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To Stay Sane in an Age of Broken Politics, Admit What You Don’t Know

The Pitch

I was just in Los Angeles, where I pitched a reality show to nine different networks—all the broadcast networks, plus Netflix, Amazon and a few others. The experience made me realize how much politics resembles a reality show. Specifically, it resembles the game-style reality shows, such as Survivor or The Great British Bake Off—as opposed to the shows that are basically long-form social experiments, such as Married at First Sight.

Politics or reality show—the basic structure is the same: A cast of performers is presented to the public, with each seeking to get the most people to like them by the season finale. They are assigned various tasks on an episode-by-episode basis. They are asked about certain subjects, which leads them into debates. They might go on tour, and get pushed out of their comfort zones. Along the way, some of the contestants attract so little affection that they simply drop out. Occasionally, new contestants are invited to replace them. They gossip about each other to the cameras to try to win the audience’s favour.

In the end, only one person wins the prize. And we forget about all the issues they debated, all the challenges they overcame. And we’re left to wonder how much they actually cared about the issues they fought about, whether it’s who made the best cake or who has the best tax plan.

Deep down, I doubt most viewers care either. We just like watching a good show.

I’m a Fraud, and So Are You

Do you actually know how U.S. immigration laws work? I don’t. I’ve been actively involved in helping many people stay in the United States. I’ve signed papers, and written essays on their behalf. Many people I know are dealing with immigration issues in their own lives. Even they don’t know the laws. But there they are, every day, arguing about it, posting about it on social media, like they’re huge experts—as opposed to just reality-show viewers rooting for their favorite contestants.

Do you know the laws regarding gun control? Do you know the tax laws? Do you know the abortion laws that govern your jurisdiction? I don’t. And I’ve accompanied women to a few abortions. I couldn’t tell you what’s legal and what isn’t.

Do you know what the Republican Party stands for on most issues? What Democrats believe? What the alt-right believes? What socialists think? I used to think I knew. But now I know that I have no clue. People say anyone in the alt-right is a “white nationalist.” I’ve met alt-right people and know that this isn’t true.

People say “socialists” want to redistribute wealth. I don’t think that’s true. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is called a socialist, wants a salary increase for herself and other members of congress, who currently earn $174,000 as base salary. That doesn’t sound very socialist.

Even the labels “Democrat” and “Republican” don’t mean much to me. These are tribes—or even cults—with unstable belief systems. These have stopped being meaningful terms.

So what terms are meaningful? In my view, there are three real political parties, and we’re all some mixture of each of them.

1. The Good Intentions People

These are people who think everyone should have a college education. People who want free healthcare for all. People who want to tax the rich to build bridges and eliminate pollution. These people all have good intentions.

It definitely seems reasonable, especially when it comes to health care: You shouldn’t get special advantages in life just because you won the sperm lottery. People should be able to go to the doctor without having rich parents or a good job. I once went to visit a friend of mine after he’d recently gotten out of jail. He had cancer. But he had the money to get world-class treatment at Sloan Kettering, where they pulled out his tumor-ridden liver and replaced it with a donated organ. As a result, he recovered fully. (He’s dead now. But from suicide.) Surely, we should all have access to Sloan Kettering-level medical service, right?

2. The Control Party

The dominant idea in this camp is that people can’t take care of themselves. So they need a body of philosopher kings to control what they should do, to ensure they will be protected against the harm they would do to themselves. Experimental drugs to cure cancer? Hold your horses. We’ll let our Food and Drug Administration decide what pills you can take. It now costs $2.6-billion to get a new drug to market. The labeling, the containers, the dosage, the instructions—every single aspect is regulated. But it’s worth it, right? Otherwise, some idiot might ignore his doctor and stick his pill in the wrong body hole.

People die when they crash at 85 miles per hour—which is a stupid speed to drive at. So we make laws that limit how fast they can drive, and punish them if they disobey. And so on. The Control Party has good intentions, too—just like the Good Intentions people. I don’t think there are many of them who want control for the sake of control. They’re trying to protect us from being dumb.

3. The Party for People Who Don’t Care

You want to pollute? No problem. The Earth has survived this long. It’ll survive your oil spills and SUVs. You want to take any drug you want? Cool! Your bank wants to borrow a lot of money so you can lend it to people stupid enough to buy a house they can’t afford. Good for you. According to the Don’t Care party, the riff-raff will shake themselves out in the long run.


Those are the three real parties. And the reality is that we are all some pie-charted combination of them. Myself, I tend to be partial to Don’t Care, but also contain a good-sized dose of Good Intentions. Maybe with a dash of Control Party when it comes to criminalizing violence. Even so, I recognize that all three parties exhibit different strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a look at what those are.

Follow the Money

We’ve all heard the stories of epic waste in government—the Pentagon paying $50,000 for a pen, or a special kind of toilet. The truth is that the public sector simply will never be as productive as private industry. FedEx vs. the United States Postal Service: We all know which one is run more efficiently.

This lack of functionality in government causes problems in our society, such as financial crises (on a large scale) or homeless people freezing to death because of a lack of emergency shelters (on a local scale). I don’t know how to solve this. I don’t think anyone really does.

In the case of the financial crisis, yes, the banking sector became too deregulated in the 2000s. Its leaders got greedy and lent money to people who couldn’t pay it back. But a big part of the problem is that in the 1990s, laws had been passed requiring banks to lend more money to people who were near the poverty line, on the theory that this would help them get out of poverty. In short, the resulting crisis was a joint effort by Don’t Care and Good Intentions .

But you wouldn’t know this based on the way the issue was reported. Blame was assigned on a simplistic basis. Every issue is a thousand times more complicated than the slick explanations that roll off politicians’ tongues or appear in columns written by journalists.

Energy policy, drug policy, immigration, war, education—all of these follow the same pattern. These are hard issues, and they all come with their own histories of corrupt, misguided and in some cases plain stupid policy-making.

