Why is Wall Street Always Blamed?

My purpose of this post is not to exonerate Wall Street from its misdeeds, but rather to ask its accusers to be more introspective about their own role in Wall Street greed.

Let’s face it – everybody knows that the people on Wall Street are overpaid for what they do. Our problem with them is not that we begrudge them their money, but that we are envious and want to be able to make that kind of cash ourselves. It isn’t so much that we are mad at them for mis-spending our money, but rather we would like to be able to be overpaid for mismanaging the companies we ourselves work for. The problem is not that they are making the money or putting us into risky positions that they should know better about. The problem is that we are not making the money and when we put our employers in risky positions through our own ineptitude, we don’t get a similar payday on the way down.

The real reason everybody goes to Wall Street is because they are greedy bastards. There is a measure of safety in that realization. If you know that someone is completely amoral and only does things for money, you can be sure that if you pay them enough, their amorality is on your side. Similarly, this also puts somewhat of a cap on their own individual immorality, because, in real life, continual immorality sets a limit to the payday. Markets only function because of the general morality within business. If someone is amoral rather than immoral, they are more likely to behave morally in a generally moral society.

We actually have a sense of safety knowing that our money is tied up with greedy bastards who just want to know the bottom line.

If you actually did have a grudge against Wall Street that was based on true moral indignation and not simple envy at their ability to win bigger than you on every trade, there is a simple thing that you would be able to do to combat this.

Stop giving them money.

Instead, make money by offering loans to your friends and family to start businesses. Invest in local startups – people that you know have the strongest moral fiber. Invest in your local community.

What? That’s not liquid enough? There isn’t a big enough market? There’s too much risk and not enough reward? The people with character don’t make the deals that give the company the most profit? Local people don’t have the winner-take-all attitude needed to go to the top?

Well, then take Wall Street. But don’t act like you didn’t know what you were buying. And don’t act like you weren’t complicit when they do what they always do and leave you holding the bag. You went with them because you wanted to be the one holding the bag, right?

MicroSecession as a Way to not Care About the Election

One of the goals of MicroSecession is to remove the political angst that has overtaken our country. I feel that there are a lot of people like me – they feel that the country needs better, but are tired of fighting the fights for no progress. In fact, fighting the fights might be actually fueling our decline.

Therefore, in MicroSecession, the goal is not to gain power by force or even by election, but to change our own habits and our own lifestyle so that our lives are less affected by whatever stupidity happens to be residing in D.C. at the moment.

MicroSecession is about identifying the locations where the government exercises its power and removing it from the equation by choosing to participate elsewhere. It is about choosing to do for yourselves what the government wants to do for you, so that you aren’t beholden to their awful ideas. It is about freeing yourself, not hoping that some future election will free you.

If you are tired of politics, elections, and everybody worrying about who is going to win, you should give MicroSecession a try.

About The Supreme Court Rulings…

Two supreme court rulings which had the same exact content: words don’t matter, the democratic process is meaningless, and the only thing that matters is how connected you are to the political power structure. As an added bonus, it seems that America is now at war with reality. But that’s okay, because the US fed has been gradually implementing that same reality denialism with our money for the past decade, so we are well-practiced.

You All Owe Mark Driscoll an Apology

This post has nothing to do with MicroSecession, but it has come up a lot with my friends, and I wanted to weigh in, because I think that someone’s reputation is being improperly smeared.

Mark Driscoll is being accused of buying his own book to boost his sales, through an intermediary known as ResultSource, Inc (known hereafter as RSI). This post is to show, by the source documents used by others to smear him, that this is a terrible, disingenuous misreading of the documents. In fact, what he is doing is pretty much common (and ethical) practice everywhere. It’s just that the group he is doing it with seems more effective than most. He is simply making valid, legitimate pre-sales, and making sure that they are reflected on all of the bestseller lists.

For background reading, here is:

Quick question – if you wrote a book and made 6,000-11,000 presales, would you be upset if they weren’t counted towards the bestseller lists? What if an organization knew the ins and outs of the industry and could make sure that those presales were counted? What if they helped you with the presale campaign as well?

