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Should Economic Teachings Be Given For Free?

October 20, 2010

Do you think getting information for business should be free? I was in a discussion with a colleague who thinks so. We went on to debate on the most effective way to help people economically. He felt the conferences ( that I do should be free and I begged to differ. You see, I’ve done and still do free workshops and appearances nationally; I actually led an economic boycott in November 2009 that I personally funded. However, in my assessment, based on my experience, people value and care for what they pay for.

There are several reasons for admission fees. 1. It is a great screener of who is serious and who is not. 2. It ensures that resources are made available for the latest research. 3. It goes towards helping those coming behind who have the will but may “truly” need the free help.

What I have found is people who are doing well rarely care of the concerns of others. There are over 3 million Americans who earn $500 thousand or more annually, yet we only see a small fraction of them aiding others. That’s one observation. Another observation is the perceived “value” of the information can be misleading. Lastly, training persons how to become entrepreneurs includes one vital preparation; expect to pay for goods, services, and information (market data, customer profiles, sales forecast, technological advancements, etc.) I would be doing an aspiring entrepreneur a disservice by illustrating a false message to them, that they will be able to get information for free. It would actually be worse to not let them understand that successful entrepreneurship requires time, money and effort.

When people get stuff for free, no matter if this information can change their lives forever, they rarely value it. Then, those who are really trying to make an economic impact in their lives view free information as less effective. This is how Ivy Leagues schools justify enormous tuition fees; the level of their well-researched information. How many high school drop-outs come from private schools versus public schools? A paying parent will place more value in their child’s education.

I always felt that one of the worst things you can give to oppressed people is an influx of free goods and services. Eventually, their will transforms into entitlement.

So, my belief is “free” must be responsibly disseminated. It must come with moderation. It must not be reckless. That’s my argument. So what do you think? Do you think I am off base? I look forward to your comments.

Devin Robinson is a business and economics professor and author of Rebuilding in the Black Infrastructure: Making America a Colorless Nation, How to Become a Successful Beauty Supply Owner and Blacks: From the Plantation to the Prison.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Kathy permalink
    October 21, 2010 2:42 pm

    I agree with you Devin. People who are really serious about business are willing to put in as much time as possible to be successful. They also are aware that it cost to be successful. Knowledge is power. Everyone is getting paid for their knowledge why shouldn’t you charge for your services.

  2. Terry W. permalink
    October 21, 2010 3:36 pm

    I have to say that I agree with you as well Devin. Free is not always good even in THESE times. You put it best yourself when you said “people value and care for what they pay for”. I believe that is very true. Most people should already know that it takes money to make money. Period.

  3. Nicole permalink
    October 21, 2010 3:50 pm

    I think this goes back to your book Devin as to why our own infrastructure (Black Infrastructure) lapse because in order to “support” and grow our infrastructure we need to put out green. Our economy is built by the circulation of the green, infrastructures are stronger when more green circulates. In order for you too keep your business going and get the workshops going and your books printed and to instill what needs to be done. Why shouldn’t you have a fee set? Everything you do can’t be for free. This shouldn’t be up for debate. You are running a business. I believe also that people will value their teachings when they pay for it. The free teachings come, in my opinion, when you take that paid teaching and do something with it, then along the way as you meet other people the “free” advice, tips, and even lectures at times will come as you grow as an individual.

  4. October 21, 2010 4:35 pm

    I work with and live around a lot of people who are given much. I am a firm believer in teaching a man to fish so that he or she can eat for a life time. By teaching them to fish they will be empowered to teach their children to fish, so that their children will be able to feed themselves for a life time.

    When you give to much you create weak people. I know a lady that has received
    ” free help” for over 30 years, she is healthy and intelligent. She has never had a job in her life and she is not required to do anything to improve her situation. We teach what we know – so- she taught her children to depend on the system. I do believe that there are people who want to do better, but do not have the means; that group deserves a free helping hand. I am of the mind “help me to help myself.” I offer people free help everyday to teach them how to become independent and they turn me down. Why should they learn to become independent when they can live for free?

