COCONUT CREEK, FL - DECEMBER 17: A dealer works the blackjack table during the grand opening of the newest building at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek on December 17, 2010 in Coconut Creek, Florida. The site offers up an additional 400-plus gaming positions, a new restaurant and a new venue with more space to gamble, dine and party. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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Famous showman and circus promoter, P.T. Barnum, once supposedly remarked, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Actually a man named David Hannum most likely spoke the phrase in criticism of Barnum. He was referring to the fact that some people are easily taken advantage of and that there are enough such people that Barnum could make a nice living preying on them.

All of us have walked carnival midways and seen the games where for about $10-$15 dollars of effort you can win a stuffed animal made in China worth about .14¢. Why do we do these things? Why do some of us think rationally and logically and others seem to be easily taken in?

We Take Chances

Each week I buy a lottery ticket. I’ve actually won about $300 twice. I know my chances of winning the big national prizes are pretty slim.

I probably have a better chance of being stuck by lightening while being attacked by a grizzly bear. But I still plunk down my buck and wonder, “What if…”

The loss of a couple bucks won’t kill me so the pain of losing is somehow justified in my mind that what if this is the week I win? If I don’t play will I upset the universe’s plan for me? I think the universe plans to keep me right where I am.

Where Does Greed Fit In?

Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Indian casinos across the land are more than happy to help you dump your hard earned money into slot machines or place your bets playing craps.

We want that big reward, that big payday. For some it becomes an addiction. That big score is just one roll of the dice away. One pull of the lever and life will change.

Many wealthy people shelled out big bucks to Bernie Madoff, the shyster investment guru. Madoff took money from new investors and paid above average returns to old customers. As long as new money kept coming in those payouts work but when the money stops so does the inflated interest payments. The greed of continuing high returns  kept investors from questioning why Madoff was doing what no one else could do.?

Madoff, who is in his mid 70s, is serving, what for him, will probably be a life sentence.

“I Want That!”

Some of us have ordered things we saw on late night TV and found to our dismay that the item didn’t even come close to working like it had on the infomercial. Yet, even thought it was offered with a money back guarantee, we are often too ashamed to go any further. We were taken, we know it, lesson learned, move on. Until the next time we see the next amazing product.

Our lives suck so there are plenty of people who are more than happy to make it all better with their real estate course, memory system, weight loss program, or shop at home products. We line up to make the pain go away.

Some Final Thoughts

Some might say this is the bad side of capitalism. Selling stuff that just skirts the line of being legitimate. Many of us would have a hard time justifying bilking the poor or uninformed out of what meager income they have.

As long as you can be convinced that your pain can be eliminated or your life made better with a product or service P.T. Barnum will be right on.

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