HomeNovelInvisible Hand – Chapter Eighteen: Reactions to Change

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In which we meet quite a few people coping with the transition and something
sinister is found.

—– Ft. Hood, Texas 09:00 Tuesday, January 1, 2013. —–

“Mr. Secretary, I have the first report on the little invasion of New
Mexico. Looks like 182 dead, 47 wounded, three of whom may die, and 53 captured.
They appear to have been a loose confederation of gangs from Chihuahua who
came north to loot some towns. They had heard from local media that there was
going to be all sorts of social unrest and chaos when we made the conversion
to the new money. They wanted to get a share of the spoils. They were very
disappointed when they finally blew open the safe in Columbus and found no
currency and they couldn’t even get into the safety deposit boxes which
were still locked because they had used all their explosives on the main door.”

“We had no casualties at all except a sprained ankle or two among the
volunteers at the Deming site from walking over rough ground in the dark. The
only damage reported so far has been the bank, some gasoline taken from a Fina
station in Columbus, some broken glass and a few bullet holes in houses. At
the Deming roadblock we had some bullet damage to the trucks we used to make
the block and a few bullet holes in a couple of police cars.”

“We came out of this very lucky sir.”

“Yes, we were lucky. But I think we earned most of that luck. Homeland
Security really came through for us. It was as if everybody knew exactly what
to do. The citizens were suddenly part of the police force and all of our moves
were coordinated like a ballet. Of course it didn’t hurt that those small
town people in New Mexico know how to shoot and take care of themselves.”

“We haven’t been so lucky everywhere, sir. We’ve had some
minor rioting at drug stores and groceries, the stores that one would expect
to find open on a holiday. At the border crossings we were well-prepared and
though there were crowds at most of them, all the violence was on the Mexican
side. We’re monitoring about thirty terrorist suspects who crossed this
morning. We have distant tails on each of them and if they leave public transportation
we’ll pick them up.”

“Things seem to be settled then, so I’m going to get some sleep.
Stay on top of things with Jenkins, then let him take over and you get some
sleep. This thing isn’t over yet.”

———– 7:30 am, Tuesday January 1, 2013 ———-

“Good Lord! Where did they all come from? I expected extra business
now that people don’t have to pay for their medication, but I didn’t
expect this!”

“Looks like we’d better get organized. While you get ready behind
the counter, I’ll try to get these people organized.”

As they moved toward the drug store’s front door, some members of the
crowd recognized them and started toward them. The babble of voices surged
as several people at once attempted to initiate a conversation with the pharmacists.

“Quiet please. Quiet! We’ll get to all of you so just relax. Now
let us in and we will open the store on time as usual. Just be patient or we
won’t be able to fill any of the prescriptions.”

The small crowd reluctantly parted and allowed them to unlock the door, enter,
and with a little pushing back of one over-eager matron, they managed to get
the door closed and locked.

As they moved toward the counter at the back of the store (always have your
customers see as many products for sale as possible regardless of why they
entered your shop) Steven said, “I’m going to call the police.
It’s half an hour before opening time and we have that many people. I
can just imagine what it’s going to be like in here when we open. I think
they’d better have somebody down here in case there’s trouble.”

“You’re right. I’ll call Doris and Tony and see if they
can come in to help. I’ll also tell them to come around to the back door
to get in.”

“I’ll bet that folks are going to want lots of the stuff in here.
We’re going to need somebody at the front register to approve what they
want to take.”

“I think we’re going to have trouble on the non-prescription stuff.
I can see them wanting to loot the store and take all sorts of stuff they don’t
really need. Maybe you’d better ask for several police while you’re
at it. Try to explain the situation to them.”


———– 10:15 am, Tuesday, January 1, 2013 ———-

“Honey, we have a problem.”


“I said we have a problem. I just got off the phone with Jenny. She
won’t babysit for us because we can’t pay her.”

“Well call somebody else.”

