Sunday, January 28, 2018

Never Try to Teach a Pig to Sing

Living Stingy: The Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail
"I have never swindled a man.  At most I kept quiet and let him swindle himself.  This does no harm, as a fool cannot be protected from his folly. If you attempt to do so, you will not only arouse his animosity but also you will be attempting to deprive him of whatever benefit he is capable of deriving from experience. Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig." 
-- Robert A. Heinlein Time Enough For Love, The Lives of Lazarus Long
A lot of people don't understand this Heinlein quote, as it is often taken out of context.  Heinlein is using it in the context of foolish people who fall for cons.   And as he notes, all you have to do to con a person is "keep quiet and let him swindle himself" - a tactic a smart car salesman knows, if the customer becomes enamored of the car he is being shown.

It also illustrates how the people who defend the con-artist are most likely to be the conned.  Folks, when they buy into a con, "invest" themselves emotionally in it, and when you challenge them, they get defensive - backed into a corner - and come out fighting.  Fighting for the person who stole their money!

Don't believe me? Go to a timeshare seminar sometime. The loudest voices in the room for "investing in your vacation" are the victims of the con.  Oh, sure, the pump is primed by the salesmen and the brochures and the presentation - as well as the shills planted in the room.   But once people buy into the concept, they themselves become the best salesmen.

Or take payday loans and check cashing stores.  The loudest voices defending them are their paid lobbyists, of course.  But many in the ghetto defend such institutions as well!  Their very victims will be the first to argue that $25 check-cashing fees and 300% interest are "good deals!"

As I noted in a posting on the Jamaican lottery scam:
The victim often still believes that their big check is only days or weeks away. And even when family members intervene and show the victim that they were scammed, they will vehemently denounce the family members and still insist that riches are only moments away. 
When Chris Poland, his 53-year-old son, heard of it he was furious. He wanted to know why his dad, who had spent his life working at a factory, was giving his hard-earned money away. 
Albert Poland, an ordained deacon and long-time Sunday School teacher, took his own life the following day. 
In his suicide note, the father and grandfather of two urged his family not to spend a lot of money on his funeral service and said he hoped he would be vindicated once his $2.5million lottery prize arrived.
It is very sad, but this sort of thing goes on a lot. As I noted in another posting, Chelsea Clinton's father-in-law got caught up in Nigerian scam, stole money from his clients, and ended up in jail. These are often smart people who get caught up in these things - smart people who maybe slip a cog a bit
The man was ready to kill himself - and did - but still defended his abusers up to his last breath.   From the grave, he felt he would be vindicated, when all that lottery money came in!

And today, we see the same pattern.  Go on any cryptocurrency discussion site and see what I mean.  Oh, sure, just like the goldbug era, there are shills and trolls planting comments and stories to gin up the take.  But the biggest salesmen for the thing are the people who bought into it - convinced their ship has finally come in.

And when you try to school them otherwise?   Don't bother trying to teach a pig to sing!

Now, I am using crypto as just the latest example of the frenzied "investing" con-games that are always out there - or on the horizon.  There are many more examples of cons and bad deals, perhaps in your ordinary daily life - and you may find yourself defending them, on occasion.  People come to me asking how to "get rich quick" and I tell them there are no ways to get rich quick.  Even the dot-com billionaires had to do some work to get where they are today - nothing happens overnight, even if the press reports it that way.

For the average citizen, the best way to "get rich" is to accumulate wealth and the easiest way to do this is to stop giving it to other people.  Act rationally in an irrational world.  While others are throwing their money away on get-rich-quick schemes, just invest in a panoply of rational things and invest - put aside income instead of spending it.  The idea that you can leverage a few hundred or a few thousand into billions is idiotic.

And when I say there are scams in your everyday life, I don't just mean Glenn Beck hawking gold, or the cryptocurrency bubble, or the latest shady IPO, but a lot of things people perceive as "normal" activities, but in fact are utter rip-offs.  Leasing cars   Eating out five nights a week.  Paying $5 for a "coffee drink" that is mostly ice cream.  Paying hundreds of dollars a month for cable plans or cell phone plans.   That sort of thing.  The sort of thing that the victims defend as "rational spending" by using excuses like, "It's our only luxury!" or "Compared to [insert obscene luxury here] it is a good deal!" or "Sometimes you come home from work just too beat to cook!  You just want to flop down in front of the TV and order a pizza!"

Because the same people who claim to "never have any money" are the same folks who fritter away their money on "small" purchases like this.  These are the same people "investing" in cryptocurrency by purchasing bitcoin with a credit card.

I am not trying to "convert" these folks to my way of thinking - that is idiotic as Heinlein points out.  But then again, Heinlein wasn't trying to convert anyone to his way of thinking, either.  He just wrote stories, and if you get something out of them, good for you.  If you don't, then don't read the book.

And that's why I say that if you don't like my common-sense approach and are convinced there are "secrets to wealth!" that are just waiting to be discovered (by you and five billion other people) then don't read my blog.   Because when you come right down to it, you can't teach me to sing, either.