Software for the finest computer – The Mind


Posted by Tim Bryce on March 6, 2015


– What the “Flim Flam Man” teaches us.

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I recently happened to see the cult classic, “The Flim Flam Man,” a favorite of mine produced back in 1967. The movie features George C. Scott as Mordecai C. Jones, a notorious con man from the South. He meets up with Curley Treadaway, played by Michael Sarrazin (his first movie), who has gone AWOL from the Army and is being sought by the Military Police. The two form a partnership with Mordecai playing the role of teacher to Curley as a willing young student. They drift through the South conning people in various games of chance and swindles. It’s an enjoyable comedy which I highly recommend.

At first, Curley is unaware of the identity of Mordecai, but after pulling a few scams he realizes he is working with the famed, “Flim Flam Man,” whom he had heard about since his days as a youth. This impresses Curley who becomes fascinated with his partner. Throughout their travels, Curley asks Mordecai as to how and why he chose this line of work.

Mordecai: “Greed is my line lad, greed. 14K ignorance, will never let you down.”

Curley: “I don’t hold with cheating Mr. Jones.”

Mordecai: “Only the cheaters. You can’t cheat an ‘honest man.'”

This is an important premise; an honest man cannot be cheated simply because he resists temptation, but a cheater cannot resist. It is like the old proverb, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” From this perspective, Mordecai’s conscious is clear and he holds no regrets knowing it is impossible to cheat an honest man. He also recognizes greed is an inherent part of temptation, as he explains to Curley:

Mordecai: “One day it come to me. If everybody so determined to be greedy and being ignorant, maybe what they need is a little old liberalized education. So, in order to teach them, I qualified myself with an honorary degree: Mordecai Jones, MBSCSDD.”

Curley: What does all that mean?

Mordecai: “Master of Back Stabbing, Cork Screwing, and Dirty Dealing” (laughs). “Ours is a society of goods and services, and I think I’m performing a service. Cause after meeting up with me, maybe they ain’t so eager for the edge next time. Son, you would be amazed at the hundreds of satisfied students I have matriculated over the last fifty years” (laughs).

From this perspective, Mordecai is correct, he is providing an important lesson to the people he cons, something they won’t likely forget. After being stung by this southern scalawag they may become angry at first, but will be less likely to be tempted a second time. In short, greed and ignorance are Mordecai’s tools, without them he would not have a profession, but since there is still plenty in supply we will likely have Flim Flam men for time immemorial.

Towards the end of the movie, the two are captured by the police who imprison them pending trial. To escape, Curley calls upon the lessons he has learned from Mordecai and devises one last con job. I do not want to spoil the ending for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, but let’s just say Curley learned his lessons well.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  METHODOLOGY DESIGN 101 – “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”

LAST TIME:  CONQUERING YOUR MATH  – You can run from math, but you certainly cannot avoid it.

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  1. Tim Bryce said

    A P.E. of Detroit, Michigan wrote…

    “This was one of my favorites “back in the day” too! Great movie…wouldn’t have minded a “spoiler” re the end though. Time has erased it from my mind.”


  2. said

    A GREAT MOVIE I will watch any time it’s on; and still VERY apropos today.


  3. Tim, I was all set to take you to task for rather a callous attitude vis-a-vis the ‘greed’ part of your equation (“What about those who rip off the elderly?”) and to observe that there is very little greed involved in many instances of cheating. On reflection though, I’ll have to apply the same definition of greed that I did in explaining the market to students to say that, if there’s any ‘expectation of unmerited gain’ in a potential transaction, then the term applies. It’s just another way of saying “If the deal seems too good to be true…,” isn’t it?

    It’s a necessary truth, in voluntary transactions, that perception of value runs the gamut from each side seeing a small, marginal advantage, all the way to one party believing that there’s a hugely lopsided disparity in the cost-benefit equation…i.e. that the other party is a “sucker” for offering the trade. It’s the manipulation of this perception (e.g. when a potential mark in that Three Card Monte game believes that he sees the deal well enough to win…because the dealer allows that perception) that we call it ‘cheating.’ But this concept really begins with the sort of subtle manipulations that we find in advertising, sales pitches and other ‘lubricants of commerce.’ The question of where the line is crossed is what keeps legislators and litigators in business.

    A colleague of mine used to refer to lotteries as a ‘progressive tax on greed.’


    • Tim Bryce said

      I think your colleague is right. Which is why I voted against the Lotto twice; once in Ohio and down here in Florida.


      • Twice for me as well: Ohio and Colorado. If gambling is a progressive tax on greed, then it is equally a regressive tax on poverty: the less disposable income, the more seems to be spent on tickets. The same colleague left the classroom to buy and operate a liquor store, and the first thing he did was to have the CO Lottery Commission’s contractor remove the hardware. There are principled people in the world…though I could never rectify the liquor store part, frankly!




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