Think an economy yinning out of control must come yanging down to Earth? Convinced there is a limit to prosperity? Ready to bring your economic pessimism out of the closet and throw it at dot-com maniacs?
You and your bah-humbug attitude may just find your very own e-haven in TheGreatCrash.com, a site unabashedly hoping to make money off anti-prosperity nuts. The latest work of Zack Exley, an online provocateur of George W. Bush, TheGreatCrash.com appeared Jan. 1, just as the feared Y2K bug crawled quietly away without wreaking havoc and wrecking markets.
"You thought Y2K would be your moment of glory. Surely an 'I told you so!' was just around the corner," the site whines. But, no disaster, no glory. Still, you can hold out hope for a stock market crash that will make 1929 look like a trip to bountiful. If your mother disowned you after you convinced her to sell her portfolio and buy bonds in 1998, you might go for Exley's latest investment instrument: "The Great Crash Will Burst Your Bubble in 2000" T-shirt. It sells for $35.
"It's an investment," Exley, a Boston computer programmer, says reassuringly. "Thirty-five dollars may be a little inflated for a T-shirt, but nowhere as inflated as the stocks of all these Internet companies. It's nowhere near as stupid as the hundreds of Internet companies worth billions of dollars right now." Besides, as his site puts it: "In 20 years time, as we're clawing our way out of the second Great Depression, these items will be selling on eBay (whose stock price may finally be nearing its 2000 peak) for hundreds -- maybe even thousands -- of dollars."
The T-shirts come with a no-crash guarantee. If the stock market slinks its way through 2000 with the sky intact, Exley will send you a replacement shirt, predicting the crash in 2001, instead. But if you lose your shirt in a market tailspin, at least you'll have commemorative clothing. ("Crash" defined: The Dow or NASDAQ falls 60 percent from its peak and stays below 50 percent of its peak until the end of the year. But 50 percent is peanuts, the site warns; brace for a 90 percent drop.)
Exley says the TheGreatCrash.com is inspired by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith's book "The Great Crash," which chronicles a 1920s bubble based on inflated radio stock. "The parallels are so shocking," he says, but adds that few Net worshipers will listen. "All my friends roll their eyes when I talk to them about this."
But hey, if you can't beat 'em, enjoin them to help you make a profit. By investing a portion of the T-shirt revenues in the market, Exley figures he can keep the business afloat until the crash -- at which point he won't have to send out any more shirts. Exley says he's looking toward his own IPO down the road. "I'm seeking angel investors to help me arrange that This is the only business plan that will profit before, during and after the coming crash -- no matter when the crash comes."
The enterprising Web prankster also is selling products commemorating his online battle with Bush -- who filed a copyright suit and a Federal Elections Commission complaint against Exley, and called him a "garbageman" for posting gwbush.com, which now calls itself "The parody site that got W in such a huff!" He's got bumper stickers, like "GW Bush: Not a Crackhead Anymore!" or a T-shirt quoting Bush's attack on the site: "There Ought to Be Limits to Freedom."
As for his new endeavor, Exley sees TheGreatCrash as a great profit-maker. "I missed the boom on the way up; now I'm just trying to make the most of the trip back down," explains Exley, who plans to add an index of the 100 stupidest Internet stocks to the site. "Maybe I'll call it the iStupid 100," he says.