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Meme Update #12

In this issue: 
    Profit Viruses



[From Rita Rudner's Facts about Men]

Men like to barbecue. Men will cook if danger is involved.


Seems like you can't open you email inbox without getting some junk mail about one or another "business opportunity." Now it's getting so you can't open the daily paper without hearing about them too. What's going on? As I predicted in my book VIRUS OF THE MIND, "profit viruses" such as Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) or Network Marketing businesses are becoming more and more prevalent. I almost said "Popular," but that would imply that it was the populace doing the choosing rather than the mind viruses doing the infecting.

A profit virus is an example of a self-replicating business strategy, one of the topics I enjoy speaking about when I'm invited to do keynote presentations to businesses and conventions. In fact, in my speech "Five Self-Replicating Business Strategies for the Next Millennium," I challenge business owners and executives to select WHICH self-replicating strategy they are going to use to stay in business -- WHICH, not IF. Because businesses that don't use them are going to go the way of mom-and-pop grocery stores, which is a fond memory.

Profit viruses work by making "enrollment" -- signing up new members -- an important meme in the minds of their recruits. What makes profit viruses distinct from cults and other cultural organisms that use the enrollment meme is that the hope of profit is what keeps people enrolling. In a cult, people may be induced to enroll because it spreads goodwill, follows the word of God, and so on. In a profit virus, people enroll because it creates a "downline" for them that generates income.

One of the first and biggest MLMs, Amway Corp., recently made news for successfully lobbying Congress for a $283 million tax break in the new budget. Records show that the company and its executives contributed at least $4 million to the Republican Party over the last four years. What a return on investment! But that's not the scary part or the new part. Political payoffs for campaign contributions are hardly a novelty.

No, what's novel about Amway's political influence is that the virus has spread into Congress itself. Four Members of Congress are in fact Amway distributors: Jon Christensen (R-Nebr.), John Ensign (R-Nev.), Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), and Richard Pombo (R-Calif.).

A recent article by syndicated columnist Molly Ivins muses about what exactly Amway is. The FTC says it's not a pyramid scheme (it isn't). She says it's rather cult-like (see "Amway: Cult of Free Enterprise" in the Memetics Bookstore, ). What is it? Well, Molly -- it's a virus of the mind. Get used to them...more are on the way.


Some email readers had trouble following the link to John Stoner's Generosity Virus because I added a period at the end of the link. Here it is again, without the period: