The hidden costs

Hidden costs are what you pay when you don’t know that you are paying. You pay hidden costs when you buy whatever you buy, wherever you buy, whenever you buy. You pay for goods and for the profit thereupon; but you also pay for the rent of the shop, the salaries of the shop attendants, water and electricity bills of the establishment, its property tax, bribes the proprietor has to pay to the civic officials, and the ditto of all the middlemen stretching all the way back to the original manufacturer of the goods. If what you have bought is branded item, you are probably also paying for a lot of advertising expenses, which could well include a good part of the income of plenty of your favourite film and cricketing world stars. If only those admirable ladies and gentlemen knew that the coffee in their cup started off as a thousand bucks in your wallet.

Once you understand the fundamentals of the economics of trade, you understand that you pay hidden costs everywhere. You pay hidden costs when you buy a disk of what is claimed to be music, released by a popular singer with lots of oomph but no talent at all. Your contribution pays for the expensive garments that she never wears more often than once; and for her extravagant lifestyle, her illicit drugs, and her alcohol rehabilitation programme. If the singer happens to be male, you are probably paying for his divorce, as well. When you pay hidden costs, you might actually be doing a bit of good; for example, when you use genuine Microsoft software, you become a part of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation for charitable causes such as research on AIDS. More likely, though, you are merely a drop of high octane fuel in their private jet.

Finally, did you realise it: you pay hidden costs even when you merely breathe in the air of namma Bengaluru. The autorickshaw drivers save their pennies by adding kerosene to the petrol in their fuel tanks; but the polluted air that you inhale takes away years from your life. Metaphorically, that means that you feel younger; but literally it means that you actually die earlier. Happily, you can stop paying for the pop star’s hundred acre mansion. Unhappily, it’s not a matter of choice, because you can’t stop breathing.

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