Category Archives: Wealthy

License Agreements

When we download software (since many computers don’t have optical drives anymore) the first thing we see is the licensing agreement, which is very long and complicated. Here’s what all that legalese boils down to:

  1. You are obliged to send us money.
  2. We have the right to keep it.
  3. We are not responsible for the software failing to work, containing malware.
  4. In fact, we are not responsible for anything.
  5. We have the right to sell your personal information to anyone.
  6. We have the right to rewrite the software so you have to buy it again.
  7. We have the right to limit the time you can use the software.
  8. If there is a dispute, you will not sue; the dispute will be settled by arbitration.
  9. We reserve the right to pick someone we like and who likes us to act as arbitrator.
  10. When you lose (and you will), you will be responsible for paying any and all expenses for said arbitration.
  11. We paid one or more lawyers a lot of money to write this agreement, so we have included that cost in the price for this product.

How much money does the software industry spend each year on lawyers? Probably more than they do on software engineers–but tha’s just a guess.

Feel free to add “whereas,” “heretofore,” “hereinafter,” etc., as many times as you like.

The Story

I’ve been working on a story for a while, but writing it keeps getting in the way.

I’ve always admired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes,” which was published as a serial in the Strand magazine, a monthly publication. My story–“The Story”–has been under development for a while. Like most writers, I d-r-a-g things out far too long as I write them. It’s a case of “Wait! It was a small dog, not a puppy!.”

As George Lucas supposedly said, “Movies are never completed, only abandoned.” The same is probably true of stories, so I’m going to publish–on this blog–at least a chapter a month. I make no promise that a particular chapter (including one that I may publish) will not be removed or eliminated.

Welcome to the wonderful??? world of writing. You may have the chance to experience my dreams, frustrations, pain, and stupidity, as I try to write a story.

I’ve already changed at least five chapters, but, interestingly, all of the characters remain, although their experiences might be different. If I share, I’ll try not to be too confusing (I’m not responsible for confusing myself).

If it’s worthwhile–I hope you enjoy.

Chapter One is coming soon.

An Appeal for Donations

 

Photo of a Collection Plate

CNN reports, “Jesse Duplantis, leader of Jesse Duplantis Ministries and the owner of three other private jets, is asking his followers to chip in so his ministry can purchase a brand new Dassault Falcon 7X, which runs about $54 million.”

I thought that televangelists were on the television, which would seem to mean that their physical location was immaterial, so long as a television studio was available. I believe that, in a pinch, this would include the camera and microphone built into most computers.

But then what do I know?

As the only world’s only Philosopher-without-Portfolio–to the best of my knowledge–I believe I am just as entitled to a personal aircraft as anyone else. However, my needs are far less prestigious. I’d be more than happy with a used Cessna 182, which is available for less than $500,000.

I expect everybody to give this their best effort.

However, if that proves to be too difficult for you, a boat–say a 30 foot cabin cruiser, might be more achievable. Again, used is fine. I can engage in philosophical thoughts in a used airplane or on a used boat without any difficulty.

There is one problem.

Jesse said that God wants him to have the new jet.

I asked God if He wanted me to have people collect money to provide me with a plane or a boat. He didn’t exactly say, “Yes,” but He apparently enjoyed a good laugh.

Thought for Today

At times I think I would prefer to be a gentleman, in the old English sense, born into wealth and privilege with lands and a stately old home with gardeners taking care of the outside and an entire staff keeping the inside neat and tidy (including my teenagers’ bedrooms and bathroom).

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Maybe a little over the top, but you know what I mean.

I’d have to juggle my tennis match with other elites and various social engagements in order to make time to sign important papers to increase my wealth or to meet with important peers awaiting my sage advise.

No such luck. That is not how my day will unfold.

However, today I will not hide behind a spoofed telephone number on your caller ID to try to sell you a time-share condominium. I will not go around my store and relabel all the appliances, automobiles, or canned goods with a higher “Regular Price” so the same old “Sale Price” looks like a better deal. Nor will I be sending you an email to steal your money, your password, or your identity. I won’t pretend I’m a Nigerian Prince who needs your help to rescue my fortune or try to convince you that, based on a single poorly performed experiment, I can cure you of your chronic ills.

