Wednesday, April 23, 2014

For Us Thieves, Life Is Easy

I get the feeling that for most of the people reading this blog, life is pretty easy.  Mostly it's the kind of people that not only can meet their needs with each paycheck, but there's money left over to save.  I'm lucky enough to be able to say that's true for me.

I don't consider myself a super frugal person, but I aspire to be.  If you are frugal and you save money it doesn't necessarily take too long before the money you've saved itself "earns" enough to cover your monthly expenses.

So for instance, suppose I was a more frugal person and could live on $30K/year.  If I were to save $750K then my savings should cover all of my expenses.  Forever.  A general savings rule is that if you've invested in a broad range of stocks, perhaps via a mutual fund, you might expect that you can withdraw 4% of your total savings annually and the savings would never go away.  Maybe you have 7% growth, you withdraw the 4%, and inflation eats 3%.  Basically the money lasts forever.

Suppose I've hit financial independence, but I just keep working for a few more years.  It doesn't take that long to go from $750K to $1.5 million because that initial $750K grows as well.  If I wait a few years on retirement and still live on $30K when I do retire, by the end of each year I'd have $30K more than when I started.  Despite the fact that I've lived comfortably, paid my utility bills and my food bills.  I had many people that provided me services.  And yet despite doing nothing I now have even more money than the year before.

How does that work?  How is it that I can take advantage of services, pay for utilities, go out to eat, generally enjoy myself, all the while doing nothing, and when I've done that for a year now I have more than when I started?  We're told that our money "works" for us.  But it doesn't really.  Money doesn't actually "do" anything.  People do.  People work.  What money does is it entitles me to take a portion of the value that other people create.  This is entailed in the concept of "property rights".

In other words, people work in factories and in so doing they add a certain amount of value.  They only keep a portion of that value.  Who gets the rest?  I do.  It goes to me.  I don't necessarily know what they do.  I don't know if the work is destructive to his body or his environment.  I just get the money.  And I haven't really done anything.

If I were to continue working as I do now for a couple of more decades a savings of $1.5 million is entirely conceivable, and I think living on $30K/yr is also plausible when the mortgage is gone.  So what does this mean?  It means that when I stop working I not only will watch my wealth grow, I'll be able to provide for my kids such that they could extract services forever and likewise never work.  I just need to teach them the 4% rule.  I'd be living on 2% on this scenario, so the amount I can withdraw annually without seeing any reduction in my real wealth increases

This scenario is very much within my reach, and it seems unfair.  The idea that I can reach a point where I never work, yet my wealth grows, and further that my kids and their kids can likewise live off that same wealth.  So you can imagine how extreme the unfairness is for people that are really sitting on large piles of money.  They can hardly see their wealth diminish even if they try.  Why?  Because sweat shop laborers and other laborers are compelled to hand over the fruits of their labor to these rich oligarchs.  Money the oligarchs don't need, but the sweat shop laborers do.

This is the system I participate in.  We are the lucky ones that don't live hand to mouth.  We've seen a big boost in our wealth over the last year or so as the stock market has come back.  That's wealth that was created by the companies I partly own through mutual funds.  Companies that have people that work for them, people that often live hand to mouth and just don't have the ability to save.

It's just kind of depressing to me, but I don't see that I have much choice.  I've been working all these years and I haven't been allowed to keep the entire amount of value I've created.  It's gone to stock holders before me.  If I had been able to keep what I produce maybe I'd have enough saved that I wouldn't need to work any more, but that's not where I am.  So like they have taken the excess value I've produced, I'm going to take the excess value produced by others further down the line.  As I age it's going to get tougher and tougher to work for a wage.  You're going to have to have savings.  There are alternatives to investing, but they aren't so good.

What would be more fair of course would be to take back from the rich what was taken from us instead of taking from the poor, but our system of property rights just doesn't permit it.  But this is one of the reasons I find it absurd to hear complaints from rich people about welfare.  The biggest welfare system ever is the system of property rights, which compels the very poorest of people to give the value they create to people that are so fantastically rich they can't realistically even spend it.

Amongst some on the left a popular phrase is "Property is Theft".  I think that's correct.


Chad said...

There is that word fair again - fair only if you can steal from one group - that is fair. No matter how they got their wealth - it is theirs and furthermore there is no stopping any one person from obtaining that same level of wealth - that is where your argument continuously loses - no one is stopping one person from success and another from failure.

It is an awesome awesome thing.

Two obvious things.

1 - You could choose to use your saved money to help others instead of yourself.

2 - Without your participation the person your speaking about - the so called poor person in a factor somewhere expanding your wealth may not even have a job, may not have the opportunity to grow, earn and change their life's path for him or his kids.

Chad said...

For the last time and for the love of God - there are many more ways that the expansion of wealth curve can be altered without the use of force or taxation.

There should be 100 car companies, should be a 100 cell phone providers, a 1,000 different Wal-Marts - that should be the focus - every possible gov't obstruction that is stopping the opening of Chad's Mart and Jon's Mart should be eliminated.

COMPETITION, COMPETITION and more competition and jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs is the only way to expand the middle class. And guess what - you hate this but its true - you need to the top 1% to get it done. Allow them to invest their fortune to reduce their tax burden.

It takes very little brain power - it takes very little thought process to believe that the solution is to simply take wealth from a select group of people then to distribute that out and that will solve all issues.

Think outside the box - how do we entice the most wealthy to re-invest their money back into America? How can we help 10 brand new start up companies to compete with Wal-Mart? How do we allow you to build the perfect socialist company where the employees benefit from 100% of the profits - where the CEO makes the same as the bagger?

Saying your going to steal money because its 'fair' that's way to easy. Problem being of course that once you have all that money - there is no doubt it will change almost nothing over time - the lazy will continue being lazy, winners will win, wealth will find its way back into the hands of the wealthy because they know how to get it done.

In the back of your mind - you know that is the case.

Jon said...

That has nothing to do with what I wrote.

How do we allow you to build the perfect socialist company where the employees benefit from 100% of the profits - where the CEO makes the same as the bagger?

That you think I believe the CEO should make the same as the bagger, I think that shows how much effort you put in to even grasping what I write, which is obviously not much.

