The middlemen that survived the internet

abode-987096_640The internet has damaged travel agents, taxi drivers, retailers, and other industries.  But one set of middlemen have not been damaged at all:  real estate agents.

Though there is lots more real estate information online–e.g., Zillow–when people sell and buy houses, they still go to real estate agents, 5-6% commissions and all.

Either this is a niche that needs filling–if you can do so, remember me when you come into your billions–or this particular industry demonstrates the commercial limits of the internet.

Which is it?  What makes real estate agents immune from competition from the internet?


Illustration from Pixabay, Creative Commons, Public Domain

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From energy scarcity to energy abundance

Schematic_cross-section_of_general_types_of_oil_and_gas_resources_and_the_orientations_of_production_wells_used_in_hydraulic_fracturingNewspapers tend to offer good coverage of their city’s main industry.  So if you want financial news, read the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.  If you want entertainment news, read the Los Angeles Times.  If you want political news, read the Washington Post.  If you want news about the oil industry, read the Daily Oklahoman.

It even has an energy editor, Adam Wilmoth, who reported on an eye-opening industry symposium at the University of Oklahoma.  We learn about the impact of new oil production technology–such as fracking, horizontal drilling, and oil shale extraction–which has transformed our energy situation from scarcity to unimaginable abundance.

But some will not like to hear this, especially the point about how, in light of the new superabundance, it’s now not bad for energy consumption to go up.  And, if these figures are correct, there may not be that much economic impetus for alternative energy sources.  Much of the new technology has made oil production more environmentally friendly–there are now only 500 active rigs, pumping far more than the 4,500 rigs in 1981 and the 1,500 rigs in 2014.  But those worried that burning carbon contributes to global warming will be frustrated that economic forces will be working against them.  And we Oklahomans do not like all of our new earthquakes, which are apparently a by-product of the new oil industry.

Still. . .isn’t energy abundance a good thing and better than the alternative?  Or not?

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National debt will double in 30 years

debt-1500774_640The Congressional Budget Office released figures that project the national debt to double by 2047.

That would take it from the existing 75% of the Gross Domestic Product, which is bad enough, to 150% of the GDP, which is unthinkable.

I know!  Let’s cut taxes and increase spending!


Illustration by Rilsonav, “Debt,” Pixabay, Creative Commons.

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The decline of Christian bookstores

FamilyChristianStoresAppletonWisconsinThe biggest Christian bookstore chain, Family Christian Stores, is going out of business.  Then again, mostly what it carried was Christian knick-knacks.

As for books, the top 20 Christian bestsellers last year included, the words of one observer,  “three versions of Sarah Young’s controversial Jesus Calling, two kids joke books, two adult coloring books, titles by HGTV stars and athletes, and, of course, the latest from Joel Osteen.”

Better Christian books are still selling, largely on Amazon, but they often aren’t even carried by Christian retailers.

Then again, all brick and mortar bookstores are having a rough time.  Having put small mom and pop shops out of business, the big chains are now struggling against online sales.  Borders is gone, and Barnes & Noble is having a rough time, kept alive mainly by its own online offerings.

I regret the closing of bookstores.  There are still some excellent Christian bookstores, such as Wichita’s Eighth Day Bookstore (which also sells books online).  But Christians and the general public are still reading, helped too by Kindle and other readers that can download books instantly.

An article in Christianity Today, linked after the jump. argues that the end of Christian Retail that trades mostly in “Jesus junk” is not necessarily a bad thing.

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In praise of the American farmer

farmer-826912_640American agriculture has virtually eliminated world hunger.  And American farmers preside over an industry that has become an economic powerhouse.

Kevin D. Williamson tells all about the success of American agriculture, what it means for world trade, and how farmers–with their use of technology and innovative techniques–have become the best example of capitalism at its most effective.

Farmers, are you really doing as well as Williamson says you are?

Even if you aren’t, thank you for your vocation.  Through you God blesses us all by giving us our daily bread.

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Inflation may be coming back

-WIN-signPrices rose in January more than they have for four years.  And the effect is not just due to rising oil and gasoline prices.  Many observers are predicting that inflation is going to be an issue again, after years of stability.

Some are worried about the new administration’s economic policy, with the combination of tax cuts, increased spending, and protectionist trade policies being a classic formula for inflation.  Read this analysis.

I suspect a lot of you don’t remember the “Great Inflation” of the 1970s, with Nixon imposing wage and price controls, Carter overseeing inflation rates in the double digits, government mandated price freezes that created gasoline shortages and bare shelves in the supermarkets.

Do you think a revival of inflation is likely?  Trump’s economic policy is being criticized, but it hasn’t even been enacted yet.  There are rumors that it will contain massive program cuts that might offset increased infrastructure and military spending.  What do you think will happen?

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