I’ll just go to work, then come home to my family.

Not to bad, really.

 

It’s Good to Be the Tsar!

putin

Vladimir Putin, according to reports, is wealthier than the next two richest people combined with a net worth of $200 billion. Pretty good for someone who grew up as Communist with enough commitment to work for the KGB.

His career with the KGB was unremarkable (his highest rank was lieutenant colonel), but once he got into politics, he found his niche. Trained as a lawyer, he adopted the Don Corleone business model (“One lawyer with a briefcase can steal more money than 100 men with guns.”–The Godfather). When the Soviet Union fell, various Russians began to acquire wealth. Putin apparently made many of them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

It might be good to keep that in mind before considering doing business with Putin.

Elites

While we often talk about elites, we tend not to use that term. Elites are the people in any society who enjoy special privileges.

For a long time, elites were entitled to such status as a birthright, the most obvious example being royalty. If your father was King, it must be God’s will, and therefore the son must be qualified as well. Personally I don’t think God gets involved in politics, but you never know.

John Adams predicted that even though our constitution prohibited titles of royalty there would still be an elite class. He figured that those with educations would prosper, ensuring that their offspring would be afforded education and any wealth that the family had amassed, although in many cases the younger elites ended up with an education and the family debt. Nevertheless, they enjoyed the status.

The American dream is that we’re a meritocracy—anyone can achieve through ability and hard work, and sometimes this works. In fact, there have been periods in our history, such as the 1950s, when this was common, Nevertheless, it is not guaranteed.

Today, many of the elites once again obtain their status by birthright. There are many young men and women as, if not more talented, than the children of Tom Hanks, Will Smith, or the Barrymore family. However, it is the children of the elites who seem to land the acting roles. Is Eddie Van Halen’s son better than the band’s original bassist? Cheap Trick sold many albums with Bun E. Carlos as their drummer, but Rick Nielsen—the guitarist now has his son filling that spot.  Julian Lennon didn’t have to work his way up from playing wedding and bar mitzvah gigs. How many Fords have been senior executives at their namesake auto company?

Do we as a society get our best value from this practice?

Continued Discussion on “The Persecuted Rich”

As I’ve mentioned before, Rick and I go way back. His comments are always thoughtful and lead to further exploration of an idea. His comment on yesterday’s post needed to be featured.

———————————————————————

Thanks, Steve, for a very interesting and provocative topic: The wealthy in America feeling threatened–especially by the current liberal administration and particularly now at election time. I agree with Perkins–even though I am certainly not bucks up myself. We look at this in two ways–”giving to God what is God’s and giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

The bible tells us it is not in “our” power to explain either the prosperity of the wicked–or sufferings of the righteous. That we shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor nor show deference to the rich; judge your kinsmen fairly (Lev 19:15).

We are told: Be not a lender nor a borrower. Owe no one anything except to love one another. Be a giver (Romans 13:8). The lender makes the borrower a servant (Prov 22:7).

God’s economy is based on blessing and giving to others, while the world’s economy is based on hoarding and accumulating. And, we are to hear and contemplate this great refrain: A poor man…shames us ALL!

Yet, unhappy poor people at least have the hope and imagination of happiness, while rich people have everything and thus have nothing else to look forward to and no hope for happiness.

Now with respect Caesar and man’s wealth disparity. America is no longer the land of “haves” and “have-nots” –everyone has two or three TVs and two cars, and multiple coats and sweaters. America’s issue
is not really about the wealthy, rather about the givers and takers.
To put the issue and the opportunity in proper perspective: Interdependence needs to replace independence! We can’t survive, let alone thrive, unless we cooperate with each other.

