The Confidence Incubator

Whether for chickens or startups, all incubators do the same thing. They provide ideal conditions to maximize the growth of whatever is desired. How would one design an incubator specifically for con artists? What would bring forth the most devious, ruthless, manipulative hucksters with the greatest skill at taking the most wealth from the greatest number of people? How would you motivate them to maximize their brutality and ferocity and minimize their mercy? What limitless source of fuel would you offer them to ensure their savagery could scale up indefinitely, unencumbered by an environment exhaustible for malevolence?

To find the very best and brightest con artists, we need maximum participation in the game. Either you’re a huckster or a victim. We can’t afford to have people on the sidelines collecting a basic income, being self-sufficient, or even living a normal, middle-class life. Each of these spectators could’ve been a potentially brilliant hustler if properly motivated, or more likely, a source of fuel for a brilliant hustler. We want to find the grandest cons, and if we’re going to help them surface, they need millions of people to take advantage of. A reduced victim pool risks reducing the rewards our finest cons are able to achieve. Either you take wealth from many others, or you produce wealth for the takers. No sitting around.

In order to do this, we’ll first need every square inch of land under lock and key. There can’t even be a coffin-sized plot in the entire million square miles that allows someone to sleep or grow their own food without being arrested. Ideally, they shouldn’t even be given a place to stand still for more than an hour without a trip to the county lockup. The problem with locking all these people up is they can no longer produce profit for someone and instead now consume resources. We’ll gamify that as well. Let people get rich by trying to imprison others at a lower price than they’re paid to store them.

It can’t be too harsh, though. If people are regularly dying of starvation or exposure, that’s a lot of wasted resources. They could serve as an example to others for how bad life can get if you’re not a good scammer, and who knows, maybe they can get back in the game with proper motivation. We can give them a little free food. Not enough to survive unless they also work, but a few bites is OK. Also, set up some buildings they can sleep in and then kick them out during the day to get back to the grind of scam or be scammed. We could easily and cheaply keep them out of everyone’s hair with some small houses or even a tent city, but then others might see a way out and stop making their employers rich, too, threatening the entire system. Not working should make life so miserable that going to prison is comparable. Though that also forces us to make prison so horrific people don’t try to escape homelessness by committing a crime.

To discourage attempts to opt out of working to exalt a single con artist and instead be self-sufficient, healthcare will be unaffordable if not negotiated by a large group. Anyone can use medical services, but only a few days of care should saddle you with more debt than you could earn in a decade. Only large groups working together can truly make a con artist rich, so only large groups should have affordable access to healthcare.

Vacation must be absolutely minimal. We won’t set up any mandatory vacation time, whether for having a baby, getting sick, or just relaxing. We’re not running a happiness incubator. We’re running a scam artist incubator. If people don’t work constantly for minimal wages, they can’t make others rich. Laws must be favorable to employers and allow them to dispose of workers for any reason and at any moment. A con artist isn’t in the business of providing people with a living wage or lifelong employment. They need workers because they produce more profit than they cost per hour. If that stops being true for even a second, we must give them the power to discard those workers immediately.

If you are extracting large amounts of wealth from many people, one annoyance you may come across is the same courts you use to undo harms your marks do to you can also be used by your marks to undo harms you did to them. If your product deliberately or negligently harms people, they can ask the courts, which are juried by their fellow man, to make it unprofitable for you to continue harming others. As a result, those who create more harm than good will have their ability to collect money destroyed.

If we were designing an incubator for producing the best products or services, this is definitely something we’d want. It needs modification to work for us in our con artist incubator, so we’ll set up protections for the scammers to keep them from getting discouraged and falling back to creating legitimate businesses. The best way to do this is to take away the jury’s power to decide how much harm is done and instead set an absolute maximum that applies regardless. That way, once you are harming others on a grand scale, the courts no longer have the ability to dissuade you from collecting more money. A single fraud may make a million dollars in an illegitimate, harmful way, but if the court can only take away a hundred thousand, you won’t be discouraged. The fixed limit is nice because while it doesn’t slow you down from doing egregious harm, it still allows you to go after individuals who do small harms to you. If this all seems like too much hassle, another trick is to make anyone you take money from enter agreements that deny them access to the courts entirely.

It’s important to foster an environment where conning and scamming are socially acceptable. We need our best cons to have free reign not only to scam under shadow, but right out in the daylight, in front of everyone, unobstructed. In the ideal culture, it should be rude to interrupt a Starbucks recruiting meeting for an MLM grifter. Attendees of phony for-profit colleges should be spoken to neutrally, not warned of throwing away their life savings on a fake education. Sellers of “balance” bracelets in the mall should be silently walked by without protest, not openly ridiculed and chased out of the establishment. If an aisle at your grocery store contains phony medicine, walk by without saying a word and continue on your day. If others want to give their kids fake medicine that kills them, that’s not our concern as a society, at least not until it kills a dozen babies as that’s a bit excessive for one product. The others can stay, though.

The ideal culture to facilitate conning will emphasize a “buyer beware” mentality. If you got conned, it’s your own fault. Society’s inclination won’t be to protect its people, but feed them straight to the lions. A complicity with scamming is necessary to help the best cons reach the highest echelons of society. People may be upset by a judge who sends kids to prison for money or a day trader who buys a company to jack up the price of a lifesaving treatment, but they won’t be surprised.

Further, high status con artists should receive less scrutiny and more reward. If they wish to harass and abuse women and children, that’s fine. Why trick thousands or millions out of their wealth if it doesn’t get you what you really want, greater ability to act with impunity? Law and order are for the poor and listless — those worst at scamming. Imprison those who take a pack of gum from a gas station; they are truly bad at the craft. The perfect culture will be without corruption to a fault at its lowest levels — no cop in the country should dare take a bribe — but absolutely rife with corruption at the very top as a display to others what they can gain access to as a master con.

You can set up an incubator for anything you want. The happiness of a population seems noble, if not utopian. With just a few tweaks, we could adjust ours to incubate the production of quality goods and services. But in incubating con artists, is it any surprise we selected our best to be the president of the incubator that created him?

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