Purpose and Posturing

USS Elliot (DD 967), commissioned on January 22, 1977, is the fifth ship of the 31-ship class of SPRUANCE destroyers. She is named in honor of Lt. Cmdr. Arthur J. Elliot, II, who, while in command of River Squadron FIFTY-SEVEN, was killed on December 29, 1968 during an engagement with enemy forces in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. Elliot is the first ship of the class to bear the name of a Vietnam War hero. The ship's motto, "Courage, Honor, Integrity", is representative of those values, which characterized Lieutenant Commander Elliot throughout his career. More here.

The purpose of a warship is abundantly clear; it is what it is. It is not a barbershop, an orphanage, or a church. It is a warship. This is not true of all investments or business opportunities.

When I walk into an accountant’s office and I see a wall full of certificates, thanking the firm for their contributions to baseball clubs, churches and homeless shelters, a red flag goes up. When someone touting for investors for his questionable business talks about his church and carries a bible around, I get uncomfortable. When I hear that “we buy only fair trade coffee beans” or “five dollars from every purchase goes to unwed mothers”, I run for the proverbial hills. Why? This is called “Trust by Association” or “Strategic Philanthropy” – the sign often used by confidence tricksters. That doesn’t mean that the business blatantly broadcasting it’s good deeds is dishonest, it just brings their integrity into question.

When desperate people want confirmation that the slick sales representative in front of them is honest, they grab for evidence, which he provides in the form of proof of altruism. He can’t be a bad man if he gives money to Aids sufferers, now can he? A priest would never take advantage of a little boy! They look for anything that will allay their instinctive fear, and the conman is astute enough to be well prepared. The man who tells people that he can start a church is rural India and “save many souls” for a mere US$1,000, the “Consultant” who is building multiple orphanages in Russia, the “Investment Specialist” who is investing your hard-earned money in “projects” in Mainland China to “help people earn a decent wage”, the character who will invest your money offshore and make you 20% per month… There is usually a charitable component to persuade the naïve and gullible that they’re talking to a reincarnation on Mother Theresa. And usually, it’s very hard to check up on the “facts” and promises, unless you’re about to fly off to China or Africa where they say your money is going. I want to physically see your home, your office, your business and your books before I invest a blue cent with you. If I want to help the homeless, I’ll go find one and personally hand him the money, thank you.

Like the online geniuses who will never provide you a mailing address or a phone that gets answered, and are always endorsed by others like themselves – one wolf endorsing another to the sheep – be careful of posturing thieves. When someone tells you that she has 9,000 people in her database, how do you know that is true? Can you check? Do they actually pay to be in that database, or did she collect their e-mail addresses by offering them a free report on the virtues of pole dancing? Buyer beware. A healthy does of skepticism is a good thing, and if you are aware of this trick to score brownie points through “Trust by Association” or “Strategic Philanthropy”, you might well save the family jewels. Here’s the truth: People sell you things to earn a commission, not to help the homeless. They don’t care about the homeless. If someone truly wants to help people, they don’t have to tell the world how kind and caring they are. True philanthropists are usually anonymous, or they give without attaching conditions of sale. Get real and you’ll get rich. Businesses that advertise their altruism, broadcast their beneficence, and hard sell their handouts, are suspect in my book. What do Aids sufferers in Africa have to do with my buying a seminar? NOTHING, unless it persuades me that you’re a good guy…

I’ll end off with this quote by Ayn Rand: “It stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there's someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master.”

Robin J. Elliott www.DollarMakers.com

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