The Ten Commandments of The American Religion

This is a cross-post from James Altucher‘s blog Altucher Confidential. His previous appearances on the Freakonomics blog can be found here.


If I stood in the center of Times Square and said something like “Moses didn’t really part the Red Sea,” or “Jesus never existed,” people would probably keep walking around me, ignoring what I said.

But if I stood there and said, “Going to college is the worst sin you can force your kids to commit,” or “You should never vote again,” or “Never own a home,” people would probably stop, and maybe I‘d lynched. But I would’ve at least gotten their attention. How? By knocking down a few of the basic tenets of what I call the American Religion.

It’s a fickle and false religion, used to replace the ideologies we (a country of immigrants) escaped. Random high priests lurk all over the Internet, ready to pounce. Below are the Ten Commandments of the American Religion, as I see them. If you think there are more, list them in the comments.

The below is an excerpt from my just released book, I Was Blind But Now I Can See

The Ten Commandments of the American Religion

#1 Thou Shalt Own a Home. The American Religion wants you to have a home with a white picket fence. Why would the high priests of the American religion want that? A couple reasons:

So that you owe the banks money for 30 years or more (after second, third, or fourth mortgages). The banks need to borrow from your checking account at 0.5% to be able to lend right back to you at 8%. That’s how they make money and it’s one of the largest industries in the world.

Also, owning a home makes you less flexible in terms of where you can move. The job market is ruled by supply and demand. Supply of jobs in an area is finite. So they want to make sure you can’t move so quickly so that demand only goes up.

#2 Thou Shalt Go to College.
There’s the myth that going to college leads to a better life, or a “promised future.” Almost like how the contract Abraham had with God would lead to Judaism being a group of “chosen people.” A couple of points:

Statistically, there’s no proof that smart, ambitious, aggressive people won’t benefit enormously from a five-year head start against their peers who choose to spend five years doing homework and drinking beer and going to frat parties. And don’t quote me the stat about the differences in salaries between college grads and non-college grads because there’s enormous selection bias in that stat and it’s like comparing apples and oranges right now.

The government needs to pay off $74 trillion in Social Security in the next 50 years. They have to make money somehow, so student loan debt is now higher than credit card debt for the first time in 50 years. Imagine that: we send our children off to college and then 5 years later (the average time spent in college by those who graduate) they come out owing the government $100,000. Thank God the government gets to exploit our kids so they can pay off the promises they made under Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War.

There are so many exciting alternatives to college. I list some of them here. I’m excited for my children, because I hope they have experiences that will change their lives forever rather than going into the rat race so they can end up ignorant, in debt, and working at nonsense jobs so they can pay off the gangsters who have guns pointed right at their heads.

One anecdote: the guy who caught Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit is a sales clerk at Verizon with $150,000 in student loans. Why couldn’t he get a better job with his college degree? Why did he give Jeter the ball back? Jeter is going to make $100 million in the next few years. This guy could’ve paid his loans back and been free. Freedom is everything. But he wanted to be a “good guy.”

The American Religion needs you to be in debt; needs you to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to read the same Plato you could’ve read in the bathroom at your local library. “You’ll have a better life,” they say. “Your life is secure now.” Right, you are fully secured by the shackles they hand you on graduation day.

[See, Living Life Is Better than Dying in College]

#3 Thou Shalt Recognize that Some Wars Are Holy. Everyone argued with me in my post about “Name me a war that was worth it.” Apparently some wars are “holy” and can’t be argued against. All I want is to prevent 18 year-olds from dying. That’s the basis of my argument. We can argue all the history we want after that.

#4 Thou Shalt Obey the Constitution. There’s no document more sacred (as it should be) in the American Religion. And yet, just as the principles of the Bible are often forgotten by its highest adherents, ditto goes twice over for the U.S. constitution. For instance, who has the power to declare war? The House of Representatives according to the Constitution. The House hasn’t declared war on anyone since 1941. The U.S. Constitution is the Holy of Holies in the American Religion. Until those moments when we break the rules. Then everyone looks the other way. “We had to do it that way,” goes the common refrain. “To protect our way of life.” Someone is always protecting me and my way of life. I’m fine thank you.

[See my post: July 4 is a Scam]

#5 Thou Shalt Give to Charity. Because the American Religion, unlike most religions, doesn’t have a strict code of ethics, giving to charity is often considered the sign of a “good person.” A couple of points on that:

Giving to charity costs money. So the best people in the American Religion then are the ones who have the most money to give.

Volunteering is more and more difficult for people who have to pay back student loans and exorbitant home loans. Good luck volunteering when your children need to be fed or when you are an indentured servant thanks to your advanced learning in the ivory tower.

Let’s go over the math of every dollar you spend on charity. When you give $100 to a major charity, most of that goes into the bank. They then invest the money. On the interest they make on their investments, a percentage goes to actual charity, another percentage goes to salaries. So for every dollar you give to charity, about 2 cents a year, give or take, goes to the actual charitable cause you wanted to support. Now let’s break that down even further. How many charities have executives making over $500,000 a year. More than a few. And let’s say it’s a medical charity. Now most of the money is going toward drugs that cost billions of dollars to approve. See the next point.

[See my post: A Better Way to Donate to Charity]

#6 Thou Shalt Obey the Food & Drug Administration. What is this organization? And does it do any good? The FDA requires that drugs go through trials to prove their safety and effectiveness. That sounds good, right? Before you give an 80 year-old a drug for cancer, let’s make sure it doesn’t kill him first.

It costs billions to build those trials and the FDA can shut you down at any point. Companies raise those billions from charities and from individual investors, who usually lose all of their money when the FDA shuts down a trial. But what’s the solution?

Well, we have the Internet now. We have social media. We have “word of mouth” on steroids. That’s what technology and innovation is for. Lets get the drugs out there. We can all see which scientists worked on them and what their backgrounds are, we can all read the patents, we can read real-life experiences from people using the drug. The Internet will conduct “virtual trials.” Will people die? Yeah, but people die in FDA trials too. Will more lives be saved? Of course! Many drug companies just give up (they can’t raise the money even if their drugs are miracle drugs). Now they can get those drugs out there and we can really see. If I have a terminal disease, I want the FDA to get out of the way and let me ingest whatever I want.

#7 Thou Shalt Always Vote. When I wrote the other day that I don’t vote I got quite a bit of violent email. That I was somehow ruining the country. Really?

I live in New York. So I know my vote is meaningless no matter which way I vote. And I’m tired of voting for congressmen who supposedly represent my interests, but then make deals with lobbyists and other congressmen for bridges to nowhere, and then get hired as vice-chairmen of Goldman Sachs when they “retire” after years of “public” service. I’m fine representing my own interests and I’d rather vote directly on issues.

So why can’t I vote on the Internet? I can read all about the issues there. I could vote directly on bills, presidents, wars, drugs, whatever I want. If I could vote directly on issues, instead of sending a “representative” in my place, the costs of lobbying would go from the millions to the billions, which would deter the corrupt lobbying industry and further give more power to the people. And then, maybe things would actually get done in this country. In the article below I explain why all the initial reasons for the legislative branch (as it stands now) are obsolete. And the beauty of the U.S. Constitution is that it can change.

[See my post, Politics is a Scam – Why I Will Never Vote Again]

#8 Thou Shalt Choose Between Two Political Parties. We’ve basically had two parties for the past 200 years. With occasional offshoots. I don’t believe in either party. And I bet a lot of you don’t either. It’s all a way for a select few to push through an agenda that is going to change constantly over the years anyway. This is not a new opinion. Most people hate the two-party system. So let’s change it.

Again, with the Internet, I’d rather be a party of one and just vote for what I want on every issue. I’m perfectly willing to read about the issues of the day and vote directly. I don’t need to have my congressman represent me. How many ethics scandals are going on in Washington right now? And, how many should be going on that we don’t even know about?

#9 Thou Shalt Recognize the Media as the “Fourth Estate.” There’s this weird idea that’s developed over the past 50 years that the media is somehow a “check” on the other three branches of government. This is ridiculous but people still don’t get it.

Six months ago everyone was panicking that radiation from Japan was going to get blown over San Francisco. Did that happen? Of course not. But the media doesn’t apologize for the thousands of people who got sick taking iodine pills, or who spent weeks away from supposedly radioactive areas.

And let’s not forget the whole “debt ceiling scare.” Every week there’s a new fear. I obviously don’t think the media should be shut down. But there certainly should be a greater sense of responsibility than simply scaring the hell out of people with a new topic every. single. week. I am so bored of the “fear of the week,” I’d rather watch Snooki all day long rather than another “fear of the week” analysis from the pseudo-experts who are desperate for screen time.

[See, “How Snooki Can Help Stop Violent and Sex-Crazed Children”]

#10 Thou Shalt Forever Progress Toward the Frontier. My kid had to read about Lewis And Clark this summer as she prepared to go into the fourth grade. The “frontier” is a beautiful, almost spiritual concept. The idea that we can always expand, always improve. For the first several hundred years after the Europeans took over North America, we expanded into every unmapped territory. But then something went wrong.

We’re missing out on the more subtle points of the word “Frontier.” For the past several decades we’ve expanded into the frontier of technology, creating everything from computers, to rockets that go to the moon, to the Internet, and many cures for many diseases (polio, smallpox, etc). But now our innovators, technologists, and creators have to pay down their homeowner debt, their credit card debt, their student loan debt. They have to vote for people who never truly represent them and get us further and further into trouble. The government puts more and more hurdles in front of our creators.

Who knows what further twists and warps the American Religion will take to destroy us more than we’ve already been destroyed. At the end of the physical frontier is the ocean and we’re all being pushed into it.

I love this country. But I get sad when I see all of the above. When 18 year-olds are sent to get killed while 60 year-olds can’t get the drugs they need to survive. Where the government and banks and even charities take all my money. Where commercialism in its worst form conspires to take the remaining dollars of my salary.

I’m not political. I’m not in any party, nor do I believe in any particular political philosophy. For me, I believe in the impossible. That change, even at a mass level, only comes from the inside of each individual. That if each person tries to remain physically healthy, emotionally healthy, mentally healthy, and spiritually healthy, then the country itself will rise to new heights never seen before in the civilization of man.