Why is American health care such a mess? Because the system is a patchwork of mandates and programs inspired by an often contradictory mix of Good Intentions, Control Party and Don’t Care. Or take foreign policy. Who do you think funded Osama Bin Laden in the 80s? We did, of course. To adapt an old expression: No Good Intention ever goes unpunished.

Like a Horse and Carriage

Why is it that when two people fall deeply in love and want to spend their lives together, the magic words they say to one another is, in effect: “Let’s call the government and tell them about our love. They need to be involved”? This brings every couple into a ménage à quatre with Good Intentions and Control Party.

Does the government really need to regulate marriage? I’ve been married twice. Getting a divorce is hard.

But the Good Intentions people are hard to argue with. Kids need to be taken care of. Women need to be treated fairly—something that didn’t happen a lot until the modern age. And let’s not forget the Control Party: People get angry when marriages break down. Bad things can happen. Our worst tendencies need to be kept in check.

And all this played out before Don’t Care got involved and insisting on broadening the range of allowable marriages—which may have been the right thing to do, but also brought a whole new class of people under the joint yoke of Good Intentions and Control Party. As in so many areas of law, one party steps in to correct the flaws of the others, only to invite more meddling from the other two. And so the cycle continues.

Propaganda Goes Personal

Because policy in all these areas is complicated, we take mental shortcuts. We revert to the logic of small children, in fact: “I like this person, so I’ll vote for them.” Or teenagers: “This person gets me, so I’ll vote for him.” As campaign managers candidly admit in those after-the-fact documentaries and podcasts that follow every election, this is how a modern election is run.

While the logistical mechanics of these campaigns are complex, the principles are simple, and every political party applies them: (1) Collect data on every possible voter to determine their pressure points, (2) Get the right Facebook and Google ads in front of those voters, (3) Run negative ads about the opposition, (4) Money: Raise as much as possible, and spend all of it. (5) When you can’t get enough actual humans to support your candidate, send in the bots. Bots can’t vote, but they can retweet and like your social-media posts, creating the impression of a popular tsunami in your favour.

The campaigns themselves have become robotized, in fact—responding to your behaviour as if they were Siri or Google Assistant. If you “liked” an aquarium you visited with your kids a month ago, you might see a political ad pop up: Senator Tailfin wants to pass laws to save the fish—unlike that nasty Governor Oilspill, whose states’ lakes are contaminated by toxic sludge.

You are the only person seeing that exact mix of ads. Everybody else is seeing something different. Meanwhile, neither politician cares about the fish or the water they swim in. They’re essentially just contestants in a reality show.

Making an Old Slogan Great Again

Of course, politicians still have an overall brand that goes beyond the particularity of targeted messaging. And some brands work better than others. In 2016, Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” may have been a rehash of Ronald Reagan’s 1980-vintage “Let’s make America great again.” But it worked a lot better than Hillary Clinton’s “I’m With Her.”

Robert Cialdini, author of the classic 1984 book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (and a podcast guest of mine), was Clinton’s branding and influence adviser in 2016. He warned her not to go with “I’m With Her.” From what I understand, he pushed her to focus more on popular anxieties about the mental stability of Trump, and the worrying prospect of him having access to nuclear codes.

As for Trump’s campaign managers, they took a slogan that had worked in the past and ran with it. They focus-tested heavily on immigration issues and made ads based on the results. How does Trump actually feel about immigration? Who knows? We only know what his Facebook and Google tests told him. And since voters tend to take shortcuts—using emotions as a proxy for thoughts, and one issue as a proxy for many others—it doesn’t take a lot of information to know how to market a candidate. Thanks to the effects of social-media groupthink, if you know how a person stands on even one issue, you probably can guess how they’ll stand on many others.

Read More. Opine Less.

Easy solutions? There are none. Because the problem isn’t the system. The problem is us. We love our games. We love reality TV. Being lazy, we all love shortcuts. What’s worse, while our brains don’t change much from generation to generation, our problems have become far more complicated. What caused the financial crisis? What’s inflating the student-debt bubble? What’s the ideal tax rate? Which drugs should be legal and which shouldn’t? Should the United States be the world’s policeman? Should there be a minimum wage—and if so, what should it be? We have no idea how to answer any of these questions. And neither do the journalists who lecture you about their preferred solution.

So educate yourself. Try to read books by people who have spent years studying the issues and outcomes that seem meaningful to you. And if you haven’t taken the time to educate yourself, consider resisting the urge to offer an opinion.

Also, listen to smart people when they talk. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people involved in these issues. I’ve tried running for Congress. I didn’t win office. But along the way, I spoke to many political leaders who did.

When it’s time to vote, avoid the temptation to vote for someone because you hate the other guy. Or because you saw a Facebook ad that assures you someone agrees with you (they don’t, not really). And notwithstanding all of the attention lavished on the presidency, remember that it’s the local vote that counts most, because local issues will affect you directly.

Or just don’t vote. If a critical mass of people “vote” by living a good life, others will follow their example. In which case, many of the laws and rules we argue about won’t be needed anyway.

Ignore Your Tribe

Most important of all: Don’t vote because your “group” is voting a certain way. Identity politics leads to hatred. It leads to deaths. In extreme cases, it can lead to genocide.

In the early days of Soviet communism, Martin Latsis, chairman of the Ukrainian secret police, wrote in the journal Red Terror: “It is not necessary during an interrogation to look for evidence proving that the accused opposed the Soviets by word or action. The first question you should ask him is what class does he belong to, what is his origin, his education and his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused.”

This kind of logic is beginning to creep into our western consciousness—on both sides of the political coin. Surely, that’s the most evil kind of mental shortcut of all.

 

James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, bestselling author, venture capitalist and podcaster. Follow him on Twitter at @jaltucher.

Featured image: Ronald Reagan as a WHO Radio Announcer in Des Moines, Iowa.,1934.

69 Comments

  1. This self-confessed fraud should speak only for himself and not insult us perfect strangers. Stick to the First-Person Singular, the only honest usage.

