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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.

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Lies Are Boring


Ego & Hubris is the story of Michael Malice, told by American Splendor author Harvey Pekar in graphic novel form.  It's an incredibly entertaining read because Michael is incredibly honest.  Most of us tell lies most of the time, and they make for lives and personalities that appear far more boring than they actually are.

Some of the reviews I read for the book treat Michael as some kind of heinous person.  After all, he can seem vindictive and rude.  Like the time when his boss was being a jerk about him spending time with his grandmother who had cancer.  Malice later discovered the boss's wife got cancer and thought it served him right.  Sounds horrible when you read it.  But it's a very honest expression of a feeling many people would have in the same situation.  The difference is most people would lie about how they felt - to themselves and certainly to someone writing their biography.

If you watch interviews with celebrities, no matter how different the people's lives, the interviews are all quite similar.  They're boring.  Safe answers are given that keep up an image that will offend the fewest fans.  Fans pretend to want these lies.  When a famous person is honest, everyone feigns offense.

When politicians talk during campaign season, the mutual lying reaches absurd heights.  Imagine the shock - shock! - if a candidate for office said, "Yeah, I know there's some charity event to raise money for poor children tonight, but frankly I'm just too tired to go."  Or, "You know, my opinion on Sub-Saharan Africa doesn't really matter because there's not much I can do about it."  Honesty like this would be branded callous, and make a lot of people uneasy.  This despite the fact that every reasonable person would agree that it's OK to be tired and not feel like going to an event, even for a good cause.  Every would-be voter knows that Sub-Saharan Africa really doesn't matter all that much to them.  So why do they pretend they want it to matter to a candidate?

There's a lot of lying going on.  Public figures lie about who they are, what they do, and what they feel.  If they slip and let a little honesty through, the public lies and pretends to be offended.  It makes for a pretty boring spectacle.  It's one of the reasons I don't read or watch the news.  It's so phony and everyone knows it but no one dare admit it.  If we're all gonna play pretend, I'd rather follow professional pretenders in well-crafted pretend stories in the movies, novels and TV shows.

When people let their real questions out, and public figures give their real answers revealing their real feelings and thoughts it's pretty entertaining and enlightening.  The more honest radio interviews, for example, are usually done by people called "shock jocks".  Sure, they say some silly stuff just to be different, but they tend to also ask the type of questions most people actually want to know.  In the giant lying game of public life, we have to dub them "shocking", because nothing is more shocking than honesty.

We see it in celebrities but rarely in ourselves.  Part of the reason we don't talk honestly about ourselves is because we don't know ourselves very well.  We know the self we wish we were better than the one we'd actually be happy being, or the one we actually are.  Self-knowledge precedes self-honesty.

Sometimes I meet one of those rare people who, like Michael Malice, knows who they are and doesn't pretend to be otherwise.  It's refreshing.  They can be a little intimidating because they are used to honesty and can see through BS in others as well as in themselves.  It's also intensely interesting and challenging.  It reveals how shallow most human interactions are.

Our actual identities are far more interesting than the lies we tell about ourselves. The narratives and carefully constructed biographies we publicly project are boring and second rate compared to the fascinating truth of who we really are.

Learn the truth about yourself, and don't hide it.  We'll all have more fun.

Most People Go to College to Feel Normal


Most people don't go to college to learn. That can be done much easier and less costly in myriad other ways.

Most people don't go to college to become well-rounded. That can happen through any number of experiences.

Most people don't go to pick a career. They could try working different jobs to learn quicker, and most don't work in what they major in anyway.

Most don't go for the practical value of the credential. I've never met a college student who actually inquired with employers what they view as the best credential.

Most people don't even go to college for the social experience. How many examine all the ways to meet people, party, etc. and firmly conclude college is the best way for them to have fun?

Most people go to college to be normal.

It's the normal thing. They want to meet normal people, make normal friends, learn normal facts, have normal experiences, and appear normal to family, friends, and future employers. They take it on faith that college is good, beneficial, educational, career-enhancing, a great social experience, worth the cost, etc., rather than really examine these oft repeated tropes. They want them to be true because they want to list these normal reasons for doing what's normal.

