Patrick Donohoe

Free Speech, Individual Rights, And Education with Greg Lukianoff

TWS 08 | Free Speech

 

Individual rights is something essential for a genuinely free society, and there are a lot of things that we should never take for granted. Right at the top of the list is free speech. Greg Lukianoff, New York Times best-selling author, and the President and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), is a passionate advocate for free speech. His whole appreciation for freedom of speech comes in part from being an immigrant kid living in a neighborhood with a lot of other kids from different parts of the country. Greg talks about his background, the books he’s authored, and the path that took him to the organization he now leads, FIRE.

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Free Speech, Individual Rights, And Education with Greg Lukianoff

TWS 08 | Free Speech

Freedom from Speech

I’m excited to talk with my guest. His name is Greg Lukianoff. He is an attorney and New York Times bestselling author and the President and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. He’s the author of a number of books including Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, Freedom from Speech and FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus. FIRE is the acronym for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. He also has a book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. The co-author of that book was Jonathan Haidt. Greg, I’m super excited to have you on. Thanks for taking the time.

Thanks for having me.

Tell us about your background and the path that took you to the organization you now lead, FIRE, and the books you’ve authored.

My father was a Russian refugee who grew up in Yugoslavia. My mother is ethnically from an Irish group in Britain and thinks herself as British. Growing up, my parents had very different ideas of the value compared to the value of truthfulness versus politeness, with my mom having an exaggerated sense of politeness coming from being an Irish girl in Britain. Sometimes you want to be more British than the British. My dad has a Russian sense that you want to be fairly coddling and that’s like as my mother would say, “Politeness is a form of deception,” which it is to be fair. I joke that my earliest memory was Christmas when I was four years old and it’s true. I got a toy that I didn’t like and it was the first time I remember getting a toy that I didn’t like. My mom wanted me to be polite and my dad wanted me to be honest.

I do what any good four-year-old would do, I break out in tears. My oldest sister, Katie, was like, “Poor baby got a toy he didn’t like, starts crying.” I don’t want to have the words for this but the problem here is a societal paradox. I didn’t know how to explain it. I was put in a situation where I couldn’t say what I wanted to say because it was considered wrong, but I had to be honest and I couldn’t do both. Partially my whole appreciation for freedom of speech comes in part from being an immigrant kid and living in a neighborhood with a lot of other first-generation kids or all the kids from different parts of the country. That meant that more or less you had to develop your own rules. The first one is you had to hear people out. You couldn’t impose anybody else’s idea of politeness because nobody’s parents agreed on what politeness meant. It’s essential to how I got excited about this. I went to undergrad at American University where I was a student journalist. That gets you radicalized with regards to freedom of speech.

You’re coming to your office saying, “Can you fire so and so?” It’s like, “No, I can’t fire so and so. What’s your reason?” Watching the wheels turn in people’s heads to become like, “I don’t know why I should censor you or how I could get away with it but give me some time.” I realized how felicitous we were at this whole process. I went to law school and I specialized in First Amendment. I went to Stanford for law school. I took every class that they had on First Amendment and then when I ran out of that, I did six credits on censorship during the Tudor Dynasty. That’s how you know if something is your passion is if you tell people about it and they’re like, “That sounds ridiculous.”

I interned at the ACLU of Northern California and despite all of this experience, when I started at FIRE, when it was only a year and a half old way back in 2001, I was shocked at how easy it was to get in trouble on the modern college campus. What was different back then, and this is the bulk of my career, is that the students were actually the best constituency on campus for freedom of speech. They got it. They love their Dave Chappelle. They got offensive comedians. They got even the hard but bonus credit questions when it comes to First Amendment stuff in a way that some professors did, but not all. In a way that a lot of administrators get. I sometimes explain my career as being a chunk of pretty much 2001 to 2013 being when I was almost exclusively dealing with administrators, silencing people.

It’s interesting to see how influences shaped your view of the world, personality, what you think and what you come to believe. I would assume in law school specifically, how did you get to the point where you understood individual rights? Maybe the connection it had to education to the level where you pursued making this your career, especially with FIRE.

I’m not sure if I understood it as being anything more than just something essential for a genuinely free society. It’s funny because sometimes people who are not first generation or not immigrants, including my wife, could pick on us. My mother, we call each other on the 4th of July. We wished each other, “Happy 4th of July,” and my wife thought that was cute and silly. This is one thing that immigrant kids get that other people don’t. There’s a lot to like about this country and there are a lot of things that we should never take for granted. Right at the top of the list is free speech. It’s unusual in human history. It’s unusual in the world in general and it is probably one of the great innovations in all of human history, but it’s also extraordinarily fragile. I went in there like a real believer anyway, but I didn’t give the education element that much thought until I was recruited by FIRE back in 2001. When they thought about it, I was like, “I have run into some of this stuff in college.” It was never that terrible.

Certainly, seeing columnists get in trouble when I was an undergrad was definitely pretty common. Stanford was an environment where even at that time it was easy to say the wrong thing because people were almost pulling for you to say the wrong thing. Living in San Francisco, that was my first experience with runaway group think. I lived in DC for six years and I missed the way we argued in DC when I was living out there. It was only when I started FIRE, when I started to realize how bad it was. It didn’t take me very long before I started having cases where they’re consistently cases where you’re saying to yourself, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” The case that we give in the book and I’ve given over and over again, but it’s probably one of FIRE’s most famous cases, is we had a student get in trouble for reading a book in public. The book was called Notre Dame vs. the Klan.

He was trying to educate himself on Klan history. What people to these days don’t know was that they were also anti-Catholic back then. They marched on Notre Dame back in ‘26 or ‘24. There was a great street battle. Students went out and fought them and they won. It’s a joyously anti-Klan book. Not that that it makes it any more or less protected, it just makes it more ironic that he got in trouble. He was found guilty of a racial harassment at a public school in Indiana because it made two employees allegedly uncomfortable with the title of the book and the picture of the rally on the cover. For a long time, nobody was paying attention to these kinds of cases.

I spent a lot of my career banging on this drum saying, “It’s much worse than you think.” That was my first book, Unlearning Liberty. It was more or less saying, “This is worse than you think.” That being said, in 2012 it seemed like things were on a positive trajectory. Things were getting better. The cases weren’t quite as ridiculous, which is one way to tell how good or bad your speech environment is. Somehow right around 2013, 2014, right after my book came out, we started seeing seemingly overnight this sudden push among the students to demand that speakers be disinvited. Not just, “I don’t want to hear this person and I’m going to protest outside their speech,” but, “I don’t want them setting foot on my campus.”

That’s when you start hearing about things like trigger warning requests and micro aggression policies. That’s when you start seeing the students taking themselves to the streets to be, in some cases, mob sensors, shouting people down, for example. This was not what I was used to and that seemingly happened very quickly. I wrote a short book and it’s one of the better things I’ve written in 2014 when this was all brand new to me called Freedom from Speech. It’s only about 9,000 words, but it’s me just explaining how I think freedom of speech is endangered by progress itself. What I mean by that is you as a society and you as an individual, as you get to have more technology and get to have more options in who you talk to both online and offline and live in communities that better reflect your values, you can physically move to areas that have more like-minded people. This is going to necessarily have a negative effect on freedom of speech because people who are in these echo chambers or people who are in these environments that sounds wonderfully pleasant to be like, “I’m going to live in communities where they reflect my values. I’m going to join internet communities that also reinforced my values.”

Politeness is a form of deception. Click To Tweet

There’s a problem with that. The social science is very clear that when you just talk to people with whom you agree politically, for example, you tend to become much more radicalized in the position of the group. If only out of weight of argument that you know for your side and not for the other. I made the argument in Freedom from Speech that this is going to get worse and it’s going to be a condition of wealth and of progress. That was Freedom from Speech. Then in 2015, I had the pleasure of writing with my then very new friend, Jonathan Haidt. He is a famous and brilliant social psychologist who wrote two wonderful books, The Happiness Hypothesis, which is about taking a scientific approach to what makes people happy and trying to figure out which does. Short observations like don’t live by the airport and try to limit your commute, those are very robust findings. Then two things that came out very strongly were meditation and CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

That’s why I wanted to talk to Jon back in 2015 about this idea I’ve been thinking. I’m very open about this in the book. It comes from getting very depressed back in 2007. I always had issues with depression in my life, but this was going to the hospital bad, which was the first time I ever had to go to the hospital. What got me out of that, which forever changed my relationship to my own depression, and I always want to be clear, I also took medications. I was criticized by someone saying like, “You don’t talk about medication.” I’m like, “Absolutely, talk to your psychiatrist. Get help. Talk to your doctor right away.”

CBT for the long-term was the thing that helped me. CBT is more or less learning some of the crazy exaggerations everybody’s brain makes like when you go on a date and it doesn’t go well and you’re like, “I’m going to die alone.” That’s a cognitive distortion because from this, you don’t know you’re going to die alone. This is just a crazy exaggeration that most people make. These include things like binary thinking: everything’s going to be all good or all bad, fortune telling. This idea of, “I’m going to die alone, catastrophizing. If I get a C on this paper, I’ll never get into Princeton or whatever.” These are all ideas that you have to learn to talk back to and it takes a lot of practice. If you get yourself in the habit of talking back to the sad and crazy and depressed voices in your head, they start having a lot less power over you. I still got depressed sometimes, but I now can fight back in a way that I never could before.

You’re talking about the spectrum of emotions or the spectrum of feelings. It’s interesting and I think this is what you’re alluding to but experiencing that is instrumental to growth and learning. You talked a lot about in the book safety-ism and protectionism. Those types of experiences, when there’s so much pressure there that you need to figure things out. It teaches you so much. At the same time, as you’ve been speaking, it’s one of those natural tendencies that we have to want to be saved. It’s in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

You want safety and people find safety in a lot of different things. When there’s a group of people that believe the way that they believe, and think the way that they think, they may come with thoughts and align with people with the same thoughts. Then when it’s there, it becomes so strong because the numbers or the collective is magnified, where something that’s different, it’s difficult to cope with that. At the same time, are you making the point that those difficulties, the experience of other point of views or things that are disruptive are in fact healthy and beneficial?

My thinking on education overall is a lot of education is learning to overcome some of our worse nature. Some of it is our desire for comfort, our desire for affirmation. It can come up with some serious negative side effects. Even my horrifying depression, after the fact, I realized that I was anxious about taking the job as President. I was formerly the Legal Director of FIRE and I loved that job. It was a lawyer’s dream come true to be that. I was very anxious about becoming President, partially because I didn’t know if I could take it. You’re in the culture world all the time. It’s nasty and I was afraid I might have a breakdown. Then in 2007 I had one and then I got over it. I felt that fear of what I was capable of had put a cap on the possibilities for my entire life. That was lifted, which I paid a horrible price for. It was really difficult. At the end, it’s hard for me not to see that as something that I had to eventually work through or spend the rest of my life, always a little bit afraid of my own fragility.

Do you associate that as the driving force behind why there are issues on college campuses, why you have helicopter parents is just irrational sense of fear?

TWS 08 | Free Speech

Free Speech: There are a lot of things that we should never take for granted. Right at the top of the list is free speech.

 

An exaggerated sense of fear, which is some are irrational at least. I’ll explain a little bit more about how the thought process happens. I’m working on college campuses trying to overcome my own depression and anxiety by teaching myself, don’t over generalize, don’t catastrophize, don’t personalize, don’t do all of these things that we talk about in the book. We have a list of cognitive distortions in the book that are super helpful. I was looking at what was going on a campus being like, it seems like administrators are constantly telling students, “You should catastrophize and personalize. You should do all these things.” I’m like, “This is going to make people depressed and anxious.” At the time I was saying to myself also, “Thank goodness students aren’t buying it.”

They’re not listening to it and so far it doesn’t seem to be having much effect on them. Then in 2013, 2014, it got a lot worse. It’s not unheard of for students to come out against freedom of speech. This happened in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s as well. That was the first-grade age of political correctness, where most of us remember that term from. At the time they were mostly talking about things like bigotry and racism and all this stuff. That was certainly still part of the argument in 2013, 2014, but the emphasis was very much on psychology. That this person, if they come onto campus, it’s not just that I’ll hate the fact that they’re there but I, or more importantly my fellow students, will find it psychologically harmful in a real medical sense for that person to be on campus.

I’m a psychology hobbyist to be like, “That doesn’t sound right. I should definitely get a sanity check from my friend, Jonathan Haidt about this.” I told them this idea about how it seems like we’re teaching cognitive distortions. To my delight, he said, “Let’s write an article about it.” I’m like, “Sure, I’d love to write an article with you.” This is back in 2014, right around the time that I was publishing Freedom from Speech. We published an article in The Atlantic called The Coddling of the American Mind. I didn’t love the title because it sounded insulting to students that I was trying to reach, but to give you a sense of how it was probably the right title to go with, my preferred title was Arguing Towards Misery which everybody we hear, it’s like, “That is boring.” We talk about micro aggressions. We talk about trigger warnings and about how this seems to be teaching students not to get over there if it hurts, not to confront ideas that make them uncomfortable.

We’re giving them a whole battery of things, which we said that’s a formula for making people more depressed and more anxious than they already are. We published the article, expecting to be beheaded because we were saying stuff that if you said on a campus would probably at least get you called to an office somewhere. We said it in The Atlantic and instead the response was shockingly positive. There was one person who wrote an article saying, “Her brother had killed himself several years ago and she was in a classroom where nobody knew that.” The story included someone jumping off of a building, which is where her brother committed suicide. It’s horrible. She said, “It was also the first time that anybody treated me not with kid gloves. Nobody stared at me.” Nobody censored it and it was the first time she felt normal in years.

I know that feeling when you’re like, “Please don’t treat me different. I need to just feel normal.” Some of those outpourings meant a lot to me. Jon and I were like, for a while there was a second most read cover story in the history of the Atlantic. We felt like we’d done our jobs and as I jokingly say, “We curate the whole problem.” We thought we were done with it. We thought we’d met our argument and it would go back to our other work. Unfortunately, everything got worse on the campus. We decided to write a book about it to go deeper most importantly under this question, what was so different about the entering class in 2013, 2014? What made this discontinuity so stark?

What was that epicenter? What was that ground zero of why that caused?

Freedom of speech is endangered by progress itself. Click To Tweet

The whole book is dedicated trying to figure that out. The thing that made it certain that we had to do this research was because we had already agreed to do the book, but early on we started getting the data. At the time when we wrote the article in 2015, there unsurprisingly wasn’t a tremendous amount of data what the class of 2014 looked like, because it wasn’t ready yet. We started getting the data on the psychological profile of the incoming class of 2013, 2014 and the incoming class of 2015 and all the way up to 2016, and it was terrifying. You’re talking about self-reports of anxiety and depression tripling in some cases. Sometimes people are like, “This just means they’re more comfortable with it.” Also people being seen for anxiety and depression going way up. People say, “That just means that we’re responding to it more often.” I’m like, “Those are two big pieces of data right there that you’re dismissing.” The one that is undismissable though that’s not something that can be changed by definition is the saddest one: hospital admissions for self-harm and suicide.

We’re talking about if you look at the trajectory for young women from 2008 to 2016, 2017, 2018, the suicide rate doubled. Overall, if you take the entire first decade of this century and compare them to the last couple of years, it’s up around 70% for girls. The mental health crisis has been hitting boys less severely. We have theories about why that is in the book. The whole book is dedicated to figuring out how this happened. Definitely, when we dug into it, we left with a strong belief that social media was making a lot of existing problems much worse. Social media accelerated all sorts of things. It also accelerated polarization, which is another thread that we talk about as having been a contributing factor to making feel like there are either people who agree with me or evil people more or less.

When it came to the anxiety and depression, the correlation was definitely there. That extensive social media use and depression and anxiety were pretty well-correlated. Why this generation? When you work backwards, figuring out what would have made this class different. They were probably the first class heading school that were on social media with a phone in their pocket as much as they want it to be. They came of age at unfortunately the right time. What people are skeptical about, for example, why does it hit girls harder, it’s like if you have sisters. Imagine the worst aspects of junior high school, but then imagine them 24 hours a day.

I have two daughters in middle school.

If you can keep them off social media for a little while. As we dug more into it, there are even some researches indicating that the lack of deep sleep from being on your phone all the time might be a contributing factor as well. That’s one of the reasons why I say 24 hours, because that’s a nasty environment. When people are in these social media bubbles, they’re even worse about it because there’s none of that face-to-face element. They’ve got a cheering section more or less behind them. The people who agree with you become much more salient in your social media life than they would. Even if you’re in a room being nasty to someone, there’s one person who’s like, “You’re being jerks.” That’s enough oftentimes to check that behavior.

On social media, the dynamic can be much nastier. We definitely think that when it comes to the genuine increase in mood disorders, social media plays a big role. We think that made the polarization part of it worse. We also talk about new ideas about social justice becoming much more popular. We talk about intersectionality in the book. Intersectionality is a concept that we’re very clear on. We think there’s a lot of validity to it. In order to understand someone’s identity, you can’t just take the broad category. The person who first proposed this was more or less saying there are issues faced by black people and there are issues faced by women. It’s not quite right to think that the same issues would be faced by the combination of black and women.

