Posts Tagged ‘Business’

Bourgeois Dignity by Deidre McCloskey

February 17, 2017

bourgeois-diginity

If you think of economics as a study of how we create wealth, economic theory was pretty much anybody’s guess until we finally made some.  For thousands of years the daily consumption of an individual remained pretty set at around $3 a day.

“Economic history has looked like an ice hockey stick lying on the ground.  It had a long, long horizontal handle at $3 a day extending through the two-hundred- thousand-year history of homo sapiens to 1800, with little bumps upward on the handle in ancient Rome and the early medieval Arab world and high medieval Europe, with regressions to $3 afterward – then a wholly unexpected blade, leading up in the last two out of the two thousand centuries, to $30 a day and in many places well beyond.”  (- McCloskey)   Modern day consumption in countries such as Japan or France hovers around a $100 a day, or in the United States of $120 a day, or in Norway of a $137.

Even at my age I can read a thick, thought provoking book.  What say?  And what I don’t remember, I can go back and check.  The benefit is that I have a bit of my own history and experience to check it against.  This is generally the reason a lot of wisdom is wasted on the youth, I’d guess.

Coincidentally, economics finds itself, at this juncture, in much of the same situation as me.  The world has recently suffered an experience with which to judge its former life against.  And, the metrics are available to measure the reality and amounts of said experience.

This “Great Fact of economic growth discovered by historians and economists in the 1950s and elaborated since then,” has changed everything.   The experience, which Deidre’s book circles, is of an amazing burgeoning of world wealth beginning first in Holland, and then Britain in the 1840s, and then experienced successively by other countries.  “The Big Economic Story of our own times is (when) the Chinese in 1978 and then the Indians in 1991” hopped onto the hockey stick of growth also.

McCloskey has it that modern economics has tended to view the Great Fact of our recent hockey stick growth in narrow materialistic terms because ‘the light is better there’.  McCloskey’s retort would be, ‘but that’s not where the money was made…’   Then he assiduously dismantles all of the classical economic explanations, using material statistics and facts, many previously unavailable to earlier economic theoreticians.

Classical economists like their prudent investors with their rational behavior, but this in not where the money is presently, nor was, at one time, made, McCloskey states.  Rational behavior does not create much wealth.  The historical record demonstrates that rational maximizing behavior generates rather paltry or even unremarkable growth.  One by one, McCloskey eliminates each of the classical economic explanations for the Great Fact – and finds each sorely lacking.  In doing so, he explodes some common beliefs.

For example, wealth is not created by robbing the poor – because they have none.  Certainly some miscreants benefit, but little wealth is obtained.

Slavery was of very little economic benefit to anyone in the supply chain, save the initial en-slavers, who were generally other tribesmen.  The South’s economy would have generated wealth without slavery nearly as it had with.

Trade generates little wealth.  It merely shuffles it around.

The mercantile system likewise generated little increased wealth.  (Though people obviously thought it did!)  While the great business houses (such as the East India Company) might have made some return, the nation’s citizens generally did not share – and more likely suffered  from the increased taxation wrought by the duties of imperialism.  For example, losing the American colonies was of an economic relief to the British.

Even education and scientific research are found lacking as explanations of the Great Fact.  Practical innovative insights generally preceded scientific explanation.  And education can often be counterproductive.  As McCloskey displays, if the wrong lessons are taught and the wrong social structures solidified, an economy can easily stagnate.

McCloskey assiduously eliminates explanation after explanation in order to surround and describe a more humanistic explanation for the Great Fact which is statistically harder to measure.  McCloskey believes that the Great Fact is explained by innovation, which alone has the power to create great wealth.  And he explains the origins and growth of innovation by way of the Bourgeois Revaluation: a cultural transformation, in which added to the value of prudence in handling ones finances, the bourgeois also found the liberty to innovate and cultural dignity for doing so.  These two principles, in McCloskey’s telling, unleashed a burgeoning economy through the creation of wealth through innovation – doing it better and easier.

Virtue has been often held up to be its own reward.  So it can be calming and reassuring to read a book in which Virtue makes us a lot of money, too -especially when the thinking seems to be wide-ranging and credible.  You might enjoy reading this one – a little bit nightly, taken like a pill following the evening news – with a little tea and chocolate, your dog and cat.

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If you enjoyed this post, you may try more of Carl Nelson found here:  http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

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Hating Business

June 23, 2016

 

Business hatred4

Portrait of male deli owner leaning on counter

Business Hatred1

Why all this hatred of normal life?

For Conservatives one of the World’s Great Cultural Wonders is, Why Do So Many People Profess to Hate Business and Normal Life?

