Capitalism and My Discontents
How much of this country's economy am I personally destroying by my consumption preferences?
By RICK MORANIS, WSJ Opinion, January 18, 2012
I also wondered whether still using my old, reliable German-brand coffee grinder, manufactured in China, might be an unpatriotic betrayal of American kitchen-appliance makers by choosing not to buy their Chinese-made grinder.
As I poured some house-brand almond milk into my homemade granola, I thought about the depressed demand and earnings on the higher-priced product manufacturers that I wasn't patronizing, their resulting order and production declines, and the backlogged inventories and possible layoffs at their factories.
How much of this country's economy am I personally destroying by my consumption preferences? I honestly never intended to do so much harm.
I ran a hot iron quickly over the front of a previously worn shirt, saddened at the thought of the jolly staff at my local dry cleaner who will suffer because of my thrifty initiative and tolerance for rumpled, mildly aromatic haberdashery.
I jumped into a cab, thinking about the MTA's budget deficit and my part in not helping to reduce it.
The traffic was terrible. Here I was, going nowhere, idling in a quick-ticking metered medallion taxi, driving up the price of oil, edging the country further into runaway inflation while spewing noxious fumes into the precious air around me. I am such a horrible person.
The driver, a pleasant Middle-Eastern man who I did not suspect was part of, or supporting, any terrorist organizations, was sipping a very large cup from one of several dozen popular coffee shop locations within a three-block radius of my home. I was pleased that at least one of us was supporting the hardworking baristas of this great nation.
I wondered out loud if the driver thought the price of his beverage would be higher or lower if baristas were unionized. He told me that in his country only men could be baristas and if a woman was caught even trying to be a barista she would be roasted, percolated and covered in scalding, foamy nonfat goat's milk. He said "Only America is free. Only America is great. God Bless America."
It sounded a bit suspicious to me. Was I seeing something? Should I say something? I threw him a 10-spot and decided to walk. I wondered how much of that $10 would wind up in the hands of our sworn enemies and felt a pang of pride in the dedication of our defenders.
A terrier on too long a leash attached himself to my slacks. I shook him off and admonished the mink-wrapped diva at the other end of it for letting her cherished little mutt-child attack an innocent at will. She accused me of being grumpy as I stared at the dog's mangy coat, imagining her wearing it as a hat. Shouldn't dog owners be required to get licenses, I thought. Think of the revenue! The new agencies that could employ people! But wouldn't that just expand government and create even more waste, fraud and corruption? I am such a confused and horrible person.
My cellphone rang. It was my mother, in Toronto, telling me she was on her way home from her ophthalmologist, where she'd had a 7 a.m. appointment—the only time to go without having to wait five hours to see him. I thought about how lucky we are in this country to not have to wait five hours to see a doctor. Unless you're poor, in which case you might never see a doctor at all. I must give more money to poor, sick people. I must not use my secular humanism as an excuse for not tithing, especially while it's still deductible.
I finally reached my office and opened my laptop. More shocking, breaking news to be read. More informed opinions to be listened to. More critical issues to consider and debate. Now, in this year—the most important election in our lifetimes. And I feel so utterly confused.
Tonight, I'll stay home and watch all the news channels. That will clear things up. I'll order in. And tip big!
Mr. Moranis is a writer and actor.