Current Events Philosophy

3 Common Things Most People Do that are Just Dumb

They say the more audacious the lie, the more people are likely to believe it. Combine this truism with the fact that human beings prefer to move in herds (i.e. “go with the flow”), and you have some pretty interesting societal norms that develop over time. 

Now add one more interesting factoid to the equation: presented with new and contradictory evidence proving one’s faulty beliefs are untrue, most people will NOT change their minds (Mercier and Sperber). In fact, people will more entrench themselves in believing the lie than before [they learned the new information]!

This psychosis is self-fulfilling, since many individuals will surround themselves with people who believe the same way and/or study only one side of an issue (if such literature even exists) to reinforce their own belief vs seeking out real data or empirical research. This startling phenomenon has been evidenced multiple times across a myriad of studies, most notably by researchers at Stanford.

When a lie is preached as truth, and those who embrace it are more solidified in their belief the more the lie is exposed, then reason and logic are clearly no longer at play. The virtues of this closed system are better extoled by defining it under its true name: a cult. Ergo, when one fastidiously clings to a falsehood, even after being shown the truth, this embodies a religious fanatism vs a logical interpretation of information. Plato’s analogy of The Cave embodies this argument from a philosophical standpoint.

Given this backdrop, below is a short list of three of the most pervasive and ridiculous “norms” Americans have adopted over the years/decades. 

1. Invest Your Money in a 401K

Of all America’s tragic fallacies about money (and there are plenty), this may be the most pervasive—and the most egregious. Corporate America is trained, along with every well-meaning financial advisor, to indoctrinate young and/or naïve workers into contributing to their organization’s 401K plan. The supposed reasons are outlined neatly enough:

  • It’s saving for retirement. It would be foolish not to save for retirement! 
  • It’s free money (matched by your employer).
  • It’s risk-free investing, if you diversify. 
  • It’s tax advantageous.  
  • It’s part of your employment package. Why not do it?

The truth of the matter is a 401K is one of the worst places possible to “invest” your money. You are essentially putting your cash in financial PRISON. Money in your 401K is trapped until you reach the ripe old age of 59.5 and it can’t be employed until then (except perhaps via loans). It is inaccessible for you (by design); thus potential investment opportunities may come and go without you being able to take action. 

The so-called ‘qualified plans’ came about in the late 1970s following heavy-handed US Government wage and price freezes of 1971; as a direct response, employers had to figure out creative ways around this government-meddling and the Revenue Act of 1978 provided just the tool to do so. It was the perfect blend of corporatism and government used to screw over the American middle class.

Secondly, the tax consequences for a 401K are not as prescribed; you indeed forgo paying taxes on the money initially “invested” in a 401k, but as a result the tax man cometh when you withdraw the funds in retirement. But now, instead of being taxed on the “seed,” (when you put the money in), you’re now taxed on the HARVEST it produces. This is a raw deal indeed!

Ah, but some financial ‘experts’ may zealously explain you’ll be at a lower tax bracket when you retire. So you surely want to defer your tax burden. But this assumes you’ll be retiring when you are poorer than you are when you’re working; is that a proper assumption? Not to mention the government holds the keys to your future; it chooses the age you may retire vis-a-vie when you can withdraw from your 401K. And it chooses how much it can tax you. These tax brackets and the corresponding promises made to the taxpayer change from one administration to the next. Don’t assume anything when it comes to government promises… other than to assume the worst. 

Thirdly, with regards to risk when it comes to the stock market, do not fall victim to the lie that diversification will protect you. The ENTIRE stock market is a casino (at current levels). This is the “red pill” that is intentionally so well-kept from average investors. The vast majority of the American stock market—be it individual stocks or “diversified” mutual funds—are made up of highly-leveraged companies with P/E ratios (price to earning ratios) far exceeding their real value based on current or forward earnings.

In 2022, the difference between what an average company on the S&P 500 is really worth (its “book value” or “fair value”) and its stock price is currently averaging 25.16X+ what it should be with respect to a proper valuation metric. In short, the ENTIRE stock market it drastically overweight.

