Empowering Men Through Micro-Finance

by Featured Guest on February 3, 2011

By Micah Sparacio

Over 80% of all the micro-finance loans on Kiva go to women. That’s a publicly stated fact. And it’s a testament to the uphill battle men face as they try to live productive, rewarding lives, especially those men trying to rise out of poverty.

It’s a basic psychological phenomenon that in the West it seems sexier and more hip to help women and children. If I had to guess, this is a socially magnified response to an evolved mandate: humans have adapted to respond to the needs of women and children before men, protecting what amount to more valuable sexual/reproductive biological resources.

Doesn’t matter. Fact is, most people are donating to women. And this leaves men behind.

As a successful, self-employed small-business owner, I owe a great deal of my success to the financial support of friends and family at those very early stages. I remember when just starting out how the biggest obstacle to realizing my business goals was financial leverage. And thankfully, while I didn’t have access to deep pockets (probably a blessing, as it forced me to focus on business fundamentals), I got just enough to bootstrap the business to the point where it could self-finance future projects. And within four years, I was living a comfortable, ownership-style life with over twenty employees. I was doing my thing. Carving my own path.

Contrast this with my experience directly out of college. After graduating, I started out in the corporate world as a software developer, working the 9-5 (with one hour commutes into the city each way). I was making good money. And I was miserable.

The contrast between that (being miserable working for others) and this (waking up every day and working on exactly what I enjoy) looms large in my mind. In my experience, there is no greater joy for a man than having full creative control over his daily work. Whether that’s as a carpenter, a cattle rancher, or an Internet marketer. And the best way to attain creative control, is to be the owner of your own business. Having experienced this liberating transition (from having a boss to becoming my own boss), I feel compelled to enable other men to have the same opportunities.

So I started exploring a variety of micro-finance sites and ultimately decided that given the great disparity of lending between genders (again, over 80% of microfinance loans seem to go to women), I would do my little part to help even that out and start lending to male entrepreneurs. I ended up going with Kiva, because they give me the best control over A) gender and B) project type (so if, like me, you have theories about the sort of projects that are most promising, you can choose to fund them).

Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert at microfinance or economics or social dynamics. I’m certainly not presumptuous enough to think that participating in microfinance is going to fix misandry. And, although I’ve chosen to go with Kiva, I am aware that there are some microfinancing systems where you can actually make a buck or two (interestingly, the one run by PayPal let’s you choose “women” as a social cause but not “men” – though a quick analysis also shows that the microfinance investments that are specific to women, on the whole, have lower average rates of returns than the ones that are gender neutral).

So, without having any illusions about solving the many social injustices that men face today, I do think that microfinance is one way that we can make a difference for the following reasons:

1. Many men around the world stand at a disadvantage to women in terms of having access to start-up capital, as noted by the 80/20 discrepancy at Kiva

2. Getting a good idea off the ground and transformed into a thriving business requires leverage, something the men of poor nations simply don’t have

3. Being a happy, productive man reaches it’s peak, I believe, in business ownership

In other words, microfinance allows us to truly help men utilize skill, pursue a vision, and attain the happiness and freedom of self-employment.

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Philip February 3, 2011 at 03:38

Dont forget to take a leaf out of the feminist book and patronize business owned and run by your own gender.
Feminist take great pride in that, and so should we.

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Traveller February 3, 2011 at 03:58

“And, although Iíve chosen to go with Kiva”

I do not seem to see you explain why, specially after saying they consider positive to favor women for 80%.

For me, this is enough to not go with them.

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0
EconE February 3, 2011 at 04:38

Microfinance is not empowerment, it’s usury. There have been numerous articles regarding the anti-microfinance climate in India over the last 6 months, not to mention the all the suicides.

Women will end up as debt slaves, and in due time, guess who they’ll come back to with their tail between their legs?

ďGold is the money of kings; silver is the money of gentlemen; barter is the money of peasants; but debt is the money of slaves.Ē

- Norm Franz

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EconE February 3, 2011 at 04:52

You want to know how they enslaved women here in the U.S.?

Condos.

