At indeterminate times The Weakonomist will award people, companies, or groups with a Weaky. Its our version of the Darwin Awards for those that make bad moves with money. Sadly, most of these people will live to make more mistakes another day.
The UAE is an oil rich country that figured out long ago we won’t need their oil forever. They’ve been smart enough to expand into other industries, attracting many large corporations to their country. I believe at this point they are the only Arab nation that would survive given some major technological breakthrough in energy supply.
As with any developing nation, materialism has taken over their country. One of the most fascinating laws in economy is the progression of price when the only factor in the price is pure demand. I’m talking about placing value on an object only because others want it. Oil has a tangible value and use, Armani suits have a tangible (though also inflated) value and use. License plates are only worth the registration fee and the cost of production; a few bucks. Unless demand for a certain license plate drives up the price.
In our country vanity plates are more often cheesy and tacky than interesting. In many Arab counties, certain plates are worth millions. The value comes with certain numbers, 1 being recently sold at auction for the equivalent of $14.3 million. That’s USA money folks. The most expensive production cars in the world, most notably the Bugatti Veyron (pictured below) at $1.2 million, can’t even touch the price of the license plate. The price paid on this plate is based purely on demand, if trends change, there is no value in this object. That’s fascinating.
There may be arguments for artwork, first edition books, and even the Bugatti Veyron to have this type of inflated price. The Mona Lisa is a representation of artistic style and mystery. It speaks to historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and the development of our modern culture. A first edition copy of Orwell’s 1984 again speaks to a time in the past where some feared the future. Perhaps the book itself kept us from making it a reality. The Bugatti Veyron is considered to be quite beautiful, and currently holds the title of the fastest production car in the world to boot. Thousands, if not millions of license plates are stamped every day, having the #1 means nothing.