Behold, the almighty Nail Gun. Symbol of human ingenuity and productivity, and also builder of my new house.
This particular one, my trusty Ridgid R350, has blasted just over 10,000 large nails into the framing members of this residence, and perhaps 100,000 additional ones into the other houses I have built or worked on since 2006 when I first bought it.
At the time it cost me $300, or about a single day’s wages for a self-employed carpenter. It seemed like an incredible bargain back then, since it can pay for itself in saved labor (compared to hand-driving those framing nails) in less than one day. And since 2006, the price of this machine has dropped by a further 25%, even as the prices of oil, steel, and even labor rates in China where these things are made have all risen.
As recently as my own childhood, nailguns were incredibly rare and expensive, and much bulkier – used only by large construction companies. Nails were driven with hammers, because nobody could afford the gun. Today, I personally own five different sizes of nailguns, because the boost in productivity and work quality greatly outweighs the cost or the loss of manliness caused by the automatic driving of fasteners. In turn, I am using the time saved by these nailguns to write this article for you.
This example, although rather specific to my own favorite hobby, is the perfect illustration of why we are not all doomed. And the more thoroughly you understand and celebrate this phenomenon, the richer your life will be. Richer in monetary wealth, happy experiences and a lifetime of inner peace. And richer in an intellectual sense too, since everything makes more sense when you understand the true nature of how the world works. So let’s dig a little deeper.
The Doomer culture is alive and well in the peripheral areas of the mainstream media and the Internet. Crash predictors moan about the unsustainable levels of debt in this country or another one. The crazier ones turn to gold and silver, or ammunition and tinned food as their first and last line of defense. Even here in the intelligent confines of this blog’s Forum section, people wonder whether an upcoming financial crisis will wipe us out*.
If we’re not fearing financial market collapse, we are fearing cultural destruction. The middle-class is being milked by the capitalists and will eventually crash and revolt, or the most productive members of the world are being suppressed by an ever-more-burdensome state, depending on which side of the political aisle on which you sit. Either way, this is unsustainable and we are doing everything wrong, so we had best get worked up about it and post angry comments all over the Internet.
Doom, doom, doom. Sure, things may look pretty good right now if you look out your window. Sure, you’re reading this on a fancy-ass computer with a belly full of expensive food and nice clean clothes. But this is all fake. Tomorrow, the suffering begins.
I would like to present an alternative perspective, one with practical implications for good living for people of every wealth level.
- Understand that everything is currently Fucking Great, and base all decisions on the general belief that things will continue to get more Fucking Great all the time.
- Use this information as a happy basis to work hard, learn as much as you can, and deliver great value and help others as much as you can for your entire life.
- Waste as little of the proceeds from this activity as possible, reinvesting them into doing more of step 2, further building and compounding both your strength and your happiness.
Yep, that’s all there is to it. It is bold, cheesy, simplistic and contains some profanity just to let you know I really mean it.
Yet it is oddly similar to the wisdom Warren Buffett just repeated in this year’s annual letter to shareholders. In that classic, he compares market crashes and financial crises to a mouthy neighbor shouting his estimate of your farm’s value over the fence at you, while you are busy producing food from the land and the sunshine.
Humankind’s ability to live well and prosper depends at its core only on productive land, sunshine and our collective knowledge. While the first item on the list is currently under some attack, the second comes with a billion-year guarantee and the third is increasing so rapidly that it should easily be able to correct our current failures in the land department.
In fact, this whole website is one tiny contribution towards that correction – a chunk of human knowledge that grows over time and helps to solve an existing problem. Just like a nailgun.
So when you see people flailing their arms and saying things like “We’re doomed! The Fed’s rate of QE is unsustainable and the resulting debt Armageddon is going to plunge us into hyperinflation!” you could substitute the words, “We’re doomed! China’s production of nailguns is unsustainable and we will all soon be plunged into hand-driving nails again forever!”
The nailguns are not going anywhere. We have figured out how to make them, and that knowledge will never be lost. This human invention has forever raised our productivity and can never be taken away.
Similarly, the financial system, another machine that greatly raises productivity, is just another human invention. Even in 2008 when things got hokey and a big house of cards collapsed, some humans just stacked up a few new cards in a haphazard way and we all agreed to continue using it, and thus we all remained happy and productive.
All of this will continue as long as most of us choose to remain happy, productive, and cooperative. This is inevitable, aside from those few doomers over there yelling stuff over the fence.
Wow. Inspirational stuff, Adm Karpinsk. But how does this apply to me specifically in the area of getting rich?
In less fluffy and metaphorical terms, this means:
- Invest your money in index funds and real estate rather than “protecting” it while trying to predict the next collapse. You’ll still own your piece of land or your slice of thousands of businesses regardless of what the guy on the fence is yelling about what he would pay for it at the moment.
- Invest your time in furthering your own education, health, and meaningful relationships, rather than drowning in worry, consuming passive entertainment, or protecting yourself from failure.
- Produce value for the world much more than you consume things from the world. Producing is a happier activity, and the inevitable money surplus caused by this habit will allow you to capitalize on, rather than being crushed by, fluctuations in the general upward trend of those first two tips.
Are you going to be the one continually foretelling collapse, or will you spend the day out here growing some food for yourself instead?
*Thankfully, the general consensus was that we’ll be fine, which is a good indicator for the future prosperity of those in the discussion.