Case in point…

Here’s an article from the N.Y.Times from 12/2006 right near the peak of the bubble…

‘Women Unafraid of Condo Commitment’

Tons of these glorified apartments were bought with $0 down OptionARMs. As the loans start to reset and reCAST this year (and in 2012) women will experience a whole new world of financial hurt.

Interested in a girl? You’ d better run a credit check first!

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Micah Sparacio February 3, 2011 at 05:01

@EconE.

If it weren’t for my having taken on some initial debt to gain some leverage, I’d still be a slave.

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Scrouds February 3, 2011 at 05:21

Debit is a tool. Much like how a table saw can cut off your arm, debt used wrong can destroy your financial life. But its not all bad.

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1
EconE February 3, 2011 at 05:26

‘Impoverished Indian Families Caught in Deadly Spiral of Microfinance Debt’

‘Lies, Hype, and Profit: The Truth About Microfinance’

‘Microfinance, Not the Silver Bullet for Poverty’

‘Microfinance Companies Fleece own Shareholders’

There are tons of articles warning about the issues with microfinance. The above are just a few from the last two weeks.

This shit is subprime lending at it’s worst. That’s why they’re suckering the little guys (fools that lend through kiva) into lending their own hard earned money and the “Angelo Mozilos” of the industry reap all the benefits with none of the risk. If it was TRULY a sustainable model, the bankers would be lending their own money.

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EconE February 3, 2011 at 05:30

Micah…no offense but my background is Economics.

Debt is not wealth, an in the most impoverished locations on earth it’s nothing but a trap. And you want to turn the men into debt slaves also? Just so you can make a buck?

Fuck that.

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Herbal Essence February 3, 2011 at 05:34

Some of the other microloaners, such as Grameen, openly state that they prefer loaning to women.

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Peter-Andrew:Nolan(c) February 3, 2011 at 05:54

The contrast between that (being miserable working for others) and this (waking up every day and working on exactly what I enjoy) looms large in my mind. In my experience, there is no greater joy for a man than having full creative control over his daily work.

QFT. I write software for a living. Some weeks I really get immersed in it all and it’s great. Other weeks I slack off a bit on development work. The only time I ‘have to perform’ is on site where I need to look more like the guys working for large companies. Something that is easy to do since I did it for so long. I can recommend to men to run their own company now matter what it is they do. You might make less money but it is more rewarding.

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Micah Sparacio February 3, 2011 at 06:45

@EconE.
I’m not making a single dollar off the microloans I make. You’re attributing to me motivations and intentions that are neither present nor implied in my article.

I’ll admit that I’m no economist. But I do know one thing. Not all debt is slavery. As I stated, if it were not for me taking on a small amount of debt, I would be working for someone else right now.

Further, your simple principles fail to distinguish between types of debt. Debt that is taken on irrationally, say in the case of condos that one does not need and cannot afford, is stupid. Small amounts of debt taken on to build a solid business that will support a family *can be* smart – depending on the circumstances.

The way I see things, many if not most men would like to apply their skills and exercise their creative imagination (strategize, etc) in their daily lives but don’t have the resources to “break out” and get started. Maybe microfinancing isn’t the best way to enable some men to do this, but it’s the only way that I’m aware of.

Sure microfinancing isn’t perfect, but given that I benefited from something very much like microfinancing, handled it responsibly, and built a profitable business out of it that affords me many liberties and freedoms that make a huge difference in my life, I can’t accept an anonymous economist’s view that ALL microfinancing is bad.

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Bob Smith February 3, 2011 at 06:47

Debt is much less expensive in the long run than giving away equity. It is not slavery in common-law countries (US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc) since both debtor’s prisons and indentured servitude have been outlawed, and bankruptcy will wipe out your debts. Indeed, the development of bankruptcy, and the concomitant reduction in startup risk, in common-law countries is in part responsible for the explosion of entrepreneurship in those countries.

You might also want to look into emulating micro-VC companies like Y Combinator.

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Jay Hammers February 3, 2011 at 07:00

both debtorís prisons and indentured servitude have been outlawed, and bankruptcy will wipe out your debts

“child support”

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EconE February 3, 2011 at 07:13

Micah,

Comparing your personal situation to that of an uneducated person in a third world country is apples and oranges. You already had an education and experience to build upon. What does a broke peasant in an agrarian economy have? What is he going to do? Buy a goat? Who does he sell the goats milk to? Other broke villagers? The people there are putting their gold up as collateral at a usurious rate.

