Category Archives: Economics

Treat Your Future Self Like a Real Person

financialfreedom

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.

Dave Ramsey: Financial Guru for the Average Person

Dave_RamseyDave Ramsey is a financial guru for the average person. Even if you think you’re doing alright with your money, Dave can help you see the folly of your ways that prevents you from truly excelling financially.

When I finally made the decision to focus on my finance and figure out the secret to creating wealth I explored numerous books, and audio programs by many different financial gurus. I read Robert Kiyosaki, Donald Trump, Brian Tracy, and even Gene Simmons, just to name a few. I began perusing business magazines, and I learned a lot by doing this.

The problem with most of these books and programs was that although they taught me a lot, most of them are written under the assumption that the reader already has a certain amount of capital at hand, ready to invest. But I was broke, getting by paycheck to paycheck. Sure, I knew saving was a good idea, but I was in debt, and any time I tried to save, some sort of emergency or an overdue bill sucked out that cash and it was gone. It began to feel futile.

I knew I should invest, but I was clueless where to start from my financial position, from broke. So one day, like a similar day years earlier, distraught with financial indignity, I made my way to the local book store to look for that bit of wisdom that I knew I had somehow overlooked. There, I came to a full sized advertisement for Dave Ramsey and his radio show, syndicated on a local station. So I browsed a couple of his books on the shelf. The advice between those covers was invaluable. What was best is that it applied to me, not just to someone with 30 grand waiting to be invested.

Being broke, I couldn’t afford to buy one of those books right then. Sorry Dave, but you told me not to spend money I didn’t have. I went out to my car and tuned into your show instead. It was one of the best decisions I’d made in years. I quickly became a regular listener.

Dave Ramsey has it down to a science. What’s more, he doesn’t assume you have any money to start with. In fact, his lessons begin (dare I say) with the assumption that you are broke, in debt, and completely clueless about money. It’s not that he talks down to you, as much as it is he wants you to clearly understand just how foolish the average person is about money, credit, and debt. He doesn’t try to sell you on a get-rich-quick scheme. In fact, he nearly condemns such ideas. The best thing is that Dave Ramsey told me were I should start and in what order I should do things to get out of debt and to prosper.

After listening to Dave on the radio for several weeks, Christmas was just around the corner. At the top of my list was Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. I opted for the audiobook version, because as I graduate student I don’t have a lot of time for leisure reading, but I can’t read my assigned materials while driving or working. I later took advantage of a Veteran’s Day giveaway and enrolled in his online Financial Peace University. By following Dave’s advice and applying his baby-steps, I have seen my finances improve amazingly. On top of that, I have much more peace of mind than I did just a year before.

Dave’s first baby-step is to save $1000 as quickly as possible (or $500 if you make less than $20,000 a year). This is the emergency fund to be used only in a genuine emergency while you begin working the next six steps. About six months into the program I had just such an emergency. An auto emergency was going to cost me nearly $300.

At first I was angry. This was all I needed. I immediately went into my poverty mindset thinking about how much inconvenience this was causing me in my life. Then I remembered my emergency fund. This sort of thing is exactly what it was there for! A little smile came across my face, and I actually felt good. Of course nobody feels good about having to shell out hundreds for unexpected auto repairs, but for the first time in my life I was actually financially prepared. I managed to pay it all off with one swift payment and drive out of the shop beaming with satisfaction. And that felt great!

It was all just a bump in the road. A year earlier, I would have been in a real pickle. I would have had to beg, and borrow. It might have taken weeks, or even months to get the finances together for the repairs, and it might have impacted my ability to pay my bills. This time however, it didn’t even affect my fun money. I could still go out to the pub that weekend for some good old Irish music, and within two months my emergency fund was topped off once again.

For anyone who is serious about getting their finances together, unlearning all their poverty inducing bad habits, and replacing them with wise wealth creating behavior, I cannot recommend Dave Ramsey more. He has helped me replace my naive hope for wealth with a practical and realistic plan for creating it. Dave can’t help everyone, however. The path to financial peace is not easy. It does take discipline and perseverance. You have to be ready, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually to change your behavior, and to do the necessary work it takes to achieve it. The hardest part for many people is that you must be ready to take personal responsibility for your own financial situation.

