Who Pays the Cost?

Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees

I can’t tell you how many times my parents recited that cliché when I was young, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized the truth in that saying. It’s as inescapable as the law of gravity. Jump off as many buildings as you wish, use whatever means you choose to stay afloat; you’ll always come down sooner or later.

If I buy something I must pay for it; to pay for it I must earn the money somehow. (Or “beg, borrow, or steal.”) If I punch a time clock the money my employer pays me has to come to the company by some means – usually sales. And the people who pay my employer must get their income from some means. Round and round.

National economies are ruled by the same law. Grain may grow in fields; minerals may be mined, but all natural resources must be converted into solid currency. If our province pulls $2 million out of the ground in potash, they must sell this on an international market. The country they sell it to must earn the purchase money from their own resources or production. If a country doesn’t have funds to cover their costs, they have to borrow money from those who do.

Unlike the US Treasury, most of us can’t just print more money and expect it to fly. And if you or I would manage to successfully print up, say, 1000 $20 bills, our own country has to stand behind every $20 we circulate. Likewise a government has to stand good (in terms of gross national product) for every $20 they print and circulate.

The Skeptic in Me

When I see “get rich quick” or “make money online” or “I earn thousands every day just by…” I wonder who’s paying this fabulous income they are promising? It may all be above board – but I’m sure somebody somewhere is selling something to someone in order to generate that income.

Back in the days of Prohibition here in North America crafty rum-runners made good money carrying liquor from wet states to dry ones. These illegal kegs of booze were sold to drinking establishments, who sold it undercover to their patrons. And well-to-do patrons could spare the cash – because they had employees working for them to generate their income. But many drinkers paid for their booze with money that would have fed their wives and children.

This was the WTCU’s whole argument for wanting to shut down the liquor industry. Women trying to help these suffering families were seeing the reality of this every day; they hoped the law would change this and end the deprivation. Alas, Temperance laws were a dismal failure because you can’t make laws that “dry” people’s hearts. But these women did have a right view of the economics. Someone was paying the cost.

Back in the 60s my cousin purchased a corner grocery store in a large city and he made a decent living at it for several years. Alas! he had a bit of the speculator in him; the guy ready to take a risk in order to make big bucks. So when a fellow came along with an invention and needed a partner to go in with him, my cousin bit.

It was a classic scam. “Lend me enough to buy the patent, get into production, and we’ll split the profits.” According to my mom, he handed over a sum between three and six thousand dollars – and guess what? The profit from his little store wasn’t enough to cover that debt and he was forced to sell at a loss. Perhaps knowing all this has given me my abhorrence of “easy money” schemes.

Con Man
fast talking vendor
sells me castles in the air
holes in my pockets

Some folks prefer to not know, to not delve into exactly how this income is being generated. Like the Ontario man who was paid $10,000 to park his van in an airport parking lot for two hours, leaving the keys under the floor mat, then come back and drive home again. He didn’t ask any questions; he was happy with the cash – until he got to the border and his van was searched.

Some folks simply direct others, pass information, or whatever, to someone else in exchange for a deposit to their bank account. They are just as happy to not know where the buck stops at the other end. Like, who’s paying for this information and what are they doing with it? Cynic that I am, I want to see the whole thread clearly displayed accurately.

“Click on this button” and it may explain in detail how I can go about making big money. (Or will it just send my e-mail address to a spammer?) But I have to know who’s ultimately paying the cost before I click on anything.

As for hacking and e-mail address theft, I tend to look at that as a crime against humanity.

Cyber Crime
smarts to succeed,
scruples to trample others
bloodless cruelty


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