The New Wave of Wealth Creation: ThinkGeek

Photo credit: Washington Post

Photo credit: Washington Post

GameStop, the digital gaming retailer, has just paid $140 million to purchase Fairfax-based ThinkGeek, an online retailer of apparel and gadgets to the “geek” market segment entranced with nerdy cultural icons from Star Trek to Minecraft, from Doctor Who to Game of Thrones. The company peddles products as diverse as “Rebel Fighter silk ties” to mini-refrigerators mimicking Han Solo embedded in a block of carbonite.

The company was formed by four Fairfax residents in 1999 as a side project but grew steadily and organically, reaching sales of $112 million by 2012, according to Wikipedia. The founders sold the company to an outside owner relatively early in the game, so it doesn’t seem likely that the original founders made much, if anything, from the deal.

Still, I love the ThinkGeek story because it typifies the kind of subterranean wealth that is being created in the United States economy. Other than the nerds who patronized the website, who’d ever heard of ThinkGeek before? Who knew it was based in Fairfax, Virginia? Who imagined that the enterprise was worth $140 million?

While it takes some technological competence to run an online retailer, most of its technology can be purchased off the shelf. Other core competencies are logistics and fulfillment and, most important, the ability to market creatively to a demographic niche. The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority didn’t have to recruit ThinkGeek to move to the county — it got off the ground there because that’s where its four founders lived. It stayed in Fairfax because it could easily recruit tech-competent employees there. I’m willing to bet that no one offered ThinkGeek any “incentives” along the way.

Those of us who think about what it takes to create more prosperous, livable and sustainable communities need to ask ourselves this question: What can we do, if anything, to foster the growth of more ThinkGeeks in Virginia?


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85 responses to “The New Wave of Wealth Creation: ThinkGeek

  1. Be honest – and I’ll know if you’re lying – how many times have you seen the original Star Wars trilogy?

      • Hah hah! I knew it! That’s awesome!

        Are you stoked about the new movies? God knows we shouldn’t be after the atrocities that were episodes I, II and III. But I can’t not go.

        Also, Han shot first.

      • IF I had a choice between Star Wars and Forest Gump……

        • Let me think…

          Lightsabers, dog fights in space, pseudomystical telekinesis, the Death Star, the Millennium Falcon and freaking AT-ATs versus Tom Hanks and a good soundtrack.

          Come on, man!

      • I never imagined that the mysterious LOTFL was himself a geek!

        • Oh, man absolutely! Excluding my wife/family the things I take the most pleasure in are:

          -Comic books (Spider-Man, Captain America, Wally West Flash, Storm, Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Superman are my favorites)
          -Professional wrestling
          -The X-Files
          -Star Wars

          • professional wrestling? the kind on TV?

          • LifeOnTheFallLine

            Most definitely, LarryG! Although you haven’t lived until you’ve been to a Chikara live show and seen villains steal chairs from children and the World’s Sweetest Man, Jervis Cottonbelly.

          • I yield to the Jedi Master…!

        • And JUST so we’re clear:

          Paul Simon > The Beatles
          X-ray Spex > Sex Pistols
          Superman > Batman
          Spider-Man > Everyone
          Bret Hart > Shawn Michaels
          Luke Skywalker > Riker
          And the X-Files mysteriously ended after season seven with no series finale and only one movie.

          OH. AND.

          Back to the Future is the greatest time travel movie ever made and I will fight you if you disagree.

  2. I think a huge component of the answer is: education. Obviously, this blog can debate charter v. public v. private schools to death. It can also discuss universities to death.

    But if there’s one thing that will separate successful v. dying communities in the 21st century, it will be an educated, highly skilled workforce. The type of organic growth that you are describing is a product of well-educated, highly skilled people being in contact with one another and starting enterprises. A lot will be misses, but there will be some substantial hits.

  3. I’ll respond with expectations of strong disagreement.

    How many people do these geek enterprises employ? How many people do they enrich? What social value do they foster in a world with crying needs for really useful products?

    Granted, we certainly don’t want a nanny state telling people what to invest in, but neither do we need public applause. These enterprises create more useless inward focused amusement than we as a society most need. Certainly they don’t merit admiration in the eyes of no-doubt- hopelessly out-of-sync folk (like me) concerned about a “bowling alone” society more obsessed with self-amusement than community engagement.

    Okay, bring it on.

    • Wearing and displaying your fandom are both aspects of performance for other people’s benefit. So you can let other people you interact with know exactly how and to what you’re dedicated. No one is buying a TIE-fighter tie just to look at it alone and in the mirror.

      And this is to say nothing of the huge amount of interpersonal connectivity that is the Internet-enabled fan sites, groups and social networking that dates as far back as Usenet.

    • Malcolm sounds like there is a tad of curmudgeon .. in that response..

      good instincts!

      • Good instincts? Perhaps, but LarryG won’t let it be from there. While Malcolm says he doesn’t want the government to tell us, Larry surely will

        • I guess my primary view is don’t discount the role of govt. It’s easy to take it for granted and it’s easy to pretend it’s not needed but when push comes to shove.. you have to have a certain amount of it.

