Fittingly, my encounter with Amway began during a long-term temp assignment at Andersen Consulting’s ENTERPRISE 2020 project, an ongoing exhibit to which consultants would bring potential clients to scare them about the future. The main attraction was a battery of “industry experts” who produced customized nightmare scenarios to help manufacturing executives from across the globe see the Third Wave coming at them. The experts would discourse gravely about globalization, accelerating technology, managed chaos, self-organizing supply chains, flex-this, flex-that, and nano-everything, eventually arriving at the message of this elaborate sideshow: The future is not to be faced without an Andersen consultant on retainer.
When I was ten, my parents bought a house for $200,000. My dad had been running his advertising agency out of the spare bedroom of our house on Twelfth Avenue, and when he hired his third employee, he set up a desk in my bedroom for the graphic artist to work at while I was at school. Then a neighbor called the city about all the cars parked on the street, and my parents cracked a plan to move into a bigger house and bring the agency into the new house with us. By that time, though, business had gone gangbusters, so it turned out that moving the company into the new house wasn’t necessary, after all – my dad rented an office, instead. The new house was entirely ours.
Though they aren’t quite as large or wealthy as the DeVoses, the Prince family—even further west, in Holland, Michigan—shares one big trait in common with their in-laws: the idea that patriotism and politics are inseparable from Christianity. Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, Betsy’s mother, donated $75,000 to the successful 2004 ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage in Michigan; four years later, she gave $450,000 to an identical initiative in California. Betsy’s brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater, the military contractor that gained notoriety in 2007, when its employees fired into a crowd of Iraqi civilians, killing 17. (In 2009, two former Blackwater employees alleged in federal court that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader.”)
These businesses sell the hope of getting rich by recruiting recruiters to sell overpriced products that don't move in real markets. The products of any MLM have to be extremely cheap to manufacture and must retail at inflated, unrealistic prices because in effect, the products are simply used to move money into the pyramid scheme. Just remember that there are several hundred MLMs in existence in 2014 and all of them are scams.
Their vertically integrated supply chain is one of longest in the industry. In addition to running plants, they own organic farms. They have farms in Brazil, Mexico, and the state of Washington where they grow and harvest key botanical ingredients like echinacea, spinach, alfalfa, watercress, and cherries. They then take those products and manufacture intermediates. Cherries, for example, are processed for Vitamin C. These intermediates they both use in their own products and sell to other companies.
But there is one thing that we need to understand here. Like in an MLM scheme which is a Ponzi scheme, the business that an Amway distributor does, depends on finding new distributors and then hoping that these new distributors sell Amway products and at the same time are able to appoint newer distributors. If a distributor is successful at this he makes more and more money. The trouble is that we go along it becomes more difficult to appoint new distributors. Lets try and understand this through an example. Lets say the first distributor that a genuine MLM company appoints, in turn appoints five distributors.
The return to the upper levels comes from creating new levels rather than the sale of the product. The wealth gained by participants at the higher levels is the wealth lost by participants at lower levels. So these MLM schemes are essentially Ponzi schemes where money being brought in by newer distributors is paid off to older distributors. There is no legitimate business activity going on.
After graduating from high school in 1975, Betsy enrolled at Calvin College, her mother’s alma mater. Calvin’s mission, as stated in the 1975–1976 course catalog, was “to prepare students to live productive lives of faith to the glory of God in contemporary society—not merely lives that have a place for religion … but lives which in every part, in every manifestation, in their very essence, are Christian.”
There is a good possibility that this point would not have any impact on you, but for me it is a negative aspect. In the training, you will be taught to make a list of friends, family and acquaintances and yes, you guessed correctly – you will have to call them and get them to buy or join your business. I absolutely hate to drag my friends or family into buying something, they will buy, because they love me, but I don’t want to put them in that situation because that’s not what friends and family are for – I might be wrong, and this is merely my opinion.
In 2002, the first election of GLEP’s existence, its PAC had more money than the Michigan Education Association, United Auto Workers, or any Democratic-affiliated PAC in the state. And if they lacked the influence and statewide presence of those groups, it was only a matter of time. “They take a very long-term view,” says Matuzak. “If you pick up a few new Republican legislators every two years, and throw a fair amount of money at legislators who are already there, you can create coalitions of folks who can tackle what seem to be impossibly large issues.”
2. Amway is notably owned by author and owner of Orlando Magic basketball team Rich Devos and Chairman of US Chamber of Commerce, Steve Van Andel. Pretty sure the government would not have the owner of an illegal pyramid scheme as their Chairman and could definitely find Mr Devos Courtside at a game to arrest him for his 11 billion dollar illegal business.
The family is also heavily invested in right-wing politics, earning comparisons to the Kochs for the enthusiasm with which they back Republican candidates like Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio, and their sizable donations to ultraconservative organizations like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, both of which promote Christian value-based public policy such as anti-abortion legislation and bans on same-sex marriage. In 2014, the DeVoses donated in the six figures to Michigan-based conservative think tanks including the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which promotes free market economics within a Christian framework, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, also a supporter of free market economics. Elsewhere, conservative organizations that received DeVos funding of over a million dollars each include the American Enterprise Institute, another free market think tank; the Alliance Defending Freedom, the right’s preeminent legal defense fund; and the Heritage Foundation, which promotes free market economics and ‘traditional American values.’
We don't want to use the word "cult" lightly -- it's not like you'll get six meetings into Amway and find out it's all being done in service to the invisible space lizard Quixtar. But you've probably heard how groups like Scientology make their millions -- new members are roped in and told that the road to enlightenment runs through some very expensive course materials. Well, new Amway members ("distributors") are constantly promised there's a rocketship to success waiting just on the other side of the next $250 seminar. And then they're assured that those seminars are nothing without a $40 package of tapes and books to accompany them.
Even so, among the DeVoses’ skeptics, there are those who strike a hopeful, if cautious, tone. “I think Mrs. DeVos could potentially be a really good secretary of education if she allowed parents and school districts to make policy at the local level,” says Daniel Quinn, executive director of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, a nonprofit that receives a portion of its funding from the National Education Association. “But at the same time, I’m concerned.”