That can be an entirely different category of problem or at least a very different nature of a problem. Jon and I both say we think she’s entirely right. The way intersectionality has been interpreted on campus is something that we call common enemy identity politics versus common humanity identity politics. We’re very in favor of common humanity identity politics. This is like in the great speeches of MLK. He comes to this over and over again where he’s not saying that we’re enemies. He’s saying that you should understand us as your brothers and sisters and that we deserve the same dignity and rights that all of you have enjoyed and our founding fathers said, “We, the people enjoy this.” It’s incredibly morally compelling. It’s the approach that was eventually very successful in the gay rights movement and the women’s right movement as well. Just saying, “Calling us out is double standards,” and saying, “We deserve this too.” That’s very compelling and it broadens the definition of your society.

TWS 08 | Free Speech

Free Speech: People who believe in their intersectionality should be the most critical of people who just use it to get out of arguments that they don’t like.

 

There’s something morally satisfying about it. Common enemy identity politics is more of what you’ll see on social media these days. When you see people talking about different intersections of privilege, to a large degree, they’re engaging in that. Then people are like, “You’re saying privilege doesn’t exist.” I’m like, “No, I’m not saying privilege doesn’t exist.” If your argument is effectively if you check off any of these boxes, I don’t have to listen to you. I have a quick rhetorical out of an argument with you. Unfortunately, that’s going to get abused and I haven’t. Sometimes I think people who believe in their intersectionality should be the most critical of people who just use it to get out of arguments that they don’t like.

If you follow the intersectionality, like the privilege theory down the rabbit hole, you realize pretty quickly that given all the tools that have come out of it, you can dismiss the opinions of 100% of the entire population of the species. That’s a very tempting argument thing to use rhetorically. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do anything to bring people together. It doesn’t do anything to make people feel happier about themselves or anything else. The other thing when I tried to explain what’s depressing about this ideology is because as it’s currently interpreted, it means that practically all of us, not us too but, most people on campus are both oppressed and oppressor. White men are merely oppressors, unfortunately. Almost everybody else. It is some combination of the two and it’s treated as if it is just a fact of nature and there’s nothing you can do to change it and it’s going to be this way forever.

It’s a fascinating topic and the relevance is clearly there with college campuses, but it’s everywhere. It’s throughout society. I read the acronym of FIRE, which the individual rights are big, that’s the meat in the middle. I can’t help but think that it’s the understanding of what the collective and a group is in a society, in a class versus an individual. It’s the mesh of that and the misunderstanding or just not the right view of what an individual is and what their rights are and then what a group is and what their rights are. I’ve at least tried to talk to my kids and my girls because they’re dealing with it daily now. I look at them wanting to fit in, them wanting to be part of a group.

They want to be liked and they find identity in that. However, there’s so much weight there as opposed to the actual individual they are, which is unique to them and celebrating that. It’s almost this pull between the two desires, the two driving forces, wanting to be part of a group but also recognizing that you are an individual. I think that’s where social media has been amazing, but it’s also been very destructive. Maybe the common theme is the lack of understanding when it comes down to what an individual is, what their rights are, what a group is and what their rights are. Are you following that? Does that have relevance to how you’ve written about these things and potentially with some of the solutions are?

One of the reasons why we have individual rights in our name is not just because freedom of speech and due process are our individual rights. When Alan Kors and Harvey Silverglate were thinking about these issues going back to the 1980s and ‘90s, there was a sense that individual rights was a dirty word almost because more of the idea is this group rights idea, that having a better concept of group rights would somehow set us free or make us more progressive or something like that. The thing I was trying to explain is that individual rights protect group rights. If you have the right to decide what group you can join is entirely within your rights to decide. The primary way you evaluate yourself is by your membership in whatever particular group.

It has to be left up to the individual to also say, “I prefer not to make the dominant part of my self-identification to be my race or my economic background or any of this stuff.” Someone who’s free to identify themselves more as a Mormon for example or for that matter as an Atheist. The problem with group rights is it takes that freedom away from individuals and treats them like automatons. More or less like, “Here’s your leader. Good luck with that.” It makes it very hard to be a dissenter. If you look at the way we argue on campus, take a contrarian like Glenn Loury at Brown University. He’s a black professor who a lot of times will be the one leading the charge against silly expressions of political correctness.

For that, he gets treated with a lot of cases like some trader. Now he’s old enough that he just doesn’t care anymore, which is one of the nice things about getting older. It is interesting because it speaks to this idea. I haven’t written about this yet, but I call this the perfect rhetorical fortress. If you look at all of the things that colleges have excelled at from the 1980s on, it’s using a lot of IQ power to figure out a series of defenses that mean you never have to have an argument with somebody ever again or at least never have to listen to someone that you disagree with. It was simple enough when I was in school, if you could dub someone conservative, you didn’t have to listen to them anymore. That was even back in the ‘90s and that’s surely primitive and silly, but it was weird. I hate to say it was even effective on me in some cases and I’m not ashamed of that. As you go on, you start seeing the privilege ideology does allow you to dismiss at least 99% of the entire population of the planet, if not more.

A lot of education is learning to overcome some of our worse nature. Click To Tweet

Then you add things like class and economic privilege and Conor Friedersdorf wrote about this, he calls them The Idioms of Non-Argument, assuming bad motives. Congratulations, you have multiple defenses that allow you to dismiss without addressing the substance of their argument of every single person you ever meet that you disagree with. The wonderful trick is you don’t have to use that for anybody you agree with. It could be the whitest richest person in the entire world, but you don’t have to dismiss them and you wouldn’t probably want to if you 100% agree with them. This is a strong reminder that when people had all these rules about argumentation, about trying to address the substance of someone’s argument, that’s in the face of our natural inclination to find some other dodge, some other way to get out of it. That doesn’t mean I have to have this unpleasant experience of an argument.

That’s the biggest opportunity for growth. I’ve had hundreds of employees over the years and I’ve had tons of hardships and meltdowns years ago. A lot of what we’re talking about, I’ve thought through a lot and discovered certain things here and there, but we have a saying now which has become one of our values, which is “It doesn’t matter who’s right, it’s understanding what’s right and the discovery of what’s right oftentimes comes about through facing the fear of being wrong.” There’s such a tremendous fear there because the people relate being wrong from the perspective of somebody else somehow it equates to something wrong with you and it’s not true. That’s where I look at it.

It’s the opportunity to grow and because of society, that was a huge point that you made, which is society is changing daily. The groups are getting stronger and stronger because the sense of uncertainty is strengthening. At the same time, I think uncertainty is so beautiful because of how it lets a person make tremendous progress, groups to make progress. We have to face that fear of being wrong because everybody has that. That’s just the nature of life and humanities. We have quirks and nuances and things were not good at, but we have things we’re great at. That’s where the convergence of different personalities and strengths in individuals allows for incredible discovery. It dates back to the wars that existed since the beginning of time, which is this group versus this group.

I look at college and the education that past the point where a child is at their parents’ home and have a sense of safety and stability there. This is an environment where bodies are changing, minds are changing, they’re maturing. It could be an environment in which our future and the future of our society can be amazing and incredible. At the same time, I look at this clamp down on, it doesn’t matter what’s right. It’s, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” It’s been faced in history for how many hundreds of years and it hasn’t led to anything great. It’s only when those difficult things to talk about and they can only be talked about in the environment where people are okay with being wrong and want to discover what’s right. Right is where progress is made.

TWS 08 | Free Speech

Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought

There’s this great book by Jonathan Rauch called Kindly Inquisitors that he wrote. Actually, Penn Jillette is a big fan of it. He did the audio book for the twentieth anniversary of Kindly Inquisitors a little while back. It’s all about something that when I first met with people, I have to explain this. It’s most of human history is what Rauch calls fundamentalist. He doesn’t mean that in a religious sense. He means that authority and truth come from the top down, whether from your chief or your oligarchs or your theocratic or pharaoh. That’s the way figuring out truth works. That’s most of human history. It’s a radical idea to start being like, “I am going to stop burning heretics. I’m going to stop making a loud mouse drink hemlock. I’m going to stop crucifying the people who say ideas that bother me.” All of these we have done to either dissenters or weirdos, burning them at the stake, beheading them, all of these things. We’ll weight the dissenter and ages past, not only will I tolerate that person, I’m going to listen to them.

It’s crazy and it’s a very hard social order to maintain. It doesn’t come naturally to us. With time, this approach has real advantages. It does undermine that comfortable certainty, I’ve talked about this in terms of Dostoyevsky, that I feel one of the messages throughout Dostoyevsky’s book is great human evil comes out of the desire to explain the meaning of life in ten words or less. Having that ideology, having that theory that you can always come back to, that frees you of the duty to think is very tempting, but there’s great evil there. Freedom of speech, hearing people you disagree with, none of this comes very naturally. Unfortunately, I feel like some institutions on campus are pushing us towards our more negative instincts on this that listen to the people you already agree with. In the book we have, people know about the Milo riots at Berkeley. I understand people not liking Milo Yiannopoulos. I’m not the biggest fan myself but it was an absolutely out of control riot in which there are people who were very badly hurt.

If you watch the videos of them being assaulted, you were like, “I can’t believe those people survived.” Being hit across the head with a twenty-foot flagpole. It was terrifying. We also talk about the Evergreen State University case involving Bret Weinstein. We got Pamela Paresky who is our chief researcher on this, went out and did some of the interviews on that. It’s much worse than I thought. Even sad incidents where a very respected young philosophy professor wrote a piece talking about the ideas of Rachel Dolezal, was the one who convinced everybody that she was black when she was actually a white woman and she became a President of local NAACP and worked for a university.

A professor wrote about this saying, “If we think that gender is more fluid and it’s up to you to decide what your gender identity is, why don’t we apply this to racial identity?” It was done in a very academic way and done in a very thoughtful way. We liken it to a witch hunt that it was a relatively small transgression and suddenly they’re demanding that the magazine withdraw the article, which is unusual. They’re recommending this person to be fired, this Rebecca Tuvel. What’s even more messed up about it was that some of the professors who had signed these circulated petitions saying, “Down with Professor Tuvel,” would contact her independently and say, “I’m sorry what’s happening to you.” That’s the dynamic of when a mob lost its mind. It’s like, “I couldn’t disagree with the mob.”

The mob is an individual. Here’s the individual apologizing. You can write volumes of books on all of these because as much as it applies to education, it applies to politics, the economy and business. One thing I’ve been thinking as you’ve been talking and making these points is the purpose of college is X. People go in with the expectations of these are the results I want to get by finishing college, which is getting a job, having a profession, figuring out what I want to do, but that’s the thing. It’s at the corporate world. With me, we’ve gotten to the point where we don’t look at necessarily colleges as a good thing sometimes.

We look at where they went to college and then their personality and how they fit within culture. If you have mob mentality or mob theory, it’s not good for a company. It could be in a sense if values are aligned. Most companies want creativity, they want strengths. They’d look at being able to combine multiple people with different perspectives and different backgrounds in order to accomplish a common end. If you reared with this mob rule, it’s difficult to fit into a company and it’s going to hurt going to certain colleges in a sense if you think about it.

Unfortunately, we’ve come to a very similar conclusion. I want to say this. I want to be very clear about this. I went to American University as a scholarship student. It was a school that I always felt some hostility towards it because they kept on chipping away at my scholarships even though I had very good grades and I’ll never forgive them for that. It definitely was a place that was less dogmatic than Stanford, where I went to law school. I always want to be clear, I received a world class education there. It was great. They were smart and interesting people, but now I do wonder, particularly for some of these elite colleges. I’ve said this flat out in some cases. We’ve had great luck hiring people from University of Indiana, from a lot of the big high-quality state schools.

I think that some of this dysfunctional ideology is less present there. A lot of these people don’t want to come forward, but I’ve talked to people who work for cause organizations like big legal representation organizations that do a good job of helping homeless people when they’re working on the side of the angels and all sorts of stuff. They’ll say candidly that they’ve been paralyzed by some of the expectations from the younger employees, from some of the elite schools because they’ve gotten so used to this very inward looking way of arguing that more or less assumes all of your allies are trying to oppress you. That’s not functional. If you end up having schools that are producing employees who are not able to look beyond their own personal drama that actually deliver to the greater good of what the company’s trying to do, it’s poison.

I know from personal experience when you were trying to run a professional shop, one disruptive person and particular if you don’t trust that person. That’s something that I’ve said to my employees a million times. I’m like, “We try to be very good to our employees. We try to find the people and keep them, but if I can’t trust you, you’ll be fired in a heartbeat.” It scares people first of all, but I’m talking about like, “Don’t lie to me. Don’t try to pull a fast one, because if I see that in your character, that’s not someone I ever want to work with again.” I’ve given two pieces of advice for people running businesses, be careful hiring younger people from some of these elite colleges. Also, my stock tip is if you can invest in human resources organizations, do. They’re going to have a lot of work in the next five to ten years.

When it comes to the genuine increase in mood disorders, social media plays a big role. Click To Tweet

There’s a segment, Simon Sinek is a big one, for the personal development space. It’s focusing on all of this. That’s where I’ve learned a ton because it’s like trying to work with somebody who doesn’t want to be wrong. They can’t be wrong. They are afraid of being wrong. It’s the worst thing in the world. There’s no progress that’s made, because justifications are in everything that doesn’t necessarily go as planned. It’s one of those things where I have kids and I understand the nature of coddling. I think about it all the time. I’m like, “I love these kids.”

I have a one-year-old and a three-year-old and I always say this. I want to be very clear. I’m not saying not coddling your kids is easy. It’s hard because that’s all you want to do. I just want to hug my sons and make sure that nobody ever makes them cry.

If you think about some harm coming to them, it’s like you want to break down walls.

There was a great book by Sara Zaske called Achtung Baby, which is about how the Germans are doing a better job of raising their kids in a free independent environment than we are. Everything’s switched in this respect. The home of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn now has helicopter parenting whereas Germany, the classic or authoritarian culture at least in our imaginations have a strong societal commitment to raising independent and self-reliant kids. One thing that I thought was so important about that book though is it’s very easy to dismiss some of these cultural norms as just being a peculiarity of that culture.

That’s why it’s so great that Sara Zaske is the author of it, put in an interview with one of the German parents where they were like, “No, you don’t understand, this is very hard for us.” I want to run up and hug my kids and make sure that they don’t go off to the overnight slumber camp too early. They know it’s good for them and you have to value it as a society. You can do such great harm if you don’t teach children to think for themselves, to be independent and to be at least to some degree self-reliant. Arm them right down to their locus of control. Locus of control is a psychological idea. It’s very common sense. It’s like if you feel you have no control over your own life, it’s a great way and it’s a great formula for making people depressed and anxious.

This is the one reason why I don’t particularly love the title Coddling is because sometimes it gives you the idea of this spoiled pampered kid. When I think about a lot of these kids who were going to the elite colleges, they work very hard and they’ve been working very hard since they were very young. They’ve been scheduled from 6:00 in the morning, 10:00 at night for a lot of their childhoods. I think of the more very finely designed rocket that only knows how to do one thing, but then they show up on campus. We did a lot of interviews with Julie Lythcott-Haims who wrote this great book called How to Raise an Adult, which came out of her dealing with students who are incoming to Stanford, freshmen incoming. These sad scenes of this brilliant kid who’s constantly on the phone with their parents, asking them what to do and they don’t know how to do their laundry. They don’t know how to cook for themselves and all of these little things. They’re what make you feel like you can live your life on your own and be successful. They’re essential. They’re not little things.

No, they’re not. It creates a sense of confidence, a sense of certainty. There’s this idea of dependence and independence. We can talk about that for eons because that dates back to the beginning of time too. There are certain principles associated with it, but they absolutely apply to rearing kids. That comes down to what’s the result that you’re looking for. I can see how wanting to coddle, that desire, it’s the same desire as understanding, getting a child from this idea of dependence and independence. It’s the same desire. You want what’s best for you child, but it comes down to the same thing we’ve been talking about, which is they’re going to be independent at some point. There are ways in which you can create the environment so that they can experience some adversity. They can experience tension and pressure and learn from it. You can’t teach that. There are certain things that just have to be experienced in order to learn. There’s no app for it. You can’t go into YouTube and experience it.

TWS 08 | Free Speech

Free Speech: If you end up having schools that are producing employees who are not able to look beyond their own personal drama and deliver to the greater good of the company, it’s poison.

 

Maybe VR, maybe you could experience it that way, but my point is there’s nothing that can replace that, which you’re figuring things out and understanding other perspectives and failing. This goes to Peter Gray, we’re talking about his Free to Learn where failure is a concoction of, in a sense, the school system because you look at failure and it’s like not doing something right is just, “I’m going to do it better next time.” It’s part of the process. Whereas failure is like “We’re done. I’m dumb and I can’t learn anything.” I look at the experience I’ve had in life and in business and with kids. I think there are principles that are old as time and you reference a lot of them in the book and they date back to Aristotle. They date back to Socrates.

These ideas that have existed and they apply just as much now as they did then. Sometimes these types of events were schools fail. They’re failing because they’re loading kids with debt. They should be more pissed at that. Instead of being pissed off at opposing points of views, they should be pissed off all the money they’re getting charged that they’ve got to payback one day. It’s the idea that it’s not sustainable. There’s something that’s going to grow and get worse and blow up. Sometimes those are the events. They like people to step back and be like, “That didn’t work. Let’s now learn from it and move on.”

I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can fix higher education because there are parts of it that I truly love. Practically every book I read or at least a big chunk of them are written by university professors who are talking about what they’ve been working on their whole lives. I’m very aware of the special role and a very positive role that higher education has. I also spend a lot of time thinking about, surely we can figure out less expensive, higher yield, better ways. Also, my being an employer at FIRE, we have about 50 people working for us at this point, has colored my view of all of this stuff. Trying to figure out what you want in an employee.

