ASI W9700485r1.0

Moon Miners' Manifesto

#97 July 1996

Section the Artemis Data Book

Small Market Syndrome

Peter Kokh

[Conclusion to the current MMM Series: " In the (new) Beginning ... (Starting over on the Moon]

The primitive roots of "Lunan" Culture, IV

Last month, we jumped the gun by inferring that that issue's essays were our concluding installment to the now year-long series of articles on lunar beginnings that debuted in issue # 88. We soon realized that there was yet more to be read in the crystal glass of "the lunar environment", promising new vantage points from which to preview the shape of any lunar settlement culture to arise.

Here are three additional pieces continuing this web-thread of thought for you this month. While we are sure that these as well will still not have exhausted the ways in which the Lunan character will inevitably be shaped by the physical nature of this brave and raw new world. But any other cultural aspects with environment-based underpinnings we might detect will be deferred for future discussion.


Relevant Readings from Back Issues of MMM

MMM # 3 MAR '87, "Moon Mall"
MMM # 13 MAR '88, "Apparel"
MMM # 18, SEP '88, "Industrial M.U.S./c.l.e."
MMM # 22, FEB '89, p 6, "Hair"
MMM # 26 JUN '89, p 4, "Toy Chest"
MMM # 29 OCT '89 "The Role of Cottage Industries"
MMM # 32 FEB '90 pp 3-5 "Import/Export Equation"
MMM # 24 APR '91, pp 5-6, "The Fourth 'R'"
MMM # 65 MAY '93, p 3 "The Substitution Game";
MMM # 65 MAY '93, p 7 "Fast Road to Industrial M.U.S./c.l.e.";
MMM # 65 MAY '93, pp 8-9 "Stowaway Imports"
MMM # 68 SEP '93, p. 3, "Cornucopia Crops"
MMM # 77 JUL '94, pp 4-5 "Cinderella Style"; "Furniture"
MMM # 85 MAY '95, p 1 "Safety Valve ..."

I'll never forget an experience as a fresh high school graduate of seventeen, browsing through the Hudson's Bay Company department store in Calgary, Alberta. The variety of goods seemed much greater than that at similar stores in my native Milwaukee. Here were to be found samplings of wears and wares from all the domains of the British Commonwealth, as diversified a market potluck of humanity as has ever existed.

On the Moon, shoppers are likely, at least in the early years, to have an experience just the opposite. Imported goods will be all but non-existent and the exceptions will be prohibitively, obscenely expensive. The lunar domestic market will have to rely on its own resources primarily, other space-based markets eventually contributing their own offerings in trade.

"Small Market Syndrome" we might call it. Few people making few products to sell to few people. How do we avoid the expected consequence: little choice, little variety?

prohibitive imports vs. small manufacturing base

The challenge for variety (unavailable either from terrestrially made imports or from the small local labor pool) will affect almost all categories of goods: building materials, vehicles and other conveyances, home furnishings, accessories and artifacts and giftware, clothing, appliances - you name it. Not only will it be harder to find items one really likes, but it will be harder to put a distinctive custom personality on one's home, even on one's wardrobe. Such a forecast presumes that the principal entry for variety is mass produced goods from a variety of sources. But there are at lest two other avenues by which satisfying variety can be provided under these constricting circumstances.

Pot-luck customizing

A machine producing a product can be shut down, retooled or given a setup change, and then come back up producing a somewhat different product. Until recently, the U.S. norm for setup changes across a broad range of industries was some 9 hours of downtime. The Japanese manage to cut the average setup downtime to mere minutes. There is no reason why a given piece of equipment cannot be tooled to produce a kaleidoscopic variety using a finite number of styling elements coming into play in diverse combinations. These might be programmed by computer, the changeout taking negligible time, with successive production runs of differently styled products (a radio chassis, a print pattern on a fabric, a handle design on a knife, etc.)

Or the diverse style elements can be preprogrammed to come into play in random combinations, one after the other (as lottery numbers are now stamped on the inside bottom of soda cans for example) Such "kaleidoscopic variegated product machines" could cheaply supply a significant range of individually distinctive items even for small markets. The variegation in each instance would be confined to a set and recognizable "family character" range (given available styling elements, available materials, available colorants, etc.) within domestically supportable resource and feedstock limits without regard for the size of the domestic market. It may be possible to keep track by computer of the kaleidoscopic formula or setting for each individual piece so that patterns could effectively be saved to reproduce on request designs meeting special customer favor.

