Tom Paine, Viral Marketing Pioneer

Pamphlets from hand to hand were a mainspring of the American Revolution.

Who was Thomas Paine, the writer of Common Sense, a single pamphlet that changed the world, and The American Crisis, a series of pamphlets that widened his reach and influence still further?

He was also involved in the French Revolution. A serial revolutionary.

Using clear common language to reach the common man and woman. Using shortform media with pass-along capability. The act of passing was endorsement from a disinterested party: the most powerful form of advertising and/or propaganda and/or idea promulgation.

We consider our own media to be far ahead and yet no one has really used Digital to change the world for the better as profoundly as Tom Paine did, working with the other Founders. Perhaps there’s a clue.

Inspired by Paine, June 10, 1975 (back in the days when I was Wild Bill) found me in the back of a station wagon en route to Washington DC on a self-assigned mission to employ the Paine methodology within the highest ranks of our own government. In the car was a box of reports called “A Plan for America: Report to the President and Domestic Council”. The report’s author was listed as the Human Effectiveness Institute (then called something else).

No one had ever asked us to deliver such a report. (Hence, Wild Bill.)

Our plan was to pretend to be delivering a report that had to be distributed at the beginning of the meeting of the Domestic Council, which the news had reported would be convening that day in the White House to deep dive into domestic problems existing then (similar to the ones existing now) — budget problems, jobs, inflation.

In the back of the station wagon I sensed the spirit of Tom Paine. Guess he wanted us to know that he “got it”.

My friend RR was the sometimes-actor, sometimes-writer who would carry out the actual contacts with guards to get the report inside. His mood was cheerful and excited and he did not seem nervous at all. He was dressed as sort of a messenger except for his battle-scarred short leather jacket.

My colleague Ina was driving and was in similar high spirits. She made first contact at the gate of the White House, and was told that the meeting was going to take place at the Executive Office Building. She got directions and we headed to the new location.

At the Executive Office Building, RR had no trouble getting himself and the box inside and X-rayed. He was gone a long time while we waited in the car. It crossed my mind that perhaps they have arrested him and we’re next, though I did not mention this to Ina.

He came back in an obviously high mood and let us know, “I got into the room.” Turns out someone took the box from him once he was in the room with the President and other recognizable figures and ordered it distributed, whence it was slit open and a copy placed in front of each personage. Before he had to leave he saw that a couple of people had picked it up and flipped through it before the meeting started.

In the following weeks we received letters of thanks from President Ford, Mrs. Ford, Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale, George Wallace, Carl Albert, Senator Charles Percy, Birch Bayh, Donald Rumsfeld and many others. That was better than getting arrested.

What was in “A Plan for America” that generated gratitude letters?

While covering many areas, its focus was on developing the people resource.

This is still our recommendation today.

Our 300,000,000 Americans, if properly led and organized, could be the most powerful team the world has ever seen.

It is in all of our interest to think this way and to get to that “team” state.

We are not talking about submerging individuality but rather the exact opposite: developing the individual’s talents and innate desires in order to deliver the highest value, the highest social good and the highest ROI. Adding to the net value of the Universe.

In 1975, the first page of “A Plan for America” said:

There will be many Future Plans to discuss. Each Future Plan will be based on a particular way of stating our national purpose.

This Future Plan states our national purpose as follows:


This is the way to state our national purpose if the object is to inspire and unite the people behind a common goal they can see themselves participating in and enjoying.

This is the new promise we propose AMERICA make to each of her people:


This was the proposed platform for communicating the Plan to the people, and to other countries. It was also the driving and focusing idea for the specific mechanisms recommended later in the Plan. Developing people and plugging them in. A tweak on “pursuit of happiness”, a bit more methodologically specific.

Whereas “pursuit of happiness” as the summum bonum (highest Good) or ultimate goal describes a targeted end state, “developing people and plugging them in” describes a means to that end state.