Also, I’m a civic guy. I’m also like, “What do we also want as citizens?” I think if you broke it down, calculus is fun. It’s an interesting intellectual puzzle. I’d take someone who has a solid grounding in statistics or has some amount of numeracy, they know roughly what population sizes look like and that stuff. That’s the kind of stuff you want people to know. We’re not doing a very good job of delivering any of this. One of the reasons why there is this disproportionate favoritism for the elite colleges is because the elite colleges get to be in the position of finding kids who are already bright and hard working. Then all they have to do is not ruin them by four years.

Some would argue that they probably do their best job at it or they can improve their thinking. A lot of times they’re going for hard science degree. Surely there’s got to be a better way. It’s not as if we’re going to get rid of higher education or that I even want to, but I think a lot of the worst excesses everything from costs to dysfunctionality would be addressed if people could finally start figuring out breaking the riddle of what would be a good competitive model for this. We all remember when Apple finally became a real threat to IBM’s dominance that suddenly magically all of our computers got a lot better. If there was something that was enough to make the academy anxious, we would see a lot of these problems get fixed quickly.

We should probably end with this. I want to talk about FIRE and how people can get involved. That’s a great example. That’s what competition often reads. There are signs of that. You have a lot of online like ASU, which is known as a very reputable school system as online this, online that. There are things that are going to be disrupting, but the tidal wave of kids not being able to pay back their student loans, that right there is going to be one of those catalysts. There are so much pressure and so much negativity that pushes the up and coming generations to realize that, “I’m not paying $150,000 for school. I’m going to go this route.” Hopefully, that manifests soon because it’s still getting more out of control.

The problem with group rights is it takes that freedom away from individuals and treats them like automatons. Click To Tweet

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. You can find out more about us at TheFire.org. We’re celebrating our twentieth anniversary. We’re doing a big event in New York City. We defend free speech on college campuses, all across the political spectrum. If you get in trouble on a college campus, we defend you. One thing that is very unique about FIRE and I do believe that things can be very unique no matter what grammar people say, is that we have people who vote for different people all across the spectrum. We practice what we preach and we have an office in which Republicans and Democrats and Green Party and Christians, Jewish people, Muslim people and Atheists all work together for common cause. We came out with our Ten Worst Schools for Free Speech list.

TWS 08 | Free Speech

Free Speech: A lot of the worst excesses would be addressed if people could finally start figuring out breaking the riddle of what would be a good competitive model for this.

 

It always surprises people what ends up getting on there, because some of the cases are political correctness. People now understand that that’s relatively common. There are also cases where like at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It’s like, “Could you please stop criticizing the administration? We don’t like this very much.” We see those stories all the time. If you have kids that are going to college, we provide Guides to Due Process and Fair Procedure that every student should read before they go on. It’s what to do if you find yourself in front of one of these disciplinary tribunals. We also have a Guide to Freedom of Speech that you can use, and if worst comes to worst and you get in trouble on campus, we’re very successful in getting students and professors who get in trouble out of trouble.

We’ll make sure to get those out on our social media so we can increase the awareness of what you guys are doing to impact what seems to be the ominous at this point.

Thank you. It was a real pleasure talking to you.

It was an awesome conversation. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

It was fun chatting with you. Take care.

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About Greg Lukianoff

TWS 08 | Free Speech

Greg Lukianoff is an attorney, New York Times best-selling author, and the President and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). He is the author of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, Freedom From Speech, and FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus. Most recently, he co-authored The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure with Jonathan Haidt. This New York Times best-seller expands on their September 2015 Atlantic cover story of the same name. Greg is also an Executive Producer of Can We Take a Joke?, a feature-length documentary that explores the collision between comedy, censorship, and outrage culture, both on and off campus.

Greg has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and numerous other publications. He frequently appears on TV shows and radio programs, including the CBS Evening News, The Today Show, and NPR’s Morning Edition. In 2008, he became the first-ever recipient of the Playboy Foundation’s Freedom of Expression Award, and he has testified before both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives about free speech issues on America’s college campuses.

 

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The Pursuit Of Financial Certainty And Happiness with Will Street – Part 1

TWSFF 06 | Financial Certainty

 

Everyone wants financial freedom, but not everyone is willing take responsibility to create one for themselves. Wealth strategist Will Street enlightens everyone on the importance of taking ownership of your finances. We can never be certain of the risk, but not taking the risk will not get you anywhere near financial certainty. Will shares stories of risks taken by investors and what we can learn from it. Failure is inevitable, but what makes a difference is rising up, learning from these failures, and having the will to continue the pursuit of financial certainty and happiness.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

The Pursuit Of Financial Certainty And Happiness with Will Street – Part 1

Financial Friday

I’m here with my good pal, Will Street. How are you doing, Will?

I’m good. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a podcast.

It’s going to be a fun one because we’re going to talk about the context of some of the guests we’ve had on so far for Financial Friday. We’re going to review an article probably as a part two that is going to help us prove or hits home some of these points. I look at finance and I look at it from probably a different perspective than most and I think you’re starting to grasp that. You had the legal background and practiced in the financial sector as an attorney, which gave you a perspective and then being here for a few years now. You’ve worked with a lot of individuals personally, but you’ve also heard things about the situations of people when it comes to finances. It’s helped you fine-tune perspective when it comes to what financial success is and what it isn’t. Talk to that briefly. What have you seen as the reasoning behind what creates success for people financially? What gets them into trouble, gets them to make bad investment decisions or financial decisions?

TWSFF 06 | Financial Certainty

Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win

I finished reading the book, Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink. I’ve read/listened to it. I had it and then I listened to the Audible version driving into work. The whole premise behind Extreme Ownership is you own everything. If there’s something within your sphere of influence, as a leader, he’s talking about it from the Navy SEALs perspective. You don’t cast blame on other people, you own it.

It’s your responsibility, your stewardship.

If something isn’t going right, don’t point fingers at somebody else. Look at what you could have done better to improve the outcome. To go back to your question, many people nowadays are passive when it comes to what they do financially. They assume that somebody else, whether it’s the government or Wall Street or businesses or whoever has their best interest at heart.

They’re competent to give them the advice that they should trust.

Things didn’t go well. Immediately, they look outward to try and cast blame on somebody else. My philosophy that has evolved over time is this idea that if I want to get somewhere financially or if a client wants to get somewhere financially, it’s got to start with us. It’s got to start with what we know, with what we understand, with what our objectives are and putting together a game plan to get there. It’s no one’s responsibility more than it is our own. That’s something that I didn’t understand the notion of Extreme Ownership in the beginning, but as people get into trouble it has to do with not taking an active role in what they do financially. Making assumptions that things will fall into place a certain way, that somebody else is looking out for their best interest and them not doing nearly what they need to do to take ownership of their own.

You’ve got to realize that all human beings, number one, we’re fallible. We all have opinion and we all have a perspective. Opinion and perspective can go hand-in-hand. Individuals tend to delegate responsibility to others, especially when it comes to things that they don’t understand. It’s easy. That’s the easy button. If they’re competent, they have experience and you don’t have to go through the trouble of learning everything, it makes common sense. That’s where most people get in trouble. What do you do? If you don’t have all the time in the world to study every single financial decision that you make, what’s the route that you take?

On this show, we’ve had individuals that represent a commodity type of investment. We’ve had Gene Guarino, who I’ve known for a long time. He has a new fund and investment in a cool niche part of the real estate industry. We’ve also had note investing guys in here. If you go to the Cash Flow Wealth Summit, the first presentation of Financial Fridays was my presentation at the Cash Flow Wealth Summit, which hits on a lot of this. We have the Hierarchy of Wealth, which helps to categorize where investments are. A lot of the categorization has to do with what you understand or the degree of certainty and control you have over whatever the financial decision is, whatever the asset is. In the Cash Flow Wealth Summit, we’ve had every type of real estate investing you can think of. We’ve had FlipNerd on and Mike Hambright on there. We’ve had Mobile Home. Andrew Lanoie was on as well for Financial Fridays.

These are all sorts of investment ideas, their perspectives, the little niches that people have and they’re presenting opportunities. You and I both know that there are a lot of opportunities out there that don’t end up the way that they were intended. That’s where I’ve tried to hit on this notion of instead of asking about the details or features and benefits of the actual underlying investment, it’s also to start to look into the business itself. The operations, the people involved because that’s where it starts to fall apart. There are some other things that you can do. That’s how I look at finances. I never try to discount anything.

When somebody claims or somebody says their perspective, I don’t say, “You’re right and I trust you,” I say, “That’s an interesting perspective and that’s valuable to me regardless of what the perspective is.” I start to ask some questions about it and verify if it’s a valid piece of advice if it’s a valid claim or not. That’s where we’ve used the three sides of the coin where you have heads, tails and the edge. Heads are one opinion, tails are the other opinion and then the edge is where you sit to make the most informed decision. As you’ve looked at investment opportunities and made financial decisions for yourself, what are some of the things that you do consistently that helps you make an informed decision?

You don't cast blame on other people, you own it. Click To Tweet

The image that I have in mind is the Cash Flow Wealth Summit is this financial buffet of all different options and different strategies, tools, experts, companies and things like that. What a lot of people tend to do when it comes to their finances is they’ve got their tray and they take a little scoop of this, they take a little scoop of that. Then they get back to their table and then start to dig into it, but there’s no rhyme or reason to it. There’s no forethought given to what they’re going to do and how these various elements might interact with each other. It goes back to your point about everyone has a perspective. Everyone has some background, some knowledge and some familiarity with something. Everybody has somewhere to start. What I try to do is recognize that, “I don’t know everything, but I do know something. I know what my risk tolerance is. I know where my interests are.

I know generally where my goals and objectives are. I can start to put together a strategy that will start to point me in that direction as opposed to taking a little bit of this, taking a little bit of that, throwing it against the wall and hoping that something sticks.” Instead of taking that buffet approach, doing some analysis of, “What do I know? What am I drawn to? What am I interested in? Do I have any prior knowledge or experience or expertise with certain assets or asset classes or companies and starting to build from there?” I love the hierarchy because it does give us our blueprint for how to build our financial game plan. If we don’t have tier one established, if we don’t have the foundation securely in place, we’ve got no business jumping to the tip-top of the hierarchy. You’ve got to start it and you’ve got to continue it in the proper sequence.

Here’s how I look at it. It’s made me think about the idea and principle of certainty. It’s like human beings have this drive toward both certainty and uncertainty. Uncertainty is variety. It’s doing new things. It’s experiencing going on a roller coaster. We have this internal drive to do that. Sometimes, choosing from the buffet of financial options, it appeals sometimes to that internal drive. That’s why we’ve developed the Hierarchy of Wealth is because the foundation is certainty. That’s where we have certain characteristics and criteria. We teach the wealth maximization account and we use that for the characteristics that it has. Above that is when the degree of uncertainty sets in. There are three tiers above that. There’s tier two, tier three and tier four. In each level up, the degree of uncertainty increases. The idea is once your foundation is set, now it can properly balance the pursuit of this uncertainty, there’s a variety of different things that you may do. Let’s talk about tier two and tier three and some of the characteristics there. I’m going to use some examples as far as some bad decisions that I’ve made and also some bad decisions that I know clients have made, actual experiences. How do you look at tier two?

If I’m walking through the hierarchy with clients, which I do. The way that I explain it is where each layer, each tier that we’re building on top of the previous, there’s a little bit more risk or a little bit less control or a little bit less certainty with the previous. We don’t have a license to take on a bunch of uncertainty and give up a bunch of control if we don’t have the most secure, the most control and the least amount of risk established. For me, that’s that bottom layer. As we’re stepping into tier two and maybe it’s a little bit less certain, a little bit riskier and a little bit less control, I’m going to look at assets like real estate. Real estate’s a broad category in and of itself. For me, what I define as a good solid tier two asset would be the good buy and hold, three-bed, two-bath rental property. Going back to my own experience and my own expertise, my wife would tell you I have basically zero construction knowledge, expertise and ability. I’ll mess up an Ikea piece of furniture. That’s how bad I am.

In other words, I’ve got no business in a flip because I have no idea what needs to be done. I don’t know if it’s being done correctly. No clue, no concept. That is outside of my area of expertise, I understand buying a property. I understand what metrics to look at when it comes to rent relative to purchase price and some of those things. A good solid tangible asset like a piece of real estate or rental property is a fantastic tier two asset for me, or for somebody else, it might be starting a business. It’s something that you have control over. It’s something that you can impact. You’re not surrendering control to somebody else. You’re not leaving it up to chance. When you wake up in the morning, you’re not looking at the ticker and finding that, “The market is in the toilet now,” and you had no control. That’s not a tier two asset. We’re looking at something that might be a little bit less control, a little bit less certain and a little bit more risk than that bottom layer. We want to be careful about how much additional risk we’re taking on or how much uncertainty we’re moving into. At least that’s my philosophy.

TWSFF 06 | Financial Certainty

Financial Certainty: A good solid tangible asset like a piece of real estate or rental property is a fantastic tier two asset. It’s something that you have control over.

 

I’m going to deviate. This comes to some stuff I’ve been thinking about. I don’t want to get into failures and some bad decisions that I’ve made and clients have made. I look at some of the events that occurred in the last couple of years. You had Robin Williams commit suicide. You had Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. There are others as well. The thoughts that I’ve had is here you have individuals, you have human beings who achieved what some people are after. People are after what they consider financial independence, financial freedom and to be at a certain level. To be successful here, to be successful there, to have a lot of money here and a lot of money there. I would argue that that’s financial freedom that might not be freedom. Tier two for me is a lot of investment in yourself. I look at where people are at and a lot of what they want to become independent from or free from. It’s something that they don’t like to do, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do.

I’ve joined an inner circle of Tony Robbins, which is called Platinum Partnership. I’ve been listening to a lot of his material. There’s something that hit me and he said, “For a fulfilling life, you have to spend between 50% and 60% doing meaningful things.” It’s the discovery that I don’t think most people ever venture to do. Meaningful things are something that drives you, something you’re inspired by, something that you know makes a difference and aligns with who you are, your talents, your abilities, your strengths. The discovery of that is part of tier two because one of the things is potentially starting a business. Retirement is an idea of escaping something. You stopped doing what you don’t like doing, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do because a part of you dies when you’re not contributing. I look at the meaningful things that people do and what drives them and why they thrive. It’s not because they make a lot of money but because there’s another interest in it besides that.

Tier two is where you can take assessments. You can take StrengthsFinder 2.0. You can take Kolbe, DISC and Myers-Briggs. There are a number of them out there. The idea is to understand more about you. It’s also to dig deep and start to pay attention and put some glasses on where you can see the world and the things that you enjoy doing, the things that make a difference. It’s starting to pursue a business that revolves around that. If you look at tier two, some of the criteria are things that you have more control over, but still have an element of uncertainty. Real estate has that, but at the same time, there’s still a degree of control that you have especially with how you determine markets. How you determine rents and values. How you determine down payments. How you determine mortgage payments versus rents. It’s one of those things where it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to have a good piece of real estate. It’s somewhat passive.

You look at other investments to make. There’s an article that I wrote a few years ago and I mentioned the idea in the book, which is how to get a 10% raise for life. Most people get a 3% raise. If you look at a 30-year career, someone that makes $100,000 will earn shy of $5 million total earnings with a 3% increase yearly. If you make a 10% increase yearly, the earnings are almost $17 million. It’s a huge difference, a little over $11 million. What’s the difference between someone that gets a 3% raise and someone that gets a 10% raise? 3% raise is because of the cost of living. It’s standard. If you look at 10%, it’s because somebody has figured out a way to create more value in either that capacity or another capacity. They get a certification. They learn management. They learn leadership. They learn how to do marketing. They learn things that create more value for an employer or for customers. That’s the idea. That opportunity is available to everyone. It’s where you have the most control when it comes to taking risks or delving into the realm of uncertainty.

It’s one of those things where all of us can think about times where we’ve done something meaningful. Maybe it’s giving to a charitable organization or serving in some way. The feeling of invigoration that comes from that, it makes you fire on all cylinders. If you can start to make that a part of what you do as a matter of practice, how much more driven are you going to be to get out of bed in the morning to work harder, to be better, to produce more. Think about somebody who’s stuck in a job that they don’t enjoy and how deflating that is and demotivating and difficult life can be and unhappy. Flip that completely 180 degrees the opposite and you start to invest in yourself and to fuel what drives you. That’s huge.

Let’s talk about some failures. We’re hitting on things that we’ve hit on before. It’s going into the context of what’s the purpose of being financially successful? What’s the end result to escape or to support or help to buffer doing the most meaningful things according to what makes the biggest difference in your life and in other people’s lives? The failure side of things, I look at all the decisions you make. You want to have trustworthy people in your life, but at the same time you have to look back and say, “Everyone has fallibility.” They make mistakes. They make bad calls. Rarely is an investment opportunity going to tell you not to invest with them. You have to look at that and that essentially gives you the area in which you can ask questions. You can dig a little bit deeper. You can verify. You can check and use your financial education to make a decision. Oftentimes, that comes as the result of not doing it. You can say, “That guy sounds like a credible guy. I’ll write him a check.” These are mistakes that I made a number of years ago. This was probably 2004, 2005.