          I’m all for privatization – i.e. user fees..rather than taxes. I’d like to see electricity sold on a peak load basis ..same thing with roads.

          I’m fine with privatized water and sewer – as long as they meet environmental standards – which should NOT come from the private sector.

          you might need to hone your argument.. a bit.

    • How are these enterprises any less valuable than enterprises that you personally approve of?

      How is my getting together with other nerds less socially valuable than me getting together with people that you feel are more valuable?

      Who gets to decide what kind of amusement my friends and I need?

      And why is involvement in the nerd community not a real community? Do only groups of friends you personally relate to count?

      Yikes. Would you have reacted this way if it had been a site peddling tennis gear, or golf swag?

  4. the real question is – what is the proper role of govt in building and maintaining the commerce ecosystem with supporting infrastructure and services that sustains and incubates business and where does the funding come from?

    I note that most of the fantastical start-ups do not locate out in the middle of cucamonga … surrounded by bucolic countryside and little else and ..provide their own infrastructure and services…

    • Very good post.

      I note the following story that I imagine makes Mr. Bacon as sad as I (as former Roanoke residents):

      Your point about isolated communities is very true. I just don’t think they’re going to be successful in this century.

    • Larry,
      Ever consider the possibility that the reason they don’t start in the bucolic countryside (Cucamonga is actually pretty fair size, 80% the size of Richmond in any event) is not because of infrastructure but because there are no people to draw upon. For the kind of business that is Think Geek, how much infrastructure do you need? UPS? Hell, even that airplane tire manufacturer out in West Bumtwaddle, VA (Crewe) can ship by UPS. You get so hung up on the role of government, which thankfully is becoming increasingly irrelevant except as a vehicle for redistribution of the wealth created by guys like Think Geek. C’ville is right about education, though. The jobs and wealth will go to the educated…and not just high school educated, at least not until someone coming out of high school can set up and solve algebraic equations with two independent variables so he can go work in a modern auto plant.

      • yeah I knew someone was going to catch me on Cucamonga… my bad.. let me revise and pick the legendary location of Podunk, instead.

        in terms of infrastructure and services.

        think internet. think transportation and mobility. think water and sewer, police, education – more than k12 – higher ed , think of the things that many take for granted that are present in the urban areas.

        in terms of people – what attracts people to a place in the first place? do they flock to rural areas for the things that rural areas provide – like wide open spaces and the ability to live off the land and set up your own workshop to innovate from or are they attracted to more urbanized locales – and for what reasons? You know what absolutely positively kills the rural areas these days for any kind of occupation that can provide earnings? No internet.

        do you know how electricity got spread to rural areas? it was not companies whose business models emulate those of internet providers.

        if you live in the rural USA – until or unless the govt does with the internet what it did with electricity and local access roads – it’s going to be a no go.

        maybe we agree on education. I don’t see it as academic only. I see it a based on K-12 core academic, solid proficiency of reading, math and science then then layered on – with additional training – in core 21st century competencies and technologies.

        not how to just code in Java – but how to set up a webserver hosting a knowledge archive or online store or set up a mobile apps that improve on and replace uber or waze.

        • I have perfectly good well and septic, in an area with a very low crime rate and a good sheriff’s department, and more online education available than I have time to consume.

          I flocked to as rural an area as I could manage because I wanted to be able to keep horses, chickens, and have a large home garden. I know a fairly large number of well-educated techies who feel the same way.

          FWIW, I have high speed Internet.

          Detailed instructions and software as to how to set up a web server, an online store, mobile apps, or use geolocation in apps are all readily available on the Internet. These are not arcane skills limited to guild members. Any motivated person can learn it, with or without attending a brick and mortar school.

    • What infrastructure and services do you need to start an online business, besides a decent Internet connection?

      The small startup I’m most personally familiar with is in an exurban location. The location was chosen in part b/c it didn’t tax gross receipts, with the other part being one of the partners lives there.

      You don’t need much to start an online business – just Internet connection and brains.

  5. >>You know what absolutely positively kills the rural areas these days for any kind of occupation that can provide earnings? No internet.

    That’s what satellites are for. Remember: wide… open… spaces. You are about 25 years behind the times. You are fighting the last war, so to speak.

    >>think transportation and mobility
    Why do I need it in West Bumtwaddle. I have a car or a tractor. I can get practically anything I can get in the city delivered to my front door. OK, maybe not a hot pastrami sandwich, but I can certainly get a Philly cheese steak from South Philly.

    >think water and sewer.
    I’m thinking, I’m thinking…..Na-a-h-h. I got my well and my septic. Where I live in one of the collar counties, they’re threatening to put me on the county sewer system, which will effectively quintuple my costs. What a terrific deal from my government!

