Posted by: erichosemann | September 24, 2009

The Free Market Mind Reading Machine

Today was a banner day for the free market mind-reading machine.

For the last few weeks, a small dessert bowl has sat in a corner of our kitchen counter, cracked, a chunk of porcelain missing from its inner rim.  I was sure it was repairable.  I didn’t think plain old super-glue would do it.  To be frank, super glue has come through for me only a handful of times.  It usually gives out after awhile if used to repair anything that moves or is moved.  The newer glues like Gorilla Glue or Elmer’s Ultimate wouldn’t work because they usually require clamps.  How do you get a clamp into a bowl?

A trip to Home Depot on an unrelated errand yielded a surprising find: Gorilla Glue Super Glue.  Apparently it’s fortified with rubber particles to give it impact resistance. This might do the trick, I thought.

So I repaired the bowl last night.  No, I didn’t put it through a series of strenuous tests, like whipping it against my garage wall or standing on it.  I’m not too concerned about the repair, because actually, the bowl probably won’t get used anymore.  I’m not a skilled repairer of porcelain.  It looks repaired.  The cracks are very noticeable and it’s still missing the tiny chips I couldn’t find.

But that’s beside the point.  The point is that suddenly this glue appeared.  I was thinking about something like it for weeks.  There had to be some compound that would make a fast bond and be relatively less brittle than plain old superglue.  And there it was, waiting for me at the Home Depot.

(In case you think I’m writing an endorsement, I’m not.  I’m not a fan of anything about the Home Depot other than that it is a small part of the miraculous bounty of free enterprise.  I am not in any way compensated for writing about Gorilla Glue products.  In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion their super glue won’t work as well as I want it to.)

From the perspective of the individual who needed something and tried for weeks to figure out what that something would be, the glue’s sudden appearance really looked like there was something out there trying to figure out what I needed.  I had no idea anyone else needed their super glue to be “impact resistant” or “fortified with rubber particles.”  I wasn’t on the “Petition Elmer’s Or Whoever to Fortify Their Superglue with Rubber Particles” mailing lists.  I did not have my finger on that pulse, as it were.  Yet there it was.

The idea “rubber impregnated super glue” was out there, and some enterprising people found it.  It can’t be taken back.  Someone else will improve upon it.  Elmer’s will strike back with rubberized superglue with a cartoon anthropomorphic bull raging on its label.  Consumer Reports and Popular Mechanics and other magazines will include Gorilla Glue Super Glue in face-off tests against different and similar glues.  Some will pan it.  Others will sing hosannas.  The glorious weeping and praising and gnashing of teeth that is the process of discovery within the context of freedom will continue.  As they say:  Lather, rinse, repeat.

And the best part?  This product of the effort and interest and intellect and know-how of thousands of individuals “just appeared” at no cost to me other than the $5.97 I plopped down for the glue itself.  I wasn’t pleaded with by a local politician to help poor families get better super glue.  I wasn’t audited by the county for an increase in the super glue portion of my property taxes.  There wasn’t a nationwide push for faster, cheaper access to a broad spectrum of low-cost, child-safe adhesives.  Other people saw a need—a scarcity of quick, durable adhesives and an inequality in abilities to design, manufacture and market them—and decided to heave their own hard-earned cash into the hands of researchers and engineers and polymer scientists and ad executives.  I didn’t have to postpone our plans to install a water softener or travel to Europe to get this done.  I didn’t have to mortgage my grandchildren’s futures.  I didn’t have to scale back my dreams so that someone else could have their dream of rubberized super glue.

Truly a banner day for the free market mind reading machine.

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