Guided by an Invisible Hand. No, Not That One

 

I live on Hilton Head Island.  Which is pretty weird, if you know anything about me.  Those who have read my posts over the years know that I avoid undiluted water.  Yet here I am on an island surrounded by it.  I get motion sick just looking at a boat.  I don’t like sitting on the beach.  I don’t like hot weather, but I enjoy snow.  I don’t play golf.  I like to have a bit of space around me.  My last house had a mile-long driveway, straight up a mountain in Tennessee.  I had nearly 60 acres, surrounded by National Forest.  I would shoot skeet out of our hot tub on the edge of a cliff.  Here, I live on a half-acre lot on a golf course.  I sometimes find golf balls in my swimming pool, and people walk their dogs through my front lawn.  I miss my space.  What on earth am I doing here?

Well, I came here for a job.  I saw a business opportunity, so I took a chance.  And business is good, so everything worked out.  I figured I’d get used to my new lifestyle.  I grew up on a hog farm, and then lived on a mountain in Tennessee.  I’d never lived in a city or a suburb, but I figured I’d get used to it.  I’ve been here nearly five years, and I can’t get used to it.  Someone drives down my street at night and I wonder, “Who the heck is that?”

Hilton Head is a really nice place.  I can see why people like it.  It’s very convenient.  Within three miles of my house, I have a Super Walmart, a Publix grocery store, a nice liquor store, a pizza place, a Wendy’s, a Burger King, a nice bar/fish restaurant right on the water, an Ace Hardware, and a few banks.  I can take my golf cart to any of them.  And yes.  Of course, I have a golf cart.  I don’t have a pickup truck anymore, or a skid steer, but I do have a golf cart.  The golf bag holder on the back has fishing poles in it, and the cup holder can hold four Yeti cups.  Of properly diluted water.

What am I doing here?

I miss the mountains and the woods.  I miss having a fire at night.  I miss letting my dogs run wherever they want.  I miss being able to freakin’ breathe with just a little bit of freakin’ space around me.  I’m not an agoraphobic freak, but I do like having some space around me.  Just a little bit of space.  I don’t need much.  Just 50 acres is enough.  But a half an acre is not.  For Pete’s sake…

Dr. Bastiat’s current backyard

I got a letter from our HOA saying that there was not enough mulch around my bushes in my front lawn.  Somebody is inspecting my landscaping.  On the mountain, I did landscaping only rarely, and I used bulldozers and dynamite.  Now I take my SUV to Lowes to buy bags of mulch.  And if I don’t, I get snippy letters from some guy with no shoulders, no socks, and expensive shoes.  The first time I met him, my wife immediately turned, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Don’t you dare…”  I have no idea what she meant.  But I shut the heck up.  She can make her point very clearly, even when I don’t completely understand.  But why does this little #$%& care about my mulch?

What am I doing here?

One night, when I’d had just about the correct amount of diluted water, I complained to my wife about all this.  I wondered why I was here.  Her answer was typically insightful (don’t tell her I said that):  “There’s a lot of old people here who have made some money and they don’t want to die.  You’re one of the best in the country with the number one cause of death – heart disease.  But you like living in the middle of nowhere, where nobody lives.  So all these people can’t get the benefit of your skills.  Except that the money here is so much better.  You made decent money in Tennessee, but you’ve nearly quadrupled your income here.  So we get to retire younger and better, the people here get to live longer, and everybody’s happy.  Everybody.  Except for those who insist on complaining about things that are really going very well.  Ahem.

Man, she gets on my nerves sometimes.  Especially when she has a point.  Don’t tell her I said that.

This is the beauty of capitalism.  It distributes resources better than any centralized control system ever could.  Somebody like me actually wants to go to a place that he wouldn’t normally go, because there is a demand for my services here, and I’ll be rewarded handsomely for my time.

I’m not being assigned here against my will by some distant bureaucrat.  No, I came here of my own free will.  Guided by an invisible hand that seeks to send various resources to where they are needed most.  And everything works out, for the most part, most of the time.  And everybody’s happy.  No conflict.  No seething resentment at being told what to do by an uncaring government official.  I’m doing this because I want to.  I’m doing it for myself, and for my family.

We think we’re acting selfishly, taking what we want like thieves in the night, when in fact we’re doing what’s best for everybody else.  We may not realize it at the time.  But the invisible hand understands.

And here’s the amazing part:  There is no invisible hand.  This is just what happens when you permit people to do as they please.  The more government gets involved in this process, the less well it works.  If you just leave it alone, everything works out, for the most part, most of the time.  Most people get what they want, and we all chip in to make it happen, of our own free will.  No conflict, no bitterness, no jealousy.  We all do what’s best for everyone else.

