THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF THE AMERICAN RELIGION

James Altucher
Jun 18 · 9 min read

I try to be a greedy skeptic.

Because I know if there are huge beliefs that I am skeptical of, there might be huge opportunities.

To help. To make money. To be greedy. To be charitable.

To have fun.

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I) OWNING A HOME:

“The America Dream”.

“It’s a good investment” and “ROOTS!”

but…

a) it’s a lot more money than one should put in any investment

b) it often requires borrowing more than your net worth

c) there are hidden costs to owning the investment: property taxes, maintenance costs, and in some cases, interest rate changes.

d) it’s illiquid (you can’t get your money back easily). In fact, it’s most illiquid right when you need the money the most (like in a recession)

There are exceptions and anecdotes.

And it’s so ENTICING.

The white picket fence, the garden, the room for each child, the back yard, the pool, where the kids can play, ROOTS, etc.

Why is it so drilled in us? What has been the benefit to society to brainwash us?

a) there is a 15 TRILLION dollar mortgage industry. Think of $15 trillion making 5% interest. That’s $750 BILLION a year that is fed into the banks by people who own homes with mortgages.

[Total mortgage debt was up to 15.42 Trillion by 2018.]

They do not want to lose that.

b) PRISONER. Corporations don’t want good employees to leave. When it was less possible to work remotely so your job prospects were limited to local corporations, the corporation would encourage employees to own homes.

If you can’t move easily, you can’t look for jobs far away that might have better salaries.

Less mobility kept salaries down across the country, kept employees more willing to put up with jobs they didn’t like.

BUT, but…it’s the American Dream.

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II) GOING TO COLLEGE

I won’t repeat everything I’ve said on this topic: (but…)

a. 22,000,000 Americans owe student loan debt.

b. Student loan debt has gone from $100 billion in 1999 to $1.6 TRILLION now.

c. Tuitions are up 2.5x since 1999, much greater than inflation. Are colleges 2.5x better?

d. 44% of jobs that graduates get don’t require a college degree.

e. 94% of all new jobs being created in the economy do not require a college degree.

f. graduating with such high debt discourages young people from starting businesses. New business creation is at it’s lowest rate in decades and this has typically been the fuel of the economy.

Again, why has society brainwashed us?

a) the money being made on student loans

b) high schools are often funded and ranked based on their ability to send kids to college. So our kids, when they are most impressionable, are encouraged by under-qualified counselors and teachers that college is worth the cost no matter what.

c) the college educated often come from the top 10% of wealth in the country.

d) colleges put out many false studies showing the benefits of college. These are shared by teachers, administrators, counselors to kids who are not capable of finding the flaws in these studies.

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III) VOTING

I don’t vote. I am repeatedly vote shamed. People say, “You aren’t entitled to an opinion if you don’t want to vote for change.”

Ok.

But..

Everyone has opportunities to be active in their local communities and work for the change they want.

Also, there are more forums than ever to write and share ideas. One vote in 100,000,000 won’t make any difference. But writing and DOING activities will make change.

“But what if everyone felt that way. Then what?”

Nothing.

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IV) THE FDA

The FDA tests drugs for safety, effectiveness, etc before a company is allowed to sell it and doctors are allowed to prescribe it.

But the costs of approving a drug are getting greater. if you develop a cancer drug it can cost you $2.6 billion (up from $800 million in 2003) and ten years to get it approved by the FDA.

This makes drugs more expensive. Up to tens of thousands of dollars for life-saving drugs.

Healthcare costs are up 3x more than inflation in the past 40 years.

Some problems:

a) Good drugs + Bad companies = they won’t be able to raise enough money to get a drug approved.

So many good drugs will never save the lives of the patients they intended to help.

b) How good is the FDA? On average 4500 drugs and devices are pulled by the FDA each year. These were drugs already approved.

Perhaps people in extreme medical situations should be allowed to take drugs that come from peer-approved research and then via real-life experiences, society can determine which drugs are working.

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V) CHARITY

believe in giving and helping others.

BUT…people often blindly give to charities (or perhaps are shamed at the cash register (or the Facebook birthday page) when a cashier says “will you give a dollar to XYZ charity”?)

I feel like I am charity-shamed every day.

Not all charities are created equally:

a) some charities do not distribute their money effectively. (e.g. charities that donate to help impoverished people in third world countries but the money is stolen by corrupt governments is a typical example).

b) some charities, like some businesses, are poorly run.

c) some charities spend too much money on administration and marketing so only a tiny portion of your money is put to good use.

My favorite way to donate charity is in what I call “micro-charities”.

Find a specific situation that you can help and where the majority of the money given is put to immediate use.

For instance, someone you know is uninsured, needs surgery, and sets up a gofundme to help finance it.

