A nice little story from China. Meteorites fell on some villages near the Burma border, the locals there deciding that they’re very valuable, very valuable indeed. The thing is, there’s already a pretty liquid market in meteorite pieces. I’ve seen, for example, a street stall in my native Bath selling them as curios. Given that we’ve got this market, an extant one, with prices and all that goes with one, we’re going to see some very disappointed villagers:
Chinese treasure hunters are raking in a fortune selling meteorites after a ball of fire lit up the sky on the China-Burma border.
No, that bit’s not true.
Villagers living in the southwestern Yunnan province which was showered with fragments last Friday have been asking for up to 50,000 yuan (£5,800) per gram – about 50 times the normal price.
That bit might well be but they’ll not be raking in fortunes as a result. They’ll be making nothing in fact. Things that are sold over the usual market price tend not to sell very much. That demand curve stuff, it really works. As does the concept of a normal, or market clearing, price.
More than 200 fragments had been discovered by Monday and one 20 gram piece was sold for about 24,000 yuan (£2,800), Chinese media said.
Jiang Wei, a meteorite expert, told the Beijing Youth Daily that prices being asked for the fragments was “far beyond reasonable”.
Sure, there are always outliers, people who misjudge what that market price is.
Actually, the prices quoted here seem a bit high to me – the normal ones that is. £100 a gramme is rather higher than I think the price of meteorite pieces is. They’re not that, that, rare after all.
However, the thing that interests here is that we’ve got the very concept of a market price for something from out of this world. Those supply and demand curves seem to extend up into the very heavens. All of which makes it such a surprise to find so many people denying their existence. You know, as people argue for rent controls and insist that this won’t lead to a shortage of housing, argue for high minimum wages and insist this won’t mean people economising on employing people, Insist that energy much be nice and cheap (or, if you’re a Green, nice and expensive) without accepting the concurrent changes in human behaviour and thus demand.
Look, if markets apply to stuff that just drops from the skies why is it so difficult to understand that they’re just part of the fabric of our reality?