Examinator said...

Sadly your scenario is so abstract as to be worthless for philosophic purposes.
Firstly we live in a capitalist society (of sorts). In essence that means that if you were to save $750k etc you the shareholder who claims "a portion of others' fruits of their effort"
Secondly while it's possible to live on $30k pa the problem is that events don't read the same script. I.e. my car just did the 'big end', I shattered my toe and in another event required 4 stitches in my 'operative' hand, my mum's roof partially collapsed (white ants) and the house needed significant fixing up!.... grand total $82K that kicked a hole in the $750k.
Thirdly the CPI is calculated on a set basket of goods and services... NOT all things thus the CPI doesn't cover all things that rise.
Petrol here in Aust is up and down like a whore's panties on a Saturday night at a mine site. For that reason it is excluded from CPI. Electricity went up in one city Sydney 62% in 2 years but not in others as it was already high.... net result CPI showed 2% over all measured goods. Need medicine for chronic ailments (for excesses of youth) they're not in the CPI either.
Finally Mutual funds showed a Negative earning after the GFC.

The point is Capitalism as it is practised more of a sledge hammer to crack a peanut than something logical, rational or even fair (in terms of Chad's dreamland)

As for how to set up a socialist system we must eliminate lust, greed and selfishness form humans OR LIVE IN SMALL COMMUNES say under 25 people and live without the greater(?) technologies that require mass co-operation (sic).
Me, hmm I adopt Buddha's dictum...
try to conquer wants (desires)as opposed to needs.
And when it comes to others the Bible, " first remove the mote in your own eye BEFORE trying to remove the "splinter" in other's eyes"
In short I try and convert anyone to anything and don't see myself as 'better' (like some Christians, Muslims, MDs, CEO's etc.)
Give my goals I am logically bound to admit that I...TRY. Success rate? … it's improving, I believe...hmmm but even that is constantly under review. Socrates said the path of wisdom starts when you challenge your most treasured views and beliefs.

Jon said...

Maybe I'm not so great at expressing myself. Ex, my point here is not to discuss whether living for $30K is actually plausible, but to say that as you accumulate wealth you reach a point where you not only don't see your savings diminish as you spend, your wealth grows. And it's not because you do anything but because via property rights you are entitled to the fruits of the labor that others produce. We find ourselves in this kind of a position. Or at least we very well may in the future. Whereas the poor who live hand to mouth can never get there. And we can likewise have children that never have to work. I participate in this system and it definitely bothers me, but I don't see a reasonable alternative. Chad says I could give away everything I have. I guess I could try to survive with nothing, but I'm more selfish than that apparently. I want an alternative to stealing from the poor, but I don't want to just put myself in a place where I'm the poor being robbed by the rich.

As far as whether $30K/yr is plausible, I think it obviously is. Many Americans do so already. Remember I said that my house would be paid for. Here's an example of a guy that lives on $7K/yr and he explains in detail how he does it.

A bit too extreme I think for my tastes, but here's something more reasonable. Under $25K/yr. Lots of people live this lifestyle.

So I would say that this is quite the opposite of abstract. It really exists, and actually exists quite widely I'm finding. Of course it would have to because a lot of people survive on less because they have no choice (lower income). Median personal income in the US is $32K (median family income is higher at $50K).

Chad said...

JC - that is why we will forever disagree sir. The poor can get there - they have every single opportunity to do so, but choose not to. We will never see eye to eye in regards to that because I have seen it first hand and lived it myself (lived in my car). I do not have a college degree, but I worked my ass off - harder than the next guy and got to the chair I am sitting in right now without taking a single hand out to my recollection - I took all the standard deductions/tax breaks when making $16k per year as everyone else gets.

The funny part about your reply is that I lived on $16k, $18k and $20k a year so I actually know what it takes to live that way and what it also takes to get where I am - for you its a punch line - a theory and for me it was a practical life application. I didn't make babies to increase the problem, I didn't have cable, I didn't buy a new car - I worked every job I could and eventually/slowly got enough experience to build up a resume to install cable for $22K then to sell cable for $28k then to Manage people for $35k then to take more sales courses and hone my skills to be hired by a software company for $42k then to sell for that company (bought by CBS) and earn $50k and from there it goes - just a dumb ass country hick with no college degree doing what it took to climb the ladder.

I've heard our ridiculous business theories before - theories you can put in place right now today without the need of gov't. I realize your Utopia is to have levels of pay to your liking and that your goal is to not allow you (as a stock holder), the board members or Wall Street profit from your companies labor which again you can do right now without any gov't intervention. The problem is that without a completely socialistic approach dictating how many companies can build widgets - your business can not exist in the open market because someone will learn how to do it cheaper and displace that company for less. That is why you need 100% control to stop competition from happening is the point.

Jon said...

I do actually agree with a lot of what you say Chad, and I have to give you credit for your hard work and success.

But what I think you mean when you say the poor can make it is that poor Americans can make it. The poor that I really have in mind when I talk about how the rich steal from the poor is the sweat shop worker in Bangladesh, or worse still the peasant in Bangladesh that only wishes he could work in the sweat shop but doesn't even get that much.

US foreign policy is driven by investor demands, and one thing they do is enact policies, namely neoliberal policies, that destroy local industry. When local industry is gone sweat shops can come in and offer rock bottom wages because the people are so desperate. So it's not just the laborer that pays the penalty by sending the fruits of his labor to the investor. It's also the unemployed farmer who has no job opportunities because the path had to be cleared for the sweat shops and slave wages. In this sense property rights is also a theft from the unemployed.

Poor in America is a different story. It can be pretty tough. You obviously made some wise choices. Not having kids early was very wise. This makes living in a car a plausible temporary solution. People here often have made poor choices, so they find themselves really behind the 8 ball. I'm a lot more sympathetic to them than I think you are, but if you are poor and don't make these poor choices it's entirely likely that you'll climb out of poverty, assuming you don't have a health problem that prevents it.

But the people really getting robbed are the Foxconn employees making i-Pod's so Apple stock holders can be so wealthy. That's the real theft, and even if it's possible for the occasional Chinese peasant to work his way up to a middle class life, that doesn't mean it wasn't made needlessly difficult by the fact that we stock holders took the fruits of his labor from him.