If you really want to break the bonds of financial servitude and make your way toward wealth visit Dave Ramsey’s website now. Find him on your local radio station. You will be happy you did!

Your Life is Your Business

We all talk about starting a business as a means to wealth. This seems reasonable, but for the average impoverished person this really means very little. “How do I go into business without any means and possibly no idea what market to go into?”

First you have to realize that you already are in business. YOU are your business. Your life and your body is your corporation. As Dave Ramsey says; “You are the CEO of Me Incorporated.” As soon as you realize that whether you have a business license of not, whether you are technically an employee in a business owned by someone else or not, you are in fact self-employed. If you get your paycheck from a single source you are in fact a corporation with a single client.

Business Card

Even fortune five-hundred company owners have employers. We call them customers, clients, or investors but they are in fact the employers who provide the revenue for the business and pay the salaries of the owners, management, and employees of the company. As an employee, your employer is the investor in or financier of your business, even if your business is operating a broom at the local McDonald’s.

There is a sort of magic to your thoughts. If you see yourself as just an employee, a worker rather than a businessperson, you are likely to fall into the complacency of wage slavery. Here you wind up working just for the money, often a lesser amount than you are capable of earning. When you realize that your life is a business you become empowered by seeing yourself as a business owner: the CEO of You Inc. Jobs become streams or revenue, money becomes cashflow and capital. You will be compelled to learn more about business, and as your knowledge of the subject increases the more prepared you will become to consider operating your own corporation.

A major factor important to anyone’s success is mindset and perspective. So adopt the mindset that you are already self-employed. You are already a business owner, whether that business is doing well or doing poorly. The same principles used by a successful corporation can be applied to your own life. This works whether you are married or single, have children or are childless. The only difference is the number of ‘shareholders’ to whom you may have a fiduciary responsibility.

Recommended reading: Thou Shall Prosper, by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Bar Rescue? More Like Bar Boot Camp.

(Originally published in 2012 on GodDrinksBeer.com)

Bar Rescue, at the time of this writing is two seasons deep, and moving toward a third. Airing on Spike TV, this “reality” show is currently one of my favorites.  If you have any interest in the bar and nightclub business this series is definitely worth watching.

Bar Rescue stars Jon Taffer, an industry big-shot who specializes in turning failing bars into lucrative establishments. At the beginning of each episode he sends one of his assistants into the featured bar to assess just how bad off it really is.  After getting a feel for the place they leave and return to meet with Taffer, and deliver their report.  At this point Taffer enters the bar with both barrels blazing, and quite often all hell breaks loose.



It’s a reality show so I’m certain the drama is scripted to one degree or another, but in most episodes it’s pretty clear that there is genuine dysfunction at hand.  Usually the bars are in pretty rough shape, but some are especially terrible. In the majority of cases the problem lies in a lazy or poorly educated management, and slack employees. This results not just in poor products and service, but sometimes in the most disgusting working conditions.  This show has exposed filth that really makes a person wonder what is going on behind the scenes of a lot of struggling bars and pubs you might have a drink or dine in.

A lot of the episodes deal with poor or ridiculous branding.  From just plain stupid names like “Swanky Bubbles,” or the poorly located “Piratz Tavern,” or just bad ideas all around like the “Blue Frog 22” which was decorated with children’s games, Taffer often has to rebuild the bar’s brand from the ground up.  This often includes retraining the staff and management, renaming and remodeling each bar. To back him up, Taffer brings in the support he needs, particularly mixologists, and chefs.

Critics of the show knock Taffer for his loud, in-your-face style. He often confronts owners, employees and even the occasional unruly costumer with the tact and sophistication of a drill sergeant. Taffer has a limited amount of time for each project and sometimes, like boot camp it is important to make a heavy impact, and break the cadet down just before building them back up.  It doesn’t do much good to passively explain what changes need to be made if the root problems in an enterprise have not been addressed and conquered.  Of course a lot of this done for ratings and drama attracts viewers.



In most cases the bar is renamed and completely rebranded, and by the end of each episode it is clear that the new or revitalized original theme has made a significant and lucrative leap forward. Most of the rescued bar-owners keep to Taffer’s advice and continue to see increased profits.  A few reject his changes and then later “decline to comment” on their current profitability.