A height without mythology, without the dream of immortality, without fantasy notions of a “better life” that turn out to be just lies. Without deeper and more complicated mechanisms to control the masses. Where mediocrity is not rewarded with power over the creators. I know, I’m asking for too much.

So today I’m going to do what I always do. And it has nothing to do with anything in this article.

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.



  1. Greg says:

    “Before you give an 80 year-old a drug for cancer, let’s make sure it doesn’t kill him first.” – Exactly, because younger people never get cancer.

    “we send our children off to college and then 5 years later (the average time spent in college by those who graduate) they come out owing the government $100,000.” – Exactly, because the $100,000 figure you invented at the end of the sentence must be a typical debt, since you took the trouble to say “average” in the beginning of the sentence.

    Mr. Altucher: you have some good ideas, and also some ideas that I don’t think are good but are at least defensible. But your posts prove, time and again, that you are more interested in being a contrarian than being open-minded; you are more interested in hyperbole than you are in accuracy; you are more interested in manipulation than you are in information.

    Freakonomics: Mr. Altucher’s cross-posts lower the standard of intellectual honesty of your blog.

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    • James Altucher says:

      Thanks for the response. I’m glad you like the ideas. I research everything i write but I can write an entire book in a single post. I’m not interested at all in being a contrarian. Rather, i think we should begin to look at things with open eyes and seek true transformation in many of the ills in society rather than just the band-aids we are attempting.

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      • Mike B says:

        Assuming that you are actually the real James Altucher I will agree that you aren’t trying to be a contrarian, because its clear that you just want to sell your books. While your life plan to become a self-made self-help guru may have worked out fine for you, it’s not a sustainable path for everyone. Go peddle your easy answers to a crowd that isn’t used to actual analysis.

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      • James Altucher says:

        Well, whatbooks exactly am I trying to sell because if you go to my blog and read my posts onself-publishing you’ll see I give my books for free and I give negative reviews to my prior books before that. So I’m not trying to be a ‘self-help guru’ or anything of the sort.

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      • James Altucher says:

        So I give specific details onhow people can self-publish their books. I also explain why someone would want to, at the risk of ruining my relationship with traditional publishers, and i give out my book for free, andpeople still put 5 dislikes on the above comment. I’m glad people are interested enough to even read this but Im trying to understand the ranking system.

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      • Mike B says:

        The dislikes are for you personally. The content of your comment doesn’t matter if its motivation is disingenuous.

        Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6
      • Sean E says:

        Ummm. So basically your response to the fact that you are a contrarian is, Nuh-uh! I am not!

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      • James Altucher says:

        Sean, thanks for the comment. If you read what I actually wrote it says, “I’m not interested at all in being a contrarian”

        I didn’t say I wasn’t one. Other people can call me that label but I have zero interest either way.

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    • pawnman says:

      Agreed. I think my favorite quote was “Statistically, there’s no proof that smart, ambitious, aggressive people won’t benefit enormously from a five-year head start against their peers who choose to spend five years doing homework and drinking beer and going to frat parties.” Then he attempts to discount the statistical differences as “selection bias”, despite the fact that every year of education will add, on average, 4% more earning power over your life. Not to mention the fact that the unemployment rate for college graduates is less than half the national average. As well, there is no requirement to go into debt to go to college. College is not some scheme cooked up by the government to keep social security solvent. I went to college, and I’m doing my best to ensure my daughter will as well.

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      • James says:

        Notice also his assumptions (which I suppose arise from his own narrow view of life) in the statement “here’s no proof that smart, ambitious, aggressive people won’t benefit enormously from a five-year head start against their peers who choose to spend five years doing homework and drinking beer and going to frat parties.”

        Fine, and maybe even true of a limited set of people. But suppose you happen to be smart, but are not particularly ambitious or aggressive; that in fact you don’t really see wealth accumulation or entrepreneurship as the be-all and end-all of life, but would like to find interesting work that pays enough to allow you to live comfortably? Suppose further that you don’t intend to spend any significant portion of your college career drinking beer and going to frat parties? In point of fact, though my college runs through a PhD, I’ve never been to a frat party, nor had the slightest desire to go to one. I could also find plenty of occasions to drink beer outside of college, were I so inclined.

        In short, his prescriptions are just as much a religion as the so-called American religion he denigrates.

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    • Jenny Li says:

      It’s not that younger people don’t get cancer–his point is that while some FDA rules initially make sense, a lot of them don’t.

      College debt obviously ranges, we all know that. His point isn’t that college debt = x, but that with the sharp increase in cost for college education, costs may outweigh the benefits.

      I’d rather listen to both sides of an argument–i.e. someone point out the holes in a widely held belief (everyone should go to college, everyone wants to own a home, etc) then just think that everything that is, must be right. Wouldn’t you?

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      • James Altucher says:

        Jenny, thanks. And good points. Last year we had a nationwide debate about healthcare. Healthcare costs have gone up 3 times faster than inflation since 1977. College costs have gone up TEN TIMES faster and yet…no national debate. Things like this need to be questioned, whether one agrees about going to college or not. Student loan debt is now higher than credit card debt for the first time in history. This is a shame that we are graduating a generation of indentured servants and not inventors and innovators.

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      • Matthew says:

        I am also very concerned about the rising rates of colleges. Is this an attempt at one of the following:
        -Make sure schools make plenty of money to stay in business
        -insure that the debt of an average grad cripples them for atleast a decade
        -Make it harder for students with less financial mean to get into and pay for college
        -Improve education and life for all
        As a professional educator I would hope it was the latter, but it typically appears to be the first three in my opinion. Yes, there is financial aid for students who cannot afford it, but these students often do not finish college. So now, these students have a debt that can rival the debt of a college grad, but now they do not have the degree that would theoretically help pay it off sooner. I have not researched this greatly, but I would look forward to any feedback that Mr. Altucher may have. Thanks

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  2. Ross says:

    I really don’t understand why the good Freakonomics folks keep giving this guy airtime. His rants are uninformative, poorly reasoned, and lack any significant insight or new ideas. A classic example of blogosphere behavior: write something radical enough and you will get attention no matter how nonsensical it may be.

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    • James Altucher says:

      You say they are not new ideas. but they are also radical. I think the reason I get “airtime” is that they provoke such contrary emotions in people.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 36 Thumb down 37
      • Ross says:

        Radical may have been the wrong word, contrarian is better. Don’t buy a house, don’t go to college, don’t vote, don’t trust the government or the media. There can be value in challenging widely accepted practices, but only if you provide some new information or angle, which you don’t, in my opinion. Your writing is provocative without being thoughtful or constructive. In your own words, “pseudo-experts who are desperate for screen time.”

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      • PreemptivePlacebo says:

        Inertia is a strong force. If you feel like you are driving in the wrong direction and you wish to change course, you must first acknowledge that another road might possibly exist. That’s when you start to watch out for a turn.

        Chances are if you are not watching inertia will pull you right past without your knowledge.

        Conventional wisdom has a great deal of inertia. James is like an eight-year-old riding along in the back seat who won’t shut up. “Here comes an intersection. There goes another one…..”

        People hate back-seat-drivers most when they turn out to be right.

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      • edel says:

        He never said we should “not to buy a house” or “not to vote”. He says that those should not be considered like a must for everyone…
        Sorry, I found his post very interesting and thought provoking indeed.

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      • James Altucher says:

        Thanks, edel. I really wonder why questioning these conventions engenders such angry responses.

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      • Mike B says:

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • Neil (SM) says:

        I think he didn’t even say that. To me it came off more like just a slightly-negatively-toned glimpse of what he calls the American Religion.

        Basically, these seem to be the things we believe in the most, and it’s interesting that when anyone questions them, many people go berserk. Like many are doing now. Immediately attempting to discount everything he says.

        But I think we have to dig a little deeper to find his point. Maybe many of these “commandments” and conventional wisdom are correct for most of us. But shouldn’t we be able to discuss and question them to find out for sure, rather than just taking it for granted?

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      • James Altucher says:

        You say “not constructive” but I think here and throughout the links I mention I offer solutions. I don’t attempt to be contrarian at all. I just think its healthy to look at the institutions we hold dear and question them.

        I am hardly desperate for screen time. Maybe try to get to know me and my writings a little before you say that.

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      • John B says:

        It seems many people on this site only want to be spoonfed their preferred way of thinking.

        When someone actually forces them to really think, they fall back on trite arguments and attack the writer.

        I don’t agree with all his claims, but each and every one of them gives food for thought. Too many of this site’s “college graduates” find actual thinking and challenging preconceptions way too hard.

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      • James says:

        You ideas may or may not be radical, but they are in many cases flat-out wrong, being apparently the product of your own very narrow-minded ideas of the right way to live.

        Take for example your “never own a house”, which you justify in part by saying that owning makes it harder to move in search of jobs. Some of us – I hope a lot of us – don’t live to work, we work to live. Having a house & garden (sans white picket fence, but with some 3-board fences around the horse pastures) in a place where I can easily get out to hike or ride in the mountains or by the lake (and ski in the winter) is a large part of what makes life worth living for me.

        Or college: there’s probably some truth to what you say, if you’re only going for a liberal arts degree (see the recent thread). But I suggest you try getting a job in science or engineering without at least a BS before proclaiming that it’s universally a bad idea.

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      • PreemptivePlacebo says:

        Jonah Lehrer did a wonderful blog post a while back about the commuter paradox, where people overestimate the additional happiness they will derive from purchasing a larger home and underestimate the misery that will be caused by an increased commute.

        Commuting makes us miserable. More so that almost anything else in our typical day. Those of us who commute long distances often do so because we are fixed in one place. We own a home.

        Two income families who rent can easily move and triangulate their commutes. They can move to the best school district as needed. They can move to the exact sized home they need at that moment.

        They can even move to a town with an excellent public stable.

        Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2
      • Mackenzie says:

        Fine then, it makes it harder to move to see the world! Get a job where you can work from home then move to a new city or even a new country every year going from 12-month lease to 12-month lease. Now, THAT would be living the life.

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      • James says:

        “Commuting makes us miserable.”

        Which is why I telecommute :-)

        The point here is that, contrary to JA’s hypothetical “American religion” or his own counter-religion, there is no one right way. One size does not fit all. Some career-oriented people might prefer urban living cubicles close to their work (shared Manhattan studio, anyone?), others perfer to adjust their work to their chosen lifestyle, or the place they choose to live.

