Pay the Crapweasels What They're Worth

When you purchase a light bulb, do you really care if it provides a soft, warm glow or simply a bright light? If it lasts five years instead of two, does it really matter? How about a bulb that saves 2 cents a month on your utility bill?

If you're like most people, you simply pick the one on sale. Whether it's a 65 watt or 75-watt bulb doesn't matter. As long as it provides enough light to read the political cartoons, you don't really care. Ditto with the modest savings on your utility bill. You buy on price, because light bulbs are a commodity, much like gasoline or salt.

Now, look at yourself in the mirror. Do you see a 150-pound light bulb staring back? If so, you may be one of those people who've been "commoditized". This popular economic theory holds that people with the same skill set are interchangeable commodities. For example, engineers are the same in New York as in Bangalore. Their worth in terms of experience, education, or ingenuity means little. Companies figure there's no difference between the two, except one makes a lot less money and eats naan for lunch.

The issue of quality is a moot point. Today's businesses believe they only need to suck marginally less than their competitors to lead a market of continuously lowered expectations. Instead, the issue of money drives the process. Small amounts of those savings make it to the consumer in the form of lower prices. The stockholders get a few cents more per dollar come dividend time. And, the CEO laughs all the way to the bank, leaving a trail of money from his overstuffed pockets. Hell, even the Indian engineer benefits because now he has a job to pay for that delicious naan. The poor guy who used to be the engineer? He's now working at an Indian takeout place baking naan - if he's lucky.

I actually like commoditization. I'm a consumer and stockholder, not a naan chef, so I'm making money. I think companies are exactly right. Quality doesn't matter because stuff is so cheap I can just buy something else when something inevitably fails. If one Indian engineer is the same as any other engineer, I say go whole hog. Move the job to Darfur where people would kill for the opportunity - or maybe just kill, I'm never sure about that one.

I even advocate expanding the program. Hell, if there are cheaper engineers in the world, what about accountants, PR people, or sales. I once bought a car from an Indian guy. That dude could move the metal if you know what I mean. Sure, the rogan josh breath was a little pungent, but that guy saved me $2K. He even threw in some naan.

In fact, I like this idea so much I have a proposal.

Let's commoditize CEOs. They certainly don't have any unique skills. All it takes is a complete disregard for other people's money, the inability to listen to anyone else, an ego the size of a small European country, and a "I don't give a shit about anyone else as long as I get mine" mentality. Experience running companies into the ground a plus, but not required. Heck, I can think of dozens of people who could qualify - even me.

And just so you know - I work cheap. Give me $10 million a year and we'll call it even. I'm a bargain at twice that price.

Just ask Ken Lay.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Sunday, May 14, 2006

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