Public: Government
Government Brand Coffee Mugs   (+6, -6)  [vote for, against]
Base-level products at cheap prices.

Some governments believe in the free market economy and refuse to intervene. Some governemnts nationalise industries so that they can control the market. This idea sits somewhere in the middle.

Take, for example, a coffee mug. It is not a complicated object and has been made in a similar form for a good many years. Not much spending need to be done on research and development and much of the price the consumer spends will end up in the marketing department trying to gain competitive advantage over other coffee mug manufacturers by signing large supermarket chains to exclusive agreements.

Enter the government brand coffee mug. It is manufactured under licence or by government owned factories. It is available in only one size and style and in a limited range of colours. For large orders you could get a company logo put on it. Most importantly, it is cheap, simple and robust.

The mug would be sold at the government shop and website and at supermarkets that want to sell it (at a legally enforced low price).

The government makes money from the sales of the mug, lowering taxes. The consumer is able to buy a cheap mug and manufacturers of mugs are set a standard against which they must compete to produce their product.

What's in it for the companies?
Not a lot. They get a new competitor in the market who is unlikely to compete on price. The government brand would have to gain a reputation for good quality (with no frills) so that they could still compete in the market even if undercut. The luxury market (whatever that is for coffee mugs) would still exist as the governement brand would not intrude into this. If there was a large low cost manufacturer in the market wiith good working practices, they might get the government license to make the mugs or be bought out as the government manufacturer.

What's in it for the government?
Revenue, better knowlege of a market so as to be able to implement safety standards and safe working practices, knowledge that cheap products are available for low waged and unemployed. If the government wishes to implement an optional higher standard of safety for a product (not really appropriate for a mug) or a higher standard of envirnonmental consciousness in manufacture, the government manufacturer would be an ideal test-bed to develop this standard.

What's in it for the consumer?
A good product at a good price. If the product has safety implecations or certification, the government product would ba safe and have all the correct approvals so that it could be used as a baseline against which to judge other products. The consumer also gets offered a product that (barring a change in safety standards) will be offered for a long time as the government would not need to innovate merely to gain market recognition.

I'm not just talking about coffee mugs here. This could extend to any non-luxury product with a low R&D spend: Cutlery, crockery, hammers, nails, screws, and so on etc. etc. la la la...
-- st3f, Jun 13 2002

(?) Victory Coffee
Government brand coffee [LoriZ, Jun 14 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]

(?) Lada jokes http://homepage.ntl...dwick/LadaJokes.htm
[stupop, Jun 19 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]

(?) I'd Buy this http://secure.sovie.../catalog/200491.jpg
CIA and KGB coffee mugs [L a z y M a n, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

If anyone, anywhere, has ever seen a government do anything on time, to specification, and below budget, please post their reply here, if they have any spare time from flying pig watching .....

These days they can't even manage decent cover ups and conspiracies ....
-- 8th of 7, Jun 13 2002

See USSR, 15 years ago.
-- drew, Jun 13 2002

// If anyone, anywhere, has ever seen a government do anything on time...//

That was pretty much the motivation for posting this. In the UK, the nationalised industries were generally run so inefficiently that governments of all flavours ran away from them as fast as they could.

Their attitude was 'we have done this badly therefore we must stop doing it' rather than 'we have done this badly therefore we must do this better.' I'm trying to encourage some of the latter thought in the hope of a brighter future. (and yes, in my better moments, I am a dangerously naive idealist optimist. Kick me now.)
-- st3f, Jun 13 2002

Probably baked, in army surplus. Army-sourced product are often (with some bizarre exceptions) cheap, reliable and long-lasting, in contrast to consumer products.
-- pottedstu, Jun 13 2002

I've had George Bush Sr. a_n_d King of Norway Coffee Mugs. The Norwegian one was Royal Blue with gold lettering while the George Bush one was, well - the same, actually. Tossed 'em both - got enough coffee mugs, and I only drink coffee 3-4 times a year.
-- thumbwax, Jun 13 2002

My work mug has a picture of Our Tony on it, grinning, with the word 'Smug' printed underneath. It was given to me by 'conservative future', who I like to think of as Tory Youth, although they don't look as good in gym kit as their 1930s cousins.
-- sappho, Jun 13 2002

I don't want the govenment to have the money that it gets now, let alone any more of it (assuming that they turn out to unexpectedly have some business acumen and don't just end up flushing my tax money down the pan that is).
-- DrBob, Jun 13 2002

One Word: "Lada"
-- waugsqueke, Jun 13 2002

Isn't it a shame the Lada wasn't named the "Ladi?" Then the Russians could've promoted it in ads reading:

-- beauxeault, Jun 13 2002

Welcome to the 'Hummingbird club'. Those of us who drink so much coffee that hummingbird heartbeats are as the motion of continents to us. I have a 52 ounce mug...
-- StarChaser, Jun 14 2002

<still giggling over that one, beaux>

This idea would never work here. For one thing, the U.S. mug would cost six hundred thousand dollars to make. Warring contractors would fight over the right to make the thing for three years. And when they finally got it done, it'd leak.

Did I mention we'd also burn up several megatons of fossil fuels in production? Yeah, that too ...
-- 1percent, Jun 14 2002

waugs: If the Lada can be summed up as, "boring, dull, cheap, reliable" (and I don't know if it can) then, yes, that's exactly what I'm after -- a baseline product range that you only buy into if you don't (or cannot afford to) care for fashion and luxury. They might make a kind of inverse fashion statement but I wouldn't bank on it.

[aside: cars would probably not be high on the list provided by a government these days as most governments are trying to discourage car ownership and usage and (be seen to) take a lead on environmental issues.]
-- st3f, Jun 19 2002

The point I was trying to make is government controlled manufacture and distribution of various no-frills items is extremely baked in this plane of existence we share, 3f.
-- waugsqueke, Jun 19 2002

3f? has he been de-canonized?
-- po, Jun 19 2002

I put a hex on him.
-- waugsqueke, Jun 19 2002

Sorry, waugs, missed your point while admiring the brevity of your annotation. You're right - governments have dipped in and out of markets in the past - I don't know the history of the Lada but the orignal VolksWagen (commonly known as the Beetle) fits the mould pretty well.

To say, "do this for lots of basic products," does start to sound a little derivative of history. I still think there's something original here. Wish I could work out what it was.

It could be that previously govenments entered young markets in an effort to reduce development costs and open the market for other manufacturers whereas this is about governments entering mature markets to prevent implied cartels from producing low quality products at inflated prices simply because the market will bear it. Maybe I'm splitting fishbones. I dunno.

-- st3f, Jun 19 2002

In the 1970s' the Labour government in Britain set up something called the National Enterprise Board to fund new ideas and technologies which offered the prospect of economic value. It managed to squander millions of pounds of taxpayers money before it was finally killed off. The only think I recall that it funded that was any good was the INMOS Transputer chip, which was so ahead of its time there was no market for it becuase the infrastructure didn't exist. Sad but true.
-- 8th of 7, Jun 19 2002

This what non-profits organizations are for. Non-profits funnel revenue it one good cause and governments into many. The other differance in regards to setting a standard is non-profits can do it by competition, governments do it by force and usually because it needs to be done in a certain manner to avoid negative impact. Sorry, go fish.
-- Around TUIT, Aug 13 2004

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