Visions of what defines happiness are all over the lot — hedonistic, amorous, comfort-oriented, and especially security-oriented — and often after a moment’s reflection one realizes there is no meaning to life unless one is working at something one loves that is ultimately of some perceived value in the eyes of others. Our happiness depends on this as much as on the conditions listed above being met. Work, love and play must all be optimized, as echoed by the Qabala, Freud and Maslow among many others. Leave out the work and you will not be happy.

All of us can continue our life’s work until the very end. Here, I am using the word “work” interchangeably with “purpose” and “mission”. I’m not talking about the work you do for money but rather about the work you would be doing if you had your druthers. The system has not made it easy for most of us to get to our ideal work. This is the first thing to fix. Digital offers efficient means for massive movements to be set in motion in this regard. Governments have been slow on the uptake to use Digital for anything more than tax forms and getting elected. The whole bureaucracy could be shrunken and would perform better by leveraging Digital. At the same time, the people no longer needed for some government jobs need to be efficiently plugged in where they can do the most good for themselves and others. It is a people development and redistribution optimization equation.

Page 2 of “A Plan for America” described two scenarios side by side. In Scenario A, the June 10, 1975 meeting changes nothing — the Domestic Council is business as usual, unemployment and inflation worsen and drag on, other nations surpass us, we become insecure and thus even more concerned about security, and backbiting increases. In Scenario B, in the June 10 meeting the President and Domestic Council decide to announce a vision of the future based on the philosophy of the Founding Fathers (especially Jefferson), in which each American can see himself/herself playing a real part, beyond being a cog in the machine. The people become reinspired and they reunite behind the goal of developing themselves to their highest capacities. All of the specific issues are then approached and individually solved with knowledge of that overall goal in mind.

It appears that since 1975 we have been following Scenario A.

There is still plenty of time to shift to Scenario B.

Page 5 of the Plan looked like this: 

 A Plan for America U.S. budget

What we are saying is that government needs to efficiently come to an understanding of the highest performance that might come out of each individual on the huge American team. Without Digital the very thought would be laughable. With Digital it’s doable.

Then the education/training and in some cases resources the individual needs must somehow be delivered to him/her in a way that is economically sensible to everyone. This again is an equation.

The thing about taxes is that the current system is hugely labor intensive and invites cheating. Meanwhile far vaster pockets of wealth are sitting around nearly dormant, producing value only for the hoarder (earning interest) who clearly is the last person that needs it. Rich people have started coming to their senses and philanthropy has voluntarily increased. This is a trend that ought to continue. People with more money than they need should find sustainable ways to invest that money in people — starting with their fellow Americans. In the next few years I hope rich people come up with hundreds of ideas to invest in people in ways that make sound business sense. I would bet that every single one will involve Digital.

Just as a pebble in the pond, to get even better ideas started, here is one.


A Digital Destination in Virtual Reality

Scenario: a rich person or corporation or grant-giving organization — or a group of all these types — creates a new website similar to and Second Life — or in one of these virtual worlds. If you’ve been there you know: you choose an avatar to represent you, and then you go where you will, speak with whomever you like, and can buy and sell things using virtual money. (Neal Stephenson’s latest novel REAMDE is based on a cyberspace in which the virtual economies blend with the real economies of the world.)

Now picture (perhaps you have seen it) the TV series Shark Tank, in which investors decide whether or not to back entrepreneurs based on their business plans. Now translate that into virtual reality. What have we here? A way of test marketing business plans with virtual money.

The idea would be a process by which to organize and optimize — entertainingly! — the investing of billions of dollars into a new mutual fund called BEST PLANS. The fund invests across entrepreneurial opportunities that have scored high in virtual reality pretests — many people bought their product or service and stayed with it and the process was profitable in getting enough people to spend enough virtual money to pay the people doing the virtual jobs and still turn a tidy profit.

Just a for-example.

Again, readers of this blog are a hand-picked lot because of your minds. We have every confidence you can think of better ideas than this one to reoptimize the work we each do and the way we find our jobs and the ways of compensation so that the tweaked system is better than ever before. Why not let your daydreams drift in that direction and see what happens?

Thank you in advance for sharing your daydreams.

Best to all,