I can reach a point where I never have to work again. Indefinitely. Others will work for me, as will their children. The value that I'm using isn't coming out of thin air. People create that value and are compelled, via the threat of violence, to give it to me. Most of these people need it a lot more than me. Nice life, eh? It bothers me.

Examinator said...

As I've said b4 I did sort of what you did. I left school at 16 i.e. no high school diploma
I worked in more jobs than I care to remember. Including in a chicken slaughter line, septic tank pumping jockey, Production line, council worker digging drains by hand, no bob cats then. Washing dishes in a Chinese restaurant... they fed me with the overs.
The list goes on and on.
My 'burning bush' moment came when I decided to go to night School. and got a job selling color TVs. From there selling legal text to upper management then debt collection/ business reports then selling Word processors (no PC's then) mini mainframes then mainframes... $ multi million dollar beasts
DURING THIS time I completed High School at night then Part time Uni..
After that my wife and I owned and ran a small chain of pet shops while I worked as State General manager and the corporation's Mr Fixit
You can believe me when I say I've been there and done that and got the scars.
BTW all through my career I was involved in community groups and crisis Intervention counselling etc.
The key difference between us is that because I was/am comparatively disabled and 'different' I was bullied, bashed and sexually assaulted for most of my childhood/ adolescence. Un like you my focus was/is always to work on the inside to ensure that others didn't have to deal with what I did.
Where I saw someone trying to get out of the shit they were in by no fault of their own I tried to assist.
i.e. one girl that came to my attention was from White trash (3 generations welfare dependence/ incest and sub optimal IQs) She was the first in her family to get close to passing High school
First we organized her an apartment above a privately owned supermarket and part time work there. We organized the owner and his wife to 'foster her' with support from me and the community club of which I was a director. My daughter and I tutored her. The club had attorneys they sorted the legal issues.
She got her high school diploma and with help got into uni nurse training. She's now an intensive Care sister at a major hospital married with 3 children all good students. She and us sponsored her younger siblings to get away from the 'family' home?. 2 of the three went on to do trades. sadly her younger sister having been incestuously raped got out but never recovered... turned to drug and died of an over dose 3 years later.
I tell you this story be cause it clearly illustrates how not every person who is born to poverty etc is either worthless , lazy or necessarily able to pull themselves out of the problems.
I could give you reams of stories that show similar stories. none of which would get into your media 's attention.
The above story shows how now there are about 25 worthwhile community members who may not have been so were it not for the help of the Community service club's members and my daughter.
While I may not be a mover and shaker etc I can claim to have made the world that little bit better for others ( over and above my self interests.
Unlike you I acknowledge that my part in my 'success?' was one third of the equation. fortunate Happen-stance (opportunities), help from others being the others.

Examinator said...

I understood what you meant. The question I was posing to you was...What is the difference between you as the property owner exploiting the labors of others and other 'capitalists'( property owners) exploiting you or the poor Bangladeshi? Surely it's a subjective one based on what? your view of enough/ fairness.

I refer you to the case of the girl I mentioned.... BTW she is a westerner in our western domain. I have plenty of examples where the subject IS American.
It seems to me that essentially your philosophy is basically introspective and limited to your US stereotypical conditioning.
I'm not say it's bad or lessor than mine or anyone else's merely that it's predicated on subjective boundaries. The problem with nebulous/ ethereal boundaries they always change to be always just out of reach.
I.e. I remember thinking as a youth if only I could earn $50 pW I'd be on easy street then it became earning my age in thousands, double my age etc.
What I found was that what I needed was a change of perspective ...i.e. what is the most important.( happiness? hmm contentment with one's self.)
Someone once said
Income $100, expenses $101+ misery happiness= income, $100 expenses $99.99
the key factor is desires ... make you desires/wants Less than your needs/income.
Ergo Buddha.
My point is no amount of money is enough until you control your wants then any amount is enough.
What you seem to be chasing is If only I could .... things would be great. You show signs of learning that happiness is when you forget self and be absorbed in others
Chad gets lost in the wants in that he wants stasis in the goals so he can measure himself by.
his happiness depends on other opinions of him.... status/wealth and all the trimmings.
I wonder what would happen to Chad if he lost his job status etc.
I've seen too many people blur the lie between seeing themselves in terms of their position( job and status). Me Well I don't really care I can and have gone 'backwards (sic)' in both and it didn't/doesn't affect me.
Who I am is the same I don't need others to acknowledge my worth or deference.

Chad said...

Amazing. Have you thought about the repercussions if America didn't buy the Bangladeshis labor? The only thing they have to even sell is their labor - can you imagine what would happen if they didn't have America to put them to work?

Have you been there or to any of these places you speak about like you know them so intimately? have you talked to the people - those working and those not? Have you spoken to the people who are employed, can put food on the table - are they sad about having some work? I suspect your reading books, articles - your hatred to the rich driving your narrative which is fine, but you failed to stop and think what would happen to those people if there was no work - the work provided by America?

My wife works in clothes - she's been to Bangladesh - have you? Do you really know what your talking about?

Yes I focus on American Jon and that is because this is my country. If the Bangladeshi people do not want to sell their labor then fine - Cambodia or Thailand people will be happy to work. I personally hope and pray that all these nations continue to push their labor costs higher and higher - I love it when I see a manufacturing program come back to the US because the costs of doing business have risen and places like Texas are so business friendly that it no longer makes sense to be off shore, but then that also means that someone somewhere lost their job.

So yes I am focused on America and Americans over all else JC.

Chad said...


I have lost my job - several times in fact then I go get a new one - maybe start a new business. If need be I go dig ditches, hump wood, mow grass, shovel snow until I find my next job. I don't give two handfuls of sh*t what people think of me to be honest. I still drive a 2003 truck that has 180,000 miles on it - my work chair has been ripped for over a year and I won't replace it until it falls apart.

