My daughter and her mother have a recurring holiday joke that probably has its origins in their love for "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend". (Their favorite part: Time rolls on, And youth is gone, And you can't straighten up when you bend. But stiff back Or stiff knees, You stand straight at Tiffany's.) The holiday joke is this: "Memo to True Love: Keep the Animals, Send the Rings".

The joke is mostly a tease of my interest in the Constitutional gold standard and love of its savior Ulysses Grant. It certainly is not a hint about what I should do to express my gratitude, lover and devotion. (The women will buy their own jewelry, thank you!). But it does remind me of another part of the Constitution that they do insist on importing into our domestic lives. It is Clause 7, Article I, Section 9: "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time."

The only debate in Philadelphia was over the question of how often the statement and account would be published. Many wanted it to be annually, and some even monthly; but it was agreed to leave the scheduling question to Congress.

The accounts here in Chaos Manor are produced monthly, and they are models of 19th century American book-keeping (which is to say, 13th century Italian accounting). All Money is recorded without regard to whose name - human or corporate - is on the account, all assets are marked to the market or to the estimation of market price based on the most recent similar transactions, and all debts are booked at their full liabilities without any discounting. What is never calculated is a rate of return. All really, really, really small businesses (those that in good years earn their owners the equivalent of a GS-15, Step 10 base salary - roughly $2500 a week) are incorporated wallets. They have no access to credit other than credit cards and the asset prices of the businesses themselves cannot even be estimated because there are never any real comps. So, a rate of return calculation is meaningless. So are projections. There is no way to predict how often the phone will ring or an email will arrive with a customer order; and we certainly have no control over prices. All we can estimate about the future are costs. And the goal - every year - is find ways to make those go down by figuring out how to do the same thing better, cheaper, faster so we can follow John Wanamaker's example and waste at least half the money we spend on adding more and new things to our inventory of stuff to sell.





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