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Tue Sep 30, 2014, 01:25 PM

I was a banker in high school.

This is one of the strangest experiences of my life in retrospect, and offers insights into a number of things I wouldn't otherwise know. For a period of about a year and a half in high school, I - without planning to do so, without appreciating it while it happened, and without doing much of anything to make it happen - accumulated a shocking amount of money, spread it out among other students, and almost never had to pay for anything. Without realizing it, I had stumbled into being a banker.

It started out innocently enough: The food offered by the school at lunch was crap, so I just started skipping it and keeping my lunch money. But then some of the people I knew noticed this and wondered if they could borrow the money to buy an extra snack or whatever, and I was fine with that. Then it became a regular thing, and other people came to me for money at lunch. The people I didn't consider friends I would ask for a little bit of interest - the percentage was high, but since the principal was only a few bucks, the absolute amount of interest was trivial, like fifty cents.

For some reason I never figured out, more and more people came to me for money. It's not like they were poor either - it was a pretty affluent community, and a lot of these kids went to island surf camps and traveled abroad during the summer. But at lunch they never seemed to have any cash - maybe money was such an afterthought to them that they just never came prepared. And since the amounts were so individually trivial even at usurious interest, they always paid me back. Maybe fussing over so little money would have just seemed uncouth, so they never did. And the more I trusted them as they paid me back each given time, the more I'd lend them. There was no Finance 101 theory behind it - it was just common sense.

But as more and more of them owed me money, the amount coming to me started to get significant even if each individual principal was still small. And the people who I trusted enough to loan significant amounts would, in lieu of cash, start doing me favors. I don't mean they repayed me with favors - I mean they merely delayed the date of repayment, so I was literally getting something for nothing.

At first it was just friendly little courtesies like offering me some of their french fries at lunch, or offering me a cigarette after school. Slowly this practice ballooned into an entire lifestyle that the sum total of the money I was owed couldn't possibly have paid for directly. I always had a ride somewhere, sometimes a borrowed car - and some of the cars the people of this community gave their children were absurd. If they were petty and insisted I pay for gas, that was okay: The kid working the gas station owed me money. Ditto the registers at Del Taco, In 'N Out, 7-11, Carl's Jr., Pizza Hut, a couple of movie theaters, a grocery store, etc. etc.

Eventually, I could pretty much just wander around and find free food, cigarettes, beer, and entertainment, depending on who was working where at any given time. And since all this free stuff wasn't theirs to give in the first place; and since there were enough of them around that I wasn't leeching off any one of them too often; they never felt the need to insist on an exact accounting. So it just went on and on, and grew bigger.

I'll spare you the sordid details of the more preposterous freebies I got. You wouldn't believe some of them, and others are too embarrassing. The actual amount of cash in circulation was only a small part of the value I was getting - everything else sprang from the independent actions of self-interested people associated with the cash or who owed it. And the thing is, I never did anything to collect: I wasn't a loan shark. If someone stiffed me, then I just stopped giving them money and cut them off from the network of freebies I'd built. By that point I would already have made so much from them that I still made a net profit.

But then some shady characters started noticing what I was doing, insisted on "borrowing" from me and other people I did business with, and were always mock-apologetic if I asked about the "loans" they'd taken out. "Ah, man, sorry about that. I forgot to bring the money. Check back next week. But, hey, you think you could loan me some more in the meantime? What? No? What, you calling me a liar? That ain't nice, man." When the guy saying that looks like a recent jailbird and your main physical activity is picking up hardcover books to read, that sounds a little intimidating.

I myself couldn't fight for shit, most of the people I knew were just suburban kids like me, and it was obvious that any sort of security arrangement I could make with other tough guys would just devolve into extortion anyway. And worrying about such things felt like work, which would defeat the whole point of being a money guy. If it was going to be a job, then fuck it. So it was time to retire. I called in my markers before any hoodlums could snatch the rest up, and blew the cash within a year. When nobody could get any money from me anymore, the predators got the message and moved on.

Anyway, the main thing I drew from that era was how addictive it is to just throw money into the wind and have it blow back at you in larger denominations. You don't see what produces it: You simply drop a seed, walk away, and then come back and eat the fruit that someone else cultivated. This is fundamentally what finance capitalists do. But they do it so massively, riding such a colossal storm - one of global proportions - that it must be intoxicating.

Everything they get is free, from their perspective. In fact, more than free - the world rewards them for simply existing. They advance by standing still. They invariably grow richer if they don't actively sabotage their own interests. They live off a network of freebies that encompasses the entire world economy, and it's a drug to them. A banker doesn't have to worry about anything: Like I had done, they can just wander through an economy passively grazing off the fat of the land, and everyone else does the work either because they have to or because their own, smaller self-interests motivate them. A banker just surfs the wave, and doesn't concern himself with what's under the water.

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Response to True Blue Door (Original post)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 02:01 PM

1. Very interesting.

 

I've long noticed that rich people often get things for free that poor people must pay for or don't even have available to them. You've described one way that works and it is quite eye-opening.

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Response to SheilaT (Reply #1)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 02:35 PM

2. The smarter rich don't live off the money. They live BETWEEN the money.

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Response to True Blue Door (Reply #2)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 02:39 PM

3. Intersting way to put it,

 

one that I'd never seen articulated before. And one that seems very accurate.

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Response to True Blue Door (Reply #2)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 02:49 PM

4. OMG I know incredibly wealthy people due to my job...

 

Like movie and tv execs and even celebs and that statement nails it to a tee. Good post. Interesting.

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Response to True Blue Door (Original post)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 04:19 PM

5. Eaglebauer...is that you!!!!



That is awesome...my son, also, did something like that in 6th grade...


Tikki

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Response to Tikki (Reply #5)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 04:38 PM

7. Your son's name is Eaglebauer? (not judging)

But...what kind of perks could a 6th grader get from such a business? They couldn't have known anyone with a job or a car.

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Response to True Blue Door (Reply #7)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 04:51 PM

8. He is just a character from a teen movie called Rock and Roll High School who has a business going..

on at the High School.

Just a silly post on my part...you are so correct about wealth and it's perks.

I once won a round of golf at a fancy country club. Neither my husband
or I golf and I was approached by the wife of a public school teacher I knew of
and she asked if I might sell her the voucher, she would love to surprise her husband.
I sold it to her for half price.

A city councilman approached me next to scold me for not saving it for him. And he
wouldn't let up on questioning me on how much I sold it for.



Tikki

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Response to Tikki (Reply #8)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 05:14 PM

9. Not very familiar with that movie. Saw it once, but didn't stick in mind.

Your experience sounds like a variation of the theme: The wealthy practice "self-socialism" - the art of arranging your community into a spiderweb with you at the center.

As for my part, the movie that really spoke to me at the time was The Big Lebowski. I seriously never put much thought or planning into any of it, so a lot of the craziest freebies that came to me just seemed like they fell out of the sky; and the weirdest problems that would pop up too. So I sympathized with a noirish comedy based on the random adventures of The Dude.

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Response to True Blue Door (Original post)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 04:33 PM

6. Very insightful. Can you imagine doing that with really big money?

I'm sure its beyond intoxicating.

Good story.

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