I remember I was invited to this person’s house. In Utah, there are two things that happen at people’s houses. The first thing is it’s like MLM or network marketing company. They try to have you sell the vitamins or the juices or whatever, or it’s some investment or business. I’ve been to both. I didn’t grow up here, but I learned whenever you get that call, “I have this business I did. You’re a business guy. I think you should come and attend.” It’s one of those two things. This was an investment one. The investment opportunity was a fish farm and they had this proprietary way to breed fish. It sounded cool and the name of the company that did it was Winsome. That should have been a sign. It was a $20,000 investment and I never saw anything from it. It was a group of people that was in Sandy. It was about 30 minutes away. It’s an investment that went bad. The actual fish farm existed, it’s just that they had nobody to sell the fish to.

Individuals tend to delegate responsibility to others, especially when it comes to things that they don't understand. Click To Tweet

What was cool was this guy went to prison. This was a few years after this occurred. It was right during the time where I had tons of different failure business-wise. I was called into an FBI office. There’s a building here in Salt Lake and in the building, there are three floors of FBI. I went in there and there were no signs or whatever. I go into a huge boardroom and there are people everywhere, plus there were people on conference calls. There’s this horseshoe thing and I come in. They asked me questions like, “How did you hear about this guy? What happened? How much did you invest? What type of communication did you receive from him?” It was an interesting experience. I learned more about what this guy did. It wasn’t just people in Utah. There were a bunch of other states.

It’s one of those things where every single person that gave this guy money and it was millions of dollars. It was done by trusting that he knew what he was doing. Nobody asked questions about, “Who are your customers? Do you have contracts? Can I see those contracts? Let me see the business plan. Who else is on your team? Who’s doing the marketing? Who’s doing the operations? You’re in Texas so who’s running the thing in Puerto Rico?” It’s one of those things where nobody was asking those questions. All the questions were, “What’s the rate of return? When am I going to get my money? Do I get it monthly? Do I get it quarterly? How much is it? Could I get more?” All had to do with the financial details, not the principles, the values and the operations. That was one of the more crazy investments that I heard of.

I’ll give one that will make everybody laugh. This was in 2018. We started getting lots of people who were interested in cryptocurrency. You’re talking to them and explaining the Hierarchy of Wealth and how to position assets. People started to tell us that they were refinancing their homes and cashing out everything and putting their money in Bitcoin. This was when Bitcoin was probably $18,000, $19,000. They were convinced that Bitcoin was going to $100,000 and that was going to be the key to their retirement. This is an example that sounds ridiculous, but it was happening a lot. It was a number of instances. There’s another one too, which is the Iraqi Dinar. This was probably a few years ago when we started to get these types of calls where people were like, “I’m coming into this large sum of money, which is to the tune of potentially $500 million. I need a place to put that.” I’m not going to get into the details of that, there’s plenty of information online. Individuals, the uncertainty that they’re in pursuit of is natural. It’s not like people wake up one morning and like, “I’m going to go pursue uncertainty.” It’s one of those natural drives that compel us to want variety. We realize that, but at the same time once you realize it you have to position things so that you don’t let that get in the way for making good decisions.

TWSFF 06 | Financial Certainty

Financial Certainty: You want to have trustworthy people in your life, but at the same time you have to look back and say, “Everyone has fallibility.”

 

I would say there are a number of people I talked to that have lost money, lost investments and they value what we do a lot more than those that haven’t lost money, but at the same time, I look at that as a powerful tuition. It’s an investment and it’s an investment in your future. I got off the phone with a guy. He was a dentist. He was successful and made bad decisions. It costs him $500,000. He was like, “I want to make up for lost time.” I was like, “You didn’t lose time.” You gained time if you think about it because you learned some valuable lessons that are going to be essential as you expand your practice and as you raise your family and as you determine what your future looks like. You’re going to have so many financial decisions throughout your life, whether it’s purchase decisions, whether it’s investment decisions or whether it’s what you do with your career.

We advocate that having a foundation of certainty, which consists of financial education as well as certain assets and structure that allows you to buffer the uncertain decisions that you make. That’s where you start. It’s also to understand the values and the principles that underlie all of these decisions. Sometimes that’s the discovery of your strengths, your purpose, your mission, your calling and the pursuit of that meaningful work. We are going to be reviewing an article of a woman who studied 600 millionaires and she discovered where you choose to live has two effects on your ability to build wealth. We’re going to talk about that. We’re going to take the contrarian. Her opinion’s heads, this is tails. Stick with us until the next episode for the second segment of Financial Friday with Will Street. Thanks. We’ll see you in the next episode.

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About Will Street

TWSFF 06 | Financial Certainty

Will earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brigham Young University in 2005. After graduating from BYU, Will attended the University of Iowa College of Law and received his Juris Doctor in May of 2008. Will began practicing law with the law firm of VanCott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy the oldest and one of the most well-respected law firms in the State of Utah. Will’s practice focused primarily on consumer finance-related litigation, consumer finance transactions, sale and purchase agreements, NDA’s, RFP’s, teaming agreements, security agreements, creditor’s rights in bankruptcy, and estate planning. Working directly with clients to analyze a problem, develop a solution, and working to ensure a successful resolution are what Will enjoyed most about being an attorney. Will comes to Paradigm after nearly six years in the private practice of law.

After his exposure to the Infinite Banking concept and seeing that his legal training would be directly relevant to his role at Paradigm, Will made the decision to leave his practice. Paradigm allows Will to continue to do what he enjoys most – develop client relationships, dissect problems, create solutions and work collaboratively with the client towards a successful resolution. Originally from the Tri-Cities area of Eastern Washington, Will currently resides in Salt Lake City with his wife, Sunny, and their three children.

 

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Capitalism: The Individual At The Center Of The State with G. Edward Griffin

TWS 07 | Capitalism

 

We all have different social and political stands. This normally starts when we’re young and honed by various exposures to different environments. Writer and a documentary film producer, G. Edward Griffin followed his curiosity about these ideological discussions in the ‘60s and found himself attending a communist group. However, the things that he discovered upon reading all these communist books opened his mind to more questions waiting to be answered. His worldview has grown all through the years of studying and research, and he realized that the struggle is being able to simplify the concept of whether the basis of the society is the individual or the mob. He shares sensible insights about individualism and takes us through a deeper understanding of capitalism and all of the powerful and reasonable stands on the real balance of having the individual at the center of the state.

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Capitalism: The Individual At The Center Of The State with G. Edward Griffin

We have a very special guest and his name may be familiar to most of you, his name is G. Edward Griffin. He is a writer and a documentary film producer with many successful titles such as The Creature from Jekyll Island, The Capitalist Conspiracy and World Without Cancer. He is listed in Who’s Who in America. He is well-known because of his talent for researching difficult topics and presenting them in clear terms that all can understand. Ed, it’s a pleasure and an honor to have you on the show, welcome.

Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be back.

Over the years, I’ve had some very enlightening conversations with you. It includes some of the presentations you’ve given at different events. I’m fascinated by how articulate you are and how well researched you are, but also how you present yourself and present these topics, which I believe goes to your character. Maybe before we get into the topic now, which is capitalism, how would you describe your philosophy about life?

I thought we were going to narrow it a bit about life, but that’s interesting. That’s like my favorite speech topic is the world and everything in it. My philosophy about life, maybe we can do that again sometime, but about the social and political aspect of our lives, it’s considerably a narrower field. It’s taken me a lifetime to refine my concepts on that. Now, they’re so clear to me. It’s so obvious. I think to myself, I must have been a blithering idiot most of my life not to have seen it because now that I do see it, it’s like night and day. The old saying is that once you see something, you can never forget it. Sometimes people do, but in terms of a worldview, you never forget that. Once the bell is rung, it can never be un-rung. Once you know, you can never not know.

This is all prefatory to this because I have a great deal of optimism about the world now in spite of all of the negative and horrific things that are going on. I see a great awakening going on. Young people, in particular, are coming to know and they are seeing the truth. They’re hearing the bell being rung. Even though all this turmoil I still going on, I’m aware of this growing groundswell of awareness of young people. They’re going to be here long after I’m gone and they’ve got it. Like you, you’ve got it. I know you have. Once you understand that, you never don’t understand it. Back to the question, what is my view? Like a word or a handle to describe who are you? Are you a conservative? Are you a liberal? Are you a left winger or a right winger? Are you a moderate? What are you? A neocon or whatever, all these words are floating around. A capitalist, a socialist, a Nazi, a fascist, all of these things. I was in that trap for most of my life trying to figure out which one did I want to be.

I picked one that sounded pretty good, then I got to learn a little bit more about it. I said, “Nope, that’s not me after all.” I went through the whole thing. I think every young person starts off being some communist, a socialist, a collectivist is the word. It has so much public relations appeal. The greater good or the greater number. Isn’t that wonderful? We all have to get together and be a team player. These things are very appealing and they’re good in so far as you go, but nobody ever looks at the flip side of the coin. It’s not what you do so much or what you want to accomplish so much. It’s how you do these things and how you accomplish them. I learned that a long time ago because, in the ‘60s, I was very curious about all this ideological discussion. I went down and I said, “I’m going to go down to the communist’s bookstore. I heard there was one in town,” and I did. It was down in Larchmont Street in Los Angeles, practically in downtown. There it’s called the People’s Bookshop. I went in there and I got to know the comrades pretty well.

They thought I was a convert or potential convert. They invited me to their study clubs. Their study meetings, which I knew and everybody knew that this was a recruiting funnel to get me into the party. I played along with it. I didn’t know much about it and I’m here to learn. I told them, “I don’t know what you guys are up to but I’d like to know. Show me what you believe, what are your books and so forth.” I don’t think they expected what happened because I bought their books and I read their books. I not only bought them, but I read them. It wasn’t long after going to a couple of those so-called study groups, I realized that I knew more about the doctrine than they did because they hadn’t read. They had slogans. I’m leading to this. I realized in that early stage that most people are driven by slogans and certainly those on the left and the right too, they’re driven by slogans.

One of the greatest slogans and it’s very appealing for the communist and socialist movement is, “From each according to his ability and to each according to their need.” What is wrong with that? Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that the basis of charity? Isn’t that the basis of all the religions of the world? To help your fellow man in need to the best of your ability. Naturally, it’s appealing but what they don’t tell you is how. You have to think a little bit. Not take this to the next step. How? It’s the argument for world government would bring peace because there would be no nations to fight each other. If there could be no nation, there could be no wars between nations and so forth. Then you’ve got to ask the question, “What kind of world government?” As a kid, you don’t think of these questions. When I was trying to figure out what all this mess is, I suddenly realized that in the Western world, there were only two basic ideologies. If you go outside of the Western world, you’ve got theocracy for example.

The government based on the concept that the leaders are representatives of God. They’ve been empowered by God. In fact, they have some kind of spiritual status that makes them above human. There are many places in the world now that still believe that. In centuries past, it was much more common than it is now. That’s not the driving philosophy in the Western world. Theocracy is not our problem. Our problem is something else. In the Western world, there are only two concepts and they have words. These words were well-known 80 or 100 years ago. I found out in the literature that these words were used to all the time, but I never heard them when I went to school. The words are collectivism on the one side and individualism on the other side. What is that all about? When you take these other words like socialism, communism, fascism, leftist, rightist, moderate and all these things. You peel off the labels of those concepts and all of them are variant of collectivism.

They’re all the same if you understand what the underlying elements of the ideology are. I made a study of that and I came up with about eight. They were quite common such as I mentioned the origin of the idea of what is the ultimate goal. The conflict between the individual or the state or the collective, which is more important. The collectivists, whether they call themselves communist, socialist, fascist, Nazi, whatever, they all believe that the group is more important than the individual. That the individual must be sacrificed if necessary for the greater good of the greater number. That’s that magic phrase and I bought into that when I was in school. I know that sounds good. The greater good for the greater numbers.

It’s a mathematical equation. If you’ve got three over here and they want something and only two are here, well the three get it because it’s the greater good of the greater number. The old cartoon about democracy. The greater good for the greater number. The cartoon shows the wolf and the bear arguing over what’s for lunch and the lamb has only got one vote. The democratic thing is that the lamb has to go. My worldview gradually has grown over all these years of studying this and making a lot of discoveries and frankly finding out how ignorant I was. Even to this day, I don’t think I have any idea that’s completely original with me. Everything I have learned was known by the ancient. It was known by people hundreds of years ago and they wrote about it. I just never read their stuff.

Now that I’ve found some of these things in the old documents and I found books that had been forgotten. Some of them had been buried and deliberately hidden from view. I realized that these ideas are not new but they’re very important. I realized that the struggle is between this concept of what is the basis of society, is it the individual or is it the mob? Once you get it simplified down to that concept, it begins to get easier to straighten out. What is my view? I am what you would call an individualist. I believe that the individual is all there is in human society and hence, the most important thing. I don’t believe that you can vote away a human right.

A human right is yours. If you’re an individualist, you believe this. That you’re born with certain inalienable rights as they said in the Declaration of Independence here in America. Inalienable rights, which means they’re individual rights, they are not group rights. I don’t care how many people there are out there, there’s a mob out there and they don’t like it. Maybe they don’t like your beliefs. Maybe they don’t like the color of your skin. Maybe they don’t like your religion. Maybe they don’t like the way you talk or whatever it is, they don’t like you. As if they can gang up on you and there are three of them and you’re only one or two. In the concept of collectivism, the three or the larger number gets everything. There’s no question of limitations and the power of the group.

Once you get down to that understanding, things began to fall into place. I believe that the structure of society is based on individual rights and that we have them. They come with this. Some people would say that they’re God-given. That makes you nervous, then they’ll say, “Anyway, you were born with them.” They’re hardware, they’re not software. You have these rights and you create the governments. The people create the governments. The governments can do only those things which you as an individual have a right to do because that’s all you can delegate to the government. It’s what you have the power to do. Once you get that concept in place, that’s the next one and they go, “That’s an interesting thought. What can I do against my neighbor and using force and violence against my neighbor? What’s okay for me to do to kill my neighbor? Is it ever okay to kill my neighbor or somebody I never saw before?” The impulse is never okay, but that’s not right. You do have the right to self-defense.

TWS 07 | Capitalism

Capitalism: It’s not what you do so much or what you want to accomplish so much. It’s how you do these things and how you accomplish them.

 

If somebody is trying to kill you, “Lord, help us,” but it’s desperate if you are the lamb. You didn’t pick the fight. They’re trying to take your life. They’re trying to kill you. Maybe they want what you have. Maybe they just don’t like you. They’re trying to kill you. I don’t think anybody would blame someone for defending their life, their liberty or their property with violence if they had to into the defensive mode. If that’s the only basis for individuals to use violence against another human being, then that is the only basis that this individual can delegate to his state, his authorities, to the police, the military, the judges, the courts and all that.

If they derive their power from the people, as we’d like to say, then that’s all that they can do because that’s all we can give them to do. Once you get that in your mind, you mean the state can only use force, meaning military force, guns and jails. They can kill you in the electric chair. They can punish you and they could torture you and all these things. The only thing they can use any of that for is in the defense of life, liberty and property. That means that 99% of the stuff that our state is doing that supposedly for the greater good of the greater number, they’re doing it without any basis at all. They’re just doing it. They don’t have a right to do it because you and I don’t have a right to tell our neighbor that he can’t sell his candy bars on Sunday. We can’t do that. We can’t tell our neighbor what to teach his kids. We can’t tell our neighbor how many hours a week he must work or whether or not he needs a lunch break and the list goes on and on. We cannot take money from our neighbor that’s got a lot of money and give it to the other neighbor that doesn’t have a lot of money because we want to justify it.

I’m glad you’re hitting on all of this because is it possible to understand the proper role of government? Can you understand what a free market is or anything? Like you’re saying, there are these layers that come on top of this initial idea of individualism versus collectivism. The collectivism idea is an abstract, individuals are all that exists. If you can’t get beyond that, then there’s no sense in getting to the next layers as far as the Second Amendment, as far as other laws, other ideas and other structures. Would you agree with that?

Absolutely. As much as I revere the constitution with the United States, I think it was an inspired document. It’s the best political document that’s ever been written. I also know it was a beta model. It was the first time in history that any men had tried to create a state based on the concept that we’re talking about, limitations on the power of the majority or in the power of the ruling elite. Nobody had ever tried that before. We just assume that if you had control of the guns, that’s it. You’re in charge. You better like me because if you don’t, these are not going to go well for you. I have a great revere for the constitution because it was a beta model to try and instill some of the concepts I’m describing onto an agreement on a printed page. This is what we agreed to.

I also recognize that it wasn’t perfect. I also recognize that if we’re going to be talking about these principles and advocating them on a global basis and we go to some country in Europe or in Asia or in Africa and we say, “The US constitution says,” they look at you like who cares what the US constitution says? I realized quickly that we want to be missionaries on this concept. We had to talk about the principles. Even if they had never been embodied in the constitution, which was almost a fortuitous accident maybe. Even if it had never been written, these principles still needed to be understood and talked about. You’re absolutely right, I think it’s the principles that we have to look at.

It’s interesting if you go back and look at whether it’s John Locke or some of his contemporaries and then the Scottish enlightenment. How all of these very similar ideas, which originated before their time. As they started to converge and even though there weren’t the modern ways in which you communicate, those ideas spread. They spread in parts of Europe and obviously in what’s now known as the United States. I think most people will embrace that fundamental idea. That’s why I wanted to hit on that because if you can’t get your mind around that, then there’s no sense in having a discussion about the ideas that come afterwards.