“I already called everybody who’s sat for us in the last three
months. They all say we can’t pay them so they won’t sit for us.”

“Give me the phone.”

“What are you going to do? I already tried pleading and begging.”

“I’m going to call old lady Mercer, across the street. She says
she’s going to be a payer. She’s been bragging that she’ll
be important now. Let’s see if she can handle this situation.”

He said in a louder than necessary voice, “Call old lady Mercer, the
one who lives across the street.” The phone obediently placed the call. “Hello
Mrs. Mercer. How are you doing? That’s wonderful. I guess you’re
happy now that your day has come and you’re an official payer… You
say you haven’t actually paid anyone yet?… Oh, then that’s
just a formality, you can really pay anyone you want? Well we have a problem
over here that you might be able to do something about… I was hoping
you would. You see we can’t pay our baby sitters… That’s
right; they won’t work for us because we can’t give them money
any more… Well, I don’t know, Mrs. Mercer, you’re the payer.
I thought you would know… Try Jenny Tindall, we like her pretty well… Thanks
and goodbye, Mrs. Mercer. We’ll be eagerly awaiting your phone call.”

“What’s she going to do?”

“She said she’d call Jenny and try to get her to sit for us.”

“Do you think she can?”

“I don’t know but I do know I’ll never let her live it down
if she can’t get somebody to sit for us.”

A few anxious minutes passed and the phone rang.

“Hello?” she said. “Oh, hello, Jenny… Yes we would
love to have you sit for us tonight. Can you be here about 6:00?… Oh,
you can eat whatever you find in the fridge as usual… Great! We’ll
expect you at 6:00 then. Bye.”

“I’ll be damned. The old bat did it. I wonder what she told Jenny.”

“I don’t know but I do know one thing.”

“What’s that sweetheart?”

“You had better be awfully nice to Mrs. Mercer or I’ll make your
life miserable.”

———– 11:00 am, Tuesday, January 1, 2013 ———–

“I’m home, dear, and I have your medicine.”

“Are you all right? I heard on the radio that there was trouble at most
of the drug stores in town. There were even some fights at one of them.”

“I’m just fine, dear. There was a crowd but they handled things
okay and they served me pretty quickly. Let me just get you a glass of water
and you can take your medicine.”

The elderly gentleman stepped into the tiny kitchen and reappeared moments
later with a glass of water and a pair of pliers.

“I’ll have the top off this bottle in just a minute… There.”

He shook out two of the pills into his palm and offered them to the tiny woman
in the rather old wheel chair. She looked up at him gratefully and swallowed
them with water from the glass she held.

“Now tell me about what happened at the store. I’ve been terrified
ever since I heard of the trouble.”

The gentleman tucked the blanket that had come loose in around her legs, and
sat on the couch near her chair. He carefully wrapped himself in a rather dingy
comforter that was thrown across the back of the couch. The chill in the room
was palpable and occasionally one could see some breath condensation as they

“Well, I got to the drug store about 20 minutes before it was due to
open and there was already a crowd of about 30 people there with more arriving
even as I approached. The people were crowded around the doors looking into
the store where it was lit but the sign on the door still said ‘CLOSED’.
I was scared to try to get to the front of the crowd since some of the people
there were arguing about who got there first and who should wait.

About three minutes before the store was to open a police car came into the
parking lot and two policemen got out. They walked over to the crowd and asked
what was going on. Several people in the crowd started saying they were first
in line or that they were just waiting for the store to open. The police said
that the store would open in just a few minutes and everyone would be served.

The crowd was still somewhat loud and from time to time a voice was raised
but the police would move in that direction and they would quiet. Meanwhile
still more people were joining the crowd.

You remember that nice boy, Tony Miller who works in the drug store? Well
there’s a hardware store right next to the drug store and Tony came out
of the hardware store with a hand truck on which he had several folding chairs,
the kind that you put up in your back yard when you cook out.

