Monster and the Fed


A blog post originally written for the Prometheus Institute.

---------------------------------------------------

There's a reason the earliest economists likened the economy to a human body

I’m a huge fan of Monster energy drinks.  The things are dangerous.  I have to severely limit myself.  I only consume one if I’m in desperate need of a wake-up and I know I can handle the crash that inevitably follows.

Energy drinks are basically a way of fooling your body.  When the human body needs something, it sends all kinds of signals to let you know.  When you need sleep, you feel tired.  It tells you when you need food.   You feel sick when you’ve not eaten the right nutritional mix.  Health problems kick in when exercise is lacking.  Headaches can mean lack of sleep, water, nutrition, too much stress, bad posture, etc.  These signals can be a pain in the butt – but they perform a vital function.  Ignore them at your own peril.

Your body is begging you to sleep; so you slam a Monster to make you feel like you have energy and shut down the bodily signals screaming for repose.  This may give you a temporary productive burst, but there is no long-run net benefit.  The burst is followed by a crash of equal (sometimes greater) magnitude on the opposite end.  Worse still, the greenish liquid you’re putting in via Monster has other deleterious health effects (sugar and acid which rot your teeth to name just one) that will be especially pronounced if you frequently imbibe.  So while your body is tricked into telling you that you feel great for a few hours, inside bad things are happening, and they’ll be felt in short order.

If you begin to rely on high doses of caffeine and ginseng, you find the dosage must be continually increased, which makes the crashes greater.  To avoid the crashes, even more must be taken; but this only prolongs the inevitable and causes more negative health effects.  It can get to a point where the Monster fails to give you a boost at all.  (If you’ve gotten this far, I suggest stopping vs. moving on to anything stronger).

Monetary inflation is a lot like a Monster drink, and the Fed is a lot like an addict.

The current housing “crisis” was created in part by the Fed injecting constant doses of caffeine-like dollar bills into the economy, tricking the market into thinking it had more capital than it did, and mixing up a system as vital to economics as your nerves are to your body – prices, profits and interest rates.

The problem with mortgages was created largely by the Fed increasing the money supply, causing rates to be artificially low like your body is artificially energized via Monster.  Meanwhile, the screwed up rates diverted capital and production away from its truly best use towards uses that looked deceptively profitable – i.e. the purchase of crappy mortgages banked on exaggerated equity rates.  The natural market signals were fuzzied by an injection of valueless dollars, and some made decisions based on those false signals.

As with Monster, a crash has to come.

I would say that the Fed should be as careful with inflation as I am with Monster, but that wouldn’t be a fair comparison.  They need to be far more careful than that.  When I drink Monster, I choose to do so and take the consequences myself.  When the Fed inflates they are force feeding the monetary Monster to us and making us pay for the fallout.  That’s not just economic stupidity, it’s moral transgression.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Crash, the career launch platform, and the founder of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

Featured on -

Looking for something?


Blog Archives

Archives

A Few Odds & Ends…


 

Be Your Own Credential


We talk a lot at Praxis about building a better signal than generic degrees and institutional imprimaturs.  Whether or not you have a degree, you need to learn to 1) create value and, 2) signal your ability to create value to the world.  Degrees are a very weak way to achieve either.  You need something more.

I got an email today from a guy who decided to put that advice into practice.  Check out what Daniel Myers had to say:

Hey Isaac,

You know how Praxis always talks about creating value? About taking the entrepreneurial route in your work? Well, I decided to do just that, by writing a 44-page report on business and entrepreneurship for a venture capitalist firm here in TN. I had read an article this past Fall on the Praxis website about value creation for a company instead of just shooting a CV/Resume out to everyone and expecting it to do all the work. This report has been well received by the public and has truly allowed me to create a name for myself, rather than just being another undergrad with "some resume".

All this said, I want to thank all of you at Praxis for what you do. I am continually inspired by all of you at Praxis and hope you all continue to be successful in all your endeavors. Again, thank you for your inspiration!

Best, Daniel

P.S. I'm reading Derek's book on "How to Get Any Job You Want". It aligns perfectly with what I did and will continue to do in my career.

Here's a link to Daniel's report on startups in TN.

I don't know how long it took for Daniel to put together such an in-depth report.  But compared to what?  How does time spent creating a valuable resource like that compare to time spent sitting in a classroom, blasting out generic resumes, or waiting and hoping for a cool opportunity?

