Culturalism · investing · Personal Finance

Does Gold Really Have “Intrinsic” Value?

Hanging around investing circles results in the brain being peppered by a plethora of loaded talking points. These might include specimens such as “Value Investing,” or “Contrarian Growth,” themselves miniature tribes to help organize the sphere of economic debate. An especially lovable variety is the claim summarized as, “Gold is better because it has intrinsic value.”

Yet does this argument stand up in the real world? The term “intrinsic” is defined as “belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing” by our frat bros at Merriam-Webster. Applied to gold, the concept becomes a little bit dicey, to say the least. To be clear, Burl Ives’ beautiful metal can be employed to build a variety of modern technologies, so in that realm its naturalistic state may hold value, providing of course that no replacement substance is found. Other metals such as silver enjoy similar advantages, although they do not necessarily track the same price levels as those bright yellow blocks.

That being said, as a firm medium of exchange versus the mocked “fiat currency,” gold’s worth should be called into question. Currencies or assets are ultimately worth something based upon how individuals (or large groups) value them. In the United States, our government has long since adopted a policy of monopoly money inflation, but this doesn’t mean people ignore a $20.00 bill lying on the sidewalk. The piece of paper holds value due to perceptions of the institution behind it. Because America remains a major world player with powerful military resources, we have not been relegated to the status of the Zimbabwean Dollar or Argentine Peso, even against eternal criticisms by Austrian-leaning economists. Inflation is of course real in the United States, but our country’s position prevents it from becoming as  visibly horrible and destructive as it might otherwise be. Were the nation to lose its international standing, or if large swaths of the population suddenly reject paper money, this would of course change.

Gold on the other hand appears safe because there is a limited known supply on earth, and it cannot be printed by central banks. True, but technology exists allowing scientists to create the metal in a lab, and while it is presently cost-prohibitive for businesses, could a powerful government with the ability to print endless sums of a (valued) currency not pursue the endeavor, and succeed in flooding the market? There is also the possibility of more sophisticated approaches being developed to reduce the expensive nature of the process, which would radically disrupt the metals bazaar.

Placing all else aside, gold like any paper currency retains value largely due to how people perceive its worth. If we take the extreme scenario of inflationary and societal collapse peddled by libertarians, the glistening doubloons will only matter for those who wish to have them, or folks seeking to construct things from the metal. Most people are liable to be interested in bartering for guns and food, two resources less popular in the Wonderful World of Mike Maloney. Not to mention the influence of private armies who could well issue their own currency, enforced as always by the barrel of a gun.

With all this I seek not to dismiss the importance of precious metals in an investment portfolio. My own includes them (but more so silver), and concentrating your resources into one asset alone is risky. It is however crucial to not drink deeply of the popular swill pushed by gold marketers. Last time I checked, most (if not all) are taking payments in that crisp-smelling green paper doomed to make our bank accounts absolutely worthless.  

Stay safe and take the Gold Pill.   

Culturalism · Federal Government · investing · Personal Finance

Is Economic Decentralization Actually Good?

Among libertarian circles in the United States, there is a stalwart love for the concept of the gig economy model. The late politician Harry Browne openly advocated that employers should sack their workers and rehire everyone as independent contractors, while Gary Johnson was arguing for the Uberization of everything just a few years back. Their logic holds that getting outside government restrictions allows individuals to earn more, and companies to spend less. It sounds almost like a win-win scenario across the board.

Of course things are far more complicated in the applied economic sphere. As much as 1099’s and “zero hours contracts” are streamlined to begin with, the State has not cooperated with matters going forward. Contractors are thus left having to put aside money throughout the year in anticipation of a tax charge that would otherwise be taken out from the regular employee paycheck.  The result is people (especially the more youthful) getting shafted when they forget or fail to accumulate enough in savings to meet the annual tax bill. In theory the model is more efficient, but also dangerous to the average person’s financial picture.

Being off the hook for standard deductions can also increase the chances of having to purchase health insurance directly as a consumer, without any employer subsidies. Again, the model sounds great, though participants need to be careful about the type they buy. Cheaper health insurance plans and health sharing programs can elect for special rules to delimit their liability for conditions otherwise insured by federal mandate. An example of the shortcoming centers on the story of a diagnosed cancer tumor being deemed a preexisting condition, allowing the Medi-Share plan to deny financial support for medical services. The patient managed to successfully appeal, but at the cost of stress from a five-figure treatment bill.

