Peter McCarthy Electric Co., Inc. - Specializing in Older Buildings in Chicago
Adventures in Old House Wiring....

The electrical BUSINESS

No Pictures today. Just some observations.

Started the day listening to the radio this morning, they were doing a report on NPR about how scarce electricians are right now in NYC and there-abouts.  They were talking about how every house has to be checked and certified by a licensed electrician in these areas where Hurricane Sandy came through. I didn't hear every specific detail but the gist of it s there are huge ares in the city where the power company shut down everything, and they will not re-connect individual homes until they have been inspected and approved by licensed certified Electricians. Now, there is a lot of sense in making sure someone who knows what to look for signs off on things before re-energizing the system. That is for sure.

But there seems to be some heavy-handedness on the part of the NYC authorities in not permitting anyone except a NYC licensed electrical contractor to perform this work. I am all for not having amateurs, for sure. But there seem to be many licensed qualified electricians and electrical contractors  a stone's throw away. New Jersey, NYC suburbs, ect. But the city is sticking firmly (at least before this radio show did the story) to their position, grounding it in the safety and "we know our guys and that they know what they're doing" argument. But clearly the number of homes to be inspected is overwhelmingly high, and the stock of local guys no way matches the demand. They interviewed one electrician working 12 hr days, and one lady who said she didn't even take water in her house, (that may or may not be true in reality) and she has been out of power since the storm with no electricians even returning her calls. She said I could pay 500, I could pay 1,000.00  it would not matter. YOU JUST CAN"T GET AN ELECTRICIAN!!!  The story wound up with the narrator talking about the cold coming to NYC, and many folks expected to remain out of power for weeks, and with Christmas coming, what a tough situation that is.

I am very disgusted by this scene, especially the issue of folks without heat, lights, and everything else you need to make life bearable. With Christmas right around the corner. Very sad. The utility companies themselves ROUTINELY send trucks an crews to handle these disasters all around the country. Nobody could possibly deal with a storm like this with just the local people. I'm sure there were linemen and high voltage guys in gear with trucks from at least 20 states. I don't know if there is a formalized reciprocal contract or if it's more the informal "bucket brigade, everybody jump in to help" scenario. All I know is it seems there is plenty of skilled electrical manpower to get that heat on in NYC if there was a political will to do it.

I am reading a book about the greatest business successes in American History from FORBES. It is rather interesting, as it began right with the founding of the country and this man Robert Morris. I never heard of him, but apparently he was a financier (Banking in the colonies really didn't exist yet) and he was very successful and rich, and he put up money to essentially pay the Continental army under George Washington. The colonial leaders were heavy on talk to "Free the colonies" and cast off the yoke of England. But when the time came to pony up for the boys, they all took two steps back and said let him do it first!
Amazing history not told, though I should have known there would be plenty of greed, fear and human failing to be found there if one wanted to look for it. Google "Robert Morris" and read up. Its an amazing story. His country returned the favor by locking him up in a debtors prison later in life when he overextended himself and bought too much land he couldn't pay taxes on.

Later in the book they get into Rockefeller and JP Morgan and these massive fortune builders who became zillionaires. The details varied, but most of them were shrewd, smart, gutsy and utterly ruthless. They saw a weakness or a vulnerability in the market or the competition and they pushed it until they vanquished their opponents. The American way, free enterprise, ect.

I wonder if one man's "being shrewd or sharp enough to recognize a captive market" or "make the most of an opportunity" or even just "charge what the market will bear" is another man's gouging, cruelty, criminal-in-spirit-if-not-technically-illegal behavior? How many folks are getting money under the table out there? America always wants it both ways, the economists and the Republicans want unfettered free markets, aggressive competition, and the "free hand" will be sure it all works out. But the reality to me always seems there is never enough good in men's souls to not take advantage of another when the opportunity is there. A lot of men keep their conscience clean with the "It's the way the game is played" line, or the ever self-assuring "If I dont take their money, somebody else will" or "If it were up to me personally, I wouldn't do it, but everybody's doing it so I have to do it just to keep up."  I guess that's why I will never be more than just a moderately successful businessman.  With all due respect to Sonny Corleone, its never "Just Business."  It's always Personal if the guys you are sticking it to are persons. Which most people are.
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