If we look back and examine what gave rise to the great societies or civilizations (China, Persia, Greece, Rome, Spain, Maya, Inca, Egypt, and now America), we can readily see it was creativity, interdependence and mutual support that provided the synergy where the whole was always equal to the sum of all the parts. Today, China, for example, is at the peak of its success, and “takers” are in the distinct minority, because people are committed to the necessity to be “givers.” In other words, givers always created and contributed more to society. But as each society flourished, more and more people became materially well off. The failure has always been the people to stay committed as givers…so that all might thrive and survive. When survival is no longer an issue, it is very tempting to indulge in selfish, even hedonistic pleasures. As more and more people succumb to this temptation, there become fewer and fewer givers to society, and more and more takers.

Ultimately, internal and external disaster always begins with even one person’s philosophy of doing less and wanting more. The result is what repeats itself in history: A shift from a team effort to a struggle between takers and givers. This continues until the society falls apart in moral decay and material bankruptcy, and the takers become the majority.

The Persecuted Rich

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CNN reported today that multi-billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins feels threatened. Previously, he had compared the poor to Nazis conducting a holocaust against the wealthy.

Wow.

I believe that Jesus said, “The worker is due his wages.”

Likewise, that St. Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians said, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”

I also believe that someone who studies hard, prepares and invests in his or her own future and produces more than others should be rewarded.

However, I really have difficulty believing that the 1% are “threatened.”

Where?

At the supermarket? Oh, they have people for that.

At Wal-Mart?

While pumping gas at the 7-11?

Picking their kids up from public school?

In my humble opinion (and feel free to flame away) here’s what we ALL should do:

  1. Be thankful to God for what we’ve got.
  2. Be grateful for the true treasures – faith, family and, love.
  3. Realize that we came into this world with nothing and will leave the same way. Your parents’ wealth, grandma’s trust, etc. don’t count.
  4. Those to whom much is given, much will be required. We are all stewards, not masters.

I know where my heart and my treasure are. I am blessed with a family and a home where God is center. We are happy. That is our wealth.

Eat your heart out (you know who you are)!

What’s This World Coming To?

bank

An investment banker embezzled and lost millions of dollars defrauding over 100 investors.

He faked his own suicide.

He was then declared dead by a judge.

Today the police found and arrested him.

I’m absolutely shocked that an investment banker would stoop so low, and I’m sure that Bernie Madoff, the folks at Lehman Brothers, AIG, Bear Stearns, Countrywide, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac etc., etc. are shocked as well.

The Old House

SONY DSC

It was late summer, the last of the vacation time when Katie and her family were visiting the plantation. It really had once been a plantation, and generation after generation had managed somehow to keep it in the family. The house was hardly grand style, but was more of a working farm’s house that you were as likely to find in the Midwest as in the South. No grand entrance and no crystal chandelier, but it nevertheless had a charm, or at least a personality all its own.

The legend was that President John Tyler had slept here. What made that so interesting was that Tyler had never been elected president, but as vice-president, succeeded William Henry Harrison when he died. Harrison, a hero of the War of 1812, had run under the slogan of “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too” as though Tyler were an afterthought. Tyler sided with the Confederacy and served as a Confederate Representative, making him the only U.S. president ever declared an enemy of the state.

Katie’s father had shared this history with her many times – too many, she decided, but it was now permanently affixed in her memory. If the question ever came up on a television game show, she was ready. She liked to believe that one of the Washingtons, Jeffersons or even a Lee had slept here, too. This was Virginia, after all, and the place had been crawling with those aristocratic families.

Most of the land that had once been full of cotton and tobacco was gone, of course. About 80 acres remained and most of that was leased out to a neighbor who alternated planting corn, soybeans and sorghum. His tractor did double duty keeping the “lawn” under control, although as kind of a tradition there had always been a couple of goats who tended to the grass closer to the house.

Katie’s grandparents lived in the old house, although they were getting on in years, and the common expectation was that her father’s younger brother would take over the old house when the grandparents had passed. It was just as well, she thought. She wouldn’t want her family to move into it since it had lousy cellphone coverage, and was not exactly near anything that would excite a young teenage girl.

During the week at the old house, Katie checked out the pond and wished it were spring. At least in the spring there would be tadpoles. Not so in the fall, although she did see a turtle who lazily slid off the log on which he was sunning himself, and then swam with surprising speed away from her.

