By the third century AD, it was hard to imagine Rome being in worse condition. Historians literally refer to this period in Roman history as the Crisis of the Third Century. And it was brutal.
Roman citizens couldn’t believe what they were experiencing… it was incomprehensible to them that their fatherland had become so weakened.
Inflation was running rampant. The Empire was stuck in a quagmire of foreign wars and had suffered some humiliating defeats.
Rome experienced multiple bad pandemics, coupled with even worse government response.
Foreign invaders were flooding across their borders on a daily basis. Trade broke down, causing shortages in many vital goods.
And terrible social strife dominated people’s daily lives. Ordinary Roman citizens were at each other’s throats, and it was a time of disunity and outrage.
One contemporary writer of the era named Cyprian described the situation as follows:
“The World itself… testifies to its own declines by giving manifold concrete evidence of the process of decay… There is a decrease and deficiency in the field, of sailors on the sea, of soldiers in the barracks, of honesty in the marketplace, of justice in court, of concord in friendship, of skill in technique…”
Cyprian wasn’t just describing Rome’s obvious decline. Rather, his summary is an indictment of Rome’s inability to stop it’s decline.
Everyone in the imperial government knew what was happening in Rome. They simply lacked the ability to do anything about it.
Historian Arnold Toynbee called this the “Challenge and Response” effect… and it’s an interesting idea.
The concept is that every society has to deal with certain challenges; if the challenges are too great, the society will not survive… i.e. the desert is too harsh, the tundra is too frozen, etc.
But sometimes a society becomes so decadent, so prosperous, that it loses its ability to address challenges. It no longer has the social capital necessary— unity of purpose, the ability to compromise, the capacity to engage in rational debate.
That is the position where Rome found itself in the 3rd century AD. And I believe the West is quickly heading in this direction.
This is the subject of today’s podcast.
We start out talking about Rome’s mortal enemy… and how, after more than a century, Rome emerged victorious as the lone superpower in the Mediterannean.
Everything was great, and peace and prosperity reigned for more than 200 years.
But over that time, the decadence set in. Wheras once Romans had valued hard work, freedom, and unity of purpose, their entire value system changed.
People expected, then demanded, to be taken care of by the state. Corruption became commonplace.The bureaucracy multiplied. Social conflict soared.
And eventually Rome lost the ability to meet its challenges.
I make a lot of historical parallels to our modern world, including some specific examples of absurdities which occurred just in the last couple of days.
But I also discuss why, in the end, these conditions actually create unique opportunity for creative, hard working, talented people.
Today we're going to go back in time nearly 3000 years ago to the year 821 BC. To a city called Tyre, which is located in modern day Lebanon. Now, I want to give you an appreciation for just how old Tyre is, because if we go back to 821 BC, tire had already existed for nearly 2000 years prior to that. That's basically the the difference between us and Julius Caesar, right? So that's how old Tyre is.
That even nearly 3000 years ago, it was already nearly 2000 years old. So that's an old, old city. And again, it still exists today. It's got a population of around 200,000 people. This is a real city today, located again on the Mediterranean and modern day Lebanon thousands of years ago.
It was a city state, a major city state, probably the most dominant city stated part of a civilization back then known as the Phoenicians. A lot of people know the name Phoenicians. Some people don't know really all that much about them. The Phoenicians were a really important ancient culture. They predate the classical Greeks and a lot of the more famous ancient civilizations that people know about and have heard of, the Romans, et cetera.
But the Phoenicians were a really important ancient culture. They were organized similarly really to how the Greeks would be organized later on. The Greeks hundreds and hundreds of years later would come around. They would organize themselves as city states, right? You had Athens and you had Sparta and all these different citystates across Greece.
And there was no real imperial center, so to speak, around these independent city states with a common language and certain cultural traits. They were all Greek, they spoke the same language. And it was similar with the Phoenicians. There were different Phoenician city states, but there wasn't like an imperial government that lord it over all the rest. But certainly some that were more powerful than others entire was a really powerful city state.
Among all these other Phoenician city states that were in and around the Mediterranean at the time. The Phoenicians were known to be incredible traders. In addition to being great traders, they were actually seafaring traders. They were great shipbuilders. They had a very powerful fleets and would go around and establish trading posts and even colonies all over the Mediterranean.
And they were legendary for this. And there were ancient historians who wrote again later, again, just to give you context of how old the civilization is, there was an ancient Roman historian, his name is Straybo. And Straybo came a thousand years after the Phoenicians. And he wrote that the Phoenicians had established hundreds of colonies and trading posts. Now that was probably an exaggeration, but the point is that the Phoenicians, they were pretty big deal.
They were among the first real seafaring explorers and they did put colonies and trading posts all over the place. And Tire was one of the most prominent city states of all the Phoenician city states. So much so, that for a while the Mediterranean was actually known as the Tyrann Sea, after the city state of Tyre in this Phoenician civilization. So they were a pretty big deal. And in the year 821 BC, the king of Tyra's name was Baton, the first baton I died.
He had ruled for nine years and he died. He passed away. And before his death, he had named his two children. There was his son named Pygmalion, and his daughter, who was called Alisa. And Alisa and Pygmalion were determined to co rule together according to their father's wishes.
And the king passed away. But of course, his son cheated his sister. Pygmalion cheated Alisa out of control. And basically Pygmalion, the brother, took control of the city state. He even killed her husband.
And so here's now Alisa, who's left with no power, no husband, no inheritance, nothing, and her brother's, murderous thug, who's on the rampage. And so she flees, she leaves Phoenicia and she gets on a boat, takes some people with her and goes to this far flung trading outpost. And it takes her quite some time, but over a period of several years, she's sailing away to North Africa. Basically, she lands in modern day Tunisia eventually, where a few years later, in 814 BC, she founds one of the most famous cities that would become in the ancient world. They needed a name for their new city and so they literally called it New City, which you probably never heard of, like New City.
I've never heard of that. Well, actually you have, because the words in their native Phoenician language were Cart for new and Hodge for city. So Cart hajj. Or as we call it, Carthage. So Carthage was founded in 814 BC by this Phoenician princess, basically, who had to flee her murderous brother.
And there were so many legends about the founding, this according to Roman mythology, and again, this came around centuries and centuries later, that the Trojan hero Aneus, who fled Troy with some of the survivors, and he at some point arrives to Carthage. This is sort of like an odyssey type adventure, if you've never read Virgil's the Anea. He arrives to Carthage where he and Elisa fall in love. But then the Roman god, the messenger god Mercury, sends a message to Ana and he says, no, you have to leave. You can't stay here in Carthage.
You have to leave, you've got to go and found Rome. This is your destiny. You can't stay here with this woman. And so he leaves and at least it becomes inconsolable. She's depressed and despondent.
She lost her true love and so she kills herself, but not before threatening that her people, the Carthaginians and Anais's people who would become the Romans, would eventually go to war and have this big conflict, which of course ended up happening over time, Carthage really became a major power, an empire really in its own right? And by a couple hundred years later, really by the 500s BC, carthage was, was really one of the dominant powers in the in when I say the known world, I'm I'm talking about really the Mediterranean. There's a lot of civilization going on in, in India and China and Japan and all sorts of different places around the world. But we're talking really about European western civilization right now. They are really, really dominant power.
