Or, caveat emptor always applies.
If you’re at all like me and follow the crowdfunding world with a sense of excited curiosity, then you can’t help but to have noticed the crop of “how not to get scammed” articles littering the tech writing world in the wake of the FTC ruling over a known Kickstarter based fraud. I think the thing that surprises me the most about all of this is the apparent naivety it seems to reveal about the crowdfunding world.
Don’t get me wrong, because I don’t think even most crowdfunders are naive. Rather, I think enough of them are that their collective outcry when a campaign fails or turns out to be a scam gets a lot of attention. And that attention seems to come from the fact that not a small number of people think the crowdfunding world is somehow immune from the risks that have attended all ventures since the beginning of mankind.
Quite to the contrary, crowdfunding is its own unique kind of risky venture because it lets anyone who wants to help incubate ideas that other forms of venture would never would probably never let see the light of day. It democratizes the incubation of ideas, and as anyone who has paid attention to democracy will note, it’s a messy, error-prone process.
So, yes, crowdfunding efforts are going to fail. Even ones for great ideas. Scamsters are going to succeed in separating people from their cash. Even seasoned venture capitalists fall for that (Dot.com bubble or Enron anyone?). Neither of those facts make the process bad. Rather, they reveal crowdfunding has risk. If that bothers you, don’t participate.
As for me, I take the risk because I enjoy the potential outcome. That’s worth losing some money once or twice, because the potential reward so often outstrips the risk.
My first thought on reading the predictable backlash against Newt Gingrich’s moon base idea was, “Americans suck.”
I thought that because the backlash is so short-sighted of all the positive things building a moon base would bring to the table. It’s not like the money and effort to build a moon base would be poured into a hole. It’s not like the science and technology needed to make a moon base happen would not spin off into all sorts of other applications. It’s not like a moon base would go unnoticed, failing to fire imaginations and motivations.
One of America’s great historical strengths has been its capacity for embracing and solving hard problems in ways that benefit all of humanity in some way. Yes, that is a grandiose claim, but it is also true. Time and time again, Americans have done things that have boggled the minds of the rest of the world. Look at our industrial prowess during World War II. Look at what we accomplished with the Apollo Program. Look at what we did by inventing the Internet.
Yet, I think most Americans think those efforts and the idea of a moon base are a waste of time not because those ideas are not worthwhile but because they imagine the money better spent on themselves.
You see, the reason there has been such a backlash against a moon base is because people want to use that money to pay for their non-production. Sure, we call it Social Security and Medicare, universal healthcare and unemployment, but I call it not doing anything except consuming more. Harsh? Yes. True? To a great extent.
Let’s say, for example, that putting a permanent base on the moon would cost $1 trillion. That’s $1 trillion of scientists and engineers developing the technology. That’s $1 trillion of factories building the parts. That’s $1 trillion of an army of technicians building and launching things.
Further, that’s $1 trillion of houses being built for the people doing those things. That’s $1 trillion in tax revenues for localities and school districts. That’s $1 trillion in groceries and restaurants feeding people. That’s $1 trillion in shopping malls, gas stations, and hair salons.
Besides the fact that $1 trillion opens the door to all kinds of possibilities we can’t even imagine right now simply because we don’t have a base on the moon.
Nope, instead we’d rather retire and hang out on the taxpayer’s dime.
Meanwhile, the Chinese, Indians, and Russians don’t feel that way at all. One of those nations is going to build a moon base even if we don’t. Then, suddenly, nobody will be talking about the amazing things America once did. They’ll be talking about the amazing things the Chinese or Indians or Russians are doing wile the Americans were all retired and hung out.
Yeah, Americans suck.