You state that you’re not making money. OK. Who is? Somebody is getting paid and it sounds like their selling you a fuzzy feel good opportunity and throwing around terms such as “empowerment”. You may be doing something “honorable”, but are the people at the top?

It sounds to me like they’re doing “Gods Work”…just like Goldman Sachs.

Andhra Pradesh is the canary in the coalmine.

If you really want to help, donate…don’t lend. All that is happening now is the poorest Indians are being asset stripped of their gold.

Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 9
criolle johnny February 3, 2011 at 07:19

“both debtorís prisons and indentured servitude have been outlawed, and bankruptcy will wipe out your debts”

Income Tax

Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4
EconE February 3, 2011 at 07:27

Remember…

Mortgage brokers and (r)ealtors were just trying to empower people to own their own property and not pay a mortgage for their landlord. We all saw how that turned out.

It’s the math. At 30% interest the only person who gets ahead in in the microfinance industry is the lender. Of couse, the microfinance outlet will say “but their local moneylender charges 50% so we’re doing them a favor”

No they’re not. They’re just the lesser of two evils.

Everybody laughed at me when I (an anonymous economist…nice strawman BTW) warned them about our own credit bubble in 2006. How many small businesses have failed in the last 3 years?

It’s just another credit bubble but in a different manner and YOUR money is at risk..not the banks.

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PeterTheGreat February 3, 2011 at 07:38

If you want to be free, work for yourself. The downside is that some start up capital is usually necessary, sometimes not a lot, but if you don’t have it you can’t get going.

This is what Micah is saying. Anyone who works for themselves is familiar with taking on debt to be able to have a business. Stock, inventory, supplies all require capital investment.

Also, if you have a chance at 30% (yes that is usury and exhorbitant) to actually be able to get a business going, pay off the debt, and then be basically debt free or minimal debt – or – sitting in the dirt bemoaning your fate, what will you do?

A real man will get with the program and start making it happen. There is an old saying, “sure the game is rigged, but it you don’t put your money down you can’t win.” Speaks to the doers.

It is always easy to nay say, but doers do, and moaners don’t.

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nickoman23 February 3, 2011 at 07:42

From wikipedia
When you borrow money just to spend, its pure debt, and bad
when you borrow to make more money its called leverage.

There is a popular prejudice against leverage rooted in the observation that people who borrow a lot of money often end up badly. But the issue here is those people are not leveraging anything, they’re borrowing money for consumption.[27]
In finance, the general practice is to borrow money to buy an asset with a higher return than the interest on the debt.[28] That at least might work out. People who consistently spend more than they make have a problem, but it’s overspending (or underearning), not leverage. The same point is more controversial for governments.
People sometimes borrow money out of desperation rather than calculation. That also is not leverage.[29] But it is true that leverage sometimes increases involuntarily. When Long-Term Capital Management collapsed with over 100 to 1 leverage, it wasn’t that the principals tried to run the firm at 100 to 1 leverage, it was that as equity eroded and they were unable to liquidate positions, the leverage level was beyond their control. One hundred to one leverage was a symptom of their problems, not the cause (although, of course, part of the cause was the 27 to 1 leverage the firm was running before it got into trouble, and the 55 to 1 leverage it had been forced up to by mid-August 1998 before the real troubles started).[30] But the point is the fact that collapsing entities often have a lot of leverage does not mean that leverage causes collapses.
Involuntary leverage is a risk.[31] It means that as things get bad, leverage goes up, multiplying losses as things continue to go down. This can lead to rapid ruin, even if the underlying asset value decline is mild or temporary.[32] The risk can be mitigated by negotiating the terms of leverage, and by leveraging only liquid assets.[33]

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Micah Sparacio February 3, 2011 at 07:44

EconE,
I appreciate your insights.

Have you considered writing an economic oriented guest post for The Spearhead with insights for those of us with less economic knowledge? I’m always willing to improve myself. But the key is in knowing what to do.

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Micah Sparacio February 3, 2011 at 07:47

@PeterTheGreat
“If you want to be free, work for yourself. The downside is that some start up capital is usually necessary, sometimes not a lot, but if you donít have it you canít get going.”

