I beg your pardon, but this morning over on the Peoplenomics side of the house, we will be engaged in some forward-looking on how humans will relate to machines as the world changes in times ahead. This is useful stuff to be thinking about because it will likely be a major part of our shared economic future.

So this morning, both for subscribers and non – I wanted to toss out some ideas about what can happen when the fundamental changes that may be ahead for the economy really begin to impact such basics as the typical family’s “Make or Buy” decisions.

As you can see above, if one has a fairly well-equipped shop, there are tons of things to be made while, at the same time, Amazon and Walmart make it oh-so-easy to buy.

I wanted to talk with you about this because when the Depression arrives (it’s only a matter of when) you will experience a once-in-a-lifetime event:  A sudden shift of your personal perception of “worth.”

Last week, since we were talking about the prepping role of mountain bikes around here, Elaine came up with a simple request.  “You know, we could get one of those bike Exercise Stands and put it in the gym… I’d use it….”

When Elaine wants anything, I jump into action.  After all, my role is as the Provider in Chief and it’s my self-defined job to facilitate.

The mental ping-pong game that followed is worth considering because the answer will depend very much on what your present economic position is in life.

I began looking at options I could buy.  The simplest one was to hit Amazon and pick out a URSTAR Magnet Bike Trainer Stand – Bicycle Indoor Exercise Stand with Front Wheel Block and Skewer/Blue/  Not only is the name “close enough for govt. work” but it was $60-bucks.  (They had more pricey models, but the only difference I could find was color.  Clue was cheapest.)

BTW, this was a hang-up for me.  I wasted a good 10-minutes arguing with myself over whether color would make any difference.  In the gym, most of the equipment is black of grays (inversion table, treadmill, weight machine, but the free weights (smaller) are all colors.

In the end I opted for the cheapest color and I figure if Elaine doesn’t like it, she’;; get a can of spray paint and point me to that project down the road.

Except for that, it was ONE-MINUTE and $60-BUCKS.

But Shouldn’t I Have Made It?

Guilt was coursing through my veins now.  I had done an “instant” decision and I hadn’t costed out what a similar project would have cost had I “tolled my own.”

Building anything is a process.  I blocked out the costs knowing the steps.

  • Design.  I would likely spend half an hour looking at various designs and figuring out what would be easiest to fab up here in the shop.

If I can make $20-an hour or more by working, writing, consulting, and so on,  it was safe to guess that I would spend $10-bucks worth of time on the design aspect of a home-made bike stand.  Doesn’t take too many clicks and only a handful of videos to burn through 20-30 minutes, right?

  • Materials:  Once I had a design, there would be some time spent rounding up parts

Just a quick look at what I’d already “jumped the gun” and bought I could see that my frightfully over-wrought design would involve some thick wall 1″ X 1″ square tubing.  None on hand, so I’d have to drive into town to the local machine shop.  This is great fun…BUT it’s an hour of driving, then toss in half an hour of BS-ing time with the yard crew and then a side-trip to Lowes to get the parts the scrap pile won’t have:  Bolts and such… What they didn’t have would mean a trip to Tractor Supply….so by now I was looking at 2.5 hours because I might as well top off the gas and then there’s the Chinese joint to visit…

Thing is, now – even at a modest $20 an hour, there was $100 worth of lost income time and on top of that maybe (exercising total self-control) $20 bucks in metal and parts…

  • Fabbing:  Takes a little time to cut and weld metal…fun time, don’t get me wrong, but time.

I’m pretty good fabbing up things when the material is on hand.  Thing is, though, I still need to move out a torch (can’t weld inside the shop because of fumes and fire risk, right?)  So from just moving a welding, plasma cutter out into position and set-up that’s 5-10 minutes.

Fabbing would involve a number of machine processes (all fun!):  Cutting whether plasma or on the metal cutting bandsaw, then some welding, then dtrilling (if I forgot to punch in the holes first, which I sometimes do…) then grinder time to clean up the messes on cuts and…well, you get the picture.

Let’s say I have everything fall perfectly into place.  Don’t need to change out the MIG rig tips, the bandsaw blade doesn’t come off…you know, all those time sinks.  Let’s says a half hour to fab like hell.  $10-bucks worth.

  • Assembly and Finish:  Well, I least I know who to blame is there’s a run in the paint…

Still, the one that I bought online for $60 bucks is likely powder-coated.  I haven’t gotten into that for two reasons.  One is I don’t have a used oven in the shop for “cooking on powder coat” and even if I did,. I would have to run a new 220 line over from the site main disconnect and that would involve burying cable and if I’m going to do that, why not just run some single ought underground and rewire the whole shop?  You see how a simple project like this can let loose with a whole crap-storm of domino effects.

10-minutes for spray paint, 3 beers waiting for things to dry if the sun’s out, and let’s not even count the time on this damn project because buying instead of making is the right choice.

Until the Depression

Because when THAT SHOWS UP all those provisions for “time costs” will be blown out the window.

You can’t pencil in $20 bucks an hour from all your side-hustles if there is no one buying because we’re in a what”  “Oh, yeah.  DEPRESSION?”  Bada-bing!

Then when a project is looked at there is almost no ‘time cost” because everyone will be brimming over with what we call ‘FREE TIME.”  And with a little cleverness, you can focus on things that will really matter.

Come to thing of it, in the Depression, the idea of a bike exercise stand on a small ranch becomes an absurdity.  Because both Elaine and I will be out planting and gardening as much as we can to I can maintain my boyish figure, lol.

Which gets us on to the bottom of this Economics 101 lecture for this fine day:

When the Big Depression shows up (although we hope it never does) the following will happen:

  1. People will stop buying things.  Short almost anything but food stocks will make sense.
  2. People will not be making much, either:  Our storage units are overflowing, people have too damn much crap.  Any calories that yu have left over should be going into making food.
  3. A HUGE portion of things in the Services sector will simply implode.

This all gets us looking even further:  You see, we have a structural problem in that while Capitalism is great on the way UP in the economy, it blows-up badly when things turn turtle.

When it comes, people will be building anything they can out of whatever raw materials they have on hand.

And when time comes, I bet I know someone who might part with a good condition almost new bike Exercise Stand for, oh, $10 bucks.

I hope it doesn’t come to that, but that’s the kind of future that could be arriving within a few years (or months) – depending on how lucky (or un) we are.

Write when you get rich,


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