    • Quillette 's memebr. says

      To johntshea, do you have the account of LinkedIn or Facebook? what is it?

      By the way, why do you think you are one of “us”? and what of the article annoy you so that you are so angry? angry for what? for just right you are a fraud.

  2. TarsTarkas says

    He left out the Party of Thieves, whose MO is to take over the Control Party and the Good Intentions Party in order to steal with impunity and simultaneously tell their victims it’s for their own good.

  3. TarsTarkas says

    The last named party really should be named the Party for People who want to be Left Alone by the thieves, control freaks, and nannies.

    • David of Kirkland says

      I think of that party as the one that thinks itself an adult, doesn’t need permission from others to be alive, knows that life isn’t fair or equally provided for, and the power almost always corrupts. Better to let people be (let it be, to each his own, live and let live) unless they are harming another by their actions; and that includes finding ways to handle negative externalities (something few governments have ever done, they being the biggest negative externality).

  4. gda53 says

    Some good advice. e.g. Identity politics leads to hatred. Hmmm – which Party loves IP?

    But then this – at the end:
    “This kind of logic is beginning to creep into our western consciousness—on both sides of the political coin.’

    Now I’m all for admitting both sides of the aisle have their faults, but I rather think that most of the most grievous faults over the last (shall we say) 3 years seem clustered suspiciously around the UniParty side of the political coin.

    I like to refer to the “party” in power as the Common Sense Party. It bears only passing resemblance to the Outer Party (aka the GOP, the poor cousin of the two-pronged UniParty), and none at all to the crazed half of the UniParty (aka the “Inner Party”, or more colloquially, the Democrat Party.)

    To be clear: Add just a touch of the Good Intentions people to the Control party and you have the “brains trust” of the Democrats. I’m unsure who the “Don’t Give A Shit Party” represents – most likely the sheeple in the Democrat Party?

    I often find this kind of appeal to “let’s all admit we have faults’ as a CYA move for those who have done wrong and want to share the blame around to try to minimize their own guilt.

    After all, don’t we all make mistakes? Who among us hasn’t committed treason or sedition at one point or another in our past.

    No need for hate. But a need for determined action. And no time for thinking that “living a good life” pre-empts your requirement, indeed your responsibility, to vote. Unless, that is, you’re satisfied with a vision of the future where a boot keeps stamping on your face……forever.

  5. E. Olson says

    Interesting framework of categories, but I think you are missing one important one: The what effectively solves the problem party.

    Based on past history or empirical research, does the proposal recommended by the good intenders solve the problem (then do it) or does it have minimal effects or make the problem worse (then don’t do it)?

    Based on past history or empirical study, does the proposed control (regulation) solve the problem (then enact it and enforce it), or does it is merely enrich some group at the expense of another without solving the problem (then don’t enact it)?

    Based on past history or empirical research, is there nothing that can reasonably be expected to solve the problem at all (then do nothing), or solve the problem without creating unbearable costs or causing other problems (then do nothing)?

    Lets me give some concrete examples:

    Does giving free needles, free housing, and cash to drug addicts solve the drug epidemic? Let’s go to Seattle and see how those policies worked there before going national with the policy (check out the documentary “Seattle is Dying” for the answer).

    Will banning straws in California solve the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean? Let’s look at the empirical studies to see if the plastic “problem” has been exaggerated and where most of the plastic pollution in the ocean comes from (answer: 95% comes from Asian and African rivers).

    Do $15 per hour minimum wage laws solve the problem of poverty? Let’s look at how many of the poor actually work today, and how much higher labor costs will reduce employment before enacting the higher minimum wage. (answer: most poor do not work, higher minimum wages reduce employment)

    If the world needs to reduce human sourced CO2 emissions by 80% to stop global warming, will the Paris Climate agreement achieve this? Let’s plug in expected emission reductions from the agreement into the official UN climate models and see if the agreement achieves the necessary reductions before spending trillions to enact and enforce it. (answer: even if we assume no cheating, the Paris agreement doesn’t even come close to achieving the “needed” cooling ).

    Are blacks discriminated against by racist cops and racist college admissions and faculty hiring committees? Let’s look at the percentage of crime committed by race and compare that with the police proportionality of response by race. Let’s look at high school graduation and honors proportionality rates by race and compare to college admissions proportionality by race. Let’s look at PhD graduation and honors proportionality by race and compare with faculty hiring by race. If the proportionality are roughly even or favoring “victim” groups, then we don’t enact/mandate more civil rights legislation, affirmative action or racial quotas. (answer: there is no statistical evidence supporting black discrimination by police or universities).

    Should we build a wall or open our borders to immigrants? Let’s look at the cost to taxpayers of recent immigrants in terms of the added costs of immigrants to welfare programs, education, police, prisons, and wage rates to citizens versus the benefits of taxes paid and consumption immigrants add to the economy before deciding. (answer: average immigrants have much higher welfare costs, education costs, and criminality than citizens, and lower wages for citizens, and these costs are much higher than the economic benefits they add).

    Thus in most cases, history and empirical evidence would suggest “do nothing” is the most effective solution to many difficult problems, and that most good intention programs and controls already in place are ineffective or actually make problems worse and hence should be rolled back.

    • E. Olson says

      Why isn’t the “do what effectively solves the problem” party more popular? Because almost nobody votes for or gives campaign contributions to candidates who promise to do nothing most of the time. Furthermore, lots of special interests benefit from all the ineffective and counter-productive “good intentions” and “control” policies that have already been enacted, and will mobilize the swamp and its allies to stop any candidate who promises to roll back or cancel such policies.