And you had basically the 500, you had the Greeks that were in the eastern Mediterranean and you had the Carthaginians in the western Mediterranean. And this was actually at a time that Carthage had become a far greater power than its original Phoenicia, which is again sort of near modern day Lebanon Phoenicia. At that point it sort of encountered and subordinated itself to the growing Persian empire. Carthage was a pretty safe distance away. They said, well, we don't really have to worry about the Persians so we can continue to grow because we're way out here to the west and the Persians are way out to the east and so we're just going to keep doing our thing.
And they had a lot of wealth, they had the ability to do that, they had significant agricultural wealth. We talked about that before in the ancient world, how agriculture was really everything. It was so important and it wasn't just they were growing food and sure, growing food was important. They figured out how to grow food and they grew so much food that they could use the surplus to trade with other tribes and kingdoms and civilizations. But agriculture wasn't just about food.
It was also the ways that they grew industrial commodities. They could grow papyrus for paper, to write things, all these different commodities that they would use to actually make and produce things reeds, which were they make baskets to transport things, different tools and equipment, all these things they literally grew out of the ground. So agriculture was not just for food, but it was a major industrial part of their economy. And on top of that, in the area where Carthage is located, they also had significant mineral wealth as well, because mining was something that was very well known to the ancients. And at this time, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age was well upon them and people were experimenting with all sorts of metallurgy and different technologies and so the Carthaginians had all of that at their fingertips.
So even to this day actually that still exists, that North Africa actually has really tremendous, and to be honest, largely untapped agricultural and mineral riches. Morocco, which is really in the same area right next to Tunisia, very near ancient Carthage, is home to the largest phosphate reserves in the world, which is actually one of the most important elements in agricultural fertilizer. There's incredible land and the weather and the water and so forth. So this is actually an area with quite a lot of potential as it was in the ancient world as well. Carthage continued to grow.
It developed its own culture, developed its own language. They ended up calling it Punic. And this is kind of an interesting thing. I always find it fascinating, the development of languages and how languages really grow and take off on their own. It starts off everybody speaking their native Phoenician, but over time, because now, if you think about it, everybody sailed away from Phoenicia.
Now you got a handful of people, and they're all basically, as far as they're concerned, they're on the other side of the planet from Phoenicia, because now they're in Tunisia versus modern day Tunisia versus modern day Lebanon. To them, that might as well have been another galaxy. And so they didn't have the same contact with the Phoenicians. And so when you have these people, now they're isolated together. They're isolated together.
And so over time, people start speaking differently, their accent changes a little bit, and because they don't have the constant reinforcement of, oh, that's how the Phoenicians talk, right? Because now they're isolated, so they don't actually know. They don't have native Phoenicians coming, saying, no, this is how you pronounce this word, and that's how you pronounce that word. And this is the word that we use for that. Basically, a language sort of takes off and evolves on its own because it doesn't have the same native influence.
And so it becomes different. On top of that, you have the influx of other cultures and other languages, because now the Carthaginians, they're way out in the eastern Mediterranean, they're in North Africa, they're trading with all these different African tribes. They're trading in Hispania, they're trading in Italy, they're trading in all these places. And they're picking up different parts of language, they're picking up different pronunciations, so forth. All those things fuse together and essentially create a new language.
It's certainly at least a new dialect. This is something that's actually very, very common throughout history, even the English language. It's actually fascinating when you think about the development of the English language. It started with kind of a Germanic frizzian that meshed together with old Celtic and Norse and so forth, as the Angles and the Saxons moved into Britannia after Rome. And then the Vikings came in, and then the French came in in 1066 with Will and the Conquer.
And so English. So you have Celtic and Frizzian and old Norse and French all sort of mixing together with different pronunciations, so forth. Then eventually you have English, you have this completely separate and distinct language. And it's fascinating. And this is actually what ended up happening in Carthage as well.
They developed their own very strong, distinct culture and language and so forth. And that made a lot of sense given how much exposure they had to other cultures and peoples at the time. And again, they were very advanced. They had their own technology advances in agriculture, advances in shipbuilding. And the Carthaginians were an interesting bunch, like the Phoenicians, they were far more interested in trade than in warfare.
And they were actually quite accomplished diplomats. They would go around and sign treaties with people. They say, Why do we want to go to war? War is expensive. Let's trade.
That's a lot better deal for everybody. Let's just create value, and I'll give you what we have in surplus, you give us what you have in surplus, and we'll all become wealthier. And isn't that better than trying to kill each other? Yeah, it actually does seem like it's a pretty good idea. And they would actually go around and sign agreements and trade treaties and so forth.
Again, this is thousands of years ago, in fact, in 509 BC. And it's incredible that we know a lot of these dates. In 509 BC. They actually signed one very particular commercial agreement with a fairly small kingdom on the Italian peninsula that had actually just overthrown its kings and had started an experiment with a new form of government called republicanism. And of course, this kingdom was called Rome.
And they signed a treaty with Rome. They said, hey, okay, you guys will trade over there, we'll trade over here. We can do some things together from time to time, and we'll have a nice relationship with each other that goes back to 509 BC. Carthage and Rome actually kind of being a little bit friendly with each other. And this is the way of the world.
At the time, you had in the, in the eastern Mediterranean, you had the Greeks, and they were fighting the Persians again. Decades later, we had the Battle of Thermopoly and the Greeks and Persians going to war with each other. But in the west, you've got the western Mediterranean, tunisia, Morocco, Hispania, Italy, you've got Carthage. In Rome, they just kept growing. They just kept growing.
And of course, we know what happens here, that you've got two powers that are growing, that are wealthy, and eventually it's not going to take a rocket scientist to figure out that eventually these two are going to come into conflict with one another. And it happened. It happened. They called them the Punic Wars, and there were multiple conflicts. The first major conflict, the first Punic War, started in 264 BC.
So this is now hundreds of years after the founding of Carthage, hundreds of years after the founding of Rome, after Rome becomes a republic, this is still in the republican era of Rome, when Rome is a republic, before the empire. And when the war started, like a lot of wars, especially wars between two great powers, it started for completely idiotic reasons. There were basically a couple of knuckleheads who went around stirring up trouble and both sides sort of got hought into it and say, oh, well, if we don't do something then the other guy is going to think we're weak. And then the other guys go, oh well, if we don't do something then they're going to think we're weak. And so they end up something that starts off as a nothing.
And it just escalated and escalated and escalated until they finally said, all right, we're going to war. And again, they had no real reason to go to war. And they were trading and everything was fine, but it's just a couple of knuckleheads did some stupid stuff and it just cooler heads did not prevail. And these two major powers went to war, 264 BC. Probably at the time.
Nobody thought, well, this is going to last a really long time, this is going to be a terrible war, this is going to be really costly. They thought, oh, we'll get in and out and it'll be quick, we'll bloody their nose and then we'll stop the war. But no, this lasted a long time. Lasted a really, really long time. The first Punic war lasted decades.
Both sides suffered major losses. Ultimately the Romans won and that was one of the clear signs that Rome was an ascendance and can't be trifled with. But it was a very costly victory. It was a costly victory for both sides and they had a period of peace. But again, a few decades later, they went to war yet again.
