Saturday, October 25, 2008

Humor - not so funny

As an early adopter of the Internet (I remember using line editors on a mainframe to send an “electronic mail” message), I was also the beneficiary of some of the first Internet humor – those sometimes funny, mostly annoying forwards of forwards of forwards that can clutter our already stuffed inboxes.

As a public service, I started a highly selective distribution list of like-minded individuals who appreciate the occasional off-color joke (and if you’re nice to me, I’ll add you to the list). I distribute only the very finest of Internet humor.

In the last month or so, in addition to all the political humor, which I generally don’t forward since that will only generate more unsolicited email to my inbox, I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the amount of email humor I’m receiving. I attribute it to the economic meltdown being so bad that people have no recourse but to laugh.

I’ve been using the analogy that we’re sitting at a red light. Those of us who have been around the block a few times have seen this before. We’ve also been at red lights and wondered if they will be a long one or a short one. We know they will eventually change, it just a matter of when. And when they change, we always get where we’re going.

Having said that, I have to admit that as Fred Sanford would say, “this is the big one, Elizabeth.” To make matters worse, we have comments like those from Sequoia on the ‘future’ for entrepreneurs. Still, I don’t think it’s quite the end of the world that some would have us believe.

Bad economic times don’t stop innovation or good ideas. They may raise the bar on funding of those ideas, but it’s not the end of the world. Additionally, as Warren Buffett clearly understands, this is a time to buy, not to panic. It’s just like in It’s a Wonderful Life when George Bailey reminds his customers that “Potter isn’t selling, Potter’s buying! And why? Because we’re panicky and he’s not.” I don’t exactly have my head in the sand, but we’ll get through this and come out stronger. We always do.

And how did we end up here? There are lots of experts much smarter about the economy than me, but in my opinion, it all started with the NOW account. Remember them? Negotiable Orders of Withdrawal. When I was a kid, checking banks were for checking, savings banks were for savings, never the twain did they meet, and God knows they didn’t cross state lines. Once we started to relax, it was the beginning of the end.

There are some industries that need to be regulated. Pharmaceuticals. Food. Liquor. Finance! While SOX has put an undue strain on small companies and has had the unintended consequence of preventing many entrepreneurial companies access to the public markets, we need some kind of oversight here; it’s completely out of control. One hundred percent mortgages?! NINJA loans?! How does any of that make sense?!

Yes, we will get through this, but it ain’t gonna be easy. And we’ll need to gird for the inevitable second wave of the tsunami – new government commissions, agencies, and regulations. Yuck.

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