      • Mec B says

        @ E. Olson
        Your concrete examples outlined seem to be cherry picked to assume that the Lefty Policies you see that are founded through the Democratic party are essentially “good intentions” policies with terrible outcomes. However you are outlining some policies that have just become enacted and have real empirical evidence that we can define as being a policy to begin. Example, the banning of Straws seems by the naked eye to be a superfluous ban that has no real evidence for true impact on the environment save for not killing a couple of sea otters here or there. Further you decide to use a childish tactic by saying that if China doesn’t do it, well then I shouldn’t have to either! But you are looking only skin deep at the ban. But I can easily identify two benefits that may have long lasting impacts.
        First: It is not the banning of Straws that is useful but a tactic to try to teach your population the damaging effect of our “throw away culture”. Yes California is joke and yes it is a drop in the bucket it needs to start somewhere. I’d rather my population have to deal with no straws at the beginning than enacting extremely far reaching programs like no plastic at all or some other terrible program that would have a far reaching effect on the economy in a short period.
        Second: And I take this to heart personally as well, but a leader shows others how to do it, not expect others to do what they do not want to do. Or to use Jordan Peterson quickly, Clean you damn ROOM before you criticize others for not cleaning their own.

        I could go on with each of your claims but I’m sure you get the point. Each of your examples is precisely what James Altucher is getting at. We must look beyond the the paper thin veneer of each program, law or policy to find out what a society requires to Be Better.

        • E. Olson says

          Mec B – it is difficult to come up with many failed “good intentions” examples from the Right, because the Right tends to be more about “don’t care” or “do something that works” and hence tends to not push government solutions. The only good one I can think of is the war on drugs, but Right leaning libertarians have usually not supported it so even that isn’t a universally held “good intention” of the Right.

          As for the straw ban, how is banning something a “learning experience”? And how does it teach about the damaging effects of the “throwaway culture” when it doesn’t actually solve a significant environmental problem and may actually create new ones? For example, the new Starbucks plastic sippy cup top uses more plastic than the old top and straw, and several McDonald’s paper straws are usually necessary to drink a thick shake because the paper gets damp and collapses under suction, and/or a plastic spoon is needed. The only lesson that any rational person could draw from this example is that government bureaucrats are idiots with too much time and money on their hands.

          • Peter from Oz says

            The war on drugs has worked very well.
            Can you imagine the amount of regulations and government nannying that would occur if drugs were ”legalised”? There would then be even more crime, just of a different sort.
            Read Theodore’s Dalrymple’s magificent article on why drugs should not be legalised and you will understand the awful results that would arise, especially for the underclass, if drugs were ”legalised.”
            https://www.city-journal.org/html/don%E2%80%99t-legalize-drugs-11758.html

          • E. Olson says

            Peter – I don’t disagree with your statement, and I suspect the war on drugs might well have a positive ROI for society despite the high costs and seeming ineffectiveness, although I think we would be far better off spending the money on taking away demand by having zero tolerance for drug use rather than spending the money mostly on trying to stop the supply. No demand means no income for suppliers, and they go out of business.

        • Stephanie says

          The plastic straws issue “teaches” the populace that they must submit to government control even if it will make literally no impact in solving any problem. This is a “lesson” the populace would do better without.

          In Australia the major supermarkets decided they’d stop giving out “free” plastic bags (of course these were never free, they were worked into grocery prices, which did not go down as a result). They replaced them with bigger, thicker plastic bags you could buy for $0.15. People were obviously just as free to bring their own bag or reuse plastic bags before as they are after, and many people use these bags to line their recycling, which goes to facilities that cannot actually recycle these bags. The most hilarious part of the whole thing is that to make it up to customers, the grocery stores started handing out useless plastic figurines at checkout. They now do this on a regular basis.

      • Rando Hornswaggle says

        E. Olson;

        You have articulated something I wish I could have, and wholeheartedly endorse.

        I often put it this way. When you become lost in the woods and begin to panic your best solution is to sit down, and do nothing. At least that way you cannot get into more trouble . This is a technique I have applied in my life for many years and seems to work very very well .

        Bravo sir. Yours are one of the few commenters that I have enjoyed throughout my time reading quillette . Please don’t stop.

        • E. Olson says

          Thank you for the kind words Rando, and you are absolutely right – panic is almost never the answer to anything.

        • Sitting down when lost in the woods is the right and proper choice in two cases:

          You need time to calm down and plan a proper course of action rather than running off wildly in all directions.
          People know where you are and will come looking for you soon.

          If, OTOH, nobody knows where you are, sitting down and waiting is simply a way to string out the process of dying.

          Also, if you don’t have appropriate clothing for the weather or water in desert conditions you may not have the option of waiting for rescue.

    • OleK says

      @E. Olson

      My only comment/criticism is to your “free needles” comment. Switzerland and Portugal have had great success in their programs to get people off drugs (with a “free needles” program. Yohann Hari had a great point on this with Joe Rogan…but it has more to do with the Jordan Peterson concept of having purpose.

    • Allison says

      Leftist manipulate people into going along with their policies by portraying themselves and morally right and anyone who doesn’t agree with them is immoral. My biggest condemn about taking in so many third world immigrants is that they’ve suffered so brutally in their own countries. Even if we can give them jobs, homes, and education but we are in no way prepared for their inevitable mental health issues.

  6. mitchellporter says

    A response to this essay by Balthazar Alt-Hussar. (Translated from the Hungarian, I apologize for any infelicities).

    According to Herbert and Kukla, “Ingrouping, Outgrouping and Pragmatics of Peripheral Speech”, James Altucher (author of this article) is a type of chutzpah guru. In their academic language, it is called the “requirement of an authorized authority” – claiming that you have the right to do something or to do something and go with it. Hardly boring, Herbert and Kukla reject him on the grounds that he only exercises class and racial privileges when he does this, as if members of other races and classes cannot do similar things in other contexts.

    However, at least one clear example of this is Altucher, and this is the behavior of the Bitcoin bubble. He has released a number of ads titled “Crypto-Millionaire Hosts Free Cryptocurrency Masterclass” and was used to receive sales newsletters. Studying secret forums reveals many dissatisfied customers, and Altucher himself says a bitcoin will cost $ 1 million in 2020. it includes both telling you how to be successful and how to recover from failure – so you can find it at every stage of your career.