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      • Matthew says:

        Anytime, throughout history that a person “thinks outside of the box” there seems to be alot of criticism and emotion that follows. Also, people that state information (without bias) will cause conversations that evoke great enthusiasm (for or against) due to pre-conceived ideas on anything from religion, politics, and/or finances. I think that it is important to try and decide things for yourself rather than buy into any one person’s viewpoint. Hopefully these types of posts, articles, book, and/or conversations will help each person to individually decide what they believe. Whether it is what society says he/she should believe (example: everyone must own a house, must go to college, money doesn’t solve problems), it is important to decide how you look at the world. Thanks for the thought provoking posts!

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  3. BL1Y says:

    I think not voting is often more patriotic, if done purposefully. If you don’t know enough about the candidates, stay home and let people who have done the research have a bigger say.

    Also, not voting signals to third parties that a larger portion of the population is up for grabs. However, it would may be more effective to vote for a third party; decreased signal that your vote is up for grabs, but increased signal that you actually vote.

    Sometimes I’ll just vote by alternating parties. Not liking either of the main parties, I’d rather neither have complete control.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5
  4. JohnS says:

    Some of these points directly contradict earlier material published on Freakonomics, such as the claim that college is meaningless – there have been natural experiments that strongly suggest that going to college pays off.

    Also, most of these commandments are about pointing out what doesn’t work, then suggesting that “getting rid of” that thing will make it work – but without any practical evidence that it will actually make the situation better. It’s just a bunch of hand-waving to appease people vaguely upset about the current state of America. As Greg said – its contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. When will Freakonomics stop publishing material from this guy? Frankly, I expect better material from this blog.

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    • James Altucher says:

      The stat usually passed around about college is that college graduates have higher salaries 20 years later.

      Unfortunately, Statistics 101: selection bias. When smart, aggressive, middle class kids go to college they will have higher salaries 20 years later than the less ambitious kids who chose not to go to college. I have yet to see a real statistic on this matter.

      To do the correct test: take 2000 people who are accepted to college this year. Randomly select 1000 of them and say you CAN NEVER go to college. Then see where all oftheir salaries are 20 years from now.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 22 Thumb down 18
      • Marci Kiser says:

        I too am in the camp of agreeing with one or two of these points, but when they’re this astonishingly glib I’m instantly turned off.

        Unfortunately, like the crack about ‘giving to charity’, JA lumps all of ‘going to college’ together, as if every person is going to college for the same reason and receives the same benefit. He makes no allowances for those who learn specialized skills such as medicine or law or engineering, and acts as if we all come out with a BA in Communications.

        I’m an MD. I make a good living doing what I do, and everyone who does what I do spent a long time in school learning how. We have ruinous student loans and often don’t get our first real jobs until we’re 30, but I have yet to hear a better system as to how to produce someone that’s qualified to fix the bleed in your brain before you end up a vegetable.

        As to the notion that ‘the Internet’ will allow people to conduct better trials and information-sharing than the FDA, it’s obvious JA confuses the Internet for the perfect competitive market. This is probably why he hasn’t noticed that the Internet allows one to exist in a world in which vaccines cause autism and acai berries cure everything, including berry overdose.

        (Also, I love some of the ‘stats’ that get posted. Don’t want to go to college? Just ‘get $10,000′ (presumably from between your couch cushions) and go to India.)

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      • Sam says:

        I think you’re missing the point here. It’s not that you should never be charitable or that nobody should ever go to college. The issue is that the “religion” tells us that giving to ANY charity or going to ANY college is a good thing. Making the decision on a case-by-case basis is fine.

        The reason he calls it a “religion” is because these are commandments that shall not be broken. If you just take the opposite of these commandments – never vote, never give to charity, never go to college … then you are just creating another “religion.”

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      • James Altucher says:

        perfectly said.

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      • Neil (SM) says:

        What you’re missing here, is that J.A. is not saying for sure that college is good or bad for everyone.
        Maybe that we just haven’t been questioning the assertion that it is a must for everyone. And therefore we haven’t been able to do any realistic studies like the one he mentioned.

        You’re sort of making his point for him by getting defensive about his questioning.

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      • James says:

        You know, there is a real world experiment being conducted right now. Look at the salaries of people from poor 3rd-world backgrounds who came to the US to study science & engineering (or got advanced degrees in their native lands), and got jobs in the US. I do believe that, on average, they do a lot better than the “smart”* middle-class American kids who either don’t go to college, or get the aforementioned degrees in communication and such.

        *Assuming that after a childhood of TV and video games, there are any smart American kids.

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      • D Lin says:

        It would appear from this note that you would accept nothing less than a controlled randomized study to determine the effectiveness of college. Perhaps we should have a similar standard with regards to pharmaceuticals.

        I think that personal reviews are useful for Yelp and Amazon. I would hesitate to rely on anecdotes for medications. I have a respect for sites like, but I see them as producing leads rather than conclusions. Also, it seems like social media is the sort of place where misinformation can quickly spread, leading to things like excess consumption of iodine. ( Finally, although I don’t understand the implications, I am slightly concerned about how such a plan would interact with the digital divide.

        I have severe reservations about conducting clinical trials “virtually.” Internet polls are considered less accurate than phone polls, because the methodology is much less rigorous. Also, some studies may require tests that cannot be easily be performed by amateurs at home. By the time you put together enough of an administrative framework to make sure that people take their pills on time and to check for side effects, you would probably be pretty close to how a clinical trial is conducted currently. I think this is one of those areas where you get what you pay for.

        I am not in the biomedical field, but I would imagine that the FDA does not shut down trials out of spite (or corruption), but only if the drug is proving ineffective or harmful. In this way, they are protecting people from snake oil salesmen. People who [have loved ones that] are facing life-threatening conditions are probably far from rational. They are more than willing to cling to anything that can give hope, and they will fight assiduously for that faith, for the right to ingest the magical cure. There are people who take advantage of this. Perhaps they believe in their treatment as strongly as their patients. Nonetheless, people still visit faith healers and wear magnetic bands. Perhaps this is a good strategy for some people, after all doing something is better than doing nothing. However, this is not how science is done. Science is about [expensive] experiments, and I think we should have more, not less.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4
      • JohnS says:

        As I said, there have been natural experiments regarding college, some of which have been written about on this blog, (For example ) and they all support the notion that college is worth it. You really should read Freakonomics, it’s (usually) a great blog!

        You said you hadn’t seen any statistics supporting this idea. Can I ask how hard you looked?

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1
      • Enter your name... says:

        Well, technically, they showed that college is worth it—but not that *everyone* should go to college. If you actually want to be a taxi driver, ballerina, or auto mechanic, you’re normally better off going to specialized training for that, rather than a full college degree. There’s no good reason for an aspiring respiratory technician or business secretary to get a four-year college degree rather than to complete a specific post-secondary training program.

        We used to have those. Remember “vo-tech schools”?

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      • pawnman says:

        Except that in their radio show, Levitt and Dubner disproved this with a little “natural experiment” called Vietnam. People who would not normally have gone to college did so to escape the draft…and they made far more than their blue-collar counterparts from similar backgrounds over the long-term. Essentially, conducting the experiment you are talking about. Also keep in mind that college degrees are essentially required for many high paying jobs…I’m not going to hire a chemical engineer or an architect who was just “highly motivated” in but didn’t go to college.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0
      • James says:

        There’s also probably data for an inverse experiment: people (like me) who had the qualifications but not the money for college, and so enlisted, or otherwise spent some years working at non-college track jobs before getting a degree.

        Granted that I’m only one data point, but I’ve made a lot more money after college than before, with less effort and far more enjoyment.

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      • Mackenzie says:

        But many software houses would absolutely hire a software engineer who’d never spent a day in a university setting but has a nice pile of patches on GitHub.

        Also, it’s kind of hard to get a well-paying job if you’ve got PTSD, are blind, and only have one leg.

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      • pawnman says:

        Perhaps, but I think you’d have a hard time getting a job as an investment banker, or even the store manager of a Wal-Mart, without a degree.

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  5. Allen says:

    Why do you keep linking stories by this idiot? Is it just to generate traffic? Because there’s nothing “freakonomics” about it — just random unsupported ravings.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 13
  6. Nathan says:

    I’m relatively surprised by the dislike of my fellow commenters. Pretty much every one of these points is, at the very least, worth questioning. While the proposed alternatives/solutions aren’t exactly thrill worthy, can anyone honestly say that, for example, the current political landscape is actually representative of the people?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 11
    • James Altucher says:

      It’s unclear to me why people anonymously post stuff on the internet. I think, in general, it’s been a hard decade foreveryone and people who are angry and have been hurt by it use this as an outlet to get that emotion out.

      Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 19
      • James Altucher says:

        but i do notice my posts get far more anonymous facebook likes than hateful negative comments so I’m grateful for that.

        Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 16
  7. Chaz says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 23
  8. AdamY says:

    Nowhere in all that rambling did I see anything resembling a statistic. I actually agreed with some of what you said, but a lot of it just seemed like ranting. At least when other writers on this site make claims I don’t agree with they have reasoning to back it up. There is none of that here.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 4
    • James Altucher says:

      Adam, thanks for the question. If you click on the links that support each item I actually give MANY statistics to support the solutions I propose.

      Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 12
  9. Ali S says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 23
    • James Altucher says:

      Thanks Ali, The truth does hurt and many people don’t want to face the hard work it takes to undue the brainwashing.

      Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 17
      • JohnS says:

        Oh no no, don’t try and rationalise people criticising your articles into “well, they are bitter” or “it just proves my point”. The criticism here is well founded, and assuming that your detractors are just lazy or misinformed is incredibly arrogant.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2
      • James Altucher says:

        It;s amazing how many people can only prove their point by using insults. Thebest way to havea discussion here is to read thepost, read the references and stats I link to, and then say, You know what, I think you’re wrong and here’s why, and try to be polite about it. When people just dish out insults to someone they don’t know then my only assumption is there is something else at play other than the content of my article. Meanwhile, its got almost 200 facebook likes so clearly some people out there agree with me.

