Sir Bob Jones

Commentary on issues of the day from the property tycoon, author and former politician

Bob Jones: All aboard bus back to economic Stone Age

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By far the most common new business idea involved the internet. Photo / Thinkstock
By far the most common new business idea involved the internet. Photo / Thinkstock

Readers may recall the Dragons Den television series a few years ago, which displayed people's commercial ideas. I was one of the four so-called dragons, there to opine on the commercial possibilities of hundreds of propositions, of which only a small percentage were actually shown.

But far from being fascinating, as I had anticipated, after several days of listening to the submissions it mostly became deeply despairing, driving us all to the salvation of alcoholic excess at day's end.

By far the most common new business idea involved the internet. Do you realise how many people eat carrots, are taxi-drivers, wear corsets, ride bicycles and so on we would be asked, and having told us, then would come the inevitable setting up of a bloody website dealing solely with these activities. From this great riches would theoretically flow.

Precisely why though was when the stumbling and mumbling would begin about utterly implausible fees and advertising revenue. What was always staggering about these proponents was their inability to think clearly over the most elementary things and their blind optimism about normal human behaviour.

That said, nothing I ever heard on that show, or indeed over seven decades of reading about and experiencing comically economic numskull behaviour, matches the extraordinary item I read in the Northern Advocate when in the Far North two weeks ago. Sit down with a strong drink before you read further.

The story described how a young couple called Wayne and Sharon (this is the backblocks remember) understandably fed up after 18 years of milking cows in rural isolation, decided to sell their herd and seek a change of life via, in their words, "a new business opportunity". For that initiative I and doubtless readers will commend them.

But did they run their herd into a stockyard, take the cash and visit business brokers who would offer them an ever-changing list of thousands of businesses to consider? No.

Instead of those logical steps they idiotically advertised their herd on Trade Me, offering to swap it for an existing business, a move akin to setting up a restaurant in Parnell but confining one's clientele to one-legged redheads born in Kazakhstan, between the ages of 40 and 42 and living in Huntly.

Unsurprisingly there were no takers. Trade Me then said they couldn't do that anyway, as being the 21st century they must deal in cash. It was at that point the strait-jacket territory was embraced.

For believe it or not, Wayne and Sharon then resorted to that ultimate holy grail and set up a swapping website. Arising from this, someone probably now dead through uncontrollable hysterical laughter, relieved them of their herd for a Holden Ute, which they didn't want, and so they traded it for a caravan, which they also didn't want, thus they swapped it for two farm quads, which they didn't want and then exchanged them for a bus.

Impressed by their brilliant financial "acumen" they now live on the bus, touring about promoting such madness on their website. What they exchange for petrol and food the article did not say, although in fairness they are not entirely rejecting cash for they intend their website to generate fees to live on.

This they hope will come from others having something to sell who, instead of sensibly placing it on Trade Me or auctioning it or whatever, will similarly be so raving mad as to limit its sale to someone wanting their item, who co-incidentally also wants to sell something the vendor miraculously might want. All of this was trotted out to the reporter accompanied by the standard altruism of helping the poor and saving the environment.

Ask any historian to list the three most significant advances in human progress and I'm damn sure most would include the invention of money in their list, indeed it's probably mankind's most important initiative in advancing economic efficiency.

But in seeking to promote regressive economic behaviour, Wayne and Sharon, unless they soon come to their senses, will not merely retreat three millennia to the pre-money period, but inevitably 10,000 years back to the Stone Age when they're reduced to living in a cave.

They should cut their losses now and sell the bus, which when lost earnings are also included for the time they've wasted to date on this absurdity, I'd wager will amount to a great deal less cash in hand than their herd would have yielded from selling it in the stockyard.

They should then start afresh, only now embracing the modern era of money as the means of exchange. And they can console themselves when in future years, ruefully mulling over this episode, they remember the enormous amusement they've brought to all who have read about it.

- NZ Herald

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