Let me say that I have no idea who Mark Driscoll is or what he believes. His name often comes up, but it’s the type of popular self-help theology which, whether true or not, I find outrageously boring. Therefore, this is not a defense of Mark Driscoll as a person or a pastor or a Christian or a theologian – topics I know nothing about. This is only a defense of Mark Driscoll as an author selling his work.

Mark Driscoll has been impugned by several people for “Scamming” his way into the New York Times bestseller list.

The claim that people are making is that Driscoll just bought a lot of his own books. That isn’t what happened. However, I will say that there are a *lot* of people who maintain their statuses by buying their own book. I know one science author that maintains his position in the Amazon bestseller list in his category by buying his own book whenever the Amazon SalesRank declines below a certain threshold.

To actually find out what happened requires a careful reading of the contracts. This link claims to have the signed contract. I have no idea if this is true, but I’ll go on this assumption.

In short, here is what is happening. Driscoll is NOT buying his own book, or using RSI to buy his own book. Instead, he is collecting 6,000 sales ahead-of-time, and using RSI to make sure that these *valid* sales get properly counted in the NYT bestseller count.

So, think of it this way. You go on a speaking tour. At each stop, you collect money for your book. Or, instead of speaking fees, every person pre-orders a copy of the book. They give you the money and their mailing address. You, then, send RSI a list of addresses and the money you collected. RSI then makes sure that those purchases are handled in the way that makes the biggest impact. For instance, BN and Amazon each have their own sales ranking system. Therefore, by splitting the orders between these two (and, apparently, BooksAMillion), both of these register the sales of the books. Then, in addition, you need to provide 90 different people who will bulk-order books, such as independent bookstores. So, if you are connected to 90 churches, and they want to bulk-order the book (55 each), they send you the bulk price, and you add it to the sale.

The only part of this that is even remotely potentially unethical is that if, instead of knowing 90 organizations that want to bulk order, you instead know 50 organizations that each want 100, then, RSI will split the orders in half, and have part of them distributed to their own intermediaries, and then distributed to those organizations.

So, according to the documents that are supposed to be damning, RSI is merely providing a service to make sure that the *real* sales of the book that are made are counted towards their reputation in the best way possible.

I should also point out that I have worked with a few popular bands, and they all follow a similar practice. They make sure that all of their presales get counted towards the first week on the Billboard charts so as to have maximum impact. There is literally no difference, except that Billboard makes it much easier to get this done than the NYT bestseller list, and, in the case of music, Billboard is the only list most people care about, and, with books, there are quite a number of lists that can be important (such as Amazon). So, instead of taking care of one list, RSI makes sure that the sales (which, I will point out again, are *real* sales), are reflected on all of the relevant lists.

If someone can tell me how this is unethical, please do so in the comments (note – the comments are moderated, but only to get rid of spam – any legit comment will go through when I check them).

I am tired of innuendo being substituted for reporting. Though I have historically like Marvin Olasky, this is not the first time that World magazine has done a hit job where innuendo was used in place of facts. Every negative piece simply looks at individual words in the contract, finds the least generous way of interpreting them, and then passing off the resulting insinuations as if they were objective facts.

I believe a lot of people who threw Driscoll in the dirt over this probably owe him an apology, and possibly need to repent for spreading half-truths and innuendos.

Conservatism – Humility, Duty, and Practicality

I don’t know if this is the whole story, but over the last few months I have been going back over what it means to be conservative. I feel that many of the typical formulations only scratch the surface. A lot of people point to “freedom” and “capitalism” and “democracy,” but I personally view these as being secondary outgrowths of a deeper tradition of wisdom. One of the issues of wisdom is that it is always hard to articulate, which is why much of Hebrew wisdom is given in proverbs, and much of Jesus’ wisdom is given in parables. The best attempt I have seen, so far, in articulating conservative values is Wiker’s 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read.

While Wiker’s book is an excellent introduction to deep conservative thought, I think it still misses on hitting the deep value core of conservatism. Having read a lot of conservative work myself, I think that the best of conservative thought hinges on three principle values – humility, duty, and practicality.

