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The Dark Side (from IKN439)

This was the intro piece from last week's edition of The IKN Weekly, IKN439. A couple of subbers said I should put it on the open blog. So I have.

The dark side
Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he
does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough
into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

I have something to get off my chest, please forgive the introspection of this week’s intro. The opposition to the type of scamster exposing that I do over at the blog has always been there (they don’t like the publicity) but in recent months their noise has got noticeably louder and along the way, from time to time, I’ve actually wondered why I do the whole exposé thing on their nefarious activities. I don’t need to do it, not even for the sake of the “soft marketing” advertisement that the free blog is towards this publication, the one that provides cash flow for the food my two daughters eat. For enjoyment then? Well sometimes yes, taking some stuffed ego down a peg or two by uncovering things they’ve been doing behind the backs of the world has its own fleeting charm, but I’ll just as often go through periods when it’s a royal pain in the posterior to run the blog.

Alongside, there are the moments of the Dark Side. What if I’m wrong about the position I take and the attitude I prefer? What if Mr (add preferred scamster name here) of XYZ Resources Inc is right to use the inherent laws of Darwinism and all tricks of the Vancouver/Toronto book in order to transfer cash from the pockets of the naïve in his (or her, but dammit it’s nearly always his) pockets? That, in short, they are right and I am wrong and it’s about time I stopped tilting at windmills, joined the throng, used the same strategies (because at this stage I know a lot of them backwards, if you can spot them a mile off they’d be simple to put into practice) and make myself a mint. And when this line of thinking comes up, like it did on Friday as I was putting the end-week numbers into the Excel sheets for this weekend’s edition, somewhere in the back of my head a frustration and anger boils up because this issue bothers me deeply.

Right at the heart of the matter is the fact that I am a Capitalist. It’s the way I was brought up, it’s the world in which I operate, but there’s also a moral duty to be true to your other values as well as the economic so when faced with a me-first-f__k-you-gimme-gimme-gimme capitalist at the far end of the same spectrum not only do I see that I’m not that kind of boy, but my abhorrence of those people sends me into aversion mode. What’s more I’m not shy about calling myself a Capitalist in its truest sense, because what I do to pass the time and make money is write this thing, The IKN Weekly, every weekend. If it’s good and people like it then it grows and I make money. If you the customer don’t like it you stop paying me, I go out of business and end up happily flipping burgers. So what is it about the thing that I the Capitalist (with a large C) hate about these people who call themselves capitalists, those who go out of their way to make money in the stock market at the direct expense of others? I took time out on Friday evening to consider just where the cleavage point is and on doing so, it didn’t take long before Nassim Nicholas Taleb and his “skin in the game” ideal came to mind. So as one does in the 21st century, in order to pin down a quote and crystallize the concept I went off to Google to remind myself and find the mot juste (along the way, I watched this 45 minute Youtube interview of Taleb (1) a good one and recommended). But I also know that Taleb didn’t coin “skin in the game”, he may have co-opted the phrase and has become closely associated with it but it’s not his, so I was pleased to find that the quote most matching my position came from another author. This is Bob MacDonald, retired CEO of Allianz Life NA now author/blogger and it was written in 2011, before Taleb picked up on the catchphrase (2):

The Era of the Fake Capitalists
Today that system that worked so well to stimulate the American economy is despoiled and infected with fake capitalists. Those who run the gigantic corporations of today no longer have any real “skin in the game.” And yet, they expect to be rewarded – in the form of obscene salary and bonuses – as if they did. Few of these individuals have put their personal capital at risk and any ownership they have was given to them by the board of directors. If they do fail, their fall is cushioned by the comfort of multimillion dollar severance packages.  How can this be called capitalism? It is even stretching the term “capitalist” to apply it to shareholders. When someone buys stock in Ford or General Electric today they are not putting capital into the company so it can expand and grow. They have no material power to add value or make a difference in how the company performs. The capital they “invest” goes, not to the company, but to the person from whom they purchased the stock. This is no more than a form of gambling.

While MacDonald talks of giant US Corps, my mind springs to people running junior mining companies. When you seed yourself stupid amounts of penny stocks and options then run an IPO up over a Loonie, you have zero risk. When you entrench and resist any overture, simply happy to cut you and your buddies a $10k or $30k cheque at the end of every month for the right to go fishing, you have zero risk. When you can quietly transfer stock to your friends who then sell it through House Zero and nobody ever knows you were insider selling, you have zero risk. And when there’s zero risk and plenty reward, the only logical thing for the sociopath businessman to do is to repeat the mold and create the same type of company over and over again, creating not just one or two but dozens of worthless enterprises that have no intention whatsoever of creating wealth for society but are formed and exist as a cash funnel from you to them. These people (no need to name any here, I do enough of that on the blog already) are not true capitalists, they don’t care about society, they are mere parasites. That’s why the IKN blog will continue to do what it does, or in the words of MacDonald in another part of his article:

What will save capitalism in America is a return to the basics of capitalism that demands true risk and offers reward for those who have the power to add value to an enterprise and invest their capital – in any form – that gives them “skin in the game.”