I have an idea for making lots of money but I'm too lazy and frightened to do it myself.  The idea is to become a consumer advocate against a confusopoly. A confusopoly is any group of companies in a particular industry that intentionally confuses customers about their pricing plans and products. Confusopolies do this so customers don't know which one of them is offering the best value. That way every company gets a fair share of the confused customers and the industry doesn't need to compete on price. The classic examples of confusopolies are phone companies, insurance companies, and banks.

To get things rolling, you pick a confusopoly to target and you build a web page explaining the problem. Then you collect signatures of support. and demand legislation to standardize how prices are presented to customers.  Then you wait for the lawyers and lobbyists from your targeted industry to pay you to go away.

It seems entirely legal to lobby the government for regulatory reform. And I'm not aware of any law preventing companies from paying you to leave an issue alone. Perhaps they'd need to do it in some sort of stealth manner, just for PR purposes. I could imagine, for example, that one of the companies would offer you a job trying to organize a simpler pricing scheme, which is exactly what you're asking for. You'd work for a few years, get no cooperation from anyone in the company, fail miserably at your task, and collect a big paycheck. If you work from home, the failing will be far more efficient, requiring no more than a few emails and some unreturned phone calls. You could do the whole thing in your pajamas, start to finish.

As always, I don't recommend taking advice on anything important from cartoonists.

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Apr 25, 2011
I am amused at people's poor attempts at humor on comment pages.
Apr 12, 2011
The ultimate confusopoly is healthcare. Imagine a website that would instantly bring up every doctor within driving distance, rate each of them both by consumer input and a jury of their peers, and also lists exactly what they are going to charge you for a particular test or procedure. It would destroy the entire health insurance industry!!!

Hey, why do I have a little red dot on my chest--------..........iubpbn .......911.....
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 10, 2011
ok, I have no idea where to put this but the permeation of this website by ads is really getting annoying. For instance, every five animations, you display a really long ad. This makes already mediocre animations completely worthless. I realize that your business is dependent on ads but it really does detract from the site.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2011
To: Scott,

Have I ever told you that I love you?

Help my kids, win my heart. That's just how it is.

Your latest WSJ article came at a great time. My 15-year-old is hard working and ambitious – and an honor student – but he doesn't trend towards Ivy-league test scores. No big deal – except that his older brother leaves for West Point in June and his next older brother (who is on a science track) is also a write-your-own-ticket kind of kid.

The thing with the youngest is that he doesn't even like school. He is all about doing what it takes to be done. Very practical, very results-focused. He is also insightful, funny and a great leader. I've been trying to steer him away from knocking himself out trying to follow in his brothers' academic footsteps – onto a more entrepreneurial path. He usually gets insulted and implies that I am patronizing him.

After he read your article, he was, for the first time, open to talking about a college-in-high-school program that would have him out and on his own two years early. It wouldn't be an ivy-league path – but it would free him up to just go out and start a business, learn from his mistakes and make his own way forward. (I told him, "You are talented enough that you don't need Ivy credentials to succeed. That's a crutch for the less competent.")

He'll probably end up more financially successful than both of his brothers (neither of whom are particularly financially motivated) combined. He's that kind of person. He just needs to realize his path is his own to chart.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 8, 2011
The biggest "confusopoly" is the Federal Government. Virtually every government policy eventually becomes debased, abused and corrupted which leads to tremendous graft and ultimately social and economic instability. There ought to be a department more powerful than the NSA, FBI, CIA and IRS called The Department for the Investigation and Correction of Unintended Consequences. Think of the Trillions of dollars saved by an investigative body that polices the intent of policy such as Social Security for example and has the power to protect and preserve its original intent. That way it could never been used as a piggy bank for Congress as that was never its intent. A police force if you will for the preservation of the original intent of legislative policy for the public good would also investigate and prevent abuses of entitlement programs. It's pretty obvious that policy requires oversight by an entity independent of politician lawmakers.
-5 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 8, 2011
"Oh, I had some additional thoughts regarding corporate chicanery:

In war, there is only one rule: you do whatever it takes to win. That's it. If you play by the "rules" expected of you, your enemy ignores them, gets the advantage and defeats you.

Business competition is a kind of war. "

I completely agree. Let's disarm the corporations by getting rid of government.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 8, 2011
When "confusopoly" hit the OED you know you're big time.

A side note - do you remember, or one of your adoring fans, a blog post on "plates as an evolutionary species"? I can't find it and I left a note in your "contact us" box but that hasn't been helpful. Am I making it up? Would someone else have done it? I can't imagine.

