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I read the financial press with increasing interest because I might be the only one to notice this pattern behind sure-fire prosperity. Yes, I have a degree in business administration, but nobody even hinted at this golden goose egg when I attended university. (I admit it, my university days probably occurred well before the emergence of the modern goose.)

Used to be that a company succeeded by producing some product or service which they sold for a ‘price’, generating ‘revenues’, which through careful ‘cost management’ would distill into ‘profits’, thereby attracting ‘investors,’ who’d front cash without any explicit agreement to return even a penny of it. Yes, I admit that this sounds silly nowadays; backward. Byzantine, and perhaps it was.

Today’s touted heros of the economic world create nothing. They sell what they do not create for nothing, too, which seems fitting. This attracts huge audiences, a so-called ‘community’. One daresn’t refer to the community as being comprised of customers, since the cuss in customer traditionally accompanied the forking over of just a little too much cash in the transaction, and if no cash gets forked, no serious cussing could possibly ensue.

This unlikely strategy attracts much more ‘investment’ money than the now old-fashioned ‘producing something’ strategy ever did. A company that managed to attract a non-paying community of about a billion managed to become one of the wealthiest in the history of the world by merely offering the opportunity for any wily ‘investor’ to buy into their operation. Hedge funds ‘manage’ to attract best and brightest funding by merely promising returns, gilded with an indecipherable algorithm. No need to understand, and pay no attention to anyone standing behind that curtain.

In all honesty, this alternative economy seems held together for now with the promise of advertising revenues. You see, these non-paying community members are apparently easy shills for every clever advertiser. To simply expose these folks to any potentially viral meme seems certain to open wallets and distill the wealth of nations into the advertiser’s wallet. This seems the presumption behind advertisers, who seem most often stuck in the old produce-something-and-actually-charge-for-it world in this crazy new economy.

I suppose I could start a new business predicated upon these same principles. 1) Do not produce anything. 2) Charge nothing for the privilege. 3)Build ‘community.” 4)Attract advertisers. 5) Invite ‘investors’. 6) Retire to someplace like the Cayman Islands.

Nobody has enacted any law against gullibility yet. ... yet.

The beauty of this naive new world might be in the absolute irrelevance of any employees. One can make the quarterly numbers by simply cutting, like the Republican House has shown us, by simply cutting expenses. Prosperity distilled into a negative number. No need to actually generate revenues. Stuff costs a lot, and not buying stuff saves even more when projected out over the next twelve quarters.

The company needn’t ever actually exist, except on a spreadsheet, or, if you’re wanting to appear sophisticated, in some big-data database somewhere in the cloud. A couple of self-proclaiming nerds gladly cover the obvious bases. Nobody’s likely to ask, ... if the stock’s soaring.

I appreciate tulips more than ever these days. I suspect that the invention of the computer and then the spreadsheet set the stage for this naive new world, where anyone with ‘computer skills’ could easily attract shills in nearly endless numbers. Get the sheep to stampeding, then simply stand on the right side of history.

Maybe this new world isn’t so new. Who cares about work for pay anymore? I’ll write my blog posts for nothing, expect nobody to pay a bleeding cent for reading them, and thereby build a following community. I am still working on attracting those advertisers and investors, and I figure that retirement qualifies as absurd a concept as phrenology. I don’t want to retire, I want to produce, but where’s the market for production these days.

We live now in an economy predicated upon belief, not production. Success demands faith. Profit relies more upon the willing follower and investor than the satisfied customer. And almost nobody actually makes any money out of any of it.

We now live in an economy predicated upon the presumption that someone must be making some money somewhere. We’re following their tail-lights toward prosperity.

©2014 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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