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.


"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.


James Altucher

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.

Mike B

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.

James Altucher

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.

James Altucher

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.


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.

James Altucher

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.


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."


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.


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.

James Altucher

Thanks. Interesting about thealternating parties.


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.

James Altucher

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.

Marci Kiser

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.)



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."

James Altucher

perfectly said.


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.


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?

James Altucher

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.

James Altucher

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


Why the hell do you get up in the morning?

James Altucher

Usually when my bladder is full I can't sleep anymore and I get up.

James Altucher

Funny that this comment got some dislikes.


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.

James Altucher

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.

Ali S

These are the Cold Hard Facts that People are Zombified into.

JA speaks the reality and usually people hate being out on what they have been doing wrong all this time.

Truth Hurts!

James Altucher

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


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.

James Altucher

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.


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.

The Hill

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.


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!


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.

James Altucher

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


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.


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.


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.

James Altucher

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.


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.



#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.


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.

James Altucher

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.



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


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.


James Altucher

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.



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.



"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.

James Altucher

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.


"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?


James Altucher

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


I thought you said we didn't need the FDA because "we can read patents"

Forgotton Umbrella

#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.

Leslie McCalister

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.

James Altucher

Don't forget all of the magic elixirs the FDA approves that then get recalled.