Why don't we ever see this headline: "One Million People Successfully, Honestly Traded Items on eBay Yesterday"?
Sorry, it's not a story, I guess. Should be. Would be, if our human nature -- which I suppose the newspapers reflect back at us? -- were a better thing. We're too willing to accentuate the negative by allowing it to tantalize us with its deviant headlines. One fraud on eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) gets a headline; a million auctions, by contrast, go unappreciated, unreported upon.
Every day, the basic honesty and decency of most of us is affirmed and indeed asserted by eBay and the very foundation of its business model. In fact, the same thing happens here at Fool.com, where we work together on our discussion boards to help each other make better decisions about how to get out of debt, how to save $500 buying our next car, how to find a good broker, how to locate a stock that might whomp the market averages.
Trust is alive and tangible and meaningful in our society; it's at the heart of almost everything we do. We are implicitly trusting each other as our cars whiz past on a two-lane country road: You're not going to veer into me, and I'm not going to veer into you. A quiet, mutual whoosh on a blue-sky country day is also not the stuff of headlines. But fortunately it does sit squarely in our subconsciousness as we go about our daily lives. We live in a world of unspoken mutual promises. Really, we couldn't live otherwise.
An investment in a company like eBay, or starting a company like The Motley Fool, are natural and organic choices for me. I know some people who would never dare use eBay; they don't believe the other person would deliver the auctioned good, or they don't want to give their credit cards out online. To transact over eBay in the first place is a Rule Breaking action for them. But to invest in it with your own earned money? To stake part of your financial independence on the notion that something like this could work, and on a mass scale? And yet that's why I've written this column: to extol the virtues of doing so. Presumably that's why you've clicked in to read. Something unconventional, something Foolish. Because like so many things Rule Breaking, trust just seems too risky and unconventional these days. Doesn't it?
The media's constant focus on what went wrong today causes many of us to believe we live a threatened existence in a violent, gun-ridden world with unsafe streets. The Crime Canine says lock your doors, or else. In no way do I mean to minimize or, worse, ignore the sometime horrors of life -- but at the same time, how about some perspective here, dear Fools?
Did you know that last August the Justice Department reported that for the 10th consecutive year we saw a decline in violent crime in the United States? The year-over-year drop was another 10%, double digits. More, our level of violent crime was in fact the lowest since we began tabulating those numbers back in 1973. Shout that to the rooftops! Yet it's hard to even hear at all, harder to maintain, this true perspective amid the constant daily reporting of robberies, shootings, and other assorted miseries.
"One Million People Successfully, Honestly Traded Items over eBay Yesterday." A news story you may never see. That's why I'm saying it here. Because that truth is in many ways more real, more significant, and a bigger story than whatever your local Action News Team has cooked up for its Eye at Five.
Is my headline too drab? I guess so. After all, anyone else could just as easily print the same headline tomorrow, because tomorrow it'll be equally true. Equally true! Whether you're an investor or merely a stressed-out, anxious, gun-shy citizen of this free republic... isn't that the more important point?