Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Move to Another Provider

Dear Readers:

In order to improve the quality of my blogs, I have moved to WordPress. Additionally, I have broadened the scope of this blog. It will now be named after my entrepreneurial education company: Entrescape. The new URL is

My more politically/philosophically oriented blog, Common Sense Liberty, may be found at

Thanks for your involvement so far. I believe the new site will be better for you and for me.



Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Thief in the Living Room

I like television. My wife and I love to watch programs on history, science, and yes, sometimes I watch COPS. Is that a waste of time?

Whether it's COPS or a more elevating documentary, I have chosen to do something that will probably not improve my material, mental, or spiritual well-being substantially. Well, maybe science or history shows. At least they make me intellectually richer.

Everyone needs a break now and then, and I am certainly not begrudging anyone his/her rest time. Yet I have observed a multitude of people whose time in front of the TV is astounding. Hour after hour, they soak up images and sounds that one can only describe as chaotic and mindless.

It is not the time in front of the TV that is the culprit so much, but the things we are not doing while we watch. These same people seem to be the ones who complain about their income and lack of time. When I suggest they spend a few hours a week building a business, I invariably hear, "I don't have time!"

Oh, really? If you want to build a business but don't think you have time, just add up the number of hours you watch TV. And be honest. Write it down for one week. That's right--every second, including those times you watch while eating, talking with the kids, or doing a crossword puzzle.

My guess is that you will find out just how much of a thief you have in the living room. Now, what are you going to do? For heaven's sake, don't swear off TV. You know perfectly well you won't quit completely. I am not even sure that is a good idea. Just pick a few hours when you watch something less than uplifting. Maybe it's COPS, maybe it's sports, or maybe it's American Idol. Decide whether your life is better spending time with them or time building your future.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Health Care and Your Right to Life

Never underestimate the foolishness of anyone in a hurry. Get 535 people in a hurry at the same time, and it's Katie Bar the Door. That is what is happening to our health care in this country.

We all want to know we can go to the doctor when we need to. We also want to be able to extend our lives by undergoing a surgical procedure or taking medicine. The problem is, we still want it to cost what it did when a doctor could carry all his/her tools in a black leather bag.

The miraculous advance of medicine allows us to improve and extend our lives in ways we could not have imagined a few years ago. Instead of medicine being something that is practiced between an individual and one doctor, it is now practiced between an individual and the thousands of people whose skills are brought to bear on complex diseases. Think about an MRI machine and the almost unimaginable amount of knowledge that had to be brought together in one place for it to work.

In other words, we should expect that health care will cost more than it once did, just as a car with air conditioning and leather seats costs more than the vinyl benched oven-on-wheels we used to drive. Unfortunately, instead of letting bright and industrious people work on solutions to the problem of high health care costs, we have a government hard at work to destroy it.

Government will meddle and tinker, tinker and meddle, until they give us the equivalent of Social Security and Medicare. Hopelessly over-promised, national health care will, sooner rather than later, go broke.

What then?

They will ration care. Of course, no one will call it rationing. Instead, they will find yet another way to put lipstick on a pig and parade it around like a supermodel. Yet even in the midst of this, there is hope. As the public system crumbles, the irrepressible creative instincts of young men and women will be brought to bear on the practice of medicine. Bright people who want to use their talents to help others will find ways to offer care to the sick when they need it, not months down Waiting List Road.

This is already happening in Canada. Technically, most private care in Canada is illegal. This means that citizens cannot go outside the system by using private doctors. Fortunately, this law is rarely enforced. As a result, a host of private practices have sprung up, giving those who can pay the option of bypassing the waiting lists and suboptimal medical choices represented by the public system.

If we in the U.S. move toward a universal health care system, do not expect our government to learn anything from Canada's recent lessons. Expect instead that they will attempt to outlaw private practice. They will do so because as the public system breaks down, more doctors will move out of it in favor of serving the needs of the sick privately.

This is where the health care battle line should be drawn. The right to preserve and enhance our life and our health is as fundamental as the right to self-defense or free speech. Being forced to die or live as a cripple because one's care is not "cost-effective" enough for public funding, and then being denied the right to seek a private physician's services is an assault on any sane person's notion of freedom.

Allowed to flourish, the creative power of the human mind will bring forth new cures, new medical services, and longer, more enjoyable lives for all. New insurance structures, medical care cooperatives, and charities will emerge, providing care for those who truly cannot afford care. Instead of fighting and scratching for a limited resource, we can all contribute to creating more.