High personal costs are often accompanied by unimpressive pay for gig workers. Although a top-performing delivery or rideshare driver can theoretically bring in over $1,000 per week, this is liable to demand long hours and no off days due to the nature of the market. Of course none of the money totals are guaranteed like a regular worker’s paycheck, so the pressure level can be astronomically higher, leading to mental health issues. Tie everything to the need to maintain one’s own car, and the picture becomes solidly grimmer.

The other issue with gig mania is the propensity for the leading firms to suppress individual freedoms. While Uber and Lyft have long been heralded as a way for the market to beat back the corrupt taxi union cartels and their big government supporters, they also permit a few silicone nerds to control service access. Uber itself recently admitted to banning 1,250 riders from the app for not observing corona mask restrictions. That’s over a thousand people who can no longer use the taxi service because their name and info has been blacklisted, and doesn’t include the political figures banned from their cars as well. A traditional cab would allow you to pay in cash, hence even those marked for derision would have the option to ride.  

So yes, decentralization has granted us enhanced freedoms, but in a twisted, cynical way. No longer must we tangle with the machinations of payroll; instead, one can simply stress and struggle to conserve money before STILL filing taxes amidst those April flowers. Hours are flexible, but so is the ability to even make a living. The greasy, unkempt medallion taxis have been replaced by loyal contract vehicles, but watch what you think, or they’ll pass on by.  

Ahh, the taste of liberty!

Culturalism · Personal Finance · Self-Improvement

The Internet Entitlement Mentality

A visible phenomenon I’ve witnessed over years as an online personality is the general peevishness shown by younger people towards any information on the internet with a price tag. They have no problem adding stuff to the cart on mom’s Prime subscription, but once outside the safe zone of parental compensation, everything seems too expensive. Not only that, but the very act of placing an item for sale is responded to with derision and outrage, as if the seller has some nefarious or insincere motivation behind their storefront.

It’s worth chasing an explanation of just why this behavior occurs. To start, we must recognize that few present partakers had any role in the creation of the internet machine, and even less possessed the intellectual capacity to even conceptualize it before Internet Explorer was the bomb. Those higher IQ folks who did join the party managed to create a fairly-accessible model, bound up in their idealism and general libertarian philosophy. They obviously monetized the juggernaut with advertisements, but as far as regular browsing and access, one doesn’t pay per page, or per download, save through subscription to a service provider.

Consequently, young people have been brought up with the idea that all content is free, unless of course they wish to donate to a pair of yoga pants on OnlyFans. Millions of hours on YouTube, an open access encyclopedia, and free educational services make youthful souls believe only their own mindset is a limitation, not money or credit. So naturally the moment a person attempts (even if they didn’t) to generate some return on their offerings, the digital liberty peepers are back to screech about “grifting,” or “taking advantage of us.”

The former claim strikes as rather odd, because such behavior seems more attune with a person asking for donations which are unneeded, or using corruption in government to profit. On the flip side, presenting some products for purchase at low price tags, with the option to return digital options within a week for refund, hardly falls into the same category.  If anything, it simply displays a reality containing the sacrifices of life, particularly when hours are poured into a single work. Gaining a modest (and often negligible) return from that effort is the principle, one that many of course reject outright. As for the secondary possibility, no one is forced to buy, yet they still grumble.

Part of the issue might relate to differences between creatives and consumers. The first squad understands the struggles of late nights, edits, curriculum-building, research, and design. They have lived the casualty time now lying as distant memory, and wish to recuperate a sliver of what’s lost, more in honor of those hours spent than for financial reasons. Our latter friends simply view the finalized piece and hide behind their glistened frustration that someone might make money, or is simply daring to do so. “It should be free,” becomes their long-standing cry, as castigation for merchants with the gall to become better rise upon lips.  

At the end of the day, the entitlement mentality will only worsen if jobs become scarce in the future. Deprived of money – or at least more than a pittance – the Zoomer-tier Moolenials shall rain spiritual anger down upon the independent content creator, banishing him to parts unknown, where attention is little and peace of mind abundant. Then the angry freedom fellow will mozy on to Amazon, and add some more items to his mom’s cart, perhaps now funded by that seductive Freedom Dividend.  

Culturalism · investing · Personal Finance · Self-Improvement

How Long Will The Simple Yet Be Mocked?