    Why do I need police when I have Mr. Gun

    You know, you must be one of those guys who thinks Teresa Sullivan is just great on how education should be delivered. She has ignored the revolution in education like you, which is why ol’ Helen has now been successful in engineering that compromise that finally ushers her out in two years, albeit with 700 K /year in the meantime.
    Face it, Larry, you’re basically a Luddite. But as one of my old professors used to say to me, “Don’t worry, Crazy. If you don’t want to get with the program, you can always run a one pump gas station.”

    • I hope you and Mr. Gun have a good time legally dispatching consequences in “The Mysterious Case of the Inventory That Was Stolen While my Tractor Was Stuck in the Mud or Was it While I Was Waiting for the Single UPS Clerk to Process Ethel’s Packages to Her Grandchildren.”

      • This represents total failure to understand modern logistics. Let’s say you’re right that there is a single UPS clerk; that ignores the fact that no one uses that clerk anymore. They schedule the pickup on line.

        Have you seen your first drone yet? Even your stinking government now acknowledges that it better get with the program and set some basic rules lest it get run over. Did the government create those drones? Not a single one of them. Oh, you’ll argue, the government created the technology through its contracts with defense contractors. Maybe, perhaps just like Al Gore created the internet.

        • did the govt create drones?

          did they govt create the GPS system that drones use?

          how about the public road system that UPS uses?

          do you REALLY think a drone is going to deliver your fridge or a fire truck to put out your fire ?

          • LifeOnTheFallLine

            Fire truck? Larry, don’t you know that fire hates wide…open…spaces with lots of grass and shrubbery? And in any event, there’s always Mr. Well, Sir Generator and the Right Honorable Garden Hose in case the improbable actually happens.

          • why yes.. I’ve notice how many homes out west are saved by the proverbial fire hose… !!!

            and speaking of insurance.. who protects us from insurance scams.. you know the guys who would sell you FAUX insurance and let you be calling a number than does not answer when you have a casualty?

          • Larry

            Pay attention. The gov’t did not create the drone, the private sector did. They did not create the GPS system, the private sector did. They did not, in most cases, create the roads (OK, VDOT maintains them, or, mostly, screws them up. See, e.g. the 5 year stint trying to fix I95 south of Richmond in the mid 90’s) The government may have extracted my money from me in order to pay for these things, in spite of whether I wanted it or not, but they more than likely mismanaged the contract for the private sector to do it. Can you say…Rt 460 S.E. of Petersburg? And yes a drone will eventually deliver my fridge and may also put out my fire, although I will probably have a system to do it myself better than the fire truck which arrives too late to do anything other than cool the ashes. Your vision is so limited, which is why I call you a Luddite. I doubt you thought a drone could deliver anything as short a time as three years ago. But I’ll defer to your referring me to a prior post of yours.

          • wait one. the private sector created the GPS system?

            where do you think public roads came from if not from eminent domain?

            you depend on roads built on land – taken from others – by the govt.

            how about a gps lat/long of your location so I can verify that you rely only on private roads?

            and you need to check your GPS history – as well as NOAA weather…guy

            you’d be living in a dream world and calling others luddies.. pfttt ..

          • All right, let’s get it straight. Of course there is a legitimate role for government. Roads, police, fire, most of the things you mention. Once you get beyond the private off-shoots of defense spending (GPS, etc), you are starting to declare winners and losers, read, the disasterous spending on solar panels. What was the name of the company? You want the government to do that crap. You want it in the name of it being sound environmentally and other such claptrap. You miss the fundamental flaw. The market makes those decisions better than a government bureaucrat. The government is a monopoly, or a near monopoly. It makes bad monopolistic decisions, the kind so often criticized and stomped on by the government when it’s done by the likes of IBM and Microsoft.

          • re: disastrous spending – and winners and loser..

            are you familiar with ethanol or crop subsidies or subsidized flood insurance or the 170 billion we spend every year for tax breaks for health insurance?

            are you familiar with the subsidies the govt provides nuke plants?

            do you think that spending also creates winners and losers?

            I’m not justifying the other subsidies. I’m just pointing out this problem did not start recently and few who decry the solar subsidies seem to be as enthused about going after these other subsidies also.

            why is that?

          • I approve of none of it. It is not gov’t’s job. And it is why we are in such trouble

          • yes.. but WHEN did you make it an issue ?

            why now?

            in other words – why complain about the SOLAR without including those other subsidies that have been around much longer?

          • The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites.[1] The system provides critical capabilities to military, civil, and commercial users around the world. The United States government created the system, maintains it, and makes it freely accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver.

            The US began the GPS project in 1973 to overcome the limitations of previous navigation systems,[2] integrating ideas from several predecessors, including a number of classified engineering design studies from the 1960s. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) developed the system, which originally used 24 satellites. It became fully operational in 1995. Bradford Parkinson, Roger L. Easton, and Ivan A. Getting are credited with inventing it.

          • They did it through the private sector. You’re certainly not going to tell me that government employees sat down at machines and built the components.

          • the govt designed the system guy and you and I paid for it with our taxes.

