Two Bit Hack: Part 4

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Expanding Economies

One of the biggest problems faced in a closed economy is a lack of resources upon which to grow the economy. Such was the case inside Asylumland.

Trading partners were out of the question. A certain amount of smuggling went on but because our currency had no value outside the asylum walls even the most corrupt employees and family members of those inside the institution had no real interest in any serious dealings in contraband.

Another problem, one that governments everywhere face, is the understanding that anything beyond infrastructure and needs is in effect, grift and graft. Of course, in Asylumland where infrastructure and basic needs were taken care of by the institution that kept us prisoners inside the stone walls, everything government did was grift and graft. And like grift and graft everywhere, Asylumland's grift and graft was a strain on the economy no matter how hard people worked to get ahead.

One especially industrious young woman named Sara, started a flower shop of sorts. Sara picked flowers from the gardens outside, arranged them and delivered them to the rooms of patients who were physically unable to go outside. How they got the money to pay her I'd rather not say. Let's just say they weren't doing anything that wasn't going on before Billy Bucks were introduced, only now they were getting paid for it. A pittance, but paid just the same.

Of course there were no vases for her floral arrangements so she had to buy plastic drinking glasses that were smuggled out of the cafeteria by some of the other patients. And the knife she used to cut the flowers had once been a spoon that had been smuggled out of the cafeteria, ground into a shiv against the brick walls and then sold to her.

A few were artisticly inclined and attempted to sell their paintings to others to hang in their rooms but despite the fact that some of the work was quite good the arts rarely do well in down economies. Even on the outside, art as an economic driver has never worked and remains an economic indicator.

One young man started a used book store buying up every copy of every used book he could get his hands on then reselling them. Like the flower shop, profits were low but without the actual need to support ourselves high profit margins weren't a real necessity. All anyone wanted was a few luxuries. Of course lots of things that might be considered necessities on the outside were luxuries in Asylumland. A peanut butter cracker or a bottle of hair conditioner are luxuries when nobody has them. And popcorn or potato chips might as well have been gold.

There was an attempt to start a brewery making very small batches of wine from flowers and berries that grew near the walls but the resulting swill tasted horrid and smelled so badly it attracted the attention of nurses and orderlies who quickly carried away the glasses of fermenting, or should I say, rotting, liquids.

Everything got smuggled. When we went out to collect the eggs and vegetables a few were always stuffed in pockets to be sold later for snacks or to those who were sent away from the cafeteria without a meal for failing to behave precisely as they should. There was little doubt this was a privately run institution as they used every excuse possible not to take care of the patients most basic needs. A few dozen missed meals each week would result in substantial savings in the cost of feeding inmates. Even we loons had that much figured out.

Eventually everything had a price to it. The rarer it was on the inside the more likely it would become valuable no matter how cheaply it could be had on the outside. A single Billy Buck could buy you a good time with the best looking woman in the place but a pack of chewing gum might go for a hundred bucks. More if you were buying it from Thor who would without a doubt pinch a stick for taxes before selling it to you at the highest exchange in our tiny nation.

Another business that did fairly well was a used clothing store. Often, when inmates left they would leave things behind. This was a source of inventory for several of the enterprises that went on there. Of course even in the best of times everything was in short supply. Everything except human capital. There was always more than enough human capital in every market except one.

Others tried to start businesses on the inside but mostly all that went on was hustling and the occasional selling of a few drugs someone else had decided not to take. It was because of the lack of resources that The Brain convinced Thor that all trading of human flesh-- the largest commodity to which Asylumland had access-- would be forever controlled, regulated and taxed by the state.

Suddenly, with no intention of doing so, I found myself both prostitute and pimp.

Continue Reading Part 5: Big Fish