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      • JohnS says:

        But people aren’t posting insults, many of the comments to your posts are pointing out the faulty logic, misused statistics and inconsistencies found in your posts, but you don’t seem to reply to them. And when your best response is that you got many likes on facebook, well, that doesn’t help your case.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0
      • Mike B says:

        Generally in debate club the first side to claim that the other is “brainwashed” loses.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0
  10. The Hill says:

    I’m guessing Greg and Ross are both from the US. What Mr Aultucher says is all fairly obvious looking in from the outside gentlemen.

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    • jm says:

      thank you at least one person on the planet is thinking outside the box, married with kids
      and they still haven’t fooled you into the rat race, you are a rare duck!

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  11. AndrewB says:

    The best part of this post is how the author quickly and without snide comments answers the comments. It would be great if this happened with most of Freakonomic posts, as well as on other blogs. Keep it up Mr. Altrucher.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 3
    • James Altucher says:

      Thanks Andrew, I plan on continuing to respond. Heading to sleep now but will be back in the morning.

      Thumb up 11 Thumb down 7
    • Mike B says:

      There’s no authentication, that person could be anybody, possibly even some sort of comment bot.

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
      • James Altucher says:

        Well, I can assure you I’m the real thing. Why don’t you facebook friend me, I’ll reply with a confirmation and then I’ll unfriend you. That process would only be done by someone who is me and who has written this comment.

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      • James says:

        Because I don’t use Facebook, and indeed – in response to your previous comment about anonymous posts – can’t really understand why any sane person would post their personal details on the internet.

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      • James Alrucher says:

        I was just supplying a method he could use to confirm my identity. The issue of privacy and identity on the Internet is worthy of a separate blog post.

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  12. Matt says:

    He likes randomized controlled trials over observational studies in theory (to determine whether college is beneficial), but thinks they shouldn’t be applied in practice (to tell which drugs are helpful or harmful).

    Hormone replacement theorpy killed a lot of women before randomized controlled trials figured out that it was harmful. Would social media do a better job?

    Lots of people think wearing magnetic bracelets will improve their health. They probably learned that on the “Internet, through social media and through “word of mouth” on steroids.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 0
    • Ulysses says:

      Sigh. Yet another thread about the unfreakonomical nature of James Altucher cross-posts. While his tone is by far the least freakonomical of anyone writing here, his posts are always at least loosely related to macroeconomics, and often very closely related. Frankly I’m more interested in what he has to say than I am about the origin of quotations and colloquialisms, which has precisely nothing to do with economics.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 6
  13. Chris says:

    Ohhhhhhhh he is a friend of Dubner’s thats why he is able to post here. Probably a nice guy, but a terrible addition to the blog. I honestly read freakonomics significantly less because of him.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 7
    • James Altucher says:

      Well,I think everyone who posts here is a friend of some sort. But I do have 7 books out, attended grad school, started and sold several businesses, and have been writing for the financial times and wall st journal for the past 8 years.

      Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7
    • Sam_L says:

      “I honestly read freakonomics significantly less because of him.”

      But you are here. And posting. “The Lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3
  14. PoliticalHack says:

    The title and promise of this article piqued my interest, but then I read it. Sigh.

    Reading each item, rather than reading statistics and well thought out logic to back each one, I was given a bunch of suppositions and anecdotal references to why each one did not fit the author. It reminded me of Mr. Altucher’s article on why he would never buy another home – then telling us why we’d be fools if we ever bought another home, but having backed that up with life experiences that affect him and maybe 2% of the population.

    I like the FDA, at least the idea of it. Think of the wonders of Phen-fen and Vioxx – why worry about one or two people’s insides rotting due to untested (or undertested) drugs, when folks can get thin and feel better? (Should Mr. Altucher need to make a few extra bucks, drug testing companies are always looking for bodies to test on.)

    I come to Freakonomics to read articles that have logic and data supporting them. Looks like I can skip some of the articles – at least the ones with the byline at the top of this one.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1
  15. rick says:

    #2 Thou Shalt Go to College. There’s the myth that going to college leads to a better life, or a “promised future.”

    Well, well educated people do earn more money. If you plan ahead your kid does not have to be in debt.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3
    • edel says:

      As I am doing a prestigious MBA now, I cannot stop thinking I could be equally happy being the lab technician I was many years ago. Maybe we should not measure money as the goal, but wellbeing.
      Said that, i recognize is harder in the US to take that option when compared to Denmark or Germany. Maybe that is why university is free in those countries, otherwise few would have chosen that path.
      By the way, I did travel the world for 2 years after high school, and did volunteering for another 2 and at the end decided go to college and finally graduate school. Nevertheless i would not have changed a bit that “lost decade”. I can see why college is not for everyone, just for those that like that approach of learning rather than by experiencing. The society should value both paths equally.

      Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
      • James Altucher says:

        Thanks for the comments. This isn’t a reply to any one in particular but some commenters are bringing up the fact that I have no “statistics”. Just to mention: there are links under each point that link back to posts that have many statistics. I did not intend to write a whole book on this blog post but I link back to many reference points. I hope people get a chance to check those out before judging the research and work I put into these. Thanks.

        Most of all, I do think it’s important to look around at the society we’ve build for ourselves and occasionally ask the question, “is this what will bring me happiness?” We are often identified by our labels: he’s a writer, he’s an academic, he’s an environmentalist, he owns a home, etc but nobody ever says “he’s happy” and leaves it at that. Questioning the labels we ascribe to ourselves and why we feel the need to do that is a big part of “religious freedom” which is why our ancestors came to the US in the first place.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3
      • Laura says:

        Mr. A, I think I’m in love with you.

        Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3
      • pawnman says:

        I checked the link under your point about college…a link back to your original article about college, with a similar lack of statistics. I’ll throw my own statistics out again: every year of college gives you about 4% more income per year (so a 4-year degree is worth about 16%, per year…nothing to scoff at over a 40 year career). In the current dismal economy, the unemployment rate for college graduates is about half that of the national average (4% versus 9.5%). Finally, as a big fan of the Freakonomics podcast, I’m going to side with Levitt’s assertion that education pretty much ALWAYS results in a better financial position.

        The debt part can be debated. Is it worth $100,000 in student loans for a BA in philosophy? Probably not. But there is no requirement for that kind of debt to get a decent education.

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    • pawnman says:

      There is a certain amount of irony in having a college graduate tell you not to go to college. Attempting to thin the competition, perhaps?

      Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4
      • James Altucher says:

        where is the irony? Who would be more qualified than a college graduate to tell you the ills of graduating college?

        Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3
      • Mike B says:

        A peer reviewed study?

        Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
      • James Altucher says:

        define “peer”

        Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5
      • Mike B says:

        Because an answer specific to you wouldn’t pass the moderation I’ll just say people with the skills and abilities to vet statistical claims and data.

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      • Michael Peters says:

        Do you think that your life would have been better if you hadn’t been to college? That everything you learned there that you use today you could have taught yourself? I honestly do think that for some people college is a waste of time, but they are very much the exception to the rule and in my experience they already know that about themselves.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
      • James Altucher says:

        It’s obviously impossible to know if my life would have been “better”. How do you define “better”? But I do know I would’ve graduated with less debt and more knowledge in my field of interest.

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      • pawnman says:

        Well, do you think anyone would have hired you to do any computer programming without a degree? Would anyone care about your blog if you didn’t have those work experiences? Can you honestly say that you would have been as successful professionally without a degree?

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      • astorian says:

        Despite his denials, it’s clear that Mr. Altucher enjoys being a contrarian and takes some pleasure in pushing people’s buttons. As a result, many people are (understandably) quick to dismiss him as a crank.
        But try to look beyond his tone and ask yourself if he doesn’t have a point.

        As it is, I DO own a house and I DID go to college, and I have absolutely no regrets about either of those things. But people should think long and hard before committing money to a house or college tuition, because it’s NOT immediately obvious that either of those things is always a good investment.

        I like having space and a yard for my son to play in, and in my case, I have little doubt that I could sell my house and a substantial profit. But there’s often a LOT to be said for renting. People often repeat the mantra that “Rent is just throwing your money away,” but really, is that true? When I was single and lived in a rented apartment, I didn’t have to worry about repairing the air conditioning, hiring a roofer, mowing the lawn, replacing the siding or the insulation… get the idea? I actually got a LOT for my money!

        I repeat, I LIKE owning my house- but owning and maintaining a house ALWAYS costs more than you think it will. Depending where you live, that may or may not be a good value. People SHOULD do a lot of research and think carefully before deciding whether buying a house is a good investment. It’s NOT the no-brainer people long assumed it would be.

        The same is true of college. I went to a fairly prestigious college, and I learned a lot there. But as a practical matter, how much of what I learned comes in handy at my job? Answer: not much. In truth, a high school graduate who’d taken a few computer programming courses at the local community college would have been about as qualified for my first job as I was.

        Now, in SOME professions, advanced study of very specific topics is essential. If you want to become a physician or a mathematician, you undoubtedly DO have to go to college. But is a psychology major from UCLA really much more qualified for an executive job than a high school grad who’s been a banker’s secretary the past 4 years? Is an English major from Ohio State automatically better qualified for an executive job than a high school grad who’s been manager of a McDonald’s franchise the past 4 years?

        College MAY be a great investment for you, if you study the right things. Owning a house MAY be a great investment for you, as I believe it is for me. Just don’t take those things for granted!

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      • James Altucher says:

        I recently funded a company co-founded by a high school dropout. Its revenues have gone up every month and is now profitable so i definitely would hire programmers if they didn’t have adegree.

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  16. Jon says:

    Mr. Altucher, many people are complaining about your contrarianism, and how you seem to make statements without backing them up.

    Here are the top ten reasons why I don’t like your posts.

    #1. Your posts always include a list of items, numbered or lettered. Most items are quite unrelated except that they fit in the wide category in your title, such as “America.” This “grocery list” writing style is uncreative and, frankly, boring.

    #2. You always have several links to other articles you have written previously (there are 12 in this article). Other bloggers do this, even regular Freakonomics articles, but not to the extent that you do. This is annoying and it makes you seem arrogant and egotistical, given that you hardly ever link to articles written by others.