Exactly.

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BobbyL February 3, 2011 at 08:03

I believe the main goal of these loans is to separate men and women (as usual). The female small business owners won’t respect the the “loser” men and won’t form families with them. Just like in the west, the men are being removed from society.
And yes, debt IS enslavement.

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DirkJohanson February 3, 2011 at 08:17

I believe there is an earlier version of the article that Econ E linked to, disparaging guys for not buying condos at what turned out to be the top of the market. I suspect that, in light of the subsequent market crash, the Times removed the disparaging references which, of course, turned out to be a result of our superior perspective.

If any of you are tech-savvy and can easily find it, through wayback machine or similar tool, it would be a nice find and expose of feminist media tactics.

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Keyster February 3, 2011 at 08:24

If I’m going to make a microloan to anyone it’s gonna be people like Welmer and Paul Elam, who put a lot of work into what they do…and ARE under-capitalized. My money is not going to some third world country where it will benefit skimmers and/or probably their women anyway. Besides, there are too many broken down men right here in the USA that need help.

If you happen to have a little cash laying around, put it in the hat. Help save men where you live that are barely hanging on.

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Twenty February 3, 2011 at 08:29

Re: The merits of debt, @Micah Sparacio & @EconE

Debt financing is reasonable in cases where you’ve got your business model locked down, have identified “product/market fit”, know (as best as these things can be known) that your ROI will exceed the debt service, and are ready to scale. It’s not reasonable if you’re speculating, experimenting, or researching. (Unless you’ve got a legal strategy and are morally prepared to leave the lenders holding the bag, in which case, if you can gamble with OPM, why not?)

Context: As an as-yet-unsuccessful businessman myself, I’ve very happy to have only lost my own money. For one thing, it means that all I’ve built I own, affording me the option to build on it in the future.

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mgtow February 3, 2011 at 08:40

Entrepreneurship is NOT for everyone. Only you know if you can do it.

Once you work for yourself, you will find out that you yourself are the most demanding bastard you have ever worked for. Your weekends will be preoccupied with your startup business. Vacations are put on hold. You have to mind your business 24/7. You can’t mentally switch off after a 9-to-5 working hours.

That said, being a successful entrepreneur sure beats working for pittance for someone else.

It is also important to try and convert some interest or hobby into a side job or a source of passive income. Once you enjoy what you’re doing, work will not seem like work.

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Stoltz February 3, 2011 at 08:51

Not only micro-loans, but also government-backed loans (e.g., SBA). If you’re a woman (or any other “group” other than a white male), you will get a few extra brownie points.

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Bob Smith February 3, 2011 at 09:02

What does either child support or income tax have to do with the proposition that debt isn’t slavery? I thought we were talking about business startups.

As for 30% interest being unfair to the borrower, microloans are so risky, being basically unsecured debt, that you have to charge that or you’d be losing money. The loans are too small to waste money on legal fees trying to recover your capital, so every borrower who doesn’t pay is a total loss. It is not unfair or unethical to charge interest commensurate with the risk. The alternative is denying the entrepreneur any chance to start their business. Is that “fair”? It’s still probably a lot cheaper than equity.

Regarding LTCM, they might have been able to weather an equity squeeze if they hadn’t handed a few billion in cash back to their investors in order to goose the returns they reported to their investors. It was a marketing play, and it ruined them. The interesting thing about that is at the time the investors didn’t want their cash back. I highly recommend reading “When Genius Failed” by Roger Lowenstein.

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Simon February 3, 2011 at 09:19

In 2009 I as living check to check as child support and rent had broke me. In 2010 I started a small internet marketing business last year with a loan of $300 bucks from my parents for my christmas present. I started off making $400 a month that offset my child support payments. I got a roommate to split bills. I ate beans and rice and ramen. I have 3 pair of pants and one suit. I live in a shitty part of town. In the last 6 months I have landed 4 offline clients due to my online work and I have paid off nearly $8000 in debt. I have $6000 left to pay off my car and then I am debt free (minus the student loans).

I have made sure to not let my ex know about my new income less she comes sniffing around for more than the $400 a month she gets from me. I know she will.

