Sunday, October 12, 2008

Gorgias 2008

Okay, so I've been thinking about a story that was related to me by some of my students. It's an example used in a book that first year business students are reading. A woman decides that she wants $100,000 and goes about figuring out how to best (legally) get it and she successfully achieves her goal. She decides that she wants to achieve her goal by writing a book and then researches what books sell the best, discovers it's weight-loss books and then churns out a weight-loss book (not really having any expertise in the field whatsoever) and in 6 months her book is wildly successful (in terms of sales).

I'll grant you it's clever. But so is running an ad in the NY Times requesting people send you $5 and then making $100,000 that way, being a gossip columnist or marrying someone who is fabulously wealthy, childless, lonely and very old. Perfectly legal and not forcing anyone to do anything that they don't want to do.

But all of these just strike me as dishonorable ways of making money, particularly if the point is simply to make lots of money. Making money this way is just taking advantage of someone's willingness to trust, vulnerability, etc. I happily grant that no one is being forced to do anything against their will but it just seems like taking the low road, sacrificing doing your best, working to do something that someone could really take pride in.

Do folks really want to be the sort of person who would do this? I can sort of get being willing to, if the situation gets bad enough, but wanting to be this sort of person?


Chris Martens said...

I think there are definitely people that would marry rich just to get money. They could then divorce, take half the loot and live comfortably for the rest of their lives or repeat the process when they run out of money. However I think people don't want to be in the situation where that is their last resort and then they get labeled "that sort of person" when they do commit the act. All the ways you listed are definitely dishonorable ways to make money, but some people are willing to accept that fact and just ignore it. They may make up a justification like they'll donate to a charity after they're well off, but there really is no justification to taking advantage of someone's weaknesses, like some of the ones you listed. Maybe, people at the start don't want to be labeled "that sort of person" at the start, but when everything is done they just don't care because they're rich now and could care less of what people think of them. They come up with the excuse that the people criticizing their methods are just jealous of them. That's a really interesting question you pose though!


Nick said...

I'm actually going to disagree, to an extent, to the idea that it is wrong to do something like this. First, let me state I believe that it is dishonorable and kneiving, but, when faced with a Capitalist society, these are the types of things that are rewarded. Capital is the measure of all things, to rephrase the (Pythagorean?) saying. So the person writing the book is not at fault - the people who read and buy the book are being morally backward, in that by purchasing the book they are VALIDATING, what she has done. If people respected the empirical view of knowledge, i.e., that I shouldn't believe something unless I hear it from someone of good authority and knowledge of the topic, then none of those books would sell. Of course, one could also argue that because we are living in Postmodern state of Hyper-reality (as per Baudrillard) then it is not wrong for this woman to write the book, because our entire culture is filled with endless and empty promises, so much so that the line between what is real and fake is blurred. Again, I would argue that without a cultural shift, which doesn't seem possible, for numerous reasons, the woman in question is only fulfilling what society at large tells her is validating, namely, earning money.

JMc said...

The fact that it's endorsed by society doesn't seem to me to make it a good decision, one that she should feel proud of having made, any more than the person who marries for money, writes a gossip column, or anything else that caters to the which is baser should feel proud of catering to these baser aspects. I fully agree that society at large positively reinforces this sort of thing, but that doesn't absolve the individual decision.

Megan said...

I think a vast majority of people are getting rather lazy. They are looking for easy ways out. Getting money may make them happy for a little while, but I truly do not think that the people that take the easy way out to earn money quickly or almost take advantage of other people will really feel fulfilled when the day is over. I think people need to start looking at what really makes them happy and base their lives more off of that instead. I guess though if money makes one happy and makes them feel like they are of worth, then they might as well go for the easy road out and get rich. Screwed up society.