Business creates wealth.  Business creates and adds value.  Businesses employee people and pay them money.  Business is voluntary both in terms of using labor and in dispensing products.  You don’t have to work where you don’t want.  And you don’t have to buy what you don’t want.  (Unless the government demands this.)  And on top of all of this, the entry requirements are fantastic.  You simply start doing it.  No credentials are necessary.

Moreover, business is the flow of life.  As Francesca Aran Murphy so succinctly states in her piece, “Is Liberalism a Heresy?”

“A mixture of rule of law and respect for personal freedom enabled market economies to emerge.  People readily took to the roles of buyer and sellers of goods, because buying and selling involves the kind of role-play in which human beings flourish…..  Buying and selling became a driving force and expressive feature of modern societies, because the clever play of concealment and exposure through language and gesture it entails fits our social, dramatic  natures like a glove.”

 On the other hand, government takes our money.  It is compulsory.  It demands obedience by force.  And in some matters, even what the government offers is compulsory e.g. “free” education.

The government enslaves citizens, sends them to wars, and requires onerous tasks e.g. filling out and filing tax forms.  The governments of this world are responsible for and uncountable number of wars and millions upon millions of deaths.  Government decides upon wrong-headed policies from which its citizens are allowed no escape.  To be frank, the list of governmental sins is too long for a modestly realized piece such as this.  And then there is the nature of control.

A citizen’s control over their government’s actions is beyond laughable.  We are allowed to vote several times a year (usually 2 or 3).  Our vote is only one of millions cast.  Our decisions are on perhaps 10 -30 key topics with the results being A,B,C,or D.  From these decisions hundreds of thousands of employees are directed and trillions of dollars allocated, and yards high stacks of laws and regulations enacted.  We really have no more than a general idea of what the laws surrounding anything we might do might be.  This is why the sight of the police creates the slight frisson of fear in even the most honest citizens.  You do not want the law turning its eye upon you.  God knows what it is you could be doing wrong.

Business Hatred3

A citizen’s control over a company, however, is quite direct.  We can decide individually – and as many times as we like – whether or not to buy a product.   If we buy the product and it doesn’t perform, we can decide to not buy the product again.  If the product does perform and we like it, we have sustained a beneficial enterprise.  And the benefits of the enterprise extend well beyond the business product itself.  The ebb and flow of customers adds to the community’s vitality.  A business establishment is a place to meet, a place to talk, a safe and clean place to rest a bit.  The traffic of honest citizens deters the criminal element.   People get things they need, and the employees make money.  A successful business anchors a neighborhood, both financially and socially.  A successful business even disciplines a neighborhood.  If you don’t behave, you are made to leave.  If you can’t frequent the business, it is hard to the join the neighborhood.  Business has a civilizing effect upon the daily life of citizens, which is a consideration obtained with few laws ennacted.  Business accomplishes very much with very little encroachment upon the citizen’s liberties.  All business demands are the day to day courtesies – which, in any event, are a balm to the spirit.

Business Hatred5      business hatred2

Why then, this animus towards business?

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From the Editor’s Perch…

November 15, 2013

Editor’s Note:  Another installment about Failure:

How Much Should a Citizen Be Paid for His/Her Work?

How Much Should a Citizen Be Paid for His/Her Work?

Failure, Slavery and the Minimum Wage

 

            According to Scott Sandage’s book, Born Losers: A History of Failure in America, the great boom and bust cycles of America during the nineteenth century spawned the need for debt relief legislation.  For every business success to be had, many more failures were spawned.  If “the business of America is business,” as Calvin Coolidge would later say, then the debt-ridden failure was sidelined.  He had no future. 

            Various bankruptcy legislations were tried, and then discarded throughout the first half of the nineteenth century.  The widely held American ideal of a man being the maker of his destiny, reinforced the belief that the ‘truth lies in the man’, and that the roots of failure could be ascertained by a careful examination of the character of the man in question.  Debt relief flew directly in the face of this.  Debt relief would, it was felt by many, just nurture weakness and poor character in the American citizen.  On the other hand, a vast number of the bankrupts – though noting in retrospect many ways in which they might have acted more wisely – complained that the main reason they went bust was because they could not collect from others that which they were owed.  This all came to a head with the advent of the Civil War, when southerners stopped payments on obligations to northern businesses forcing a great number of northern businessmen into bankruptcy. 