Let’s go there. Let’s assume that our audience understands that we have inalienable rights, fundamental right and the purpose of our current government structured in the Declaration of Independence then leading into the constitution was to protect these rights. That was the function and proper role of government. Going to the next layer, why is there this draw towards what we currently have now as a very collectivist society? There is this moral backbone it seems into most of these collections of people, collections of individuals. They’re driven by this moral justification and you’re right, it doesn’t matter if it’s Democrats or Republican, there are these groups that have a very similar initiative. How have you come to understand this draw or this positive thing that has come from the collective grouping doing and acting for the benefit of the whole, if that makes sense?

Once the bell is rung, it can never be un-rung. Once you know, you can never not know. Click To Tweet

It makes a lot of sense and I think that the answer is twofold. It’s a combination of the fact that people do not know or have not taken the time to think and study about the questions that were raising the issues. It’s like they’ve never been to school. They don’t know how to read and write. They don’t know what math is all about. They’re not informed. It’s not that they’re stupid, that’s not it at all. It’s that they’ve never been exposed to this information. I’d like to use the word politically illiterate and it’s not their fault because they’re depending on the school system and the society in which they’re born to deliver this information. At the turn of the last century, that information was being delivered at an increasingly higher level in America. The school systems were doing increasingly a good job I thought.

Then with the advent of the rise of collectivism and the takeover of the educational system by the missionaries or collectivism and they started to rewrite the textbooks. Then you’ve got the large influx of money from the Rockefeller Foundations and the Carnegie Groups and so forth. They stated right in their own literature that their goal was to change the attitude of the people in America, their favorite collectivism. They said that openly. That’s what they set out to do and they did it. They did it through, first of all, removing the information from the history books and from school systems that you need in order to come back the propaganda. They’ve been so successful that now you can hardly find any remnants of this history in our educational system.

Unfortunately, the young people going through the school system are denied this background history. That’s half of it. The other half is that there is a class of people who know exactly what they’re doing and they’re the ones responsible for the extraction of this information. For the substitution of a new philosophy or a new point of view, it’s their favorite collectivism. They profit immensely in this situation. Over the years, I’ve never known what to call these people. People call it the elites and the powers that be and all these names. I finally came up with this, I call it now the PP class. What is the PP class? The PP class is those people that are made up of the predators and the parasites. In every cross section of any society, any place in the world, any race, anywhere throughout any period of time, you’ll find that a certain percentage and I’m going to say about 15% or 12% of the population that are predators. Probably another 15% on top of that would tend to be parasites if they were encouraged. If they were given a free ride, that side of their nature would come forth.

Here you have the predators who want to control you. They want to control society for their own wealth and power and they really are predators. They had no sympathy or compassion for the human being at all except to make them their servants and their machines to serve them. They will deceive you and deliberately lie. They’ll even kill you if you get in their way. They’re just predators. Then you’ve got the parasites that get sucked into this thing and they get dependent on the predators. They’ll do what the predators say. They’ve got a pretty good little army there that will work day and night to continue to further their nest at the expense of your work and your liberties. It’s as simple as that and you could go sub-analyze that into different subcategories. Overall, those are the two main forces that we’re facing.

Let’s pivot to this because the theme of our season is capitalism. The discussion we’ve been having and what we’ve been referring to as far as principles and individualism and capitalism. What’s the connection in your mind?

The word capitalism, that’s one of those words that is very hard for people to find in agreement on the definition. If you’re a collectivist, then you’re thinking maybe you’re not one of the PP’s out there, but a student hearing all about this will think, “The greater good for the greater number,” and all of that and so you’re into that. Then somebody says, “These capitalists are all selfish individuals. All they care about is getting to be rich and they’ll just grind you into the ground.” Are you going to be a capitalist? No, that’s the definition of capitalism. It depends on how you define the word capitalism. You get 50 people in the room and ask them to define capitalism, I bet you’ll have at least 35 or 40 definitions.

What’s my definition of capitalist? I like to go to the roots of the word. Capital is a form of property. Capital is property. A capitalist is a person who believes in the concept of privately-owned property and he uses that property for whatever purpose he wants. In an industrial society, the capital, this property becomes a means of production. He invests his personal property into machines, into educational institutions and training programs. He may even have schools they create to bring people to a higher enough educational level so they could work within his factories or his systems. For them to provide jobs and raise their standard of living. He can be a criminal or he can be a bad guy and use his capital for purposes in which we would not object. That’s up to him. If he’s going to use this capital against the laws of the land, then he’s a criminal. He’s a criminal capitalist.

TWS 07 | Capitalism

Capitalism: We cannot take money from our neighbor that’s got a lot of money and give it to the other neighbor that doesn’t have a lot of money because we want to justify it.

 

Being a capitalist doesn’t make you a good person, except it does narrow your focus to the fact that you believe in private property. That is I believe the foundation not only for prosperity but for personal liberty. If you do not have private property, you cannot sustain yourself. You cannot be independent. You have to be dependent on the group. What’s the group? It’s always the state. You become the servant of the state. You do what the state tells you to do if you do not have private property, which is why people like Karl Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Mao Zedong and all the other great collectivists of the world said, “Private property has got to go.” They teach that in the schools now. They say private property has got to go because it’s not right. It’s not fair. They put a twist on it and they sell it as a humanitarian objective when they know that private property stands in the way of the individual being subjected by the state. My definition of a capitalist is it’s simply a person who believes in private property.

I spent an entire year of going through John Locke’s ideas around life, liberty and property and what those things meant and how a very successful society has to understand those principles and how they work together. I look at what you said, which is brilliant, that property or capital is something tangible. It’s the physical world but I haven’t look into these days with the internet and how much is being done there, which is hard to distinguish is that physical or nonphysical? In the end, human beings, the brilliance we have in each of us is that we’re all different. There’s a uniqueness about human beings that’s incredible because we’re all different. We all have different backgrounds. We all think a little bit differently. We all have different ideas. That’s why I think property is an extension of that. Property in and of itself, I don’t know if it has value. The value comes from our ideas and our uniqueness and how it applies to that specific physical resource and what can be done with that.

If it has no value, it’s not property because nobody wants it. If it’s a rock in the middle of the stream and it has some value but not very much. Nobody cared for it unless it’s pretty. If it’s pretty then it has value and somebody wants it, now it’s property.

It either has to be like a relationship between individuals in order for property to have that value. It’s a fascinating idea but at the same time going back to your point of criminal capitalists because there are. The criminal capitalists are those that prey on the individuals but also they violate those inalienable rights. I look at the structure of free market capitalism and how it reinforces and protects individualism and it allows for both the success and also the failure associated with using capital. Tying into the idea of individualism, you have to protect a person’s desire to want to use property to do something and to benefit themselves. Ultimately, it has to benefit someone else in order for it to be determined as property.

The principle of enlightened self-interest is extremely important. Even if you’re a son of a gun and you’re a bastard but if you realized that the only way you can gain wealth and comfort is to build something or do something that serves a purpose in the society, then you’re going to be a constructive human being, whether you like it or not. This is your enlightened self-interest to do it.

If you look at the whole centralized power around what capital is and resource is, it conflicts with the ideas of individualism. I look at the word that’s thrown out there now which is equality where this person has too much money or this person has an unfair advantage. How have you come to understand the drive for equality and what that even means because that’s a word that is defined in a number of ways?

First of all, it’s a word that is very difficult and people have different responses to it. As you said so well that no one is the same to somebody else, exactly the same. Nobody is exactly equal. Thank God for that. Wouldn’t it be boring if everybody was exactly like we are? We’ll be mad at each other most of the time because we’re onto each other. We know all of each other’s tricks and all of that. Thank God there are differences in talent, structure, strength, intelligence, aptitudes and I might even say gender. Nobody wants to be equal in the sense of that context. What we want to be equal and under what circumstances is under the law. We wanted to be treated under the law equally and that’s all we can ask for, all we should ask for. We don’t want any favoritism. We don’t want to be treated as a special group or class.

A capitalist is simply a person who believes in private property. Click To Tweet

Even if our parents were destitute, even if we were poor or if we were denied something, it didn’t have love or something, maybe one of our parents is dead and all of these things. Maybe we were born with a deformation of some kind and maybe we don’t have a hand. Maybe we were in an accident and all these things. All we have to say is that you cannot give any group any favorite treatment under the law, no matter how worthy their cause is or how compassionate you may feel toward them. Once you crossed that line, there is no stopping that. You can always make an argument, if this was true for Matilda, it’s also true for Johnny. His condition is a little bit different. Now you got two exceptions. If it’s true for Matilda and Johnny, it’s also true for Mary. The next thing you know, the whole world has got these exceptions.

All you need to see that is go look at the federal income tax and see all the exemptions and so forth. It just becomes a maze. It’s illogical. It’s unethical. For all we can ask for is to be treated absolutely equally under the law. Most people will say, “That sounds good.” Yet they’re perfectly content with the existing legal system, which I guarantee you 90% of the existing laws on the books do not treat people equally. 90% of them at least are designed to shift favoritism from this group to that group. Give this person a little edge over that edge or to punish this group for that. 90% of the laws are not administered equally and we’ve got to do something about that if we want to create a better world.

It’s one of those things where it’s going to continue to have corrections of the law to compensate for the deficiency that is created by another law. Then it’s this vicious cycle of trying to compensate for something that’s simple.

The truth of the matter is that it’s not just stupidity. It sounds good but they’d made a mistake. They didn’t think it through because it won’t work. What we don’t realize is we’re dealing with predators. They did think it through. They know exactly that it won’t work, but in the process, they know that it puts them in the middle. They are now the administrators of the system. They’re in charge. It helps them a lot. They don’t care whether it doesn’t work. In fact, they’re delighted that it doesn’t work because now it’s an excuse to go back and have another program and more taxes, more regulations and more power to them. It’s not stupidity. We got to remember there is a predator class at work.

I had the thought I had on bullet points to talk about monetary policy. I think a book that is definitely something that you created as this enlightening document to be able to understand what the monetary system of the US is or just a central monetary system in general. Going into that will take another take another few hours. I look at even with that, which is another way of describing collectivism and also the creation of equality in a sense. If you don’t understand the simple principles of what individualism is and also the principles associated with why our founding fathers created the documents that they did and why they did it.

Escaping from the political systems that they were in before, then there’s no sense in getting into monetary policies because it will just be super confusing. At the same time, you look at what is running the world right now, it’s commerce to an extent. Commerce is all controlled. It comes down to the control of a central bank and how they’re able to manipulate certain things, for the interest of some. I won’t even get into what those groups are, but you know where I’m going. Did a lot of what we’re talking about play into the desire that you had to write that book?

I have to think back. I’m rewinding the tape now all the way back many years. I think the honest answer is no, because when I had a desire to write that book, frankly I had no idea what I was getting into. Had I known, I’m sure I wouldn’t have attempted it. It was too much but ignorant though I was, I thought, “This is an interesting thing. How money comes into creation. How they create money out of debt, out of nothing.” Actually, debt is even worse than nothing. I thought, “I’m going to do a little documentary on this one.” That was just the beginning of my learning process. Had I known them, I wouldn’t have gone all the way through. It’s too much. The depth of this problem is something that grew in my awareness as I prepared for writing the book. It was a learning process.

TWS 07 | Capitalism

Capitalism: Young people that are recruited into the left movement are definitely crusaders. They think they’re working for something good.

 

Looking at where we’re at now. You had said something that hit home, which is there’s optimism. Despite what’s going on in the world around us, which is quite a bit. Where do you derive the energy for that optimism? What are you seeing that makes you optimistic?

That’s a two-part thing. The first part and is the most interesting is where do I derive that energy? Where does that drive come from? I had to stop and think about that. Since we’re talking about the predator class, we might think that at the other end of the spectrum there is a crusader class. I think that’s true. We have about the same percentage or 3%, 10% little group. At the other end, that are born with that drive to shut things right. I’ve discovered late in my life. I was an adult, I was married, I had a job and had a family and everything before my crusader gene kicked in. I had no interest in saving the world or anything like that. My interest was climbing the ladder of success, looking good, living well and all that sort of thing. When I got into some of these issues that we’re talking about now, I realized, “What am I going to do about it?” That’s a problem. Some of us have this insane desire, this insane thought that we can do something about it and we must do that.

The honest boldfaced answer is that I can’t help myself and I have a feeling you’re probably the same way. Probably at this end of the spectrum, there may be 5%, 6%, 7%, 10% of the people who just can’t help themselves. They’d got to rush forward and see what they can do to correct the wrongs. No matter what it takes, we can’t sleep until we figured it out. That’s my drive. I’m not claiming any great honor for it or any praise. It’s the way I am. My crusader gene is always buzzing. That’s interesting because if you look at the world in retrospect, in all history, all the great changes in history were done by 1%, 2% of the population. That’s all.

It’s been 1% or 2% in one end, 1% or 2% on the other end fighting it out and the other 98% were sitting back saying, “I don’t know which side will win but whichever side wins, I was always on that side.” It’s sad in a way, but it’s encouraging too because it means that we don’t have to convince our neighbor next door cutting his lawn. If he looks at us with that glazed look and he says, “Huh?” “What did you think about the Super Bowl?” That’s what he probably wants to talk about. “What about that Dancing with the Stars last night, wasn’t that something?” If that’s the focus of his life or her life, then you just say, “Next.” We’re looking for that 2%, 1% that have this crusader gene.

That’s an amazing way to put the crusader gene. I’ve never heard of that, but that makes sense. I look at a lot of what drives other collectivist groups. They probably think that they’re crusaders too.

A lot of people, especially the young people that are recruited into the left movement are definitely crusaders. They think they’re working for something good. I was that way at first, then I realized the trickery involved in all of these slogans and then that changed everything.

Maybe we’re going to end with this, how I’ve looked at things over the last couple of years and wanting to understand how important it is to recognize not just the principles associated with individualism, but you yourself. That there’s beauty in all individuals. There’s that uniqueness of where they’re born, that the socioeconomic environment, that political environment. People are driven in very similar ways. What touched me over the last couple of years is understanding more about the hierarchy of what people are driven to do. Maslow has one model. I think it’s pretty simple to understand. We don’t have to worry about in our day and age, food, shelter and clothing. Those are somewhat simple to come by. Then as far as inching our way up the ladder, people are getting very close to this idea of wanting to do purposeful things.

Debt is even worse than nothing. Click To Tweet

That’s where it comes down to the collectivist idea, where it does have, in a sense, a moral foundation. They think they have a moral foundation and they’re pursuing something for the best interest of others. I look at most of those groups and really what it does is it ruins the individuals. Whether it’s giving away welfare and their social programs and giving away this and giving away this, redistributing wealth. It ruins the experience of the individual to grow and to experience life. That’s where I find it very unnerving because I look at how important the experiences I’ve had in life, the difficult experiences. If I had been bailed out, where I would be and not having learned from those lessons. I look at family members, I look at so many different circumstances where individuals are robbed of experiencing life. I think that’s one of the travesties of our day.

You’re certainly right on target with that; the idea of protecting people against the effects of their own folly. I think it was Lord Acton or somebody like that said, “If you protect men from the effects of their own folly, you will fill the world with fools,” and that’s exactly what happens. You realized that if you follow the mantra of collectivism, you do not help people, you actually hurt them. You may give them a temporary meal. You may give them something they need very badly at the moment. That’s charity. I’m all for that. You should be doing that but to build a system around that so that it becomes no longer voluntary, but you have to do it or you’d go to jail.

Now, you’ve created a system, a machine that’s going to destroy the average person. They will not help them at all. I came to the conclusion that the mantra of collectivism is for the greater good of the greater number and if necessary, that means you have to sacrifice the individual. I finally came out the other side realizing that the individual should be the center of the state, protecting the individual. That is the greater good of the greater number. That does help the greater number to a higher degree than collectivism, which professes to have that goal but accomplishes just the opposite.

How can individuals follow you and learn more about what you’re doing? I know you still write quite a bit and contribute in different areas. What are some of the best ways to keep up to speed with what you’re up to?

Thank you for that. Supposedly the first thing I should do and I always forget this, is to talk about our commercial site, RealityZone.com. That’s where we have a lot of books and recordings, videos and audio tapes on the themes that we’re talking about here. My books are there too but we have about a hundred different excellent items. It’s a good place to start if you’re looking to flush out these ideas and say, “I wonder if this is true,” and you want to dig into the history, the rationale and the logic of it all. Then you have to do a little study. That’s the starting point. You have to put these ideas into action. Knowing that something is a superior idea, doesn’t make it win, especially when you’re up against the PP class. The predators and the parasites are working against you and all of them are looking for laws, the force of the state to compel you to shut up or go away or conform to their point of view, whether you like it or not.

To have this knowledge and a big bookcase full of books and you read them all, “You can’t do anything to me. I understand. No, that’s not it.” You’ve got to get out there and get active and recapture the system and change law if necessary. I’m devoting my attention to that aspect now. For anybody that’s interested in that, I’d like to invite you to come visit us at FreedomForceInternational.org. It’s an organization. It will tell you all about it there on the website. It’s a group of people. We now have members in 85 countries. It’s amazing. This issue of collectivism versus individualism is global, ladies and gentlemen. It’s not just here in the United States. That gets even further advanced in some other parts of the world. It’s more sophisticated here but it’s quite global, let’s put it that way. Then let’s go right to the chase. In order to get the word out to as many people as possible, we’d devise some marketing tactics if you wish to call them that.

