22 APRIL 2000, Page 27

Paper-rich, cash-skint

THERE is (or there was) a dot.com mil- lionaire who takes his socks home to be washed. Not just out of meanness, either. He is paper-rich but cash-skint. In theory, his business may be worth a lot of money but it is not making any. It has an idea and a website and several inquiries and one or two sales. To build it up until the sales turn into profits will take years, and will take money, too, and money is becoming more expensive. Interest rates are on their way up because inflation is, which goes to show that the new economy has not, after all, repealed the laws of economics. Its proponents maintained that it had made us and would make us so much more pro- ductive that we could run our economies (most of all, the American economy) flat out and never overheat them. Not so. Now, as the market has noticed, some of the dot.com wonders are going to run out of cash, which is the sure way for them to become paper-poor, too.