            I’m not saying the govt is the answer to all things but I am saying you’re in denial about what they do – do

            you did not build the GPS system. You did not set up eminent domain for infrastructure rights of ways. you did not build the road system. you did not provide electricity for rural america. you forget these and/or act like they could have been done by the private sector. THere were not and they’re not in most countries in the world that have advanced economies.

            the countries that don’t do these things are largely 3rd world.

          • Crazy – the govt largely does not actually build anything – but you’re confused between “build” and “create”.

            the govt DID create the GPS satellite system as well as the NOAA satellite system, as well as the public road system, the rights-of-ways for rails, pipelines, electricity, canals and river navigation , dams, most water supplies, most schools, most police and fire… the military, FBI, homeland security, etc.

          • virginiagal2

            Not getting into the middle of this, but you do realize that rural areas in Virginia have volunteer fire departments, correct? It’s not just Mr Well and Mr Hose.

      • I guess when I live in the country, I should wait for the government to rush out one of their scared-to-do-their-job-because-they-might-get-sued-or-put-in-jail cops to help me.

        • nope but you’d live like they did in the wild wild west where the bad guys KNEW there was no 911 and would just come in a large enough group to take what they wanted from you..

          do you seriously think much about these things guy?

        • Again, I ask, how do you and Mr. Gun propose to investigate a home invasion or warehouse theft that occurs when you’re not physically there?

          But I guess if you’re never leaving your house because Archduke Drone is airlifting you a constant supply of Philly cheesesteaks you probably won’t need the cops. I just hope his royal droneship can buzz you to the hospital when all that Whiz makes its way to Herr Heart.

          • I’ll be out for a few days, but if you remind me I’ll get back to you when i return. Have some things I have to do. You guys just don’t get it.

          • virginiagal2

            I’ve lived out in the country for a couple of decades. The only people I know personally who have had big thefts or home invasions are friends and co-workers who live in the city. The only person I knew that was killed in a violent crime lived in the city.

            In rural areas, if you have a warehouse, if it’s small, it’s on the property, and you have the same protections for the storage building on your property as you do for your barn. It isn’t “over the river and through the woods.”

            If your warehouse gets large, it’s probably in “town”, in many counties at the courthouse area, which is usually right by the sheriff’s office.

            If storage is around your house, in a garage, building, or barn, well, around here, pretty much everyone has dogs, there are usually people home during the day, and yes, a lot of people out here are hunters and farmers who consider guns part of life.

            I don’t know which of these really has the biggest impact on theft levels – I actually think having people at home during the day and dogs that bark may be a bigger deterrent than the possibility that you’re robbing an avid hunter and are going to be facing someone who actually knows how to shoot – but there really isn’t a lot of crime out here to deter.

      • This may just be my perspective, but I feel far less vulnerable to theft out here in the sticks than I did when I lived closer in. We have virtually no crime.

        Plus, if that’s really a worry, it’s not hard to set up a monitoring and alarm system.

        • I’m certainly happy you feel that way, but that and your second paragraph really aren’t the point.

          The point is that Mr. Gun is only a useful tool for engaging in home defense if you’re physically there to use it. It becomes quite useless when a theft occurs while you’re away and you need someone to investigate, make arrests and so on. Any argument based on “we don’t have as much crime” or “just set up an alarm and monitor” is sophistry at best.

          And yes, rural volunteer fire departments exist, but when they exhaust whatever water they carry on the truck what’s the next source? A well and a pump with a generator. To be fair, the fire hose will be bigger.

          • I think people forget – take for granted – that when you leave your home and travel on your private access road – you sooner or later hit a public road – a curb cut – that was granted to you to access that road.

            You’re not entitled to that curb cut – absolutely without qualification. For instance, you are NOT connecting your road to the interstate system and even for other roads – there will be requirements for access – in other words you need “permission” from the govt to connect to the road.

            and once you are on that road – every mile you travel – is over land that used to be owned by someone that got taken with the force eminent domain – either by it directly or by a transaction that was agreed to knowing if it was not -the govt would get your land anyhow.. it just would take longer.

            every one of us – probably every day , for most of us – uses that public road system .. it’s an integral part of most of our lives. There is virtually nothing in your home that did not get there – your couch, your computer, your fridge, your toilet paper – your food, the pump for your well, your septic tanks – that did not get there other than by use of a road – you do not own and did not build.

            those who dismiss govt as not a force that benefits you – are not recognizing why you have much of what you have right now.

            if you don’t believe this – I invite you to move to Canada and get a piece of land – for cheap and then find out what you don’t have – that you take for granted in the US.

          • virginiagal2

            Posturing aside, I don’t think Mr Gun is generally the deterrent. The main deterrent is that, at least in the rural community where I live, there are usually people home at all hours, people usually have farm dogs (often protective), and there actually is very little crime.

            I don’t follow your logic that it’s sophistry to point out that most rural areas have very low crime rates, or that locations in rural areas can use the exact same monitoring services that you do in higher crime urban areas. You do realize that farms already store very valuable equipment and supplies, which they generally prefer to keep?