            Along with the push for the abolition of slavery, came a parallel cry for bankruptcy legislation.  Their special interest group, The National Bankrupt Association, pushed for this legislation through their leading advocate in Congress, Thomas Jenckes.  Bankrupts complained that their “unpaid debts made them idle”, and “like true abolitionists , members of the association held that freedom was inalienable”.  The movement “seemed to understand that inalienable rights made sense only as a universal standard, not as a privilege of race”.  “To get back on one’s feet was to be emancipated.”  They argued that “When the Thirteenth Amendment brought legal freedom to the real slaves…  The government empowered itself to interfere with property, to redefine citizenship, and to protect individual rights – but not theirs.”  Their pronouncements were “a manifesto about the right to rise.”

            There were still difficulties to getting bankruptcy legislation passed however.  A key Congressman, Thaddeus Stevens clashed with Jenckes.   Stevens and his supporters could not “suffer rebel debtors to benefit from a bankruptcy bill” – which caused the Jenckes faction to complain that while Stephens was happy to free the slaves, he turned his back on the debt-slavery of his own constituents.   Finally, “on the last day of the Thirty-Ninth Congress, on a 2 March 1867, Congress approved both the Bankruptcy Act and the Reconstruction Act of 1867.”

 

            But the American ideal of “a right to rise” as an inalienable birthright continues to wage war with another American ideal of the right to property.   Currently, these questions complicate the current debate on the minimum wage laws.  Does a wage which is insufficient to live on amount to a defacto ‘slave wage’, which benefits the consumer, at the expense of the worker’s “right to rise”.   If “the business of America is business”, do insufficient wages keep capable citizens idle and ‘out of the game’?  Do insufficient wages constrict the citizens’ inalienable right to participate?  

            This is a discussion that continues, and probably will continue, for a long time.

Photo by Carl Nelson of a model

From the Editor’s Perch…

November 11, 2013

Your Money is Watching

Your Credit Agency Has Its Eye on You

Your Credit Agency Has Its Eye on You

 

A Descendant of

“America’s First Motivational Poster”

 

            The first modern credit report was issued by “the first modern credit bureau, Lewis Tappan’s Mercantile Agency”, Scot Sandage  relates in his book, “Born Losers”.   These first modern credit reports were gleaned in the early nineteenth century from far flung sources throughout our burgeoning country.  They were evaluations of a man’s character, credentials and fiscal standing, and necessary in a country where business was conducted at great distances.  Tappan developed sources who could attest to the comings and goings and general fiscal health of far flung business associates.  The local Postal Official often supplemented his income by filing such (secret) reports on the citizens of his community.   These credit ledgers – as collected by Tappan –  were written in longhand and were condensed narratives and appraisals of a man’s life.  Currently, they often make compelling reading;  as piquant as short stories, or cautionary tales.

“Managing identity meant more than guarding one’s name as a priceless asset”, Sandage also reports.  “Benjamin Franklin supposedly drew that lesson in America’s first motivational poster, “The Art of Making Money Plenty” – the “art” consisting of a rebus (or picture puzzle) with maxims from Poor Richard’s Almanack.  An eyeball stood in for the middle vowel in “creditors”, a reminder that someone was always watching.  Dating from that, it became a popular Currier & Ives lithograph.  The eye of Providence had watched over America, atop the pyramid in the Great Seal that Franklin helped design.  “Making Money Plenty” substituted the eye of commerce;”

            …” besides the creator, “thy creditors” and competitors also observed and judged you.”

Photo from Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch…

July 21, 2013

Editor:  Certainly there is a lot more that could be said, but sometimes I just get the urge to whine.

HOmeless1

Why Being Creative May Not Serve You Well

 

In a cartoon by playwright/cartoonist Mark Krause ( http://markrause.com/category/10000p/ ) a practical character asks the ‘creative’ playwright character why they don’t bring all the creativity they use in their playwrighting to advance their life, and to make money?

Indeed!  Why isn’t every poor artist using their superior creativity to better their lot?

Well, with age I’ve learned that there are often, if not ‘good’ reasons for things being as they are, there are at least significant reasons for things as they are.

Usually, the urging to be creative comes from the media gurus and not our workplace.  In fact, it seems the media gurus are pitching their advice as a corrective to the workplace, to fight ‘business as usual’.  Just as the Lord, in driving Jonah onto the boat, prevented fishing as usual.

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Creative people are seen as a Jonah to practical endeavor – that is, making money.

Why?

Well, gaze across an artist’s life and maybe get an inkling.

The word ‘success’ is derived from root words which mean outcome or result.  Most people are practical and want results.  They seek an outcome.  Artists generally want an epiphany.

