Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Library: America's Favorite Ponzi Scheme.

With all the news about Bernard Madoff and Robert Allen Stanford, we might forget that America's real favorite Ponzi scheme is the public library.

Remember what very few people bothered to ask Madoff a few years before his whole fraud collapsed: "How is it that you continue to offer such consistently steady returns while others around you are failing?" It is not uncommon for libraries to boast an increase of 15-20 or even 50%, crediting these figures on "Internet" use, "bathroom" use, and people generally losing their jobs and all their worldly possessions and having no place else to go.

While all is collapsing, libraries thrive.

Libraries thrive in tough times. Just Google it and see. (Oh, I may just do that, Mr. Smartypants. Oh, who am I kidding, I'm too lazy. Let me just go back to enjoying those adorable photos of kitties inside tea cups. If only someone would invent a device that lets me browse the Internet by simply shifting my weight on my butt cheeks: left click, right click, double-click. Oops, I think I just had a little accident.)

How do libraries continue to provide such excellent service when the local Starbucks has just closed? I mean, Starbucks charged $4 for a cup of coffee, didn't they make enough profit to keep these stores viable? What are libraries doing that's so much better?

Well, the secret is that libraries take your money and your neighbor's money and your other neighbor, well not them because they rent, but their landlord's money and then libraries buy books and other materials with it. And the libraries even borrow more money and build more libraries and then make you and your neighbors and the landlord pay it back for them. How great is that?

Libraries don't need to charge $4 for a cup of coffee because as long as you live and breathe, you will pay for libraries.

And the good news is, that it doesn't take very much money for you to "buy in." And as long as you continue to pay your share, without whining and complaining about paying taxes, the library will be a strong part of your community. But if everyone complains to their elected officials and then tries to reduce their investments, the library will fail and all that money will be lost. You don't want to lose your investment, do you?

So libraries are built on the premise that lots of investors will pay in a consistent investment over a long period of time. And everyone will see consistently high returns.

Now the older members of this association (we call them "senior citizens") feel they are the original members and see their advanced years as payment into the system, and often demand higher returns. Libraries often comply with these requests because old people hanging around just make the place look bad, so we usually give them what they want and send them home as quickly as possible.

But don't let this dissuade you. You, too, may complain about not getting new books and DVDs fast enough, and the library will help you for many years with quietly, passive-aggressive service.

Libraries guarantee consistent returns. As long as you don't panic and demand your money back. Or some government bureaucrat doesn't decide to close libraries to satisfy some budget shortfall caused by the local government investing all of its money in Madoff Securities.

What is a Ponzi scheme? It's simply a system whereby the original investors are paid back from the deposits of new investors. Now, in a really successful Ponzi scheme, the investors at the very top need to discontinue collecting from the new investors at the bottom; they have to hit a cap so that what the scam is collecting from the new investors is used to pay off the multitude of middle-investors who have already paid the top-tier investors.

When the top-tier continues to collect money long after they've made back their investment plus any fair amount of interest, then that's no longer a Ponzi scheme, it becomes the Social Security Administration. (Will there be any money left when you retire?)

But then what is the incentive for the top to continue collecting money, unless they continue to take a cut?And that's the problem with the traditional Ponzi scheme; at some point, there just isn't enough money to satisfy all the victims.

Again, just like the Social Security system.

Where do libraries get all this money to satisfy new investors? The apply for various grants and request increases from local taxes. They raise money.

And that said, the.effing.librarian needs to raise a little money. If you want to be a contributor to this fantastically profitable and financially solid institution with over two years of satisfying its members' dreams and ambitions, then apply now. It only takes $200,000 of "good faith" money to guarantee your acceptance. And then you'll be in. And as the.effing.librarian grows, so will your investment.

Public notice: the.effing.librarian is fully licensed in Cameroon and Nigeria (as an auto window-tint installer and doughnut shop).

Addendum. In "researching" this article ("how do you spell Cameroon?"), I came across these very very very wise words:

We have become a society that worships wealth, and when you elevate wealth to the only litmus test of being a member of the human family, then people will lie and steal and defraud and be revered for their bad acts.
We used to honor people who were hardworking, people who had talent. The fact that they became wealthy was great, but what we revered was their talent.
And, people are more than willing to go over to the dark side when they see they're not punished.

[Randy Johnston, author of Robbed at Pen Point -- from Where's My Money? Just Remember, "A Very Simple Old Scam Can Still Fool Smart People."By Megan Feldman]

But Randy's opinion is that accountability for all this abuse of trust and theft and destruction should be enforced through the court systems. Whereas, I think it should be enforced with a .44 Magnum.