Buggy Whips!


Contributing Editor
Walter W. Pickut

Markets come and markets go. Consider the poor buggy whip.

Unfair competition from troublemakers like Henry Ford drove buggy whip manufacturers—and all their hard-working employees—out of business. Today, you’ll have to contact an Amish artisan if you really need one.

Unfair competition, however, is not new. It has always been a problem. Consider Frederic Bastiat, a 19th-century French philosopher and economist. He once spoke up for the French candle-makers—the lighting engineers—of his age.

We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him…

The candle-maker’s unfair competitor? The Sun!

In more recent times, other products have been replaced by newer versions. The radio vacuum tube, for example, was replaced by the transistor; the slide rule was pushed aside by the computer; vinyl records were nearly spun out of existence by CDs; and the shaman was replaced by the physician.

Some of those are now gone forever and others reduced to a lesser niche, but every time somebody complained.

Well, friends, it’s happening again. Fasten your seatbelt, get on board, or get left in the dust or run over. It’s that pesky thing called electricity. It’s replacing gasoline—and diesel fuel, too.

But look at the losses we’ll suffer. Where will you go now for a dose of carbon monoxide, a nose-full of soot, or enough carbon dioxide to melt those unsightly glaciers and ice caps cluttering up the planet?

For some answers to those frightening possibilities, please accept this week’s invitation from the Jamestown Gazette to join one of our region’s best-known suppliers of electricity, the Jamestown BPU at Retool ’22.

For those who find electrification of vehicles and factories, and the tidying up of our air and water, unduly troublesome and expensive, blame those annoying educators and innovators who got us here.

For the doubters, however, I offer an insight from one who once had a whole country to run as it struggled with the clash of new ideas with old.

Cutting investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you feel the impact.

~President Barack Obama

And as with all innovations, the early days aren’t always the smoothest days, but the learning curve, once climbed, levels off at a higher and better place. Nostalgia for the old ways is always one of life’s warm and fuzzy places to go on a rainy day, but it will never replace real progress.

The only alternative may be shoe leather. More scenic sometimes, but probably not better.

Enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut
Contributing Editor

Previous articleGo Green Trivia
Next articleIndustries of the Future Arrive in Jamestown
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.