I remember watching the Olympics one year and listening to the story of a swimmer who missed being on the past Olympic team by four tenths of a second.  So he trained for another four years shaving off those four tenths of a second and made his Olympic team.  His feat was celebrated world-wide.  This is how practical people are.  This is how they think.  This is what they admire.  A great compliment among practical people is to be called a ‘machine’.  In David Mamet’s play, Glengarry Glenn Ross, Shelly, the Machine, Levine is the top salesman.  Nothing stops his production.  Shelly Levine is successful.  Success is the practical person’s epiphany.

 

For all of the contracts, legalisms and paperwork involved, the basis for nearly all living is trust.

We trust that the sun will come up tomorrow.  We trust that the money we have saved will be there tomorrow.  We trust that our husband/wife will be there tomorrow.  We trust that we will be here tomorrow.  We trust that we’ve learned enough to try what we attempt.  We trust our family.  We trust our friends.  And trust is not established immediately.  Trust is a commodity earned over time through repetitive, consistent behavior.  A good worker earns our trust.  A good dog earns our trust.  A good car earns our trust.  A tried and true method gains our trust. Good artists work repetitively and consistently, but their behavior is anything but.  And whereas they might be honest as the day is long, their behavior and speech and actions are often unpredictable.  Even the quality of their output is unpredictable.  Artists generate distrust.

 

Artists often make the mistake of thinking that once they are successful, they will be respected by their practical relations, friends and acquaintances; as they imagine that success must be the coin of the realm for practical people.  But that’s not quite it.  According to Wikipedia, It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone and make our first impression…”  Then, of course it only takes another one-tenth of a second for us to form our second impression, and so forth…   Hence, the birth of the ‘elevator pitch’.  That is, it has been said that in the business world, in order to attract a person’s attention and backing, you must be able to condense who you are and what it is you do (and include direct benefits to them!) into a pitch that you can give your fellow passenger in the time it takes an elevator to travel from the lobby to whatever floor your acquaintance is headed.  Now imagine an artist delivering such a pitch.  Does building security enter the picture?

Even quite successful creative types have harbored this dream of achieving general acceptance and respect and have been dismayed.  Saul Bellow watched his sister sleep through his Nobel speech.  The great American poet Wallace Stevens hid his poet’s identity throughout his career as an executive for an insurance company in Hartford, Conneticut.  Blind Lemon Jefferson froze to death on the streets of Chicago.  “Douglas Engelbart set the computer world on fire in December 1968.  Standing in a San Francisco conference hall filled with the nation’s top computer experts…  Engelbart demonstrated such innovations as word processing, video conferencing, and desktop windows – 13 years before the debut of the first IBM personal computer.  He also showed how a mouse, which he’d invented four years earlier, could be used to control a computer.  … In one hour, he defined the era of modern computing.” (“The Week” 7.19.13)   “He never became rich or a household name… and in later years struggled to get funding for his research.”

Artists do not reach unknown ends by using trusted routes.  Artists run on faithArtists like trying things.  Practical people like succeeding at things more.  Practical people try things when the method tried has been shown to work.  Artists evade this dictum because where you go determines where you end up, and artists are “epiphany junkies”.  They want to go somewhere new.

The bad news is that success is payment for consistent, bankable results.  So, a livelihood, comraderie and respect are often part of the artist’s elusive dream.  Creativity will probably always have an air of desperation about it.  And people will probably always shun the creative individual.

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Photos taken  from Google Image

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 4, 2013
Phoning the Wife.

Phoning the Wife.

Long Distance Call

(Episode 45)

            Peter Barnett rang up Carmella with some trepidation, but with his game-voice on.  “Carmella!”

“Where the hell are you?”  Carmella replied.  She was just then placing a platter of biscuits and gravy on a customer’s table, and slammed it down so hard that the biscuits hopped, which made the customers heads hop.  (You had to be there.)

“Same place, honey.  Sorry it took so long.  I got caught in a tight spot and couldn’t call.  But all is right as rain now.  And I’m bringing home the bacon.”

“Sorry!”  Carmella said hushed, to the customers.  “I’m talking to the mayor.”

Her customers, nodded.  They were tourists, who wouldn’t know the mayor of Kimmel from the mayor of San Francisco or that he was Carmella’s husband.  But they knew the appellate ‘mayor’ and so were a bit impressed.

“I don’t know if I worry more when you sound stressed or when you sound relieved Peter,” Carmella said, hurrying out to find a spot of privacy.   “I just know that after 10 years of living with you, your high spirits don’t put me at ease.  What has happened?”  She hissed from behind the coats on the back coat rack.

“Just that my trip down here – though it has had its ups and its downs – has turned out a huge success!  I’m bringing back industry and jobs to our little corner of the woods, dear.  Kimmel’s mayor has come through!  You can start spreading the word.”