It was sort of like World War I and then there was some period of peace and then they had World War II, same Germany in the US and the UK. They all go to war again for the second time. Same thing. This is what happened with Rome and Carthage. And it was the Second Punic War that was the one that was really terrifying.
That's the really famous Hannibal comes over the Alps with the elephants and he crushed the Romans. Hannibal was probably one of the greatest generals in all of human history. There is one battle in particular which I've written about before, the Battle of Cannae, which is one of the most stunning military victories in all of world military history. Just a stunning military victory for Hannibal. And at the time, the Romans were so vanquished they thought, this is it, we're done.
It was that close to Rome, basically just becoming a client state of Carthage at that point. I mean, the Romans were danger close to losing it all. And you can imagine what would have happened, I mean, if, if the Romans hadn't finally been able to defeat the Carthaginians and defeat Hannibal. Most people probably at this point in time in history, would not have even ever heard of Rome. You know, Carthage would be the thing on everybody's minds.
When we think about ancient history, we talk about the Carthaginian Empire and not the Roman Empire. So it came really, really close to that. But the Romans pulled out a victory in the Second Puny corps. Took them 17 years, but they finally pulled out a victory. But they all knew.
The Senate got together and said, that was way too close, we almost lost it. We almost lost it. And at that point, nobody even remembered. Wait a minute, what was this stupid conflict over to begin with? Nobody even remembered.
But it didn't matter because at that point, oh, did they hate the Carthaginians. Carthage was their mortal enemy and they wanted it destroyed. There was a famous senator or Roman statesman, his name was Cato the Elder, and this was a guy who used to go he would deliver these fiery speeches on the floor of the Senate in ancient Rome and used to end all of his speeches. It didn't really matter what he was saying, it was like this joke. And he would end everything he was saying, all of his speeches by saying, and Carthage must be destroyed.
It became a known statement in Latin. And this was basically the sentiment of the politicians, of the people. Everybody said, Carthage is our moral enemy. Nobody even remembered why. But it didn't matter.
We just have to destroy them because we came way too close to being destroyed ourselves. And so it finally happened. It took until 146 BC. Now that we have now we're in the third and final of the so called Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage. And again, it went in Rome's favor.
But at that point, Rome wasn't messing around anymore. They said, you know what, we're going and we're just going to burn it to the ground. And Rome at that point was the clear power and the defeat over Carthage was total. So they completely destroyed the city, they burned everything. And again, in tradition of great empires, they rebuilt it from scratch, they burned it down and then they rebuilt it, which is sort of like how the US goes and bombs countries to smithereens and then spends a bunch of money rebuilding them.
So the Romans basically did the same thing. That whole approach to international diplomacy and geopolitics is nothing new. The Romans did the same thing and they built actually a very nice prominent city on exactly the same site as ancient Carthage. So now we're in 146 BC. And just imagine, if you will imagine the joy, imagine the excitement on the streets of Rome.
It must have been like you've seen those victory photos from World War II, like in Manhattan, they're in Times Square and people just women randomly kissing soldiers and sailors and all of that. Everybody's just so happy. Ticker tape parades everywhere, all this.
If you're old enough to remember the fall of the Berlin Wall, pink Floyd shows up, they do a concert there. Roger Waters doing a concert on Where the Wall Fell. It's just excitement, people uncorking champagne and all this stuff. It's just happiness. It's happiness.
Your mortal enemy has been defeated and everybody's just jumps on the peace train and is super happy and excited and life gets pretty good and life gets a lot easier, right? There's no more conflict, no more enemy, no more competition, no more antagonism, no more fear, no more any of these things that we can just live our lives and be happy and we don't have to worry about. I'm going to have to go to war, which obviously has a lot of personal implications for people. When you think about back then, some guy living on the farm who's tending to his farm, and he's got to go and fight for 17 years, I mean, that's going to have a lot of implications on you and your family and all of that, and you don't have to do that anymore, right? And so it's like a big party now.
Everybody's happy. And so what happens? Well, the inevitable happens. This is where Rome sort of enters it's sort of fat and lazy stage, right? Everybody's happy, everybody's excited.
And suddenly life just became really, really easy. Life became so much easier. Rome was the undisputed dominant superpower in the known world at this point. Again, Greece is finished. The Persians are finished.
The carthaginians are finished. It is 100% Rome and nothing else.
You could imagine probably a really great time to be part of the Roman Empire because things were really easy, but at the same time, their standards and morals and work ethic and everything started to shift because for really centuries prior to that, you've got a place that was founded on these ideals of republicanism. When everybody's contributing, there's this unity of purpose. We have a common enemy. We have this common threat that we've all got to chip in, and there's a sense of shared sacrifice, and everybody's working towards a common goal, and everybody's got to be everybody's got to be on their A game. Everybody's got to be contributing.
Everybody's got to be giving the best in order for the society to thrive and the civilization to flourish. And suddenly all that's taken away, right? And so suddenly it's just a sense of wealth and decadence and do whatever you want, and it doesn't matter, and it's all fine, and we're rich and we're wealthy and we're Romans and everything's great. And this is really where the decline starts to set in. It takes a very long time, but this is where the decline really starts.
And there were contemporary writers at the time who who did actually they wrote about this extensively. There was a Roman historian. His name was Titus Livius. He's known as as Livi. He lived about 100 years after the burning and the destruction of Carthage.
He lived during the time he was he was a teenager when Julius Caesar was assassinated. He was an adult when Augustus became emperor, who's actually quite close with Augustus, with the emperor, the first emperor of Rome. And Livi wrote constantly about the degeneration of society, the loosening of social values and morals. He wrote about, quote, the gradual relaxation of discipline. He wrote about morals that, quote, sank lower and lower.
He wrote about the downward plunge and complained about everything from excessive sexual license infidelity people turning away from their gods and all these things. Even that just changed fashion, hairstyles, excessive jewelry and makeup. There was a great deal of narcissism people dressing up, showing off wealth, wanting to make sure everybody else could see how great their life was. You could just imagine what it would have been like if the ancient Romans had had instagram. I mean, it would have basically been honestly very similar to a lot of things that we see today.
This constant showiness which was honestly really different than the old traditional conservative values that the Republic of Rome had been founded on, where everybody's working hard. It's not about you. It's not about, oh, look at me, I'm so great. Look, it's about all of us. It's about the republic as a whole, and all of us benefiting all of us.
And this is just a major, major shift in values. And there are a lot of people, including Livi, including even the emperor himself, that realized this. Augustus, actually, as emperor, tried to sort of decree his way back to Roman morality. He passed all these laws and said, well, women can't wear as much jewelry anymore, and all these sorts of sumptuary laws and so forth, but it didn't really matter. Social values continued to shift, and all these things continued, honestly, for hundreds of years.
And we're sort of encapsulating centuries and center. We start off in the eight hundreds BC. Now we're talking about what is famously known in Roman history, is the crisis of the third century. This is the third century. Eighty s of the two hundreds.