He said we could use the chairs while we were waiting. The policemen said
that was a good idea and helped unfold the chairs and offered several of us
a chance to sit in the chairs. I was really glad because I was more tired than
I liked from the walk to the store. You know how my knee gets when I have to
stand up too long.

Well, Tony said he had lots more chairs and would be back with more in a few
minutes. It seems that he had called up the owner of the hardware store and
gotten him to agree to let us use his stock of lawn chairs. Anyway then somebody
who works in the drug store came over to the door, gestured to the policemen
to come over, and when they were in front of the door opened it and said that
they would like to let in a few at a time and wanted to know what each person
wanted to buy.

One of the women in the crowd said in a loud voice that she wanted health
stuff and she didn’t intend to pay for something that was supposed to
be free now. The man at the door said he was sorry, that old habits had caused
him to say it wrong. He asked who was there to get prescriptions filled. I
raised my hand along with about fifteen others. The man said he would like
us to come into the store first and then they could let in the others who didn’t
need the pharmacy but just a few at a time to avoid overcrowding.

They let us in then, and one of the other men even carried my chair inside
for me. I think he was a payer since he had one of those fancy gadgets and
it kept telling him the names of people around us. Anyway, they let me get
my prescription after only about 10 minutes.

On my way out I noticed some angry voices from the checkout where the woman
who had said she wasn’t going to pay for free things had a shopping cart
full of stuff and she was demanding to be allowed to take all of it with her.
The clerk said she didn’t need all of that stuff. And she said it was
free and she wanted it and to get out of the way. They finally had to ask the
policeman to restrain her since she was ramming the clerk with the cart. I
left before it was settled but I heard one of the other people who was leaving
say that the limit on aspirin was 8 to a customer and they could come back
for more tomorrow.

I think they were trying to ration what they had. Anyway, a number of the
people were turning away to leave when they heard that. But that’s how
I got your medicine. They really didn’t charge me a thing for it. I also
got some cans of soup and some other stuff. So we can celebrate in style today.”

He was grinning at her and winked and she smiled back at him and snuggled
deeper into her blankets.

————- 7:45 am, Wednesday, January 2, 2013 ————-

“You’re not the boss of me now and you’re not so big.”

“Shut up you little fink or I’ll fire your ass.”

“Go ahead. See if I care. I don’t need you and your job no more.”

“Hey you. Payer. Get over here.”

“What is it?” the payer asked as he walked toward the crew chief.

“Tell him to get back to work.”

“I’m afraid that wouldn’t do any good,” the payer
said with raised eyebrows.

“See there smart ass? I told you. You ain’t my boss anymore.”

“I’m still crew chief and you’ll do what I say or I’ll
have you fired.”

“Tell him payer. Tell him he ain’t my boss any more.”

“He’s still your crew chief. He still has his job to do, too.”

“Damn right I do. My job is to tell you what to do and your job is to
do what I tell you.”

“You gonna let him talk to me that way? He ain’t got no right
to talk to me that way.”

“He can talk any way he wants and you don’t have to do what he
tells you if you don’t want to. If you guys don’t want to work
together, then don’t work together. If you guys don’t want to get
this job done then get out of the way and let somebody else do the job.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I pay whoever does the job and I don’t give a damn
who that is. You guys want to stand here arguing instead of working, so somebody
else is liable to do the job for you. It’s up to you. I pay whoever gets
the job done.”

“Oh, really?!” they said in chorus, then looked quickly at each

————– 3:30 pm, Thursday, January 3, 2013 ————–

“I’ll be damned. Chan, come look at this. There’s somebody
got root access on all our servers. What the hell is going on here?”

“What have you got there?”

“Look… See I’m running a script to check all the input packets
and following the effects of each. When something anomalous comes up, the script
flags it. Look at the pattern in those flags. Somebody is doing things that
need root access and it ain’t pretty. It looks to me like they’re
monitoring what we’re doing here. And look at this. See that? It changed
our log files here and here and here. It’s covering its tracks.”

“Where is it coming from?”