    #3. I don’t agree with your economic or life philosophy. Your posts seem to value making money over all else, but for me, life is not about how much money you make. I am a senior college right now, and regardless of how much money I make in the future, I am positive that college was the best thing I could do for myself. I got to spend four years learning from the wisest in our society, engaging with highly motivated peers, making friends, and finding time to have fun, too. My professors push the boundaries of my thinking in a way that I could not do on my own.

    I will continue to vote because I want people like me, who have gone to college, to be the ones voting. I hope my peers do the same.

    When I am older, I will give to charities even if they are flawed because I am not a selfish ass, and I realize that most of the world does not live in a cozy house where they can watch Snooki all day. I will also try to make sure the charities I give to are actually helping others.

    I will continue to follow the constitution because I feel it has sound and moral principles, and I have a social contract; it would be irresponsible to not obey our constitution.

    Well, actually I only have those 3 reasons why I dislike your posts, Mr. Altucher. I feel sorry that you have to listen to all this negative criticism. Some of the things you say are thought provoking, which is a good thing- that is in the style of Freakonomics. But there are many things that could make your articles better, not the least of which are cited sources backing your provocative claims. Congrats on the book.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2
    • James Altucher says:

      Hmm, thanks for the well-thought out comment. It seems like you have not read my other posts. Most of my “economic or life philosophy” hasnothing to do with money but more about the obstacles we place in front of ourselves before we can find happiness. The idea, forinstance, that “college leads to a better life” is a mistaken philosophy (in my opinion) and it’s fair to address it.

      Also, I appreciate that you find my posts boring. Many don’t (i get many favorable comments, likes, etc.) I also appreciate that you feel the need to share with me that you find my posts boring despite the evidence that many people don’t.

      However, sinceI’ve written here many times, and obviously accrued many facebook likes both here and on my blog, you can just choose to simply not read orcomment on my articles when you see them.

      So it suggests to me that something about my articles actually does effect you in some way (clearly negatively but strongly) so that you are compelled to act out something in response. In fact, maybe you wish me to feel bad or insult me. Sadly, that won’t happen.

      I should also mention that about 80% of my blog does not include numbered lists although I have nothing against numbered lists. Perhaps I should even do more of them since the numbered lists tends to attract the most traffic.

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      • Jon says:

        I wasn’t discussing whether “college leads to a better life,” although nothing you’ve said has convinced me it won’t. I’m just saying that “college is a great part of life.” I and most people I know wouldn’t give up being at college for anything. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy college more.

        I’m glad you seem to take negative criticism well. I don’t like criticizing anyone negatively, but I disagreed strongly with almost everything you wrote in this post, and I don’t think your articles have a place on this blog because you need to give more evidence for your statements than your own articles and random anecdotes. I obviously don’t read all of your posts, only the ones that make it to the Freakonomics blog. And most of those have been lists. You also talk a lot about yourself.

        I don’t really care how many people enjoy reading your posts. I’m sure the people who read your blog have a greater tendency to like what you write. I would guess a majority of people who read this blog do not enjoy reading your articles, due to the amount of likes for posts that call for your removal from the blog, but I won’t contest that you do have some fans. And I think the Freakonomics audience is pretty fair– most of the actual insulting comments are “disliked.”

        Oh, and please write whatever you want, Mr. Altucher. The constitution protects your freedom of speech. I just probably won’t agree with much of anything you say. I’m glad that you don’t vote.

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  17. jncc says:

    “Well, we have the Internet now. We have social media. We have “word of mouth” on steroids. That’s what technology and innovation is for. Lets get the drugs out there. We can all see which scientists worked on them and what their backgrounds are, we can all read the patents, we can read real-life experiences from people using the drug.”

    Yeah, and let’s let car manufacturers sell any cars they want. We have the internet now. We will know what cars are safest in crashes. We can all read patents.

    My God, you are an idiot.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2
    • James Altucher says:

      Thanks for the comment. I guess you are being sarcastic. But I should point out that a body of standards is not necessarily a bad thing. I’m not suggesting that auto manufacturers put out cars that will kill you. In fact, i think if they did then Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” would quickly put them out of business.

      Also, I think in general, calling anyone an “idiot” anonymously is probably not the best way to make an argument but then again, I’m not trying to argue with you.

      Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
    • pawnman says:

      Agreed. We have the internet now, where Jenny McCarthy will tell you that vaccines cause autism and Dr. Atkins will tell you that you can lose weight by eating nothing but bacon.

      Let’s face it, the internet has nothing approaching the level of rigorous, peer-reviewed study that the FDA requires. For every single drug on the market, including Tylenol or even coffee, I can find dozens of blog posts and tweets that will tell you how that drug is causing health problems. If we relied on the internet and social media to screen out drugs, there would be no drugs on the market at all.

      There is an alternative. Most electrical appliances are tested not by the government, but by Underwriters Laboratories. I’d be thrilled if we could come up with a non-governmental alternative to the FDA…but I don’t think that alternative is a bunch of uninformed people shouting at each other in Facebook posts.

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  18. jncc says:

    “We can all read the patents.”

    Here is a dumbed down summary (from Wikipedia) on how Lipitor works:

    “Atorvastatin undergoes rapid oral absorption, with an approximate time to maximum plasma concentration (Tmax) of 1–2 hours. The absolute bioavailability of the drug is approximately 14%; however, the systemic availability for HMG-CoA reductase activity is approximately 30%. Atorvastatin undergoes high intestinal clearance and first-pass metabolism, which is the main cause for the low systemic availability. Administration of atorvastatin with food produces a 25% reduction in Cmax (rate of absorption) and a 9% reduction in AUC (extent of absorption), although food does not affect the plasma LDL-C-lowering efficacy of atorvastatin. Evening dose administration is known to reduce the Cmax (rate of absorption) and AUC (extent of absorption) by 30% each. However, time of administration does not affect the plasma LDL-C lowering efficacy of atorvastatin.

    Atorvastatin is highly protein bound (?98%).

    The primary proposed mechanism of atorvastatin metabolism is through cytochrome P450 3A4 hydroxylation to form active ortho- and parahydroxylated metabolites, as well as various beta-oxidation metabolites. The ortho- and parahydroxylated metabolites are responsible for 70% of systemic HMG-CoA reductase activity. The ortho-hydroxy metabolite undergoes further metabolism via glucuronidation. As a substrate for the CYP3A4 isozyme, it has shown susceptibility to inhibitors and inducers of CYP3A4 to produce increased or decreased plasma concentrations, respectively. This interaction was tested in vitro with concurrent administration of erythromycin, a known CYP3A4 isozyme inhibitor, which resulted in increased plasma concentrations of atorvastatin. Atorvastatin is also an inhibitor of cytochrome 3A4.

    It is primarily eliminated via hepatic biliary excretion, with less than 2% of atorvastatin recovered in the urine. Bile elimination follows hepatic and/or extra-hepatic metabolism. There does not appear to be any entero-hepatic recirculation. Atorvastatin has an approximate elimination half-life of 14 h. Noteworthy, the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitory activity appears to have a half-life of 20–30 h, which is thought to be due to the active metabolites. Atorvastatin is also a substrate of the intestinal P-glycoprotein efflux transporter, which pumps the drug back into the intestinal lumen during drug absorption.[21]

    In hepatic insufficiency, plasma drug concentrations are significantly affected by concurrent liver disease. Patients with A-stage liver disease show a 4-fold increase in both Cmax and AUC. Patients with B-stage liver disease show an 16-fold increase in Cmax and an 11-fold increase in AUC.

    Geriatric patients (>65 years old) exhibit altered pharmacokinetics of atorvastatin compared to young adults, with mean AUC and Cmax values that are 40% and 30% higher, respectively. Additionally, healthy elderly patients show a greater pharmacodynamic response to atorvastatin at any dose; therefore, this population may have lower effective doses.[19]”

    Why don’t you have grandma read through that so she can decide whether Lipitor is safe for her. She can read patents, right?

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0
    • James Altucher says:

      I’m not sure: is this question addressed to me. I don’t believe I recommend that anybody’s grandma reads a patent.

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      • jncc says:

        I thought you said we didn’t need the FDA because “we can read patents”

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      • pawnman says:

        Ah, so you propose a group of people just go ahead and take the drug with no idea what it does, and they can post their results online for the rest of us?

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  19. Forgotton Umbrella says:

    #11 Thou Shalt beget children

    Costs you more money than a house and education combined for the pleasure of spending the entirity of your free time pandering to a random third wheel.

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  20. Leslie McCalister says:

    The FDA is far from perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than outsourcing drug research to the internet at large. Posting whether or not Advair works for me won’t account for the placebo effect, mean reversion or selection bias (of who volunteers the information). Consider the antioxidants, which the FDA does not regulate as drugs. People eat them like candy, thinking they’re curing cancer when current research indicates nothing of the kind (Cochrane Review, Unseat the FDA, and you’re going to see a whole lot of magic elixers.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0
  21. Names Lie says:

    I liked this post, Freakonomics: is the hidden side of everything, hidden meaning something you can’t see and everything meaning everything. Without people like you and the other Freakonomics bloggers we will never take a critical look at what society tells us is “fact”.
    Thank you Mr. Altucher

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    • James Altucher says:

      Thanks Names. I think that’s exactly thepoint. We blindly believe so many things and just by the reaction here I can see that questioning these facts has touched a huge nerve.

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      • pawnman says:

        Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they are blinded by “faith” in the “American religion”. I’ve posted my statistics regarding college (approximately a 4% increase in annual income per year of further education, and the unemployment rate for college grads is about half the national average). Maybe instead of telling me I’m just disagreeable, you can post some statistics that show high school graduates are just as competitive in the job market as college graduates. Please don’t tell me you’ve linked to those statistics in your article…you’ve linked back to another of your posts regarding college, where you suggest that a college-age kid should spend $10k on a trip to India without telling us where the kid will get the money in the first place, and certainly nothing approaching statistics regarding the employability of high school graduates versus college graduates (although I submit that national labor statistics tell us that college graduates are twice as employable…seeing as they have less than half the unemployment rate).

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  22. J says:

    1. “Also, owning a home makes you less flexible in terms of where you can move”

    But a lot more flexible in terms of what you can do with your property. And less flexible doesn’t mean no flexibility at all, though that requires careful selection.

    2. “One anecdote: the guy who caught Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit is a sales clerk at Verizon with $150,000 in student loans. Why couldn’t he get a better job with his college degree?”