There was a writer who was one of the first real Christian writers. Now, Christianity is about 200 years old at this point, and there was a guy still wasn't the official religion of Rome. Christians had been persecuted in Rome, so it was kind of a dangerous time to be a Christian. There was a guy, his name was Saint Cyprian. He became a saint later on, and he was a bishop who actually was, ironically, from Carthage.
And so maybe he had a little bit of an axe to grind and maybe didn't quite like Rome as much, but he was Carthaginian. He was actually a Berber descent, and he was a bishop. Writing in the third century Ad. In the third century. This is known as the crisis of the third century in Rome, where everything just went down.
It was a terrible, terrible time. They had inflation and they had rebellions and civil war and famines and all sorts. It was a terrible, terrible time. I mean, if you compare it to that fat and happy period after the fall of Carthage excuse me. In the first century BC.
And in the first century Ad. By the time you get to the third century Ad. Rome is a horrible place to be. It's a terrible, terrible place to be. And St.
Cyprian, he writes, quote, there is a decrease in deficiency of farmers in the field, of sailors on the sea, of soldiers in the barracks, of honesty in the marketplace, of justice in the court of concord, in friendship, of skill, in technique, of strictness and morals. So he's basically summing up what he sees as here's what's going on. Right? And everything that he can see in Rome, whether it's people doing business with each other in the marketplace instead of honest people doing business with each other in good faith. Obviously, everybody's trying to make money but doing business with each other in good faith.
Everybody's just ripping each other off. Everybody's lying and stealing and ripping each other off. Instead of actual justice in the court, there's no rule of law. It's bribery and corruption instead of skill and technique. People really giving it their all and working hard.
There's no more work ethic. Nobody cares. People just they want to be lazy. They want to sit on the on the dole anymore. And this is actually something that happened very famously in Rome.
I mean, so many things that happen, including people just coming in from the countryside, realizing that, well, hey, that you know, this is in the early first century. People realize, well, you know, there's so much money, and the and the government starts handing out free bread and circuses and all these things, but, well, who who wants to go and work hard in the fields when they're going to give me free money? They're going to give me free food if I move into the capital city? And so what happens? Well, jeez, what a surprise.
Suddenly there's no more labor, you know, working in the you know, working in the fields, no more people working on the farms. So you have a decline in production, all these things. And this is essentially what St. Cyprian was summing up when he said, no more skill and technique, there's no more justice in the courts. There's no more honesty in the marketplace.
And he basically sums up what's happening in Rome and how far they had fallen. Again, this is a common theme in history. We've seen over time, numerous societies that their civilization saw significant decline after they sort of reached this peak wealth stage. They got to their fat and happy stage. They have no more mortal enemy.
Everything's great. They're the dominant superpower. They're the dominant economy. They're wealthy. They don't have to work too hard because basically, they're just cashing checks from all the work that the previous generations put into it.
The previous generations came in and they built this civilization, and then you got newer generations to come in and just reap all the benefits, but without making the investments to keep it going. The analogy is sort of like Venezuelan oil fields, right? You've got one of the wealthiest I mean. Really, there's more oil reserves in Venezuela than anywhere else in the world, way more than Saudi Arabia. And you've got people that came in decades ago and did the hard work to make the investments and the exploration and so forth in that.
And then what's happened? Over time, you've got these governments that have come in and just sucked all the oil wealth out. They've taken all that oil revenue and they just dumped it on socialist programs, basically, instead of reinvesting back into the infrastructure, back into the exploration, back into the equipment and everything to keep that wealth going. No, instead they just cashed in. They just took all that money and they spent it on stuff that would keep them in powers.
This is a common theme in history. Life becomes too easy. The wealth makes life too easy. The lack of competition, generations that fail to pass on and instill the values to the new generations. There's no more unity of purpose.
You've got social strife because now, because you don't have that mortal enemy, you don't have the problems, you don't have to worry about, how am I going to put food on the table? How are we going to feed this civilization? How are we going to deal with these? How are we going to get water from the desert? How are we going to all these things?
You don't have to worry about that anymore. And so basically, people start creating new problems. They start whining and complaining about every the last little thing because they don't have the same problems that they used to have. Now I got to kind of pause and say that there's often in a study of history and anthropology, people talk about a decline in morals. And I mentioned this a little bit when I was talking about, for example, some things that Livi used to write about, and he was far from alone and we didn't even see this in more recent works.
I'd say more recent compared to we're talking about thousands of years. But Edward Gibbon, who wrote quite famously, the decline in fall of the Roman Empire, this goes back to the late 17 hundreds, but obviously it's more recent than Livy, and he wrote extensively about Roman moral decay. In fact, Gibbon sort of points to Roman moral decay as one of the critical reasons for the decline of the Roman Empire. Now, it's easy to say that. It's easy to go, oh, the morals declined, et cetera.
But if you really look at it from a position of intellectual honesty, it's hard to put too much stock into that because across a culture, ethical standards do change over time. And this is normal. And it's not to say that one's better or worse. It's easy for us to judge and say, oh, that shift in morals was bad or good or whatever it was. But let's be honest, I mean, there have been a lot of things in Western civilization that have changed over time.
Things that used to be completely fine, culturally, ethically fine, and today are absolutely appalling. There was a time that there's an entire scientific field where experts got together, they called it phrenology. And they used to they used to take measurements of people's cranium and and and the distance of the the ratio of the width of their forehead to the width of their nose and make certain prognostications about somebody's value as a human being. This was an actual field of science. And from a moral perspective, yeah, that's totally fine.
There was a time that children as young as nine, five, six were getting married. There's nothing for a couple of eleven and twelve year old kids to be married today. That would be again, absolutely appalling. And so all these things do tend to change over time. So I tend to look at more, aside from morality, the more objective indications about social decline.
And we can see this obviously in Rome very easily. We can see for example, the decline in unity. They used to have unity of purpose. They had a common enemy, a mortal threat, an existential threat to their own civilization. I mean, Hannibal was danger close to wiping Rome off the map.
I mean, if that doesn't unite people and it kept them united for a very long time until finally said, we're going to get rid of these people once and for all. And they destroyed Carthage, burned it to the ground and from there we saw a decline in unity before they sacked Carthage and burned it to the ground. Revolts and civil wars and all these things in Rome were almost nonexistent really. Almost nonexistent. And then afterwards it became commonplace.
It happened all the time. People were always people constantly whining, complaining about stuff and sometimes that ended up as armed rebellion or riots or revolutions, civil wars along the way. There were always politicians who were ready to capitalize on that. They went and they tapped into that. People that were complaining about stuff, people that were angry about stuff.
There's always some politician ready to stoke those flames of rage just basically to get elected and hold on to power. There was also a decline in a willingness to serve. And with Rome, obviously we can see that most easily with the legionnaires that originally were units of very high morale, highly trained citizens who it was considered an honor to serve, it was considered a very noble profession. And then later on, obviously the legionnaires, they had to be bribed into service, they had to be attracted by the power and the money and so forth, rather than the actual service itself. And of course, late in the empire you couldn't even find a Roman.
All the legionnaires, they were paid mercenaries. They were just giving out citizenship to everybody because they just couldn't find anybody to do it. And again, I already mentioned the decline in the work ethic. They had after the fall of Carthage in the final defeat of the Carthaginians, they had so much red there. Rome was swimming in money.