Sometime back I produced a video concerning the problems entailed by our dalliance with modernity and technological progress. My penultimate suggestion was for people to re-embrace nature, opting for smaller communities with solid values over the cosmopolitan sprawl, or farms instead of NYC apartments. In response, lurid and sarcastic replies bubbled up from the happy Ethernet cords wrapped around the electric maze of the world. They smugly advised, “Practice what you preach,” the comfortable retort that allows irritated lumps to quickly resettle into the brain-destroying digital resort without feeling a call to change.

For the record, I have already made leaps and bounds in the “less-grid” direction. I own a decent plot of land with two well systems, a garden, and a large walnut tree. Composting is a regular practice, and I am gradually shedding processed foods from the dietary plane, in many cases creating consumables from scratch. My skills with crafting clothes by hand are not immaculate, but they improve on the regular.

None of those disclaimers should matter insofar as the thrust of history is concerned, however. Recent reports, which are only surprising to the uninformed and socialist, suggest Wall Street is now delving into futures contracts involving water. The development has tickled many concerned senses because of projected water shortages, with two-thirds of the planet’s population expected to face supply issues by 2025, with many already experiencing the unpleasantness.

Enlightened folks have seen this coming for years. The incessant push for growth, for globalization and free movement of peoples, all in the name of economic profit, can lead but in one direction. As basic natural resources shrink and the gluttonous thirst to build more continues unabated, there will be further attempts to buy up valuable land and lord it over the poorest of creatures. Even the homeless squatter in the woods may find himself litigated out of existence so some sycophantic corporation can expand its quarterly earnings report. The dreaded sludge seeps on.

What can any lone man do? Resist with lifestyle choices. Take your wallet and carefully consider where to settle, hopefully escaping the pollution and scum-populated urban areas for distant peace. If funds are not available for a house, buy the land itself, preferably with access to fresh water. Get a camper or a van to start with. Look into solar and gravity-powered technologies. Learn to cook. Respect natural systems and work to preserve them. Read so you understand the problem.

As for investment options, look into Xylem and PIO as starting points, along with others. The former has experienced a decent run, and I’ve witnessed its penetration on a local basis too. PIO thus far hasn’t wowed anyone, but that could change. Watch out for that pricey expense ratio, which currently clocks in around 0.75%.

More than anything, be prepared to swim, even if you dance amid the sands of a dry wasteland.       

Culturalism · Personal Finance · Relations and Dating

The Worst Shall Yet Come

As many of you know, Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away sometime Friday evening at the age of 87, after a long battle with multiple forms of cancer. Though this post has other motivations than pure commemoration, I will pause to take note for a moment. During my days as a young and empowered conservative, I often had a distant (and negative) view of RBG, largely because of her politics. It was only after watching her eulogy for Antonin Scalia that I developed a different appreciation, one surrounding her humanity. A critical issue with modern politics is the conspiracy to invalidate people on the basis of opinions, often whilst claiming to speak for the entire human race. This is a sickening trend with poor tidings for the time ahead.

What RBG’s death will do is tear down the curtains of fragile respectability, or at least the parts still remaining. I would not put her timely passing beyond the wildest machinations of the Democratic Machine, which above all else desires the supremacy of power. Such an event steels the most dejected into action, and increases the chances of any outcome being viewed as illegitimate. The perfect gale has arrived.

Consequently, we can expect to see the level of rioting and pillaging increased to dramatic levels, both before and after this election. The desperation of leftists towards triumph may even cause them to target elected senators in states where the Democratic governor has power to appoint a replacement. Nothing will be off the table for these souls, who now cry out to the internet in anguish, as if they are cut off from the divine culture. Vile dismissals of violence directed against their opponents will become the canon norm, and the timid dweebs arguing about “the intolerance of the liberal left” shall face an epic usurpation of their credibility, while Christians wonder if the end times are nigh.

The remaining lot – us who see past the empty diversions of the political game – are bound to be caught in the crossing fire, despite our attempts at avoiding Armageddon. We are to be the voices that were never listened to, at last set alight at a time when being “right” matters not, for everyone has become wrong. Hence there is no treasure for the rewarding, only a brittle grudge, the child of hearts cast to infinite scorn.

