As the old saying goes, there are two ways to make money. When selling salami sandwiches, sure, you could improve your marketing, expand, experiment with better flavors, and try to make better things … or you could slice the salami more thinly, thus getting more sandwiches for less cost. Sure, with the second way, you provide less to your customers for the same price, but it’s a lot easier to do salami slicing.

Have you ever noticed that North American Culture has, well … stopped making stuff, in place of salami-slicing and ponzi schemes?

I’m serious. Look at the major institutions of our society, and the things we used to make. Now look at how we make money now.

Family Owned-Businesses give way to stock-owned corporations. In an effort to make money, the public companies stop making things and do something like this:

– Mergers & Acquisitions, then lay off “redundant” staff at the acquired company (Most commonly HR and IT)
– Buying and selling “brands” then extending the brand
– ‘Making money’ by cutting benefits, or replacing pensions with 401(K) programs
– Increasing productivity and layoff off staff
– Or ‘increasing’ productivity by laying off assemblers, then buying complete parts (outsourcing), thus having ‘more’ parts developed per employee

It’s not just big companies. Private Equity Firms do the same thing with smaller companies, taking on massive loans that are used to expand the business. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s not just companies either; from investment bubbles to Social Security to the Federal Reserve, ponzi schemes are everywhere. (Search “Jobless Recovery” on the Wall Street Journal’s Website, for example.)

Yes, some people are benefitting from these changes. In many cases, when the plant shuts down and weeds start to grow in the parking lot, some small group of people got a disproportional benefit.

And yes, sometimes, in the times we don’t care to admit, we may be tempted to take up golf, or buy fancy suits, or join the economic club, the country club, or do whatever it is those people do in order to join the group that is benefitting.

If you’ve ever had those feelings, or noticed those changes in society — you might enjoy watching “They Live”, John Carpenter’s 1988 Action/Adventure/Suspect movie. It is available on Google Video for free until April 28th, and I just found a version on YouTube that seems to be available indefinitely. (Some obscenity, one small very short partial nude scene.)

No, I am not saying that our society is being taken over by shape-shifting aliens.

I am, however, saying that “They Live” — and there are some of us left who still make things.