Even those of us who would rather be somewhere else.

Dr. Bastiat’s previous backyard

The day I retire, I’m driving back to Tennessee.  But for now, I’ll stay in Hilton Head.  Because I want to be here.  For now.

It all works out.  Capitalism is compassionate, and wise, and simple.  Centralized control is heartless, and stupid, and complicated.  So I love capitalism.

Even when it sends me to * gasp * Hilton Head Island.

I’m leaving.  Just not right now.

Right now, I have work to do.  And I’ll do it.  Because I want to.  Really.

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  1. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    I think “agoraphobic” is the opposite of what you meant.

    Great post!

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I think “agoraphobic” is the opposite of what you meant.

    Great post!

    Agora = the marketplace in ancient Greek towns.

    • #2
  3. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Percival (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I think “agoraphobic” is the opposite of what you meant.

    Great post!

    Agora = the marketplace in ancient Greek towns.

    Great, now he can take your excuse and not have to admit he was wrong.  :-)

    • #3
  4. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I think “agoraphobic” is the opposite of what you meant.

    Great post!

    Agora = the marketplace in ancient Greek towns.

    Great, now he can take your excuse and not have to admit he was wrong. :-)

    I’m not wrong.  Don’t tell my wife I said that.  

    • #4
  5. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Hilton Head is nice but the hillbilly in me always takes me back to Tybee Island.

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I think “agoraphobic” is the opposite of what you meant.

    Great post!

    Agora = the marketplace in ancient Greek towns.

    Great, now he can take your excuse and not have to admit he was wrong. :-)

    Agoraphobia is literally “fear of the marketplace.”  

    • #6
  7. Terry Mott Member
    Terry Mott
    @TerryMott

    Doc, you’ve been on a roll lately!  Another great writeup.

    • #7
  8. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Dr. Bastiat: The day I retire

    So Doc, this is a question dear to my heart, at the age of 63.6.   I keep looking at my 401Ks, investments, and outstanding obligations, and think I am on the cusp.  But wouldn’t a couple more years of full employment just make it that much more less risky.  Two more years, maybe two and a half, or now… How long do you need at 4X revenue, before you are ready to wave goodbye to the outer banks and head back to the mountains? 

    • #8
  9. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: The day I retire

    So Doc, this is a question dear to my heart, at the age of 63.6. I keep looking at my 401Ks, investments, and outstanding obligations, and think I am on the cusp. But wouldn’t a couple more years of full employment just make it that much more less risky. Two more years, maybe two and a half, or now… How long do you need at 4X revenue, before you are ready to wave goodbye to the outer banks and head back to the mountains?

    Don’t believe for a second that inflation won’t get a say in your decision-making.

    • #9
  10. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    You are expounding upon what vacations are for.  

    • #10
  11. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Dr. Bastiat: And everything works out, for the most part, most of the time.  And everybody’s happy.

    Except that living in Elizabethton was probably more fun.

    • #11
  12. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    I might share some advice I gave to my brother:  he could afford to buy another place now, for example mortgage payments where I live now could be less than he used to spend on cigarettes.  Even if he doesn’t want to actually move yet, having a place ready is wise, and gets the price – and interest rate, if needed – locked in.

    • #12
  13. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    50 acres? All I want is four. In Oklahoma. After living in 20 ft wide lots in San Fran for 48 years.  Would die for half an acre. Even with an a**hole HOA. Had fun suing one for 15 years. And won. 

    • #13
  14. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    navyjag (View Comment):

    50 acres? All I want is four. In Oklahoma. After living in 20 ft wide lots in San Fran for 48 years. Would die for half an acre. Even with an a**hole HOA. Had fun suing one for 15 years. And won.

    Part of the problem I had with the Phoenix place before leaving, was that the HOA was rotten, but none of the other owners were willing to spend anything to fight them.  That made it even easier to leave, but of course the main reason was going from 1,000 sq ft to 4,500.

    • #14
  15. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Dr. Bastiat: I would shoot skeet out of our hot tub on the edge of a cliff.

    Now that is how to live!

    • #15
  16. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    I’d be fine either place as long as the place on the island was a condo and I didn’t have to do anything related to the property.  It’s too much like work.  I’d be fine longer in the mountains though.  Upkeep at the mountain home is just good therapy.

    • #16
  17. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Dr. Bastiat: It all works out.  Capitalism is compassionate, and wise, and simple.  Centralized control is heartless, and stupid, and complicated.  So I love capitalism.

    When explaining things to my kids I will often paraphrase Jurassic Park and say, “Markets find a way.”

