Have I Got a Deal for You

It's clear now that the hangover from our five-year tech-sector binge is not going to dissipate as quickly as many had hoped.

Its clear now that the hangover from our five-year tech-sector binge is not going to dissipate as quickly as many had hoped. What began a year ago as a simple nagging headache has grown into a painful systemic disorder that threatens to leave hundreds of thousands of people jobless as it ripples through other market sectors.

We need a cure. And since nothing the experts are prescribing seems to be working — but thanks for the rate cuts anyway, Mr. Greenspan! — I figure I might as well jump into the fray with Dr. Robs Tonic Blend for all the stuff what ails us. Whats in the mix? Glad you asked!

Hair of the dog. Anyone whos ever had a screwdriver or Bloody Mary for breakfast knows this doesnt work, because poison cant be an antidote for poison. But it sometimes makes a hangover more bearable, which is why Im impressed with AT&Ts multiple spin-offs strategy. Although the plan is extremely dangerous in a hung-over market, I suspect there actually is more inherent value in the company right now than its share price would suggest. Still, if it fails to purge AT&Ts toxins, expect C. Michael Armstrong to be hunted down by roving hit-squads of grandmas who invested cookie-jar savings in a long-distance company.

Put de lime in de coconut. This cure calls for a little of that dot-com voodoo that we do so well: a massive intravenous injection of over-financed startups that lure naive investors with youthful sugar plum visions sans business plans. Experience tells us they will all fail — but not before their unconscionable burn rates have primed the economic pump and accelerated our market metabolism. Sometimes known as the "Brooklyn Bridge and Tulips" cure.

Make the trains run on time.This ingredient assumes we can enjoy the economic efficiencies of the fascist ethos without having to suffer the sundry evils of Nazism. The idea would be to let Microsoft dictate all standards for all technologies for the next thousand years, eliminating much market chaos by simple decree. The danger, of course, is that Bill Gates would be unable to resist invading territories controlled by AOL Time Warner, thus touching off World War III. But hey! — would anyone really want to take sides in that match-up?

Pluck thine eye from thine head. In the Biblical spirit of amputating offending limbs and organs, this potion calls for digging up all our unlit fiber-optic cable from sea to shining sea, thus eliminating an offending glut. The glass fibers would be melted down and recast as prisms, which would be distributed to Wall Street analysts as a means of instructing them about those chromatic properties of light which enable us to divide the spectrum into millions of bandwidth-rich colors that create yet more gluts. The hope in this cure is that some shrewd analyst will figure out a way to monetize gluts.

Scare the bejesus out of people. Also known as "Y2K: The Sequel," this simple antidote throws the tech economy into high gear by posing a threat so dreadful that society will invest anything and everything to fend it off. Hackers have so far failed to invent a worm or virus this threatening, but who knows? Some members of Congress seem convinced .Net fills the apocalypse vacuum nicely.

Rest, exercise and a healthy diet. This is the toughest part of the potion, but in truth the only active ingredient. Also known as the Lou Gerstner cure, it requires a return to classic economics, sane business practices and calm, adroit management, a la the reinvented IBM. It means sucking up short-term pain to ensure long-term gain. It prohibits using the word "vision" to shill a business plan that everyone knows is really "my best guess." It shuns excess, ego, self-indulgence and a fast buck in favor of teamwork, moderation and patience.

Guess which part of my tonic is going to be the least popular.