            If stuff is stored onsite, it’s not really all that easy to drive unnoticed down a gravel road, get through the gates, and get back out without being challenged. If the warehouse is at the county seat, odds are it’s near the sheriff’s office, and deputies are driving by it all hours of the day or night.

            All rural areas have fire departments – it’s not just that they exist – they are the norm. If they exhaust carried water, then you use the pond or the swimming pool. Worst case, you lose the building. This is only a business issue if you’re a small startup with an onsite building and you’re doing your own logistics and shipping. You’re likely to be more worried about losing your home than losing a small amount of stored inventory.

            If you’ve grown to a separate warehouse at the county seat, they are likely to have fire hydrants.

          • ” it’s near the sheriff’s office, and deputies are driving by it all hours of the day or night.”

            the original premise stated by Mr. Crazy was that if you have Mr. Gun – you don’t need no stinking police.. right?

            as far as being “challenged”.. you drive a van with “Ready Repair” on the side and you go where you please”.

            are you and Mr. Crazy actually depending on the police and tax-supported fire service at the same time you dismiss them as things the govt provides that you count on?

          • virginiagal2

            Not my job to defend points made by other people.

            If you drive a van with Ready Repair to my house, odds are someone in the household will be there when you show up. That’s after the dogs greet you.

            If you show up when no one is home – actually, even if someone is home – odds are good a neighbor will come over to see what’s going on. Ready Repair is not the handyman that we (my family and a couple of our neighbors) normally use. It would attract attention.

            Remember, fewer people around means you know them a little better and out of pattern activity is more obvious.

            I have not dismissed the sheriff’s department. Most of our fire support is volunteer, although I believe they also get county funds.

          • no vgal. they KNOW you’re gone and if you live rural – are you saying your neighbors are right next door?

            we live rural – and they are quite a ways away and trucks come and go and there is no “challenge”.

            if you TRULY had to depend on no timely help – it would be very different for you .

            there are thousands and thousands of true rural available that are beyond roads, phones, electricity, police and fire – out west and in Canada and even parts of the East. these are places where a lot of people will not choose to live.. because they do lack vital things – things the govt provides.

          • vgal – I’m glad to see you back – really… !!!

            I was afraid after our last back and forth – you’d lost interest!


            BR is a much better forum when there is a rich and diverse readership sharing different perspectives… but I agree with Malcolm on some of this.. if I see one more commercial for Game of Thrones or Candy Crush Soda, I’m gonna barf.. what in the world ? do we really have a ton of young people doing stuff like that? Good Gawd O’mighty!

          • virginiagal2

            When you drive down a gravel road with mixed lot sizes, people with smaller parcels are next to the road, some people with larger parcels are built close to the road, and there are people outside a good portion of the day.

            Your question was what happened if you live on a rural non-state gravel road. The people I know who live on rural gravel roads have neighbors on that road that notice odd activity on the shared road. You don’t get much if any through traffic on those sorts of non-state roads. Two of my close neighbors are law enforcement of one variety or another, which is also a crime deterrent.

            I’m not sure what you mean by no timely help, but we do live in the country. I can’t offhand think of any places in Virginia that don’t have roads, phones, electricity, police, and fire. Again, I’m not advocating people go extreme prepper or discounting commercial infrastructure, just saying that rural areas can support businesses if that’s the desire of the business owner.

            Re posting, no, I didn’t lose interest, just got too busy to post for a while. I enjoy the debate here, and pretty much everyone is polite, which is not always the Internet norm.

          • the rural I’m familiar with has different configurations but quite a bit of it is separated from other residences and fronts on a public road that anyone can use.

            what Mr. Crazy asserted was he only needed Mr. Gun – not law enforcement to protect himself and his property.

            I thought you weighed in – in agreement with him.

            remember – the premise is what kind and how much govt do you want?

            don’t you think having law enforcement officers living near you – is depending on the govt hiring law enforcement in the first place and you get an extra benefit of top of that – that you’d not have at all if govt did not provide law enforcement?

            these are fundamental issues that we are now seeing debated – about the purpose and legitimacy of govt and what I’ asserting is that people take things like law enforcement and public roads for granted – as if they’re not part of the debate about the role of gov. we take them for granted – even as we argue the govt is doing more than it should – that the private sector can do it.

            you certainly can subscribe to your own security service and even belong to a fee-based fire service. The question is – do you explicitly support paying taxes for the govt versions of these instead of choosing the private sector versions?

            I think the REAL debate is more to the cost of the services and how much power the govt uses in carrying out these services.

            you even depend on the govt for insurance – to protect you from people saying they are offering insurance but have no financial ability to pay off – you count on the govt for insuring that people don’t offer insurance that is not insurance.. and that goes to where you choose to live. If there was no govt-regulated insurance and no govt-funded fire service – you could lose everything to an accident.. and end up without a place to live or enough money to replace it.

            we take the role of govt for granted -even as we argue we don’t need it.


