There's a very old saying that comes from the wisdom of farming: "Never put all your eggs in one basket." This comes from the fact that eggs are very fragile. And if you gathered the eggs from your chickens in one basket and then dropped them, you had no eggs! Two or more baskets are safer.
However, this old adage has a more far reaching meaning that goes well beyond the farm. In most things in life, you never want to put everything in one place or rely on only one supply, etc. If that one source or place fails or suffers a disaster, YOU are hurt just as badly as them.
In case you didn't know, or aren't paying attention, the wealthy folks in this country never put all their money into one bank, one stock, one investment, one company, or other single spot. They "diversify" or "spread it around." Not only do they therefore have multiple investments and therefore sources of furthering their wealth, but they are also protecting themselves against being instantly wiped out by a single failure.
Even folks who have less than a million bucks are smart enough not to put it all in one place. I know a guy who used to run a small, but thriving business who has money in three different banks because he's made, and saved up a few hundred thousand dollars for retirement. When he started to acquire this nest egg, the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) covered up to $100,000 dollars of a depositor's money in a bank. So he started spreading the money around so ALL of it was protected.
Once again, it's "Never put all your eggs in one basket." Here's another example: Many small towns and villages only have one store to buy groceries. If that store goes under, or suffers a sudden shortage of supply, the folks who live there have to drive miles to get their food. If there's one gas station and it closes, the same thing happens. In this case, you'd have no choice, but given a choice, "diversify" like the ultra wealthy do.
Of much less importance than feeding yourself or putting gas in your car are our hobbies or "side interests." I have several, and have seen a problem being created by having to rely on a dwindling number of manufacturers for "traditional" model hobbies. Not only is this slowly creating a supply problem, but it is also driving prices up. That's the old truth of "The Law of Supply and Demand."
For those of you who might not be familiar with this, "The Law of Supply and Demand" means that if there is more of a supply or stock pile of something, but people aren't buying it up at the same rate, the price will be lower in order to sell. But if there is a shortage of something and the demand for it is higher than the amount of it on hand, the price will be higher.
Which brings us to another, less well known truth, the "Greed Factor." If the supplier or distributor falsely creates a shortage of something to create higher demand, they can run the prices up and make more profit. An example of that is the oil industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the food distribution industry (not the farmers) and many others. But this is an education for another time, let's get back to not putting your "eggs in one basket."
I've been in model railroading my entire life and in that time have worked in every scale from the tiny Z scale up to "ride on" trains that run on 7 1/2" gauge track, including the narrow gauge segments of most. As you might expect, some sizes are more popular than others.
Back in the eighties, I started to dabble in "On30" which means O SCALE, NARROW gauge, and 30 inch Gauge or distance between the rails. This was considered a "bastard scale" by "serious" narrow gauge model railroaders and in some cases it still is. On30 was modeling narrow gauge trains in O scale on the smaller but widely available HO scale track. Because in the real world there were mostly 24" gauge and 36" gauge trains in the U.S., "serious" modelers considered using 30" gauge (HO track) to be a "cheat" or a rather slipshod way of doing things.
To the rest of us, using HO track, wheels, and mechanisms with scratch built ot modified O scale bodies on them was a VERY cost effective way of modeling narrow gauge. Folks in On30 were such a tiny part of the overall hobby as to almost not exist.
But at the end of the nineties Bachmann Trains, well known in other scales, started making O scale narrow gauge bodies on their HO scale mechanisms to make On30 equipment. Their quality was very good, and their prices very reasonable. To say they took off in a big way might be an understatement!
Today Bachmann is the single biggest supplier in On30, and the reason On30's popularity soared from a tiny "bastard scale" to a fairly popular part of the hobby. In fact, I can't count the times I have heard people say or read them claiming "I wouldn't be in On30 if not for Bachmann making the trains." Bachmann put the scale/gauge combination "on the map."
However, no other large manufacturer has seen fit to get involved in On30, leaving a few dozen small manufacturers and Bachmann as the only supply. Over the last few years, Bachmann quality has fallen off and the prices have climbed a lot compared to what they were. Part of this is also that all their locomotives are now equipped with additional electronics which drive up the price. Since packing "options," that are really not options since they come in every unit, is one of the great profit makers in the automobile industry, it's obvious that most other industries have followed suit.
Bachmann Trains is a small part of Kader Toys (also often spelled Kadar), which is a large Chinese toy and hobby company. Having started in Hong Kong many years ago, it has been trying to expand manufacturing into Communist China and other markets. But since Kader is NOT a "mainland" Chinese outfit, they do not get many of the advantages that government gives their "own" companies. Add this to a world wide economic softness, and you can see trouble on the horizon.
Then there is the Bachmann quality control problems which have wracked them in recent years. Customer confidence in Bachmann is badly damaged. Higher prices automatically limit sales in a poor economy. With no "support" from the Communist Chinese government, this could easily become the "perfect storm" financially.
Here's where having "all of your eggs in one basket" plays in: If Bachmann doesn't fix their reliability and pricing problems, or they go under, where does this leave On30? By far, most of the folks in On30 rely on Bachmann ready to run equipment today, it's certainly not the scale/gauge of scratch builders anymore!
Now most of you who are reading this are not into On30 and may be wondering why you should give a damn. Well, look around at your own hobby...is there a similar situation developing for your favorite hobby? A single company or supplier is keeping it going?
And how much do you want to bet that, as in most hobbies today, the actual manufacturing of those products is done in China. Across the board Chinese manufacture is suffering from a LOT of quality control problems, for instance Auto World HO slot cars are of inferior quality to cars made forty years ago, but for many slot car folks, they "are the only game in town." Toy and hobby items are considered "throw away" products in China.
Okay, I hope most of you "get the picture" now, so I can move on to a bigger question; What happens if China, as a major manufacturing nation, continues to make poor quality, over priced products? Or what if the supply of even these products can't make it across the Pacific Ocean to get here? The United States now imports far more than it produces and a huge percentage of those imports are from China.
A LOT of people in the world now have "all their eggs in the Chinese basket!" And the people handling that basket are staggering badly! It's well PAST time to bring manufacturing of everything we need back to our own countries. Because if we don't, the time is soon coming that we'll be "eggless."