Saturday, April 14, 2012

Welcome to the Casino

Its time for another rant... and this time it is on the shambles of our national economy.

The legalization of Casinos all over america is an apt metaphor for what our entire economy has become. Investment has grown passé, replaced by speculation. Which is to say, hard work and dedication to a goal are no longer fashionable, instead gambles and throws of the dice to "hit it big" are all the rage.

This has been true of our national investment structure the stock market, for quite awhile. When it was originally constructed, the idea was to let the common people own a piece of a business and share in the profits of that business. Today, a company that generates steady profits is a public failure, growth is all important because the goal of the investor is for their shares to be worth more then when they bought them so they can re-sell them.

This is speculation, which is another word for gambling. Its is also what creates economic bubbles as everyone tries to buy and resell higher, and the last suckers holding the goods take a huge loss to pay for everyone else's profits.

Its not just the market though, we can see this kind of bubble/gambling mentality infecting every part of our economy. When I started in high-tech start-ups 20 years ago, it was about building exciting new products and creating new opportunities. We were creating the world we wanted to live in. We poured our heats and souls into those companies and their products. We *invested* ourselves.

With the $1B buy out of a 24 month old company with one, nascent product by Facebook, that world is totally and thoroughly over. The buzz on the street is all about "quick hits", jump in, release a half-assed product as fast as you can and, if it doesn't hit it huge, dump it and try again.
This is rolling the dice, gambling rather then investing.

Even the business models are slanted towards this, now. The "Free to Play' market is all about a few huge winners and lots of losers. Nowhere in the space is there room for a lovingly crafted niche product. It used to be, a game that sold 5,000 copies could be considered a moderate success. An F2P game with 5,000 users is a dismal failure.

Gambling moves money between pockets, but creates no new lasting value. Its a false value based on others' losses either now or in the future. Thats why bubbles burst. Investing on the other hand builds value, which is why Warren Buffet's shares have never 'burst'.

Investing takes time, and commitment. Where is investment happening today? In the "emerging economies". China, as an example, has been doing a remarkable job of investing in their economic future.

Firefly was probably right. The future language of trade, is probably Chinese.

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