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Tonight’s Bend Socrates Cafe discussion topic was, “What is the economic value of honesty?” Okay, it’s attempting to compare two entirely different subjects, but as we kicked the question this way and that, it brought forth a great conversation. I won’t attempt to summarize what the others said, but for me it came to an epiphany.

This epiphany is so similar to what I’ve been talking about for years that it doesn’t seem like I will be saying anything new, but for me there is a difference. Part of this arose because many of my friends are getting into a tight economic situation because of housing rental prices rocketing up. People on various forms of fixed income are being forced out of their residences. Renters who were getting along just fine in this beautiful small city a year ago are now approaching homelessness. However, those of us lucky enough to have purchased a house a few years ago are in great shape and improving day by day, at least on Zillow.com.

I own an average American home, but what an advantage that suddenly became over renting, as I had done most of my eighty years. Functionally, by renting instead of owning, I paid for my residences three times over simply because I was renting. My feeling now is – never ever pay rent or be in economic debt to anyone! Buy an empty lot for cash, and live in a tent, then a trailer, then build a foundation for a tiny house, then put a house on it, then add a room. But  never ever go into debt; pay cash every penny of the way. It may be a year or two before you actually have a solid roof over your head, but it will be your roof, not the bank’s. The advantage is that you build on your earned money instead of dribbling it away, and you never get forced out by a landlord raising the rent … forever and ever higher.

I have written that sentiment before, but the same principle exists throughout our society. For example, working for wages means you have given away your completed labor forever. But, if you have ownership of your labor, you build upon what you have done. It’s like the little house you were building, and every tiny improvement, even a single nail driven, is an improvement in your personal wealth. Whereas a nail driven for an employer becomes his increased value forevermore. Okay, so you made some money, and lived for a month in an acceptable apartment, but that’s it, and that money is gone forever. But what if you lose your job? You are employed at your employer’s discretion. You might soon be on the street, but if you own your own place, even in the beginning of this process, you have some place to go, where you can’t be kicked out at some other person’s legal whim.

The point is to somehow own all of the productivity that you create. The proof comes in the form of fungible value, and you can’t own and sell honesty, as we decided in our conversation tonight. When I think in these terms, these three thousand Probaway blog posts were given away for free, and they never brought me a single penny. Therefore, my only payment was the pleasure of creating them, and my loss was roughly 12,000 hours of thoughtful creative effort, which at minimum wage of say $10 per hour would be $120,000. If I had spent my time the way I spoke of in the preceding paragraphs I could have built a fine home by now.

I would suggest that you ignore this blog, because obviously it has been written by an economic fool.

If you can’t sell something it’s not worth anything.

[Update 2016 July 18 – If I was an airline pilot (I do have a commercial pilots licence, and had been a USAF pilot) I would be making $200 per hour, and my time writing blogs would be $200 times 12,000 hours or $2,400,000. That is a measure of how foolish I am and why you shouldn’t pay any attention to what I write in this blog.