This lop-sided wealth effect and inflated stock prices is primarily because the Federal Reserve (“the FED”) has been printing money since 2008 with reckless abandon. For the last several years these newly-printed dollars (i.e. “inflation” aka “expansion of the money supply”) has been going into the banking system and then inflating asset prices in the stock market. This nefarious behavior of the FED has created a BUBBLE market, not a real and vibrant economy. By inflating asset prices and artificially forcing a low-rate environment, the FED has made the rich richer (e.g. inflated stock prices) and the poor poorer.

So, brass tacks: it’s folly to believe one can diversify themselves out of a basket of entirely risky assets. This is quite akin to 2004-2007 when the big banks “diversified” the risks out of sub-prime mortgages by bundling a whole bunch of them together into a new financial instrument. Don’t fall prey to the same scam under a slightly different lens.

And it’s also folly to commit your hard-earned dollars to a system that locks up your money for 30-40+ years without the ability to access it. Don’t believe in the lie. Don’t ‘go with the flow.’ Stop committing money to the failed corporate system; devest from your 401K immediately—or at least stop committing more poor dollars to monetary prison.

There’s is a Better Way!

I invite you to cast aside the standard corporatist paradigm. This stock market isn’t your father’s or grandfather’s stock market; and, more importantly, the entire mindset of creating some “nest egg” of wealth far in the future that you gradually draw down from until you die is simply wrong-thinking. Stop stepping over dollars for FUTURE pennies–especially when those pennies will likely be taxed at 45%+.

Instead, change your way of thinking! Look at the end GOAL of your investing strategy. Invest in things that produce a cashflow NOW. Plant seeds now that can’t be taxed to death later. Again, your goal for investing should be producing consistent cashflow, not on creating some nebulous retirement-focused ‘nest-egg’ of US Equities.

Invest in real assets, such as real estate, small businesses, and/or passive income opportunities. Your cash will find opportunities, I promise you! This mindset and paradigm creates generational wealth you can pass onto your family when you die! However, if you are just mindlessly focused on creating a “pot of gold” at the end of your working life’s rainbow, you may find that A) that pot of gold is fools gold when you get there, and/or B) even if you get lucky and there is a nestegg waiting for you in your golden years you’ll be then tasked with the morbid calculations involved with determining how much you can safely withdraw each year until you most likely keel over. How fun is that?!

There’s a FAR better way; but it takes a complete change of mindset. It takes a complete paradigm shift. It takes logic and clear-eyed examination of the data and facts without emotion. And it takes going against the crowd, which many can find daunting.

2. Recycle Your Plastics

For many people in my generation the “three Rs” have been ingrained into us with a certain religious zeal only second to standing for the National anthem. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Save the Earth. Recycle your recyclables, for god’s sake. What are you… some kind of monster?

Well, what if I told you that one of those Rs (specifically the third one) is not only ineffective, but downright counterproductive and bad for the environment? And, believe it or not, the evidence for this is so overwhelming it’s not even a hotly debated topic anymore among scientists who study the net environmental and economic impacts of recycling.

Recycling many items has effectively been proven over the last 8-10 years to be a NET NEGATIVE for the environment.

Recycling plastics actually HURTS our ecosystem more than it helps. This has been recently showcased from “reputable” news organizations from CNN, NPR, and even John Oliver. But the “fringe” groups with their damn data and economic evaluations have actually been showcasing this fact for well over a decade.

Not to mention, most plastic that was claimed to be “recycled” by US municipalities is ultimately just sent to trash piles anyway; in fact, China has stopped accepting US recycled goods completely for a number of related reasons. As a result, many towns around the country are cancelling their recycling programs in light of these unpleasant facts.

Let’s sum this all up for those in the back: the more you recycle your plastics, the more you hurt the earth. Stated more simply: recycling plastics isn’t economically or environmentally viable. This is because the net carbon footprint, due to the electrical costs, shipping costs, fuel costs/usages, and a myriad of other costs involved in repurposing the plastic, are GREATER than the tangible benefits recycling brings. This may change in time with new(er) technology/processes, but this is the current state of affairs.  

As a result, if you are actually interested in saving the earth, try not buying plastic at all. Focus instead more on the first two Rs, and toss the third R into the waste bin. 