    It has to be disturbed that it has now appeared in Quillette – especially because Quillette recently collects money from investors in order to support its existence. Altucher is one such investor? Hold on to the fact that in the past, you have promoted your services to the terrible formal sales outlets that promise the world a world without lies when it presents your thoughts in a popular essay as you did here? Or should I ignore this background and treat the essay on my own merits?

    Here I find Herbert and Kukla guidance again. It is said that the licensed authority’s phenomenon was previously studied by the concept of Marxist theory by Louis Althusser, the concept of ideological state apparatus. I’m not trying to define this term here, you can view it in Wikipedia. What stands out from Althusser is that he also has a reputation. Seemingly “structuralism” was the leading theory of Marxism in France, but his career ended in 1980 when his 70-year-old wife was put to death. He never went to jail for mental illness and wrote another book (which I didn’t read). They were defenders and investigators. Most of his life was spent in mental institutions, and his wife, another of the communist intellectuals, spent much of his later life sharing depression with him, the state of the world (at the time he was killed, controlled by France) and only a few weeks after that Reagan won the US presidency). Althusser even claimed to have asked him to kill him at one point.

    I don’t know the details of the story, not to mention rights and troubles, or hidden truths. I know Althusser was not impersonal at universities. Not only was he quoted in a similar work by Herbert and Kukla, but he would freely refer to a big figure like Slavoj Zizek. And here I find an odd parallels because Zizek’s recently arguing partner Jordan Peterson … appeared on James Altucher’s podcast!

    Altucher, Althusser, what can I say. James Altucher was never accused of murdering anyone because he was a grifter. Althusser was also a Marxist who belonged to an utopian ideology, blamed for millions of deaths; Altucher is an entrepreneur who has lost and lost millions of dollars. On the other hand, Althusser is somewhat intellectual, while Altucher is mostly associated with a positive-minded aphorism. Any serious comparison should seriously consider the differences as all the similarities. But still the question is: should the author’s crimes be kept when he decided on his ideas?

    • neoteny says

      Translated from the Hungarian

      Jobb lett volna ha nem fordítottad volna le hanem az eredeti magyar szöveget toltad volna be.

      • mitchellporter says

        I don’t have the original text, but ‘Alt-Hussar’ points out that Altucher engaged in truly dreadful Internet self-promotion during the Bitcoin bubble, and asked whether we should want such a person writing for Quillette, or fear for its future; and then proposed a comparison with the Marxist Althusser, a celebrated intellectual who killed his wife.

        And I confess, I am Alt-Hussar. I couldn’t make the comparison with Althusser sufficiently coherent, but hit upon the ‘idea’ of machine-translating the text into Hungarian and back again, and posting that. I can now see it was overall a bad idea, and apologize for the wall of garbled prose.

        • neoteny says

          Yeah, that was too clever by half. You should have done the machine translation to German & back which would have given you a better result and still could have claimed that it was written in Hungarian originally.

  7. Princess Underlove says

    The world would indeed be a better place if reactionaries realized what ignorant racist pieces of shit they are, but alas, they prefer to write gaslighting articles in their reactionary pseudo-intellectual cesspools instead.

    The alt-right is not white nationalist now? I just had to chuckle, facepalm and stop reading there.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Princess Underlove

      Has anyone ever told you that you have a real gift for persuading people to change their minds on important issues?

  8. Kevin Herman says

    “Surely, we should all have access to Sloan Kettering-level medical service, right?”

    With socialized health care people get less medical services of all types let alone Sloane Kettering level medical service. I think you proved your point about most people not knowing much about anything and I would include myself in that. But even I know that what socialized healthcare leads to is long wait times for rather routine medical procedures and rationing (the older and sicker you get the more you’ll fee this) and less medical innovation (less money and prestige equals less man hours by doctors. what I thought they were all in the profession only for the common good!). But its free! (paid for by high taxes). By the way when the public is made aware of all these things they always reject it in polling. Sign me up for being a member of the I don’t care group. Well I care slightly but mostly about my own interests.

    • E. Olson says

      Kevin – don’t you know that the failure of all previous so-called “socialized” medical systems to prevent long-lines, avoid rationing, and generate life-saving innovation are just like all failed attempts at “so-called” Communism? To judge them as failures is WRONG, because none of the previous attempts have been true socialized medicine or Communism, but next time they are tried it is absolutely certain they will be done correctly and everyone will live in peaceful bliss and great health (i.e. if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor).

      • Peter from Oz says

        But, E. Olson, don’t you realise that if the intention is good, the outcome really doesn’t matter. That is how the left works. It is very rare that a spending program implemented by government is ever actually reviewed to see if it achieves what id supposed to achieve, or whether it had negative side effects. Instead when negative consequences do appear some well meaning lobbyists and politicians will come up with a new program to fix the problem, and so on ad nauseum

        • Allison says

          When the governor of California signed the $15/hr wage bill recently, he triumphantly said he knew it didn’t make business sense, but it made moral sense. Now, it seems, low income workers are making less but the governor can feel morally superior.

    • Lightning Rose says

      Maybe if we got rid of the straws, sippy cups and other sugar-delivery devices, fewer people would need “Sloan-Kettering level health care” to begin with. Fewer fatty livers in the oceans! 😉
      It’s all of a piece, you know . . .

  9. Joshua McClain says

    I’m really tiring of the message, “Can’t we all just get along” that I continue to see in the mainstream media and now this VC’s tripe version. Simplifying complex political reasoning down to a few maxims is a fools errand. Instead I ascribe to the chaos, E Pluribus Unim is our motto for a reason. The fact that we have disagreements means we are a great thinking society, yes even the racists and the baby killers. Our diversity of thought makes us stronger, not weaker, and any attempt to coalesce is the end of our society. So have at it America. Go ahead and USE ALL CAPS!!!