“Looks to me like it’s coming from all the other sites in the
system… See? Here’s half a dozen IP numbers I recognize in the
packets but somebody may be spoofing that. Let’s get on the horn to some
of these other sites and see whether they’ve noticed anything.”

He reached for the phone and in a few moments had another site on the line.

“Morley, this is Chuck, say, we’ve got some interesting things
happening here that look like a root compromise situation. Have you got anything
suspicious going on at your site? Some of what we are seeing could be coming
from your systems… No, it’s nothing like the usual hacker attack.
This looks more like they’re trying for a long term compromise situation,
like they wanted to be able to control our servers and never be noticed. It’s
modifying the logs and everything… Yeah, I found it by watching the packets
coming in off the network and looking for anything I couldn’t account
for. I found lots more than I bargained for… Yeah, write a filter that
only lets through the simplest transactions and nothing else, and then examine
the packets the filter’s rejecting. I can send you the code I’m
using if you want to use some if it… OK, it’s on its way and the
checksums are…”

———– 3:30 pm, Friday, January 4, 2013 ———–


“Ted, this is Sally.”

“Hi, Sally. It’s nice to hear from you. How are you doing?”

“Just fine, Ted. Listen, I came back in to the office today to pick
up a few things and the phone rang and I just answered it out of habit, you
know? Well it’s one of our old loan customers. He wants to talk to you.
It seems he has some questions about a deal he is working on and he wants your
advice. Do you want me to give him your number?”

“I don’t know, Sally. I really can’t do anything for him.
Did you explain that we are out of the banking business?”

“Yes, sir. He knows that, of course. He just wants your advice. It seems
he respects your opinion in these matters. I think you should talk to him,
Ted. It might get your mind off your troubles and he may even be able to offer
you a job.”

“Yeah, right. How’s he going to pay me? Answer me that” Ted
was almost shouting into the phone.

“Ted, don’t be angry with me. I just wanted to see if I could
help you.”

“Oh God, I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I shouldn’t
take it out on you. Okay. I’ll talk to him. What’s his number?”


“Janet, is something wrong with our email?”

“Not that I know of. What do you mean?”

“I haven’t read my email in over a week since we’ve been
at your mother’s and now I get on and there’s only three or four
messages. There’s no spam. Do you think it’s broken or something?”

“What’s wrong with no spam, silly?”

“Nothing, but the spam filter should have been full of the stuff. There
isn’t any there either.”

“Maybe it has something to do with the transition. Maybe the email computers
are down or something. You remember there was something in the news about computers
being down.”

“No, that was the money accounting computers. Somebody tried to hack
into them and they shut them down to get rid of the bad code the hackers had
put in. No this is something else. I sure hope there’s nothing wrong
with our email.”

“Have you tried any of the Web things like eBay or Google?”

“Not yet. Let’s see… Well Google’s still here. Wait.
There’s no ads. Let me look at new cars… Well there’s information
about cars and here’s some stuff on the new car dealerships in the area.
But no ads. That’s weird. Let me try eBay. Boy, look at this, some kind
of announcement. It says their whole operation is changed. They still will
show things for sale but the prices are fixed, no bidding. It’s first
come, first served now except for the shipping, and that’s included in
the price. At least that’s the same, they charge more for next day or
for long distance. They also say if you have capital goods you can advertise
it there. They have an entire section just for capital goods.”

“Now you have to admit that ought to be because of the transition. You
can’t tell me eBay would be all that different if we were still using
the same money.”

“No, you got me there. This has to be due to the transition. Well if
the lack of spam is because of the transition, maybe the idea isn’t so
cockeyed after all.”


“This is Sam Sherman with your Wakeup News.