Bar Rescue is a good show, especially for a “reality” series.  From understanding a bit about marketing toward the local demographics, utilizing the environment as a guide to branding, and the importance of consistency, anyone considering the bar or restaurant business can pick up a lot of good tidbits of wisdom from Jon Taffer by watching.



Freemasonry and the Great Seal on the Dollar bill

dollar bill photo: Dollar Bill before dollarback.jpg

The intriguing imagery of the Great Seal on the back of the United States’ one dollar bill is cause for much curiosity and speculation.  This has been a discussion amongst fans of the occult for decades, but in recent years the success of the movie “National Treasure” has brought the subject to the attention of popular culture and revived the myth that the symbols on the Great Seal represent a secret Masonic code.  While it is true that several of the United States founding fathers were in fact Freemasons, it is not true that the United States One Dollar Bill contains any symbolism adopted from or inspired by Freemasonry.  The true meanings behind the symbolism of the Great Seal on the dollar bill, while having a great depth of meaning is not so mysterious or esoteric.

The Symbolism

The Great Seal of the United States consists of a bald eagle spread with 13 arrows held tightly in his left talon. His right talon clutches an olive branch with thirteen leaves. Supported on the eagle’s breast is an escutcheon or shield containing a representation of the United States Flag-a blue field and 13 alternating red and white stripes. In his mouth he carries a banner which contains the Latin Phrase “E pluribus Unum.” Above his head is a radiant six-pointed star composed of 13 five-pointed stars.

On the obverse side of the Great Seal, found on the left side of the dollar is a representation of an Egyptian style pyramid with 13 layers and a flat, truncated top. Just above this sits an eye inside a triangle. At its base are inscribed the Latin numerals indicating the year 1776, the year of American independence from Britain. Circumscribing the image are the Latin phrases “Annuit Coeptus” above and “Novus Ordo Seclorum” below.

The Explanation

The repetition of the number 13 on the Great Seal and the United States Flag is a subject of great interest to conspiracy enthusiasts and occultist speculators who parrot inaccurate resources claiming the number 13 has special meaning to Freemasons. The fact is that the number 13 has no special significance to Freemasonry and never has. Freemasonry does place special emphasis on certain numbers such as 3, 5, 7 and 15, but not on the number 13.  The number 13 does however, have a rather special significance to American history. The number 13 happens to be precisely the number of the American colonies who rebelled against Britain, becoming the United States. This is why the designers of the Great Seal emphasized the number time over again.

The bald eagle, the national bird of the United States was adopted from interaction with Native Americans. Many traditional Native American communities have considered the bald eagle the most sacred of all birds and a symbol of the Creator. The founders of the United States in imitation of their Indian neighbors adopted the bald eagle as the greatest symbol of freedom and liberty and the highest aspirations of the new nation.

great seal dollar photo: The Seal on the Dollar Bill GreatSealofAmerica.jpg

The escutcheon resting on the eagle’s chest contains the symbol of the American flag. The last man who worked on the seal’s design, Charles Thomson described the meaning behind the colors of the flag and the other symbols in this manner;

“The colours of the pales are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the colour of the Chief signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice. The Olive branch and arrows denote the power of peace & war which is exclusively vested in Congress. The Constellation denotes a new State taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers. The Escutcheon is born on the breast of an American Eagle without any other supporters to denote that the United States of America ought to rely on their own Virtue.”*

It is also interesting to note that the colors red and white are often used by Native Nations of the Eastern United States to represent war and peace respectively. Many of the Muskogean towns were historically divided into red-military and white-diplomatic communities which were loosely united under various confederacies. It should come as no surprise that the seal of the United States contains so much Native American symbolism when one considers the fact that many of these same founders had stormed a British ship during the “Boston Tea Party” dressed in war paint and feathers just a few years earlier.