Status/what people think? Funny story to help you understand me and how far off you are off on me/that comment. We made friends with the owners of my kids daycare plus 1 teacher so we hang out on occasion. They tell me that they (the owners) have been approached and still do by other parents multiple times asking if my family is part of a gov't program. You see I drop off and pickup my kids about 90% of the time and my normal apparel is athletic shorts, T's and warm up outfit and my comfy shoes I mow the lawn in so they are stained and probably have dog poop on - most of my shirts are ripped or stained from yard work - 50% of the time I haven't shaved for 4 days and I despise irons so I tend to be wrinkled on top of all that. The other parents - driving their Beemer's, Lexus rigs are decked out to the max, but I stay me wearing my comfy clothes. I have made my self successful, but I have not changed who I am.

I certainly have upgraded a few things - I enjoy a few finer things in life - I don't have to buy Natural Light or pickup the low end steaks at Cub Food any longer, but I am still cook hot dogs and mac-n-cheese for dinner once a week.

With that said - one thing I do enjoy is my toys - toys that make me and everyone around me happy, happy, happy. Nice shiny things that I have worked hard and earned the right to own - stuff that I don't buy for status, but do buy to enhance my families lives, to make long lasting memories and to have a hell of a lot of fun! I am not apologizing for that ever. I work hard and I play harder - always have.

We had a laugh last weekend while camping - the newest vehicle (model year wise) we own is actually the one thing we use far less than any other vehicle which is the RV (2010). My truck is an 03', my wife's car an 04' and I still have my old truck which is an 81'.

I shop on Amazon and Craigs List - point being I not by any stretch of the imagination interested in what others think of me.

Jon said...

Chad, you are simply on auto pilot. You've got certain arguments, certain phrases about working hard, business friendly, don't have kids. You just dump them out no matter what the subject is. If I want to commence an argument that is totally irrelevant to the subject I raised in this post, and the subject I tried to bring it back to with my comment, then I would respond, but I don't want to. If you decide to address what I said I'll read it and probably reply to that, but not this same old set of talking points that has nothing to do with the subject here.

Chad said...

Funny - you do the exact same thing. It always goes back to the Rich, always back to Haiti or Bangladesh or some other country half way around the globe, but okay.
Your Paragraph starts "US foreign policy is driven by investor demands ....."

Of course Jon - why should it not? Again your speaking of a country that can not survive on its own - a people that can not survive via their gov't, their way of living, their country. The only chance they have at survival is to accept the fact that the only thing they have to sell - the only way to help their people to survive is to take the bad deal that Capital offers them and sell their very low cost of labor. That is their price of admission into the game - my point which you do not wish to address because the answer is obvious is what happens if their gov't or their people decide - we don't want to play anymore - their people then have no work - no one gets out - they starve and they most likely die. They can be taken advantage of because they have absolutely nothing else to sell Jon. I don't have to like it and I don't, but it is what it is.

Jon said...

Funny - you do the exact same thing. It always goes back to the Rich, always back to Haiti or Bangladesh or some other country half way around the globe, but okay.

But it's my blog. I get to decide what I talk about and I also get to decide whether or not to follow rabbit trails you want to pursue.

The topic is property rights and how under the institution of property rights the poor are compelled to give the value they produce to the rich. Want to address it. "Don't have kids, anybody that's poor has only themselves to blame, taxes on the rich are too high." This is irrelevant. I'm talking about peasants in Banladesh in the context of the subject at hand. Property rights and how it is theft from the poor.

my point which you do not wish to address because the answer is obvious is what happens if their gov't or their people decide - we don't want to play anymore - their people then have no work - no one gets out - they starve and they most likely die.

I already know that. Why would I address a point I already agree with?

My experience with conservatives is they almost can't even hear you when you talk. I've said this same thing here. In fact even in this blog post I talked about how those that don't have sweat shop jobs are actually worse off than those that do. You think I'm saying closing the sweat shops right now is the answer? But with conservatives they can't hear what you say. All they can hear is what they heard on right wing radio, which offers a caricature of the liberal argument and rebuts it. "If you close the sweat shop the peasants are worse off." As if I don't know that. And so you see the phrase "sweat shop" and you go on auto pilot, rebutting an argument that was never made because that's what your right wing radio role models do, and you just ignore what I actually say. Why should I take the time to address what you say when you aren't even comprehending what I'm saying? You take what I say, fit it into a comfortable category that you've heard your right wing radio people create, and you rebut me as if I was in that category when I'm not.

On the institution of property rights the poor are compelled to give the fruits of their labor to the rich. And even to me. And this bothers me. Servitude not just for the remainder of their lives, but also their children. It's like slavery in many ways. The fact that they are better off with a sweat shop job, handing the fruits of their labor to me, as opposed to being unemployed, doesn't change my point that this is theft, that it makes their lives needlessly difficult, that they desperately need the money and I don't. You can either address the point without going off on tangents or not, but I'm not going to be rebutting your irrelevant points, though they are wrong. It's just not the subject here.

Examinator said...

My problem with "property rights" or "rights" in general is that they are a creation of man not an absolute (fact of physics or nature).
Ergo, they are subjective.... they vary from culture to culture, circumstances and even more so from person to person.
In simple term it means that morality (rights) depend on from who's perspective. Chad has no problem layering/ forcing his myopic perspective on to others regardless of facts circumstances etc. Even though if one examines his 'moral' code it doesn't seem to apply to him as rigidly as he applies it to others. His is a world of winners and losers. He seems to be hell bend on enforcing his way/attitude as the golden standard to which everyone must conform.
What is neglected in conversations on these topics are the reality of societies. They are there because we are a social animal and know that the best way to prosper is the social cooperation/tolerance.
A corollary of that is that without co-operation we revert to the law of the jungle and beasts.
This co-operation dictates that we assign some of our 'rights?'/'freedoms' to the greater good. This include property rights. In essence the societies laws define the 'rights' we enjoy.
Now we come to the crux of my position, reality is that functionally people and their interests, attitudes, moralities exist in a continuum from one extreme to the other with the majority in the middle area. that mean extremes are held by very very small numbers of individuals.
Following that logic all discussions of morality/ rights /freedoms et al first need to have fundamental definitions of what is meant and the parameters/caveats etc.
All scientific reports/papers etc actually have two features that are generally ignored by the General Public like Chad.
1. the conditions/ numbers/circumstances
2. the statistical analysis of the significance
They NEVER issue absolutes (there is always an element of Unpredictability).
Chad's psyche can't accept/cope with unpreditabilities, “externalities” therefore there is always someone at fault and because of his introspective personality he can't accept that his philosophy has holes/ flaws inconsistencies etc. As a consequences he restates/ changes the topic to fit his mindset/ comfort zone.
The idea that there is no provable grand plan for life existence is too uncomfortable hence he defers all that he doesn't comprehend to either the trash /ignore it or to God's greater will.
Clearly I have difficulty in arguing topics that assume absolutes/ ignore inconvenient facts (as externalities and irrelevant) and situational uniqueness.

