Chapter 1

Americans in the Poor House

“…the borrower is a slave to the lender” (Matthew 6:12)

Chapter 1 Featured Submissions

“If we’ve arrived at a stage where the write-offs of our worth, the fabric of our economic system, and of moral-equity have come to pass, then it’s not possible to arrive here without a subversion of principles and ideals that have served the citizens of the United States for almost two centuries….”

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As you should be versed by now, WOAA will be “crowd-sourced,” and not the result of just one person’s thinking.   You – yes, you – are invited to go beyond being the “consumer” of these words to share the role of “producer” of these words. 

A number of you have been questioning me about that “Crowd-Sourcing” process that I keep mentioning.  Will your contribution be lost as ”just part of a crowd,” or can it be appreciated on its merits as well as for the contribution it makes to the bigger picture?

A lot of thought has been put into this. 

What follows is a brief explanation and prod for you to do your own homework on this wonderful tool (Crowdsourcing) which both respects the individual’s unique contributions while celebrating the group’s “wisdom.”

In 2004, author James Surowiecki published “The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economics, Societies and Nations.”

In TWOC, Jim argues that the aggregate information/decisions that comes from a group are often better than one made by any single member of the group.  An example he gives is that of a crowd at a county fair more accurately guessing (on average) the weight of an ox than even the estimates made by cattle experts there. 

Basically, “all of us are smarter than any of us” – but there is a distinction to be made about “crowds” vs. like-minded groups.  Not all crowds are wise, i.e., consider the herd instinct that causes us to stampede over the financial cliff, or join causes that are certain they hold “truth” by the capital “T.”

Here are the elements required to form a wise crowd as described by Wikipedia: 

1.  Diversity of opinion.  Each person should have private information even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts. 

2.  Independence.  People’s opiniuons aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them. 

3.  Decentralization.  People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge. 

4.  Aggregation.  Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision. 

How well will WOAA meet these criteria?  Determine for yourself if we are drawing on such diversity.  Check out my followers on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/writtenoffusa) and LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/jerryashton) to start.  You will find people from all over the world and across the social and political spectrum. 

Independence from being swayed by my thinking or bias or that of others in this sampling?  They won’t even agree with each other, much less me. 

Decentralization – this is a global sampling, truly. 

Aggregation – that’s the tough part and where and and my editors come in…to give you an honest summary of the accumulated-best of the contributions. 

The final outcome, as one wag put it, may turn out to be a cross between “Debt for Dummies” and a doctorate-level Harvard Business Review treatise.

It is time to make the case for every American citizen (you listen up as well, guv-mint) to not just realize the depth of financial pain that many of us are in, but to be willing to make the hard and often complicated choices it will take to get us out of it.

WOAA is part of that movement.

Why is WOAA needed, and why is such a movement coming into existence?  Because of today’s unrealistic, tangled, legal and social strictures, there are not a lot of solutions – or even sympathy – available to those fallen on hard times.  

“It’s their own fault.”  ”Quite bitching and get a job!”

Really?  There are few people reading this that aren’t three paychecks away from being broke…or seriously “bent.”  Most people do not have enough savings in the bank to last them three months, should they encounter the unhappy event of a job loss or equivalent tragedy.

Whether medical-related, or the impossible weight ofr credit card balances, that wedding or divorce…we are all at peril.  From my experience as a “bill collector,” the times call for a rethinking of how we run up debt and collect on those not paying their bills.

WOAA is not intended to be a “quick fix” or “easy way out” for those who are several payments behind.  It is also not a diatribe against Capitalism and its present evils and how our industry captains have manipulated us and the financial markets – although both topics will be given full attention.

Rather, it will be about how we need to change our thinking, our business practices, and even our laws to best respond to the “Wake Up” call that the Great Recession is providing us.

So, don’t just sit there – write something!