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For another illustrious opinion, addressing the multiple issues inherent to my What's In A Number topic, click here.

WHAT'S IN A NUMBER, part 2

Some folks work to earn a living. Some go into business to make money. Personally, I’d like it very much if all those in this latter group would quickly depart to the moon.

Why? Well, if we can get past the fact that it is sometimes dangerous to ask what is going on inside my head, I’ll tell you that it is because the folks who are obsessed with “making money” do no real work. In fact, their strategies are laid to ensure that other folks – those who are working to earn a living -- do all the real work and get the minimum return on their investment of time, energy, labor and creative talent. Because, after all, this is the only way that profits are earned.

And there is an empirical contradiction: Earning a profit. It simply cannot be done.

What? Well….

The term “profit,” according to the dictionary, defines as “The return received on a business undertaking after all operating expenses have been met.”

Think about that for a moment. If profits come only after all business expenses have been met, and business expenses include all salaries, wages, overheads and purchases that are necessary to doing business… then the monies counted as “profits” are garnered only when no “earning” has taken place.

Thus, though my heart and head are devoutly capitalistic – swearing allegiance to the concepts of private property ownership and the entrepreneurial grit of individual liberty -- in my humble opinion “profits” should be forbidden, if not by law then by virtue of an unwritten ethical code.

Which brings us back, in a roundabout way, to the numerical question I posed earlier this month: How much money actually changes hands each week, here in the good ol’ USA?

But before we tread that water again, allow me please to share another gulp of the big picture that backdrops my thinking process. Please open your textbooks and turn to the section on “free market enterprise.” Begin reading where it says something like this:

Rudimentary to the whole concept of "capitalism" is the fact that every act of commerce in a free marketplace requires the consumption of one or more natural resources. And, in context of capitalistic democracy, the owner(s) of a "resource" are entitled to be paid some sort of valuable consideration when their “private property” is utilized and is thus “consumed.”

Makes sense, right? I mean, if you own a house and I want to use it, I am “consuming” (some portion of) your “resource,” thus entitling you to receive something of value (ie: “rent”) from me in exchange.

Simple.

And if I am a baker, or butcher, or farmer, or  Webcrafter, I am free to offer the products I produce in the marketplace, exchanging my “work” (and the resources my work consumes) for other things of value (like money) so that I may pay you your rent.

Makes sense.

But the academically un-asked and therefore unanswered Economics 101 question that lurks behind the scenes of this purely capitalistic scenario really niggles my brain, being: To whom do all our fundamental resources – like air, water, soil and the minerals therein (a measure of which are “consumed” by each act of commerce in a free marketplace)… To whom do these rightfully belong?

I need to know the answer to this question because, as a respectable capitalist and a responsible professional who works to earn a living,  I am duty bound to pay the rent I owe to the owner of these resources.

Now this may be a pretty radical concept to wrap a brain around. For one thing, it has been (deviously?) made to seem far more acceptable (by those folks who set their sites on making profits) to try to figure-out “avoidance” tactics so that they can keep for themselves more (and more and more) of what others are legitimately entitled to be paid.

Also, it takes a great stretch of imagination to have any kind of conversation on subjects of this economic nature without those illustrious demons called “communism” and “socialism” rearing their ugly heads.

Yet if you look closely and think clearly about the baseline principles of free market enterprise you will find that the principles outlined above are fundamental to democratic capitalism. Thus if we (as in “all of us”) do truly seek to co-create a society that is genuinely equitable, affording a level playing field to every man, woman and child, we are duty bound to somehow devise a system of economic development that "pays" each one of us a dignified amount of “rent” for the consumption of those natural resources that (to my mind) all of us rightfully own.

And, since our economic medium of the moment is that thing called money, by tallying the amount of money that routinely changes hands, we shall discover a baseline upon which to calculate just how much rent is due.

Get the picture? I hope so. And I look forward to hearing something about all this from you!!!