  10. Doc Broom says

    This article is so desperately shallow as to need a warning sign — “do not dive, water appears deep but is only an inch deep.” As a matter of fact Mr Altucher, I can intelligently discuss in an informed manner: immigration laws, gun laws (actually something of an expert), abortion law, the ACA (I actually read the whole thing before they passed it, in several drafts), drug laws, and foreign policy. I know many folks who can discuss one or more of those in informed manner. Perhaps that is because we are more interested in our communities than in promoting ourselves. But beyond that your simplistic division is addled. Why can’t someone be genuinely interested in the plight of the homeless without seeking a government solution? Why can’t someone be interested in providing adequate healthcare to folks without a government solution? We’ve gotten so good at throwing labels around that most have no idea what anyone actually thinks anymore because it’s all about the label. And your labels are no better. How about we recall the founders comments about faction — see Federalist 10. While they will always exist they are a danger to liberty.

  11. Leif says

    Mr. Altucher doubts that socialists want to redistribute wealth, but in his (counter)example Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposes to do exactly that. Altucher goes on to say it doesn’t sound very socialist. George Orwell might not agree.

    Later, Mr. Altucher chooses speed limits as an example of how speed limits are an example of control, never considering their role in protecting other drivers.

    Sloppy thinking like this only weakens his case.

    • Stephanie says

      Communists do indeed typically want to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else.

  12. bumble bee says

    So we are to listen to the experts? Well one man’s expert is another man’s biased nutjob. There are no experts presented to any of us. There is no one to trust any longer. They are all wheeled out with their biases already formed, and not once will there be an actual discussion on the topic where truth and reality are the goals. So I will not acquiesce to the latest talking head.

    The whole problem seems to me to be that everyone is so certain they have the answers, they do not need to look at the facts. Every topic of discussion is a victory to be won in any way they possibly can. We have the democrats who think they have the golden fleece with regards to Trump that they will not accept truth and facts. They have every intention to play this broken record up to the election because they are so sure they won some lottery. They have no idea that their behaviors will lose the election again because they, THEY, do not listen to facts and truth. One caveat for the Republicans is that they are not ruled by their extremes, alt-right, while the Democrats most certainly are.

    If this country really wanted to listen to diverging views and get to that place where understanding and consensus lives, then the full denouncement of extremist views needs to be done loudly and with conviction. Once the lunatic fringe is put in its place, rational conversation will return.

    Let us take one current issue as an example, the removal of statues. Has there been a conversation as to the historical reason they were erected? No, it has been vocal groups shaming people into removing them under the guise of racism. Are they racist? We really do not know because there has been no conversation. We have been told by groups they are, but this can also be attributed to their desire to make drastic changes under the banner of ridding racism from the public square. What irks me most is that all it can do is tear down, remove, rather than erecting their own statues to persons they find have contributed to the country. Then there is the issue as to whether some of these statues are memorials to the fallen. The domination of interpretations by one narrative, one perspective, has done real damage to this country and continues to do so.

    • the gardner says

      @Bumble Bee—- has Germany bulldozed its memorials of death camps? Of course not. These places exist to remind the world of the horror of Nazism and to demand it never be allowed to happen again. A statue of a confederate general should be a reminder that at one time America had slavery but WE FOUGHT A WAR TO END IT. That is the message of these statues. Well, should be. But the “fighting a war to end it” message is ignored.

      • bumble bee says

        At least with Germany one understands the meaning behind what ever memorial is there. We do not understand the meaning of all our statues. Instead we have groups that have their own interpretation and apparently that is the only one anyone cares to discuss. I would love to see memorials to those who suffered under slavery. I would love to see memorials to those who died under slavery, and those who fought against it. However, under the current definition, and a superficial definition it is, if there is a statue/memorial of anyone from the confederacy that needs to come down without regard to the whole story. If they were not so unilateral in their demands, if there was not so many ignorant and frightened people in positions of to make those decisions, we could actually find out the purpose and meaning of those statues and people could understand. And yes, there was a war, a very bloody war fought over slavery, but I guess those lives do not mean much today.

  13. Sasha says

    Communism will ALWAYS appeal to people who don’t want to control their own lives and wish some external power will make all decisions for them. This removes responsibility for their lives and actions and allows them the ideology to sleep at night knowing that someone is always there to tell them what to do and what’s good for them.

    This is the fundamental doctrine of communism and is why it will always punish the individual while the “crowd” cheers them on.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Sasha
      The same is true of communism’s bastard daughter, identity politics. People love being victims, because it releases them from the necessity of taking responsibility for their own choices and failures.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Peter from Oz

        Whereas the ‘poor me’ mechanism has always been with us, what is relatively new is that Victimhood now comes with exclusive advantages, and even when one might secretly detest Victimhood, one might still be tempted to cash in. I have three nephews who at the moment are just regular people, but if they got their paperwork in order they’d qualify as Indians. As Victims, they’d be entitled to free tuition as well as other perks. One of them is sorely tempted, but as a family they’ve decided to remain white devils for the sake of their self respect.

  14. Rational Number says

    The War on Drugs has succeeded ! It has succeeded to enrich criminal organisations, police funding, court funding, prison funding and populations. It has also succeeded to inflate the price of drugs tenfold, make drugs an underground operation so the quality is variable and people die, and make criminals out of good young people having a good time. All paid for by taxation.

    Decriminalising drugs would reduce taxes, police numbers, gaol numbers, court time, and criminal power. It would also increase production, regulate quality, and increase government revenue. Its a no-brainer, except the brainless dont get it, and the politicians lack the guts to take this to the elections.

    There is more drugs available than ever……..its a FAIL.

    Education, drug care and peer group pressure would prevent drug use being abused.
    Look to Portugal and Scandinavia for how this approach has succeeded.

    Sovereign adult beings should be able to decide what is good for themselves. It should not be up to other entities.

  15. Ray Andrews says

    “Easy solutions? There are none. Because the problem isn’t the system. The problem is us … Being lazy, we all love shortcuts.”

