Treat Your Future Self Like a Real Person

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There are a few differences between being an anthropologist studying wealth and poverty and an economist doing the same. As an anthropologist I am more focused on the social, cultural and cognitive motivations that either bind a person to poverty or allow them to experience the freedom of wealth. In this effort we have to contrast the Culture of Poverty of which I was a product, and the Culture of Wealth to which I aspire.




I had a conversation with a young woman the other day about the importance of financial discipline. She told me that she had heard it all before. “I know,” she said. “Save all your money while you’re young so you can have it all when you’re old. She continued, “I don’t want to wait until I’m old to enjoy life. I want to enjoy life now.” The statement was a bit oversimplified and shortsighted, but I withheld my rebuttal. I was less interested in correcting her misunderstandings of a financial plan than I was in learning about the cognitive themes of financial self-sabotage.

It took me several days of reflecting on this exchange before I realized what’s going on here. I come from a family of meager resources. Although I’m still a young man, I’ve seen what it’s like to be poor and old. It’s fraught with far more peril than being poor and young. The physically impaired don’t have the ability to go out and make more money. Young people tend to be stupid. Most of us view ourselves as being so far removed from the golden generations ahead of us. It’s almost as if our future is not even real. Snap! That’s it.

It’s been said time and again that people who amass wealth have a long term perspective, whereas people who remain in poverty or return to poverty tend to have a short term perspective. But if it was as simple as this seeming platitude suggests, a person should simply be able to plug this formula in and make it work. There is something more going on here.




What the hell does it really mean to have a “long term perspective” anyway? Certainly there’s more to it than just reciting a few more trite descriptions and definitions of the term. If it was as simple as understanding the diction involved, then everyone would be on a path to financial liberty.

The people who blow all their money on trivialities, failing to save and plan for the future can just as easily consciously understand the meaning of “long term perspective” and why it’s better than a “short term perspective.” Yet, many of us have continued doing the same things, thinking the same ways, focusing on the same points and continuing to operate from a “short term perspective.”

The problem is that although having a strong financial knowledge is important to money management, that knowledge must be internalized for it to alter our perspective to any real degree.

The problem with those who fail to plan is that their future is not real to them. What is real to them is the here and now; this month, this week, today. Rarely is it even about “this year,” and for some of the real slackers out there it’s rarely even about anything more than this moment. This is not just an issue of time span perspective. It’s about perception of reality.

To the terminally impoverished, their future is as much a fiction to them as anything J.R.R. Tolkien ever wrote. They don’t even see their future selves as real people whose situation needs to be planned. Failing to execute a financial plan for the future is essentially the same as consigning your future self to poverty. That is you.




Think about this for a moment. If you had the power, would you create an old person with disabilities and without the resources to care for themselves and their liberty? That is what we do every day that we allow to pass us by without a sensible economic plan for the future, spending everything and saving nothing.

Most people don’t plan for the future or try to save even small amounts for future investments because it might take so many years before it’s really worth anything. Twenty years from now is twenty years away. That is until it gets here. And it’s coming one way or another regardless of what you do. At the end of that twenty years are you going to look back and say “I wished I had planned for this,” or are you going to say “I sure am glad my younger self was responsible enough to plan for me now.”?

This all starts with realizing, accepting and internalizing that fact that the future is very real. It might even be more real than the past because the future can still be affected. You’re future self is a real person; just as real as you are now.

Treat your future self like a real person. Treat all you future selves like real people, from decade to decade. Get to know them. Consider what their needs are. Realize that you are responsible for their wellbeing. Now realize that they are YOU, even now. Their wellbeing, their health, their wealth, or the lack of any of it is something only you can control.

Thanksgiving, Legend, and American Indians

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Thanksgiving is one of the United States’ most significant national holidays. It’s probably second in popularity only to Christmas. Like most Americans, I grew up with it. There’s really not much to it other than cooking a lot of food and having a feast in the middle of the day, during which we are supposed to express our appreciation for all our good fortune as Americans. It has a slightly religious tone to it, but that is overshadowed by its more nationalistic implications.

