Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Tea shop and isms

Imagine a third world construction site. Imagine the dust and the grime and a lot of people, because a lot of work is done by manual labour since labour is cheap. Why construction? Because they comprise usually the poorest of all of the labour class. They are usually migrants and unskilled, except the ones which pick up a skill on the job.

Apart from the buildings, the similarity of equipment and the general dust and cement, there is one common factor across all construction sites, located anywhere, even in the remotest corner of India. Any idea what that could be?
The ubiquitous tea shop.
The tea shop at a construction site is the ultimate symbol of the free market. Where there is demand, whereever there is demand, there is a tea shop.

There are workers and there is a tea shop. The tea shop sources milk, tea and sugar and sells tea at a profit to workers. There are days when milk gets spoilt or unused and this risk is borne by the tea shop owner. There is a risk of theft and of debtors not paying up. It is the risk of the tea shop owner. The customers are usually daily wage earning workers. If there is sufficient demand for any product, the tea shop owner sources it. If it doesnt sell it is his risk.

When there is more demand than what a tea shop can satisfy, another tea shop emerges. Sometimes there are too many tea shops and there is a tea shop shakeout and ultimately one or two survive.

If it were not for free markets and if the world was communist, the tea shop would not survive. Then the company (of the builders or workers) would have to create a tea shop, man it, supply tea to everybody. By letting the tea shop owner take care of it, it leaves both the tea shop owner and the builder to, literally, mind their own business. Supply and demand at work.

Anyway, thats not the point.
The point is that, is this poor enterprising tea shop owner, a capitalist or some other -ist?
Is he an evil capitalist because he makes profit from poor construction workers?
Or is he good because he himself is "not rich"?
So what happens when he makes some money and reinvests that to perhaps create a "hotel"? Does that make him evil?
If he gets rewarded for his risk is that evil?

2 comments:

Prahalathan said...

Good one!
So simple yet so complex.
You'll make a great teacher! Really
keep Blogging!

Mridula said...

Many Scandinavian countries have what is called a welfare state and it works! I am no supporter of communism but I can see that capitalist system has its flaws too. Is capitalism the limit? Who is stopping us from dreaming of something better. I like to ask many 'is profit motive god given?'We many a times treat it like one.