Being late morning the temperature was rising, and Katie headed for the house. She vaguely understood that indoor plumbing and electricity had been added over the years. On the other hand, she was acutely aware that somehow they had added central air conditioning. Once inside she checked the refrigerator and decided on lemonade instead of sweetened ice tea, which normally was her choice. She had almost forgotten that she was alone, her parents and grandparents having headed into town together. She had declined their invitation because to a 13 year old girl, wherever they were going and whatever they were talking about would be totally boring.

As she walked around the old house, with nothing better to do, she found herself actually looking at it. Some of the window glass was very old and had ripples in it. Her grandmother had said that glass was a very thick liquid, and the ripples showed that over the years it still flowed. She had looked that up on the Internet and that source had said that sheet glass had been made by pouring the molten glass onto slate, which gave it the ripples. She didn’t care which was true, but she decided the slow flow of glass was more interesting.

How many coats of paint had been applied to those window frames over the years? How many baseballs and rocks had inadvertently passed through the windows of the old house? Then she thought of the Civil War and wondered how many bullets had damaged the house, breaking its glass and tearing into its siding.

Idly she began opening doors and looking inside. This closet was where she had been hiding when she won hide and seek against her cousins. This was the bedroom she had slept in when she w toddler, before she rated a regular bedroom.

Normally she didn’t enter her grandparents’ bedroom. There was nothing interesting in there, it smelled funny and, it just didn’t seem right. Today, however, she was so intent on examining the old house that she was already looking in her grandparents’ closet before she realized it. She had never looked into it before, so she had never noticed that it had a second door in the back. Naturally she opened it.

She hadn’t expected anything interesting, so when she saw stairs leading to the attic, it just seemed normal. It certainly was better than the fold-down stairs in the ceiling trap door of her suburban home. She started up the stairs, then turned around, retrieved a flashlight from the backpack in her room and then climbed the stairs.

It was hot and dusty. Spider webs were everywhere. The attic contained very little – boxes with Christmas decorations, empty suitcases and the usual trivia that people hang onto long after the need is gone. A window in the peak of the roof gave plenty of light, but since she had her flashlight, she played it around on the rafters. She stopped in amazement when she realized that the oldest construction was held together with wooden pegs, while sections that were slightly newer had nails that were obviously handmade. She began to examine the construction more closely to see what else she could learn from it.

That’s when she spotted the envelope. It was not an old envelope, nor was it fancy – just a nine by eleven manila with the prongs to seal it. Inside, however, was a letter and quite a bit of currency, unfortunately it was Confederate banknotes. The letter merely said, “Ask your father. He’ll explain it to you.”

Figuring that the envelope had been safe in its place for 150 years, Katie carefully put it back.

Later that night, after supper, Katie and her parents sat on the porch talking with her grandparents. While she heard them speaking, most of it was merely a pleasant drone while she thought about the old house and her afternoon in the attic. Her grandparents excused themselves to watch their favorite game show on television, and

Katie was left with her parents. Her mother got up, but Katie cleared her throat, letting her know that she needed something. Her mother at back down next to her father on the porch swing.

“I’m supposed to ask my father something,” she began, “but I’d rather talk with you both.” Her father leaned forward expectantly, but said nothing.

“I found an envelope full of money,” she began. She saw her mother’s eyes widen. Her father patted his wife’s hand, and gave her a reassuring look.

“It was Confederate money. I looked it up on the Internet, and it actually would be quite valuable to collectors. Confederate money is collected and traded like stamps or baseball cards. Don’t laugh, some baseball cards are worth quite a bit.”

“I know,” answered her father.

“The letter said I should ask you.” Her father took in a deep breath.

“Okay. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly,” he began. “Our family, while not one of the premiere families in the South, was nevertheless prosperous. Our ancestors profited because they ran large agricultural operations without having to pay their workers – they relied on slaves. Those farms were very similar to today’s corporate agriculture, except that today farmers buy, own and sell machines rather than humans.

“Our ancestors were adamant before and during the war. When Reconstruction began, they were livid. They did things that I am not proud of, but will spare you until you’re older.

