Sunday, January 6

Why are many Americans easily defrauded?

It's because Americans were conditioned over more than two generations to disrespect their money. This happened principally because of the unrelenting promotion of debt-financing. When the financial practice was applied to individuals, as happened when American farmers in the early 20th century took on personal debt to finance capital expenditures for mechanized farm equipment, this set in motion a nightmare that greatly deepened the 1930s Depression in America and flooded its cities with penniless dispossessed farmers looking for work in factories. 

The nightmare continued during the post-WW2 period with the use of 'revolving' credit for household and other personal purchases. By the time scam-artists sold the financing of a college education through taking on steep personal debt, parents and college-age children in the American Middle Class were easy marks. By then, Americans were used to throwing their hard-earned money away on debt-financed expenditures. And they'd accepted the scam artists' assurances that good-paying jobs would await the debt-ridden college graduates -- assurances that collapsed as the Great Recession set in and the true cost of supporting themselves in today's USA sank in with the graduates.

Debt-financing for purchases should only be undertaken by for-profit business corporations, which limits risk for the individual. And debt-financing for anything other than business profits is a perversion of capitalism. 

I'll cut a story by noting that if individuals have respect for their money, they will be prepared to go to great lengths to avoid paying interest on borrowed money -- and even then, they'll be very aware that they are taking a great risk by borrowing at all -- as the markets in repossessed cars and homes testify. The awareness vanished in America along with respect for money. 

One consequence was the proliferation of Pyramid schemes and other fraudulent 'get rich' schemes where Americans not only threw all their savings into the schemes but also took on high-interest debt so they could throw even more money into them. 

Things got completely out of control when Americans started using their credit cards to purchase attendance at seminars costing thousands of dollars that held out the promise of getting rich by one guaranteed method or another.

Such is the case with the latest Get Rich scheme, which Alana Semuels recounts in detail for the January 2 issue of The Atlantic: How to Lose Tens of Thousands of Dollars on Amazon: "A growing number of self-proclaimed experts promise they can teach anyone how to make a passive income selling cheap Chinese goods in the internet's largest store. Not everyone’s getting rich quick."

The seminars are not fraudulent in the legal sense, and some who use the tutorials can make a profit from what they learn. But when you consider, as Semuels points out, that all the information taught at the seminars is easily available for free on the internet, the kind of people who fork over thousands of bucks for the seminars are not the types best suited to make money through a highly competitive and complicated business that can require a lot of hard work to get established.

And so, on top of losing the money they invest in the seminar, many attendees lose all the money they invest in starting their reselling business on Amazon -- and then some, if they've gone into credit-card debt to pay for the seminar and help finance the resale business startup.

As Semuels notes, trying to get rich quick is an old American tradition, which arose in an era when many Americans did respect money. Toward the end of her report, she takes a stab at explaining why Americans have always had a weakness for Get Rich schemes. But lack of respect for money explains why many Americans in this era are suckers for Get Rich schemes that stand up and shout they're highly deceptive or outright frauds. Those Americans are already used to throwing away money.

For those who'd say the U.S. society would collapse if Americans stopped using debt financing for personal purchases -- this is saying society would collapse if the majority of adults stopped throwing money away. The status quo would collapse, but this would mean Americans were finally ready to emerge from a nightmare.


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