Pelf & Weal

Business, Economics, and Government

Gambler’s Paradise

Two ideas came to me last week and I struggled with them until I realized they were both the same idea, just expressed differently. For this post in Pelf and Weal, it is called “Gambler’s Paradise.” For my post in Digital Minefield, it is expressed as “Technology’s Fatal Flaw.”

This post’s title comes from Jack London’s Valley of the Moon. Through with cities and socialism, in the second half of the book London offers an alternative in the form of sustainable farming.

A minor character condemns America’s rapacious westward movement, calling it a “Gambler’s Paradise.” Written in 1913, America could no longer despoil and move West. There was no more new land.

The critique refers to the US morality as a Gambler’s Morality. London understood this. He had been part of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. But gold is only a tiny portion of today’s abandoned mines.

Colorado, while in the news today, is only one state with abandoned mines. Many think most of those are in Western states. I counted twenty states with web sites for abandoned mines. And mines aren’t the only abandoned places in the US.

Gambling didn’t end at the Pacific. As it continued to use up all the open lands, the winners began to change the rules of the game. Today, they’ve arranged it so whenever they take a big hit, the government steps in to bail them out.

For a long time, the small players could play illegal games like the numbers racket. Now, the big players have all but killed illegal gambling with lotteries, Vegas and Atlantic City, and a casino for every handful of Native Americans.

Yet, as big as all these are (easily over $100B a year), they’re not the big game. Gambling is in the news every day and every night: The Stock Market Report. Nothing else is of such continual interest as the tiny fluctuations in these various indices.

The news anchors claim to be addressing these numbers to investors. That’s what they call themselves and everyone follows suit. Nonsense. Only gamblers are interested in minute daily (and hourly) variations, just as they look for a hot dice table or a slot machine.

There is no such thing as day trading of investments; it’s gambling pure and simple. What your bank calls “financial instruments” are not so pure and not very simple. They’re just more gambling, organized by big Wall Street firms and sanctioned by a desk in your local branch.


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