When you think about people likely to come up with a revolutionary new economic theory, I might not be the first person who comes to mind. After all, my experience in economics is generally confined to decided which numbers sound lucky for the lottery. A lot of folks might even think statements like “I’m feeling good about 22 today” falls somewhat short of economic brilliance.
You also might not expect a groundbreaking new theory to come from a cheapskate. Many folks have called me that word, though I prefer to think of myself as frugal. I also prefer to think of myself as looking like Brad Pitt and playing guitar like John Mayer, so maybe what I think of myself doesn’t matter. So, fine, we’ll go with cheapskate.
Being a cheapskate, though, might just give me a unique perspective on economics. Anybody with money came come up with economic theories. For instance, Warren Buffett probably didn’t have to dig deep to come up with the so-called “Buffett Rule,” the theory that if you write a hit song about margaritas, tattoos of Mexican cuties and cutting your heel on a pop top, you probably should turn that into a retail and resort empire worth billions.
When you’re like me and don’t have a lot of money, though, you tend to think about economics a lot more. Right now, I’m thinking about how I’m gonna afford the legalized extortion known as private health insurance next year. The Don’t Get Sick Plan seems like my best bet.
One of the most famous economic theories in recent history is the Laffer Curve. This came to a guy going around that curve on Victory Drive that says you’re going too fast for the curve — which he found to be a real Laffer since it flashes constantly despite no cars flying off of it for going too fast. While speeding through that curve, he decided that tax cuts — up to a point — could actually generate more tax revenue.
Ronald Reagan seized upon that Laffer Curve theory and used it to turn America from the world’s No. 1 creditor nation to its No. 1 debtor nation in a span of eight years. Other folks call it Trickle-Down Economics, which means that if the wealthy are doing well, they hoard the money, but if they’re struggling the pain “trickles” down real fast, like Niagara Falls.
But I now have a curve theory of my own. It’s called the CJ Curve. It’s similar to the Laffer Curve. My theory is that the more you pay for something, the more you get. But only up to a point. After the apex of the curve, you actually start paying more and getting less.
I witnessed theory in action last weekend at a very fancy resort — one that’s normally way out of my price range. My price range for hotel rooms is usually just enough to avoid chalk outlines on the floor. The only reason I was here was because I scored an amazing deal. But the place had no drink machines, a rain-head shower that looks fancy but barely gets you wet, and it charged for local calls. Welcome to 1975. I longed for the comforts of my usual resorts, like the Dead Squid Smell Inn and the Sea Foam Motel.
I’ve also found the theory to be true in restaurants. Peak quality for a meal is somewhere around $14. After that, portions get smaller and they do funny things with your mashed potatoes. By the time you surpass $80 for a meal, all you get is an empty plate with parsley and a snotty waiter who gets offended if you say, “I thought there would be food on this.”
You can also pay too much for clothes, shoes, cars, cologne, liquor, furniture, jet fighters and congressmen. The list goes on and on. You can learn more in my new book, “The CJ Curve and Other Money Stuff Like That.” It’s now available for just $375, which means it must be really, really nice.
To order Chris Johnson’s latest book, “Wastin’ Away on Margaritahill,” visit KudzuKid.com.