          • LifeOnTheFallLine

            It’s sophistry because it is at best tangential to what is being discussed – the ability to replace the duties of law officers with just a gun – by presenting a pastoral idyll and saying “Things are pretty sweet here in Mayberry!”

            If you’re not going to defend the argument made by others then why are you jumping in and offering attempts at counterpoints to what I’m saying? You’re either trying to engage the debate via sophistry or you’re just saying words in response to points I’ve made about a very specific argument with no relation to the original conversation which renders what you’re saying meaningless.

          • virginiagal2

            If you post a point on a blog, and I disagree with that point, it really is generally expected that I’m going to refute it.

            I am likely to refute it whether I agree or disagree with the points of other posters that you disagree with. This is not a team sport.

            You raised a straw man about theft and I pointed out the fact, and it is a fact, that many of these rural areas have low crime rates.

            I wasn’t defending the argument made by others. I was pointing out that your point about rural crime isn’t relevant to the actual real world that those of us living in the sticks deal with.

            As far as the comment about Mr Gun, I’ve heard much the same things made in jest, including about five decades ago by rural relatives back in the day when police response time really was extremely slow.

            In the past half century, to the best of my knowledge and belief, none of those rural relatives have had to use Mr Gun against a burglar and none of them have suffered significant thefts. And given the large farm families both of my parents came from, that’s a heck of a lot of man-years of rural experience.

            My point is that your argument about imminent theft while the owner is out is extremely unlikely and not really relevant to any honest debate about doing business in the country.

          • I think if there was no Sheriff and no 911 – rural areas would become favorite targets of criminals much like the outlaws of the wild wild west loved to visit those who whose only protection was MR. Gun.

            and vgal – your perception of crime rates – is it backed up by data?

            ” In Town vs. Country, It Turns Out That Cities Are the Safest Places to Live”


          • virginiagal2

            Hi Larry –

            The link you posted showed that homicide was lower in the country than in the city.

            The way they defined safer was risk of any sort of premature death – and they pointed out that while there are fewer homicides, there are more accidents in the country.

            This is probably in part because farming is a major source of employment in rural areas, and farming is one of the most dangerous professions – if I remember correctly, significantly more dangerous than policing. If I am operating a tech business from a small hobby farm, I am not likely to get killed in a grain mill or by a Jersey bull.

            Another significant risk factor is car accidents, which are somewhat higher on rural roads.

            If I remember correctly, those statistics include car accidents of people who do not live there and are driving through on an interstate or other through road. Remember, most of the mileage you travel from city A to city B is through country or suburb. The country is getting dinged for the deaths of those traveling city residents, and the higher speeds cited include the average speeds of people driving on 95, 64, and 81 who do not live in the community and may not even live in the same state or even country.

            You are also significantly more likely to hit a deer, horse, or cow on a rural road than in Manhattan.

            It’s a question of risk. I personally would prefer to feel safer in my person and take my chances on my not-particularly-long commute.

            As far as policing, yes, if no deputies, probably more crime. I took the original discussion as more hyperbole than a serious suggestion to eliminate sheriff’s departments.

          • I don’t think rural has more crime than cities and I certainly agree that murder is clearly a city thing.

            my point was that some things that govt provides are needed. like roads and like sheriffs and like electricity…

            Mr. Gun won’t protect you if there is no Sheriff dept or if Mr. Sheriff is an hour away and there is no 911 (also a govt thing).

            I just think when we discuss govt – we need to keep a realistic perspective on it.

          • LifeOnTheFallLine

            Yeah, I didn’t raise a strawman about theft…theft happens in the country. The person I was responding to said he could handle potential theft by himself with a gun thus negating the need for any police force. You can disagree with me if you want, but unless it’s in proper context it’s just gibberish.

            “I was pointing out that your point about rural crime isn’t relevant to the actual real world that those of us living in the sticks deal with.”

            As someone who used to cover rural courts for a newspaper and was responsible for the crime blotter, let me disabuse you of the notion that rural theft and burglary aren’t relevant in the actual real world. I know you have years of self-selecting and biased anecdotes to fall back on, but as someone who sat in courtrooms day in and day out let me disabuse you of your “Aw, shucks, we jes folks who look out for one another and don’t have no problems with crime because we got our dogs and our neighbors to look after us” argument.

            And as someone who has lived in cities his entire life, I personally and among my extended network of friends and families have never known or heard of someone who has personally experienced theft or burglary. By your metric, theft isn’t a problem in cities!

            Is there less property crime in absolute numbers in rural communities compared to cities? Absolutely. Is there less property crime by rate in rural communities compared to cities? Almost universally. But it still exists and that it’s lower is not an argument that negates the necessity of law enforcement in general nor as it pertains to doing business in the country(which was the discussion and nothing JD posted pointed to his argument being hyperbole even if you feel the need to define it as such for inexplicable reasons). Even if the police don’t stop theft, you’d still need someone to fill out the report so you can claim the insurance on stolen inventory – unless you’re willing to just eat the loss, which is a very shaky foundation on which to build a business.

