Economics. The plaster gnome paradox

by Jack Gardner

I remember when the first Chinese restaurant opened in my town. Everyone said it was a novelty and that it wouldn’t catch on



I remember when the first Chinese restaurant opened in my town. Everyone said it was a novelty and that it wouldn’t catch on. In fact there was already a Berni Inn which sold sherry by the schooner and half schooner. And if there was a need for another restaurant it would be english obviously. Then an Indian restaurant opened. Then a tiny skirt called the mini appeared. Then a tiny car called the mini appeared. Then someone started selling holidays in Spain for ten pounds but that would never catch on, who’d want to go where foreigners are? And then garlic was invented, and then Tesco and bingo. Portable transistor radios from Japan, Japan? How can they make anything? They’re weird, they eat with sticks. But then they seemed good at making stuff we wanted and cheap as well, so let them. What harm could it do?

Then there was a little company in Germany called Messerschmitt who had made fighter aircraft for Hitler but were now making funny little cars. Bubble cars for two people. They would never catch on. Bavaria Motor Works, who the hell are they and what could they possibly make that we’d want?

I had a Christmas present once when I was a child. It was three bright red, rubber molds. A gnome, a dog lying down and a frog, or it could have been a toad, a big bag of plaster and, in a separate bag, six glass jars of paints, just the primary colours. It all came with a catalogue of much more advanced molds. Reliefs of Mills on streams, plaques of Greek maidens reclining and one that I really wanted of a castle on a craggy mountain.

Rule one, grease your mold. I greased my molds and mixed my plaster and poured it into the molds and was amazed at how hot they got whilst setting. I rubbed my face with the backs of my hands and soon had the pallor of a sweating, plague victim. But I did have rows of gnomes, a dog lying down and a frog. In short I had a manufacturing business but production problems were soon evident. The sink blocked and my dad had to dig up the drive to find the solid lump of plaster that was obstructing the flow. My over production without a market meant that I could experiment with possible other uses. And so I dropped gnomes off of the high bridge over the railway line and watched them explode. Dogs lying down seemed more appropriate for the cemetery than gnomes and so dogs appeared amongst the marble angels. They’re probably still there. Frogs, well where better than the local museum. So they took their place gazing at models of saxon huts and riding up and down on a working beam engine driven by electric of course.

But the problem persisted, without a market my plaster models business was doomed. I had to create a market or give up. I gave up, concluding that I needed to attract investors to help me buy the castle mould with which I could build an international business. You see in business you have just got to have the right mold.

A man from Poland just cleaned my car in the car park. It’ll never catch on.

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