You can learn alot at a garage sale. You can teach your family valuable life lessons at a garage sale. I once sold all my Star Wars collection (now worth a fortune) at a garage sale for pennies on the dollar. I once sold a Knight Rider car for a quarter… And who wouldn’t pay me Two million dollars on ebay for that…. Well, maybe not. Through the process of garage saling, the kids learned a lot about the two rails of economics: Price and Quality. They also learned that people can and should be paid fairly, NOT equally. They learned how free market capitalism forces you to put others’ needs ahead of your own. Let’s start with the most important lesson we can teach our kids: Price and Quality.
Every purchase that we make engages an internal mechanism that assesses price and quality. When you the customer assesses that the price of an item is worth the quality being offered, the buyer will engage.
As my kids watched people pull into the driveway, they realized that stuffed animals they priced at $7.00 were not “worth” seven dollars to the customer. So, they had a decision to make. Would they wait for a different clientel or change the price? They had to put the needs of the customer ahead of their own. This is important in teaching all of us to make smart purchases.
In life, we must assess the quality of an item and see if it’s worth the price. Often we choose a cheaper product, like the eliptical I bought from Walmart 2 years ago. The cheaper product wears out in less than 2 years because of the inferior quality. It would have been a wiser purchase to spend more on price to get a quality that lasts longer.
As for “fair wages”, how do you determine that? How donyou teach your kids gratefulness and work ethic? When the garage sale ends and $500 is in the profit box, how should a family divide the profits? There are several ways to do this Biblically. First, each person determines what they sold. Whatever they sold, they own the profits. This comes from a Biblical ideal called Property Rights. In this scenario, each of us gets the money from the items that belonged to us.
Property rights are critical to Biblical economists and any just system. When God led the Hebrews out of Egypt, He gave them the ten commandments. Twenty percent establish property rights: “Do not steal someone else’s donkey” (Why? They own it) or “Do not envy someone else’s house” (Why? it’s theirs). In garage sale economics, you do not pay everyone equally. You pay each person fairly according to their property rights and profits.
Another economic lesson to be taught at the garage sale is a principle called differentiation. This is a merit-based system where you pay each person according to their work and productivity. My son helped get ready for the garage sale and labeled some of the “product,” but was away at Boy Scout Camp for the actual sale. He should therefore not share in the “booty” as much - since he did less work. My daughter helped prepare for the sale and worked the whole day babysitting her baby brother and selling the stuff. My wife did the monsterous effort of organizing most of the “family” posessions. So, in keeping with the Biblical command to pay people fairly, not equally, my son got the least (inspiring more effort and incentive next time). My daughter was rewarded for her effort by being paid more. My wife was paid the lion share… Keeping me happily married.
In the parable of the talents, God gives out talents in seemingly “unfair” distribution. One person gets 1. Another 5. Still another 10. Then he rewards them in an unequal, but fair way. They are compensated for their faithfulness and stewardship. The lazy one who didn’t use his “1″ is rebuked and his “1″ is given to the faithful man who had 10.
If we can teach our kids and ourselves these lessons, we will instill in them a sense of hard work, other’s focus, understanding of how merit raises work later in life, as well as the power of capitalism to change lives.
Free market capitalism is the archenemy of poverty. For those who watched Knight Rider, KITT (The car who talked to David Hasselhoff in that nasal voice) had an arch enemy named KARR (so much for good screen writing in the 80′s). KITT defeated KARR time and time again. In the same way, free market capitalism defeats poverty, releases liberty, and spreads generosity everytime it is tired. This week, 549 kids were fed for over a year using the power of capitalism. Church goers donated money they earned from their own savings and profits to buy meals for starving children. They gave of their time and energy to impact others. The group, Feed My Starving Children, also brought products produced by children in Hatti and Phillipines and sold them to us. They created a market so that the starving children and families could PRODUCE and PROFIT from their work. These funds blessed the families and allowed them to do more than eat. By creating a market for their products, these families could profit begin to build up savings to change their future.
I talked to a business guy last week who began a pizza company in Cincinnati. This company sells pizza in a tough part of Cincinnati and uses all of it’s profits to fund other ministries to the needy. The more successful the business runs, the more needy and poor are helped. Rather than a one time donation or fundraiser, he has created a self-sustaining generosity machine through the power of others-focused capitalism. He inspires many business men and women he meets to brainstorm new ways to turn their business skills into money machines to help the poor and hurting.
For more information, check out www.godonomics.com