          • virginiagal2

            Of course there’s theft and burglary everywhere, including in the country. However, for the situation of someone running a small startup business in the country, which, is generally done from your own home, it’s really, really low on the list of worries.

            I did not claim zero theft in the country. I am claiming that the rate is low, which you do concede. Further, I am pointing out that the odds of your home office being burgled are, by definition, no higher than the odds of your home being burgled – and in general, the risk of your home being burgled is not greatly increased by selling T-shirts and novelty nerd toys. If someone breaks into your house, they are more likely to be hoping for a flat screen TV than to be after a stack of Bazinga! T-shirts stored in your garage.

            I definitely do think JD was being hyperbolic. The point, and this does get discussed a lot if you live further out, is that you get less in services from your government in a rural area, and to many residents, that is a feature, not a bug.

            What JD posted is well within actual discussions I’ve had with actual residents out here, who have no actual desire to eliminate the sheriff’s department or any other department, but are making a point about how they believe government services are sometimes oversold. When you’re reading an online conversation that so closely mirrors something you’ve heard in real life, I’m more likely to call it as the same thing – hyperbole.

          • yes – but wasn’t one of JD arguments that the govt don’t need to be providing a police force and somewhere in that dialogue – you weighed in on his side?

            I think we were talking about – in general – what the role of govt should be or not and I was pointing out some of the roles of govt that I thought were needed and legitimate.

    • Crazy JD – have YOU had internet satellite or know someone who does?

      delivered to you front door – on govt roads?

      well & septic – I’m with you on that – but the modern world as we know it – i.e. office buildings… .. requires water and sewer. Otherwise we’re going to need a helluva lot more roads to connect all those one-acre lots.

      CRAZYJD – you might need to go back and read some posts.. I’m the opposite of a Luddite – but I’m also the opposite of those who “believe” and refuse to deal with realities.

      I don’t have a view on Sullivan other than she’s not much different that the majority of colleges who are not innovating.. and I’m totally on board with the colleges that ARE innovating – including one of the best whose politics and religion I do not admire – Liberty. Give them credit.

      If the private sector was so good – then we’d have private roads and private colleges, private police and fire, private water/sewer, private electricity and and would be better than the public versions, right?

      and good luck with getting rights-of-ways without the govt….

    • Off topic – JD, who do you use for your satellite provider? You sound really happy with them.

  6. I have had internet satellite at the beach, and it works great, prolly cause it sorta like those wide…open… spaces that we’ve been talking about.

    In those wide open spaces, most of the roads are not government roads. They’re private roads. Even as close as Amelia County, you’ll find the majority of those five acre lots/houses (not one acre, are you kidding me?) connected by private roads privately maintained.

    Water and sewer…Pay attention! We’re talking about wide.. open.. spaces. So where are those office buildings again?

    I’ll go back and read your posts. But if you really weren’t a Luddite, you’d have a very strong opinion about Ms. Sullivan. And notice how Liberty university falls into one of your dreaded categories: the private college. The only guy I know who is ahead of the game in universities is Mitch Daniels, who’s shaken up Purdue. Imagine: a private sector government guy making headway against the Luddites in a public university.

    • tell me where you live again where there are no public roads only private?

      satellite internet- your experience is not what I hear – .. it mostly sucks.. and it’s expensive.

      water/sewer – well/septic – wide open spaces… got your govt permits?

      in terms of Universities – Liberty IS private and where did you think I was opposed to private? I’m not. I’m opposed to carte blanche student loans by the way including any that students of Liberty use.

  7. Sorry I said Amelia because it’s on the way to Amelia out 360, but still in Chesterfield County. Take the road off to the right at Skinquarter and go back about a mile or so and you’ll find a bunch. No public maintenance.

    >>got your gov’t permits
    Larry you just can’t seem to make the distinction a legitimate legal framework for things and the creation of goods and services. It’s legitimate, sorta, for the government to set rules for how much a piece of land will percolate before a septic system is allowed. That’s for the good of everyone. The private sector can’t handle that one, except perhaps by use of weapons. That’s why I think the EPA is a legitimate use of the police power given to government. But the EPA is the perfect example of government run amok, a subject for another conversation. You always seem to fall back on the principle contained in that discredited Obama speech, “You didn’t build that”, which, sorry, is just pure bullshit. Did they create the framework? In some instances, yes, but mostly it was folks competing with each other to provide a better good or service.

    • re: ” Take the road off to the right at Skinquarter and go back about a mile or so and you’ll find a bunch. No public maintenance.”

      do they connect to public roads?

      Crazy – the public road system is _not_ a framework.

      neither is the right -of-way that rails, canals, river navigation, airports and ports that are built on.

      you get nothing at your front door – nothing – zippo – that did not travel on a public road – not a “framework”.

      you would not even have electricity – if it did not have a public-right-of-way – over others land.

      it’s okay to want limited govt. It’s not okay to live in a mythical world that does not exist.