Jonathan said...


You say that you feel kind of guilty about your situation, and are not sure what you can do about it. Instead of feeling bad about the state of the country, and system, or talking about how it is so unjust, why not just focus your energy on making a positive impact with your skills and talents?

I was listening to a guy named Dan Sullivan who has mentored some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. Millionares and Billionares. He had some interesting things to say about personality types.

Talks about "A" types who just go through the world oblivious. Talks about "B" types who dig into things and realize how screwed up and unjust the world is, but then just get stuck feeling bad and telling people how screwed up it is. Talks about "C" types who move past the feeling bad stage, and focus instead on what they can actual do to make a change themselves. Of course, he calls this type the entrepreneur, and it really seems to resonate with me.

You can check out his thoughts here - although the link won't be available for that long.

I highly recommend his 7 CD set, it's enlightening, informative, and just might motivate you to take more action. :-)

Frankly, I've pretty much cut off all exposure to blogs and talk I consider "B" type conversations, because it brings me down and distracts me from actually going out and helping people. It's hard enough work trying to find a way to develop services and products with enough value that people will pay me a living wage to offer.

I've been making some traction with my side buisiness, and have hired a VA full time from the Philipines. She's poor and has challenges with power and internet sometimes, but does an excellent job for me, and is able to support her sister going to college, and the rest of her family with the money the job provides. I hope to hire more people eventually, and just as importantly develop the skills to learn how to even more poor people can act as Virtual Assistants to provide for their families from rural and poor places around the world.

It's not much in the grand scheme of things, but it sure beats just feeling guilty about how blessed I have been, or debating with others on the state of the country or if I deserve where I am at in life.

My 2 cents.

Jon said...

So are you saying that one solution is to become wealthy enough that you don't have to rely on the returns that come from investment?

Jonathan said...

My point is many people like to sit on the sidelines and point out problems, far fewer actually take action.

So take action today, or this week. Doesn't matter what that action is, just shift your thinking in terms of solving problems instead of analyzing or complaining about them.

We could take the independently wealthy thing as an example. A "B" person would write a post about the virtue of becoming independently wealthy, but will never take any action.

So if you decide that this is a worthwhile goal, then make it a goal and not a dream. Goals deadlines, and must be broken into parts.

What can you do today or this week to eventually make this a reality in your life? Most people have no clue how to attack or even analyze this problem. You have to study people that are making it happen, and figure out how you can do likewise. It's not hard - like learning Chinese or anything. ;-)

As an example - you don't need a big wad of cash at the end of your life - you just need a constant monthly income. You don't need to rely on corporate investments, you just need to provide enough ongoing value to people so it's worth it to them to pay you money.

If you can get 5 people to pay you $1000 a month for a service that you provide with very little of your time, that's pretty achievable goal over a 2 year period. It's basically an acquired skill to figure that out. Over the past few months I interviewed 9 people about our age who developed the skills to make between $20,000 - $150,000 per month doing stuff that you or I could figure out just as easily. So $5k - $10k per month is very reasonable.

So if you spend your energy attacking these types of problems instead of criticizing the society at large, you will ultimately become part of the solution, and be able to start helping people who are being exploited.

And frankly, I think this is the only responsible thing to do. People intelligent enough to analyze and dissect what is wrong with the world have an equal responsibility to use their abilities to make a positive difference. Unfortunately, very few do.

Jon said...

OK, so what I take you to be saying is that if I can come up with an alternative revenue stream that doesn't rely on investment returns, then I can achieve that income security that I expect to need when I'm older without robbing the poor.

I think your point is good and I'm curious about it. I'm unsure though how you can earn that kind of money without likewise taking advantage of property rights and exploiting labor. So for instance take the case of your VA in the Philippines. There's a reason she's willing to work really cheap, and it has everything to do with US exploitation. You're not to blame and you are doing her a favor by employing her, so that's great, but our government has wrecked that place and backed various dictators for this very reason. So powerful corporations can employ people desperate enough to work for nothing. Check this documentary for some background info if you're interested, I had only watched the first half, planning to watch the rest, but the early part focused on the Philippines.

So now you find yourself in a position where you can hire a VA, and that VA brings to you a certain level of value. You allow her to keep a fraction of that value and you keep the rest. Now, this may be less true for you at the moment as you are getting rolling, perhaps you are actually losing money but getting your system figured out, but eventually you hope to get to the point where you maybe have 100 VA's adding value and you let them keep a small portion and you get the rest. So remember, I'm not criticizing you because I'm basically doing the same thing when I purchase a mutual fund. But as far as I'm concerned, doesn't this put me back at square one? I'm still living a luxurious life while others do the work and I just take the value they create from them?

I do appreciate your questions though and you're right that thinking it through and doing something about it is what I should be doing. Just so it's clear I do SOME things about it, but the one thing I feel I can't avoid, at least without maybe going and living in the mountains or something in a self sustainable way which is kind of unlikely, is living off the exploited labor of others.

Jonathan said...


Good questions. A couple of points. First - you could achieve the same thing without using a VA- namely providing value without involving someone else. You can develop products and systems which are automated and take little of your time and generate a good revenue system. As one small example - this guy who can make $1000 a day writing copy for other businesses. Now, you could follow the rabbit hole down and ask "but what types of products is he helping write for" and I guess you can trace almost everything back into a capitalistic system, but maybe if you're staying in the B2B small biz realm, that's more tolerable to you. Regardless though, the principal is there - you can find ways to bring value to people directly which does not require very much effort on your part on a given week.

