Have you ever wondered what you would do if you were a lawyer living in Cleveland? If you had one of the most depressing jobs in one of the most depressing cites in America? (Eat your hearts out, dentists in Detroit.) With the advent of cash mob, we no longer have to wonder.
A cash mob is like a flash mob, but instead of people getting together and dancing spontaneously, they get together at a failing business and spend spontaneously. This, according to the one of cash mob’s main organizers, Clevelander and lawyer Andrew Samtoy, does more than inspire and entertain. It also jump starts the economy.
“We want to support local businesses that employ people and to build wealth in the community.”
Except the only way spending money would build wealth is if a business’s product was a static entity. If a business has an inferior or useless product, or inefficient marketing, or insufficient profit margin, then a cash mob only keeps the business going to experience more dysfunction.
So cash mobs would build wealth if the target business used its temporary boon to invest the money back in the business, create better products, and do it in an efficient way. But if a business was already doing this, then it wouldn’t need a cash mob. What a failing business really needs is a better business plan—it need is to do better work.
If, however, the cash-mobbers saved their money instead of spending it, then banks will have more to lend to businesses that are actually promising. In other words, cash-mobbers only work to preserve the status quo. In Cleveland, preserving the status quo is like when a fat guy stays fat because he only sees himself as a fatty.
Not that consuming is always bad. But to be a viable consumer is a title we only earn by producing something, by working. A man who lives hand to mouth has no net benefit on the economy. And a man who spends without producing is dead weight. We don’t accuse Warren Buffet of being a detriment to the GDP because he’s two shades of stingy from Hetty Green. Buffet, through being more Scrooge McDuck than JFK Jr, has done almost as much for the world economy than Peyton Manning has done for the Indianapolis Colts.
I’m not saying anything groundbreaking here. This is basic stuff. It should be basic for lawyers—they’re pretty smart guys. So where’s the disconnect? What’s the real reason for cash mobs? Samtoy clues us in:
“Cash mobs are spontaneous because, in my opinion, life has become far too ordered.” [NYT]
You see, cash mobs aren’t just about spending money. They’re about spending money in a fun way. A cash mob isn’t a cash mob if cash-mobbers simply promised to spend money at a local business within the next month or so. That would be a cash trickle. Cash mobs organize only about one week prior from the actual cash mob, and doing anything in one week is spontaneous for a lawyer. Also, one of the rules for forming a cash mob is that participants must mob a business within one block of a local bar. Afterwards, cash mobbers can therefore drink, socialize, and smell each others farts. So really, cash mobs are about having fun and meeting new people. Sounds like a good plan if you hate your job and you live in Cleveland, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that this is going to fix economic woes.
But kidding yourself is what a guy has to do in a culture that nearly threatens us to serve the community. It’d be too selfish for Samtoy to say he wants to infuse a little recklessness into his lawyer life and meet new people, so he has to do it under the guise of giving back to the community. But to actually give back to the community economically (if we must put it in those terms) is only done through productive work and spending less than you save.
So how about this? Once a week, let’s say Thursdays from 6:00 am to 8:00 am, Cock Rock will organize a work mob in which participants will put in two hours of uninterrupted, productive work. If you own your own business, this means brainstorming new ideas on how to improve your product, or how to better serve your clients. If you’re not self-employed, then take this time to consider yourself as self-employed. Ask yourself what you can do to improve your service to your employer. Maybe read a book, learn a new skill, learn a new language, practice communication by videotaping yourself speak, and then going back over the tapes to critique and improve yourself. For Clevelanders, you can start by setting aside Thursday morning to be hangover-free.
No, this isn’t as much fun as shopping and drinking. And no, you may not meet new people. But when you fully understand that production is the formal cause—and savings is the efficient cause—of economic growth, you’ll feel less guilty about only wanting to spend money when and where you want. You may even feel less guilty about life in general.
Only then will you be able to give yourself permission to not veil everything you do in community service and just go join a flash mob.
About Cock Rock
I am Mark.