Humility may seem odd, given the self-assured sense in which many conservatives present themselves. However, the humility of the conservative is not in his ideals, which are outside himself, but in what he allows for others. This is the reason why conservatives value capitalism – capitalism is humble, because it recognizes that other people’s prioritization of capital expenditures might be different than their own. This is why conservatives value democracy – it is the recognition that no one person has all of the answers in themselves. This is why conservatives value tradition – it is the act of humbling yourself before the experiences and ideas of those who came before you.

As you can see, while conservatives are usually not very humble in their pushing of conservatism, the ideas themselves are fundamentally founded on expressions of humility.

Liberalism is not humble. Liberalism says that whatever my cause is should fundamentally be put first. Liberalism says that the problems that I see in the world is more important than the problems that you see in the world. Therefore, I am justified in taking your money to solve my problems. Liberalism says that I am smarter than you. This is why liberals are always trying to make the other look morally and intellectually inferior. This is why Republicans are often branded as “anti-science” – they refuse to have actual conversations and debates (those require enough humility to view an idea as worth hearing) and instead just rule out options a priori. Liberalism says that the new is better than the old. That we don’t need to listen to tradition because who cares what the dead think anyway. We can always come up with some hot-button issues that disqualifies them from being heard anyway.

The second value of conservatism is duty. Conservatives view duty in a very unique way. Your duty is unique, and it deals with the people who are nearest to you. Jesus asks us to love our neighbor. We choose our friends, we choose our wife, but God chooses our neighbors. This is the most disturbing thing – we must care for our neighbor simply because he is there. This also means that my duty is going to be different from your duty. This sense of duty is one of the main things that separates conservatives from Libertarians.

The Libertarian view of duty always seems to come back to this quote from Rand: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” Conservatism views the world quite differently. Conservatism says that there are situations that we can be in, which we did not choose for ourselves, in which we have duties to others. If someone is drowning, we have a duty to save them. This is even rightfully enshrined in law. If it is within our direct power to directly save a life, we must do it. That is why conservatives are against abortion. Women, even when they did not choose to carry a baby, nonetheless has a duty towards that baby that they carry. Husbands have duties to their wives, wives have duties to their husbands. This is why conservatives are against no-fault divorces – we all have duties that we must fulfill, and society is depending on each person performing their duty.

However, because of the individual nature of most duties, most of them are not able to be legislated. That fact, paired with the individual nature of duties, means that, out of humility, conservatives are not able to encode within legislation a person’s individual duties. We must recognize that each person has duties that we may or may not be able to see and understand, and therefore we cannot legally lay claim to whether or not that person is fulfilling their duty in many circumstances.

Liberals also have a concept of duty, but one which is much different than that of conservatism. The liberal concept of duty is much different than the Christian concept. The liberal concept of duty, rather than focusing on individual people and their duties towards each other, abstracts both the person with the duty, and the person to whom the duty is owed. The conservative view of duty is very concrete, with each person having a duty towards the people with whom they are in contact. The liberal view of duty relies on alienating people from each other – the “haves” and the “have nots,” the “white” and the “black,”, the “unprivileged” and the “privileged.” By abstracting these two groups, it also means that their interactions are likewise abstracted. A “privileged” person never has to actually meet an “unprivileged” person and find out what they need or how they can help. They only are able to see them as part of the group, and will never be able to see their differentiated needs apart from their membership in the group. And the person who is receiving the duty will never know the person from whom they received it, and will continue in thinking them in abstract terms. When the good samaritan found the traveler on the road, he interacted with him. That interaction probably changed both of them. I’m sure that both the priest and the Levite who passed him by would have contributed to the “road safety fund” at their local tabernacle. But touching a hurting person on the side of the road? They were just too busy. That is someone else’s job. We need to get the government involved to help.

The final conservative value is practicality. Practicality is itself an outgrowth of humility. It is the recognition that the accomplishments we want to accomplish may not be the same ones we can accomplish, and being humble enough to take the tasks which are doable and are under our control. It also means limiting the scope of what we are trying to do – recognizing that our own interference through government can actually prevent good things from taking place. Liberals never seem to realize that even when their intentions are good, they are often preventing more good than they are doing. Conservatives recognize that they must limit the scope of what they do, because otherwise they may do more damage than good. It also recognizes that all laws will, somewhere, somehow, do damage to someone. There is no stopping that. But recognizing that fact will mean that the laws will be few enough and small enough that the damage is minimized, and no law will be enacted unless it is worth the risk of the damage that it can do.