The arrows and the olive branch held in the eagle’s talons represent two diametrically opposing principles that help to establish and maintain a nation; war and peace. The symbol of the arrows held together was adopted from the Iroquois Confederacy which influenced much of American democracy.  The Iroquois used the image of seven arrows which represented the seven different ‘tribes’ who composed the Iroquois League.  The symbolism teaches that one arrow alone (a single tribe) is easily broken, but all seven held together in a single common defense are much more difficult to break. The Founders of the US used the same symbolism, altered slightly to account for all the 13 United States.  This coincides with the Latin motto displayed on the eagle’s banner; “E pluribus Unum” which translates as “Out of many, One,” illustrating the Union formed by these States. The United States is after all, many states which make up a single nation.

The olive branch is an ancient symbol of peace and vitality from western cultures. It was used widely by the ancient Mesopotamians, Greeks, Egyptians, Hebrews, Romans and Persians. The olive has been a widely adored fruit, the oil of which was anciently claimed to have many healthful and spiritual properties. The many designers of this seal used these two images of both the “Old World” and the “New World” to symbolize the integration of the new nation, based on both European and Native American ideals.

great seal dollar photo: the great seal thegreatseal.jpg

The pyramid side is sometimes called the spiritual side of the seal. The pyramid design was chosen as a symbol of duration, a nearly eternal nation and of the West’s ancient heritage, much of which has its roots in Ancient Egypt. It is important to note that people during the Enlightenment Era marking the democratization of the West were heavily involved in speculation upon ancient symbols and histories. This is also the era that birthed the remarkable discipline of archaeology.

The Eye of Providence sits at the pyramids zenith. Historically the All-seeing-Eye motif has been used by countless civilizations on all continents but interested parties who promote the Masonic Dollar theory like to point out that a very similar motif is in fact used by Freemasons today. This is true however; those who promote this theory often fail to recognize that during the Enlightenment the eye motif was used repeatedly by many different artists and organizations unassociated with Freemasonry. It is also often overlooked that the Eye motif had been an element of the design on the Great Seal since the seal was first proposed on August 20th, 1776 and finally adopted by Congress on June 20th 1782. Freemasons did not begin using the all-seeing-eye emblem until 1797 in “The Freemasons Monitor of Thomas Smith Webb” fifteen years after the Great Seal was finalized. In fact it is more likely that Freemasons adopted the motif from the Great Seal rather than the other way around.

The Latin phrase “Annuit Coeptus” means “He has favored our undertakings,” which refers to the founding belief that the success of the American revolution was a matter of divine Providence as can be found written in the Declaration of Independence. The next phrase is another point that conspiracy enthusiast enjoy kicking around like a rusty old tin can, telling themselves it’s actually a football.

“Novus Ordo Seclorum” does not mean “New World Order” as so often incorrectly translated. It means “New Order of the Ages.” It refers to the Founders recognition that they were creating a new order in a new era. They recognized that they had begun an age of reason, logic, and spiritual and practical liberty from dogmatic institutions. The new order was liberty, democracy and republicanism in opposition to the old order of submission to monarchical regimes.

The seal of the United States is a proud symbol of our heritage, our determination and our history. The symbolism reveals that we are one nation of many different people, unlike any other, striving for peace but prepared to go to war to protect each other. We are free and strive for more freedom. Our nation is divinely inspired and protected by God and its legacy will survive for as long have the ancient monuments of the past. The quest for freedom is not a conspiracy. That is the propaganda of tyrants. The quest for freedom is the nature of the human soul and our natural state, eternal and can never be crushed by the illegitimate rule of dictators.

___

* http://www.state.gov/www/publi cations/great_seal.pdf

-http:// masonicinfo.com/eye.htm

-Exiled in the Land of the Free Democracy, Indian Nations and The US Constitution by, Lyons, Mohawk, Deloria Jr., Hauptman, Berman, Grinde Jr., Berkey, Venables

-http://en.wikipedia.o rg/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment

-The Federalist by Hamilton, Madison and Jay

 

Gene Simmons, Profile of a Rockin’ Capitalist

Gene Simmons is best known as the fire-breathing, blood spitting demonic bass player of the record breaking rock and roll band KISS.  With multiple millions of fans the world over and across no less than three generations, Gene Simmons and KISS have experienced success that far surpasses that of the majority of eccentric musical acts that sprung up throughout the 1970s. Though many rock and rollers have come and gone in the years that KISS has rocked the earth, Gene Simmons is richer and more popular now than he ever during his band’s classic era.

