- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2001

The dot-comer spent generously. Why not? He was living in a sacred place. He had figured how to wean something from nothing.
He knew something about the new economy it was now safe to build without a foundation. The dot-comer pounced on that handy bit of knowledge. He mortgaged his home, his childrens future, and his familys savings on the new economy. It did not matter. The economy swelled with health.
Hadnt the Internet commercials, after all, promised a revolution? What was that characters name from the Ameritrade commercials? You know? The hyper-kinetic, slacker with orange-dyed hair who was given a free pass by society because he had learned how to trade effectively online. He was the voice of a new generation. He carried the promise of liberation and riches so ripe for the plucking that even a red-haired slacker could stumble into them. For a generation of Stuarts, tech stocks and the new economy carried the promise of redemption.
At first, the new economy was a gift. Then, came the longing for more and more. The line between need and greed became blurred, and then obscured altogether by the red light flashes going off in their heads: need more tech stocks. How did they pay for their stocks? Family members were often too shy to ask. Late at night, attached to his hardware, the dot-comer funneled his life savings into inflated stocks, with the hope of nourishing some elephantine greed, some spiritual anxiety.
Then one day, the world tilted on its axis, the market crashed, and the dot-com messiahs suddenly descended. They rubbed their eyes but the vision remained: 4.5 trillion in market losses; the major indexes all showing double-digit losses.
Once, not long ago, a chow line of hip, young tech firms fattened themselves on dreams of public offerings and taking over the world. Now their chief ambition was merely to stay afloat.
Many individual investors arent so fortunate: "I have not paid attention to what my husband has been doing in our account. We have lost close to everything," said one Charles Schwab account holder in an article reported by The Washington Times. She also said that their marriage seemed to be cracking up under the pressure of their financial free fall.
Of course, greed remains the engine of our economy. As even those stodgy old Wall Street types (who are quickly reclaiming their position as the countrys chief economic geographers) can tell you, there remains a need to stay tied into the economy through investments.
Still, the rapid rise and fall of the dot-comers remains instructive: One does not often form sustainable economic-social movements on the promise of getting something for nothing.
The other chief lesson resides in a question many dot-comers have been forced to ask of late: If you place your passion in beauty, what happens when beauty vanishes? If you spin your life around objects, what happens when these objects crumble? If you place your faith in a loved one, what happens when that loved one dies? It is only when we place our love in God that we create for ourselves an immutable foundation.

Armstrong Williams is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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