Little as we can do to prevent this calamity, there are measures to take for personal safety:

  • Review your investments, and determine if some should be trimmed or divested (but do not panic sell).
  • Be careful about open displays of political affiliation. Free speech is a virtue, but not respected by all.
  • Take care of your elders, and the young. Weaker targets are perfect prey for the radicalized and unshakeable.
  • Go about with confidence and caution. Being lost in a phone while in public is a great target made.
  • If the mob comes for you, fight as if the world is collapsing. You may be right, and no police or allies are guaranteed to come.
  • Should you follow God or gods, find peace with them now, and pray.

Perhaps these assessments are too harsh, or overblown by the limited scope of one man’s existence. Still, few people ever understand the gravity of their times, or the flimsy nature of the order around them. Be true to heart by knowing what is to come, so your life is not wasted in speculation of when that spiritual chapter may emerge.

Culturalism · Personal Finance · Self-Improvement

You’re Already An Individual

The internet seems profoundly obsessed with individualism. People harp on it to no endless degree, promising the wonderful gifts of “financial independence,” self-determination, and purposeful existence. Others present rather basic ideas as miraculous truths, developing followers who aggressively preach the merits of self, while suspiciously eyeing “collectivism” and its assorted malevolence. If cooperation is so much as suggested, these creatures leap to the defensive plane, accusing their opponents of endorsing socialism, or subverting the dignity of liberty. They rush to protect the individualism tribe, and gain immense satisfaction from such fulfilled duty.

A most apt question here would be: why? Once we peel back the outraged drama and look at actual human behavior, the stark individualism of people is manifested in an exaggerated manner which rises to frustrate the suggestion of our aforementioned friends. If anything, society is far more dedicated to the illustrious self than the promoter wishes to imagine.

Suppose for example one is going to purchase a car. Perhaps they will buy something to impress people in close communion with them, or even take friendly advice on the matter. More often than not however, the decision is driven by personal (read: individual) qualities. It could be a beater model, chosen because that chap can’t afford something on the pricier side, or possibly a vehicle which “matches my personality.” Never mind how those folks typically say they are focused and reliable whilst buying a Chrysler; the point remains as an individualistic contention.

Colleges and living spaces are similarly outlined. If it is financially viable, or happily debt-fueled, highschoolers will typically choose an institution with the appropriate program to match their personal interests, preferably in a state or country with enjoyable backdrops. Sure, the skeptic could argue that most college institutions have a Marxist hive mind, but at least in theory the students are exercising a degree of independence and personal choice. Once they graduate, certain cities might hold appeal for the diversity and nightlife, while others retreat to the country roads. Are these normal patterns of human behavior all reflections of some collectivist conspiracy?

Even the push for FIRE lifestyles on the internet dot com invariably leads to more self-centeredness and LESS focus on the community. The act of budgeting away little things like the morning coffee or diner breakfast to save money diminishes the chances of interacting with others and supporting a local (or chain) business. Another clear and present theme in the financial-digital realm is the emphasis on not having kids in order to retire early. As far as the checkbook side of things is concerned, this makes perfect sense; why would anyone reproduce if the cost of raising one child can be as much as $233,000, not counting college? Yet somehow we are not individualistic enough.

Perhaps the real issue is more complicated. We already are highly individualistic, and well-adapted for a consumer capitalist society, but this is not adequate. Instead of people finding meaning in family and community, which have been stained by the collectivist shackles, they turn to some higher level of individualism for salvation. Just a little more self-improvement, positive mindset-building, and financial freedom. Then I’ll be a REAL individual. So Able Earnest proclaims, as his life becomes emptier by the waking second.

This concept collides with Emile Durkheim’s idea of the anomie, or disconnection of individuals from social standards and economic systems commonplace in advanced societies. It develops as a “malady of the infinite,” where the person in question constantly desires more, but cannot be satisfied in the confines of his social system, leading to derangement or possibly suicide. Likewise, modern neoliberal cultures fixate on meritocracy and individualism, while suppressing the value inherent to Bilbo’s “home above gold” or group solidarity versus individualism.

But I’m just a jealous collectivist, so pay no mind.  

investing · Personal Finance

What Holding Long Can Do

The financial world is replete with articles attempting to preach the virtues of strategies such as value investing, contrarianism, options trading, and growth concentration. Each community maintains a certain level of ideological sway, despite the fact that outcomes are not always grand. In this post I want to consider the notion of holding long using the context of Apple stock, which reveals how sometimes the strategy is not just holding, but holding long enough.