Rock stars are typically not the best examples of financial wisdom; in fact they are usually the worst.  The unrelated natures of musical talent and financial wisdom detract from the music business as a viable path to wealth as it is.  Couple that with the unlikelihood of success and the well known frivolous spending habits and legal antics of those in the field.  This is why I get certain skeptical looks and responses when I cite Gene Simmons as inspiration for financial strategy.

There is a distinct line between Gene Simmons and most of the rockers that came before him or have shown up since.  This line is what has kept him and his partner in KISS, Paul Stanley on top for more than three decades.  While many millionaire rock stars squandered their wealth on extravagant lifestyles, Simmons conserved his money for future investments while slowly building the phenomenon that is KISS.

gene simmons photo: Gene Simmons e8f9f32c.jpg

Until the success of his hit show Gene Simmons Family Jewels, few people have had the chance to see just how financially savvy and down to earth the legendary rocker truly is.  Having taken the time to listen to Simmons’ message and philosophies, I have no doubt that even without KISS, rock and roll or a single musical note; Gene Simmons would have become a wealthy man one way or another.

Simmons was born in Israel in 1949 as Chaim Witz to Flora Klien, a poor holocaust survivor from Hungary.  In his book Sex, Money, Kiss, Simmons recounts the experience that would set the tone for his financial future.  At the young age of five, he decided to earn some money by selling cactus fruit.  He would go into the desert and gather the fruit, wash it, chill it in ice water and remove the spines.  He would then cart it to the bus stop in time to meet the afternoon bus and sell the fruit to the workers unloading after a hard day on the job.

The future superstar came to the United States at the age of nine.  Even as an impoverished immigrant who couldn’t speak English, nothing stopped him from finding creative ways to earn an honest living.  Whether playing in local rock bands, typing term papers in college, dealing in classic comic books, or running his own science fiction fanzines, Simmons always kept his best financial interests in focus.  He avoided drugs and alcohol and all the other vices on which young people are prone to waste money.  When it came time to form KISS, Simmons and his partner Paul Stanley were financially stable enough to walk away from a deal with their band Wicked Lester in order to pursue their dream of forming the world’s most legendary rock band.

After achieving international fame with KISS, Simmons didn’t just revel in the spotlight.  He worked the business end of his craft to the best of his abilities.  Even with millions of dollars coming in, he budgeted, cut his expenses and planned for future opportunities or possible misfortunes.  He expanded his horizons.  He managed Liza Minelli for a time.  He acted as a talent scout, discovering Van Halen and eventually founding Simmons Records.

Gene Simmons has never stopped learning about business and building his financial future.  He has continually found new avenues to keeping KISS relevant and advancing.  He has acted in feature films such as 1984’s Runaway and in 2010 he played the voice of the Spirit Dragon in The Last Airbender.  He created the animated series My Dad the Rockstar for Nickelodeon, Mr. Romance for Oxygen, and he starred in the UK series Rock School.  The hit series Gene Simmons Family Jewels is beginning its 5th season.  Now, in 2011 Gene Simmons is a co-founder of The Cool Springs Life Equity Strategy, an estate planning service.

So how exactly does Gene Simmons represent a lesson on success?  Starting with the cactus fruit; even when he had nothing to invest, he found something he could acquire for free, and with some work others would pay him money for it.  When he had some capital to invest he pursued avenues that he was truly interested in; comic books, science fiction, rock and roll, and eventually KISS.

Even with the success of KISS, he has always kept his eye out for other opportunities to expand his business and market his brand.  Some might say that Gene Simmons’ wealth was acquired by luck.  But Gene would probably say to them “the harder I worked the luckier I got.”  As a result of his discipline and tenacity, today Gene Simmons is amongst America’s wealthiest people.

A person does not need to come from established financial means to achieve wealth.  All one needs is an economic atmosphere that encourages entrepreneurs, and the internal wealth that provides the psychological resources required to act wisely, decisively, experimentally, and consistently.  From a poor Israeli child to an American citizen in the highest tax bracket, Gene Simmons is an example of how Capitalism Saves.

For more information visit GeneSimmons.com.

Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto: A Review

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1964 (orig. 1884), Washington Square Press, New York

Marxism is the bedrock and foundation of communism.  This tyrannical philosophy did not meet its end with the demise of the Soviet Union.  It is still very much an active threat to liberty today.  Proponents of Marxism seek to undermine capitalism at all points and they have learned to use the political system expertly to achieve their aims. What are those aims?  To centralize all authority over your life and finances in the hands of an all-powerful and uncompromising state, seeking global domination.

Marxism and the theory of communism are rooted in the essay Bourgeoisie and Proletarians by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, found in the Communist Manifesto, first published in 1884.

Class Warfare

The primary theme of Marxism is class warfare.  Marx opens his essay with the bold and all-encompassing  statement that the entire history of “all hitherto existing society” [later revised to exclude traditional “native” societies] is characterized by class struggles.  In short, there is always, in all situations class antagonism between an oppressor and an oppressed.  Modern “capitalist” society, he says is no different from medieval society. Instead of titles like “lord” and “serf,” we now have a dichotomous class distinction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.  The only solution, Marx says is open and “violentrevolution.

bourgeoisie

The bourgeoisie is initially defined as “the class of modern capitalists, owners of means of social production and employers of wage-labor” (57), but is eventually revealed to also include the middle class property owner. The bourgeoisie are driven by economic and technological development.  The historical development in these areas created “industrial millionaires”—the bourgeoisie, successful business people responsible for toppling Feudalism and creating a society where technology and education are available to all. Instead of creating a more liberated society however, Marx claims the bourgeoisie have only created “new forms of oppression.”  Marx believed that Representative government only serves to manage the affairs of the bourgeoisie.

proletariat

The proletariat is defined as “the class of modern wage-laborers who, having no means of their own, are reduced to selling their labor in order to live” (57).  Marx presents the idea of an isolated working class, a people without hope of improving their lives.  Marx argues that workers are enslaved by the bourgeoisie, most especially the manufacturer.  Once the worker has been paid by his employer, “he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.” (70).

The proletariat is supposed to represent the “immense majority” who own no property and supposedly have no power or control over their lives.  Their mission in life is to enviously destroy the property and wealth of those who do.  Marx explains that as wealth becomes concentrated in fewer hands, the bourgeoisie is shrinking in number.  Those who washout of the bourgeoisie, become proletarians (since Marxist theory only allows for these two “classes”).  These washouts “boost the intellectual acumen” of the proletariat.  Marx also recognizes that the “social scum” may be absorbed into the movement as a “bribed tool.”

Luddism

The bourgeoisie constantly strive for progress, causing older, less efficient methods of production to be replaced by newer, more advance technologies. Marx denigrates this, claiming that the economic value of labor is decreased because technological advancement makes jobs easier to perform.  Marx complains that this has caused women’s labor in bourgeois society to be worth as much or more than a man’s. He decries the fact that industrialism has put people on equal economic footing despite age or sex.  He also complains that technology has caused the world to become more integrated with disparate countries now sharing in each other’s cultures.

Modern industry offers commodities at such inexpensive prices that demand is created by the people’s  desire to obtain these inexpensive goods.  With the increase in industry, the proletariat grows and becomes concentrated in greater numbers.  Due to competition in the workforce, wages fluctuate, requiring worker’s unions to develop in order to keep wages at a fixed minimum.  On occasion riots are necessary to further the proletarian cause.

Technological advancement in the traffic of information has allowed the proletariat to interact to the degree that they can now more quickly and efficiently organize themselves into a political party.  Since the bourgeoisie has created an environment in which technology and education are available to all, the proletariat must now use those benefits against them to destroy the very source of those benefits.

Violent Revolution

The ultimate goal of Marxism is violent communist revolution.  The first goal of the proletariat is to stage a successful revolution in their own countries, and then unite throughout the world in order to create a communist world order.  Marx explained that the score can only be settled when “that war breaks out into open revolution and where that violent  overthrow or the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat ” (p 77).  To accomplish this, the proletariat must first organize themselves into a class and “wrest all capital, by degrees, from the bourgeoisie,” and “centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state” (p 93, emphasis added).