About to be teaching a course on evolution. I was going to use it and several other entries if you don't mind.
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 8, 2011
not blog related

Today's strip is hilarious
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 7, 2011
Doesn't Clark Howard already kindof do this? He certainly has made millions at it.
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 7, 2011
So you're advising me not to take your advice...is that even possible?
Apr 7, 2011
Ravenblack: "I can only assume it's some sort of crazy actuarial thing, where couples really are less likely to make a claim than singles."

The mad thing is that I have my ex listed as a second driver on my car insurance (the relationship is specified as 'friend' so they don't know he is an ex), and he is at a different address etc, but this decreases my cover by about £75 per year.

I don't really get it; it seems the more different people driving a car, the more likely an accident, not less... who knows!
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 7, 2011
We have one of your big US gas companies currently in South Africa trying to steal large portions of one of our few natural areas (the Karoo) to set up natural gas mining. The Karoo is already a scrub desert - this will not only use up massive volumes of water, the result is a toxic soup that is already proven to kill people, animals and agriculture in any area it operates.

Our government already has your system going - our environmental protection agency is paid to conduct 20 year studies - and mining companies are allowed to operate in the interim. By making "Lithuli House" (the ANC's commercial arm) a shareholder in any project, all legislation that holds back profitability will be swept off your path.

Your scheme really takes off when you're a government - there is no lobbying required. You can create the legislation to suit industries where there are the most bribes, and enforce legislation only for your competitors.
Apr 7, 2011
in response to nelsonajr,

you are bordering on the theory and philosophy of slavery. besides selling the future (financing), intellectual property and 'locked' cellphones are the next wave coming down the pike.

some agreements between 2 people are immoral. payday loans and slavery come to mind. these other things are just baby steps to get there.
Apr 6, 2011
"confusopoly" is the one of the best new words I've seen. This is very real. More people need to understand this and build awareness.

The company managements are duty bound to play tricks like this on behalf of shareholders.

The "pay to go away" isn't going to work, but shining light on the truth will do a lot to keep it in check.
Apr 6, 2011
@Dingbat: Apple's iPhone charger plug adapter thing costs $29 on their website last time I checked. I got one on Amazon for around $6, including tax and shipping. Hello?
Apr 6, 2011
Here is a good fight to battle, which is actually simple to implement: "If you say you are *selling* something, you have *no* control over the item after it is sold."

And the corolary: "... If you retain *any* control over the item, you have to put it very big 'This is not a sale! You are not buying the item. You do not own the item, *we* do.' ".

That would solve the mess where you buy an iPhone or Kindle and you have no control over it. You cannot upgrade, downgrade, open or do anything else without the manufacturer blessing. Actually you can't even turn an iPod on for the first time without connecting to your computer and getting an approval from Apple via internet first.

Or things like you buy an eBook and the publisher has the right, at any given point in time, to "recall" the book and delete "your" book from "your" device (note the quotes are very appropriate!)

Apr 6, 2011
The Justice Brothers, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, have been especially quiet lately... What kind of hand puppet shapes do we need to project in front of a big spotlight on low flying clouds to get their attention?
Apr 6, 2011
I was about to say "You're 30 years too late. Jesse Jackson beat you to the idea." Then I saw that someone else already said it. However, that doesn't mean you can't use Jesse's business model. It's proven and effective.
Apr 6, 2011
I get confused when I'm shopping for designer bags on this forum.

Say I'm looking for an Armani bag. Is an "Armaini" bag the same as an Armani bag? I'm assuming that any company appearing in this forum is completely legit, right? Just because their ad has numerous misspellings and run-on sentences is no reason to suspect they're not legit, right? This confuses me.

And what is the best way to pay for my Aramaini bag? I prefer to send a shoebox full of $1 bills to a P.O. box, yet they insist on my credit card number. Confusing. Then they say my card is no good so I have to send them another one. ??? Would it be better to just send them my paypal password and let them sort it out? So confusing.
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 6, 2011
Ooh - if you go after the phone companies (or any other electronics manufacturer), hit them where it hurts: In the recharger! I'm looking at a drawer full of rechargers for different phones for each member of my family (plus old ones we keep in case we lose the new one before the contract expires), plus different rechargers for a wide variety of other components and devices. (The camera rechargers are particularly annoying to keep track of for some reason..)

I suspect companies make more money on rechargers (replacing lost versions, supplying backups for travelers who realize they left theirs at home, hand crank versions, etc.) than they do on the original device.

Start a campaign for a single recharger standard and watch the fun begin!
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