roof, the fuel, high-quality professional services, these stay high-priced, or perhaps increase. Meanwhile the payments for our services, in the production of software, music, information content of all kinds, decreases when the information "wants to be free". Business models implode when faced with "free" as part of the competition and part of the environment.

I know you've objected to Malthus and the Limits to Growth viewpoint, but deep down these viewpoints, I think, are inescapable. It's just that we've always found a clever work-around, or found some new technology as a quick fix. It is unclear if what we are seeing is a direct reflection of those ultimate limiting factors of resources and pollution.

With automation and offshoring, the cost of production drops to zero. Transportation, and the cost to accomplish the selling start to dominate the equation. The cost to sell of mass market items also drops in our environment of Amazon.com and Big Box retail, advertising being a bit of a wild card. Transportation costs tend to be irreducible, and to even increase, sometimes sharply. The cost of goods becomes highly correlated with the cost of the fuel used to transport them and the distance traveled. A seller of goods that can be delivered electronically has the advantage of not necessarily having pricing dominated by transportation costs.

I can't shake the feeling that Kurt Vonnegut got it almost right in Player Piano. There was a portrait of the post-job economy from the viewpoint of the factory manager / executive. There was a skeleton crew, but most people were unemployed. The reeks and wrecks. Funny the stuff you remember. I should go back and re-read it. Anyway. Unemployed people didn't seem to have a lot of real problems that people in our society do. Vonnegut seemed to have them suffer boredom and loss of dignity, as opposed to starvation and homelessness. As I recall, not a great deal is made of the fact that there must be a phenomenal amount of wealth in the economy already in order for so many to have no need to contribute anything at all to its functioning. It would seem that to have as few problems as they did in the world of Player Piano, somebody must've done an awful lot of very good planning in advance.

For us, the negative trends take on a heightened importance when they ripple through the economy, causing businesses and individuals to hold on to dollars / money because it will be harder to get in the future, and (seemingly) more valuable then (modulo inflation). So yes. There is a reasonable fear of inflation, but the reality we are seeing, and are likely to see for some time is more of a deflation.

I feel that I get a reading on the economy every time I do a major eBay sales campaign. Demand continues to be nearly non-existent (at the 2-4% level) for the kinds of products that 5 years ago sold in the 50-70% range. There are reasons to quibble about these numbers, but I think that they are pretty realistic. I saw people at the mall today, and it was pretty crowded, but I'm not sure what is going on there. Online, people have closed their money hole as tight as a sphincter. The last time I had a major campaign on eBay / Adwords, it was pretty much just as bad. I was pricing items at 99 cents, sometimes with free shipping, and paying several times that amount, sometimes, in google ads. These being the same items that had sold for $10-20 dollars in the past.

So maybe those days won't come back again, at least not in the same way. The Mcmansion on the hill, for the masses, was just a mirage. We've taken it pretty easy on "the 1%", overall, maybe because we imagine it could be us, and we could be like royalty. Maybe we like having kings and potentates and plutocrats ruling over us. A threat to someone of high status within the system might also be a threat to that whole system of status, and to our (perhaps modest) place in it.

So yes. Free is very dangerous, even corrosive. It is inevitable, in a way. It is real, and it is here. Chris Anderson would like to provide a kind of "shortstop" to the effects of free (by tying it to some other way of generating income), but it could keep barreling past him.

It's a pretty tricky age we're living in.




=======================



* [And it would certainly do us good to consider that there may well have been very good reasons for regulations, and good reasons for keeping them, even though wealthy powerful people want them rescinded.]
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