Rockwell the Pusher

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“Here, kid,
try some of these. They’re free. You’ll like them. Trust me.”

That’s how
parents of straight kids of my era first informed their children
of the number-one marketing technique of the local drug pusher.
Those first few reefers were the bait, our parents warned us. Then
comes the hook. Addiction. A life of desperation. A life conditioned
by the desire for more. Mornings filled with shaky hands, waiting
for the day’s big score.

I should have
listened to my parents. It was all true.

“Visit my
free site, kid. Click a few links. You’ll like what you see. Trust

Oh, yes, it
started out innocently enough. Just click a few links. Read a few
free articles. Nothing to it. It’s free.

Then, the
next day, I did it again. And the next day.

It got worse,
of course. It always does. A free search engine at the bottom of
the page. Looking for something? You can find it here fast. Then
click another link. Nothing to it.

Then I spotted
Top 10.
In America, few readers can resist Top 10 articles. I clicked. There
they were: the most popular articles the previous week. And the
previous month. Nothing to it.

There never
is anything to it. Just click a link.

attach electrodes to rats’ brains. A rat presses a button. Ecstasy!
He presses it again. He keeps pressing that button until he stops

I know the
feeling well, except that with, you can put a bowl
of Fritos on the left-hand side of your computer. With your right
index finger, you click. Click, munch, munch. Click, munch, munch.
Pretty soon, you don’t have the same mobility. You don’t leave your
mouse except to re-fill the bowl.

Then, in a
moment of extreme vulnerability, I clicked Subscribe/Unsubscribe.
Now I get the front page delivered to me every morning around 3
a.m. It is there for me when I click the SEND/RECV button on Outlook
Express every morning.

I’m not saying
that I’m addicted. I can quit any time I feel like it. Any time.

But, day after
day, I sit in front of my screen, like that caged rat, frantically
clicking link after link. It probably eats up 45 minutes a day —
30 minutes, minimum.

What is an
hour of my time worth? $30 an hour? $50 an hour? Maybe $100 an hour.
Day after day, I invest — how much? — $25, $40, even $75 in lost
time. At 10% per annum, what would this add up to over a decade?
Two decades? A small fortune, that’s what.

But it’s a
free site. I don’t need to donate a dime to keep reading all of
it. Neither do you. But I keep coming back. So do you. Don’t deny
it. We know what we are.
a lobster trap, that’s what it is. You push yourself into it to
get the bait, but you can’t back out.

Every time
I click File>Send for some article, I’m mailing the hard stuff to
some innocent person. Yet I do it all the time. All over the world,
there are people today with shaky hands every morning, hoping to
get more . . . almost ready to click Subscribe/Unsubscribe. “Don’t
do it, man!” But he will. Eventually, he will.

will you.

I’m not part
of the solution. I’m part of the problem.

Why didn’t
I listen to my parents?

21, 2005

North [send him mail] is the
author of Mises
on Money
. Visit
He is also the author of a free 17-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible

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