    What was his major?

    3. Pacifists are basically sanctimonius parasites who exist because better people than them are willing to do the dirty work that makes their existence possible.

    4. Your arguments support the idea that we should obey the constitution.

    5. Do you have stats to support this one? I’m sure there are charities like the one you describe, but most aren’t.

    6. Mostly agree on this one; I think we should have an FDA, that makes recommendations, but they should not have the authority to restrict what drugs we use, or require prescriptions to use them except in cases such as antibiotics, where overuse can destroy the efficacy of the drug itself.

    7. You should vote. Not sure I agree it should be made much easier.

    8. This is the case; you can pretend you don’t do this all you want, but you do.

    9. Agree pretty much completely.

    10. “But then something went wrong.”

    I know you produce a few complaints, but they range from things that aren’t really that bad to stuff every culture in history has had to deal with. For example, I believe the ability to borrow money is a net positive, though some people use it to do things that are ill advised, like borrowing $150K to get a degree that qualifies you to work at a Verizon store. I’d love a perfect world too, but I’m not holding my breath. We’ve done pretty welll with the hand we were dealt.

    “maybe I‘d lynched”

    No, you’d be ignored like everybody else trying to preach in Times Square. Hey – there’s an Olive Garden!

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  23. George says:

    Commandment XI: Thou shalt pay attention to trolls.

    Fortunately, I can break that one, starting now.

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    • James Altucher says:

      Even though many of the “trolls” are both anonymous and insulting I think in some cases it’s worth addressing their concerns. That said, I probably have over-answered at this point.

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    • pawnman says:

      Not everyone who disagrees with your assertions are trolls. I’ve attempted to be very respectful, although I disagree with pretty much each point on the list.

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  24. Jonathan says:

    There is a much closer tie between American Scripture and the 10 Commandments!
    #X. Thou shalt believe. Once we have your belief…it’s all good. (James, it seems you fail to recognize the significance of no other god before me. That’s where the genius is.)
    #X+1. Thou shalt equivocate – particularly among Freedom and Democracy. (That’s why X is so handy!)
    #X+2. Thou shalt believe the your nationalism is not, and their X-ism is evil.
    #X+3. Thou shalt believe that the belief (xref X) is self-evident.
    #X+4. Friday, Saturday, Sunday….whatever. I’m tired of this shit and need to take a small break. Let’s call it a weekend.
    #X+5. Thou shalt honor the Founding Fathers. (See X). I know they didn’t like black people (or consider them people….just 3/5…) but at least they told George to piss off. Tea baggers.
    #X+6. We should incorporate some natural, reasonable laws that even cave men understood. Don’t kill each other or you will die.
    #X+7. Don’t screw your neighbors wife, because if you do, X+6 might not seem reasonable.
    #X+8-9. Or his other shit.

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  25. Ben says:

    Here’s my question for Mr. Altucher: Do you take these extreme positions because you actually believe them, or because you hope that by being extremely contrarian you might possibly sway some people at least a bit more towards the center? Because I think that most of your points, while interesting, are pretty much indefensible if you take them to the extreme like you do. Can we do better in each of these areas? Absolutely. But I think that the solution is probably not to throw every institution (elections, FDA, college, charities, etc.) in the paper shredder.

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    • James Altucher says:

      Thanks for the question Ben.

      I take these positions because:
      A) I strongly believe them
      B) I have no idea (or care) whether they are contrarian ornot
      C) I think people would be happier if they paid more attention to questions like this throughout their lives.

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      • pawnman says:

        You strongly believe all your points? So in your opinion, America would be better off closing all the colleges, and allowing only corporations to own homes that they can then rent to people?

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  26. ryan says:

    Great article! The only view I differ slightly on would be the voting. I didn’t vote last election because I felt that neither Obama or McCain shared my views; I should have found a ‘no-chance’ candidate, who may have shared my views but didn’t get media attention, and voted for them. Even though my vote ‘wouldn’t have mattered’, voting still seems like the responsible thing to do given that people have served and died for me to have that voice however big or small it may be.

    You painted the big picture well when you said, “if each person tries to remain physically healthy, emotionally healthy, mentally healthy, and spiritually healthy, then the country itself will rise to new heights never seen before in the civilization of man.”

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  27. Owen says:

    This post is almost as ridiculous as the commandments it ridicules. You are ridiculing the ‘American Religion’ by preaching.

    1. Yes owning a home is not for everyone, maybe even most people. But many people own homes because it is reasonable. It is financially beneficial to purchase a home. Nobody is asking you to own a home.

    2. Yes, college is not for everyone. But it is incredibly beneficial for most people. Nobody is asking you to go to college.

    3. ‘… that some wars are holy?’ That seems totally out of left field. What are you disagreeing with, that people think this or that there are no holy wars? Or that there are no necessary wars?

    4. Yes, Americans talk a lot about the constitution but belief in adhering to is not disqualified by pointing out we don’t.

    5. Yes, not everyone can give to charity. Yes, there are probably better ways to help the world or achieve the change one wants. You bounce from criticizing volunteering because not everyone can do it (‘Good luck volunteering when your children need to be fed’?? What does that have to do with whether or not volunteering is good, bad, worthy or whatever?), to criticizing the math of making charitable donations because the charities stretch it as far as possible.

    6. ‘…obey the Food and Drug Administration?’ This is another out of left field point. Who is it that is ‘obeying’ them? Are you suggesting we should all just break the law? There is not a single organization that does everything right. In fact, there are a lot of organizations that do a lot of things wrong. Maybe the FDA should be reformed. But who is obeying them in the sense you suggest?

    7. Yes, the merits of voting is debatable. But has it ever occurred to you that putting pressure on people to vote is important for the society to function. It’s not a matter of whether your vote counts but that we reach a large enough population of voters to have ‘the wisdom of the crowd’ (which you mention earlier in your suggestion for handling drugs). Furthermore, you can’t argue your vote is meaningless and then complain because you can’t vote on the internet. If your vote is meaningless then it is meaningless. The end. Also, voting on the internet would not make your vote any more meaningful.

    8. Seriously, does anyone like having two political parties? Is it a commandment that there should only be two? I will only vote for one party but I’m not happy with this. I think the general malaise and dissatisfaction of the country would indicate the same.

    9. Yes, the media can be crazy. And what exactly are you suggesting here? Should we just get rid of the media? If everyone believes the media is not a check on government would that change everything? Most importantly though, there is a lot of good media.

    10. I honestly don’t know what you are talking about with the frontier. What went wrong? But wait, you are saying striving for the frontier isn’t the problem. What is the problem? I’m lost.

    I have one more commandment to add to your list.

    11. Thou shalt go to school (k-12). Man, this was a huge waste of time. Think about all the money I could’ve made during this time. Plus, I would’ve had so much more freedom.

    I’ll end on two notes. I think it is important to realize that not everyone shares the same values. Making the ‘right’ financial decision is not always the most important motive for people. Freedom is certainly not everything for many people. But yes, many decisions by everyone, including yourself, are swayed by irrational or inexplicable reasons. If you don’t believe this have a read on decision fatigue.

    Lastly, in back to back sentences you mention spirituality in a serious manner and then deride mythology.

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    • James Altucher says:

      Thanks for the comment. I do, in fact, think “spirituality” and “mythology” are completely different.

      Also, I am not interested (forall of these) in what the correct “financial decision” is although one thing about having money is that it does solve your money problems.

      But money is only part (a small part) of the equation that ultimately makes people happy people. I know many poor people who are unhappy. But also many rich people who are.

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  28. Just David says:

    Thou shalt spend the days of thy energetic young adulthood engaged in activities which thou findest worthless, save for the token monetary reward every two weeks.

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  29. superhl says:

    I don’t agree with all your post but you make people think. The FDA needs to be completely over hauled. Now saying this is offensive because many people are making big money with the current system. Stats don’t always prove truths. I know several drugs that have gone through years of safety studies and yet are still not approved. As James states, companies either go broke or give up. Sure drugs need to be tested for safety, but all drugs have sides regards of the benefits. We need a system that approves drugs quickly and cheaply yet continues to follow the safety of the drug. Example, if I am taking something that benefits me (and I should know if I feel better or not) then I have monthly blood tests performed to determine the safety for me. We all know medicines that works for me may not work for you…. On going to college, schools teach too much BS and not enough substance. A high priority should be to hire people who have worked in a specialized field to teach and structure what is taught than someone who has never fished but has written numerous papers about fishing. Big difference. In my field, never learned anything that applied to what I really do. I know saying this is very offensive to the high paid professors. Time for real change!

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  30. robyn ann goldstein says:

    Dear James Altucher;

    AS you may or may not know, thank you for participating in this side of a “longitudinal” investigation aimed at making manifest the true benefits of a real mutual i.e., shared orientation in our individual struggles for the advantages that America offers and for the human survival of this planet in the face of them all.

    The New York Times may publish, as they wish, any and all information that they obtained from me during the course of this investigation.

    Sincerely and good wishes to all and with all due respect.

    Robyn Ann Goldstein

    PS I am assuming that my copyrights still count as I am taking leave to finish the text of my original investigation off.

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    • pawnman says:

      My words are also copyrighted and I ask you not to quote them in your study.

      Everyone else, you’re cleared to quote whatever you want.

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      • redredrobin says:

        No need to worry. My book is limited to the presentation of the results of an analysis of the scientific side of the problem. Its true aim- a real contribution to Social science generally and to the science of Sociology in particular. No more and no less. This discussion has been a sideline interest and effort to put sociological knowledge to use i.e., gives me the calmness required and time needed to synthesize my results and come to terms with real findings. And if it helps my colleagues across the sciences- then I really have achieved something of real value. If it really disturbs those would be “usurpers” who prefer the sort of intellectual approach that looks for meaning by presenting evidence that serves to refute their intellectual position. Then I have succeeded as well in accomplishing what Max Weber really had in mind by leaving us with his’ “unfinished business.” And ps- this is not intended as an absolute criticism of such intellectual efforts. Just a reminder that there is a real difference.

        Robyn Ann Goldstein. All rights reserved. No two words of this text may be used without the author’s permission.

        Thanks again for being of assistance. Sincerely, it really helped me to clear up this matter that has been on my mind for a very, very, very long time.