We’ve adopted the idea of the Red Pill because you can talk about ideology all you want, collectivism and individualism. Some people will say, “That’s hurting my brain.” If you talk about something more popular like, “Take the Red Pill and break out of the illusion, face the reality.” “I saw the movie, The Matrix. It was a pretty good movie.” All of a sudden, it’s in a more popular frame and not quite so intimidating. We’re having fun now talking about these things in the context of the Red Pill. It’s fun, so I’m getting to the point now. We have a Red Pill Expo. It’s the third one that we put on and it’s scheduled for June. It’s coming up June 2019 in Hartford, Connecticut. Put it on your calendar, please. It’s on June 7, 8 and 9 and if you want to know more about it, come to the website which is RedPillExpo.org and you’ll learn all about it.

TWS 07 | Capitalism

Capitalism: The mantra of collectivism is for the greater good of the greater number, and if necessary, that means you have to sacrifice the individual.

 

It’s a great event. That’s all I can say. It’s a no holds barred event. People come there. We don’t agree with everybody that’s on there. In fact, we have some pretty good debates sometimes. The idea is if you want to break out of the matrix, out of the illusion, you have to open your mind to the fact that maybe what I know or think I know is not true. If you say, “I’m not going to listen to that person because that’s not true.” That means that you already have closed your mind to ever getting outside of the box that you’re in. If everything out there is not true, only what’s inside my box is true and you’ve had it. You’re getting into some great discussions at the Red Pill Expo. I invite you all to come.

I’m from Hartford. Where are you doing it in Hartford?

I should have the name of the conference center, but it’s a big one. Right in the middle of town. I’ll have to look it up. Come to the website and you’ll find out.

We’ll post everything. I was just curious personally.

It’s going to be a lot of fun. I got to tell you, we just finished the website and the enrollment process. The man who’s taking care of our Facebook and social media stuff sent that tweet out to a couple of people and several minutes later, we had our first enrollment. It’s a good omen. I know people are going to flood to this thing. It’s something you don’t want to miss.

This has been a fascinating discussion and I know you’re passionate about this. You keep doing interviews and you keep doing videos and it’s a worthy cause because, in our day and age, people are understanding more and more. At least they’re curious and more open-minded. Hopefully, these ideas resonate so that people can start to celebrate what can ultimately change their lives but I think change the world.

These ideas do resonate. That’s the fact. They resonate because they’re the truth. When you hear it, the bell is rung and you think, “I’ve been waiting for that sound all my life.” There it is.

The biggest barrier of the truth is that you may have to be wrong and people don’t like being wrong.

It’s embarrassing but at the end you think, “Now, I’m awake.”

Anything that’s really changed the world is somebody had to step back and question assumptions. Ed, it’s a pleasure as always. Good luck with everything and I’m sure we’ll get back in contact. Maybe we will do a version two about the Federal Reserve.

We’ll do version two, meanwhile, put it on your calendar. I’ll see you in Hartford.

Thanks, Ed.

Important Links:

About G. Edward Griffin

TWS 07 | Capitalism

G. Edward Griffin is a writer, documentary film producer, and Founder of Freedom Force International. Listed in Who’s Who in America, he is well known because of his talent for researching difficult topics and presenting them in clear terms that all can understand.

He has dealt with such diverse subjects as archaeology and ancient Earth history, the Federal Reserve System and international banking, terrorism, internal subversion, the history of taxation, U.S. foreign policy, the science and politics of cancer therapy, the Supreme Court, and the United Nations.

His better-known works include The Creature from Jekyll Island, World without Cancer, The Discovery of Noah’s Ark, Moles in High Places, The Open Gates of Troy, No Place to Hide, The Capitalist Conspiracy, More Deadly than War, The Grand Design, The Great Prison Break, and The Fearful Master.

Edward is a graduate of the University of Michigan where he majored in speech and communications. He is a recipient of the coveted Telly Award for excellence in television production, the creator of the Reality Zone Audio Archives, Publisher of Need to Know News, and is President of American Media, a publishing and video production company in Southern California.

He has served on the board of directors of The National Health Federation and The International Association of Cancer Victors and Friends and is Founder and President of The Cancer Cure Foundation. He is the founder of The Coalition for Visible Ballots, a grassroots organization for the elimination of vote fraud made possible by electronic voting systems. He is the Founder and Chairman of Freedom Force International.

 

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Reflections On Capitalism And The Morality Of It with Craig R. Smith

TWS 06 | Capitalism

 

Capitalism seems to have more bad than good reputation among people. Breaking down some reasons why it is misrepresented is Chairman of Swiss America Trading Corporation, Craig R. Smith. He gives his thoughts about capitalism and the relevance of money in a laissez-faire capitalist society. He talks about China, the government, and what they have been doing to the markets. Helping those who are still grappling with the monetary system, Craig defines sound money and why it is important. He also reflects about humanity, equality, and where we are headed in the next ten years with our current situation. Ultimately, amidst everything going on in politics, he reminds us how we, the people, are the government.

Listen to the podcast here:

Reflections On Capitalism And The Morality Of It with Craig R. Smith

TWS 06 | Capitalism

Money, Morality & the Machine: Smith’s Law in an Unethical, Over-Governed Age

We are going to be talking about money and our monetary system. I have an expert with me to help navigate this sometimes difficult to understand topic. My guest is Craig R. Smith. He’s the Chairman of Swiss America Trading Corporation. He has also written a number of books including Money, Morality & the Machine as well as Don’t Bank on It!: The Unsafe World of 21st Century Banking. Craig, thanks for taking the time. I’m excited about the conversation.

Patrick, it’s great to be with you.

Our focus or this theme that we have for the next several months is around the nature of capitalism, what it is and why it’s misrepresented sometimes. I would love to hear how you think about capitalism, but also the relevance of money in a Laissez-Faire Capitalist society?

Let’s talk about capitalism. Capitalism clearly historically is the one form of societal thinking that pulls people out of poverty. This is one thing that very few people are talking about. Perfect modern-day example of that is China. China is a communist nation. We tend to forget that they are red communists. If they have to starve ten million of their people to save their country, they will do that. They embrace capitalism. All of a sudden, 1.3 billion Chinese people have a pathway to get out of their poverty. When you look at capitalism and how it changes society, it changes a society because it eliminates poverty. It rewards merit. It rewards hard work. It rewards results. Unlike socialism, you don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to produce anything. You don’t have to play by rules. You are taken care of. Capitalism is by far the most superior form of societal cooperation than any other system out there. Take a capitalist like John Rockefeller. When he took over, kerosene was $0.85 a gallon. When he retired, kerosene was $0.10 a gallon. Did his capitalism help the average person or did it hurt the average person? I would argue it helped the average person.

TWS 06 | Capitalism

Don’t Bank On It!: The Unsafe World of 21st Century Banking

I love the examples you’re using because China is not considered necessarily a capitalist society, but yet as they’ve gravitated toward that, giving a little bit more freedom, a little bit more openness associated with the trade. It’s benefited so many people even though it’s not a full capitalist society, even small aspects of it make a difference. I would say it’s similar to the US. Correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t think there’s ever been a pure Laissez-Faire Capitalist society. Are you saying that any increase in those tenants ultimately is going to benefit everyone?

It’s no different than the principles of gravity, they work. You can argue against them but jump out of an airplane and see whether your argument holds water. The tenants of capitalism, when they are applied properly, work very efficiently because you have markets. Markets can remove excesses, can get the price right. Price discovery and markets give us the ability to grow. I can think of capitalism. I can go all the way back to people like JP Morgan. People think he’s a banker, or some of these guys that did the financing on things like electricity that ended up lighting America, that ended up heating our homes, that ended up allowing factories to run 24 hours, seven days a week. This is the thing we have to keep in mind. Capitalism takes natural resources in the form of steel, copper, so on and so forth. Combines it with human resources, labor along with technology and capital markets and creates a product, and that develops an economy. This is what we have to be careful about. Our government has gotten so big, the government doesn’t produce anything and yet they take $4 trillion a year out of the economy.

They’re also adding almost $1 trillion each year.

It’s ridiculous. Remember, I talked about markets. Markets are going to get this right pretty quick. We talk about the national debt and we talk about the trillion-dollar a year deficit that we have? People say, “They don’t matter. We were at $10 trillion, it didn’t matter. $15 trillion under Barack Obama, $20 trillion now under Donald Trump, $22 trillion. Why does it matter?” Deficits don’t matter until they matter. The day that they matter is a day too late.

Craig, first off, maybe define sound money. What does that mean? For those that don’t necessarily understand our monetary system. Talk about maybe the importance of sound money when it comes to having a very capitalist type of society.

Money in its nature has to have certain characteristics. Number one, money has to be divisible. In other words, you have $1, $10, $20, so on and so forth so you can make a change. Money has to be scarce. It has to have a store value. Our money is not scarce. As long as they’re growing trees, you can make more money. There’s no store value. If you put $1 away in 1900, that $1 now is only worth $0.2. It didn’t do a very good job as a store value. In America, we used to have a gold standard. When we were on the gold standard, our money remains sound. Matter of fact, there are many periods in the 1800 where the US dollar became stronger. You were able to buy more goods and services with your money. When Mr. Roosevelt decided to recall the gold in 1933, and subsequently Mr. Nixon closed the gold window on October 15th, 1971, we took all gold out of our money. We systematically started devaluing our money. That trend is not going to change. We are on a downward spiral to where one day the dollar, in my opinion, will be replaced with an alternate currency, probably maybe the Chinese or the Russians or maybe even the IMF will come out and issue a gold back currency.

To answer your question, sound money has to have something behind it. We don’t have anything behind our money anymore other than the full faith and credit of the United States government. Go look at $1. It says, “This is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” What does that mean? Your dollar is a debt instrument. It’s not money. Money, in order to be money, cannot be encumbered by something. All we use in our money system is an IOU that we pass on to somebody else. In other words, Patrick gives me an IOU and I go down to the grocery store and I use that IOU with somebody at the grocery store. It works very well as long as everybody recognizes that paper. If that grocer says, “I don’t recognize Patrick,” that I will use nothing. Patrick doesn’t have any money.

Price discovery and markets give us the ability to be able to grow. Click To Tweet

I think right there is where you hit something that I want to make sure that I understand correctly because you’re the expert here and has spoken to it for so long. I would say the relevance where you are making an exchange. Money in and of itself represents something. Inherently gold has tangible value. Paper doesn’t have tangible value. You look at the underlying premise of money is the whole mimic of exchange idea where your work, your labor, your goods, as you put it, how you take the resources of the world, the material of the world and combine it with the human mind, labor and production. It creates something of value to other people.

When a person exchanges that medium of exchange, your understanding that it’s worth a certain amount and them understanding that it’s worth a certain amount. The purpose of the actual exchange is that for the person that’s getting the money because they provided the value is now going to go out and do something else with it. The certainty that exists that it’s going to be worth the same amount when they go to exchange it is where the whole sound money idea breaks down. Is that an accurate logic?

It’s very much so. Money, when you think about it in its purest essence, is your labor that’s convertible into currency so you can buy goods and services. You go to work every day. You work 40 hours a week. You get a paycheck the other week. You’re able to take that labor and translate it into a tradable commodity. This is what we have to understand that if that’s the case, which it is. I have to work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year to make $50,000. The Federal Reserve can push one button on a computer and create $50 million or $50 billion. What have they done to discount the value of my labor if they didn’t have to do anything to get $50 billion, but I had to work all year to get $50,000? That’s not fair.

Craig, these are the points that those that have studied this understand, but for those that don’t study this that this may be their first exposure. That right there what you said, is the heart and core of the issue, is that when you have a central power that has the authority to increase that amount of money that’s in circulation through whatever means, number one, it’s fake. There was no value produced for that. It dilutes and it essentially takes from those that did provide value. It’s everyone. It has been going on for a long time. It’s still that the overriding narrative is to continue to do this because it’s a good thing.

Governments by nature will never be satisfied. They always have to have more revenues. If the government was to move your tax rate, and I’m using a hypothetical here, from 32% to 80%, more than likely we probably have a revolution. Is that fair to say?

Absolutely.

If they leave your tax rate where it is and they devalue your currency, they can get the same effect. You don’t even realize this happened. In other words, if they hit you with an 80% tax, you would revolt. You wouldn’t pay for it. If they devalue your money every day and you have to use that money to survive, they are in essence taking more money from you in the form of depreciating the currency. They can’t tax you so they depreciate your currency. The Chinese are famous for this. They’re currency manipulators. This whole bit about our trade talks with China, it’s a joke because if tomorrow we cut a new deal and they don’t like the deal, they’ll play with their currencies and work it out through their currency. This is what the Federal Reserve has done. They’ve stolen from every American. Years ago, we did a study about it.

We can argue that there have been $100 trillion that’s been stolen from the American people since 1913 when we formed the Federal Reserve by what’s called financial repression, by paying people an interest rate that’s substantially lower than the rate of inflation. We’ve seen that happen and by using inflation as a form of taxation. I did a whole paper for the Congress years ago entitled the uses of inflation. I showed how back in the ‘50s, our Federal Reserve chairman wanted to do away with federal income tax. He said, “We don’t need a federal income tax. I’ll play with the currency and we’ll get our revenues through the currency.” Nobody talked about that. His name was Beardsley Ruml. If you read what he was proposing to the federal government, it will turn your hair.

Deficits don't matter until they matter; and the day that they matter is a day too late. Click To Tweet

The introduction I made where the wool is over our eyes is that this type of conversation is not prevalent. It is something that affects literally everybody every day. There are different ways to approach this. The common narrative is so strong that a central bank is a good thing. It’s the lender of last resort. It protects us. I look at it as very similar to how we perceive the government in general. I say we, I’m talking as a society, not me particularly. As a society, the government is there because if they weren’t there, then we wouldn’t have roads or if they weren’t there then people wouldn’t have jobs.

You know the fallacy of that because the reality is if you go back 150 years ago in America, we didn’t have a Leviathan government as we have. People weren’t dying in the streets from malnutrition or for lack of healthcare. We didn’t have any of that. We didn’t have welfare or social security or anything back in the 1800s. I didn’t see elderly people dying on the streets or anything. We have to keep in mind we’re pretty a benevolent nation. We take care of each other. The bigger issue is it’s important that we hit on this. I could never have this conversation I’m having with you on that national television show. I could never have it because they say, “You’re a conspiratorialist.” The facts are out there. You know them and I know them. All a person has to do is read and use a little common sense.

You draw the conclusion that this Federal Reserve is a very failed experiment. We should unravel the Federal Reserve. We should abolish it. We won’t because of the powers to be as I write about Money, Morality & the Machine realize that the money is more important to them than morality. Keeping the machine going and Washington, DC is more important than at all. As a direct result of that, we are not going to see things change. Short of us having a revolution. When I talk about revolution, I’m not talking about a 1776 revolution with guns. I’m talking about people revolting and going to the polls and saying, “We’ve had enough. We want a government that will work for us instead of working against us.”

It’s interesting to see how humanity operates that way where something bad has to happen in order for there to be a paradigm shift. The reason why you can’t have that conversation and it’s very difficult for anybody to have that conversation especially with opposing opinions in an intelligent way. There are so many layers behind it that it almost gets to the point where it’s not the same context. Therefore, you are so many layers above context that it’s “I’m right, you’re wrong” type of rational thing.

It becomes an ideology. You’re right. It’s an ideological argument.

The physical revolutions, I look at where we’re at in our society, I don’t know. I’m hoping that people start to wake up, but at the same time it’s most likely going to be through some pain where people wake up and step back and say, “We’re going to be in this government shut down when we went this long. Why do we need the Federal Reserve? Why do we need this?” Hopefully, people started waking up and asking more questions, better questions.

I said on national television the government doesn’t produce anything, so why are we worried about it hurting our GDP? The government spends money. We have to worry about if the government can’t process small business loans and small businesses can’t operate, and that would affect GDP. I get that. As far as I’m concerned, if Donald Trump wants to do something brazen, fire the 800,000 workers like Ronald Reagan did with the air traffic controllers. They’re non-essential employees anyway. Has your life been affected since they went on vacation? I say get rid of them. Let’s get rid of a million employees at the federal level and let’s reduce the size of government and who knows? Maybe we can even lower taxes ultimately. There’s a big flaw. I want to bring this up before we get too deep in the weeds. The flaw with the Federal Reserve is simple to explain to every single American. Watch this, Patrick and Craig, we moved to a desert island and we start a money system.

The 2008 crisis is not an exception. It's a rule. Click To Tweet

We get the local guys. We come up with dollars. We decide we’re going to use dollars. We lend out $1,000 to the locals at 5% interest. Now the locals owe us $1,000 principal and $50 interest. If you and I only printed $1,000, how can they pay us back? There’s not $1,050 out there. I have to create another $50. I lend that out. I need to borrow more and more. That’s the point. Every year you’ve heard the feds say our inflation target is 2%. They have to have inflation to survive. Let’s say it’s 2%. Every 50 years, you lose 100% on your investments. That’s not a very good deal. Nobody is talking about it in these terms. It’s flawed. It doesn’t work. That’s why you wonder why we’re talking about trillions now. Go back to the $1,050. We need to create $1,050 payback. We need to create $1,200 payback. Now you know why we’re at $100 trillion. Just so your readers know, if you were to spend $1 every second for the rest of your life, it would take you 32,000 years to spend $1 trillion. We owe $22 trillion of those?

Plus you add benefits or social programs, Medicare.

Our long-term liabilities are well in excess of $150 trillion.

I’m glad we started by getting into the morality of it because of a lot of the other episodes that have been done have talked about the morality behind things because I look at that being one of the foundational tenants that people don’t understand. I’ll bring up an example. I made the mistake of turning on the local news to see a Jazz game score on a snow report. On there was basically, there was this huge rally of people that all opened their businesses, opened gyms, the food bank opened up for the federal employees that didn’t have any work who are struggling financially.