Daniel gained not only a great signal of his value creating potential, but a lot of knowledge, skill, confidence, and even some free PR along the way.  In short, by creating value now instead of waiting to be invited to with a formal job offer, Daniel became more of who he wants to be, instead of waiting for someone to tell him what to do.

Go start building now.  What are you waiting for?  And of course, if you need some help, a great apprenticeship with an entrepreneur, and an intense year-long experience in value creation, discover Praxis.

Episode 61: Revolutionary Parenting, with Kevin Geary


Kevin Geary believes that both praise and punishment are crippling kids.  The host of Revolutionary Parent Radio joins me to discuss how he arrived at his unconventional approach to parenting and teaching and what it looks like in practice.  The idea that kids can, will, and want to reason and be treated like actual autonomous humans deserving of respect and honesty isn't so radical on its face, but it's so rare in practice it's come to be viewed as radical.  Kevin walks through some of the critiques and responses in this awesome, engaging episode.

Kevin is an entrepreneur who runs Rebootedbody.com and also has a site dedicated to lighting techniques for photography, Learningtolight.com.

This and all episodes are also available on SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and Stitcher.

Security Romance


A rude look and shout

A process without logic

Touched by TSA

Intellectual Property and Incentives


The standard theory behind support for creating a legal monopoly for certain ideas, processes, and inventions is that absent such promise of monopoly there would be far less innovation.

It has a surface level logic to it.  People respond to incentives.  Legal monopoly means more money for the one who has it.  People tend to like the money incentive.  Therefore, more people will innovate because they have the incentive to capture greater rewards by securing a monopoly on the production or sale of their invention.

The weird thing is it doesn't play out like this in the real world.  Something is missing.

Inventions typically spring from technicians and masters at a craft.  These are the types who are driven by a passion for what they do.  They want to solve problems, discover things, build things, and create things.  So they do.  If they seek a legal monopoly on their invention this happens after the fact.  It is hard to imagine many innovators saying, "Oh wow!  Think of possibility of solving this chemistry problem and discovering an entirely new way to do X!  Wait...get a lawyer in the lab before I go any further.  I refuse to make any discoveries without proof that I'll be protected from competition once I do."

And innovation doesn't look like that.  You can see this by observing areas without the ability to get legal monopolies on their inventions.  Fashion, food, and football are a few of my favorites.  You can copy, borrow, and imitate fashion designs, recipes, and defensive schemes with abandon.  Many people do.  Yet each of these fields is as dynamic as any industry, constantly evolving and introducing new things.  Apparently the innovative offensive coordinator, cook, and designer don't require the promise of monopoly to entice them to innovate.

People do respond to incentives.  This is a fact of life and one that need not be overturned to overturn the belief that IP laws are required for innovation.  Any good economist will tell you that incentives are many, and value is subjective.  The innovators are certainly responsive to money incentives, but 1) legal monopoly is not the only or best way to earn money for inventions and, 2) money isn't the only incentive driving invention.

As for number one, consider how many people are typically working on a similar innovation simultaneously.  With the current IP regime, only one can get the monopoly.  If we want to take incentives seriously, what kind of incentive does this create for all the others?  Furthermore, the one most likely to get the monopoly is the one with all the lawyers and accountants and resources and willingness to take others to court, not the one with the greatest contribution to the discovery.  This would seem to drive upstart innovators away from the task for fear of being sued by the big guys as much or more than it would drive them to innovate for the possible promise of securing a patent.

As for number two, while the promise of monopoly may be the dominant incentive for lawyers and R&D departments, it's not the dominant incentive for inventors.  They innovate first, driven by a passion for the task, the desire to solve a problem, create their dream, help a colleague, or improve their own daily life with some small innovation.  Yes, they want and seek money for the invention once successful, but the absence of a promise of monopoly does not stop them from creating.

Understanding incentives is crucial to really understanding how the world works and how to change it.  But an elementary look at incentives that examines only dollars and cents and only their intended, not actual, beneficiaries will not get you very far.

For more on the problems with intellectual property laws, check out "Against Intellectual Monopoly".  It's excellent.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program making degrees irrelevant for careers. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

Featured on -

Occasional Email Updates

[mc4wp_form id="3197"]

Looking for something?


Blog Archives

Archives