Child Support plus working for the man = barely existing for most of us lower income dudes. (I earn about 2k a month at my day job).

Owning my own business has removed the despair and depression I have been under for the last 5 years. It’s made me feel in control of my life and has given me hope. I call my parents at least once a month to thank them for that small gift that gave me just enough to get started.

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Anonymous age 68 February 3, 2011 at 09:26

National Geographic, once a conservative operation, did an article a few years ago on micro-financing for dearies only. They repeated the factoid that men take 85% of all income for themselves in those countries, and therefore the money for women will go directly to kids, etc.

The lying sacks of (ahem) did not explain under what conditions men take 85% of their earnings.

That happens to be men who leave their homes in the Third World and take dangerous treks to places of prosperity to work long hours at low pay, and send home what they can.

Illegals from Mexico who live in California often must pay $1000 a month for an apartment, which means they crowd in as many as they can. But, in the end the high cost of living takes 85% of their income.

The good news is, the other 15% is a lot of money for the families back home in this Third World village.

Yet, clearly the man-haters, as supported by the misandrist MSM, including National Geographic, assume somehow those men should turn over the entire paycheck, and live on garbage from the dumpsters they should be sleeping in.

While I do not necessarily — repeat, not necessarily — enjoy the suffering of stupid women who borrowed too much, in general it does my heart good to see that misandrist program melt down. Karma is a real b***h.

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Anonymous age 68 February 3, 2011 at 09:28

>>What does either child support or income tax have to do with the proposition that debt isnít slavery? I thought we were talking about business startups.

Easy. Someone, maybe you missed it, said we don’t have debtor’s prison any more, but we do, as they pointed out.

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Charles Martel February 3, 2011 at 09:46

As for 30% interest being unfair to the borrower, microloans are so risky, being basically unsecured debt, that you have to charge that or youíd be losing money. The loans are too small to waste money on legal fees trying to recover your capital, so every borrower who doesnít pay is a total loss. It is not unfair or unethical to charge interest commensurate with the risk. The alternative is denying the entrepreneur any chance to start their business. Is that ďfairĒ? Itís still probably a lot cheaper than equity.
Bob Smith

For most micro-borrowers, the result will be just as EconE describes – the borrower will be stripped of whatever assets they had. Microloans are a cynical manipulation of the borrower’s unrealistic aspirations.

I’m not knocking entrepreneurship. It’s just that no start-up business can support a 30% interest rate on its debt.

I’m an entrepreneur and small business owner myself. I have an acquaintance who owns a printing business, makes $500,000 a year – and is penniless, broke. His out-of-control wife spends every dollar he makes, and more. Also betrays him in other ways, as I understand it.

My acquaintance has absolutely no means to bring his wife under control. His consent is not required for any new debt she may take on and the law recognizes her debts as his. She knows all this and appears to want to break him financially as the ultimate shit test.

Men are creators of value. Women are destroyers of value.

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Keoni Galt February 3, 2011 at 09:51

I’m as anti-debt/anti-usury as anybody…but the reality of our current world is that you simply cannot do certain things without debt – like buy a house. Even after the bubble-crash, if you want to live in certain areas of the country, houses are still far more than you can afford to save up and buy outright. For instance, here in Hawaii, small 2 bedroom houses on 1/4 acre lots are still going for $300,000. You might say “well move to a cheaper location.” Yeah, but all of my extended family and close friendships and my job are all here…so what do I do?

The key to using debt instead of having it use you, is to plan to pay it off as soon as possible. Figure out a way to make double payments – the first your regularly scheduled payment and the second all towards the principal. If you analyze your debt plan and you cannot figure out a way to pay it off quicker than the lender schedules it for you, than don’t take that debt on. Only take on debt that you can reasonably pay off quicker than is required.

If you get a 30 year mortgage, make a plan to pay it off in 15.

If you get a 15 year mortgage, make a plan to pay it off in 7-8.

Same goes for a business plan that uses micro-financing. If you gotta do it, plan to pay it off in half the time.

Sometimes, to get things you want in our modern day feudal system of debt slavery, you do have to sign up to be a serf. At least if you make it a priority, you can cut your time in serfdom in half and come out of it free and clear and in possession of your home or business outright.