 

Along with Columbus Day, and the Fourth of July/Independence Day celebration, the Thanksgiving story has served as one in the series of origin myths to help establish European roots in North America. It’s ritualistic like any holiday as we loosely reenact the nation’s “First Supper.”




The myth tells that in 1621 after the pilgrims came to America they failed to properly work the land and were in danger of suffering famine. The local Wampanoag Indians took pity upon the new arrivals and taught them how to work the land and most importantly how to grow corn. I seem to recall as a child I learned that the Indians taught the Pilgrims to plant their seeds with a fish and this insured a strong and healthy crop, but I haven’t encountered this part of the myth as an adult. After the Pilgrims had a successful harvest they invited the Wampanoag to a great feast to celebrate. The two peoples partied and had a Kumbaya moment. The Pilgrims made this an annual tradition and this became Thanksgiving. There isn’t much truth to this story, but it seems harmless enough.

 

Of course Thanksgiving has taken some flack in recent decades for its usage of Native Americans as props in a story that seems to essentially justify the usurpation of American Indian title to the North American continent by colonial society. Now there is even a video circulating on TeenVogue that uses teenage girls to try to convince us that Thanksgiving actually has its origins in feasts that white people celebrated after fighting and extinguishing a Native community. It really comes off as the type of faux-outrage you’d expect from half-educated adolescents with angst. I’ve been there. I think the real shame is that it’s lazy, shallow research. Myths and legends are one thing but this is almost a crime against history.

 

Thanksgiving is in reality a part of a long tradition of Anglo-Saxon harvest festivals that were celebrated every fall going back into historical obscurity. These were like any of the similar harvest celebrations held by agricultural communities throughout the history of the world including North America. It is essentially a part of the European wheel of the year, a vestige from the white continent’s indigenous and tribal past, but that’s true of most holidays.




Some people think Indians shouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving for political reasons. I could never get onboard with that idea. Overall I don’t have any real problem with the holiday or its symbolism. I can get annoyed by the stereo-typical white-man’s Indian play-acting, redface, and other embarrassing behaviors it encourages in non-Indians from time to time. I am left feeling bereft at the sense of equality and brotherhood it depicts between whites and Indians that rarely if ever really existed, especially when today Native communities are still being deprived of rights, and resources by the colonial governments, and the dominant society seems so unmoved and so unconcerned by it. Considering how little attention Indians get in American history and modern social and political discourse I guess we should be glad we get to be the second most significant part of the country’s second most significant holiday.

 

At the end of the day I am an advocate for all people returning to their roots and their native traditions adjusted to their modern geographic and political circumstances. In large part that requires a meaningful celebration of the seasonal cycle for all people. Thanksgiving is a day, or an entire weekend for some folks to take time and celebrate the earth’s bounty and to strengthen our bonds with family, clan, tribe, and nation. I see a national harvest celebration as part of this ancient tradition kept alive in modern America with a uniquely American symbolism.

 

Some people will choose not to celebrate Thanksgiving for reasons they attribute to their values, and that’s cool with me. For me Thanksgiving is a real time of gratitude, reflection, and preparation for the road ahead. I’ll get back to work after the festival.

 

Happy Thanksgiving.




“The Trouble with the Electoral College” Video is Unconvincing

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The Electoral College is making its rounds as the whipping-boy of the Left again since Donald Trump won the presidency by the only legal and constitutional means we’ve had at our disposal since 1789. Now that their candidate, Hillary Clinton lost the legal path to the presidency but irrelevantly had more of the total number of votes cast nationally in her favor, the Left has decided to champion the popular vote because they think it will assure them more future victories. I think that belief is incorrect, but that is a different article altogether.