The disturbances at the Malls across the State seem to have calmed down as
people have learned what it means to have free necessities. Those who thought
they could take as much of whatever they wanted because it was free have learned
otherwise now. In some cases they insisted on learning the hard way. This is
film from a grocery store in Rocky Creek Mall. Police got here a little late
and had to subdue a crowd fighting over food. The store owner and three customers
were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. All were later released. Eight
people were arrested for assault and battery, theft by force, and vandalism.
Police report that the situation is calm now and expected to remain so as a
uniformed officer will be stationed at the store on a full time basis.

Remember people, you may not have to pay for necessities, but it’s up
to the owner of the necessities how much, if any, of those necessities they’re
willing to give you. It’s their gift, not your right. Got that?

In other local news the rush on the malls and stores was matched by a rush
on medical facilities. Nurses were doing triage to determine which patients
would be allowed to see the doctors next. Some patients were upset with their
place in line. But when they were provided with hot coffee, snacks, and even
toys for their children in some cases, tempers were soothed.

Most hospitals say that the rush has eased and the patient load is returning
to normal. It appears that free medical treatment also is at the discretion
of those who provide it. They don’t have to give it to you but if they
do they’ll be paid for the benefit you get, if any.

Local Department of Transportation official Fred Sparkman has asked all those
in the highway construction business locally to meet with him at the auditorium
in Town Hall to coordinate work on city streets. Fred says that the freelance
efforts to correct problems are very welcome but that things can be arranged
more efficiently if everyone is on the same page.

In national news, the Government of Mexico has apologized for not restraining
the several border invasions in Texas and California. They have assured the
U.S. Ambassador that their military will take over guard duty within a month
and have asked that the U.S. Army withdraw its units from Mexico and cease
hot pursuit of the bandits.

General Portillo has told reporters that they will begin withdrawal operations
within the week as soon as certain adjustments to border defenses are completed.
He would not say what those were but civilian construction crews were busy
on the U.S. side of the border.

A number of large companies that were instrumental in international trade
before the transition are asking U.S. farmers to contribute any surplus to
be available for international trade. So, if you’re a farmer, consider
their offer.

Here’s an announcement from the local Heath Department. If you are a
drug addict and are entering withdrawal from your addiction, please come immediately
to one of the hospitals on this map or one of the clinics shown here for treatment.
There will be no questions asked. There will be no police present.

There also seems to be another companion announcement. The police department
wishes to announce that they have better things to do than hassle sick people
so believe the previous announcement. I bet you wouldn’t have heard an
announcement like that before the transition.

Jasmine, what have you got for us?”

“Big news for parents of children with reading problems in school, Bob.
It seems there’s a local woman who has been tutoring children who have
not learned to read in school. She has her own technique that works in 99%
of the cases who could not learn in school. That’s right! In the children
who didn’t learn to read in school, 99% of them can learn to read using
this method. She’s offering to teach this method to anyone interested.
She’s even set up a website where she explains her techniques. Now I
have a ten-year-old boy at home whom the school said was suffering from attention
deficit disorder and dyslexia and that’s why he couldn’t learn
to read. Well, I was pretty desperate, I tell you. I took him to this tutor
and she said she didn’t have any open slots but she gave me a slim book
and a DVD and said I could teach him myself. If I hadn’t been at my wits’
end with this boy I would never have tried it. But it worked like a charm.
I spent 15 minutes a day on it, right after breakfast before he went off to
school. By the end of three months he was reading above grade level, his attention
deficit went away and, as if by magic, the school couldn’t find any dyslexia
any more.”

“How many children have trouble learning to read in school, Jasmine?”

“Over 20% in this State, Bob. Just think of all those lives blighted
by reading problems and it’s so unnecessary. You parents out there. You
love your children and you’d do anything to help them succeed in life.
This is something you can do. It’s easy and fun and best of all everything
is free. The book, the DVD, the instruction, all of it is free. You’ll
love the joy your children will have because you took a little time out of
your day to learn this technique. Here’s that URL again.”

“Thanks Jasmine. I’m sure all those children will thank you in
their prayers. Art, what do we have in store for the weather this week?”