3. Wear a Cloth Mask to Prevent the Spread of Covid-19

Covid has been in the global news cycle as the world’s primary focus for more than 24 months now. And the use of cloth masks to combat this evil has been in effect for about the same amount of time.

“Wear a mask, save lives, stay home” are some of the popular slogans that permeated society, at different stages, since the beginning of the epidemic. But from day-one the real question from a scientific and rational perspective is: how much are these “scientific” tactics actually having on the spread/transmission of Covid?

Guess what the data has, unequivocally, said on the topic? 

Answer: mask mandates and cloth mask use do NOTHING to spread the rate of Covid-19.

This sad truth is no longer up for serious debate in 2022. The “science” has spoken. And the preceding word is only in air-quotes because “science” has become a buzzword these last few years more than a meaningful topic of understanding. 

The data about mask mandates is even more clear, with thousands of charts demonstrably showing that the countries, cities, and states that implemented mask mandates fared no better (or worse) than those who had strict mask mandates. Even SNL, whose cast bought into Covid-mania hook, line, a sinker, has recently poked fun at the unarguable fact mask mandates accomplished absolutely nothing.

Science, as any 4th grader will tell you, is the active pursuit, through the Scientific Method, of testing a given hypothesis and allowing the data/results to validate or repudiate the hypothesis. However, “science” (lowercase s) in the current cultural environment has become whatever mandate or opinion is held by the politically-connected and/or the ‘Elite Class.’ If those in power say to wear a mask, this is “science.” Does the mask actually help to prevent the transmission of the disease? That’s unimportant. “Just wear your mask and stop questioning the science.” 

Thankfully, the plain facts are now quite evident—from even the “truthful” corporate media resources like MSNBC and CNN: cloth masks are simply nothing more than facial decorations. In fact, only N95/surgical masks have been shown, through scientific experimentation and research, to slow or deter the transmission of Covid-19

So every airport you walk through with hundreds or thousands of (non-smiling) faces hidden behind ridiculous cloth masks are a testament to one thing: certainly NOT Science, but rather a Corporate/Populace rigidity blindly attempting to do something—anything—to stop a force beyond any of our control.

(Quick aside: a recent Coronvirus study shows that air in planes is actually SAFER than nearly anywhere else (including operating rooms)–yet the TSA still imposes ineffectual mask mandates on all airplanes, regardless of this data).

It is hubris to believe human beings have any power over nature. And is it simple idiocy or blind herd-mentality to believe a cloth mask can stop Covid-19’s microscopic airborne pathogen?

The powers that be (your “Betters”) do not care about actual results or efficacy data. They care about control–or at least the appearance of control over an often uncontrollable environment. 

So the next time you wear your beautifully-conformist (but absolutely non-effective) cloth facial decoration, just remember that you aren’t doing anything to actually slow or prevent Covid-19 transmission; but you ARE gleefully advertising to all those in your vicinity just how wonderfully pliable you are to subjective control and also how usefully compliant you will certainly be to whatever crazy thing those in power ask you to do next.

Conclusion

Stop being dumb. Stop going “with the flow.” As you mommy once told you, just because everyone else is jumping off a cliff doesn’t mean you have to, too! With respect to your investments, consider a MUCH better approach–one focused on CASH FLOW vs creating some distant pot of gold. Fly forward at 200mph when others are just slowly walking.

With respect to recycling — if you want to save the earth, try reusing your plastics and, in general, not consuming so much stuff. But throw those plastic bottles in the garbage can! Recycling them only harms our planet worse!

And if you do all the above with a dumb mask on your face, you obviously missed the opening paragraph of this article. Sadly, you can’t “fix” stupid. And some ideas are so ingrained in some people’s minds that no amount of logic, evidence, data, or scientific studies will ever change their mind. You’re right, and you know it; “so stop trying to confuse me with all your damn facts!

Sean Dempsey
Sean Dempsey moved to New Hampshire as one of the first 100 ‘Free Staters.’ He supports unabashedly shouting the liberty message from the rooftops. No pale pastels; Sean believes Libertarians need vibrant and bold messaging and that the message of freedom is not something to be embarrassed by.
http://dempseyestates.com

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