"Remember, there's no such thing as free shipping." That was the closing comment by Jack Powell, president of the company that owns Bertie County Peanuts, during a December talk at our magazine's annual ceremony honoring four great N.C. small businesses. It sparked laughter because, of course, there is free shipping: Amazon.com has convinced everyone of that. Right? In response, millions of other retailers, including a Tar Heel business with very tasty peanuts, have adjusted their pricing strategies.
Like much of what I've heard from savvy North Carolina businesspeople over the years, however, Jack's words cut through the baloney. Free shipping is an illusion. Even Jeff Bezos' disciples haven't figured out how to magically transfer products from distribution centers to front porches without human beings, gasoline, trucks and other costs.
I'm very optimistic about our state's prospects in 2019, backed up by lots of data in this month's edition. But it will be a year when some other illusions--not just free shipping--are shattered. Some examples:
+ Alternative facts. No explanation necessary.
+ Stocks and economies only go up. The market collapse of November and early December proved corrections occur, quickly. An economic downturn is inevitable, though hopefully it will be short and a long ways off. Fortunately, banks and many businesses are flush with cash.
+ Deficits don't matter. The national debt topped $21 trillion last year, a nearly 30% increase in five years. Paying interest means less spending on more productive purposes.
+ Public education comes...