I got a job proofreading a 150-page document full of legalese: daunting. I was glad for the money although the guy didn't seem willing to pay for the time I knew it was going to take. I ended up getting my guesstimate price: at some point I just stopped reading and correcting.
He was "impressed" with the job I'd done because of the number of eyes that had already gone over it. I said that's the nature of proofing. Indeed it is. It's also the nature of perfectionism, or a profundly maniacal devotion to language. An artist, a technician, someone who cares about the quality of her work, cannot not create value.
An artisan, I'm at the opposite end of the food chain from a money manipulator.
The document was a confidential private placement memorandum, meaning: a way to get money out of people by convincing them they'd be getting even more back. The gist of it was: give me $500K today and in 10 years I give you a cool million.
His being stingy upfront with a proofreader didn't bode well to me but I've never made any money so what do I know?
His offer: pay him to gad about to art auctions picking up "highly important" works museums will display; he'll loan the works out and help the displaying museums fundraise to buy them; then he'll sell at prices insuring investors double their money. Do you sense an inbuilt conflict of interest? There was even a mathematical formula making it seem clean and irrefutable.
What does this have to do with art?
Peter Paul Rubens' Massacre of the Innocents (1611) sold for $76.7 million in 2002.
Art's a place to put your money if you have that kind of money, if you have that kind of apartment or house or villa or chateau whose walls scream to be covered in art. Investing in art made by people long ago and far away that experts agree fills "highly important" niches in the culture of the world treats art like pork futures: something you can bet on. Unlike pork futures, you can swan around saying, "I sank half a million in world culture, what did you do today?"
Betting on art because you love art and you want curators and scholars to keep designing exhibits the public can sharpen their aesthetic taste buds at, is fabulous. Betting on art so you double your money in 10 years is greedy. Filling 150 single-spaced pages full of legal loopholes so suckers, I mean investors can avoid paying taxes on the promised windfall is something I'd like a grown man to be ashamed of.
The grown man who hired me, who was short, stocky, bald, tended to scuttle but wore arty round hornrims, seemed somewhat furtive but unashamed.
I don't think he's got a hope in hell of doubling anyone's money buying up the kind of art he'll be able to afford with his $50-million-dollar dowry but nobody asked my opinion.
I share the anecdote with you because it illustrates perfectly the kind of investment no one should make: fear-based, with snob appeal, contributing nothing to living culture, sucking money from prefab valuables that got that way because they used to mean something to someone.
If you want to create value, sink your money into something that means something to you.
Evil capitalist genius Scrooge McDuck loves only money.
You'll tell me the scheme I describe beats dicing bad loans into financial cole slaw to shove down the trusting throats of overseas banks raised on the mantra "U.S.-backed grade-AAA securities = a sure thing," which is what our leading financial institutions did, now causing worldwide recession, suicide and social turmoil we haven't seen the end of. It's better than bleeding taxpayers to feed those same financial vampires (but not as good as driving U.S.-backed grade-AAA silver stakes through their corrupt hearts). It's better than a Ponzi scheme by the letter of the law but not the spirit.
There ought to be a mathematical formula demonstrating the cost to society of greed-based investments that do nothing to enhance or celebrate life.
Disney uses cartoon characters as capitalist shills in a 1967 economics lesson.