It is beginning to look like some form of government-run health care is inevitable. It won't be pretty, but it will be survivable unless they outlaw private care. If they do, consider it the equivalent of censorship or illegal search and seizure. It's your right, don't let them take it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Property: The Forgotten Freedom

I think of freedom in straightforward terms. Any individual should be free to do as he/she likes as long as it does not demonstrably impinge on the same rights in others. This idea is not new, of course, but it is largely misunderstood, especially with regard to property.

Were we all composed of pure spirit, with no need to feed, clothe, or shelter ourselves, property rights would be meaningless. Since we are mere flesh and blood, each individual needs to have control of certain things to survive. The reason is simple--most things we need are created, not found.

With the possible exception of air and sunshine, every material thing we need comes about because some individual, often in cooperation with others, has the ability, will, and desire to turn a beneficial idea into reality. Fortunately, the human race has also discovered that trading with others results in more material goods for oneself.

Who owns such wonderful things? In my view, the creator. From spear tip to computer chip, the rightful owner is the person who created it. If he/she contracted with others to create it, that contract defines who owns what fraction of its value.

Some people in society are more capable than others at producing certain things. No one wants to hear me sing opera or see me dance for Chippendale's. Yet I do not begrudge the vocalists or 20-somethings with six-pack abs their due. Neither should they begrudge me my ability to write a book or teach a class.

Inevitably, some people on the whole are able to create more value than others. They own more things as a result of their benefiting others more. They are better off than others because they are better to others. It is their ability that enables others to benefit from the things they cannot create themselves. The more benefit they provide, the more they prosper.

This is disturbing to those who are less willing or less capable. In the name of "fairness," they seek to take from the creators and give to those they deem more deserving. The most obvious example is the thief, motivated at a primal level to take by force what he/she either cannot or will not create.

Some people make a profession of taking from the creators and giving to others. They are called politicians. In addition to getting to pat themselves on the back for doing so much good for society, they get a generous cut themselves. Lacking the forthrightness of a thief, they mask their willingness to take from others by force in byzantine tax codes and arcane regulations.

What would our society look like if we were to refuse to allow either thieves or their governmental counterparts to take what each of us has created? Those disposed to believe in the fairy tale of a benevolent and fair government imagine hordes of the poor wandering the countryside, victims of arrogance and callousness of the elite. I see something quite different--the blossoming of a new human spirit.

When people are able to trade freely, they are able to tap their potential for creating value for others. Virtually all human beings have some capacity for doing so. In return, the less capable benefit from the more capable in two ways. First, goods and services are cheaper because capable people compete to provide them without fear of having a large portion confiscated by government. Second, the truly incapable, such as the severely handicapped, benefit from the benevolence of the wealthy. Humanity, for all its tendencies toward wanton cruelty and unjustified violence, has also shown a tremendous capacity for kindness and charity.

This Independence Day, we will all remember the precious rights our ancestors earned for us. Along with your ferocity in protecting your freedom of speech and religion, kindle a fierceness in protecting your property. You earned it, now fight to keep it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Time Value of Money

We often hear the phrase "the time value of money," but what does that actually mean? Fundamentally, it means that money now is "worth more" than money later. For example, if I were to put $100 in a savings account at 1% interest, I would have $101 (not including compounding) at the end of a year. How can that be? How does money get more valuable?

It doesn't. The money itself, when there is no inflation or deflation, retains its original value. In order for there to be any return to money invested, it must be put to work. The only way money can be put to work is by using it to help transform one thing into another thing that is more valuable.

For example, if I take $100 to buy 100 plain wooden blocks and some paint, then invest my time painting the blocks for decorative purposes, I can sell them for, say, $120. The "extra" $20 is the result of my ingenuity and effort. I take cash, some raw materials, and my time and combine them to create value that did not exist before.

If I have an idea for creating such a product, but do not have enough cash on hand to purchase the plain blocks and paint, I cannot create value. A banker or someone else that lends money might recognize my idea as valuable and offer to lend me the money. Say I borrow $100 and agree to pay the lender $105 at the end of a year. I still make $15 on the enterprise. The bank also made money--$5.

This brings us back to our original example--the 1% return on a savings account. For nothing more than the trouble of depositing money in the bank, it pays me 1% It can do so only because it then takes my money and loans it out for 5% It can do that only because someone is willing and able to take that money and create more than 5% value with it.

