The Underpants Gnomes

This week’s TTMYGH will be a little shorter than usual (“Thank heavens!” I hear you cry) owing to my presence at the Strategic Investment Conference 2014 this past week and the travel time to and fro.

Due to the hectic schedule, I had planned to spend my week dragging as much knowledge as I possibly could out of those who made the trip to San Diego rather than committing finger to keyboard; but a chance encounter with a delightful young lady initiated an engaging conversation which, in turn, led to my discovery of the Underpants Gnomes.

Those of you who have ever attended an event such as the SIC know full well how such conversations arise. Those of you who haven’t will likely think I’ve taken another step towards the light (and will wonder just what sort of a dialogue we engaged in), but allow me to elaborate.

I will spare the name of the young lady in question to protect her modesty, but if she happens to be reading this back home in Bath, my thanks for the inspiration — even though I find myself awake at 3 AM rather worriedly thinking about underpants.

On December 16th, 1998, Comedy Central broadcast the seventeenth episode of the second season of South Park. In the episode, written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Harbucks (a franchise coffee shop chain with no similarity to any real-life company) planned to enter the South Park coffee market, thus threatening the local business owners.

Through a rather convoluted series of developments, the boys (Stan, Kenny, Kyle, and Cartman), are tasked with writing a school report on the threat that corporatism poses to small businesses. The report mobilizes the South Park community to take action against the insurgent corporate behemoth.

In true South Park style, what starts off as an attack on the culture of greed surrounding corporate interests ends up taking a pot-shot at the work ethic and merchandise quality of the small business owner.

Somewhat surprisingly, the TV critic (and sometime Austrian economist) Paul Cantor referred to this particular episode as “the most fully developed defense of capitalism ever” — which simultaneously speaks volumes regarding both the South Park writers and all those who have at one point or another defended capitalism.

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The article Things That Make You Go Hmmm: The Underpants Gnomes was originally published at  more

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