——— 10:15 am, EST, Saturday, January 5, 2013 ———-

“Those damn bastards! Those scummy no good bastards! Did you see what
they did?”

“What who did?”

“Those tobacco companies, that’s who. They raised the price of
a pack of cigarettes to over $30. Can you believe that? That’s more than
a dollar a cigarette?”

“Willie,” she said shaking her head, “that wasn’t
the cigarette companies, that was the Payers. The Payers are the ones setting
the prices on luxuries now.”

“The Payers? What do they think they’re doing? That’s just
plain stupid. They can’t do that.”

“Willie, it was in the papers. All luxuries have their prices set by
the Payers. Cigarettes are a luxury. The paper said they set the prices based
on what it cost to produce and consume the products. In the case of cigarettes
they must be figuring in the health costs as well as the resources used to
manufacture the things.”

“But $32.50 a pack? It can’t be that much.”

“Well, they do say that cigarette smoking kills hundreds of thousands
of people in the U.S. every year and smokers miss more work from illness and
pregnant women who smoke have sicklier babies and so forth.”

“Do I look like a pregnant woman to you?”

“No, Willie, but you do cough a lot. Also, you keep going out to smoke
those things every half hour or so. It does slow down your working.”

“I take a break to think and smoking helps me think. That doesn’t
detract from my work at all.”

“Well you’ve been talking and thinking about the price of cigarettes
for the last five minutes and haven’t gotten a thing done.”

“If the Payers didn’t see me, it didn’t happen.” Willie
stuck out his tongue at her, then grinned.

———- 7:25 am, Tuesday, January 8, 2013 ———–

“Hey! I got paid today! I got $756 and it says it was for keeping that
crowd quiet last week. Who’d a thought I’d get that much?”

“I think you earned it, Tony. I can tell you I was pretty scared. I
think what you did that got you that money was getting all those chairs from
the hardware store next door. Once we had them all sitting down, they seemed
to lose some of their emotion.”

“Remember that woman who wanted to just take all the aspirin? I thought
she’d choke when you said to take two aspirin and call back in the morning.”

“I sure hope they paid those police who backed us up.”

“I’m sure they did. I mean, they need to be on the good side of
the police, too, don’t they?”

“I wonder if they paid those two women who helped us out at the register.”

“I don’t know. It was kind of a surprise to me when that first
lady just came around the counter and started counting out 8 aspirin into each
envelope and such. But they were a help. I hope they get paid something for

———– 10:20 am, Wednesday, January 9, 2013 ———-

“If you won’t let me in to see what you’re doing, how can
I tell whether what you’re doing is worthwhile? If I can’t verify
what you do I can’t pay you.”

“Listen, this is a high security installation. If you want in, you’ll
have to get clearance whether you’re a payer or not. I wouldn’t
let the Pope in here without a pass.”

“Whom do I see about clearance?”

“All I know is you got to have a badge and you ain’t got one so
you don’t get in.”

“Your name is Alfred Edward Simmons?” the payer said looking at
what looked to the guard like a phone or a personal digital assistant.

“How did you know my middle name was Edward? That ain’t on my

“I have a link to the main computer system here,” the old man
said, gesturing with the electronic device, “It tells me who I’m
dealing with. That way I can be sure I am paying the right person, or in your
case, not paying the right person. See you later.”

———- 10:35 am, Friday, January 11, 2013 ———–

“What do you care whether the Payers are allowed in or not? I tell you
all of us will be paid, with bonuses even. You’ll get paid in Euros if
we have to. Trust me on this.”

“But the other guys are getting restless. Lots of people are already
getting paid. My kid’s teacher was saying that she got paid for the three
school days last week. My wife even got paid for taking care of Noah at home.
Can you believe that? She got paid for taking care of her own kid. Anyway,
the guys are seeing other people getting paid and they’re wondering how
they can get paid if the Payers can’t get in to watch them work. It’s
only natural.”

“Natural or not, tell them not to worry about this payer shit. They’ll
get paid in real money if they’ll just be patient.”