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Firepower February 3, 2011 at 10:20

Micah Sparacio

Itís a basic psychological phenomenon that in the West it seems sexier and more hip to help women and children.

In America, a welfare babymaking machine without a GED – but with 6 kids – has more opportunity than a lower class white male with a College diploma and a 3.7 GPA. Provided she’s a minority, of course.

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Paradoxotaur February 3, 2011 at 10:26

I’m glad I left the corporate hive and went out on my own. When borrowing money from a bank, it’s important to understand that they won’t loan you any money unless you can first prove that you don’t need it. But a bit more seriously, I got an equity line of credit on my home while I was still receiving a regular paycheck (i.e., plan ahead) and used this to smooth out the cash flow issues the first few years, which can be quite a wild ride. But most get used to it, like being on a boat in a storm, you get your legs under you and laugh off the occassional facefull of water, and can’t imagine going back to a maze of cubicles.

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Bob Smith February 3, 2011 at 11:40

Itís just that no start-up business can support a 30% interest rate on its debt

No capital intensive startup business can. Businesses that are getting microloans are generally service businesses, which are the least capital intensive and easiest to start of all businesses.

Easy. Someone, maybe you missed it, said we donít have debtorís prison any more, but we do, as they pointed out.

I know, because I’m the person who said it. In the context of business startups, which is the whole point of this thread, it happens to be true.

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stickman February 3, 2011 at 17:10

@mgtow February 3, 2011 at 08:40

Entrepreneurship is NOT for everyone. Only you know if you can do it.
I agree with you. I would also point out that Collage is NOT for everyone. for the same reasons. people think they are the key to Riches. But in fact if you make a poor choice in educational specialty or Business. You will not only fail but throw yourself into deep dept. Many people go for something they “enjoy” or is “cool” but those things tend to glut a market or there is no market at all.
When I lived In Seattle it seemed every subway had at least one “sandwich artists” who was a marine biologist. Ask any welfare queen you may meet if she is going to school (on our tab) dollars to donuts they are studying to be a psychologist. Here in Va. The big dream for a lot of down and outers is to start a “detailing” business or become a “producer”. We need more Trade Schools. You can be a success in life and still not go to collage. and as crule as it sounds somebody has to dig the ditches

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stickman February 3, 2011 at 17:12

cruel<<<

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Jay Hammers February 3, 2011 at 17:19

That is cool that you focus on men as customers.

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fmz February 3, 2011 at 22:33

Being ‘productive’ as precondition of happiness is the whole con job that keeps ya on the plantation.

The way to go is… milk and bilk the system. Play the game for long enough (10-20yrs) to get your bounty, then bail out or at the very least shift back into first gear. Better still… idle along. At the same time keep cashing in the corrupt game and keep bilking it against itself. By going under-the table (under the radar), reducing and/or eliminating taxes with legal or illegal creative accounting (that’s difficult to detect and with lots of fuzzy red tape to back-peddle thru) and most importantly figure out ways to draw down on the beast thru subsidies and what not (theirs heaps of biz oriented largesse to bilk).

Aim to work less. Not more. To produce less. Not more. To employee, hire and provide less, not more.

And have a cache of cash and kind, plus an exit plan. Travel. Get multiple passports preferably in alternate IDs.

Go Your Way.

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Christopher February 3, 2011 at 23:40

Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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Ana February 4, 2011 at 12:28

Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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Paradoxotaur February 4, 2011 at 15:49

@Ana: “Try the 200 yrs of slavery and racist abuse afro americans got up their asses and then get back to us.”

Yeah, ‘cuz wimmenz NEVER owned slaves.

Actually, at the time the Civil War broke out, a free black woman in the The South was over 6 times as likely to own a black slave as was a white man. Some of the largest slave holders in The South were women. And slavery lasted well over 200 years. Dummy.

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TFH February 4, 2011 at 17:49

Ana,

Try the 200 yrs of slavery and racist abuse afro americans got up their asses and then get back to us.

So why are feminists ruining the lives of black men and boys then?

Do you admit that as a feminist, you are a racist?

You need to go and discuss the matter with a blogger known as Obsidian :
http://obsidianraw.bravejournal.com/

He will help you come to terms with your feminist racism.

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