I am sure that there are other things that can be said, but for the time being these are the underlying, driving considerations that I have noticed in the deeper conservative thought.

Oh, Look, the Yuan is Now the World’s Reserve Currency

According to this news report, the UK is going to start issuing bonds denominated in Yuan (note – the Yuan and Renminbi are the same thing). Russia and China are already starting to do exchanges in Yuan, and have upped their commitments in the past year. China is looking at doing similar transactions with Australia. It’s even gaining ground among American companies. This is bad news for the American economy, who has profited from the world using dollars as the reserve currency.

However, such things are coming to a close. Why? Here’s the deal – a lot of times people get things they don’t deserve. That’s not a problem. The problem is what you do with it. If you treat your good things as being under your stewardship, then you can keep it a long time. If, instead, you view it as yours to extract from others, you will lose it quickly.

I think that is the point of the story of the rich man in Luke 12:16-21. Jesus did not deride the man for being rich or for having nice things. However, his goal in all things was himself. When he got the surplus grain, he just decided to build bigger barns, and then do nothing and sit on it. In other words, rather than stewarding his possessions, he was just going to consume them.

When you act as a steward, you do in fact get benefits. However, *more* than just you benefit. There was nothing wrong with the US being the world reserve currency, and nothing wrong with us benefitting from it. However, what has happened is that our own view of our role has shifted. We do not see ourselves as being stewards of the international monetary system; instead of acting as servants of the system and its participants, we view it as servants of us. As such, we are in the process of being stripped of it.

Another Idea for Gold-Backed Money

If you have followed this site or my book for a while, you know that I am an advocate of returning to some semblance of commodity-backed currency. I mentioned that we actually could start trading in silver (and save a lot of money in taxes if we did).

Another idea is to create a standardized way to use gold and silver as collateral for loans. You see, many people own silver and gold, and (understandably) don’t want to spend any of it. However, it seems like a waste to spend so much time, effort, and money collecting silver and gold, but have it put to no purpose whatsoever.

One way that some people have found to put their gold and silver into use, without spending it, is to use it as collateral for a low-interest bank loan. That is, if you have $1,000 worth of silver, you can pledge it to the bank for an $800 loan at a very low interest rate. Then, as long as you pay back the money, you keep your silver, but if you fail to pay it back the bank keeps your silver. Thus, as long as you invest in a productive operation, you are able to use your silver and gold to increase your wealth, rather than have it sit doing nothing (which is Warren Buffet’s primary critique of precious metals).

So, what we could do is create a gold/silver depository. However, instead of just holding your money, you would also be issued a credit card that would be able to have ultra-low-interest credit up to 75% of your holdings. That works out well for the card holder, because they have a secure depository to hold their precious metals, and they can use them to make purchases. It works out well for the investors of the depository because they have guaranteed returns. If a creditor does not pay their monthly fee, you automatically get a payday in gold and silver. This creates two different vehicles for gold/silver investors. By using the facility, you can put your gold and silver into good use. By investing in the facility, you either get (a) a guaranteed small return if the borrower pays, or (b) discounted precious metals if they borrower does not pay – a win/win either way.

If the price of precious metals goes up, then you automatically get a larger credit line for borrowing, and deciding not to pay uses a smaller amount of silver or gold. Therefore, if you think the price of metals is going up, you can purchase something today, and pay for it with a lower value of silver tomorrow.

In addition, such a service could offer services for someone to audit their own silver lock box. It could have allocated vs unallocated accounts, and various other levels of service depending on your needs. Finally, the depository should exist within the state of the borrower, so that the borrower can come and view the holdings at any time.

This appears to have been tried once in 2010, but the site never got off the ground. I found several articles from March and April 2010 (all seem to be rewrites of the same press release), but nothing seemed to come of it. The website mentioned in those articles is now pointing to something else.

Critiques? Suggestions?