“Okay. I’ll tell them. But some of them aren’t going to
like it.”

“If they don’t like it they can always quit and get paid nothing
at all.”

“Yeah. Right.”

———– 1:35 am, Saturday, January 12, 2013 ———–

[On the phone] “Clarence, I’ve been talking to some of the guys
at the other centers. You know it looks like this thing is happening at all
of them. Several of the other sys admins also have detected something fishy
going on. It looks like some systematic plot… Yeah, really organized
at a high level. The Payers tell me that if we can sort it out and stop it
we should get a huge bonus. They say this plot could undermine the whole system
and we should do whatever we can to stop it… I know, I know… Well
we need to compare the old test software, you know, the software we were running
to test whether it would all work, well, compare that with what’s running
on our systems now. Let’s get everybody to find the checksums of the
code that’s running on their systems now and compare it with the checksums
of the backups of the last code that was supposed to be running now. That way
we can easily tell if there’ve been any changes in the executables… Right.
I’ll talk to those three and you get some others. And have them talk
to anybody they can think of who’s a sys admin at any of the other centers.
We have got to get organized on this and fast.”

———— 9:00 am, Monday, January 14, 2013 ———-

“Sir we just got a report of a flurry of phone calls among the computer

“Yeah? So what? They call each other all the time. They’re like
a fan club or something.”

“But sir, the computer says they’re talking about hackers and
backdoors and root compromise problems.”

“Don’t those propeller heads talk about that stuff all the time

“Sir, I think it has to do with our monitoring and control of their
systems. I think they may have detected our programs.”

“What makes you think so? Have they done anything to remove any of them?
Have any of them called to complain?”

“Well, no sir. But it is suspicious that we only started using the control
software on the 31st and within a week they’re calling each other and
talking about hacking.”

“So watch them. These programs of yours are supposed to cover their
tracks and monitor what’s going on. So monitor them. If they try to change
something, then wait a while and change it back. No problem.”

“Yes sir. But I don’t like the looks of it.”

————- Tuesday, January 15, 2013 ————–

“So I told him to get to work on the potholes. He just looked at me
and said… well I won’t go into what he said, but he wouldn’t
do what I told him to do at all.”

“Is it your job to tell him what to do?”

“Well if he wants me to pay him, he’d better do what I tell him.”

“Or else what?”

“Or else I won’t pay him, of course.”

“What if he doesn’t care or does something else that deserves
to be paid?”

“I don’t know. I guess I’d have to pay him if he did something
else worthwhile.”

“Are you going to pay somebody to beat him up if he doesn’t do
what you tell him to do?”

“Are you crazy? Of course not. What if word got back to the people in
the neighborhood? My God! What if the other guys I’m supposed to pay
heard about it? Nobody would want to work for me again.”

“Does anybody work for you now?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean are these people doing work you want done because you told them
to do it or are they doing what they want to do and you pay them if it benefits
someone else?”

“Okay, they aren’t working for me, really, they’re working
for themselves.”

“Then why are you trying to tell them what to do? Why don’t you
just wait and see what they do and pay if it does some good. That way you don’t
have to work so hard. Let them do the work. You just watch.”

“But what if they don’t do anything that deserves to be paid?”

“Then don’t pay them. Remember all we’re supposed to do
is reward good actions. Nobody has to have our permission to do things and
nobody has to do things because we want them done.

“But let’s get back to what would happen if you paid somebody
to beat someone who didn’t do what you told them to do. What would happen
if you did that?”

“Well, I’d be pretty unpopular, I guess.”

“You’d also be in jail on charges of assault and battery.”

“Oh, yeah. That would be a crime wouldn’t it?”

“And it would be a crime that would be easy to convict you on as well,
since you would be on record as having paid for the beating.”

“What if I put down that it was for something else?”

“You have to justify every payment and there would have to be some benefit
that justified the payment. Plus, how much could you pay him by yourself?”

