Tag 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.

“The Trouble with the Electoral College” Video is Unconvincing

qtq80-3B0DWB

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.




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.



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.