A short diversion:
I don't usually post "virus alert" info to this column, however... 

There's a nasty critter making the rounds that is especially devious as it appears to have been sent to folks directly from Microsoft and reads something like this:

From: Microsoft Corporation Security Center
Subject: Internet Security Update
Message: Microsoft Customer,
this is the latest version of a security update, the update which eliminates all known security vulnerabilities affecting Internet Explorer and MS Outlook/Express as well as six new vulnerabilities...

From there the message goes on to explain just how you should "install" this (bogus) "security update." DON'T DO IT!!!

As with all unsolicited email attachments, DELETE IT IMMEDIATELY and then EMPTY THE TRASH to keep your computer happy and healthy. And for more info on this particular virus/trojan/worm, click here.

WHAT'S IN A NUMBER....???

There’s a question I’ve long sought to answer. It’s weighed not so gentle on my mind for nearly 20 years. And it’s a simple question, really, the answer to which – given modern technology – ought to be just a demographic mouse-click away. Yet it evades me.

So, I’ll pose it to you in the hopes that somewhere wandering around in  cyberspace there is a woman or man (or boy or girl) who knows how to solve my little mystery, the gist of which is this:

How much money changes hands in the United States of America each week?

Now before you go getting all excited, jumping up and down and dunning me with emails about the Gross National Product (or other figures of a similarly contrived ilk), I challenge you to be aware that I am seeking a literal answer to my figurative question. I want a real number stated in dollars, calculated pragmatically and based in common sense.

I want that number to include every product or service that’s purchased, each electricity and water bill that’s paid, and every paycheck that’s cashed, stashed or deposited. I want it to include the sale of every house, business, automobile, bean salad, soft drink, and loaf of bread, plus every dime spent on advertising or paid in interest and all the money that changes hands daily on each and every share of stock.

Now I hear you wondering: “Why on Earth would anyone want to know such a number? What good will it do? What purpose does it serve?” Well, while I do have an answer to those questions, until I have an answer to my primary question I have no way of knowing whether my ultimate quest is meaningful or completely absurd.

What I will confide, however, is that if my guesstimate about the size of this unknown number is anywhere in the ballpark, well… it could be the key to simplifying and enhancing life all around the world.

No kidding.

So please get out those calculators, ladies and gents. Take your best shot at doing the math. See what number you come up with and let me know from what data you tallied the sum. And, while you’re at it, allow if you will one other niggling question to roll round in that noodle of yours: “Who rightfully owns all the natural resources of the earth?”

Now whilst these curiosities are cookin’ in that sumptuous brain of yours, how also about inventing a Hobo Stew recipe and entering it in our Gozarkian cook-off???

In honor of the 2nd birthday of our little e-zine and the umpteenth birthday of Earth Day, we're planning a shindig next month. On Saturday, April 20,  we'll be having a "happy birthday to ALL of us" picnic in the park. 

Our vision is for a spectacular yet sublimely simple event, designed with egalitarian good will in mind. In other words, what we're aiming for is to co-create a friendly spot of happiness laced with magical moments and shared by a leisurely group of like-minded friends.

As the featured festivity, we're sponsoring a "Hobo Stew Cook-off" with proceeds to benefit ARDPArk. But mainly we plan to devote ample time to schmoozing, noshing, laughing, dancing, playing in the lake and strolling through the woods. In other words, celebrating the wonders of a happy earth with our Gozarkain kin.

So please, have a look at the campground where this "Happy Birthday Planet Earth" party is happening, then take a gander at the page where we've posted the Hobo Stew Cook-off rules and other details about our big event. Then pack your picnic basket, get your bathing suit out of moth balls, and mark Saturday, April 20, on your calendar to make sure to attend. And remember to check back here often for updates about all the warm-fuzzy neat stuff that's to come!!!

(And remember, if you seek to find a story or information that previously appeared on Gozarks front page, visit our Archives!)

Christine Weiss
editor@gozarks.com

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