A couple of entries ago, I said:
Yet in spite of all of it; ALL of it, the average guy all over the world is far better off than he was 10 years ago, or 20, or 100, or 1000, or 5,000. In spite of all the evil, we do better and better. As an individual, the chances are ever greater that you will live a longer and more prosperous life than anyone who has come before you, and the father back you go to compare, the greater the chances and the greater the disparity.
Today, Billy says:
Nevermind the conceptual basis of freedom for protests that people ought to be left alone to attend their own affairs without the forcible interference of various imperiots. You’re living better than a hundred or a thousand years ago, and all the Web-order catalogs prove it: you’re free to buy anything you want with the productivity that you are permitted to dispose, and that’s the thing that counts.
John Maynard Keynes always had the right idea.
So let me clarify, because if it wasn’t clear to Beck, then it likely wasn’t clear. Whether or not I’ve forgotten everything I ever learned from Hayek, and embraced Keynes (which is not the case, in case anyone’s wondering), I’m of course not talking about all the stuff we can buy. What I’m talking about is the plain fact that we have the opportunity to make a great life for ourselves, so there’s no excuse for not doing so.
Before I even graduated from High School in 1979, I knew I wanted to be a Navy officer. My dad had been an enlisted man in the Air Force. Our means were modest. I worked full time my first two years in college; borrowed money to finish (long since paid back in full, with interest). I earned my commission in 1984 and enjoyed eight glorious years of world travel. In all eight years of service, I pulled into ports all over the world many dozens of times, on a half-dozen different ships, yet I never pulled into a US port, ever. This was just the way I wanted it. The Navy, to me, was about adventure and being “out there.” Dream fulfilled.
My college degree was in business. Moreover, I discovered rugged individualism about 1990, my guiding philosophy for the rest of my life. I had intended to make a career of the Navy, but philosophy changed my sense of life, which changed everything. I decided to start and build a company. My Navy commitment was up in 1992, and I made a clean break.
I failed at business number one inside of a few months. I failed at business number two by about the six-month point. Got a job in order to slow the drain of money I’d saved while I regrouped and went at it again. I did go at it, and on the third try, thought I had it nailed. But in the end, it turned out to be a lot of hopefulness without a lot of substance. By this time, I was nearly out of money, had liquidated my IRAs, cashed out a couple of insurance policies, ran up credit cards, etc. I had several hundred dollars left when I spent $87.50 for a business opportunity book—of all things—about helping financially troubled businesses negotiate deals with their vendors. So, there I was. Couldn’t get a successful business going to save my life, and now I’m going to go tell other businesses how to fix some of their problems.
Here I am, about 12 years later, and the company (now with a co-founder, since 2001) with its roots in that spare bedroom occupies over 8,000 square feet of office space and employs 30 people. We never borrowed a single dime from anyone. We let the “dot bomb” pass us by entirely.
OK, so what’s my point? Lamentable as it is, all the crap that goes on every day, all the hoops we have to jump through and all the unnecessary expense—in spite of it all—I can’t imagine not having done this. That I live in a world where I can do this is wonderful. It used to be impossible, and you know what, not only are more people doing it, but more are doing it as a percentage of everyone.
Yes, a lot of my efforts are outright stolen. I have to spend a ton of money, down the drain, just to comply with a bunch of stupidities that people with “perfect” jobs in government dictate. A jack-booted thug in a fancy suit working for the US government could probably take it all away from me tomorrow if he set about to do it. And if that happened, I’d curse them; I’d fantasize about committing cruel acts against their person; I’d morn my losses. Then one day, I would get up and do it all over again. And I would do it all over again. Probably something completely different, but the line of business I’m in has never been important for me. This is an important key to what I’m saying, here.
That I could and would rebuild my little empire may not be a great consolation to anyone, and the truth is, it’s not to me either, but the chances are that won’t happen. The chances are that I’ll have to keep paying my legalized bribes from here on out and be fine. None of this, and none of these fanciful risks offer me the slightest motivation against not forging ahead at full steam. And, especially, I can forge ahead, and that’s really what’s so critically important. I can. You can. Anyone can.
I guess that rigidly standing on principles is fine and admirable. It’s a good thing, to be commended and respected. It’s just that for me, having a big idea, setting a big goal, working towards it, ultimately accomplishing it, and finding some love along the way is immeasurably more important than how pure my stand on principals. If a few essentially meaningless compromises are required along the journey to achieve greatness and splendor in one’s life, it’s a cost I’m willing to pay and a cost I’d encourage others to pay as well.
We have only one life to live.