My visit to a Nissan dealership today, looking to buy a second hand Leaf – Nissan’s electric car, sparked a whole stream of unasked questions.
How many people work at that dealership? How much profit do they have to make on each car? How many cars do they have to sell to pay the salaries of the people working there?
When I mentioned this to my wife she reminded me that you also have to factor in income through the extras they try and up-sell: Gap Insurance; Scotch-Guard; the regular service packages; the commissions from finance; and of course ongoing maintenance and repairs…
However they manage their business, the impression I get is that running a car dealership is a profitable enterprise. Which implies that for every car sold, new or second hand, for every up-sell, profit is being made.
I’m not against profit – I run my own business at a profit – yet as I compete with other contractors for roles and dealerships compete for our custom, I couldn’t help the thought that we humans have constructed a very inefficient model of economy. Surely there is a better way of organising ourselves…
Of course there have been attempts to organise the human economy, the two notable ones being socialism and fascism. Two philosophies that utterly failed in implementation during the last century, both of which tried to redesign our economy.
At the back of my mind as I wrote my first novel: The Great Scottish Land Grab, I was aware that my protagonist – Robert Castle – was rail-roading his way towards his vision for a utopian Scotland. Several readers commented that Castle was a “bit of a dictator…” I hope a benevolent one, but I agree, I ended up giving Robert Castle an enormous amount of power even as he sought to bring about a more democratic society.
At the time, as I was writing Land Grab, I struggled to imagine a different way for Castle to achieve his objective of reversing the Highland Clearances. It seemed to me that such an upheaval could only be achieved by someone willing to take tremendous risks, to go head to head with those in power and authority and accept the possibility that the threat of violence may be needed.
I enjoy my status as World Builder. So much easier to conceive and implement a new economy or society in fiction than in real life. Real life is much messier and frought with real risk.
I believe we have all been created by God to be creators ourselves. We have been given the tremendous capacity to turn the ordinary, everyday around us into something of greater value.
So why aren’t we all rich?
You probably have seen the “You have two cows” meme giving one possible answer to the question.
If you give two women each a million pounds, at the extreme, after a month, one woman will have turned that money into four million while the other will have squandered it all and have nothing to show for it.
Most of us fall somewhere inside those two extremes.
Think of all that humanity has achieved just in the last couple of centuries.
We have taken an industrial revolution to a technological revolution and seem on a trajectory to do more, better, faster and yet…
Hundreds of millions of people across the globe still live in extreme poverty – defined by The World Bank as living on less than $1.90 a day. On top of this, Water Aid estimates that 663 million people live without clean water and a massive 2.4 billion don’t have access to adequate sanitation!
We are all world builders. We’re building the world around us day in and day out. One day I believe we will all have to answer a very simple question: What kind of world did we build around us? One that shared and helped and lifted up or one that excluded and trapped and held down.