Finishing by individual artists and craftsmen

It is also possible to produce generic "unfinished" items, that can then be purchased by artists and craftsmen to finish and resell. Or an unfinished item can be purchased by the consumer and then given to an artist or craftsman of choice to be finished according to special request on commission.

While this is a slower, more labor-intensive method of introducing custom variety (than by way of the kaleidoscope machine), the results may (no guarantee) produce more artisti-cally pleasing results, and the only way of producing non-random designs. Those who especially appreciate the hand-crafted and individually designed product may be willing to pay the extra price. But whence the artists and craftsmen?

Almost everyone will have a daytime job producing something essential for domestic or export markets, and for some time the bulk of art and craft may be executed in after hours spare time cottage industry style. Nonetheless, the demand may be so great that this need for variety in modern history's smallest market may well serve to usher in a "Golden Age" for artists and craftsmen quite without precedent.

We should also see the rise of an unprecedented number of amateur "do-it-yourself" artists and craftsmen principally finishing consumer goods for themselves, and perhaps as gifts for family and other loved ones. To serve this need, various unfinished product lines could be marketed with finishing kits, samples, suggestions, and useful tips. The enterprising factory might even have an area where customers can bring in their purchases to finish in factory supplied facilities using factory supplied materials and tools. This will be an especially economical and popular choice.

Domestic product lines it may become popular to customize are dishes (tableware), ceramic planters, furniture items, clothing items and ensembles, bed linens (in a factory furnished dying facility) and the like. Personalization and custom expression areas outside the home may include product lines that can be customized for entryways opening on pressurized streets, surface shield-roofs, and vehicles.

The subject of customizable "issue" furniture was discussed in MMM # 77 [reference above].

The multi-community lunar world

Once an initial lunar settlement is followed by a second, a third, and more of whatever size, their mutual isola-tion will inevitably lead to diverse paths being taken along all sorts of lines. Each having its own discrete mini-biosphere, the choices of climate, farm crop mix, and complimentary flora and fauna could be different. One of the results in addition to the obvious one of distinctive ambiances, might be different organic feedstocks to use in decorating clothing and artifacts.

But more basic than that will be differences in the suites of available inorganic materials. For the primary reason for establishment of additional outposts, at least early on, will be to exploit diversely endowed natural local environments. Thus a highland settlement will inevitably produce differently designed and styled goods from a mid-mare or coastal settlement to give one obvious example. While raw materials will certainly be traded among settlements, it would be natural for local artists and craftsman to rely primarily on locally available materials. Trade between settlements then will be as brisk in value-added artist and craftsman finished goods of locally distinctive flavor as it may be in raw materials.

Imports from other off planet communities

As strategically critical materials may well be cheaper to supply from other off-planet sources like the asteroids, Mars, and its moonlets, it will likely be a prime directive of any lunar settlement to support the opening of other off-planet outposts and markets in any way possible. Such a policy will also produce a stronger interdependent off-planet economy all the less vulnerable to interruptions of support from Earth. As these other markets develop, they too may be producing consumer goods which will be a cheaper source of variety than items from out of Earth's deeper gravity well.

Stowaway imports from Earth

While items imported from Earth either on speculation or by special order will be prohibitively expensive, there are other ways of getting Made-on-Earth wears and wares to the space frontier settlements. (a) Clothing worn by arrivals, whether new settler recruits, official visitors, or tourists: such items can be traded duty free for Made-on-Luna wears, and then made available for specialty shop resale, or for playhouse (actors' ) wardrobes etc. (b) Settler immigrants might be allowed a certain token heirloom weight allowance. Such items, of diverse individually chosen sort, will remain in settler homes for the most part, but eventually end up on the market or in museums. (c) A subsidy for the import of art/craft tools (not materials) might be a good investment for all. (d) Earth-Moon ferries could conceivably be Earth-outfitted for the outbound journey, Moon-outfitted for the return, the Earth-made items finding their way onto the lunar market. MMM

Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto

Home Tour Join! Contents Team News Catalog Search Comm
Moon Miners' Manifesto is published 10 times a year by the Lunar Reclamation Society for Artemis Society International, several chapters of the National Space Society, and individual subscribers world-wide.
Copyright © 2001 Artemis Society International, for the contributors. All rights reserved. Updated Mon, Dec 15, 1997.
Maintained by Jeremy Kraemer . Maintained with WebSite Director.