I look at the nature of us and the nature of us wanting to help. There’s this confusion associated with central powers what it is and what relevance it has, whether it’s a good or a bad thing. I’m bringing up that people naturally want to do the right thing and do good for society. The government, in theory, I would say right now isn’t necessary. You look at how it continues to perpetuate and it strengthens the paradigm and makes it all the more difficult to get people to wake up. It’s inevitable because of how extreme the negative results and the outcomes have been. Right now it’s getting papered over until who knows when. It could be any type of event but when it goes, it’s going to go quick.

When it goes, you’re going to see the unraveling very quick. When people talk about a crisis or a meltdown or a recession, we’ve got to keep these in real terms. We went through the Great Depression in 1933. If you talked to anybody that lived during the Great Depression, they’re now in their 90s. They will refer to the Great Depression as the good old days. They don’t see it as negative. We went through recessions in America in the ‘60s and the ‘70s. We had the inflation crisis in ‘79, ‘80. Here’s my point. When we have meltdowns, people get rich and people get poor, but you don’t have people dying in the streets or lining up for food. It’s not how it works anymore.

I hear people calling for the market is going to melt down. You start thinking to yourself, “Is it going to be Mad Max at the grocery store? How am I going to feed my family?” No, it’s not going to be that way because there’s no benefit. I have one neighbor who half of his house is underground. I said, “Richard, what are you doing?” He said, “It’s when the bands of criminals come down the street.” I said, “Are you crazy?” We have a military. We have the police. This is the point. In run-ups in markets, people get rich, people get poor. Drops in markets, people get rich, people get poor. What we’re trying to do is wake up the American people and say, “We’re going to have more crises.” 2008 is not an exception. It’s a rule.

We have them every so many years in America. You need to be prepared for them so that you don’t panic. Think about if you didn’t panic in 2008, you’re already back to where you started and you’re way ahead of the game in stocks. We try and show people that if you have a diversified portfolio and that you have planned your future, you’re not going to have to worry about these ups and downs in the market. You’ll be able to sleep well at night and know that you have a game plan that’s protecting your financial future. That’s why I wrote the book, Money, Morality, & The Machine. That’s why the deal I cut with the publisher was for every one book we sell, we give a book away because we want to wake up the American people. They’ll call programs like yours to discuss these issues because the American people have the answers. We’re smart.

Sometimes our intelligence gets stifled because I’ve thought oftentimes crises are a good thing at a large level, even at the individual level. As human beings are so resilient and when we’re put to the test is where we thrive and where we learn and we discover.

TWS 06 | Capitalism

Capitalism: When we’re put to the test is where we thrive, learn, and discover.

 

It normally takes a crisis for a major paradigm shift to occur. Is anybody going to tell me that we don’t need a paradigm shift in America? Have you watched the news? Have you watched Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or whatever her name is, talking about we want to eliminate billionaires? That would have been good. Let’s see, maybe we should not allow a John Rockefeller to be a billionaire. Nobody would have light or maybe Bill Gates, we shouldn’t let him be a billionaire. He’s revolutionized computers. This talk is crazy that we have coming out of Washington.

It’s done under the guise of morality that this is the right thing. People should be equal. Not understanding the nature of equality and what that means. It’s interesting. It goes to show that this pervasive message of what is moral, what is ethical, how things should be, and what the purpose of government is. It’s out of whack. There are strong voices on both sides. It’s become this right divisive fight. That’s why the truth I don’t think is discovered unless that fight gets magnified. There’s a crisis. Suddenly people wake up during that typically. It’s interesting. It’s a fascinating time to be around where you and I can talk about this. The message can be spread.

Craig, these are our opinions. This is how we see things. We’ve connected the dots in so many different areas. We’ve read similar books. You have a much more extensive education and background than I do. I look at our ability to communicate our ideas. That’s going to continue because there are principles of truth that are true. People feel that and when it’s applied to specific situations, that’s when wake up occurs. Right now, it’s a difficult time. It’s also exciting that you can start to see what’s going to happen in the future.

You hit something that strikes me. You’re right on the money. Truth is it doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not. It doesn’t change what the truth is. It’s like a lie. A lie has to keep changing in order for it to live because if it doesn’t keep changing, it will die. The truth is the same now as it was 10,000 years ago as it will be 10,000 years in the future. You said something about equality that is spot on. A very dear friend of mine, Mike Savage, you probably know him who has a national talk show. He has a saying that says, “You can have no equality without quality.” I want you to think that through. We can’t have equality in this country unless the people are quality people.

It normally takes a crisis for a major paradigm shift to occur. Click To Tweet

Look at the people who are calling people racist, are they quality people? I don’t think so. We’re looking for this equality on whose scale on some guy from Black Lives Matter, from Antifa, from the Tea Party. Whose perspective are we looking at here? This is the problem. We’ve lost our ability to be human with each other. I could argue it’s because of cell phones and all this stuff. We’ve lost our humanity. If we lose our humanity, De Tocqueville told us that the greatest strength we have as a nation is our humanity. I hate to sound negative. I feel very optimistic about the future of America. However, the next ten years I think we’re going to experience some very difficult times.

Craig, everything you said has been brilliant. I look at humanity and I’d also say that during times of crisis is where humanity shines too. You saw many examples, whether it’s natural disasters, how people come to the rescue. I think we’re driven that way. We have this instinct inside of us to do the right thing. There are exceptions because we all have an irrational side of us as well. Generally speaking in crisis, you have a lot of good that comes from that. It is so much divisiveness. I had a cool experience a couple years ago going to Hawaii with my kids. It was a Disney-type of resort that they have there. We were swimming. There were these guys like a gangster, tattoos they had. They were like human having discussions with me laughing. It’s one of those things where everybody has this humane side. We all in a sense will resonate or talk to one another even though there are so many differences. It’s powerful but typically, the environment is what creates so much divisiveness.

TWS 06 | Capitalism

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

What you brought up is so important. We should elaborate on this. There’s a book out that I encourage you to go read. It’s called Tribe by Sebastian Junger. In the book, Sebastian Junger studied war-torn societies, England after the famous bombings in London, Kosovo, and Sarajevo. He found out something fascinating. He found out that after the crisis was over, the people wanted the crisis to come back because when the crisis was happening, neighbor was taking care of neighbor. Brother was taking care of sister. Mother was taking care of son. Everybody was taking care of each other. In London, they would go down to the air raids bonkers when those sirens would go off. After the war was over, what the English people did was they congregated down in the bomb shelters. They missed getting together. Here’s the point, do you remember how tight we were as a nation in 2001? Remember George Bush on that puddle, “The people that tore down these buildings, they’re going to hear from all of us soon.” I felt like an American.

I’ve got to tell you something. We’re going to have another crisis. We have threats all over the world. I’m not going to telling you militarily. I’m talking about financially. We got China. We got Russia. Don’t underestimate India by any stretch of the imagination. The European Union, they’re trying to hold themselves together right now. Keep in mind, the European Union collectively is a bigger economy than ours. Individually, they’re not. As a European Union, they are bigger than we are. We have a lot of threats that we need to be thinking about on a long-term basis that is existential to this nation. One of them I believe happens to be our money system because if you devalue our money system, how are we going to be able to fund anything to be able to protect our interests? I’m incredibly concerned about the future of money because money, as much as we hate to admit it, has the morality to it. I talk about this in my book. Every moral decision in America has a financial consequence and every financial decision in America has a moral consequence. We’re not thinking in those terms.

Adding to that, I’d also say that behind every transaction is the nature of a human being to provide value to one another and use their abilities, use what their unique at, and also the process of figuring out what is valuable to others. It’s one of those things where money also has a very individual aspect in addition to what you mentioned.

Sometimes people misinterpret money too. Think about the guy that’s got $5 million in the bank and he’s drinking himself to sleep every night. He doesn’t think he has any problems because he’s got money. I would argue his problems are worse than the guy that’s on the street who is a drunk, who knows he’s got trouble because he can’t mask it because he lives in a fancy house. This is where we are in society. Money is merely a tool. It gives us the ability to trade, to buy, to sell, to live our lives. It shouldn’t represent who we are. My checkbook should have nothing to do with the quality of human being that I am. The minute that it does, we’ve lost as a society. What do we need government for? If men be angels, we don’t have any need for the government. The reality is men aren’t angels. The reality is men do things very immoral. That’s why I was very disappointed in 2008 that none of the bankers or some of the people that created some of the problems like Mr. Mozilla didn’t have to pay a price for this. Think about what happened in 2008 and nobody was held accountable.

It was worse. They made all the mistakes but yet all of their problems were solved for them.

That’s why I think the average American is getting very discouraged. They’re saying there are two sets of rules. There are sets of rules for the power of powerful people. There’s a set of rules for Hillary Clinton and those people. There’s another set of rules for me. That’s why most people are discouraged right now. The good news is we still are the greatest nation in the world. We still have the greatest capital system in the world. What I’m hopeful for is that these politicians have overplayed their hands. What we saw in 2016 is the beginning of, for lack of better term, a new popular populism in America where the American people get involved. I was very happy that the House went to the Democrats. You’re going to say, “You’re a Republican conservative. How could you say that?” Do you want me to tell you why? Because the Republicans in the House didn’t deserve to hold on to the House because in 2016, what did Donald Trump come back to the White House with? The American people said, “Build a wall.” The American people said, “Did this.” He’s doing those things. Isn’t that what he’s supposed to do? Isn’t that what he run on? Isn’t that what he got elected on?

If we have more of that, then the people are going to say, “If you’re doing your job, we’ll reelect you. If you’re not doing your job, we’re going to throw you out.” That’s what they did to the Republicans. We have a very healthy democracy. When the Republicans didn’t do what they promise in 2016, 2017, 2018, the American people threw them out. Now you’ve got Democrats in there. If they screw up, hopefully the politicians realize that until we start promising and following up on fulfilling those promises, we don’t have a chance to govern. If we do that, we have a bright future ahead of us.

I find it interesting your last couple of statements because you’re right. It comes down to what we as people believe and understand the influence that we do have by electing certain officials. At the same time, we make election decisions in this case based on our belief system, based on what we know. I look at how we’ve been conditioned as a society to understand government, understand their purpose, and understand their nature. That impacts the way in which we vote, where we do vote because this person is going to create jobs, this person is going to do this and this person is going to do that. Maybe you can end with your opinion here, going to quality, the quality of a collective people right now I would say isn’t necessarily making decisions politically electing certain people for the right reasons. As we shift as a society and understand whether it’s the purpose of government or whether not wanting to be taken advantage of because we’re aware of what they’re doing and why it won’t work. That will be hopefully the shift that can create some influence politically where we want different results than we want right now, which would definitely shift power.

I hope you’re right. You’d like to think that the American people get it right every so often. The problem in Washington, DC, I wrote about this in the book, Money, Morality & the Machine, the whole concept of that book is it plays off of Dwight Eisenhower’s warning to us. Be aware of the military industrial complex. What we do is we show how that military industrial complex is a type and shadow of other things that are going on in our government. Here’s how it works. The Congress appropriates funds. They go to build bombs, tanks, so and so forth. We need that for our national defense.

We, the people, are the government. Click To Tweet

Defense contractors turn around and give donations back to the congressmen and get them reelected. We wonder why some of these guys are like Ted Kennedy in the Senate for 40 years because they have this incestuous relationship with not just the defense contractors but everybody that contracts with the federal government. Whoever is contracting with the federal government, I guarantee you is giving money to the political campaigns. That’s the problem. If we break that, then we’d get our government back. We have the best government that money can buy right now because our politicians are bought and paid for. Our politicians shouldn’t be bought and paid for. The only people they should be responsible for is the American people. That’s why I’m grateful that you’re doing shows like this. That’s why I’m grateful for hosts like you that are talking about these issues. I am convinced if we engage the American people in a dialogue, we will fix this problem. We, the people, are the government.

You’re absolutely spot on there. There’s a lot more going on. I think there was more podcast created in 2018 than ever before. They’re a lot smarter than I am because I’ve been doing this for over ten years, there’s a lot of success in most podcasts. That’s also a good thing because it’s helping spread certain messages. I hear more of it. Craig, thank you for what you’re doing. You clearly contributed trying to understand how our seemingly complex system works and what are the principles behind them, the morality behind it. Thank you for what you’ve done and continue to do. We’ll support you in every way possible. Why don’t you let the readers know the best ways to follow you, see what you’re up to when you speak on this national show live. If you want to talk about ways in which people can follow you, that would be awesome.

I’m a major contributor to Fox so you’ll see me on Fox Business or Fox News every week or so. The best way to stay in touch with us is through the website, SwissAmerica.com. The publisher was gracious enough for every one book we sell, we’re able to give a book away. I don’t know how big your audience is, but I’m sure, 50, 60, 70 books, if they call 1-800-289-2646 and mention that you were listening to the program or mention Patrick’s name, they will send you a complementary copy from the publisher of the book, Money, Morality & the Machine. No hidden charges. They don’t say, “It’s $5 postage.” Everything is free. You call that number, you put your name, address, phone number down and they will send you a complementary copy of the book. All we ask you to do is read it and then engage with somebody like Patrick. I don’t know if you take call-ins, but let’s talk about these issues. Let’s get a number of opinions out there because I’m convinced in a multitude of counselors, we will find wisdom. The best years of America could be ahead of us if we fix some of these stupid problems that are very fixable.

You see signs everywhere that people are getting more engaged, more aware, learning and there’s a lot of accountability associated with media these days. It hasn’t been there before. It continues to improve and ensure that the messages that are out there are sound. We’ll make sure your book and the links to it gets distributed on everywhere we post the podcast and in our social media channels as well, and articulate that offer.

It’s great being with you. I look forward to doing it again.

Likewise, Craig. Have a good one. Thanks for what you do.

 

Important Links:

About Craig R. Smith

TWS 06 | Capitalism

Craig R. Smith is Chairman of Swiss America Trading Corporation, a national investment firm specializing in U.S. gold and silver coins. Mr. Smith founded the company in 1982 out of a bedroom in his home with $50.00. It has since grown into one of the largest and most respected firms in the industry known for its dedication to consumer education and safety.

Mr. Smith is an expert in many forms of tangible assets including; oil, precious metals and U.S. numismatic (collectible) coins. He is a student of history and an author of nine books.

Mr. Smith is sought after by national media for his insights on breaking news because he instantly engages audiences with his common-sense analysis of major political and economic trends. Craig’s door is always open to the media. Over the past two decades, Mr. Smith has been interviewed on over 1,500 radio and TV programs. He has also been featured in various print publications. He is a former columnist for Worldnetdaily.com and writes economic columns for Swissamerica.com

To receive your complimentary copy of Craig’s book Money, Morality & The Machine, please call (800) 289-2646 and mention that you as a listener of The Wealth Standard Podcast!

 

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Breaking The Common Stereotypes About The Oil And Gas Industry with Beau Flowers

TWS FF 5 | Financial Friday

 

Having the biggest driving population right now, the common stereotype about oil and gas is that they are simply for fuel. However, they are more than just that. For Financial Friday, Chief Executive Officer of LoneStar Asset Management, LLC, Beau Flowers talks from a 30,000-foot view about the oil and gas industry – where it is at right now, and where it is going. He touched on the impact of the new millennial generation, the green movement, and the downsides of the industry. Sharing lessons for success, Beau also gets into what makes or breaks an opportunity, how to set up operational structures, and what are some of the poor choices in the industry that have led to bad outcomes.

Listen to the podcast here:

Breaking The Common Stereotypes About The Oil And Gas Industry with Beau Flowers

Financial Friday

I have an interesting topic. It’s oil and gas investment and I have as my guest, Beau Flowers, who’s the President of Lone Star Asset Management. He participated in the Cash Flow Wealth Summit and also was one of the sponsors. My relationship with Beau is still new so I’m excited to learn more about his business and also about the oil and gas industry that I have some experience in. I can’t wait to get into it. Beau, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me.

We talked a little bit before we started this interview and I look at the oil and gas industry. There are so many different facets of it. With the social opinion of the biggest driving population right now, which is the Millennial generation who are making their ways in the workplace and they’re living differently. You look at oil and gas, the stereotype is that it’s for burning fossil fuels and it’s for cars and for transportation and there’s a big movement for green. It’s one of those things where the stereotype and the misconception people often have about the oil and gas industry is it’s just for fuel. Why don’t you talk maybe from a 30,000-foot view about the oil and gas industry, where it’s at right now and where you think it’s going and then we’ll go from there.

The new Millennial generation starts establishing itself as the prominent figures in the economy and in society. The oil and gas business is starting to get somewhat of a negative connotation towards it with the old pushing for the green movement. Wanting to eliminate fossil fuels is becoming more of a thing that you hear about. At the end of the day, where we are right now and where our civilization is right now is we’re nowhere near being in a position to where we can eliminate or even come close to eliminating the use of fossil fuels. It’s still the most prevalent and probably one of the most important industries in the economy now. This is where we are right now.

Oil and gas business is so big and so broad and there are so many different ways to get into it. What we try to do is find our little niche, find our little corner in the industry and do specific things that are profitable to us and profitable to our investing partners. Essentially, our main concentration is wealth preservation. You can go out into a wide variety of aspects of the business where the risk factors can be really low and really high. It depends on what your tolerance is. We try to carve out our little niche in to this already prevalent and essential aspect of our economy. We try to be as profitable as we can at that and not concern ourselves with the rhetoric or any connotations that might be evolving with this Millennial-driven society.

