One of my favorite TV Shows these days is Renovation Realities on the DIY Network.
The show follows couples with no construction skills as they tackle various home improvement and remodeling jobs. What makes the show hilarious is watching the newbies fuck up— spending an hour figuring out how to unlock a radial arm saw, electrocuting themselves when they cut in to walls and hit live wires, bashing fingers and toes with heavy items, hitting themselves with their sledgehammers, and getting crap in their eyes because they don’t wear safety glasses. About 20% of the time, the couples just give up.
What makes the show doubly entertaining is the inter-personal dynamic between the couples. Some couples work together harmoniously and concentrate on finishing the task at hand. Some wives/girlfriends pitch in, don’t complain, show real appreciation for the sweat being shed so they can have a better kitchen or bathroom and you can see how being with them everyday could be a ton of fun. It lets you see why you might want to be married to the right woman.
Others do nothing but bitch and moan, shirk their share of the heavy labor, and blame their partner when things go wrong, e.g. they open a wall and find a pipe or wires that have to be re-routed and the woman goes on as if it were the husbands fault. The bitch and moaners act like their husband/boyfriends job is to please them and that everything in their shared lives is all about them. The husband/boyfriend as household pet.
And then their are the ones with obvious psychological problems or with the brain power and knowledge of a special ed 12 year old but convinced that they have a valuable point of view and expert opinion about how the job should be accomplished— an opinion that has to be taken seriously and debated rather than just politely ignored. These women make you wonder what drug the men were on when they hooked up and why they stay hooked up with these women.
The show makes you appreciate Thai girls who live their whole lives Close to the Line and live their lives as integral parts of extended families where resources are scarce, financial disaster is only a catscan away, and there is a premium on getting along with people because you are going to be around the same people for your entire life and may have to rely on them in the future. No Thai girl I’ve met behaves the way some of the women from Renovation Realites do and that is a point in their favor.
What makes the show relevant to Thailand is the idea of Crony Capitalism and the rules of the game being set up so you can’t win. In Renovation Realities, some of the jobs take place in New England towns where the local tradesman have gotten together with the local alderman to pass laws which require permits to do common repairs and where work has to be done by union tradesman. In one noteworthy episode, a couple wants to move a toilet 3 feet and are required to get a permit and pay a union plumber several hundred dollars to move a toilet drain—something they could have done themselves in 10 minutes with no safety issues but the connected people in the town have written rules to the game so they cannot win. Move the toilet drain with giving your pint of blood to the connected people and they’ll come after you with a monster fine or make you rip out your toilet.
It’s painful to watch some young couple with barely a dime to their name, up to the nostrils in debt, trying to make some improvement to their old run down house being cheated out of several hundred dollars by some lazy fat tradesman who has the town government in their pocket and can use government power to stop a guy from moving his own toilet without putting money into his pocket but, in some of the locales documented on Renovation Realities those are the rules of the game.
This is an example of Crony Capitalism in the United States. Instead of free competition driving prices down and quality up, the rules are written so that a connected few can prey on herd.
A recent post about the Luxury Car Market, discussed how the Thai luxury car market is set up to provide connected Thai insiders with a way to make tens of thousands of dollars off of each luxury car sold. The system emplaces a tremendous import tariff and then allows corrupt bureaucrats to sell exemptions to connected insiders to import and register cars without paying the official tariff. Anyone trying to by a car legitimately must pay tens of thousands of dollars more vs. a corruptly imported car and, even the official manufactures, are unable to establish dealerships because they couldn’t compete with the black market.
Watching Renovation Realites on the DIY network, you realize that the difference between Thailand and the U.S. is one of degree. In the U.S., there are a few games where the rules are written so you can’t win. In Thailand, the rules of most of the games are written so you can’t win.