“I have no idea how many slaves our ancestors owned – the records were in one of the many government buildings that were burned. Could have been burned by Union soldiers, or by the locals – no one alive knows. I guess I’m glad I don’t know myself.

“I sometimes wonder if my great-whatever-grandfather owned the great-whatever of one of our neighbors. It’s possible – even probable, but I try to pretend it never could have happened.

“In any case, each generation wants its children to do better; to be better educated and more successful. Successful means – successful SHOULD mean doing good, not just doing well.

“So that’s most of the story. The rest is that the family tradition is that the first child of each generation that finds the envelope has first right of refusal to move into the old house under the idea that whoever cares enough to examine the house will be the best one to carry on the tradition. Oddly, so far, only one child from each generation has found the envelope.

Years later:

Katie had finally gotten her baby daughter to sleep. She picked up a few things while her husband set up the coffee pot for the next morning; she remembered one of those tasks that keeps getting put aside. She went over to where her desk was and rummaged through the drawers, collecting a bottle of ink, and old fashioned ink pen and a blotter. She took everything up to the attic and found the old envelope and opened it. Although the writing was fading, she could still read where it said, “Ask our father.” She blew the dust off the floor and carefully spread the paper. She dipped her pen in the ink. Under “Ask your father”, she added in neat cursive, “Better yet, ask your mother.”

Where’s the Class?

We used to have a concept to which people aspired. It was called “class.”

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Young boys were taught to be gentlemen and girls to be ladies. People with class were not inclined to draw attention to themselves for the sake of doing so. They might gain attention because of their ability with music or art or their ability as a leader. It was their accomplishments that garnered attention. Nevertheless, they had class.

George Washington often signed his letters as “Your Most Obedient Servant.”

These days we apparently have replaced “class” with “crass.” It seems like people will do anything, and I mean anything, to get attention.

The call today is, “Look at me! Look at me!”

I guess I could understand how someone living in a dilapidated doublewide without indoor plumbing might dream of having their own reality television show. On the other hand, what’s with the antics of celebrities who are already household names?

“Look at me! I’m in rehab!”

“Look at me! I shoplift!”

“Look at me! I made a sex tape!”

I guess that inside the wealthy celebrity dwells the soul of someone living in a dilapidated doublewide without indoor plumbing.

That would explain a lot.

Profit or Loss?

My education is in business, an interesting field, but not necessarily for good reasons.

Simple business is when you find something that people want, build or buy it, add in your other costs (rent for your store, salaries, etc.), and determine a selling price. In an ideal world, both you and the customer leave a transaction reasonably satisfied.

Today, many people are in the business of cooking the books. By using creative accounting, tax loopholes or other corporate they make a significant profit without actually providing anything of value.

When you read history, you may see Spain, Great Britain, and the Netherlands as great explorers opening new sea routes and discovering new (at least new to them) places. What happened to their power and prestige?

Generally they became banking and finance experts. In other words, they became experts at moving money and making a profit without providing anything of value.

Profit is not a dirty word – it encourages us to succeed. To invent. To build. But profit should actually be earned.

When Jesus sent out the 72 disciples, He told them that the worker was due his wages.

His parables often utilized the rich master as a metaphor for the Father. The good steward invested the master’s money and made a profit.

He also taught that we should build up our wealth where moth or decay won’t destroy it.

That’s the kind of business advice that we can live by.

Thieves, Scoundrels and Billionaires

 

baronsOur current economy is due, to a large part, to those who had the knowledge, the ability and the guile to work the system.

The executives of companies “too big to fail” who skimmed the profits, got a government bailout and paid themselves bonuses out of the bailout.

The mortgage company executives who made questionable loans and bundled them so that the risk was no longer identifiable.

The derivative traders who made the investment instruments so complicated that no one knew what they were worth.

We’ve always had those types.

But somehow the Medicis and their contemporaries gave us the art of the Renaissance.

The robber barons gave us coast to coast railroads and telegraphs.

I don’t credit the rich and powerful for these benefits. Instead, I think this is God’s “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Even the greediest, most despicable person’s actions will ultimately reflect God’s will.

It’s a comforting thought.

