[by Charles Cameron — a very preliminary salute to James Bennett and Michael Lotus’ new book, with blues harp to match ]
Okay, I’m a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles, a jackdaw, not the most consistent of readers — but I did stumble upon something…
I’ll admit, I cannot even see how “the actual time and materials cost of the hammer might be $60 a hammer” when its “functional equivalent might cost $20 in a hardware store” — but let’s overlook that 200% markup for a moment, and chew on the rest of this dazzling paragraph from James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century — Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come, pp. 266-67:
The Department of Defense requires that the labor time and materials used in building defense items on a “time and materials” basis, which is the great majority of all such items, be documented in excruciating detail. The costs of doing this are themselves allowed as expenses, so that the government ultimately pays for the costs of this proof. Therefore, when lurid accounts of $600 hammers procured by the Pentagon surface in the press, what is actually happening is a hammer whose functional equivalent might cost $20 in a hardware store is purchased in the Pentagon system, the actual time and materials cost of the hammer might be $60, with an additional $540 in documentation costs to ensure that the government is not being over¬charged for the item.
I admit, I am not Kafka.
But if that isn’t a snake biting its own tail arrangement, I don’t know what is.
What can I say?
Interesting, btw — I’ll bet there’s a story behind the decision to switch book covers from the one proposed earlier (at the top of the post, left) to the one the book now carries (right)!