Every few years, the Mississippi River gets all pissy and decides to overflow its banks. The city of Davenport, Iowa, has had its share of floods as a result, but has steadfastly refused to build a flood wall for aesthetic reasons ( cars floating down the streets are, apparently, much more picturesque). Well, it looks like it’s about to flood again, so the locals are doing what they tend to do: building temporary flood barriers with sandbags.
A recent news story about it:
The story here is that the volunteers sandbagging are being given free beer, pizza and live musical entertainment while they work.
Now, at one level you could see this as a “triumph of collectivism:” people working together on common cause without tarnishing the effort with filhty lucre. But on a better level, you can see this as a triumph of the capitalist spirit. The beer? Provided by the Great River Brewery. The Pizza? Provided by Antonella’s Pizza. The music? provided by Just Chords. These companies are, apparently, providing their product for free, thus seemingly bolstering the claims of socialism. But in reality… they are also putting their company names right out there. The news story comes right out and tells you who’s providing what. This is known as “free advertising.”
It may be that the pizza and beer companies are located somewhere where if the river floods over, they will suffer either direct losses due to the Mississippi wandering onto their property; they may be located further away, but would still suffer business losses as traffic is diverted, power is lost or customers are distracted and impoverished by flood waters. The band Just Chords? I’ve never heard of ’em. If you do a Google seach on “Charity Smith of Just Chords,” you’ll find that their Myspace page is the first link… and this very news story is the second. Thus they are getting free press, something entertainers seem to have a passion for. All those people doing the work are, essentially, a captive audience for all of the companies involved, and are all now probably aware of them, if they weren’t before.
And how about the people actually sandbagging? Some, I’m sure, are doing it for purely “selfish” reasons, like if the river floods they’ll lose money. Others, I’m sure, are doing it for altruistic “to help their fellow man” reasons. And it’s possible some are there for the beer and pizza. But in any event, no matter what the breakdown of motivations is, it remains a triumph of capitalism over socialism. Why? Becuase those doing the sandbagging are doing the sandbagging because they want to do it… not because there’s some thug forcing them to do it.