“¡Oh, no, no. Mi pequeña comadreja de un marido,” (Au contraire, my leetle weeezul of a huzbeend!), Carmella hissed.  “I am going to keep it well under my hat, until I hear the all of it, and I have you back here under my thumb where your story can be properly vetted, and sources checked and corroborated.”

“For goodness sakes, Carmella.  Should I bring my birth records?  Maybe a current photo ID?”

“You mean your hatch batch, you lizard.  What are you selling me?  And what have you been doing for two weeks?”

“I told you Carmella.  I’ve been handling some very tough negotiations.  But, handling them well, I’ll add, now that we’re through the worst of it.”

“The worst of it?  What else is there?”

“Nothing we can’t handle,” Peter assured her.

We?

“But why don’t we talk about the best of it, first?”

“I’m listening.”

“I’ve arranged with a syndicate of backers to finance the development of a huge recreational area right there in Kimmel.  We’re talking a construction budget in the millions.  Do you realize what this will do for our small community?”

“A ‘recreational area’?  You mean like horse rides and hiking and river rafting and camping and such?”

“Well, more like gambling and adult entertainment… and such.”

“Gambling and adult entertainment, in Kimmel?”

“Or just outside!  We’ll have to go over the possible locations.”

“What’s the bad news?”

“They gave me $120,000.  But we need $120,000 more.”

“$120,000.  They gave you $120,000?

“It’s earnest money.  Kind of like a ‘commission’, you know?  It’s my job to help marshal this whole thing through the governmental process, get all the proper licenses and certifications and zoning allotments and such.  I’ll be earning my money.”

“So why do you need $120,000 more?”

“Because I figured that is what it would take.”

“You figure doing all this is going to require $240,000?”

“Yes.”

“And how did you arrive at that number?  Right now the office of Mayor pays you around $5,000/year.  How come all of a sudden someone from Las Vegas wants to pay you $240,000?”

Peter had no quick answer for that.

“It seems to me that there are all sorts of little nowhere towns with little nominal nowhere mayors who could be had for a lot less than $240,000, – conflict of interest or not,” Carmella observed dryly.

“I resent that characterization, Carmella,” Peter replied.

“Well, I’m not trying to butter you up Peter.  So, answer my question.  Why, in the world, do these people want to pay you $240,000?”

“Well, it’s because they don’t actually have to pay me any of it.”

“Oh, and why’s that?”

“Well.  It’s because I already owe it, to them.”

“What?!  Peter, where in the world have you gotten $240,000 to owe anyone?”  Carmella was starting to feel a splitting headache coming on.

“Well, there’s where it’s been taking me the two weeks to get this all arranged.  And why I didn’t want to call, before it was all secured.”

“Yessssssss?  I’m listening,” Carmella said, and wishing she wasn’t.

“Okay.  This is how it went down.  But it was a good thing!  Eventually, this is going to be a good thing.”

“Peter, do you realize that we are about three minutes into this conversation and I feel like I am just now getting to whatever it is has happened that you are going to finally tell me?  And do you realize that this is how most every conversation we ever have is?  Because I have to keep digging and digging and questioning and questioning until I can finally get to what the heart of whatever it is you have to say actually is!”

Peter had been holding the phone away from his ear, so he hadn’t heard much of this.  But he felt he’d gotten the gist of it, enough, to reply with a little hurt in his voice.  “Carmella, when you get going like this, it’s no help to anyone.  Now just shut up and listen for a while.”

When Carmella didn’t reply, and Peter heard no ‘click’ of a disconnection, he continued.  “What happened is this.  After all those meetings with our sister city officials  I needed some time off, so I figured I’d just drive into Las Vegas and just look around.  All that glitter and stuff, you know.  You can literally see the place glowing in the distance.”

“You drove into Las Vegas,” Carmella sighed.

“Honey, lots of people do it, everyday.”

“Yeah, but they don’t have a drinking problem and a gambling habit.”

“It was just for a look around!”

“Okay.  So you drove in, looked around, and came back.”

“Well, no.”  Peter sighed.

“God damn it, Peter!  How much did you lose?”  Carmella felt she might crush the phone.  She massaged her forehead.

“Well, only $160,000 at first.”

“Only $160,000!  Peter where did you get that kind of money?  You didn’t   sell our restaurant did you?  I don’t see how you could have done that without my knowing.”

“No. No!  Nothing like that.  I would never do that, honey.   I just borrowed some of the city’s money.”

“You stole money from the town?!”

“I borrowed, borrowed!”