Should you do it anonymously?

I don’t know. In many religions it is considered the highest form of good to give anonymously.

But there is some evidence to suggest that if your circle of acquaintances know you donated , then they are likely to donate.

I hate to feel like I am “bragging” about donating so tend to be as anonymous as possible but it’s case by case.

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VI ) THE CONSTITUTION

People swear by the Constitution. When it agrees with them.

“Freedom of Speech!” is probably the most over-used and wrong-used phrase on Facebook.

“This is unconstitutional!”

The Constitution was written in a different time by a bunch of slave-owners with no knowledge of what technology would bring this country.

Which is why there is an Amendment system.

When people don’t like the Constitution, they simply amend it in Congress and then the States vote and then the Amendment is added to the Constitution.

So the Constitution is followed, until it isn’t.

The Constitution has been distorted by every President since George Washington. The Supreme Court attempts to keep these distortions in check.

But it’s a living document and not a bunch of rules handed down by a fake god.

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VII) WARS

Since World War II, the US has considered itself the police force of the world.

The last legally declared war in the United States was in 1941 when we entered World War II.

All of the rest have been “executive orders” that have been approved by Congress.

This may be right or may be wrong. A community needs law enforcement. And the world is a global community.

(Map of all current US military activity. Source: The Smithsonian Magazine)

There are historians who can debate every aspect of this.

But if you think of the interventions in Korea, Vietnam, in Iraq, and many other places, it’s often unclear what good we did. Or the bad.

a. For instance, was the invasion of Iraq in 2003 so destabilizing in the region that it gave Iran and organizations like ISIS too much power that we had to ultimately (and still) deal with much later.

b. Was the help we provided in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the 1980s giving too much power to the Afghani rebels who ultimately turned into Al-Qaeda? This is unclear.

One thing we know: providing economic development to poor countries tends to create better allies than invasions.

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VIII) IDENTITY POLITICS

This quote from a Communist newspaper in 1922 is taken from “The Gulag Archipelago” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

“Do not seek evidence and proof that the person accused acted in word or deed against Soviet power. The first questions should be: What is his class, what is his origin, what is his education and upbringing? These are the questions which must determine the fate of the accused.”

Solzhenitsyn was a dissident who was sentenced to Siberia. “The Gulag Archipelago” is his account about it.

He mentions this quote because it was a signal of the dangers of fascism that were about to begin its reign of terror on Russia.

The quote almost sounds like it can be written now on any college campus in America. And most Facebook groups.

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IX) “THE FOURTH BRANCH”

Everybody yells “fake news” about every article they don’t agree with.

The newspaper industry has declined from about $60 billion in revenues in 2000 to approximately $25 billion in revenues in 2019.

The result:

a) more biased publications to ensure greater loyalty among extremist subscribers

b) lower salaries for reporters, forcing quality reporters to seek employment elsewhere.

c) the rise of many online sites with unclear biases that often use very sophisticated algorithms to generate topic ideas that will generate the most clicks as opposed to the most honest news.

and

d) THERE ARE NO CREDIBLE SOURCES ANY MORE.

I spent time backstage at a popular news show.

The producer whispered to me, “my entire job is to just fill up the time between ads.”

The news that withstands the test of time often result in books.

People ask, “but how do you stay informed?”

Believe me, people will bring up the things they think you should be informed on. And the “news” won’t help you understand these issues. Only sincere curiosity will.

For a long time the press was considered “The Fourth Branch” — a way to keep a check on the government through investigative reporting like in the Woodward & Bernstein days of investigating Watergate.

The news industry is in decline and despair now.

Read books.

— -

X) DYSTOPIAS

a) global warming

b) patriarchy

c) fascism

(“In the year 2025, the best men don’t run for president, they run for their lives. . . .”

― Stephen King, The Running Man)

d) immigration taking over

e) loss of all privacy

(There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore. Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me’.”

― Philip K. Dick)

f) overpopulation

g) genetically created weapons of mass destruction

h) radical religious terrorism taking over the world.

i) genetically modified humans

j) AI

etc.

There is basis of truth in many of these worries.

Are the worries justified? Maybe. Sometimes. Possibly.

But these are also the phrases used to manipulate the masses.

I tend to believe the last thing I am told. I am easy to manipulate. I always have to remind myself to be skeptical.

To do my own research.

To love my children so they become good people.

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REMEMBER THIS WHEN THE ALIENS TRY TO FATTEN YOU UP BUT ACCIDENTALLY LEAVE THEIR BOOK BEHIND:

“It’s a cookbook!” — the Twilight Zone

James Altucher

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For some reason, I’ve turned myself inside out and all my guts have spilled onto my blog. One day I’ll run out of stuff but not yet. http://bit.ly/2blmiaG