Statism

In order to support and maintain this statism, Marx planned to destroy the family by replacing home education with social education (p 89), and abolishing all personal property and inheritance.  He also planned to abolish countries,  nationality and all “eternal truths,” all religion, and all morality including Freedom and Justice (p 92, emphasis added).  In order to accomplish this goal: “Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things” (p 116).

Conclusion

This is Marxism at its core: class warfare based on the politics of envy.  It looks toward an omnipotent state to manage the affairs of the people.  Marxism’s long-term goal is global communism, and the abolition of national identity.  It is anti-freedom and scoffs at ideas like justice, and  morality.  It views technological advancement as a detriment to society and ignores any concept of personal responsibility for the proletariat. This ideology is covertly and sometimes naively promoted under various liberal pseudonyms, often uncited in order to avoid the stigma of the word “Marxist.”  It is quite possibly the most dangerous philosophy at work in society today, especially for people who value freedom, independence, and justice.

The Communist Manifesto ends with these words: “Working men of all countries unite!”

What is Capitalism?

At the time that I originally wrote this, I was working toward my master’s degree in anthropology in college.  In a theory class we were discussing world systems theory, global economics and money.  At one point the professor made the point that there is profound difference between money and capital, and then posed the question “what is that difference?”  I was surprised to see that within a class of intelligent and well educated blooming social scientists, there was little clear understanding amongst my peers as to what exactly the word capital means.

This is particularly perturbing considering the fact that the idea of capitalism or “free market economics” as it also known, is often maligned within this sphere of academia.

Money and Capital

Capital is not necessarily money, but it’s usually spoken of in that context.  Money is a symbolic mode of exchange.  In our society the simplest form of money comes in dollars and coins.  People and governments agree that these particular bills and coins have a certain amount of value can be exchanged for goods and services that are perceived to be of a certain value in relation to money.  Of course it takes popular support and trust in the currency for it to be of any perceived value, and that calls for regulatory mechanisms from credible governing authorities.

Capital is money or any other resources used for investment and for production of goods and services in order to make a profit in a accordance with the law of supply and demand.  A portion of the profits are then reinvested in order to create even more profit.  To be sure, even somewhat abstract concepts like education, experience and time can be invested and can be thought of as a form of capital.  That old saying “time is money,” might better be thought of as “time is capital.”

Capitalism is a process or system that functions in terms of capital.

One of the biggest differences in the mindset of those who tend to succeed and do well financially and those who do not is that one of them thinks in terms of capital and the other thinks in terms of just money.  Baring radical improbabilities, a person’s net worth is going to be in large part reflective of their knowledge and understanding of economics and finance.

Language and vocabulary affect our thought processes which in turn affect our behavior.  Your life is your business.  If you plan to succeed financially in that business, you must think in terms of capital rather than in terms of just money.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin and the Secret to Jewish Success

Lapin, Rabbi Daniel (2010) Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money, Second Edition, Hoboken, John Wiley and Sons Inc.

LapinThou Shall Prosper is a fascinating exploration into wealth creation among Jews and the values within Jewish communities that encourage financial success.  It is organized into 10 separate chapters, titled commandments in imitation of the Laws given to Moses.  Written by Daniel Lapin, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi motivated by a desire to research and catalog the cultural traits that have contributed to this, making them available to all people.  The book promotes what Rabbi Lapin calls Ethical Capitalism.

I have always been fascinated by the subject of Jewish success.  It only takes a little attention to notice that Jews are disproportionately successful in business and finance than any other ethnic group in the United States, if not the world.  As Rabbi Lapin explains, this is not to suggest that there are no poor Jews.  But as the most consistently oppressed people throughout 3,000 years of history, the Jewish people could easily have been expected to cease existing altogether.  But they haven’t, and wherever Jews are afforded the slightest opportunity they tend to thrive.

Rabbi Lapin points out that Jews represent less than 2% of the American population, but in any given year may represent as much as 25% of the names on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans.  Jewish households are also twice as likely to be wealthy as those of non-Jews.  This is a remarkable phenomenon that deserves to be explored and hopefully explained.

Anti-Semitic conspiracy enthusiasts might see all this as evidence of Jewish misdeed in acquiring wealth.* However, genuine social scientists understand that a better explanation lays in some set of cultural values being perpetuated within Jewish communities.  Personally, I have always seen this as admirable, like a mystery to be unraveled.  That’s why, when I found this book on the shelf, I didn’t have to think very long before I happily handed the clerk $24.95 (plus tax) and walked out the door with the book under my arm, ready to read.