“Then pay it back, back!  Right now!”

“I am.  I have!  At least half of it, anyway.”

“Wait a minute.  You lost $160,000, but you owe $240,000.  What’s with the other $80,000?”  Carmella kept rubbing her forehead, but more vigorously.

“Well, here’s the thing.  I figured I’d lost the $160,000 because I’d made the mistake of gambling while I was drinking.  I mean, who could lose that much sober?  I went down to breakfast the next day and couldn’t even remember the night before.  I mean, I had to walk to the window to check my winnings, before  finding out.”

“Peter.  How could you start drinking?  Again?  And in Las Vegas, of all places?”

“I know.  I know.  Not smart.”

“Not smart?  Honey, what you have done is so far from ‘smart’, why, I can’t even figure out where it is.  You asshole!”

“Look, Carmella.  There’s no need to take that harsh tone with me.  Drinking is a disease.  Why, if I were dying of smallpox or something, would you be standing there calling me an “asshole”?”  Peter replied, feeling hurt and a little self-righteous.  “No!  You’d be calling a doctor.”

“No, Peter.  I think I’d watch you die, and be enjoying every minute of it.”  Carmella hissed from behind the coats, watching the Sheriff suddenly walk in.

Silence.

“I know you don’t mean that Carmella.  So I’m just going to continue as if nothing had been said, as if you hadn’t shared that.”  Peter sighed.

More silence.

“So, I figured,” Peter struck back up, upbeat.  “That sober, I could easily win it all back.  So, I went back at it with a vengeance.  I mean, I really worked hard, using all of the skills I’ve acquired, and playing it tight, playing it right.  But.  Lady Luck just wasn’t with me.  And you know, when Lady Luck frowns, well, there’s nothing you can do.  So I ended up $240,000 down.”

“Why $240,000?”  Carmella wondered, fatalistically.

“That’s when the town ran out of money.”  Peter shook his head.

“Oh,” Carmella replied, wrung out.

“But it’s a good thing! Carmella.  Because this is where I was able to turn things around, you see, because without that debt hanging over my head, I would never have been able to entice these savvy, shrewd business peopled down here into investing in our small town way out in the middle of nowhere.  But as it worked out, it’s as if I played them.  Which, I guess I have!  They are going to plunge millions into our little town, because they figure it costs them nothing!  And all it took on our parts was to lose $240,000.  Which, I might add, we plan to pay all back!”

Carmella didn’t know what to say.  She was dead tired from working in the restaurant 24/7, from listening to the crazy fantasies of a crazy husband, and now what could be impending incarceration for embezzlement – plus, just to add another dollop of bad luck to it, possible involvement with shady gambling figures, probably mob-connected.  She looked forward into her future and saw a shallow unmarked grave somewhere deep in the woods off a logging road, and her buried in a waitress smock or something.  Maybe she’d go serve the Sheriff some free coffee.  Yes.  That’s what she’d do.  She hung up.

“Leadership isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always carried out along the direct path,” Peter was touting himself into the dead phone.  “But the victory is there to be had, and the achievement to be realized for the ones who have the cajones to reach for the ring, and stay the course through those tough times of adversity, Carmella.  And let me tell you, I’m appreciative of your loyalty.  And someday, you’ll be able to take that to the bank.”

Photo by Carl Nelson of professional model

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

April 28, 2013
oooh, nice!

oooh, nice!

the help

the help

Influence Peddling

(Episode 44)

Benny Green got a call from his friend Lazlo in Vegas.  Lazlo was also a loan shark and money launderer.  But at times they traded leads.

“I got this guy here, thought you might find interesting.”

“Oh yeah?  How so,” Benny asked.

“Well, he’s deeply in debt,” Lazlo continued.

“That’s a start,” Benny agreed.

“He’s lost somebody else’s money.  And if that somebody else doesn’t get their money back, he’s gonna be in deep shit.”

“So he’s already in deep shit,” Benny replied.

“Yeah.”

“And this wouldn’t be your money, would it?”  Benny asked.

“Well, it could be,” was Lazlo’s reply.

“Aaahhhh.”  Benny nodded.  This sounded like a two way split.  Which Benny liked better than a favor.  A two way split was precise and people kept their eye on the play.  A ‘favor’ was a sloppy business and involved a lot of conversation and socializing and most of the time came back to bite you.  “And what’s his pitch?”  Benny asked.  “What’s his collateral?”  Benny laughed.

“Well, it’s something you might be able to use, but I can’t, really.”  Lazlo let the last words filter out his lips with the smoke from his cigar.  “But if you could, then we could.  But if you can’t, then we can’t.”