    Yabut that was itself a lazy shortcut and an easy answer/solution. Of course the problem is us, but we are social animals and so ‘the system’ is inevitable and it is also ‘us’. Humans are hothouse flowers that always develop in some culture or society, the culture makes the people and the people make the culture. So the problem is the system … and the people … and the people making the system that makes them in return.

  16. the gardner says

    The Good Intentions folk need to tax person B to give free stuff to person A. No thought is given to the fact that they are robbing person B so they can feel virtuous. And when their free stuff programs fail, there is no self- reflection and evaluation, just a doubling down. They never learn from their mistakes.

    The Don’t Care folk philosophy would be fine as long as society wasn’t required to pay the costs of those who exercise their maximum freedom and become drug addicts or smash their un-helmeted heads in a motorcycle accident. If you can indemnify me from these costs, I wouldn’t care what you did with your body. The Control folk aren’t so much about control as they are about not having to pay for other’s stupid mistakes.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @the gardner

      “The Good Intentions folk need to tax person B to give free stuff to person A. No thought is given to the fact that they are robbing person B”

      Ok then, let’s have a society where no one is ever compelled by the state to do anything whatsoever that might benefit someone lower down on the economic ladder. Expanding that thought, let’s have a society where no one is ever compelled by the state to do anything whatsoever that might benefit someone higher up on the economic ladder. This would mean an end to war because now when rich people want to expand their economic interests they’d have to do the fighting themselves instead of conscripting the poor and/or the workers. WWI was a disagreement between empires as to the divvying up of colonial assets. Fine, let the monarchs, aristocrats and industrialists fight it out themselves. It would be fun to watch Saddam and Cheney in a fight to the death/submission, no?

      “not having to pay for other’s stupid mistakes”

      Except in 2008/9 when ordinary folks had to bail out Wall St. It seems that charity for the billionaires is an exception to the rule that charity should never be instituted by the state. Greed is good when practiced by the rich, but deplorable when practiced by the working class, eg. when they expect to collect the pensions they are legally entitled to. How dare they expect to eat after their productive days are over? The Koch brothers can’t afford such nonsense.

      • Stephanie says

        Ray, as the author briefly mentioned, the 2008 financial crisis was caused by Bill Clinton compelling banks to lend to people who were unlikely to be able to pay the money back. He guaranteed those loans, so if anyone screwed over the taxpayer, it was him. As for “deregulation,” that was imprecise. Derivatives and other such exotic products were new and never regulated. Regulators couldn’t understand or keep up with the crazy things physics PhDs were making.

        If Bill Clinton hadn’t declared owning a house a Right, we wouldn’t have been in such a mess. If he had paid more attention to the Middle East, maybe Bush wouldn’t have had to get into wars there.

  17. The Hang Nail says

    I started off liking this essay but then the examples came and the author showed that he succumbs to the same simplistic thinking he argues against. Fed-Ex is more efficient than the post office? I suppose if all you care about are profits. But that’s simplistic thinking. The US Post Office has to serve everybody, urban and rural. And they like to give their employees nice benefits. Is that a problem? Do we sacrifice livelihoods for the sake of “efficiency”?

    And he acts all befuddled that a Socialist would want a raise. Really? Can’t understand that a Socialist would want money? Was he under the impression that Socialists did not want salaries? That they did not want cost-of-living adjustments and so on? Are all of his beliefs built out of straw men?

    And he doesn’t understand why the state regulates marriage. Again, he uses straw men arguments. Get past the simplistic thinking he espouses and you will see that when two income earners (or potential earners) get involved in a financial union and then spawn creatures that will inherit this combined wealth that we have highly complex financial unions. But, I suppose if you want simplicity we could just go back to the good ol’ days when women had no rights in this union? I suppose we could just let judges use whatever logic they want to decide who gets what when a marriage dissolves.

    And he buys into the propaganda that it costs $2.6 billion to introduce a new drug. Hidden in that framing is the critique that we should be regulating drug companies because us simpletons just don’t understand the process. I call BS on that. He’s hiding behind big-pharma chicanery to insert this biased position. He thinks we will buy into the simplistic story that big pharma is spending billions on labs developing life-saving drugs when we know much of it is spent on slight increments just to extend patent life and that many worthy drugs are not researched at all because only poor people will take them or they can’t get patent for them. And he leaves out how much of that development money is really just advertising dollars.

    The overall argument is spot on though. Our reality-tv system is a frustrating joke. Sadly, it provides cover for all kinds of chicanery as we see in this essay. This is very similar to our president yelling about “fake news” but being one of the biggest consumers and purveyors of fake news. Sometimes the strategy is to just be a cynical, post-modern nihilist so that you can make people confused and make apathetic so that you can slip through legislation and policies that just enrich your interest group. But we shouldn’t do anything about this because that would be too “controlling” and might spawn unintended consequences. We should just let private industry write the laws and policies for us right?

    • Doc Broom says

      I don’t agree with much you say here, but I agree that the reality-show thing is a farce, we’d be better governed by a random lottery to select ‘elected’ officials with the proviso that no one serves more than one term and all lottery “winners” must be people who actually paid taxes and are citizens.

  18. PaulNu says

    The author misunderstands the “don’t care” party. We care very much. We just believe either that we don’t have the right to intervene in people’s lives without their permission, or that in some cases centrally planned solutions are less likely to succeed than market forces.

  19. Russell Andrew Hertzberg says

    Brilliant and very very accurate. Kind of hits the over active political types right between the eyes. That explains all the whining here. As for the Altucher venture gambits in Crypto currency? He cops to the truth as to why in this very article! But that will not save him or any other long crypto investors from the truth about the scalability issues. But he is probably very well hedged on cypto by now.