They had so much money. It led to the Dole, where they could just say, oh, here everybody, come have free bread, have free games, circuses, gladiator events, all these things. And it pushed more and more people to say, hey, that sounds great. I'm not going to work in the field. That's for suckers.
I'm going to move to the city where I can get all this free stuff. And so it pushed people to move from the countryside into the city, and what a surprise. Again, it resulted in severe labor shortages because the government is just essentially, basically paying people to not work, right? So we're leading to severe labor shortages in critical industries, productions declining, all that, because who wouldn't want to who wouldn't want to get free bread and gladiator games and circuses and all that stuff rather than working out in the field? And so all this basically points to these are all just small examples of decay.
I mean, there have been literally volumes and volumes and volumes of books written on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. We're certainly not going to deal with it all right here, right now, today. We all know that there was a decline. It's hard to say really, exactly here's the date that it started, but we all know that there was decline. We all know.
It's obvious. There is a clear social decay. We can see these issues about lack of unity, lack of work ethic, lack of service, all of these things. And it happened to also coincide with a very lengthy period of time where everything was great peace, prosperity, leading to the PAX Romana in the first century Ad. With Augustus.
And again, it's not a one way street. There were plenty of things got better, things got worse, things got better, things got worse. Augustus came in, he tried to implement certain rules, certain changes, get their house in order, et cetera, but the trend was starting to go in a very, very clear direction, and that was social decay, and that led to a lot of problems. Now, there's a 20th century historian guy, you might have heard the name, his name was Arnold Toynbee. He wrote a book.
Probably his biggest work was called the Study of History. It's it's quite an interesting word. It's controversial for some of the things that he, that he wrote, things that were acceptable to say in the 19, you know, early 19 hundreds that, you know, you just wouldn't say today. And a lot of things, obviously, that have been just totally debunked is silly. But one of the things that Toynbee wrote, there's actually a very interesting idea, is something that he called the Challenge and Response Effect, or challenge and response theory.
And the idea behind the challenge and Response effect is that if a civilization experiences challenges that are simply too great, it's just not going to survive. A civilization in the harshest conditions. The desert is too barren, the tundra is too frozen, the challenge is simply too great. It's just not going to survive. And that makes sense, right?
But similarly, and this is the interesting point is that if a civilization is too successful, if it goes unchallenged, a society often falls into this excessive decadence period. It reduces unity, reduces productivity, reduces efficiency, reduces service. And because of that, they essentially get to that fat and happy lazy stage where they suddenly lose the skills to be able to deal with challenges. There's a certain sweet spot in the middle where as a society, you still have the eye of the tiger. You still have a little bit of hunger to grow and produce and earn and become better.
And because of that, you have the ability still to deal with challenges. But eventually you get so consumed with your own wealth, the decadence and so forth, that you lose the ability to actually meet challenges head on. You just sort of assume that, well, we're so great. We're going to be able to deal with whatever comes. It doesn't even matter.
We're not even going to think about it. There's another anthropologist, a guy named Joseph Tainter, wrote a really wonderful book back in the late 80s called The Collapse of Complex Civilizations. Tainter is a very great thinker, and he borrowed a concept from economics known as diminishing returns. The idea behind diminishing returns in economics is that eventually, as you kind of say, you invest more and more and more into something. Well, eventually the return that you get from that, every new dollar that you invest, you're going to get less and less and less out of it.
And if you think about that from a cultural, governance, social perspective, the idea is that as new challenges arise, a wealthy, decadent, successful society just says, we're, we're so rich, we're just going to keep throwing money at this problem. We're going to keep throwing more and more resources at this problem because we have so much money and we have so much, so many resources, we're just going to keep throwing money at this problem. But there's no efficiency left in it, right? Because nobody's paying attention. Nobody really cares.
They lost the ability to focus. They lost the ability to intelligently and rationally solve problems. And so the more and more money they throw at it, they get less and less return on that money they're throwing at the problem. In order to solve problems, they balloon the size of government because they can afford to do so. But then making the government bigger, creating this vast bureaucracy, it doesn't actually solve the problem.
So then they go and solve the other problem by say, oh, now we need to make government even bigger and bigger and bigger. And so this is the concept really, of diminishing returns is that the more they try and solve the problem, the more effort and resources they put into it, the less solution, really they get out of it. And in a way, it also represents diminishing returns when you reach that point. It also represents a fundamental shift away from the values on which the society was founded. And again, this is normal.
We could see it everywhere. We can see it in, you know, even perhaps in our personal lives. We can see it in business. You know, there's a certain set of values, for example, for a startup, that once they become this huge multibillion dollar enterprise, they turn into this big, giant bureaucracy, right? And so these are the sorts of things that do happen, and it happens in societies and governance as well.
But Rome obviously became its most successful era, became successful. All the stuff that it needed to be successful and be wealthy happened and was built during its Republican era, right? And then it was only after the Republican era, they invanquished Carthage, they built all this wealth, and then all of a sudden they say, oh, then they became an empire, and they built this huge bureaucracy. And it was the corruption and the decline of the rule of law and the decline in social cohesion and all these things. And obviously, at that point, they had reached a point of diminishing returns where now they go, oh, jeez, we got real problems now.
We got to just keep throwing money at it. Let's keep expanding the size of government, let's keep expanding the bureaucracy. But they're not actually getting anything out of all of that. They're not actually solving any problems. They'd reached a point where they were simply incapable of rising to the challenge and fixing their problems.
So I think it's you can probably tell where I'm going with this. I think it's pretty obvious that the west is becoming this way. And look, it's easy if we're talking about moral decay, again, I don't put a lot of stock on that. It's easy to use some of those words. It's easy to say moral decay or soft and weak and all these sorts of things.
And to be honest, I think everybody probably has. We see stuff on a regular basis. You look just casual glance at the headlines, and you can just see stuff that goes, oh, my God. It just makes you scratch your head, shake your head, and go, just for real, just personally, I saw one just the other day I saw in the Wall Street Journal, we see, we already know. I mean, for example, just record high childhood obesity rates.
The CDC's numbers say the average, you know, among children's, 20% of children are obese, and then another 20 some odd percent above that are overweight. And now the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending quite an aggressive stance, an aggressive protocol to start medicating overweight children. So basically, if children are overweight, if children are obese, even on the way to being obese, they say, Give them a pill. Start giving this medication. And I'm thinking, well, that just doesn't sum up the US healthcare system.
God forbid we say, well, let's actually just encourage healthy eating and go out and get some freaking exercise. No, instead, let's take a pill. Let's take a pill. Let's pump them full of drugs. And I mean all this like, well, what a surprise.
Again, you have a whole generation of kids, we told, stay home, cower in fear. There's a virus on the loose. Don't go outside. Don't play with your friends. Don't do any of these things because there's a virus.
Now you got a bunch of fat kids, and what's the solution? Give them drugs, give them a pill. This is a real thing. And you got to look at them and go, are you serious? Talk about a crazy departure of values.
Would this have been the case decades ago? No way. Would this have been the case decades ago? But this is what it is now. And of course, it just doesn't end.