Back in August of 2014, I shelled out the money for some shares of the technological behemoth. This was after its legendary stock split, and opinions diverged as to Apple’s ability to deliver continuously in the future. Over the next nine months, the stock climbed slowly to around $130 per share, and I recall the forecasts suggesting it was time to dump the stock and take profits. My commitment to holding long kept true however, and I did not sell.

A year later, Apple had actually receded to a price of around $90 per share, making my unrealized gain bright and red. Although irritated, I still did not submit the sell order. By the end of 2017, the stock was sitting at $175 per share, and seemed destined to continue rising, so I kept my piece. Apple shot up to over $200 per share the following year, only to get hosed in the December 2018 sell-off, and by January 2019 it hovered in the $157 range. In December of 2019, the stock went above its previous high and rested as neighbors of $270.  

From the tail of July 2020 to this day, Apple has jumped from $380 per share to a whopping $500, bringing my six-year return to over 400 percent. What’s more, the company just announced a stock split which stands to quadruple the number of shares I own. And if that’s not enough, I have been paid a dividend (reinvested of course) for the past half-decade.

Not all holding long stories are like this, and indeed many turn out differently, but it gives one an idea of how the process works. At any time during that long period, I might have decided to take profits, worrying of a later decline or collapse. My failure to be brash resulted in a fat return, albeit over time. This is a theme I will be discussing in a future book on investing. Investments rarely pay off quickly, and oftentimes the jewels take months or years to reveal their shine.

So fire up the brokerage account, be at peace with your choices, and forget about them. It seems to have good outcomes.

Culturalism · Federal Government · investing · Personal Finance

Corporations Don’t Want To Compete

The common line in conservative and libertarian circles is that corporations are suffering. All they truly want is to operate in the free market without government intrusion, but the State is a harsh mistress. So they are left to solemnly trudge on, tears at the corners of their eyes, wishing and wondering if someday a change might materialize.

While this remains a touching and heart-plucking image, it simply fails to measure up in the real world. Despite the protests of economic liberals, very few firms (at least the larger ones) actually desire substantial market competition, which can easily cut into their profits and require continuous innovation. They find it far easier to establish a dominant position from where effective opposition can be limited, if not entirely stomped out.

In case skeptical souls raise complaints, let us go directly to the source. Peter Thiel, the brilliant co-founder of PayPal, flat out admitted in his excellent book Zero To One that creating monopolies is the way to get rich. Corporations follow his lead quite dutifully, buying up smaller competitors before things get too large, and lobbying for regulations to help protect themselves against new blood. After all, the more market share one firm controls, the less ability tiny rivals have to threaten margins by offering cheaper products.

With this in mind, the primary beneficiaries of free market economics would be startups and small companies, not the towering juggernauts operating today. Of course the problem does not end there. So long as we operate within the bounds of a system where power can be influenced by corporate money through the Legislative and Executive branches, the lobbying for price controls and regulations shall continue. Thus even a genuinely “lolbertarian” system exalting no regulations would eventually be subverted if the reins of power were democratic (or the national leadership could somehow be groomed by big money).

Indeed, were we to establish a system like the aforementioned one, officials would still have to contend with the question of mergers and acquisitions, moves which themselves can diminish market freedom. The debate would then rise as to whether antitrust laws are an acceptable form of regulation to preserve a less-regulated model. Yet does such a position invalidate the purity of the free market model?

The jury is out with their competing opinions, but Corporate America knows exactly where it wants to be.

Personal Finance · Self-Improvement

Restoring Goldberg Manor: Part III

So it has been a while, but certainly not for reasons of inaction or work shyness. A number of significant reforms have already occurred, and two major projects (roof and windows) are in progress. I thought I would give everyone an update here for good measure.

Re-Screening of Porch Door

Before:

Notice the large hole…bad news when the mosquito Staceys come calling.

After:

Installation of New Bedroom Lock

Before:

After:

The holes would later get puttied in, and will be painted at some point.

New Screws for GEM Pump

Before:

After:

I am not happy with the Rustoleum paint’s efficacy. This was after all the metal parts got a week-long coke bath.
I have ordered a chain plus buckets, so my next move is to replace the rotting base wood.

Dryer and Washer Install

Before:

After:

I will be having this drywall worked on soon, but the shifted location for the washer is far more convenient.
Don’t have a before pic on this exact spot, but you get the idea.