  20. Indiewifey says

    1) they who know the least, think they know the most. Applies to all belief systems and all attempts to control/change/manipulate mindsets of others. Applies perfectly to premise here and all the anger-based crap we hear/see. The anger-to-energy synapses sadly too closely linked these in this era of disgruntledness

    2) all but forgotten are the un-squeaky wheel members of society. It’s not about ignorance or tech-handicaps or not caring; it’s about being too occupied with work, families, real life n time connected day to days, and likely about not being burdened with the as-yet uncharted psych/behavioral/imprinted needs to forge/maintain faux connectivity with otherwise unknown others via tech, which all come at costs to real-world connectivity.

    Let’s just see how voting outcomes (thank goodness for privacy in the proverbial booth!) are affected by those who don’t engage (24/7) with the noise noise noise noise noise (Seuss/Geisel). Imo all these centrists can go either way and my dime is R

    And let all remember too, that all those noisy ones (thumbtypers), including those writing tomes for quips here, are reliant on Free Time and symptomatic of tech “connectivity” that has diverted in who knows how many ways already.

  21. David Altschul says

    Altucher falls victim to his own narcissism .To claim “we have no.idea how.to answer” whether there should be a minimum wage ” is to ignore the data showing that minimum-wage laws kill jobs,.create scarcity, and inot ease hardcore unemployment

    • anonymity says

      @David Altschul , you have some mental problems, really.

  22. David Altschul says

    Altucher claims we don’t know what Democrats staND for. Fifty.years of evidence suggest Dems stand for: 1).the destruction of family (the institution that community and national survival.depends upon ).by killing babies in the womb aND by.denying.the distinctive nature of heterosexual monogamy; .2).Destroying our unity as a a nation by fostring the resentful, disempowering mantra of “identity politics” 3).booing God, or, like Cory.Booker last week calling prayers “bullshit”; 4) crippling minion such as Princess Underlove.to.glue their psychological survival to.their control freak.dogma, and react.with.adolescent denigrations to.inconvenient facts;.and.5)to goose-step.to.the command Hillary issued on.CNN.last year that.”we CANNOT be civil to those who stand in the way “

    • anonymity says

      @David Altschul , you have some mental problems, really.

  23. David Altschul says

    We are hard-wired to.form tribes. We are hard-wired to.show loyalty to and seek.status within our own tribe
    The default means to.do both is to.reactively dehumanize outsiders
    For the most part, our country.is composed of the conservative, progressive, and libertarian tribes. None of.them.are either consistently useful nor consistly off. Either we get better at listening to others, or.we sabotage our future

    T

  24. Torgsyv says

    “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.”
    ― Gore Vidal (1926-2012)

  25. Philip Coelho says

    A bit of elementary economics: 1) as incomes rise more people spend time on politics. Political participation is a superior good (an increase in income leads to a greater increase resources spent on politics). This does not mean that people spend more time; the amount of time we get is strictly fixed at 24 hours for each day, regardless of income. So what we get is an increase in politicalization, without a concomitant increase in knowledge. Part of this is explained by the fixed nature of the daily time budget, but more importantly the second reason for politics by slogan rather than thought. And that is 2) rational ignorance. No important (more than 1 million voters) election in the United States has has been won by 1 vote. The closest we have come was the 2000 presidential election in Florida won by Bush with 500 and some votes. If you were in Florida in 2000 and had voted your vote meant that (assuming you did not vote for candidate from a minor party that Bush would have won by 500 and some votes plus or minus one. In other words in the closest election in American history one vote did not affect materially anything. So why should anyone rationally allocate scarce time to learning about issues? The answer is they should not; rational voters will not vote because they think their vote will change things, they do it for reasons that are more emotional and reflecting their current tastes. Again what has this to do with the underlying issues, nothing or very little. Voters are rationally ignorant of the issues; this is not a condemnation of voters, it is arithmetic. If you are one of over 1 million voters, you should realize your vote will not affect the outcome of an election. Spending resources on deciding whom to vote for is irrational. It is like rooting for the home team, people do not determine whom to root for by assessing the various strengths and weaknesses of the teams, they just root for the home team knowing full well whether they root or not will have no impact on the outcome.

  26. Respek Wahmen says

    Why would the act of selling a reality show, specifically, inspire the comparison between reality shows themselves and politics? Seems like a realization far more likely to occur while writing or conceiving said show (or at some other point). Probably just a ham-fisted “look at me, I pitch tv ideas!”

    We don’t know anything nor even care about politics “deep down,” yet we’re in danger of losing our minds about it…

    “People say “socialists” want to redistribute wealth. I don’t think that’s true. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is called a socialist, wants a salary increase for herself and other members of congress, who currently earn $174,000 as base salary. That doesn’t sound very socialist.”

    Socialists do want to redistribute wealth. It’s essential. AOC isn’t all socialists. Socialists can be hypocrites. This isn’t even an example of hypocrisy.

    This must be the worst article yet published here.

    • anonymity says

      @Respek Wahmen, either you are vile or your brain is vile nothing else.

  27. Pingback: Just Keep the Lights on! – KenFromOttawa

  28. Return back says

    @KenFromOttawa, please take the time to build your light instead of being jealous of the light from others. !!! ——from the land beside the Pacific Ocean.

  29. Return back says

    @Pingback,
    the following message was sent to Johntshea by me, by name “Quillette ‘s memebr” .

    here except the author of the article who published his article by his name, which one who published their comments by their name? which one? if give kindness or give different view, it is OK and good, because it is kindnes or communication, but attack the article or its author in such a way, by the fake name, is not it vile? point out such a behavior is vile is not light to give others?

    “Quillette ‘s memebr.
    May 13, 2019
    To johntshea, do you have the account of LinkedIn or Facebook? what is it?
    By the way, why do you think you are one of “us”? and what of the article annoy you so that you are so angry? angry for what? for just right you are a fraud.”

  30. Return back says

    @Pingback,
    In the reality, haters do vile things behind people who they hate, in network, haters do vile things on front of people who they hate by either their fake name or fake profiles, or by agency, what is the diffience between both way and their intention and.aim in reality and network?

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