Financial Wisdom

The Ethics of Automated Income

There is a new trend that has developed over the last ten years or so with the rise of the internet. A select group of people who call themselves entrepreneurs have silently crept into the reaches of cyberspace and found ways of making livable (And then some) sources of income over the net in an entirely automated fashion. This is both a wonderful and terrible thing for anyone who is concerned about money and ethics. Some of these business ventures are potentially helpful to people, and society as a whole. Others are simply constructed for the sole purpose of making money, and these can be argued are less than ethical.

Let’s take a look at two different scenarios to highlight what I mean.


Jacob is passionate about photography. He takes images of weddings, dogs, nature, babies. and sometimes all four at once. For years he did this as his own business, but soon discovered the wonderful world of stock photography. He began Photoshopping his images and putting them on iStock Photo for anyone to use at a fee. Whenever people downloaded one of his images, he would make a small sum of money.

The day came when Jacob had so many popular images online that he no longer had to do photography for hire: his images were selling well enough that he could simply take new pictures on his own time, sell them on iStock, and sit back and relax. Jacob had created an automated source of income for himself. He still stayed in business so that he could have more images for his iStock account and because he enjoyed what he did, but he was no longer as worried about getting photography gigs.


Sick of his 9 to 5 accounting job, Ebeneezer created a website template that linked to thousands of various blogs and news syndicates because he had heard it was possible to make money this way.  His web page was nothing but news and articles from other blogs that he had taken as his own (copied and pasted) with some advertising on the side. After a few failed attempts of making only a few pennies per day, he realized that he could simply duplicate his effort.  If he was making 8 cents per day on his site, he knew if he had 1000 sites could watch the dollars roll in.

Ebeneezer now owns thousands of website URLs and is making $7,000 per month from all of his “spam blogs” or “splogs.” These blogs are not anything he has written, but are rather re-filtered content that other people have created and are endlessly copied and linked to for the sole purpose of making money. Ebeneezer is a professional spammer.

The Automated Income Matrix

I am surprised and often appalled by the number of books, blogs, websites, and guide written about how to make tons of money online through automated systems, but that none of these sources ever mentions ethics. So you are creating money for yourself and you can live a nicer life with more things.  So you have a new Ferrari in the front yard and you don’t have to work. Wonderful. Good for you. You should remember that the money you have filtered into your inbox every day had to come from somewhere. Someone else worked for it and you took a share of it without giving anything of value back.

One thing I’ve mentioned over and over in this blog is that it is VERY important for human beings to have purpose. We all need it. Without purpose we become depressed, useless, and no good to our fellow man in any capacity. Purpose is a two-way street, because it serves others (and hopefully makes the world a better place) and also makes us feel useful and talented. Putting up thousands of splogs, selling junk online, and scamming people does none of these things.

If you are putting something of value in the world (like Jacob in the above example) AND making automated income from your work, then congratulations! You are living passionately and earning a healthy living along with your efforts. You are probably a happy person. This should be the end goal of everyone who makes automated income – to put something out that people will get benefit from, and to help society in some form.

The Ebeneezers of the world are not giving anything to society except for clogged internet arteries. I am truly saddened that none of the sources of information about making money on the internet do not talk about the human side of things. Have we been reduced to purposeless, selfish machines who just want to make more money, live in our bubbles, drive our nice cars and not care about each other? Who are we anyway?


1 Comment

  • Annette July 5, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    I think the whole idea of spam is terrible. Unfortunately, spam is everywhere, in every single form of communication. I worked a temp assignment for an office and half of my job involved me getting rid of spam. I can’t tell you how many spam calls I received trying to sell something to my company. The poor people on the other end were so persistent, desperate even. I had to waste my time informing them I could not give them such information or transferring them to a voicemail so they could leave more spam for someone else.

    Then I had to collect the mail. I would sort through it putting each item into the proper slot, but then there were tons of magazines, ads, faxes, postcards, ect trying to sell something. So much paper wasted! So much thrown away. Lastly I had to constantly monitor how much junk mail was entering our email. I can tell you now that my time was being wasted.

    This whole process of spamming is a waste. I thought this entry brought up a good point about ethics and how most spam provides no good to society. It’s just something else to burden our lives.


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