College can be great. Besides, it's too late for most of us to consider alternatives. But if you are pre-college, ask yourself what you really want out of it. Look long and hard at other ways to get what you want. Weigh the costs. Be prepared if you find college is not the best way...you may discover your best path is not normal. Are you ready and willing to bear the social costs of an abnormal choice? It might be worth it.

Monopoly Is Everywhere; Monopoly Is Impossible


Concern over the power of "monopoly" is often given as justification for government intervention in the economy. It shouldn't be. There is no logically consistent definition of monopoly that warrants interference in market. Furthermore, government efforts to disperse market power tend rather to concentrate it, particularly among those best at playing politics, rather than helping consumers.

What is this monopoly thing that is so feared?

Monopoly is often described as two-pronged: complete control over a unique resource, and the ability to be a “price maker”. ("Price maker" means to set the price you want to sell at rather than responding to market conditions and being a "price taker"). Once you define monopoly, you realize what a meaningless concept it is. One of the two prongs is inevitable; the other is impossible.

If monopoly means control over a unique resource that no competitors can sell, everything is a monopoly. Every single product is unique. I have a complete monopoly on the product “public appearances by Isaac Morehouse”. No one else can offer it. What kind of power does this give me?

Sadly, I cannot charge whatever I want for public appearances simply because I have a monopoly. I've tried, and so far no one has been willing to pay $50,000 for this unique good over which I have sole control. (Email me if you're interested.) In other words, I (and everyone and everything else) satisfy the first prong of the definition of monopoly, but that doesn't help me with the second prong. I'm not a price maker.

In fact, no one is a price maker. OK, I suppose anyone can make any price they want to, but in order to actually sell something – no matter how valuable – they're constrained. Think of a product that you need badly and can’t really live modern life without. How about gasoline. Why doesn’t Exxon start charging $20, $100, $1 million per gallon at the pump? What would happen?

Life would change pretty dramatically for some people, maybe just at the margin for others, but almost no one would pay that price. Even if all the oil in the world were controlled by one company (a scenario almost impossible to imagine absent government intervention), they still would not be a price maker.

Even complete control over a resource that people really need does not a price maker make. The firm faces substitute goods as a very real form of competition. McDonald’s burgers are not competing only against Wendy’s burgers. They are competing against Subway’s subs, mom’s PB&J, or going without lunch altogether. Firms are held in check not just by substitute goods, but by potential competition. If gas is too costly, new or old technologies become more profitable. Bicycles and solar cars both take a chunk of consumers.

So the first prong of monopoly, control over a unique resource, is everywhere. The other prong, the ability to be a price-maker, is impossible. In reality, firms and consumers are constantly moving up and down to varying degrees on being price takers and makers. There is no complete maker or taker. The market is a process of discovery, and if we want the best outcomes, we need to worry about keeping the process free and unencumbered, rather than the particular distribution of resources among firms at any given snapshot in time.

Efforts to fight the myth of monopoly and make the market look more like make-believe “perfect competition” make things worse. They often result in the one kind of monopoly that is dangerous; the one maintained by force. Forced monopoly, or forced price floors or ceilings, or the breakup of firms or the prevention of mergers, or any other intervention creates artificial markets. They shift entrepreneurial activity away from innovation to serve consumers and towards efforts to ensure regulation benefits me and harms my competitors.

We're all monopolists, yet none of us are price makers. Stop worrying about it.

The Myth of Self-Regulation


No business, product, service or industry can self-regulate. All must and will be regulated by some external entity. The question is who or what?

In a market, regulation is inescapable. Firms are regulated by wholesalers, retailers, capitalists, workers, packagers, shippers, competitors, consumers, shareholders and public opinion. These myriad regulators are exacting. They apply pressure from every angle, on every aspect of business. Get sloppy with your purchasing practices and wholesalers make better deals with your competitors. Overlook product safety and consumers and public opinion slap you down. Make frivolous expenditures and your source of capital and shareholders head for the hills. Drive too hard a bargain with employees and productivity declines or they leave you for another firm.