“That’s right. I couldn’t pay over $100 without another
payer joining me and the two of us couldn’t go over $500 without having
a third. Unless the thug would work cheap, I couldn’t pay enough and
if we did get together enough Payers to pay him enough, that would be a pretty
big conspiracy. Someone would be almost sure to tell.”

“Yes. Even if you tried to pay thugs you wouldn’t be able to hide
the crime. So you might as well give up trying to tell people what to do. It’s
just not going to work for you.”


“Look Earl, I need that insulation for my attic. It’s just fifty
rolls. I’ll give you $500 for it.”

“Please Ed. Those are earmarked for a builder. I can’t let you
have them.”

“Okay, I’ll give you $700. You can just tell the builder that
you had to give them to someone else.”

“It’ll delay the other builder for several weeks if he doesn’t
get this insulation. It’ll throw off his whole schedule.”

“Earl, you’ve got me over a barrel here. The wife will skin me
if I don’t get this done right away. Her mother is coming to live with
us for the winter and she’ll complain something fierce if she isn’t
warm and cozy.”

“But you already have insulation in your home, you just want to do the
guest house. Couldn’t she stay in your guest room?”

“I don’t want that woman in the same house with me. She nags me
something terrible. And those little dogs of hers are fiends. I’ll give
you $1000. Please, please let me have it.”

“Besides Ed, what good is that currency to me anyway? The transition
was last week. We’re supposed to use the new money now.”

“How much is the other builder paying you?”

“He’s not paying me anything. The Payers will do that. Haven’t
you been reading the papers?”

“Well I’m offering you $1000 in hard cash. I’ve got it right
here. $1000 versus nothing. What’re you going to do?”

“All right. You can have the insulation. Just don’t tell anybody
I gave it to you.”

“Mums the word, pal. You can count on me. Can you give me a hand in
getting it into my truck?”


“Earl, old buddy. How’s the world treating you. Say, I’m
going to need some lawn fertilizer, about 100 lbs.”

“Some buddy. You cost me a lot of money with that insulation deal.”

“What do you mean? I gave you $1000 American. Can’t do better
than that. I mean that insulation was only worth about $300.”

“It cost that builder a lot more than that when we didn’t have
the insulation we had promised. It delayed completion of the house he was working
on for over two weeks. He didn’t get paid for an extra two weeks and
I’m gonna get paid about $2500 less than I would have if I hadn’t
given that insulation to you. I lost a good customer. And as if that weren’t
bad enough, I found that money you gave me practically useless.”

“Useless! That’s ridiculous. How could it be useless?”

“Because there’s almost nothing I can trade it for. I don’t
need it for groceries because those are free. We get the stock at the store
free because our suppliers get paid by the Payers. Most of the luxury places
won’t accept it because their suppliers wouldn’t get paid if they
traded the luxury for my cash. What the hell good is it?”

“Maybe you could spend it in a foreign country.”

“Ed, I don’t travel in foreign countries. And anyway, why should
they want it? They can’t buy anything here with it. It’s just so
many pieces of paper. I might as well have been trying to use Confederate bills.
At least those would have had some curiosity value.”

“Gee, I’m sorry Earl. I never thought you’d have trouble
passing that money.”

“Well, how many people have asked you for cash money since the transition?”

“Not many.”

“How many people offered you cash?”

“But Earl, I’m not in retail. I’m a musician. I don’t
play on the street.”

“Well, here’s a five dollar bill. You go try to buy something
with it. See how far you get.”

“Does this mean you won’t sell me the fertilizer?”

“Ed, I don’t carry fertilizer for yards any more. I only carry
fertilizer for gardens, vegetable gardens. People with vegetable gardens don’t
need to pay me because the Payers will do that when their crop comes in and
gets eaten. I’ll get lots more money for that than I will for selling
it to some rich guy for his pretty lawn.”


Invisible Hand – Chapter Eighteen: Reactions to Change — No Comments

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