I mean, everybody's got their own anecdotes. Again, the things that make you shake your head, but we've got to be intellectually honest and separate ourselves from that and say, all right, let's divorce ourselves, and saying it's weak and it's soft and all of that, because you always got to say, relative to what? If it's relative to our own past experiences. Again, this is always a funny one because it's almost like every new generation is considered weak and soft by the previous generations. I went to West Point, the military academy in the United States, and it was always kind of a joke is that every new class that comes in, when you're the freshman class, they call you plebes.
It actually is derived from the Roman term plebian, which is what they call their peasant class in ancient Rome. And so this made its way to the military academy in the US. And so the freshman class comes in, they're called the pleebs because you're nothing. You're just nothing, and you're lower than ponds gum. And everybody always complains to go, oh, you have it so easy compared to how I had it.
But again, when those guys were plebes, their upper class were complaining that you had it so easy. And basically every successive class is always thinking that they had it harder than everybody else, and the new guys coming in have it easier than everybody else, and it's all rather silly. And we can kind of point to certain things, go, oh, this generation is weak. But previous generations probably thought the same of our generation. And in fact, if we think about even the generation that's literally called the greatest generation was seen as soft and weak.
The greatest generation. These are people that came of age during the Great Depression I mean, they had horrible economic circumstances. They had to go to war against the Nazis, then go back and rebuild the entire country. I mean, this is why they're called the Greatest generation. They were considered, as they were coming up as children in the 1930s, 1920s, 1930s.
They were considered soft and weak, and everybody thought, oh my God, they're going to ruin the world. And they ended up doing pretty okay. So we have to divorce ourselves from the headlines and the anecdotes and the things that we see, and I think really focus on a little bit more objective data. But let's be honest, there's a lot of that as well. And I think some of the objective data that we can see if we think about through the lens of history and some of the things that I just explained about Rome and where they were at after the destruction of Carthage and the fat and happy and lazy stage where they were at.
And we could see they had problems with recruiting, they had problems with labor shortages, they had problems with work ethic, they had problems with all these things. We go. Well, Jeez, today us. Military recruiting is invisible. It's horrible.
It's basically as bad, if not worse than it was in the Vietnam post Vietnam era, where nobody wanted to be in the military, and people would go and spit on soldiers, said, you're a baby killer, and all these things. I mean, nobody wanted to be in the military. And this is basically where things are right now. And you got a huge percentage of the potential population of people who might be able to serve, not even fit for service, again, because they're obese. This childhood obesity is such a problem.
It's actually taking people out of the potential to even serve the military, even if they want to. But of course, most people don't. And this is pretty alarming considering this is also the time that the Defense Department is pulling out all the stops. I mean, they are rolling out the red carpet. They're saying, we'll pay for college.
They raised everybody's pay. So now you're talking about you could be a 19 year old spec four in the army making good money, good money, and have all of your college paid for and get like $40,000 in bonus money upfront to serve for a couple of years. And even then, they still can't get people to sign up because it's just obviously nobody wants to serve. And that's a problem that the Defense Department has really never actually been confronted with. They had pretty bad recruiting again, like in the early 80s, but they didn't have to bribe everybody with pull out all the stops to bribe everybody to do it.
This is the point. They are bribing everybody and saying, please come and join the military. And they're going out on social media, they're developing video games and all this stuff, trying to go after these younger generations and they just can't get anybody to serve. We've also got similar to what we're talking about with Rome again through that lens, labor shortages in critical industries. Nobody wants to be a truck driver.
Nobody wants to be a forklift operator. Nobody wants to be a farmer. People want to be twitch gamers. They want to post selfies of them sitting in a bikini by some body of water somewhere with some pithy idiotic one liner just showed that they're like philosophical or something like that. It's just so silly.
And on top of that, you've got these terms now that are sort of made their way around corporate America and HR circles. These things like quiet quitting, for example. Quiet quitting, if you haven't heard that term, basically refers to somebody saying, I'm going to do the bare minimum that's just going to make sure I don't get fired. I'm not going to try, I'm not going to do anything above and beyond what's going to make sure that I don't get fired in my job. And I mean you talk about just a clear and distinct lack of motivation, lack of productivity, lack of efficiency, and this is this major movement that younger people are just saying, yeah, this is what we want to do.
And I'll have something to say about that a little bit later because a lot of people go, I don't get paid to do this and say, well hold your horses, let's talk about that for a minute because I have a different perspective. But all this kind of takes me back to and I've quoted this a couple of times john Adams, the second president, the United States at what point in a letter to his wife Abigail. And I'm just paraphrasing here but he wrote, I must study politics and war so that my sons may study science and mathematics so that their sons have the liberty to study art and literature. And of course now we've taken that too so that their great great grandchildren can major in gender studies, rack up $100,000 in student debt only to have it forgiven by the federal government, live in your parent's basement and play video games on Twitch. That's pretty much where things have gone to and you sort of look back and go, well, there were a lot of sacrifices and investments and hard work that was made by previous generations that have come.
And you're in a position where as the dominant superpower, you're not really reinvesting in that the dominant superpower, the society is really just sort of reaping the benefits of all that hard work and eventually that's a finite amount of value that you can extract from your tradition and eventually you just run out. We can see these as well in legislative and policy priorities. We see, oh, let's decriminalize shoplifting in California. Let's go into these catch and release, no bail. Let's take some violent criminal and just turn them right back out on the street because what could possibly go wrong?
Let's cower in fear from a virus and shut down the economy and pay people to not work, and let's just turn a blind eye to a border where anybody can walk across and go live under a bridge in San Antonio. Meanwhile, unvaccinated foreigners cannot legally enter the United States because they're terrible people, but everybody else can come in illegally, and that's totally fine. Universal basic income is like a real thing, and it has a lot of legs where we just again, let's pay people to not work and just do whatever they want in life and just enjoy life and have free money. But even despite all of that, and that's just a tiny snapshot of real things that are indicative of trends that are unfolding, I think that the one that's the most concerning is the disunity. The lack of unity is so concerning.
And we can see this again. Objective data trust is at such lows that even congress nobody's ever liked congress, and presidential approval ratings ebb and flow. But even in once esteemed and venerated institutions like the supreme court used to be, people said, oh, I hate congress, but I still have confidence in the supreme court. I still trust the department of justice. I still have confidence in the military.
Even these once esteemed institutions have seen their trust levels plummet, and that's a big concern. Corporations, big tech, the government itself, the united nations, the media, et cetera. I mean, all this stuff. People just don't have trust and confidence in their institutions. This is a big deal.
We can also see the social divisions that are just palpable. I mean, you can feel it, whether it's online, it's in the streets, it's the fistfights at the airport. I mean, people just something goes wrong and people become unglued. This snafu with the airline technology system, which, what a surprise, it's crappy technology. They're using outdated technology and these airlines and causing all these delays and cancellations, and people went nuts, went nuts.
And we've just seen this. It's become commonplace. People just getting in brawls at an airport terminal, on an airplane itself. It's just these sorts of things. You go, this is not a cohesive society.
And all along the way, you've got these politicians that stand ready to capitalize on the divisions rather than say, whoa, chill out, everybody, come on, this is silly. Let's not do this. Let's be grown ups. Let's talk about our differences. No, they stand ready to capitalize, continue to widen those lines, to widen those chasms.
