Monday, October 20, 2014

Follow the Scrip

Today's Amphibian.com comic represents the intersection of three very different issues. A trivium, if you will. That's the singular form of trivia. And trivia are 3-way intersections. Seriously, "trivia" is a place where three roads meet. It's Latin. Tri = 3, Via = road.

So what were these three things that came together in my mind and inspired me to create such a comic?

One was the recent surge in cryptocurrencies. It's like Bitcoin got some attention in the mainstream-ish media and then everybody was coming up with their own Whatevercoin. Litecoin. Dogecoin. Peercoin. Darkcoin. There's even Pandacoin. Why not Frogcoin? You get the idea. Everybody was making up coins. Maybe they felt like since they missed the boat on Bitcoin, they should start mining something else (or maybe everything else) just in case one of the others ends up being the winner. I guess it could happen. It happens with other things. For example, Google wasn't the first search engine, just the best. Sorry Bing.

The second thing was companies paying employees with debit cards instead of checks or direct deposit into checking accounts. It happened back in 2013 in a couple places and it really troubled me. Basically, workers were getting paid with those Visa pre-paid cards that you can use like credit cards to buy things. The problem was that there were sometimes fees associated with their use, and it can be tricky to spend 100% of those things. If you've ever had one you know what I mean. Workers were basically being cheated out of some money. The reasons that employers were doing this seemed a little shady. Some lawsuits were filed, and thankfully the government ruled that employers can't require you to get paid that way. They still have to give you the option of regular pay. I'm glad they did that, because I was concerned with the natural progression of the idea if it had been left unchecked.

And by progression, I mean regression. The third thing, which is tangential to the second, is the concept of company scrip. I thought, "what if Wal-Mart decided to pay its employees with Wal-Mart gift cards?" It seemed like a real possibility. Then I found out that it actually happened! At least in Mexico. Fortunately, the Mexican Supreme Court put a stop to it. But what if they try it someday in the United States? Then we'll be back in the days of the mining companies paying their employees in fake money that was only good at the company stores, which sold everything with huge mark-ups and kept the employees constantly indebted to the company. That practice ended many years ago, and I do not want to see it return. But wait, mining companies? That ties back to the cryptocurrency thing, since people "mine" for the coins! Whenever I find a loop like that, I know there has to be at least one comic I can make out of it.


Therefore, the end result of my ponderings on these issues was the comic in which frogs are working in a cryptocurrency mine and getting paid in a different and more obscure cryptocurrency which is only good in their company store. I'm fairly certain that Merle Travis would write a song about that exact scenario if he were still alive. It would probably be titled Sixteen Gigabytes.

Amphibian.com comic for 20 October 2014