    Lucille Tyler Baldwin
    Author of “Sick and Tired of Being Broke”

  5. Val permalink
    October 21, 2010 5:31 pm

    Devin, you keep up the good work; money is not everything but, still we can’t do without it. If there is someone out there that wants to do what you do, and don’t charge for it, then more power to them.

  6. Rich Waugh permalink
    October 21, 2010 5:38 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with your position, Devon. Free knowledge is like a facial tissue – used casually and then discarded. Knowledge acquired at a cost, either economic or effort is, to continue the analogy, more like the fine linen handkerchief that you use and then carefully put away for future use.

    I am constantly bombarded by emails from people who want me to share, for free, the information and knowledge I’ve spent over six decades acquiring. Acquiring, mind you, by dint of hard work, investing in education and years of practical application of the knowledge. I share most , if not all, of this knowledge, on a few select internet forums devoted to the subject matter (metalsmithing). And yet people still expect me to answer email questions.

    Frankly, answering emails takes considerable time and energy – time and energy that I have already expended on forum questions posted in a venue where tens of thousands of people can share in the knowledge that I share. Why should I repeat those efforts for the benefit of only one person? It makes no sense at all. Therefore, I refer these email seekers to the forums where they can do a simple search for the answers they seek. This seems perfectly reasonable to me, but too often the response I get is, “”why can’t you just tell me?” The answer is simple: if you are not willing to do a bit of research to find the answers you need then you obviously don’t want them badly enough to take my time to provide them. The seeker simply *must* become a stakeholder in the process of learning if the knowledge is going to do you any long-term good.

    Knowledge is power. Power comes at a price and with a responsibility to use it wisely. Pay the price, gain the power and put it to use. That shouldn’t be hard to understand.

    Rich Waugh

  7. Bob permalink
    October 22, 2010 1:06 am

    Devin, you are right on track with you balanced use of the principles of selling and giving. Your wisdom and compassion are refreshing in todays world. Keep up the
    good work.

  8. Duane permalink
    October 22, 2010 1:40 am

    Nothing worth having comes without cost.

  9. October 22, 2010 4:24 am

    Well, only sometime should it be FREE!
    See that’s another problem, Always looking for FREE is not GOOD. Why? because if you really want the knowledge to learn something and really make a different. A reasonable fee to learn it’s worth it. What is wrong with paying someone for their time to help you? Time is Precious, and Think about it, you only LIVE once. NO, the ones that is always looking for FREE is A Waste of Your Precious TIME. Mr. Robinson do your thing and make it Worth their DREAM!!!

  10. Wanda permalink
    October 24, 2010 8:49 pm

    Devin, you are exactly right!! When people are willing to pay a price for the information they receive they pay attention. Anywhere I put/give my money I pay attention to what’s going on, that means church, charities and information to help me improve my life. I look at it like this: I don’t mind paying for the information because it saves me time, a lot of research and effort. I can pay a fee (large or small) and take the information and act upon it.

    I recently purchased your information on How to Become a successful beauty Supply Store Owner. It was absolutely amazing I could not believe what I was reading, yet now it all made sense to me. About 1o years ago I was in a Beauty supply store and I asked the gentleman behind the counter what did he have to do to open his store. His reply was very vague, so I continued to press for more answers and he could not refuse since I was making a large purchase. I asked if he needed to be a licensed beautician? or attend some type of beauty curriculum that I was unaware of? Finally he gave me an answer, he replied, yes I had to attend school for many years and also obtain a beauty license. His answers made the path that I must travel to open a store seem harder than getting a new law passed with Congress. Now in your book I find out in the first 10-15 pages that this is not true, infact far from the truth. (and NO I was not paid to say this I have never met the professor in person and this is my first time replying to his site).
    Keep up the great work!!!

  11. Laura permalink
    October 26, 2010 8:11 pm

    If I give it to you for free what is the value to you or what will you do with it? I have read the comments and must say that I agree with most of them. Without the information researched by Professor Robinson, I would be still searching for information on how to open a beauty supply store. He has given us answers and short cuts that normally require a considerable amount to time and research. When a person is serious about doing something, they will be willing to work harder and sacrifice more to enjoy the end results. I think then and only then will they appreciate free when it is extended to them. Free is a nice treat when it is not abused!

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