Now back to the VA scenario, you can run a business with only a few employees, or VAs, and as you said, keep the large bulk of the profit. But I don't think this is a binary (exploit a foreign worker vs do the work yourself) type of scenario. What if you were to provide enough value to a VA so that they go from low to middle class? Is there a moral hazard then that you're helping one while at the same time supporting the corrupt system?

If you had a knock at your door tomorrow, and there was a lady that said "excuse me sir - I'd like to ask for a favor. My daughter lives in the Philippines and has no job. I know you can find work for her and pay for her medical bills and help her relative go to college. I know the guy across the street will pay you to manage a design project you do not have time to do yourself".

Would you say that the more moral thing to do would be to decline this in order to stay out of the corrupt system? Or possibly give a large portion of the proceeds to the VA? Or what if you worked out a system where you were able to provide for your family, and could devote yourself full time to finding more work that you would manage for a team of VAs that worked under you?

Personally, I get that it's a corrupt system, and understand that my government lead to it, but honestly, I don't really care. It might sound selfish, but truly, I would much rather spend my time trying to help the situation for those in front of me than examine the root cause. Not because I don't care about fixing the larger issue, but because I personally believe the best way I can fight against a corrupt system is to work from my strengths, to achieve tangible results.

In other words, I don't see me gaining knowledge about the causes of the problem resulting in contributing to a solution. It will just make me stressed, and upset. Not that I mind being upset and worried, but I am much more effective at causing a positive change by focusing on a solution, then a problem. Sort of like how you've argued about not criticizing when other countries behave badly. There's nothing you can do about it, so it's a waste. Focus on your own backyard. And for me, my own backyard is the business and value I can create today or this week to help the individual.

Jonathan said...

In my situation specifically, the fact is I know I'm providing a family a real alternative to poverty - if I don't hire them, their family will suffer. No, this isn't always the case, but that happens to be the situation here. I had to convince my wife to let me buy and send my VA a laptop just today, because my VA said that hers died, and I believe her. In fact, maybe I'll end up getting ripped off and it's just a ploy. I could easily go find one of thousands of other VAs who have less "issues", and working with a couple of hundred in the past, it's kind of a foolish move on my part.

But for me, the potential upside to allow her to learn to provide for herself and her family, far outweighs the prospect of being taken advantage of and being out the cost of the laptop.

I personally find life far more fulfilling and meaningful worrying about how my VA is going to be able to work and create a product I can sell so I can pay her next month than worrying about what our government has done or is doing.

Jon said...

I think what you're suggesting though is not really different from what I'm already doing. I could say that investing is not binary. The capital I provide gives corporations an opportunity to hire someone, making their lives better. It's better than no job.

The fact of the matter is the employed Haitian peasant being exploited to the hilt is actually better off than the unemployed Haitian peasant. So just like you are providing someone an opportunity to feed their family and at the same time extracting from them a portion of the value they create (a large portion) that's exactly what investing does.

One of the things that inspired this post is hearing from right wingers that the poor should be grateful to them because their capital is what makes it possible for the poor to acquire a job. They believe that money "works" as if it does an actual thing. It sweats. It gets injured in an unsafe mine or it's fingers get destroyed assembling electronics. Without that money, provided by us, the poor would be lost. This is in my view a delusion that the exploiter class naturally wants to tell themselves. We rich want to believe that we are concerned about helping the poor and making their lives better.

Money doesn't work. People do. They are working and are compelled by the threat of violence to hand the fruits of their labor to us. That's what our money does. It purchases a right to the fruits of their labor. Here in the US people want to believe that they should be grateful to us for the privilege of giving us what they produce. I can understand that you don't care. Most people don't think about it in these terms. In fact we're bombarded with propaganda that I think reinforces in us the story we want to believe. They should be thanking us. But I don't think that's true.

Again though I do think it is worth talking about what we can do to extract ourselves from being in the position of the exploiter. Like I said, a self sustainable existence could do it. Like the Amish do it. I'm not sure that's realistic for me, but offering suggestions of what to do outside of complaining is good.

Jonathan said...


So aside from living like the Amish, what suggestions do you have to help the plight of the poor? Again, we can exchange posts about what should be done, or shouldn't be done, but at the end of the day, I'm sending money over to a Filipino worker for her to be able to stay at home and work from her home on a flexible schedule which allows her to travel to the hospital when needed for various medical concerns, making twice what she would work doing more manual labor at a hospital.

Take the money out of the equation, what if this were a pure barter scenario - someone agrees to allow me to live in a house and eat food for a month, my VA gets to do likewise, and in exchange they get a service or product?

Do you really feel that you living off the land (or rather, maybe just talking about how you might or might not) is bringing about more good in the world than providing a way for someone to have better working conditions and a more flexible schedule?

Jon said...

In a sense I think I'm doing the same thing you are. You provide a job for a Filipino worker. I provide jobs to peasants via companies I partially own through stocks. People with these jobs can do various things with the income they earn. Foxconn jobs are in pretty high demand. It's better than the alternative.

So how to avoid living off that exploitation? Being Amish is one way to do it, but you're right. This doesn't necessarily help the Haitian peasant.

Though some people say that by not participating in the system of exploitation you do help some. You basically create less demand for the products that are developed through exploitation.

What suggestions do I have? As I said in this post I don't see a plausible alternative. I have no choice but to invest. You can criticize me for not seeing, but I'm just being honest. I'm willing to take action, but I'm probably not going to be Amish. If I don't see a target to shoot for you can't blame me for not pulling the trigger, right? I am open to suggestions though.

Jonathan said...

I think what you're suggesting though is not really different from what I'm already doing. I could say that investing is not binary. The capital I provide gives corporations an opportunity to hire someone, making their lives better. It's better than no job.

Jon, again – the difference here is I’m not suggestion, I’m doing. You’re comparing the difference between investing and sending money to a VA for work. I’m comparing the difference between spending time discussing an issue, and using that same time to attempt to alleviate the issue under discussion. We are both investing – but outside of this, let’s compare how best our time could be spent – attacking the problem or discussing the problem.

In my mind, I have a choice every day between reading and writing about topics such as these, or literally making a positive impact in someone’s life. I realize there is a place for discourse and inquiry, but I also believe there is a place for action.

