Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Driving Miss Economy

Ask most people what is driving the economy and they will guess that it is the computer revolution. It seems that every day there is some new invention or way of handling information that retires an old device and makes necessary a new, expensive device. VoIP and MP3s are examples of newer devices.

But there is another economic mover and shaker that lurks in the background. Our nation’s inventory of houses is maturing. We don’t throw houses away like we do old computers. We upgrade them. Home Depot and Lowes-type stores are not popular just because they are fast-moving retailers. They are popular because they are filling a need caused by the aging of our nation’s houses.

Thanks to standardization of construction dimensions (2X4 construction is about the same in every state and door heights are usually the same), an innovation for repair or upgrading in New York is often equally useful in Texas. In other words, it pays to innovate because there is a large volume of potential customers. It seems that every week, my local home store offers a new tool or plumbing or electrical or bracket or insulation device that is easily handled by the average do-it-yourselfer. This continuous upgrading for the upgraders is very good for our economy. Because of the continuous revolution in electronics, people have jobs and the money to upgrade their homes.

If that weren’t enough, specialists are springing up with new products for those jobs where a do-it-yourselfer, can’t. Some companies will replace all the plumbing in your house; others will replace all your windows and doors. They do their jobs quickly and efficiently and that is all they do. Specialization often results in lower prices. Generally the replacements are better and use less energy. This activity is sparking the economy, too.

Our revolution in communication allows new ideas to flow quickly and easily around the country and the world. It allows a kind of marketing in which people read about a new product and then demand it from their local retailer.

If all this progress keeps up we may be able to afford an extra gallon of gasoline.

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