Foreseeing the anti-Semitic arguments, early in the introduction Rabbi Lapin debunks the idea of Jews operating jointly as some sort of cabal, plotting their dominance over society.  In fact, Rabbi Lapin explains that Jewish communities are typically just as dysfunctional and full of conflict as most others.

Rabbi Lapin makes many points along the way regarding wealth, Jews, and the world, all of which are worth some serious consideration.

Education is Key

Lapin illustrates early on that education is very important to being successful in business and finance.  Jews, though not necessarily any “smarter” naturally than non-Jews tend to place a lot of value on literacy and a love of books.  Conversely however, Rabbi Lapin suggests that people holding advanced degrees are not necessarily more likely to achieve wealth.  They tend to do poorly with money, and often seek employment at universities rather than focusing on financial independence.

Popular Culture Promotes Poverty

Rabbi Lapin tackles the fallacy embraced by so many in society that business, business people, and money are somehow bad.  He illustrates how “movies and television conspire to make you poor,” showing that since the 1970s, business people are portrayed as villains twice as often as any other demographic.  The constant pushing of this message has effectively brainwashed the viewing public into accepting the narrative.  He confronts this fallacy by explaining that most wealthy business professionals have actually made their wealth by enhancing the lives of consumers.

Lapin also explains that popular culture vilifies wealth, but admires immoral behavior.  He illustrates this last point by showing that many of People magazine’s “Greatest Love Stories of the Century” were in fact cases of marital infidelity.

You Are Already in Business

Perhaps the most valuable lesson in Thou Shall Prosper, is one that is also asserted by many other successful people: the importance of understanding that we are already in business.  By virtue of being alive and independent, our lives are our businesses, whether we realize it or not.  We may even have a board of directors, such as our friends or family whom we ask for advice or guidance in financial matters.  Moving forward with this logic, I suppose we can count our spouses, children, or other dependants as our shareholders so to speak.  By illustrating this, Rabbi Lapin further explains the importance of not being a wage slave.

Make Friends and Contribute to Charity

Wealth is created through human interaction.  In order to be successful in business it is imperative that one have a large network of friends that can help encourage you on your path to prosperity.  Rabbi Lapin does not suggest you should attend business oriented breakfasts and luncheons to make these acquaintances.  Such gatherings, he says are too full of self interest, yours as well as the other attendants.  Instead he recommends joining civic service organizations like the Rotary club.  He also recommends donating heavily to charity.  This sort of contribution raises your consciousness, and may contribute to a karmic increase in our own wealth.

Value the Wisdom of the Ancestors and Ancients

It is important to value ancient literature and history.  This helps you to see patterns in time and human nature, and to gauge the future in order to set goals.  This is not just a Jewish trait.  Many Asian businessmen also apply lessons learned from ancient Taoist, and Buddhist literature to their financial plans and aspirations.

Meditation and Reflection

Regularly disconnecting yourself from daily distractions like television, radio, and other external influences is imperative.  This allows you to clear your head and take notice of things that you might have otherwise overlooked or ignored.  These may be useful thoughts and fully formed ideas.  These are all things that can help you more accurately foretell and plan for the future.  Set aside a regular time and day for such activities during which you can be alone, away from distractions in order to do nothing but reflect on trends, ideas, and set goals.

These are only a few examples of the remarkable lessons that can be found in this profound book, but it only scratches the surface.

Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin is not a typical book on business.  It’s much more than that.  This is a book of finance, philosophy, religion, history, sociology, and self-improvement.  Much like any classic work of philosophy, and like the Torah by which much of this book is inspired, Thou Shall Prosper is not just a one time read.  It’s the type of book that needs to be read, reread, thumbed through, and meditated upon multiple times over in order to get the fullest use out of it.  I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to improve their life financially and spiritually.

For more on Rabbi Lapin, visit his website here!

* It is unfortunate that I or Rabbi Lapin would even feel a need to mention this, but due to the nature of the real world (and anyone who has spent any time on the internet will know), it must be addressed.