The publicity stunt recently performed by John Oliver of the show Last Week Tonight speaks volumes.
But the 'stunt' was more like a lesson in greed (culturally), and ignorance (also culturally).
And I don't think Mr. Oliver was trying to puff his chest out to receive applause and adulation, but to actually point out one of the many ills that the world's societies are plagued with.
Let's do some math.
Oliver opened a debt collection company for $50.00 (fifty).
He then started a very simple website, and shortly afterwards was offered close to $15,000,000.00 (15 million) in debt for the cost of $60,000.00 (sixty thousand).
That debt was previously attached to nearly 9,000 (nine thousand) individuals.
It was medical debt... but could have been credit card debt, or debt of any kind.
Out of 9,000 people at $15M, the average is $1,667.00 (one thousand six hundred sixty seven) per person.
What is the cost of postage, ink and paper in sending a few pages of information to someone?
Maybe $1.00 (one dollar).
It would cost roughly $9,000.00 (nine thousand dollars) to send 9,000 people some information by mail.
What “if” (and this is a big IF and the test written into this blog article)... those 9,000 people were to receive information how they're debt was removed, and how not to find themselves in this predicament again?
What if they could to LEARN how to never get into a bad debt again, and how to deal with debt collectors, and how to hopefully, once and for all, to manage their debt and cease being subjects to the greed of others?
How much value would this information be to them?
How much can the person(s) / business(es) conducting the service realize to gain (in terms of doing what is right and honest)?
Let us consider:
The debt Oliver purchased was already “written off” by those who were initially in contact with the debt consumers (the 9,000).
By law, unless the debt consumers “agreed” to be responsible for that $15M... that debt was gone, finished, no more... disappeared!
Yet, debt collection agencies rake in ridiculous amounts of money in FOOLING people into agreeing to pay something that was made to go away.
There is so much 'business' gained from ignorance... and this should not be in the age we live in.
I am not advocating not paying your debts.
However, the human condition managing the ways of this world causes people to drown themselves with debt and this is simply a lack of discipline in controlling one's consumption and life management.
I'm not speaking to medical bills in terms of health, but maybe the for-profit medical industry, but that is an entirely different beast whose tail I won't attempt to grab in this article.
The tail I am grabbing and handing to you is this:
You can start a business and do the right thing... and still make a decent living, and help others find their way out of trouble and learn how to not find themselves in that same trouble again.
This business is a one-time transaction, pointing the way to further resources that are already free and available, not a way to get debtors further on the hook.
Back to the math.
The example with Oliver's move shows that the $15M was bought for less than pennies on the dollar.
0.004 per cent.
1% is 0.01.
If these same 9,000 individuals were asked, for example, for one percent (1%) of their debt from the new debt buyer for a) the cost of buying the debt (which as you can see is nominal/near nothing), b) forwarding them information on how to navigate the waters of greed and debt, the service would be a decent effort in adjusting the imbalance... and the high cost of ignorance.
1% of $1,667.00 for 9,000.00, or 1% of $15M = $150,000.00 (one hundred fifty thousand).
Imagine a new business of helping people learn about what debt is, and how to properly navigate the world above board (honestly).
The debt collection industry thrives on ignorance (as the article on Oliver's effort will explain).
But, when honesty is applied, humanity can begin to deal with humanity... and maybe, just maybe, people can begin to feel again.
Whether the consumer will learn is one thing.
But how those who thrive on ignorance, or the market of ignorance, can be shamed and identified as predators is key.
“All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arises not from deficits in the Constitution or Confederation, nor from want of honor and virtue, so much as downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.”
“Banks have done more injury to religion, morality, tranquillity, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they have done or ever will do good.”
- John Adams
“...we are at that very point in time when a four hundred year old age is rattling in its deathbed and another is struggling to be born. A shifting of culture, science, society, and institutions enormously greater and swifter than the world has ever experienced. Ahead, lies the possibility of regeneration of individuality, liberty, community, and ethics such as the world has never known, and a harmony with nature, with one another and with the divine intelligence such as the world has never seen. It is the path to a livable future in the centuries ahead, as society evolves into ever-increasing diversity and complexity.”
- Dee Hock, CEO emeritus of VISA International