Turn left! Woo! Yeah!

What does capitalism mean?

I'll tell you what capitalism means.

It means this.


Y'see, there was this one fireworks store, and then another one opened up across the street.

And then it kind of turned into a theatrical performance.

Here in Australia, the only place where you can still buy proper fireworks - we DREAM of these sorts of things (from the same site as the video) - is in the Australian Capital Territory, a strange little place where the high-level politicians live, and which is also the only place where hard-core porn is still legal.

You may draw from this whatever conclusions you wish.

15 Responses to “Turn left! Woo! Yeah!”

  1. Thuli Says:

    I read a while ago that even in fair Canberra they've made the wonderful burning things harder to get. Need a licence or some such. Not sure if it's a dodgy easy to get around thing though...

  2. Greg Says:

    I'm from the U.S., so maybe I can shed a little light on this phenomenon. Just so people don't get the idea that you can't throw a stick in this country without hitting a fireworks shop...

    It's illegal to set off (much less sell) fireworks in almost every single populated area in the United States. There are a few rural areas where you can get permits to sell fireworks, but even there it's usually illegal to actually fire them off.

    The trick is that, even though the police crack down pretty hard on fireworks the rest of the year, they're willing to look the other way when people set off fireworks in their backyards during the Independence Day weekend. So you've basically got a one-week window where literally almost everyone in the country wants to buy fireworks, and a scarcity of places they can go to get them. And when you mix those two things together, you get what you see in the video -- temporary shops crammed into vacant lots, and fierce competition for customers who can easily go from shop to shop for the best deals.

    And yeah, the flag wavers and sign holders are that brazen pretty much anywhere that sells fireworks. It's really a sight to behold. Around here, they've toned down the advertisements a little bit in the past few years, opting instead for a "Buy 1 Get N Free" arms race (this year one tent went as high as Buy 1 Get 15 Free for crap fireworks like sparklers).

  3. arteitle Says:

    Another unexplainable phenomenon surrounding fireworks sales in the U.S. is that everyone thinks they have to drive to a neighboring state to buy them. I'm from the state of Ohio, and as a kid we always drove a few miles north into the state of Michigan to buy fireworks for Independence Day. I recall one year that along with your purchase you received some sort of legal permit allowing you to set them off, as long as you did so at the fireworks store, which of course nobody did. Later I went to school in Michigan, and Michiganders I met there talked about having to drive south into Ohio to buy fireworks. This year a relative talked about driving west into Indiana to get them. And yet, there are now chain fireworks stores scattered around this and other states that are open year-round. So basically, nobody really knows what the laws are, they just assume the laws are against them.

  4. arteitle Says:

    P.S. Maybe it makes sense after all... Apparently the law in my state is that you can buy fireworks, but only if you promise to take them out of state within 48 hours if you're a resident, or 72 hours if you're a non-resident.

  5. Mohonri Says:

    I live in Houston, and although it's legal to purchase, posess, and set off fireworks in the county, it's illegal to posess fireworks within the city limits. Due to some archaic state laws, the city can (and does) annex pretty much any part of the county it likes. Typically, this means that the city gobbles suburban bedroom communities which it can milk for tax dollars without spending a lot on services and infrastructure. Hence the city limits are not just irregular, they're not even contiguous.

    What this means is that the fireworks stand can be outside the city limits, and your house may be as well, but if a stretch of road in between has been annexed by the city, you can get a fine ranging from $500-2000USD. Since many fireworks stands are located just outside the city limits, the police will commonly park near a stand, wait for someone to turn onto the road heading the wrong direction, and pull them over as soon as they enter the city limits.

    The reasoning behind the fireworks ban is, as always laughable--"fire safety". Never mind the fact that you can drive a few miles and set them off legally, and that we live in an area that gets plenty of rain. Oh, and on top of that, the small "pop-rockets" are banned state-wide, but the larger rockets and artillery shells are not, and neither are the fountains or ground displays that emit enormous showers of sparks. For the same "fire safety" reason.

  6. Chazzozz Says:

    Apparently the law in my state is that you can buy fireworks, but only if you promise to take them out of state within 48 hours if you’re a resident, or 72 hours if you’re a non-resident.

    You could always argue that you were trying to send them out of the state...just vertically, and that you weren't sure how high meant 'outside the state'. :-P

    Thuli - yes, the ACT now requires a 'licence' but that can be procured at the selfsame place where you purchase your fireworks and requires not much more than proof of identity to show you're over 18. I don't know how much it costs...it used to be (~5 years ago) only a token amount like $10 or so. Of course, you sign a legal document promising you'll only let them off in a safe manner, etc, etc, so if you end up causing any damage or harm then it could get unpleasant for you.