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      • pawnman says:

        When you go so far as to tell people not to quote your public comments on a public website, what makes you think James or any of the other Freakonomics contributors want you using their posts for your book?

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  31. James Altucher says:

    Hmm, thanks for the well-thought out comment. It seems like you have not read my other posts. Most of my “economic or life philosophy” hasnothing to do with money but more about the obstacles we place in front of ourselves before we can find happiness. The idea, forinstance, that “college leads to a better life” is a mistaken philosophy (in my opinion) and it’s fair to address it.

    Also, I appreciate that you find my posts boring. Many don’t (i get many favorable comments, likes, etc. I also appreciate that you feel the need to share with me that you find my posts boring despite the evidence that many people don’t.

    However, sinceI’ve written here many times, and obviously accrued many facebook likes both here and on my blog, you can just simply not read orcomment on my articles when you seethem.

    So it suggests to me that something about my articles actually does effect you in some way (clearly negatively but strongly) so that you are compelled to act out something in response. In fact, maybe you wish me to feel bad or insult me. Sadly, that won’t happen.

    I should also mention that about 80% of my blog does not include numbered lists although I have nothing against numbered lists. Perhaps I should even do more of them since the numbered lists tends to attract the most traffic.

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  32. Mango Punch says:

    Let’s not forget, the FDA recalls as many drugs as it approves.

    Somehow I don’t think that’s quite true (we do have some drugs afterall).

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  33. L00 says:

    I think the thread connecting the first two of those is another commandment in itself; “Thou shalt worship at the altar of the great FICO!” When I was in college, we always had credit cards marketed to us. If you told those people you didn’t need them, they responded that you should put some stuff on it anyway and pay it off, just to build up your credit score. When I worked at Sears, we had to push credit cards on everyone, and that was one of the things they told us to say. Go into debt so you can raise your credit score so you can go further into debt so you can raise your credit score even more so you can go further into debt . . .

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  34. Joe says:

    If you have terminal cancer, there are more than enough companies out there that would be very happy to assist you in dying while trying out some fringe cancer medicine. If we didn’t have the FDA, these same companies would be happy to let you try out cholesterol lowering medications that might make your heart explode, and anti-depressants that may raise the suicide rate in users 100%.

    Medicine is not as advanced as we think it is. Look back 50 years, when lobotomies were still widely accepted, you could pick up thalidomide for your morning sickness, and the U.S. government was doing uncontrolled syphilis testing on unknowing test subjects. The FDA has so many recalls because it is still impossible to know all of the side effects of drugs being produced. We’re still many years out from knowing the long term effects of many of them. For all of your complaints about the abuses of home/student lenders on unwitting victims, how can you honestly think the medical industry would be any different if it were unregulated?

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  35. Marcus Kalka says:

    Nice lol. It’s about time someone said it.

    The thoughts in this post appear to echo the ideas in the link below about religion, government, and our way of life:

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  36. Andreas Moser says:

    And let’s not forget the “Thou shalt marry and have plenty of offspring”, something which is far too important to many people, especially women, and ends up ruining their lives:

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  37. AaronS says:

    James, about owning a home….

    It occurs to me that the renter will have to pay for the rest of his life to live somewhere. The owner, if all goes according to plan, will only have to pay for the next 15 to 30 years (then just pay maintenance, etc.).

    HOWEVER, as you indicated, a house does indeed tend to lock you in to a place. I know that I would like have much better prospects and even be happier elsewhere, but since I have a home here, and since property values are depressed, etc., I stay.


    What if you could blend the best of both worlds? What if you could by working to OWN a home, yet not be locked down?

    I was thinking that it would be great if there were some sort of giant clearinghouse where a person from Florida could change houses AND mortgages (assuming each others’ mortgages) with someone in, say, Colorado. Some sort of formula might come into play that would balance values and equities out, but instead of having to sell your house before you move, instead of feeling locked in, you can move and just start paying “rent” (really a mortgage) elsewhere.

    If you ever find where you really, really, really want to be forever, then just stay there and keep paying the mortgage.

    Is this just pipe dream stuff, or could it happen? I mean, if we can trade time-shares out (and those are mini-mortgages, aren’t they?), then why not some sort of way to permit people to quickly change houses/locations?

    The clearinghouse might serve as a guarantor on the loan, as well as provide some sort of housing inspection service and repair insurance to ensure that you don’t buy a lemon.

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    • James Altucher says:

      That’s interesting. They should make something equivalent to a stock exchange where you can literally trade your mortgage. That would give a lot more flexibility in owning a home and also help mark the paper that a bank holds a lot better.

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  38. AaronS says:


    I think by all the negative feedback you are getting, you almost certainly have spoken the truth about these things being part of the American Religion. How else would you have ruffled so many feathers!

    Not to compare you to Jesus (by a long shot!), but it was people immersed in the religion that had the most trouble with Him. Why, how dare He not do it like they said it was to be done.

    One thing I do think is missing (perhaps it’s the 11th commandment?) is: Thou Shalt Allow People to Drink Alcohol and Smoke Cigarettes, but Drugs are Evil and Must be Prohibited.

    I don’t get the hypocrisy. It’s clear that it’s not really about it being bad for you. If that were the real issue, we’d have outlawed smoking and Big Macs. Something else is going on.

    Keep up the good work! Whether you are contrarian or not, we need to be forced to rethink some things ever so often.

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  39. MJ Person says:

    Mr. Altucher,

    I don’t necessarily agree with all of your points, though many are interesting, but I definitely agree that you have mostly nailed the high commandments of the American Religion. Including the FDA is a little odd; why not the USDA, FAA, OSHA, or the DOT? But the other nine are definitely holy writ in our country.

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  40. mc says:

    1) Home financing is far more complex than he seems to understand. A bank doesn’t loan you back the money you deposit in savings and profit from the spread on interest rates.

    2) Social Security is going to be funded by student loan interest – really ? College is not an expensive trade school. It determines one’s social strata. You send your kid to college in part so they don’t marry an assembly line worker.

    3) I agree with #3

    4) The constitution gets used in arguments all the time to justify ridiculous politics. Literal, “interpretations” reek of fundamentalist Christian beliefs.

    5) decency trumps all

    6)”Let’s get the drugs out there”…really?

    7) & 8) really one issue….I “love” the idea of being educated about everything and voting directly through “the internet”….

    9) solution : don’t watch TV

    10) He should go live in Alaska, on the “frontier”

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    • James Altucher says:

      I don’tbelieve that Alaska is the frontier. I think there’s symbolism now for what the frontier is and that symbolism has been stretched and distorted in a thousand different ways.

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  41. Jeremy says:

    I’m having trouble following this argument:

    “Let’s go over the math of every dollar you spend on charity. When you give $100 to a major charity, most of that goes into the bank. They then invest the money. On the interest they make on their investments, a percentage goes to actual charity, another percentage goes to salaries. So for every dollar you give to charity, about 2 cents a year, give or take, goes to the actual charitable cause you wanted to support.”

    Wouldn’t that be 2 cent plus the $100 you gave? So if I give $100 to a charitable organization, that organization is actually getting $100.02. When a charity puts money in a bank, it can withdraw it too, just like any other organization. After serving on the board of two charities, and volunteering with several others, I can attest that charities do need your monetary donations, as well as your time.

    In fact, unless a charity has someone to coordinate the services volunteers offer, sometimes they are in a worse position after someone “donates their time”. One charity I worked with had people who “donated their time” to clean the building. Inevitably, they didn’t show up, or cleaned in a desultory fashion, and the director (who historically has accepted less than half of her $20,000 per year salary because funds are too tight) would have to go clean after the people.

    (And yes, I did mean to write $20,000 as her salary. The author assumes all charities are large organizations with enormous budgets. There are far more small charities than large ones.)

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  42. Deron says:

    Thou shalt strive to be a white collared worker, and assume non-white collared workers failed to go to school.

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  43. Ridzie says:

    James doesn’t say going to college will lower your income. He questions the orthodoxy. That “There’s the myth that going to college leads to a better life, or a “promised future.” ” The reality is it’s a road to a different life. Whether it’s better depends on so many mainly subjective measures.
    Often people find out lots about themselves in their early twenties but really learn more when they hit the real world of work and responsibility.
    College is one way to make your way in the world and I think the best way when you include technical college and trades along with university.
    But it’s not for everyone and many people will be happy without. I hang out with some of them.

    Keep it coming James. Whenever your on Freakonomics I am reminded to go to your own blog and read a few more inspiring posts. You’ve lived more economics than most with your boom and bust life so your views are welcome and the style is the bomb.

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  44. John says:

    I am sick of this guy complaining that college is a waste. Sure a lot of people don’t get jobs right away or life doesn’t quite work out with a sweet job, but it still helps out in the long run. Altucher’s alternatives to college are just dumb. Master a game or sport- how will that help your future? Start a business- good idea but how successful would any business be started by an 18 year old kid. It probably wouldn’t last 4 years. Travel the world- also fun but it doesn’t help your future at all. Create art/write- Also good but has any 18 year old wrote or painted anything worthwhile? Not really. All of his alternatives can be done while going to college. College may not be perfect and its expensive, but it allows you to progress. Imagine walking into a job interview and telling the guy you spent that last 4 years mastering ping pong. I bet a college grad gets the job first.

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    • James Altucher says:

      Sounds like you haven’t really read my post on the alternatives to college.

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      • Jon says:

        No, it sounds like he has, actually. I read them too. In John’s post he just listed all of your “alternatives” to college. If you are going to respond to everyone’s posts, spouting baseless comebacks is not the way to go.

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  45. Jeff W says:

    I have met plenty of successful people in life (most are small business owners) some have degrees some don’t. I don’t think its college is the catalyst for success, but the desire to expand your education, to never stop learning. There are plenty of college graduates that stop. I would put my money on the the self taught plumber working his butt off to be the best at his profession over a college grad that thinks he is owed a high paying job because of a degree.

    Mr. Altucher: Is there any data on high income college grads vs high income non-college grads? what does the data say?

