The False Promise of Future Gains

The Cynical Truth about What Really Drives Human Behavior

Monte Carlo by Julien REBOULET | CC BY-NC

Image: Monte Carlo by Julien REBOULET | CC BY-NC

When I was an intern at a major car manufacturer in southeastern Germany, I asked another intern colleague why he had decided to apply. The colleague held hopes the internship would land him a full-time job, because it came with a new company car once every two years. He had reasoned that, if he would not get a company car, he would end up spending most of his future savings to afford them anyway. He worked relentlessly to prove himself and even extended his unpaid internship by six months. He got the job. But to his shock, it came with a contractual provision that excluded the sought-after company car. He would ultimately spend several extra car-less years before finally earning that promotion.

My colleague fell for what I call the false promise of future gains. Once you fall for it, you keep on falling, because you invested too much to quit. It’s a most deceitful trap, promising people a false certainty that they will get ahead in life, and be “successful”, if only they show enough loyalty to someone else’s cause, put in their overtime, and without complaining, patiently wait for rewards to come — someday. More often than not, the reward never comes. 

No Free Lunch

Creative freelancers know what I’m talking about. A customer may ask you to work on “their idea” for free, but they’ll promise you more paid work in the future if you do the job well. They’ll promise to send more customers your way by dropping your name. In reality, that scheme hardly ever pays off.

Consider the following example. In high school, during math class, I sat next to a girl who knew early on she wanted to become an econometrician, someone who applies math and statistics to economic data. She had learned that recent university graduates in econometrics could land entry-level jobs handling “half a million” dollars of clients’ money. Obviously, the dollar signs in her own eyes had lured her into the industry. She loyally finished her studies and slaved away at crunching numbers for many years to come, but without ever getting close to earning such wealth herself. She, too, fell for the false promise of future gains.

The Carrot-and-Stick Approach

Generation after generation, people fall for this false-promise scheme, because society teaches children from a young age to think that way. In fact, ruling elites have long understood the scheme and made it their preferred tool of public governance. Falsely promising people “they can be rich too if they work hard and put their minds to it” works in the same manner as the carrot-and-stick approach does to motivate donkeys, but with one minor difference: donkeys rest when they’re tired.

Such learned behavior governs most of modern civilization. Besides ruining unfulfilled lives, the false-promise scheme has disastrous global implications, captured best by Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short, who explained in two sentences why the 2008 housing crash had happened: 

“A thought crossed his mind: How do you make poor people feel wealthy when wages are stagnant? You give them cheap loans.”

Managing Nations

Promising people cheap loans for homes they could never have afforded otherwise is a false promise. Most people still don’t understand they don’t actually own their mortgaged homes until they’ve paid them off in full. Until that time, the bank that supplied them a loan owns their home. Mortgages were designed for this purpose. The false promise of future gains isn’t just some quirky tool to rob a handful people, it’s the global financial system’s business model. 

Here’s how the false-promise scheme works to enslave entire nations of people:

  1. Apart from food and shelter, human beings have several innate needs, or real needs. These include the need to be with friends and family; to move and travel freely; and to spend time reflecting on their personal lives.
  2. Rather than fulfilling said real needs directly, public education enforces social taboos and accepted behaviors that fool people into thinking they need to get something else first
  3. This belief then pervades every aspect of life. Men supposedly need a luxury car to “get the girl”. Women need to show up in church every Sunday to be accepted by their community. Children need to do their chores before they can have time to themselves. And we all need to be law-abiding tax payers in order to earn our right to “live free”.
  4. Financial, clerical and governing elites and the likes thus sell their subordinated peoples a false promise of future gains, one that continuously benefits them at everyone else’s expense. They may call it “World Order”, but it really means your feudal slavery.

Fulfilling Our Real Needs

My intern colleague didn’t really need a new luxury car once every two years. He needed friends who respected him for he was. The girl from my high school math class didn’t really need to prove herself competently handling other people’s money. She needed the freedom to move and travel as she pleased. People don’t need cheap loans to buy material wealth they can’t afford. They need free time to ponder the meaning of their lives.

Increasingly, modern civilization has gotten in the way of fulfilling our real needs. While I believe an overwhelming majority of people will continue to fall for the false promise of future gains, informed individuals like yourself can learn to recognize it. By becoming more aware of our real needs, and the tricks governing elites play on us to deceive us, we can begin to appreciate more meaningful lives as independent, responsible people who don’t need to be told what to do.

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The False Promise of Future Gains by Mathijs Koenraadt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.