You notice when they talk, everything's always a fight. Everything's always a fight. We have to fight for this. We're going to fight for that. We're going to discuss this.
We're going to compromise. We're going to respectfully listen to people's opinions, and we're going to come up with a sensible solution that we think works for everybody, that's in the best interest of the nation. It's never that. It's always, we're going to fight and we're going to capitalize on these divisions and so forth. And honestly, it is disgusting.
It is so disgusting to see. But again, there is plenty of historical precedent for this. This is nothing new.
Again, predictions are hard, especially about the future. But I think from what I see from a historical perspective, we may potentially be past the point where it's possible it can be healed. It's just a question over what period of time. I say that objectively. I'm not betting on it.
I'm not certainly advocating for it. It's not what I prefer. I prefer a completely different scenario where people are happy and a lot more unified and people get along and can actually discuss things rationally. But COVID was a prime example. Maybe I'll start from the historical perspective.
It got to the point in Rome where the disunity, again, was so palpable that when the barbarians invaded, they were greeted as liberated if people were happy, said, thank God the barbarians are here so they can deliver us from these idiots who are governing us. I'm not saying we're there yet, but I'm saying that historically, there's a lot of precedent for that. And I think COVID was a very interesting example because usually it's the time of crisis that does tend to unify, because now suddenly you have this common enemy and you have this thing that everybody's dealing with and suffering with, and everybody's got to chip in and share, and you set aside your differences in times like that. And COVID in theory should have been that, but it wasn't. And we won't even get into the ridiculousness of a lot of the decisions that were made and the policies, et cetera.
But the point is that from a social perspective, there was an opportunity there to for unity to really form, and it wasn't. And maybe there's something else down the road that creates unity. But honestly, at that point, you're you're talking about a catastrophe that nobody would probably want. And so it's really a double edged sword. You have this disunity that needs a catalyst in order to heal.
But the thing the catalyst that would heal it would probably be some major catastrophe that nobody actually wants. So it's not really a great outcome either way if you think about it from that perspective. If we go back to Toynbee and we think about all of this from, let's say we view it through the challenge and response lens, right? This all demonstrates this social dysfunction, the anger, the tirades, the politicians that are focused on, I got to tap into this chaos to get myself reelected. I got to tap into it and even strengthen, widen these social divisions because that's going to keep me in power, I'm going to get my agenda passed.
We think about this from a challenge and response effect. It all just demonstrates a complete inability to. Be able to rise to the challenges and rationally solve problems because there is no rational problem solving. Not only is there no rational problem solving, there's no rational discussion. Somebody brings up says, I don't think we should be sending $50 billion to Ukraine without any oversight whatsoever.
That person is shut down as a Putin lover. There are so many examples of this, you can't even have a discussion, let alone a solution. And it's funny because Toynbee wrote about this. Toybe wrote that it was a clear indication that a civilization has essentially broken down beyond all repair. And the sign is when it's the independent thinkers, the value creators, the problem solvers are silenced and marginalized by a dominant minority.
And of course, we've seen this so many times. As one tiny example, this just happened. I bring this up because it happened a couple of days ago. There was a congressman who went on MSNBC. Obviously, MSNBC is incredibly left leaning, and he just was of the wrong ideology to go on MSNBC.
And he said that Social Security is going to run out of money within the next decade, which is 100% true. Statement. How do we know it's true? Because the Treasury Secretary of the United States says so. The Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of labor, all these people sign their name to an annual report that says that Social Security is going to run out of money.
The trust funds will be fully depleted basically within a decade. And it's a little bit of a moving target. Their projections change a little bit from year to year, but we're talking about pretty much a decade, maybe eight years, maybe eleven or twelve years. But somewhere in there, around a decade, Social Security is going to run out of money. And they're telling you you could pretty much circle this date on your calendar.
And he just repeats this and says, Social Security is going to run on money. The trust funds are going to be fully depleted. The host of the show cuts him off and just this guy's trying to talk, and she just cuts him off and talks over. And so that's not true. That's not true.
That's not true. That's not true. It is true. It is true. It's 100% true.
It's just it's literally something that the Treasury Secretary of the United States signs her name to, puts in a written report that anybody can read. Anybody could read. This is not a conspiracy theory. It's 100% true. It's not even a political issue.
It's an arithmetic problem. And they just put it out there for everybody to see. She said that's not true. That's not true. And so this is somebody that's just literally trying to raise a problem, trying to identify a problem for discussion, is being silenced, let alone talk about a solution, let alone actually implement a solution.
You can't even talk about a problem without getting silenced. And again, we've seen that is one tiny example. We've seen censorship cancel culture, all this stuff. And again, it's just an indication of the inability to solve problems. We talked about these.
I've kind of cast all of these something from a big picture I call The Forces of Decline and I say there's four forces of decline. This isn't in some anthropology book. This is just my own view on things. The way I categorize them. And I call one is the Forces of energy.
I did a whole podcast about this where we talk about the energy return on energy invested is declining. Basically, we're not getting enough. We used to have where we would, whether drill for oil or gas or whatever, we would have to put in just a little bit of energy to get a whole lot of oil out of the ground. And that oil could provide so much energy for us. Now we've got to invest a lot of energy to get a little bit of energy out.
And so that math, that calculus just totally upside down. It's the wrong trend. And that's actually a major force in future inflation and all sorts of things. Prosperity, you have human prosperity. Where you have cheap, inexpensive energy.
Where you have expensive energy, you have problems. And our energy is getting more expensive. So forces of energy is a major force in decline. We also have forces of economy, debts, deficits, inflation, money printing, all these things. We talk about these things regularly.
We also have forces of society. This is where a society eats itself from within the decay, the disunity, all these things that I've been talking about today, as well as forces of I just call them forces of history. These are the inevitable, the inevitable cyclicality, the rise, the peak, the declines of societies, of civilizations, of empires, of economies, financial markets. So many things are cyclical. We go through seasons, we go through cycles.
And what we're really talking about today is mostly, again, forces of society, some forces of history. There's some cyclicality to this. But really talk about forces of society, again, leading to an inability to solve problems. This is not anything that anybody can really do about you. And I can't go out and suddenly get hundreds of millions of people to just chill out and say, dude, just relax.
Let's have a rational conversation about things. And I could see some things your way and you could see some things my way. And we clearly have a problem. Let's identify we have a problem. Let's at least agree we have a problem.
Let's talk about solutions, et cetera. But you can't really do that. Nobody can really do that. And honestly, it'll probably take decades, years at least, if not decades, to really repair and restore the trust and confidence and reinstall certain social values. Again, it's not even about morality.
I'm not even talking about morality here. Again, I ignore that entirely. People do what they do. I don't care. It's really about some of these basic things about is there rule of law, is there the work ethic, all these things.
You just go back to certain tradition and go, well, you don't have to be a genius to see like, well, what made the country, the society, the civilization wealthy and prosperous to begin with? Well, let's go back to that. Let's do that where people, you know, people worked hard and there wasn't a giant bloated government bureaucracy. Again, I know there's a lot of I mean, to be honest, most people probably do work really, really hard. Labor, however, is an economic resource and the more of it you have, the better off your economy is going to be.