    And for those of you who plan on taking a trip to Canberra in order to stock up, the NSW Police do not see the obviousness of this activity and they will crack down...hard. Makes it kinda difficult when you consider the ACT is completely surrounded by NSW (and to which any Queanbeyan resident will also attest).

  7. adamthebastard Says:

    Fireworks can only (legally) be bought in the ACT on the queen's birthday weekend by a resident of the ACT and only if they agree to let them off at their ACT residence. I can't remember if I paid for the license last time so I doubt there was any significant cost involved.

    There is always a bunch of vans and sign's on scout halls that crop up around the Q's b'day weekend offering to sell fireworks. We have very few permanent fireworks shops now days because they can only operate 3 days a year.

    If you drive through Fyshwick (an industrial suburb) you can spot a the few remaining places I think. Most of them have phone numbers on the windows if you want to chat to the owners and get for information on the laws involved. They are usually _quite_ helpful. I haven't checked the online yellow pages yet so there might be numbers there as well.

  8. xuth Says:

    arteitle: having grown up in Ohio and being, um, interested in the issue, I found that the politics in Ohio around the fireworks stores is as bad as politics anywhere. At one point it was illegal both to sell and to use most fireworks in OH. A group of two or (or maybe three, it's been a while since I looked at this) entities managed to convince the state legislature to allow a small number of licenses to sell fireworks (despite them still being illegal to use) that went to these specific entities. Further provisions of the law says that licenses can't be sold to anyone other than the current license holders until a specific date. So these couple of entities continue to have what amounts to a state sponsored monopoly on fireworks.

  9. bmorey Says:

    I just got back from two weeks in Arkansas and Texas. There are indeed fireworks shops just about everywhere along the highways. Most of them are, however, what you would classifiy as a tin shack.

  10. dabrett Says:

    In the ACT they've been changing the laws pretty much every year about when exactly you're able to set fireworks off and buy them. I understood that they could be purchased in the week before the Queen's Birthday long weekend (at least that was the case last year)- but adamthebastard might be right now.
    There's still some sabre-rattling going on about banning them altogether though- the RSPCA get very cranky about it and the current government seems to listen to them on this issue (unless it's a quid pro quo deal for keeping quiet about the kangaroo cull).
    Me, cynical? Never!

  11. Changes Says:

    Don't take it the wrong way, but I'm happy I don't live in the USA. Not that it's necessarily a bad country, but I get the feeling that it has so very many contrasting laws that I'd probably go insane just trying to figure out what of the things I like (be it fireworks or, well, anything else) I can do.

  12. arteitle Says:

    11: It can be confusing, what with fifty states, each with their own complete set of state laws. It springs from the fact that when the country was founded, the individual states considered themselves largely autonomous, even to the point of printing their own currency. Fortunately for everyday purposes, laws are pretty much the same from state to state. Nobody looks up the minor differences in traffic laws, for instance, when they drive from one state to another. But there are some bizarre exceptions: for example, in two states (Oregon and New Jersey) it's illegal for a customer to pump his own gasoline; all of the stations are "full service", meaning an attendant comes out and fills up your tank for you. No doubt this has caused much confusion for out-of-state visitors.

  13. Ubertakter Says:

    Where I live (Southeast U.S) it's typically illegal to possess or "shoot" fireworks in a municipality (city), but not "out in the county", that being outside the city limits. Occasionally, such as last year, fireworks will be banned everywhere due to drought.

    As previously stated, the fireworks stands tend to spring up a week or two before the 4 July holiday or before New Year's.

    And an unrelated side note: there is not much difference in spelling between poses, posses, and possess. Ah, english, how I love thee.

  14. Rave Says:

    I thought we had a bunch of repressive laws in England. At the moment it's a piece of cake to buy whatever kind of fireworks you like here, though I daresay that in a couple of years the government will mandate that you need a bloody ID card.

    No real chance of forest fires here though, especially since we set most of our fireworks off on Guy Fawkes Day (November 5th).

  15. kocollins Says:

    This video takes place just a couple of miles from my house in Vancouver Washington. I made that same drive the last two years. BlackJack fireworks has been in that location for as long as I can remember. A few years ago a TNT fireworks stand popped up. Both places hire high school kids to wave signs and confuse customers.

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