You Should Be Fired

I intentionally try to avoid political topics – Lord knows our nation is divided enough. From time to time, though I feel I need to point out the obvious.

fired

If I contract with somebody to build a house for me, and after selling my existing home, I find that my new home is not only not complete, but barely started, what will I do? I don’t care if the electricians blame the plumbers. I don’t care if the plumbers all say it’s the carpenters’ fault. I hired a contractor to build me a house, and there’s no house.

If we send people to Congress, we likewise expect that they are going to do what we sent them to do. I don’t care if the Republicans blame the Democrats, the Democrats blame the Republicans. The Congress has not done their job.

People who don’t do their jobs should be fired.

Do we have a workable budget? No.

We’re sending money to countries that don’t even have a government while we’re making the employees of our government take time off without pay.

Except, of course, for Congress.

Therefore I suggest that we call Congress on the carpet and fire them. Every one of them.

Yes, I know your Congressman was able to get his/her district funding for [Insert your pet project here]. I don’t care, and neither should you if your project is at the expense of the nation as a whole.

We’re not a series of independent and competing congressional districts. We’re a nation. “One nation, under God, indivisible.”

Send an letter/e-mail/whatever to your senators and congressional representative and tell them that based on the performance of Congress as a whole, unless things change you’re going to vote against all incumbents at the federal level in hopes that the next Congress understands for whom they work, and what is expected.

Part Time Americans

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I got sucked in by one of those online “news stories” that actually was at least 6 months old. The article purported that wealthy Americans were giving up their citizenship to avoid paying taxes particularly on money earned, kept or hidden overseas.

I’ve read that with our progressive tax system about half don’t pay any income tax and/or may receive a credit from the government. Likewise, reports indicate that the top one percent pay 30% of the taxes to the federal government. (I’m not saying these are correct, as Mark Twain reportedly said, “There’s lies, damned lies and statistics.”)

At first I thought it might be worth our while to try to induce these folks to stay around in order to catch the tax revenue, but then I dug a little deeper.

It appears that most of them don’t actually live here. I’m guessing many have dual citizenship, so they’re more like part time Americans.

Since money is more important than their citizenship, I figure they’re at best fair-weather Americans; at worst, American in name only.

I prefer us normal, not wealthy, plain old every day Americans, anyway.

To the rich who are turning in their passports, “Don’t let the bank vault door hit you in ass on your way out!”

Doing Well / Doing Good

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http://money.cnn.com/2013/04/25/news/economy/cancer-drug-cost/

The link above goes to a disturbing article about a drug company that has tripled the price of an anti-cancer drug because people literally can’t live without it.

There’s a huge difference between doing well and doing good. Novartis, the drug company is apparently doing well.

On the other hand, we have the example of Jesus curing everything up to – and including – death. The most He asked for was some hospitality.

I doubt that when we meet our maker, He’ll be impressed by our ROI (Return On Investment) or EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation, and Amortization).

I suspect He will judge us on WYDTLMB (Whatsoever You Do To the Least of My Brothers.)

I’ll Never Be Rich!

I like money as much as the next person. On second thought, maybe I don’t since I generally find that I end up getting rid of my money as quickly as I can. Having a teenager and a preteen helps; they’re capable of consuming large quantities of food while simultaneously bemoaning the fact that there’s nothing to eat. I believe they have stock in the local power company because I am constantly finding lights and televisions on with no one in the room. I believe one of my kids is trying to solve global warming by leaving the door to the house open so that the cool air from inside will impact the environment, but I’m not sure which one.

The problem with money is that I don’t like it enough to do the things that are often required to accumulate vast amounts of it. There’s “puffery” in which a seller exaggerates the benefits of the item he is trying to sell. Unfortunately, I can’t tell puffery from bald faced lying. There must be a difference, but no one has been able to explain it to me.

Then, of course, there’s the old fine print and legal mumbo jumbo. It doesn’t really have to be fine print – all you have to do is make the other person believe they know what’s going on when actually everything is going in your favor. You know, things like, “Sorry – your frequent flier points can’t be redeemed for a flight on any day that ends in a “y”.