I’ve found myself engaged in this Electoral College vs Popular Vote debate multiple times over the past two weeks and even more often years before, and my stance has been consistent. I agree that the Electoral College could use some tuning, but that any changes will be Constitutional Amendments and therefore must be carefully crafted to ensure that we are truly and fully getting a superior arrangement to what we had before. That means that advocates for change need to start making some convincing arguments. So far, I remain unconvinced.

In these debates this video called “The Trouble with the Electoral College” keeps popping up and I have had to address it a couple times. In my life, once is a social media comment, twice may be a frustrated social media comment, and third is a blog entry with a link I can refer to people.

It’s a deceptively crafted little video that has been around for a while, even before the Trump victory designed to sell the idea of the popular vote without having to justify itself. It naturally uses all the same fallacies, distortions, wordplay, and sentence-crafting you would expect from a political propagandist or a door to door vacuum salesman. While it has some basic facts correct, it is full of biases, unsupported assertions, weasel phrases, and it conflates federal roles and powers with states’ roles and powers as if those are not significant factors. In the end the video is just a list a grievances without any supporting evidence that the proposed solution is better.

Here are a few of the most notable problems.

THE UNITED STATES IS NOT A DEMOCRACY

The first four words of the video are “in a fair democracy …” and the entire video argues from the bias that we are or are supposed to be a democracy and that the viewer has already just accepted this. I do not just accept this. We are not a democracy. We’re a representative republic where our president is elected by the states, and I’m just fine with that. I can stop watching the video here because I’m interested in talking about how things work or should work in our Republic, not some fictional democracy, or constitutional monarchy or whatever. Being based on a false premise makes the video irrelevant to the discussion.

LOADED TERMS

Moving forward, the narrator uses the loaded word “fair” multiple times to describe his position, assuming that true democracy is fair and that there are no other significant factors worth considering other than a simple tally of popular votes that might make things equitable for members of disparate populations. He fails to explain how his concept of “fairness” will result in a better standard of living for Americans than what we have now. He does not provide any supporting evidence that true democracy is a better alternative to what we have now. Many people think it is a worse alternative. The framers of the United States Constitution thought it was a worse alternative and our political system is set up with that in mind. So the whole video fails to convince on that point alone.




OUT OF TOUCH WITH DEMOGRAPHIC REALITY

The video proposes that a candidate could win the office of the president with only 22% of the popular vote. This example is theoretical at best, and that is being generous because it is one of those theories that only works in theory but just isn’t a practical reality. It ignores the significant cultural, economic, and legislative differences between communities that account for their different voting populations. Mississippians aren’t going to vote in line with Hawaiians, and people from Wyoming aren’t going to vote in line with Washington DC. These are very different communities with different cultures, perspectives and needs. One of the biggest reasons I’m opposed to popular vote is because I am opposed to giving so much power to dense population centers because I’m convinced they won’t be able to comprehend and will therefore neglect the needs of such communities and see them simply as resources for their own use. The economic and social ramifications of this could be dire and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it result in secession by multiple communities over time.

Frankly this example alone validated my concerns that proponents of the popular vote don’t understand and therefore can’t care about the unique needs of regional communities, which our founding political arrangement is intended to address, although it is admittedly not perfect.

 

NO SUPPORTING ARGUMENT

This video really provides nothing at all to support the popular vote as a better solution other than a personal value judgment. Don’t just tell me that something is wrong with what we are doing and expect me to go along with the way someone else wants things to be done. I expect the proponent of the new way to put some effort into convincing me that their solution is better if they want my support. Convince me with facts, data, charts, graphs and historical and sociological examples. It has to be a solid plan, not just a list of grievances against the status quo. Understand that any argument based on an idea in the realm of “because it’s the current year” will be soundly rejected.

 

I think the popular vote is not a better alternative. I think it is wracked with problems, and it does not fit with my understanding of the roles and powers of states under the Constitution which I happen to like, so I remain wholly unconvinced by this argument.