Rockwell the Pusher

“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 me.”

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.

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

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.

So will you.

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

Why didn’t I listen to my parents?

December 21, 2005

Gary 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.

Copyright © 2005