      • There are quite a lot of private roads around Richmond as well as F’burg. I’ve been on plenty of them. They do eventually connect to the public roads. I will comment that if you have a private road, you either need good neighbors or your own tractor.

        You definitely can have electricity without a public right of way. With greater availability of compact batteries (see Elon Musk’s new battery packs for solar) we’re likely to have more and more people going off-grid, even closer in. This makes solar, with battery packs rather than a fail-over generator, a more appealing option – and the technology is just going to get better.

        • re: what you need

          you need in addition to high speed internet

          electricity – that comes to you over rights-of-ways over others property made possible by govt

          public roads to/from the entrance to your house.

          a post office (I bet)…

          a sheriff’s office that keeps the peace and keeps roving bands of outlaws and bandits away…

          a fire dept – volunteer or not – that local govt usually supports financially with taxpayer money.

          the availability of public education for you and your kids.

          but you and crazy discount the existence of law and order that is provided to you by a permanent, taxpayer-funded police presence 24/7 and available with one phone call.

          without that presence – outlaws would KNOW that you had no “backup” just whatever you could marshal yourself – and they’d assess you and and your ability and come get you if you had something they wanted.

          there’s a reason why out west they had a saying: – “no law west of Dodge and no God west of the Pecos.”

          what makes it work for you is – the police force, 24/7l deputy patrols with radio communications, the road system and a good 911 capability –

          Vgal2 – are you sure you’re not taking all these things for granted since they were already here since you were a twig of a whippersnapper?

          • virginiagal2

            Larry, we’re talking about rural versus city in Virginia. We are not debating locating in Richmond versus locating in Somalia.

            Electricity can be created and stored on site with existing technology, as I noted in my last post. While there are some issues with satellite Internet, it is widely available and is an option.

            Yes, we have public roads, a post office, a sheriff’s office, a volunteer fire department, electricity, and public education. I am guessing you are aware, but if not – these are amenities widely available in rural Virginia.

          • vgal – I responding to the assertion that rural does not need gov that provides services… and infrastructure

            that – really even for urban – the private sector does it all and that the idea that “you didn’t build that” (the govt did) .. is incorrect.

            the reason we are NOT like Somalia …. IS …. the govt… not the private sector.

            just FYI – I just checked the Hughsnet website and they are asserting that :

            1. -you no longer need a phone for upstream.. (not sure how they do that)


            2. – that you can get ..UP TO .. about 8 mbs …

            the folks I know don’t get this kind of performance.

            in fact, some of the folks I know say they can get better performance from a cell tower …depending…

            but you say you have high speed – a cable right?

            and how did that cable get to your house over land you do not own?

            the govt is who made it possible – right?

          • virginiagal2

            Yes, but I’m looking back to the original argument – what is available in the country versus what is available to the city in Virginia today. Not theory.

            Hughesnet is the one I’m familiar with, and it was do-able even for largish file transfers but IMHO not as good as wired. This was a few years back, they may be awesome now. One annoyance is actually having to worry about weather.

            I was able to get wired b/c I am located on the way to a larger customer. It was a factor in where I wound up. Even in the country, if you are near a largish business, a government office, or a school, you may be able to get wired Internet.

          • I saw the discussion as focused on what role govt plays in urban infrastructure and services .. and rural… what role does govt play in commerce infrastructure and services – and how much of it the govt should get out of and let the private sector do.

            on satellite – do you think you’d have the bandwidth to operate an online store or similar – a webserver with a lot of bandwidth need?

            yes -you did benefit by being close to the larger entity that needed internet.

            a lot of times now days – it’s the govt extending it to a school or other public service operation but even then – that cable is strung on public-right-of-way as opposed to the cable company going to the owner of each piece of property it crosses and negotiating a separate transaction.

            that cable comes to you – courtesy of the govt. you did not build it.

        • I’d think if you needed more bandwidth, you’d go with a co-lo or other remote hosting. Then the hosting service worries about the bandwidth. You don’t have to have it onsite.

          I don’t know the answer to this – maybe you do – can you get a T1 or T3 pulled in a remote area? I don’t need one so I haven’t researched this.

          • oh yes.. you can get it.. last I heard it was several hundred dollars a month – after you paid to have to line brought to your house from wherever there was a T1 access point.

  8. Nobody ever said the government should not exist. It must exist. But you and the others on this blog seem to think that it is the answer to most things. It is not. And you fall back on “Oh you didn’t build that” when challenged on whether the government should be anything approaching what it has become.

    • don’t think anyone said it should exist for _most_ things but did say the reality is what it has evolved to exist for.

      you can cite the things you believe it should not be doing – but that does not negate at all, for instance, the creation of national network of commerce infrastructure… that’s a reality.. now that’s it’s largely built – making claims that it could have been done by the private sector – as a rationale to oppose the govt doing it now is – … well.. it’s .. what can I say.. it’s hard to fathom the logic.

      the thing about commerce infrastructure – not only in this country but virtually all nations on the planet – is that it’s done by eminent domain.

      that’s just a simple fact. it’s not an ideology or philosophy.. it’s just the reality.

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