Firms have room for experimentation and risk-taking, but they have full responsibility to all of these market regulators for the outcome. No firm is a "price-maker" in a market. No firm is a compensation, safety, or policy-maker in the market either. All the parties to which they answer set the terms. Oh sure, firms can do what they want; unless they seek profit. Profit demands that they obey the regulators that fill the market across the whole production chain. It's not easy.

Firms that have become successful and large tend to get tired of the constant regulation. They want a reprieve from the demands of stakeholders. To gain freedom from the regulating market, firms seek the comfort and stability of government regulation.

Government regulation is nothing like market regulation. It's yoke is easy for the well-connected and deep pocketed, but often unbearable for the shoestring upstart. Market regulation is blind to size, wealth, political affiliation, slickness, religion or creed. Government regulation is built upon them.

Market regulation keeps an open invitation to anyone who wants to join the ranks of regulators; though promises no one their opinions will have a final say unless they prove worthy across the market. Government regulation is strictly closed off to anyone except those long-loyal to the party in power, and promises that the elite cadre of regulators' opinion is final and binding. Market regulation is nimble, swift, constantly adapting, inescapable and unrelenting. Government regulation is ham-handed, slow, hidebound, avoided with a little craftiness, and backs off for a favored few with the right mix of political moves.

Market regulation is created and enforced by parties that stand to gain or lose by the actions of the regulated; parties who gain real-world expertise on the regulations effects. Government regulation is created and enforced by parties with no connection to the regulated actions or items, except the few politically connected firms that agitate for it. Market regulation draws on the dispersed knowledge of millions across the globe, from experts to anonymous users. Government regulation pretends a handful of elites can outthink the millions.

Market regulation seeks only the betterment of all market participants, regardless of which firms offer it. Government regulation seeks to destroy some firms for the benefit of others, regardless of what they offer market participants. Market regulation is by the many, for the many. Government regulation is by the few, for the few.

Self-regulation is not an option. The question is who's a better regulator, markets or government?

There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Public-Private Partnership’


It's long been a trend for local and state governments to create agencies and entities that are supposed to enhance commercial activity in their area.  There are myriad legal and logistical arrangements, but they all have some common features.  They're all reliant on government in structure and law, they all use taxpayer funds to accomplish their projects, and they all love to use newspeak phrases like, "public-private partnership" to describe their activities.

An online dictionary definition of partnership is useful:

"A legal contract entered into by two or more persons in which each agrees to furnish a part of the capital and labor for a business enterprise, and by which each shares a fixed proportion of profits and losses."

And,

"A relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal."

Clearly, government economic meddling projects do not fit either of these definitions.  How can "the public" enter into a partnership?  How can "the public" share in profit or loss?  In reality, governments take money from people in their vicinity by force, then they give some of it to suits in an agency who give it to favored businesses and investors.  "The Public" never agrees to anything.  There is no mutual cooperation and certainly no responsibility or profit/loss sharing.

The absurdity of calling it a partnership can be illustrated with the following thought experiment.  Imagine your friend took some money from your wallet, deposited it in his checking account, kept most of it for himself and gave the rest to another guy to start a business.  No strings attached, just a gift of start-up capital.  Then your friend started publicly talking about how this was a partnership between you and startup guy.  After getting over your initial anger that he took your money and didn't even consult with you before throwing it after some business venture, you try to consider the possible upsides of this unjust act.  You ask him if that means you will own shares in the company.  No.  Does it mean you get some percentage of any profit?  No.  Do you get an interest payment on your stolen and loaned money?  No.  He assures you it's OK though, because neither are you on the hook for any losses (besides of course the loss of the money he already took, which you'll never see again.)  In other words, this is nothing like a partnership.

What you get is money taken from you, spent on middle-men who are paid to give the rest to whatever business they want to.  You are not a partner, you are a victim.  Partnership implies consent.  Partnership implies shared benefit and responsibility   Partnership implies choice.  There is no such thing as a public-private partnership.

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.

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