So the bottom line is that I’m just not willing to do what it takes to get a better bottom line. However, it’s probably just as well.

I don’t think I’d do much different than I do now if I were rich. Maybe take the family a few more places. Maybe get away with the wife for a weekend more often. Maybe spend some more time at home, but that’s pretty much it.

Hey! Does that mean I’m rich already?

It’s All About Money

Money is kind of a funny thing. Not economics. Money itself. Isn’t it pathetic that people rob and kill one another over those little pieces of metal and paper? How weird is that?

 

Money is sometimes looked at as the third level of economic exchange. The first level is based on the family; everything is shared usually without regard to value. Teenage son is hungry – he goes into the refrigerator and walks away with almost everything that’s not a vegetable and drinks half of the gallon of milk (usually right from the jug.) No one calculates the exchange rate. Daughter needs braces – the family pays for braces. Mom wants a new purse – well, she might have gotten one except for those new braces…

 

The second level is barter. I have a fish and you have a bag of rice. I want rice and you want fish so we swap. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way. I want the rice but you want fruit. I need to find someone with fruit who wants a fish so we can swap and I can then trade his fruit for your rice. Otherwise, as time passes, I need to find someone who wants some smelly plant fertilizer (aka spoiled fish.) While we think of bartering as archaic, bartering appears frequently on Craigslist. There have even been some clubs that assign points for goods or services which then could be traded for other goods and services. One of the original appeals of using such a barter system was that the participants believed they could bypass paying income tax on such transactions. The IRS reacted pretty quickly (for a government agency) and developed a method for calculating income tax to cover these situations.

 

The third level is money. Everyone agrees that a specific item will have a recognized value that can be used to exchange for whatever we need. This made buying and selling things easier as well as making the whole concept of wages much more logical. It’s easier to understand that for your labors you get six of these coins as opposed to getting paid with two lemons, a rutabaga and a slightly over-ripe fish.

 

Initially money was based on material that had intrinsic value. In most cultures, this included precious metals such as gold or silver. In fact the coins were made of the quantity of gold or silver that its value represented. A $20 gold piece weighed in at $20 worth of gold. Using precious metals seemed to work pretty well. Some believe that women began to wear jewelry because this gave them a way to easily carry their wealth with them. This is wise when living in a culture in which a man could divorce his wife on a whim and she was not entitled to anything. With her jewelry she had some protection and at least the possibility of trading up to a better husband than the jerk who ditched her.

 

Then we got modern and didn’t really trade with the precious metal, but used paper that said that if you wanted you could go to the government treasury and trade the paper money for a comparable amount of the precious metal. In the US gold became too precious, so we switched to silver. Of course this also meant that instead of the metal’s value remaining constant it could vary and the amount of silver you were entitled to on a particular day varied with it. (Please note that things are starting to get slippery.)

 

It was only a short step from there to go to fiat money (No it’s not based on Italian compact cars.) Fiat money means that through the government we declare that a piece of paper or a coin is worth a certain amount of money because we said it is. It’s our belief that it is worth the assigned value that gives it that value rather than any intrinsic value to the currency itself.

 

Coins are interesting as well. I remember when dimes and above were silver alloy and pennies were copper. (Trivia note – their proper name is “one cent piece;” penny is derived from the British coin of similar value.) Depending on the source being quoted, pennies cost just under a cent or several cents each to mint, which is why there are periodic moves to eliminate the penny and round everything in 5 cent increments. In fact the copper and zinc in older pennies can be worth more melted down and sold as scrap metal. To counter this, the government passed a law making it illegal to melt coins for their metal content. They also changed what materials are used for coins. Current pennies are no longer copper alloy but are merely copper plated. Silver is long gone from other coins in general circulation. So now we have fiat coinage.

 

Coins do have one advantage, though, in that they last much longer than paper money. Reports are that it costs 4 cents to print a dollar bill, which lasts for about a year and a half or eight cents to mint a dollar coin, which lasts for about thirty years. Unfortunately, people don’t like to use dollar coins so we’ve been through the Susan B. Anthony coin, the Sacagawea coin and the Presidents coins without any of them being accepted for general commerce.