So if you feel the prospect of hiring a VA is still not just, great – figure out what is. What skills and abilities do you posses which you could apply to actively address the situation this week? Who do you know who is being successful making a positive change? Study them and then emulate them. Sorry – don’t mean to single “you” out, just saying

Money doesn't work. People do. They are working and are compelled by the threat of violence to hand the fruits of their labor to us. That's what our money does. It purchases a right to the fruits of their labor. Here in the US people want to believe that they should be grateful to us for the privilege of giving us what they produce. I can understand that you don't care. Most people don't think about it in these terms. In fact we're bombarded with propaganda that I think reinforces in us the story we want to believe. They should be thanking us. But I don't think that's true.

That’s a fine abstraction – but tell me what I can do today to alleviate this for a particular individual. Better yet, take some time to figure out what you can do, do it, and then write a post detailing what you figured out so I can do the same. Until that time, I don’t care about “our money” or “propaganda” or the “fruits of their labor”, I care about the specific people I could potentially help this week.

Again though I do think it is worth talking about what we can do to extract ourselves from being in the position of the exploiter. Like I said, a self sustainable existence could do it. Like the Amish do it. I'm not sure that's realistic for me, but offering suggestions of what to do outside of complaining is good.

Here’s a suggestion – pretend you were going to lose your job if you couldn’t figure out a way to pull a family from poverty this week. What would you do? Or, pretend it’s your family member who is working for 20 cents an hour at a t-shirt sweatshop in Bangladesh under back breaking conditions. What actions could you take to get them out of this state this week?

What if it was a whole village?
The problem we all face is not a lack of knowledge, it’s a lack of motivation. With the proper motivation, we can all solve amazing problems, it’s just a matter of focus.

Jon said...

Let me just try to put myself in your shoes for a second and make sure I get what you're trying to communicate.

You see me complaining about how we're all a bunch of thieves stealing from the poor and living luxuriously. You see me saying that I don't see how I, other than choosing poverty, can avoid continuing this theft.

You say that's all well and good, but in the end, who cares? Even if I never avoid stealing from the poor I can still do a lot of good in the world. This is where I should focus. OK, I'm robbing the poor. I can still help the poor in other ways. Being depressed about being stuck in this system isn't helping anybody, but there are ways to help, and I should figure something out. Is this what you are trying to say to me?

Jonathan said...


I think that's pretty close. Only that if one is so convinced they are actively stealing from the poor, there are probably ways this can be addressed as well - one should probably devote time towards thinking of a solution, not just arguing the situation.

I think most people don't see solutions because they don't think about what a solution could be. We all do this. It's easier and more satisfying in an odd way to discuss the problem in general, not try and fix it personally.

Jonathan said...

Also, I might add - from my perspective, I'm always somewhat puzzled when people inform me of how bad things are. I'm wondering - what's the actionable information here? If you're saying there's nothing that can be done, why are you even telling me about this? Now I'm just going to spend the next day feeling bad about a situation I can do nothing about, which is going to impact the things I can do something about.

I know not everyone thinks that way, and I'm not saying it's right or the best way to think, but personally, if the information is not actionable, most of the time I don't care about it. That's why lots of entrepreneurs never watch the news or read the newspaper. They figure if something rises to the level of them needing or being able to take action, one of their more news savvy friends will tell them. In the mean time, they've got no time for chit-chat, they are focused on getting things done.

Examinator said...

What you say is true to a point. however , it is still predicated on a series of subjective generalisations.
e.g. "you only need a regular monthly income" this assumes that you want to participate in the western mores and the western capitalist, consumerist system.
Words/ terms like need are relative.
It could be said that I sit on the sidelines and find ( point out) problems. But it is not accurate to say that I don't work to ameliorate the effects of the system on those who the system has disenfranchised to a some degree.
The problem I have with all of the respondents on this site is that the underlying system is the best/ only one or immutable. Predicated on the attitude that you're ok therefore its ok for everyone just needs tweeking.In reality the system is logically fatally flawed. And as such neither 'system' is worthy of dogged/ inflexible support.
The TPer et al wants to maintain power or privilege etc and therefore anyone who doesn't fit their template needs to chance to their mores no matter how flawed/ corrupted that belief system is.
Christians are often so in name that they are selective
in which precepts they follow.
IMO NO system is sufficiently accurate enough to be doggedly or rigidly followed or enforced . each issue needs to be assessed on it's merits not through a fixed ideological prism.

Jonathan said...


I hear what you're saying - I'd rather take action within a flawed system, then sit and philosophize about the perfect system.

Actions I took four years ago as an entrepreneur were more flawed than the ones I took today. Hopefully the actions I take four years from now will be more refined still.

However, the only way I'm going to learn is to try, fail faster, and try again. So I will be taking action and letting my results speak for themselves. If one is not happy with my actions or results, feel free to demonstrate your disagreement with your own actions and share what you've learned after the fact. That would be my suggestion. :-)

Jonathan said...


I hear what you're saying - I'd rather take action within a flawed system, then sit and philosophize about the perfect system.

Actions I took four years ago as an entrepreneur were more flawed than the ones I took today. Hopefully the actions I take four years from now will be more refined still.

However, the only way I'm going to learn is to try, fail faster, and try again. So I will be taking action and letting my results speak for themselves. If one is not happy with my actions or results, feel free to demonstrate your disagreement with your own actions and share what you've learned after the fact. That would be my suggestion. :-)

Examinator said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Examinator said...