Fossil fuel needs to make advances; we need to have different kinds of renewable energy sources. Click To Tweet

You look at the perspective that we have as Americans and we often place our perspective of what life is, how things work and assume that everybody else in the world has that perspective. My wife grew up in Mexico and I had no understanding of what poverty was right until I visited and experienced the neighborhood she grew up in and how people live there. People are happy there, but yet it’s a totally different perspective. If you go to third world countries, it’s the same thing. If you look at the emerging markets and the massive economies that are on the rise, whether it’s India or China or Africa, these are economies that don’t have this massive dependence on fossil fuels.

However, because they are emerging and because technology is integrating into their emergence, they’re obviously going to have demand. You look at the demand now for oil in China, the demand in other parts of Asia, in India, as well as in Africa, it’s massive. Maybe the US and in our production, we’re headed toward more of a green and setting trends there. The transition from being exclusively dependent on fossil fuels to slowly decreasing that dependence, it’s not a one-year, five-year or ten-year. It’s probably a couple of decade transition. What do you think about that?

That’s a very good point. There are two things that I would address about what you said. The first was our dependence and our demand for fossil fuels and the things that fossil fuels provide us is not decreasing. If you look at the actual facts and statistics of the supply, the demand and the usage of fossil fuels to provide the things that we need, even above and beyond in transportation, it’s still a very needed commodity. One thing that I would address, we mentioned the push for Millennials and now being such a big member and prevalent member of society, is they’re also a very vocal generation class with social media.

They have a different medium to vocalize their opinions. It’s not like it was in the past where it was close to your neighborhood or the bar where you hung out with your friends and the coffee shop. Now, it’s like they take that message and because they grew up on technology, the message and the opinion just magnifies.

Just because their opinion or their word or message is broadcast in such a wider spectrum now than it ever has been in the past, that doesn’t mean it’s right. It doesn’t mean that they’re right all the time. I’m not saying that we don’t need as a society to start transitioning into other alternatives. Fossil fuel needs to make advances and we need to have different kinds of renewable energy sources. I’m certainly not saying that. I’m just saying right now, we are where we are. From an economic financial standpoint, our goal is to take advantage of where we are and where we’re going to be for the foreseeable future. That’s what our goal is in our firm. The second thing I would address, you were mentioning of geographic locations and cultural backgrounds influencing what your views are and then perceptions are of different things. That brings me to why am I in the oil business.

TWS FF 5 | Financial Friday

Financial Friday: The opportunities with any industry are what exist in the past and what exist in the future.

 

I’m from Texas. When you grow up in Texas, from an outsider looking in and the guys that aren’t familiar with our industry and aren’t familiar with our culture, when they think of oil business, they get this negative connotation because they think of J.R. Ewing sitting at the top of a big building in Dallas, smoking a cigar with a big cowboy hat and making money hand over fist. That’s the general connotation that folks outside of our industry look at it as. When you grow up in it, when you’re in Texas, you look at it not as something like that. You look at it as your lifeline, as our livelihood. It influences every aspect of our day-to-day lives at some point or another.

We’re talking about people that are running the companies, producing the oil all the way down to 80% of the working families that I grew up with in my small town were employed and fed their families from this industry. Where we’re from, it’s definitely quite the opposite of a negative outlook. It’s our lifeline. You can even see our business is very cyclical and it has its ebbs and flows for sure. You see how detrimental those ebbs can be and those low points in the business can be. That’s why we hang onto it and try to push it and still be a part of this industry because it’s what got us here from every definition of the word.

The opportunities with any industry, it’s what exists in the past and that’s what exists in the future. I’m looking at just the oil and gas industry, it’s a major part of our country. The opinion and the stereotype of guys with the big hat, sitting up and smoking cigars, I’m sure that that’s changing. I want to go there really quick because one of the things I’ve perceived in the financial industry over the last ten to twenty years is there is a significant shift. The 2008, 2009 financial crisis forced it in a sense where individuals were taking matters into their own hands. Individuals were not using stockbrokers, were not using money managers but also they pivoted to these Robo platforms or technology. There’s such a quick evolution and a lot of financial advisors or the financial industry has a difficult time keeping up.

By the time they try to steer their battleship in the direction of where things are going, it’s changed again. There are new trends and there are new demands. I look at the same thing with the oil and gas industry where it’s controlled by some big players. Because of how big they are, it’s sometimes difficult to pivot which provides opportunities for smaller firms to go in and find a niche and capitalize on that. Maybe talk just briefly about what you see as your industry and how the guard is changing and how things are evolving and the opportunities that are presenting themselves to smaller firms.

I’m glad you brought that up because what you mentioned and what you talked about is our driving motive why we started this company and why we do what we do. It is because of the different natures of the business between large scale operator like ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips. Did you hear about Valero? Did you hear about every day? You pump your gas in? A lot of people think about the old business, that’s all they think about. They are the biggest players, but there’s a whole lot in our industry that goes on outside of that. Since about the mid-late 1990s and early 2000s since we went through what’s called the Shell play revolution where we have essentially discovered a brand-new way to efficiently produce this massive wealth that the big guys produce. That’s all they’re concerned about with now is going in and looking at $50 million developments, drilling 30, 40, 50 wells or whatever it is. All at once of these extremely expensive wells to drill to have these astonishing production rates.

It's easy to get stars in your eyes in this business. You see opportunities and all you think about is the upside. Click To Tweet

When that shift happened, it started happening in the mid-2000s. Whenever the big companies completely shifted their focus to those developments, there was a ton of what we call the conventional place that was left. That wasn’t what they were concerned with anymore. What we do in our company is we follow where these big companies started and spent their money researching and developing and then all their resources, figuring out where to drill and then how to drill in certain areas. They never finished essentially. When they shift their focus to a different business model of the Shell play, we go in and acquire their data.

We acquire all their records, everything that they had and we picked up where they left off, which for us works out well because we get a plethora of research and data that would be uneconomical for a company of mid-level or small level producer to be able to afford that level of research. We can acquire that from them for a much reasonable financial compensation. We can go in and pick up where they left off. They had every intention of doing and then the revolution came along, they shifted their focus and they forgot about this stepchild. It’s not quite as good as what they’re doing out there, but it’s good for producers like us. That’s our philosophy and what we try to do. We’re evaluating our prospects and it’s worked out well over the last six or seven years.

That’s where things shift with the discovery of new ways in which you can extract oil and then finding big places that have never been tapped before. That’s where all the big players can go, but there are limitations where they need to have a lot of money at work and require a lot in return to get a good return on investment. When it gets to be smaller, that’s when the numbers don’t make as much sense as they did previously. It allows you guys to go in and to clean up. I look at this and we’ve had some guests on over the last several years in regard to oil and gas. I know that a lot of your education and what you provide in your website and talk to people about what goes into a lot of the details of why this is a significant opportunity which I completely agree with. I want to get into what makes or breaks an opportunity, which isn’t necessarily the opportunity itself. On the Cash Flow Wealth Summit, the presentation that I gave talked about Robert Kiyosaki’s B-I Triangle and how a successful product is supported.

A product could be an investment, it could be a commodity or it could be a business. That’s where the least important thing is the actual product, service and investment. The most important thing is the underlying infrastructure that supports it. My exposure to oil and gas, I’ve seen some big success but I’ve seen also some failure because of mismanagement and poor management, poor understanding of details and poor communication. It wasn’t intentional, but I’ve also seen some intentional things too where it was a complete fraud. I look at you have an asset management company and you’re in this industry, I’m sure you’ve heard way more stories than I’ve heard. How do you use the lessons of others and use the failures and the successes to build your operational structure? How you’ve set up your business to be different and successfully execute on your business objective in this massive opportunity?

There are several different answers to that. One is in some cases learning the hard way. One thing about our business is that you get amazing tax benefits better than any other investment vehicle that I know of and any of my investors have known of, but these investments did not come without risks. Anytime, no matter what you do and in our business, it’s going to have a risk factor to it. Probably a little bit higher risk factor than any other investment vehicle most of our partners have invested in. What I found is the old saying, “Keep it simple, stupid,” is what we’ve learned works best for us. In this business, especially when you start having a footprint in the business over a few years as we do now. You can imagine the opportunities or deals that come across our desk of folks that think they’ve got the next biggest well in Texas or whatever. It’s hard and I’ve seen companies that I worked for in the past and even my company and being guilty of it myself to some degree.

TWS FF 5 | Financial Friday

Financial Friday: A product could be an investment, a commodity, or a business.

 

Sometimes it’s easy to get stars in your eyes in this business. People come and you can see opportunities and all you think about is the upside. We’re talking tremendous upside. We’ve had deals that pay back the entire investment within 30 days, which is unheard of in any other typical investment vehicle. Those deals are few and far between. We’ve built our team. I’ve got a very dynamic team of close-knit group of guys, a 50-year veteran in the field, Andy Whitehead, our operating partner that has an old school mentality of evaluating our deals. He and his dad has been doing this for 50 years using his own money for the most part. He evaluates them very conservatively. We’re not necessarily looking to knock one out of the park every time, but we’re trying to put us in the best opportunity to make some money that puts us in the lowest risk opportunity of losing our money.

That’s the real hard thing in our business to evaluate is to be able to walk away from those opportunities that are presented to you that have this tremendous upside that put stars in your eyes. It sometimes makes you forget about the heavy risk factor that comes along with it. We’ve got to be disciplined in our company checks and balances system to be able to pull the reins back, walk away from deals and stick to a more conservative approach that might not have the tremendous upside as the other deals. It also doesn’t carry near the risk factor and it gives our investing partners and ourselves because in every deal we do, we’ve got our own money into it. We’re shoulder to shoulder with our investing partners in everything that we do. We also have more motivation than anyone to preserve our capital. It gives us the biggest opportunity to help that grow and not lose it, which is something that can be done pretty easily in this business if you’re not careful.

It’s the worst thing to happen in any business. I always look at it because we’re in Salt Lake City and our office is right next to a huge conference center that takes up an entire city block. I sometimes equate it to a restaurant starting two days before one of the biggest conferences comes into town. It assumes that the rest of the year is going to be like that weekend where they have people out the door and you’re hiring and you’re ordering food. Before you know it, everyone’s gone and there are three patrons in the afternoon. It’s one of those things where you have to be very cautious. I’ve seen that and that’s one of those reasons to have good structure. A good structure allows you to make good decisions when things don’t go as planned. You have plan B is you have communication, figuring out what can we do at this point relative to whatever the challenge is.

Every opportunity and every business get these curve balls that you’re not prepared for. It could be legislative curve balls, it could be economical curve balls and in your case, oil prices. You don’t know what OPEC is going to do here and here. I have massive options market in the oil and gas industry. It’s one of those things where if you have a good structure when things go wrong, you make the right decision, not when things are going great. What have you seen maybe as a result of poor choices in the industry that have led to some pretty bad outcomes?

I’ll look at it from a different perspective because what we try to do is we try to make a good outcome for us based on some poor decisions of other companies. It is not predatory or it’s not something we go and prey on companies. With this cyclical environment, just like you’re talking about when nobody knows what oil prices are going to do. When they’re hot like they were in 2008 and then again in 2012 and 2013, all the typical governing rules of economics go out the window. It’s the Wild Wild West. That’s what I call it in the business. When oil prices are hot, nobody cares about what they’re spending. Nobody evaluates budgets. Nobody looks at anything except what can we do to get the most oil out of the ground right now. A lot of companies make a lot of money doing that. I can see where those mistakes are made, but a company did that in our area. They’re in Southeast Texas where we are very active.

A good structure allows you to make good decisions when things don't go as planned. Click To Tweet

A company that was doing well right there in 2010, 2011 and 2012 were bringing in after expenses $34 million a month, really big money and got overextended. They got greedy, put a bunch of money into some stuff that they weren’t with. They borrowed a bunch of money against their production to expand their operation into something that wasn’t their bread and butter. Then when the prices fail, that was it. They were done. Their financial backer out of New York pulled their funding and they were done. I went in 2016 or starting in late 2015 and we finalized the deal in 2016. I went in and bought up. If you put it in perspective with all they spent probably $22 million, $23 million worth of their assets for pennies on the dollar. When I say pennies on the dollar, I mean that in the truest form. I went in and revamped them, repumped it up and made a lot of money off of what they couldn’t keep going because of their poor decisions whenever the prices were high.

The big part of the structure is knowing what you say yes to and what you say no to. It’s hard sometimes to say no to that greed factor because that’s one of those irrational drives that usually kills people. When the decision is made because of that and not a rational model that dictates what your business parameters are. I think we’re all guilty of it. I certainly am, saying yes to way too many things. You lose focus and you don’t have any focus anywhere. Things end up not working out in a few areas and it hurts. If you go into and understand, “This is what we say yes to. Here are our parameters. This is what we say no to,” it makes it easy so that when that volatility produces something that seems like, “This is a five-star star in my eyes, we’re going to make a killing.”

It’s one of those, “Should we do that?” That’s why having a good team, having a good debate, having a good perspective allows for the best outcome. That’s where I went down that road is because you’re hitting on certain things where that’s evident in so many industries. Real estate is one of them where people are buying stuff, pennies on the dollar. It was only the people that understood what was going on that had the pennies to pay. The people that are letting it go, they didn’t have pennies.

I haven’t learned only from other people’s mistakes, I’ve been guilty of it myself. I tell my business partners, the guys that we do business with every day that four or five years ago, what I thought was literally the worst thing that could have happened to me in business and even in life at one point with some deals that didn’t go as we planned. That in our early stages when we needed them the most, that turned out to be one of the most beneficial things that ever happened to me in my career. Because had I not took those bumps and bruises early and saw those curve balls that this industry can tell you first hand right off the bat and learn how to sustain from those curve balls, then I wouldn’t be where I am now and we wouldn’t have the business model that we’ve over the past 18 to 24 months has proven to be successful. Like the tortoise and the hare, go back to slow and steady wins the race. It’s exactly what’s worked for us.

In business and investment, I’ve learned whether it’s hiring employees or investing in a company or bringing a company on as a strategic partner, aligning with this firm or that firm. If they haven’t had their bumps and bruises, you have no idea how they’re going to behave when they get them because that’s an inevitability. When things are at their worst and people do the right thing, that’s one of the greatest signs you can have. That’s ultimately what happens is when things don’t work out and people are not used to failure, they’re not used to things not going as planned and what to do about it. You could get a person that has great morals, great ethics and do the right thing or you can get the other side where they don’t make the right decisions.

TWS FF 5 | Financial Friday

Financial Friday: People who are not used to failure are not used to things not going as planned.

 

That’s the thing, we all have our bumps, we all have our bruises and knowing that and having someone that you align with in whatever capacity and that hasn’t had them, I think that’s one of the worst decisions you can make. This has been awesome. I appreciate you being candid because this is what investment is about. There’s always an inherent risk you have and there’s not just one type of risk. Like we mentioned, you have political risks. You have an economic risk. I would say though the prevalent risk that you have is people risks. That’s where understanding the dynamic of a team and the dynamic of a company, how to communicate and how to have good operations, that’s where businesses make or break themselves. Thanks for sharing your opinion and perspective there.

Thanks for having me on. I enjoyed it. As I said, the investments that we offer and folks that invest in our project are specific target audiences. It’s definitely not for everybody but at the end of the day, we’ve hopped on the risk and the downside of the business. At the end of the day, we wouldn’t be in it and keep doing it if there wasn’t more money to be made in this than any other business that I know of. We go out there and we sustain those risks and we sustain those bumps and bruises. When we do have success, which is way more often than not, the return that we see in this business, even in this modern oil prices are just astronomical compared to normal investment vehicles. There’s a reason that our folks keep investing with us time and time again. The reason we keep putting our money into the projects time and time again because there is a lot of money to be made out there. That’s why it’s one of the biggest backbones of our economy and society in my opinion.

Why don’t you give the listeners ways that they can learn more about you, learn more about your company, learn more about the industry and the specific opportunities you have available?

The best way to check us out is to visit our website at LoneStarAssetManagement.com. From there, you can get the history of us and the background of our company and links and resources to help you learn about the industry and the tax benefits of investing in oil and gas, which are phenomenal and things of that nature. If it’s something that everybody’s interested in discussing further, when you get on the website, right there at the bottom of the main page. You can schedule a free one-on-one consultation. Usually that consists of about ten to fifteen minutes conversation with me or somebody here in the office to explain to them what the investment upside is, what the risk is and what we’re currently offering. What our goals are for our folks in building a small oil and gas investment portfolio outside of their primary investment portfolio and just go from there. If you have any questions, all our contact information, phone number and everything is on there. We would be happy to talk with anybody interested and get any questions answered that we can.

It’s been great. Thank you again for your time. Thanks again, Beau. I’m sure you’ll have an awesome year. Best of luck to you and thanks for being on.

Thank you for having me. I look forward to talking to you soon.

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About Beau Flowers

TWS FF 5 | Financial Friday

Beau Flowers is the Chief Executive Officer of Lonestar Asset Management, LLC. Mr. Flowers is a native of Southeast Texas and a graduate of Texas State University. Mr. Flowers has over fifteen years’ experience in the oil and gas industry, and for the last five years has served as Vice President for some of the top oil and gas firms in the United States.

In that capacity, Mr. Flowers has had the opportunity to work with private investors and investment firms from across the country to assemble and execute numerous successful oil and gas drilling programs.

During the course of his career, he has played a key role in the development and production of over thirty oil and gas joint ventures, similar to the projects currently proposed.

 

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