 

So that, my friends is a brief view of money – a compendium of useless information brought to you by me because I couldn’t think of anything better to blog about.

 

 

Making a Selection

Ahh, yes, Mrs. …

“Please, no names.”

Of course, madam, I tend to be so anxious to serve that I forget that people of celebrity prefer to keep everything low key.  My apologies, and how may I help you today?

“I’d like to see what you can offer in ways of possibilities?”

Of course, madam, perhaps we should review your past acquisitions.  We started with 1997 red, as I recall from South America.  How did you like that?

“Oh I was very pleased.  Cheeky, almost arrogant, nice coloring, aged well.”

Excellent! Excellent!  Then there was a 1999 from South Africa.

“Oh, what would be a good description?  Spicy? Yes, I think that would work.  Nice color.  Very enjoyable.”

I knew you’d be pleased. I’m sometimes quite proud of my ability to find just the right selection.

“I think we can dispense with the others, I’ve been well pleased with your guidance every time.  The important question is what do you recommend today?”

I think I’ve got the perfect suggestion.  You need to expand a bit and Asia has been producing some excellent choices particularly in the new century.  I have a 2003 from Indonesia that is outstanding. Nice pale color, bold, exotic and dare I say surprising.  I know that you won’t be disappointed.

“You’ve always steered me in the right direction.  I trust you implicitly.”

Thank you madam, you’re too kind.  Shall I?

“Yes, please.  If you can get everything started as soon as possible, I’ll have my lawyer review the adoption papers and we can bring ..him?”

Her.  She’s a beautiful young lady, madam.

“We can bring her with the others to my upcoming movie premiere.”

Of course, madam.  I will have the papers drawn up as soon as possible and begin working the immigration issues.  I’m sure we can meet your deadline.

“Thank you.  Oh, dear, I must be going, I didn’t realize the time.”

Allow me to walk you out.  If you would see them, please extend my regards to Madonna and Ms. Jolie.

“Those phonies? Of course I will.  Especially since they’ll be green with envy.”

Facing Problems

I had a co-worker who pointed out when he perceived that people were “stuck in awareness.”  I suspect that he may have written his doctoral dissertation on this and therefore it was near and dear to his heart. In my case he proclaimed that I was “stuck in the 60’s” meaning I remained committed to ideals that most had discarded due to their complete impracticality.

But let’s explore “stuck in awareness.”  In a nutshell there are several stages in solving problems with the first being that one becomes aware that a problem exists.  Next one determines possible solutions and decides on one to try.  The solution is attempted and results measured.  If the problem is solved, the process is complete.  If not, a different solution is tried until either the problem is solved or no more solutions are apparent and the problem is therefore considered unsolvable.

It’s easy finding problems.  Solving them is what separates effective people from ineffective ones.

Take the example of a sinking ship.  The preferred solution is to get the ship to a properly equipped shipyard and have the damaged segments of the hull removed and replaced.  However, if the ship is in the middle of the ocean, the only option may be to drive wooden plugs into the smaller holes and stuff mattresses backed up by bracing up against the larger ones. Then you run the pumps to remove the water coming in through the manageable but still present leaks.  This allows you to keep the ship afloat until it can make its way, be towed or be transported to the appropriate shipyard.

Occupy [fill in the blank] has pointed out many problems.

The Tea Party has pointed out many problems.

The Democrats have pointed out many problems.

The Republicans have pointed out many problems.

(Are you catching a trend here?)

The Executive Branch of the government has pointed out many problems.

The Legislative Branch of the government has pointed out many problems.

It’s time to come up with some solutions.  If the government needs money do you go to the poor people to get it?  Do you look to the unemployed or the retired? No.  You look to the rich.

As Willy Sutton said when asked why he robbed banks, “That’s where the money is!”

I don’t want to pay more taxes, but sometimes we must do what is right whether it pleases us or not.  I don’t like to watch my diet and I’m not particularly fond of getting up at 4:00 AM to get some exercise time in either.  Same principle.

As we used to say, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem!”

I guess I am stuck in the 60’s after all!