    That is especially evident when you have events that the planners never would have planned for. After a hurricane, I remember seeing people renting trucks so they could sell generators to people with no power. A great idea until the Chuck Schumers of the world cried, “Price gouging!” The end result was people being left in darkness because they weren’t allowed to pay a price they were willing to pay to get power, because big government thought that wasn’t fair.

    During the COVID inspired lockdowns I saw Capitalism find new ways to do things. A young man in my town started charging $300 to save you a spot on the line at the DMV. I saw people in the supermarket pushing two carts at a time as they shopped for others and charged for delivery. Without overbearing regulations, free markets can solve most problems. And if that means having to suffer through life on resort to make the kind of money you want, then so be it.

    • #17
  18. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Dr. Bastiat: I sometimes find golf balls in my swimming pool

    I have known a lot of folks who moved south and brag that they live, “right on the golf course.” Great to be near the course if you like to play, but right on the course? One thing I have observed through the years is that most golfers, aren’t very good.

    • #18
  19. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Vance Richards (View Comment):
    And if that means having to suffer through life on resort to make the kind of money you want, then so be it.

    Very true.  If the worst thing that ever happens to me is that I have to live in Hilton Head, then I’ve been blessed indeed.

    I don’t like it here.  But I can see why others do.

    • #19
  20. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: I sometimes find golf balls in my swimming pool

    I have known a lot of folks who moved south and brag that they live, “right on the golf course.” Great to be near the course if you like to play, but right on the course? One thing I have observed through the years is that most golfers, aren’t very good.

    I once stuck a golf ball in the EIFS on the side of a house built “right on the golf course.”

    • #20
  21. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    Dr. Bastiat: I sometimes find golf balls in my swimming pool

    I have known a lot of folks who moved south and brag that they live, “right on the golf course.” Great to be near the course if you like to play, but right on the course? One thing I have observed through the years is that most golfers, aren’t very good.

    I once stuck a golf ball in the EIFS on the side of a house built “right on the golf course.”

    I’m fortunate to be in a pretty good spot, all things considered.  The cart path is across the fairway from me.  I’m adjacent to the blue tees, where most of the golfers have at least a vague idea what they’re doing.  They have to miss their shot by nearly 90 degrees to get it into my lawn or pool.  We get 2 or 3 balls a year.

    I have neighbors who get buckets of balls every year.  Buckets and buckets.

    • #21
  22. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    I’m adjacent to the blue tees, where most of the golfers have at least a vague idea what they’re doing.

    I know what I’m doing; I’m just not very good at it.

    • #22
  23. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @BobW

    After reading your description of life and seeing pictures of the Tennessee home I wondered how the transition to Hilton Head went. Well then there is the money and the new house looks OK, I guess someone has to do it.

    I had a house with 5 acres that I miss.  But it was 17 miles to everything, I don’t miss that.

    • #23
  24. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Bob W (View Comment):

    After reading your description of life and seeing pictures of the Tennessee home I wondered how the transition to Hilton Head went. Well then there is the money and the new house looks OK, I guess someone has to do it.

    I had a house with 5 acres that I miss. But it was 17 miles to everything, I don’t miss that.

    For me it’s 25 miles to walmart, but Family Dollar is 3 or 4 blocks and they have most things anyone usually needs.

    Also, I can get things FROM walmart without having to go TO walmart.  Most places deliver these days, including walmart, and usually for free.

    • #24
  25. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    Just speculatin’, but I imagine the market can provide a guy named Bud, who can fulfill the instruction, “Make sure I never get another ding from the HOA for any landscape infraction,” for say, $150 a month. 

    • #25
  26. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Just speculatin’, but I imagine the market can provide a guy named Bud, who can fulfill the instruction, “Make sure I never get another ding from the HOA for any landscape infraction,” for say, $150 a month.

    Yeah, but crushing the HOA is a public service (often).

    • #26
  27. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Phil Turmel (View Comment):

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Just speculatin’, but I imagine the market can provide a guy named Bud, who can fulfill the instruction, “Make sure I never get another ding from the HOA for any landscape infraction,” for say, $150 a month.

    Yeah, but crushing the HOA is a public service (often).

    If you hire the right guy, maybe.  Maybe somebody other  than Bud.  $150/month might not cover it, though.

    • #27
  28. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    I’ve been thinking about this invisible hand.  It really is like magic and I suppose that’s why so many have a hard time grasping how it could possibly work. 

    • #28
  29. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    But Health Care is a human right! Which means we should be able to force doctors to provide it!

    • #29
  30. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    iWe (View Comment):

    But Health Care is a human right! Which means we should be able to force doctors to provide it!

    I thought the 13th Amendment took care of that.

    • #30