“Hmmmmmmm.”  Benny nodded.  It so happens that they were both, at this time, puffing on big cigars – the same brand actually – and letting the smoke filter out from between their lips.

Lazlo belched and waved someone over.  Benny, on his end, did the same thing.  Benny snapped his fingers, and asked his mistress to hand him a ham on rye.  Down in Vegas, Lazlo snapped is fingers at a former showgirl and demanded a Chivas on the rocks.

“So why would I be able to use this ‘thing’ we’re talking about, when you can’t – or won’t?”  Benny asked.  There was a lot of chit chat and shoptalk embedded in a deal.  And Lazlo employed and enjoyed it as much as Benny.  And when they were enjoying themselves, they often felt the urge to eat.

“It’s a matter of lowkwhoshawn…”  Lazlo murmured through a bite of sandwich.

“THwhaut?”  Benny chewed, spit out a wheat kernel, and checked his filling.  ‘What the hell does this woman buy for bread?’ Benny had to ask himself.

Lazlo swallowed, then took a gulp of beer.  “It’s a matter of loc-a-tion,” he enunciated.

“Uh,” Benny replied, reaching in his pocket for a toothpick.

“What he wants to sell me is a town.  …maybe a county.”

“A town?  What have I got to do with a town?”  Benny replied.  “What am I gonna do with a county?”

But Lazlo was silent, letting the matter crawl around the crevices of Benny’s lizard brain for a moment, while Lazlo studied a sandwich.  He lifted it.  Finally, Lazlo decided where he was going to bite and answered.  “It’s the town’s money he lost.  He’s the mayor, the treasurer, the coroner, the post office supervisor, and a dozen other things as near as I can tell, of the great metropolis of Kimmel, up in your neck of the woods.”  Lazlo bit.

“And so he wants to trade you the town, in lieu of his gambling debt?”

“He wants to trade me his influence,” Lazlo corrected, chewing.  “He figures hi mhight whant tho estahblish,” Lazlo took a gulp of Chivas, feeling the ice tap his teeth,  “gambling, and maybe a little loan-sharking and prostitution up in his neck of the woods.  And he thinks me and him can make that happen.  Of course, if I decide not to ‘help’ him out, then more than likely he goes on the lam, or gets incarcerated, and there goes his influence.  So.  It’s a perishable commodity,” Lazlo summarized.

“Aren’t we all,”  Benny sympathized with a smile.  “How long does he have?”

“Well, there’s the payroll he’s got to meet, which includes the county Sheriff’s salary.”

This made Benny’s brows rise.  “I don’t know,” Benny said finally.  “Currently I’m invested into businesses – legit businesses, some of them even hi tech, you’d be proud of me, I am embracing technology – and making clean money.  Towns cost money.  They got potholes to fix, cops to fix, and all that shit..  I don’t know.  I don’t see any money, unless I go majorly illegal.  You know, corrupt with a big ‘C’.  And then, I still have to put even more money in, you know, to build up the proper infrastructure, to support something that would make it worth my while, considering the risk.”

“Benny!  I can’t believe I’m hearing this.  Corruption always pays better than legit.  That’s why we do it,” Lazlo swore.

“Aaiiii!”  Benny swore.  “But I’m getting so tired of talking to that FBI.  And the legal fees eat me alive.”

“Okay.  Okay.  Only two words I’m going to say,” Lazlo replied.  “Las Vegas.”

“That’s one.”

“No, it’s two.  Look it up.”

“I have.”

“No.  Apparently you haven’t, because there’s ‘Las’, and then there’s ‘Vegas’.  Two words.”

“Las’, is not a word.”

“Yes it is.”

“No it’s not.  What does ‘Las’ mean?  It doesn’t mean anything.”

“It must in Spanish.  Or they wouldn’t use it all by itself, would they?”  Lazlo countered.

“Who knows what the goddamned Mexicans do,” Benny replied.  “Even if it does mean something, it probably means ‘the’, or ‘before’, or ‘on top of’.”

“’On top of?”

“…or something.  And what does ‘the’ mean?  Huh?  ‘The’ doesn’t mean anything.  It’s like a nothing, a, an, empty thought space.”

Lazlo sighed.  “Okay, look.  We’re getting off topic here.  Why don’t we save  this linguistic pissing contest for another time?”

“Fine with me.”

“Because what I am saying in a language we both know and can communicate in is that what we may be looking at here is an opportunity.  And it might be worth the investment because we reduce the risk, like Las Vegas.  They own the desert, and they make the law.  No cops.  No lawyers.  No courts.  No nothing.  Just out of state marks.  Lots of grain fed marks flown in…”

“I heard you say “we”.”

