Daily Archives: May 14, 2011

Precision and why you can’t have it

The friendly economy; Tomato Chronicles Part 5

Six tomato seedlings ready to give to my friend Eileen

Six plants for Eileen leaves fifty-one

Fifty-seven tomato seedlings.


And a fairly shady, smallish yard to plant them in. It can’t be done. Even if I had every tree on the property cut down (not that that would help much, because we’d still have the shade from buildings, and trees that belong to neighbors, and trees between the sidewalk and the street that belong to the township) – anyway, even if I got rid of all our trees and dug up the entire back yard and front yard, it isn’t enough space to plant fifty-seven tomatoes.

Fifty-seven hopeful little tomatoes, waving their little green leaves in the breeze from the open windows.

What to do?

A box with four tomato seedlings for my friend Sue

And four for Sue leaves forty-seven

Well, that’s easy. What are friends for? To give plants to, of course. Six to Eileen, four to Sue, four to Donna. It’s a start. And in return (not even counting the advice from Sue without which I wouldn’t have this problem, because all the tomatoes would have died weeks ago), I got four lily of the valleys, six mystery flowers, and a quasi-infinite supply of grape hyacinth bulbs from Eileen.

Supply and demand. Things gain value if you don’t have your own stock of them. There’s no question that this was economic activity in the oldest form there is. Any self-respecting economist ought to hate me.

How can you accurately measure GNP if people all over the nation are adding gross product without any money changing hands? If I had let an official nursery raise those seedlings and sell some to me and some to Eileen and some to Sue and some to Donna, the value – excuse me, the price – would have been duly recorded and added to the official economic statistics.

Better yet, we could have let a commercial nursery start the seeds and sell the plants to a commercial farm that could sell the tomatoes to a commercial wholesaler which could sell them to a commercial supermarket which could sell them to us, not forgetting the commercial truckers who would get a piece of the pie here and there along the way. And each step would lead to a bigger GNP. As it is, there’s no way at all to keep track of how much productive activity really goes on in the world.

Look at that pin. How many angels are dancing?