And when government policy is paying people to stay home and you've got a large movement of people that doesn't actually want to be in the workforce and so forth, that's going to create economic problems. Even though there are if 90% of everybody else is working their asses off and 10% of the people are being dragged along, that's going to create problems. And that's kind of where things are right now. But all of this does create really interesting and unique opportunity. This is really what I want to leave you with today.
And I told you earlier and I talked about quiet quitting and I said I'm going to come back to this. And this is something I think that's worth mentioning. Again, the concept of quiet quitting is it's this growing movement where people say, I'm going to do the bare minimum because I don't want to do this and I'm going to do the bare minimum, make sure I don't get fired. People say things like, well, they want me to work more, they want me to work harder, but they don't pay me enough for that. They don't pay me to do this and that.
And that may actually very well be a valid argument. Everybody's got individual circumstances and people might be in a job that they hate for a boss that they despise and get terrible pay and all these things. And sure, everybody's got to make a decision about that. But jobs are kind of interesting in that you do actually get paid in multiple ways. There's normal compensation, salary, benefits, et cetera.
Maybe healthcare or not. You get the social benefits. You got people that you like at work and friendships that you develop and other relationships. But one of the most important things I think that's often discounted, especially among younger people, is you get paid in the learning and the knowledge and the experience. Because when you come out of school, especially even after university, you spent four years learning whatever, and then it's like you get on the job and you got to relearn everything from scratch.
And this is really where some of the most valuable skills you learn really important things. You learn sales, you learn marketing, you learn finance, you learn whatever it is. You learn whatever a valuable skill. You learn welding, you learn how to be an electrician, you learn all these different things, really, really valuable skills. These are really valuable skills and you learn that stuff and it's interesting is because now you're getting paid to learn versus people go to people go to university and they'll go and spend they'll go and take on $100,000 in debt to end up learning almost nothing.
And now you get a job where you're getting paid to learn something that's actually valuable. And so that dynamic, I think, is something that is really, really interesting. Now, some people might not be in a job where they're learning anything which is terrible, in which case you should absolutely consider your options and go find something where you can learn as much as you possibly can because that knowledge is so important. I've often said, and this is almost a cliche, the best investment you can ever make is the investment you make in yourself. And the way that you spend your time is so critical.
And if you have a job, you're spending whatever 8 hours a day or more on whatever work you're doing, it should really be worth it. And you should be learning that's an investment in your time, you should be getting a significant, not diminishing returns. You should really be getting growing ample returns on that investment in your time. And if you're not, then sure, go find something else. Don't quiet quit.
Just quit. Just quit. Don't beat around the bush, don't mess around. Just go quit and go find something that's actually going to do really well for your growth and your experience. We can learn the skills that are necessary to actually do better, to do more, or to go out and start your own damn company and do a better job than the other guys because you've learned how to do that now.
And now your earning potential is so significant but because you actually made a conscious decision to go out and spend your time learning instead of this quiet quitting, what is that quiet quitting. You're basically making a conscious decision to go and take a third of your life and just set it on fire for an amount of pay that you even acknowledge isn't even that great. That's a horrible decision. That's a terrible, terrible, terrible decision. It pains me that this is actually becoming a popular thing among an entire generation to go, I don't quiet quitting.
It's a terrible idea. If you're not happy with what you're doing, then stop. Life is too short. Don't mess around with it and go find something else where you can actually learn and become a better human being and use that as a springboard to set your life in the direction that you actually want to go. Instead of just being a passenger and going, well, this sucks, but I'm just going to keep doing it and spend 8 hours, a third of my life doing something that I don't like.
It's terrible. And the larger thing behind all of this and all this is that all these things that we're talking about, you can't go and change any of these things, right? But certainly a strong work ethic is a personal choice. How we choose to spend our time, that's a personal choice. The way we invest our money, that's a personal choice in all of this because there are these problems, there are huge problems to solve.
And again, we see labor shortages and supply chain dysfunction, all these things. It's clear and obvious, enormous problems that need to be solved. And because now there are shortages, it means that hardworking people, talented entrepreneurs, the investors who fund them have a ton of opportunity because there's very little competition. There's very little competition. If you think about, there's less competition now for hard work, for somebody that actually is willing to work hard, there's a whole lot less competition out there than there has been in decades.
And that actually creates a lot of opportunity. It opens a lot of doors that weren't open before. If you want to start a business, there's a lot of doors that are open that weren't there before because there are so many problems and so many people go, I'm just not really going to do anything. I'm going to quiet quit instead of go out and start a business to tackle this problem. And, and it's, it's, this is, I think, a point to really look at because you can't, you cannot solve, you know, the nation's problems.
Nobody's going to be able to go out and get hundreds of millions of people in the US. And look, these problems are similar in the UK and all places all over Europe. I mean, this is not something that is particular to any single country. These are things that are happening all over the world and nobody you can't go and just change the entire culture of your country and certainly not do it overnight, but you can absolutely make personal decisions and really just turn it upside down and realize this means that there are a lot of opportunities because there are fewer people that are willing to do the hard work. There are few people that are willing to go after these opportunities and solve these problems.
And you know, it's, it means it's wide open. These opportunities are wide open. There is a ton of opportunity. Again, whether it's just somebody that's an employee that's just willing to work hard, there's a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurs that are willing to go and solve those problems. There are opportunities, again, investors who want to fund them, there's opportunities and I think that's really a better way to look at it.
You can't solve these things. This train is long ago left the station. We can certainly hope for the best, but I think it's always, always, always critical to keep in mind the opportunities that are always in front of us. And there are a whole lot right now. Thanks very much for listening, and we'll speak to you again next week.
Simon Black, as James Hickman is more commonly known, is the Founder of Sovereign Man.
He is an international investor, entrepreneur, and a free man. His daily e-letter, Sovereign Letters, draws on his life, business and travel experiences to help readers gain more freedom, more opportunity, and more prosperity.
Hickman is a lifelong entrepreneur and investor that’s traveled to more than 120 countries on all seven continents. In addition, he’s started, invested in, or acquired businesses all over the world.
He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in the US Army as an intelligence officer during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Hickman founded a South America-based agriculture company that has become one of the leading producers in its industry. A few years ago, he acquired a prominent retail brand in Australia, purchasing the business from the former 1980s era rock star who founded it.
His other business ventures have included starting a boutique, private investment bank that boasts some of the highest levels of liquidity and solvency in the world, and investing in companies from Colombia to Uzbekistan. He also serves on numerous Boards of Directors, and previously served as Chairman of company listed on a major stock exchange.
Writing under the pen name Simon Black, he has also written extensively on business incorporation and tax residency establishment in Puerto Rico, and is a proponent of investing in gold and silver as a hedge against inflation.
He is a also a prolific writer on topics ranging from second residency and citizenship, Golden Visas and portfolio diversification, to estate and retirement planning, asset protection, tax optimization and US Opportunity Zones.
James Hickman (aka Simon Black) is an international investor, entrepreneur, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter Notes from the Field is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom, make more money, keep more of it, and protect it all from bankrupt governments.