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  46. Caue says:

    I won’t say this to be rude, but to get the point through, as there are so many people thinking the negative response reflects defensiveness of the “religion” (I’m not even American): after reading the post on my rss feed I honestly and literally came to the actual site to check whether it had been posted as an example of “how not to do it “, and was surprised it wasn’t.
    It’s not just that the ideas are bad (FDA, the post on alternatives to college, conspiracies everywhere..), some thoughts are even good. But it’s also badly written and badly supported. It’s just not the quality I expected from Freakonomics.
    But by all means, just assume I’m bothered and defensive.

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  47. mom2perries says:

    “That change, even at a mass level, only comes from the inside of each individual. That if each person tries to remain physically healthy, emotionally healthy, mentally healthy, and spiritually healthy, then the country itself will rise to new heights never seen before in the civilization of man.”

    I agree. And such work can only be volitional. You cannot mandate or coerce people on this, of course. It is fundamentally down to people using their own free will in a serious commitment to cultivating themselves. Any person who does this benefits everybody around them.

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  48. Skip Montanaro says:

    This discussion reminds me of the recent post on the myth of common sense. Each of us looks at these “commandments” through the lens of our own common sense. It’s common sense that home ownership is a negative for a person who can’t sell his house and move to take that better job. It’s also common sense that the guy with the pasture and horses would probably be better off owning that house.

    To pick a specific example, me, I’m a mid-50s software engineer. It’s quite possible that many of today’s twenty-somethings could get where I am today learning this stuff on their own, particularly if they are naturally adept at math and science to begin with. It’s not at all clear to me that I could have gotten where I am without the college degrees I have. That’s me examining my situation through the lens of my common sense. Your view might well be different.

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  49. Greg says:

    I won’t join into the general fray here, except to point out the falsity of the claim that the US Congress has not declared war since 1941.

    Nothing in the Constitution requires any specific language to “declare war”, it merely places that power in the legislative branch. Congress’s power is exercised by its control of spending, and by authorizing that spending is authorizing military action.

    Further, every military action the US has undertaken since WWII has been specifically approved by Congreesional resolutions (with the exception of a few small interventions, i.e., Bay of Pigs, Libya, etc.).

    Congress passed specific resolutions for military action in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, plus many others too numerous to mention. By any reasonable standard, Congressional resolutions authorizing the executive branch to wage a war ARE declarations of war.

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  50. JoeJohnBillBob says:

    I am very skeptical that voting on every issue (war, spending measure, bailout,…) is better than the system we have now. Let assume that we have the time to get research and review each issue and cast an informed vote. This does not mean that we are going to make “better” decisions. We will go from backroom deal to group think. I am not sure which on is better.

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  51. Alecto says:

    Too much discomfiting food for thought:

    1. Voting is a right, not a duty. More people should follow your advice because they are ill-informed about issues and candidates and therefore ill-prepared to vote. Voting is a contact sport. You have to get in politicians’ faces to find out how they want to screw you over. What’s worse, most people cannot and do not think, I mean ponder things. It makes them uncomfortable. That is why we have this list of Commandments. It makes life easier for the vast majority of sheeple.

    2. Does anyone but an islamic jihadist pitch war as “holy”? Some wars, given the facts at the time, seem inevitable or necessary. Maybe we need a cooling off period of 30-60 days after we actually declare war to reconsider. Kind of a Lemon Law for War. Don’t like it? You can return it! No cost, no obligation! I definitely think we should dump sending 18 yr old kids in favor of angry, menopausal women.

    3. I never personally wanted to own a home, I wanted a farm. Farming is a way of life, and as businesses go, there are definitely much, much easier ways to make money.

    4. College? I went because I loved discussing ideas. Someone forgot to tell me most people consider that a complete waste of time, in college and after college.

    5. The Constitution has been bastardized for 100 yrs or more, but I am hopeful the concepts which underpin it: limited government, private property and individual responsibility are not dead.

    6. Charity? Since I already earn .72-.77 cents for every dollar a man earns, dude, I gave at the office.

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  52. Laura says:

    So, I asked my 19 year old college kid (w/ a link to this post)- simply – “is Happy enough?” – this was his reply:

    Hey – sorry I didn’t respond last night. Final today! Woot woo! Study
    study… either way — The Stoic in me says happiness is enough, as
    long as we’re talking about happiness and not joy. The difference is
    happiness is derived from a psychic state of contentment that allows
    you to appreciate all the good in life as well as the “bad”; versus
    joy, which is the pleasure that comes from successful outcomes ie.
    being this or that, having this or that, ect. It’s all about the
    connectedness. The more connected you feel to the systens in play
    around you, the more you can see the big picture, be happy, and live
    “meaningfully.” the Stoics are famous for believing happiness can
    exist whereever. — Love

    Did I mention he was an Economics major?

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  53. terrymac says:

    Thou Shalt Not Doubt The Most Holy Government, Holy Fount of Truth, Even When It Doth Contradict Itself.

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  54. terrymac says:

    Skip, I also am 50-something, with years of experience in software development and systems administration – and almost no formal instruction. Back in the day, computer science courses were scarce, and courses in systems administration and networking were scarce and not offered by colleges, but as one-week training seminars.

    I’d hire an autodidact who knows his stuff over a kid with 4 years of college education.

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    • pawnman says:

      It works for some fields…but I’m not going to go to a doctor who learned his trade dissecting small animals in the back yard instead of going to medical school.

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  55. JPC says:

    I think direct democracy (having people vote on individual issues, rather than electing representatives) is a terrible idea. Why? Recall that many elections – especially if they’re even remotely close, which any controversial issue would be – are decided by millions of “low information voters” out there who know almost nothing about the issues or people they’re voting for. These are the people whose entire voting pattern comes down to nothing other than the letter after a candidate’s name, which one is better-looking, or some nebulous idea about which one is a “better American” (whatever that means).

    Now, imagine a vote on some complex issue, such as a restructuring of the EPA, allocation of money to different federal agencies in the budget, or a restructuring of scientific research regulations – being decided by people who are pretty sure that Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya, or who will insist until they’re blue in the face that “in God we Trust” appears in the Constitution and the Founding Fathers dutifully recited the modern Pledge of Allegiance while attending the Continental Congress (that is, in between their attempts to immediately end slavery in the Colonies), or who think that the universe will be 4,015 years old on October 23rd of this year because they read that in some self-published brochure.

    At least in a representative system, if the low-information voters elect the guy with better hair, one would hope that the better-hair guy, who already self-selected based on aptitude and interest in policy issues, and surrounded by other politicians and advisors, with a new full-time job in Washington, would get disabused of such ignorance pretty quickly. And generally that is true.

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  56. jayjay1913 says:

    Seems like there are a lot of defensive people on this post. That’s what happens when you challenge a belief system. I’m sorry but it feels like Sociology is turning more and more into a creepy belief system everyday.

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  57. BikerDad says:

    Altucher, you’re an economist? Really? A genyooowhine economist?

    #3 (Paraphrased)- War sucks. “I don’t want 18 year olds to die.” ::: Wow, how profound.
    Yes, yes, we all agree on that. A real economist would couch their objection in terms of “what’s are the alternatives? What are the tradeoffs?” Not you. 18 year olds are being killed, which is all that matters.

    Oh, right, you’re not an economist. You’re a hack writer with pretensions of profundity. You wanna be Tom Wolfe, or Hunter S. Thompson, or perhaps Vonnegut. This sounds more like the whine of a sophomore. High school, not college.

    Keep trying to “make the world a better place” James, but while you do so, remember one thing. Insulting the people you’re trying to help rarely produces the results you seek.

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  58. dave gershner says:

    Difference in the two parties: competence.


    Look at the first two years in office and check performance of DJIA:

    Reagan—DJIA UP 8%

    Bush——DJIA DOWN 23%

    Obama—DJIA UP——————32%



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  59. mike says:

    Good point. It is like comparing the kids who got into Harvard and went elsewhere to the kids who went to Harvard.

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  60. MD says:

    The author has some interesting views but actually suggesting that the internet and social media are a good substitute for propper double blind randomized clinical trials is naive if not downright dangerous.

    Let me tell you something: crowds have no wisdom… any wisdom in crowds is purely coincedence.

    Like a previous poster said: the internet is the place where vaccines cause autism!

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  61. Micheal says:

    There was a study recently that when adults ‘ childhood beliefs are challenged (voting is good, etc etc), they respond very angrily even when confronted with direct evidence. Even the challenge itself is enough to illicit unreasonable anger (for example, if someone brings up an alternative or plays devil’s advocate). The study points this to being caused by a physical phenomenon in our brains (which makes sense evolution-wise). So even saying, “hey, take another look at this for the hell of it” will usually not be taken well.

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  62. Benjamin says:

    While I don’t agree with everything you say , I do like a good ideological fight against golden calf’s and the bravery of a person to start said fights.


    I’m going to start reading the comments.

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  63. moike says:

    rule 11.if your not with me you are against me.

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  64. Doug B says:

    I think the comment about owning a home making it harder to move is spot on–I never thought of it that way.

    Also, consider, the state owns the the roads, so therefore subsidizes longer commutes. If roads were completely private, it might limit the distance you can travel per day for most jobs. It’s possible that you might see less home ownership in that regard.

    There are other reasons home ownership does not make a lot of economic sense: property taxes and maintenance. Not to mention the huge debt that takes a lifetime to pay off.

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  65. lawn maintenance bloomington indiana says:

    Madamayhem, your theory is so ridiculous. You must have been on the Casey Anthony trial. First, there is no evidence that this woman was Bipolar and all of a sudden went completely crazy and suicidal! I personally take offense to your assumptions because I have Bipolar and never have I wanted to jeopardize the lives of others during a manic or depressive state.The drug and alcohol in her system is easy to explain. She took a liquid pain reliever for her tooth that contained DMX (which will make you positive for THC) and maybe Ibuprophen which will also give a false positive for THC. Alcohol in liquid pain reliever explains the alcohol content in her system. A test which breaks down the components to find out what gave the false positive are very expensive and counties don’t want to pay for tests. I think they assumed she was on a camping trip and there was a vodka bottle in the car and she tested positve for both alcohol and THC so there you go, she is a killer and knowingly drove high and drunk. There is no evidence that says she was suicidal or Bipolar. You really need to think about what you say and get some knowledge about mental illness before you get on your computer and type stupid uneducated theories of which you obviously are not educated in.

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