Now, who makes the most money? We can figure this out by reasoning that a bank will never make money if it lends it out for less than it pays depositors. So the owner of the savings account necessarily makes less money than the bank. What about the business owner? If he/she makes less than the interest rate paid to the bank, that business is a losing proposition. In other words, the business has to make a 5% return just to break even.

This is of course a drastically simplified description of rates of return. The point is that the business owner has the greatest potential of making money. Note that I said potential. Business ownership entails risk, but it is essential for there to be a return on that $100 at all.

Whenever we invest our money, it provides us a return. Behind that return, there is a business, or multiple businesses, actually doing the work of creating value. If the investment is stable and strong, it can be a good strategy for providing for the future. It will never match the potential of a self-owned business, though, because too many other people take their cut first.

Wouldn't you rather get the biggest cut on at least some of your income? I would, and I'll bet you would too. Don't wait, start learning now.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why Your Goals Don't Work

Yesterday, I assigned my students a voluntary overnight project. We had discussed goal setting in class and I wanted to impress upon them the importance of writing down and prioritizing their goals. As I generally find in my classes, only a small number did the whole exercise.

I already know why many of my students failed to follow through on this well-established method for getting what we want out of life. It is the same reason many of us fail to follow through. We say we want to achieve great things, but in the end, we would really rather stay in our comfortable cocoon of low-level misery.

We know from well over a thousand studies that goals work--that is, they lead to high performance. If you want to lose weight, make more money, or achieve anything else quantifiable, goals are the way to do it. Yet we all know how easy it is to get distracted while working on a goal. Why is that?

In my view, there are two major reasons we find it difficult to achieve things. The first stems from what I call a "mind-split." On the one hand we want to accomplish what we set out to do. On the other, we are afraid that we just might succeed. If we succeed, we show ourselves and the world that we really are capable. It renders null and void all the excuses we used before, and by implication, the excuses we may want to use in the future.

The second hindrance to goal achievement is having the wrong goals. High performance does not necessarily lead to happiness and personal fulfillment. I see this in "achievement junkies," people who crave the next chunk of conspicuous wealth or yet another trophy in a sport they have grown to despise.

Learning the mechanics of goal setting takes twenty minutes. Learning to set the right goals may take twenty years. As you set out on the great journey that is entrepreneurship, remember that getting what you really want is scary and that getting what you think you want may make you miserable.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Is This Socialism?

In order to understand the premises of socialism, we need to understand two words: "from" and "to." Specifically, socialists believe that justice is served when societies observe the following rule: From each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs.

On the face of it, this sounds just. Who would quarrel with the idea that people should get what they need? It is the "from" part that get us into trouble. If life were a matter of us all standing around a pre-existing barrel of goods--food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities--and taking what we needed, one might justify this distribution rule.

Of course, we all know that is not how the things we human beings need come to exist. Except for air, basic necessities have to be created by someone. Socialism presumes it is right to take from the creators and give to others. Is that what our economic system has become?

You bet it has, but not in the way you may think.

The complexity of our economic system has allowed us to take from people who don't exist yet. How can that be? It is called debt. Debt is en extremely useful tool. If someone lends you money to buy something you could not purchase with cash, say a house, many people benefit. You benefit because you are able to use something valuable before you pay for it completely. The seller benefits because he/she can sell to someone who otherwise could not purchase. The lender also makes money.

If we had no system for borrowing and lending money, it would be nearly impossible to own anything like a house or car. Here is the problem. Not only can regular people and private businesses borrow money, so can the government. The difference is that the government borrows from future generations.

One way the government does this is to borrow money literally. It essentially issues IOUs to its citizens. The government can also print money. In the first case, debt can build until the present generation cannot pay it all off. In the second, government spends money it has "printed" and hopes no one notices that the resulting inflation has robbed citizens of buying power.

Either way, the system makes chumps of us. If we live frugally, save our money, and teach our children to do the same, we wind up feeding the government's insatiable appetite for spending at our own expense. At some point, the system has to break down. Either our children and grandchildren will have to pay absurd tax rates or the value of our currency will diminish to zero. Maybe both.

And this brings us back to socialism. If the government tried in the present to take the amount of money it needs to sustain its orgy of spending, citizens would revolt. If they hide their theft by passing it on to its future citizens, we who are right here right now may grumble, but we won't revolt.

Is this how we want to live? If so, let's be honest about it. Socialism advocates taking from the "able" and giving to the "needy." If you believe that, are you willing to look future generations in the eye and tell them that we gave and gave and gave and that by the way, they owe the bill?

I didn't think so.