Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Contract Is a Contract Is a Contract

Skyler Stone is a young man who decided a long time ago he would be a con man. For many years he lied to get free stuff so he wouldn’t have to actually get a job.

I’m very rarely in favor of government intervention in our daily lives but I do have a problem with this. Con men violate verbal contracts (whether such a contract is legally binding in a local state in question is irrelevant). Because contracts are a basic tool of a well functioning extended order, ignoring them does a disservice to the economy (on a local, national and global level). Ensuring they are fulfilled is a job of the government.

Currently Mr. Stone has a new show on Comedy Central unimaginatively called Con, ironically transforming someone who takes away from the functionality of the economy to someone who contributes to it by taking away from it. I’m not sure if there’s a net loss or a net gain in this matter.

But I’m finding that as I watch this show, it demonstrates how well the economy works because the contract is so trusted. The victims readily believe his lies. While part of that stems from his ability to lie, another part is that the conned have no reason not to believe him. It may not seem this way from what we hear on the news magazines but breaches of contracts are pretty damn rare.

When I go through the drive thru, I give my money before I get my food. I have never encountered or heard of a time when a fast food place collected the cash but refused to live up to their end of the bargain (by denying the Happy Meal or whatever people are eating now).

When you pay for furniture and ask for it to be delivered, we rarely consider that the store will never show. We might fear that they will be late, but never completely absent.

And if I were to finally receive a letter from George Mason telling that I was, say, accepted to their PhD program, I wouldn’t consider that they would deny me entrance when the semester began (assuming I could pay for it).

These are all small exchanges between economic agents that are repeated in some fashion a million times everyday. When it comes to big projects—such as the construction of a building—at least one party involved is a lot more careful because they are on unfamiliar ground. That’s why Mr. Stone focuses his lies on everyday verbal or implied contracts—we inherently trust them. Because the economy works so well, so do his cons.

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