Thanks for that Jonathan,But you seem to be missing my point by resorting to or confusing "no set, preconceived ideology" and "no action". I certainly don't agree with indifference or doing nothing ('sitting around and "philosophising?")
Their is a multiple of different actions.
What I'm advocating is considering an action on its merits and possible consequences rather than have a predetermined mind set where 'one size' fits nobody as in say Chad's blinkered fact/consequence free potted answers.
Think of it like this, imagine Chad is a great swimmer and managed to swim out of dangers in his local lake.... but how wise is it to try and swim against an Aussie Beach or swim across the a red tide? The point was/is that being bound by preconceived ideologies excludes facts that might change the whole dynamic and the consequences.
Chad's if they aren't working their crap approach or what's in Bangladesh is not my problem is both short focused and dumb.
History has shown over and over again that if the two extremes in society become too focused you are ripe for a revolution and the smaller in numbers rich are at risk of losing every thing.
See French revolution , American war of independence, US civil war and the way Roosevelt sold the 'new deal' to the rich.... "share some power and goodies or lose the lot." he saved capitalism from total collapse.
BTW that doesn't advocate the extreme opposite.
Also note that what works for Christians may NOT work for non Christians. I.e. having grown up next to a shamanistic regime then watched the utter devastation Christian extremes caused I'm not convinced that fundamental Christian methods/more are ALWAYS appropriate for others.
I have made a life on helping others by using capitalism proves that the WAY one goes about doing things is often more important than what.
hence all abortions are evil is ...well... puerile and myopic it serves the sensitivities of the powerful not the well being of the woman or society.
Finally the key to action is considering all the facts/ consequence beforeone acts.
Act in haste or ignorance ...repent at leisure and forever. "the road to hell....good intentions"
Take a student protest march etc ...good idea BUT A FEW out of control Yobbos turn the focus say 'no war' into "the violence of a few'... counter productive to the aim.
The TB have some real concerns but their methods brand them as moronic mental midgets with psychoses grudges and full of irrational fears. e.g. NRA nonsense.

Examinator said...

This goes again Jon's unhelpful hyperbole sloganeering "Property theft"

Jonathan said...


Yeah - but writing a post about how you don't sit around philosophizing, but actually take action is kind of proving my point.

You mentioned Chat, abortions, Christianity, war, and NRA among other topics.

But what I didn't hear was any concrete action I should take this week, or you have taken lately related to any of those issues.

Go personally move the needle on any one of those issues this week, and tell us what you did, and how we can do likewise.

I'd rather spend my time doing than blogging.

Example - Jon and I had an interesting phone conversation last week where I suggested ways he could live within a Capatialistic society, and not violate his conscious by living off of the interest of bonds.

There are actions he can take this week to move towards living as an entrepreneur and not being dependent on interest derived from oppressive corporations (his view). I hope he chooses to take action this week.

Last week, I spoke on the community on the ways in with Virtual Assistants can help small business. Tomorrow I'm speaking with a CEO of a company as a result of that talk I gave.

There's a possibly I could be on the path to double or triple my income very soon depending on how the meeting goes. That would be nice because I would have an opportunity to spend more time with family, and do the things I claim are important for me to do.

If not, I'll try again next week.

So tell me something I can apply this week - that's my suggestion.

Examinator said...

Your point is well made.
NB it is possible to do both... I do and have done so for years.

the key difference is far more nuanced than that which tends to come across in the blogs.
Often they come across as proselyting... I know the ultimate absolute and only answer for everyone.
The Tea Baggers and the fundies are key examples of this. In simple terms their answers/solutions are based on a flawed logic, incomplete information, denial emotional ideology. Often the underlying agenda is
. their benefit/comfort .... cheaper goods for themselves, more comfortable emotion to use our own mores than others, to more converts= more power= less need to change or examine uncomfortable in equities etc.
The preferred logic seem to me to be is to avoid the pit fall of “mass” thinking. e.g. the bigger the mass (number of people involved) the less applicable your solution will be i.e. One size fits no one well.

Ask yourself at the outset who is the beneficiary of the plan I'm pushing and adjust your rhetoric of absolute to suit. e.g. terms like property theft is hyper emotive, hyperbolic, encourages polarisation and more importantly ignores the purpose of living in a society... good of the majority
What I was really and did say to Jon. Was the "how" i.e. "property theft" attitude that under pins his point that is the bone of contention.
I explained that it was a false and proselyting conclusion that was unhelpful.
One needed to look at the bigger picture and understand that we give up our right to be absolute judge on 'the crime of theft' to live in a society. Without rules chaos would reign ( law? of the jungle).
One must always think of the flow on consequences.
I'm not saying we shouldn't change things but ... if America has any real problem it is the tendency to strip nuance out of issues and assume Black OR white with the consequences emotive polarization. The second law of negotiation is not to use polarising language. Chad sees no other option but to acknowledge two opinions His and the wrong one.
I have no problem of living within the capitalist system(what ever that means).
But it is another thing entirely to impose your system on others i.e. Bangladesh scenario, likewise Christianity
The hard truth is that many of our(average persons' views/attitudes facts and ignorance to the devil is in the detail.
Jon and your idea on living on 'bonds' is also morally flawed in that the 'bonds ' help pay for the USA 's toxic hegemony etc. It is also predicated on buying 'stuff' cheap made in slave like factories in say Bangladesh.
In short your ideas' beneficiaries are yourselves. I would go one step further and suggest that the applicability is limited to a narrow demographic.
What is your culpability if someone who is unable or incompetent to follow your instructions and they finish up worse off?
For that reason I tend to help individuals solve problems in their terms see previous explicit examples.
I help them to solve their problems their way thus my culpability is low.

Jon said...

Truthfully Ex, I know that I'm prone to a proselytizing type of rhetoric. I'm trying to work on that. Perhaps it is an artifact of my evangelical days. I want to get people "saved" and that means getting them to change their opinions.

Though in fairness we kind of do need to get opinions changed to be saved. I think you mentioned how there's a portion of the Antarctic that is on a now irreversible course of melting that will cause significant hardship with rising sea levels.

But setting that aside I guess try to read what I say as this is really how I feel. I feel like as an owner of property, small in scale though I may be compared to the heavy hitters, I feel like a thief. I feel like a person that can live pretty comfortably indefinitely on the sweat of others, and those others aren't rich people who don't need the money but poor people who do need it. Property is theft. That's a blunt statement, but I'm just repeating a popular phrase with that, it's not something I made up. So kind of just repeating a cliche more than trying to be blunt and proselytizing. On the other hand I can't help myself but proselytize.

Your point on bonds is well taken. You're leaving me few choices.

Jonathan, I have thought about the info you sent me. Guess what, I do kind of have a sort of idea along the lines of a published kindle type book. Turns out as I was going through my deconversion process I journaled a bit. Hadn't thought of that in years, but I thought of it recently, though I feared it was lost with various computer transitions. But I found it. Maybe it can be modified into book form some how. Passive income, in no way a theft from anyone else.