“That’s right.  We split 50/50.”

“So what do I do?  And what do you do?”

“Okay.  So this is it.”  Lazlo lowered his voice – just from habit, and not because he was afraid of being overheard.  It was just habitual to lower your voice when you got to the meat of any conversation.  Everybody knew this.

“The guy’s short $240,000.  It was $160,000, but he tried to gamble his way free.  This ought to give you some measure of the guy’s ability to self-examine and to self-correct in the face of adversity and of his character flaws.”

“Yeah.  I got it,” Benny said.  “Mayor or not, he’s just another normal putz with abnormal ambition and what he thought were testicles.”

“Yeah.  So this is how it is:  I give him $120,000.  This is enough to save his ass for the time being, but not enough for him to lose that sense of urgency, which is so important for a good relationship to flower.  You pay me $60,000, and you’re in for half.  After that we own him.  And you run him and the operation up there, while I raise the money and assemble the backers down here.  And we go big league.  We put Kimmel County on the map.  What do you say?”

Benny thought for a while.  “I knew a broad who lived out near there,” he said.  “One of my clients.  Seemed to like it.”

“Well there you go,” Lazlo agreed.

“Until she got whacked.  Some crazy batshit serial killer or some such.  Cut her head off.  Like, sawed it, with a small knife.  Can you believe that?”

“There’s a lot of sickos in this world,” Lazlo sympathized.

“Maybe.  On the other hand, she was pretty abrasive,” Benny offered.

“Well, okay.  Then there’s that.  You know, like sometimes a person’s karma can catch up to them.”

“Yeah, and saw their head off!”  Benny laughed.  He considered.  “Okay, cut me in.  And I’ll get the money to you by the end of this week.  It’ll be cash, and I’ll have my nephew drive it down personal.  Cause you know him and he knows you.”

“That’ll work, “ Lazlo said.

“Okay.  Nice bein’ in business with you again Lazlo,” Benny said.

“The feeling’s mutual.”

They both hung up, grabbed their drinks and cigars, and sat there thinking.

Photos from Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch

November 22, 2012

Follow the Money

(Our Adolescent Culture and How Discretionary Spending Determines It)

As I stood at the breakfast counter this morning – in between the lubbity-dub sounds of my inner contentment and love – it occurred to me that the majority of our discretionary spending was done by my cereal slurping son.  My wife and I bring in a good income.  But our expenditures are quite practical.  House payments, car payments, every day repairs, utilities, foodstuffs and medical bills consume most of our income.  That’s my wife and I.  Our son, on the other hand, has little income.  But the income he has is spent almost entirely on ‘new’ products.

My son hasn’t a lot of money to spend (though he does pretty well at leveraging mine).  But what money he does spend is spent almost entirely on new culture: music, movies, snacks, designer drinks,concerts, trending clothes and sports.  And while I spend much of my money buying time in order to produce the plays, writings, stories, poems, and pictures through which I hope to beautify our culture, …what I do isn’t wagging much dog.  My son, on the other hand, devotes almost all his money to purchasing what is new.  And his money seems to be wagging quite a bit of dog! and wallpapering our culture stem to stern.

The years have shown me that culture and politics tend to go wherever there is new money to be made.  So after realizing that my son does the cultural ‘voting’ for our family, I suffered a buffeting series of revelations.

You want to change the world?  Don’t go to school, study hard, work, and learn the difficult lessons of the life and all that – because all that stuff is in the public domain.  You want to change the culture?  You’ll be much more effective if you simply go buy something from WalMart.  It’s that ‘Golden Rule’:  ‘Those that have the gold, make the rules.’  My son’s viewpoint is winning, hands down.

Finally, I’ve connected the dots and realized that the reason our culture strikes me as terribly adolescent is because it is mostly financed by adolescents; the businesspeople who make their livings by catering to adolescents; and the cultural media who pander to the adolescents ideas of the ‘new’.  As opposed to the Ten Commandments, which God knows, are in the public domain and we’ve all heard a thousand times.  (Don’t even bring them up!  you want to sell anything.)

Anyway, perhaps if I were a genius, these words might charm our culture more to my liking; provoke a change, or even get me arrested.  For the time being however, the most culturally puissant thing I’m probably going to do, is to shop.  I’ll just drive down to a Wal-Mart or one of the Big Box stores and purchase something.  This simple action as a consumer will probably wield far more influence than I will ever have as an artist. Few will follow my art, but most can spot and make change for a fifty real well.

And that’s just the way it is… for now.  🙂

Photo by Carl Nelson


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