Consumption Doesn’t Make Us Happy

We live in a culture that presents consumption as the ultimate end: Party with the pretty people drinking the good beer, get your husband to give you a car with a huge ribbon on it for Christmas, prove your love with a diamond, and so on without end. And it’s been going on for so long that most Westerners don’t see much else.

Consumption, however, doesn’t make us happy((You can, of course, debate definitions of happiness.)). Or, to be more precise, it imparts no real satisfaction: It’s all ephemeral, fleeting, temporary… if and when it’s even obtained. 

What keeps people eternally seeking more consumption is not the feeling they’ll get from the good beer and sleeping with the hot girl/guy, but the hope of claiming the prize… the imagination that they’ll find magic when they get the girl-ring-car-house-job-jet-whatever.

I Know Because I’ve Seen

One of the great strokes of luck in my life was falling in with a fascinating group of older men at 15 years old. Here’s how I described it in issue #45 of our subscription letter:

As a very young man, I got to know mobsters and politicians, geniuses and maniacs, doctors and bus drivers, millionaires and bust-outs. And these guys let it all hang out in the workout room: business problems, family problems, girlfriends, booze, drugs, people who had cheated them, political scams, bribery… all of it. It was an education that I couldn’t have obtained anywhere else, for any price.

A wild businessman (whose briefcase sported marijuana, cocaine, and booze) took me to sporting events… although I had to call my mom first, to get permission! A professional football player became my friend. Millionaires told me their troubles. I experienced all of this, and much more, while I was in high school.

So, please believe me that the dream babe, the dream house and so on will not make you happy. They will for a moment, but not for long. I’ve watched that game play out over and over. More than that, I’ve had a few of the “dream” things myself. Some of them are nice enough, but they will not satisfy you over time. They simply aren’t the right vehicles for satisfaction… they can produce it no better than an apple tree can produce onions.

And here’s a quote from Neal Cassady, who had to be the number one party guy of the 20th century. He was the hero of On The Road, idol to multiple rock bands, and much more:

Twenty years of fast living—there’s just not much left, and my kids are all screwed up. Don’t do what I have done.

So, please don’t imagine that the advertised image will satisfy you. It won’t.

The Illusion Is As Bad As Cocaine

Actually, the illusion is a lot like cocaine. Do you remember the famous rat experiment, where they give the rat a shot of cocaine if it pushes a lever… and then the rat starves to death because it will do nothing except push the lever? Well, substitute modern man for the rat and the hope of consumption for the cocaine and the model holds.

The cocaine is not actual consumption, mind you, but the hope of consumption. And in that hope millions of humans spend their lives, chasing images and dreams that will never satisfy them for more than a moment… presuming they reach them at all.

The entire model – from the advertising complex to the hijacking of youthful hormones to dreams of status – it’s all an addiction, and the people selling it are “pushers.”

The supermodel will not make you happy.

The billionaire will not make you happy.

The mansion will not make you happy

The Ferrari will not make you happy.

They can not.

Some of these may give you a short burst of excitement and perhaps a feeling of triumph, but all are fleeting.

What Does Satisfy

What actually satisfies is knowing that you are a good and beneficial being. Not by hoping (“I’ll be made good someday”) or implying (“I keep the rules, so I must be good”), but by doing good and beneficial things… by having, as a few old preachers used to say, a conscious sense of righteousness.

In practice, this feeling – this recognition – comes from production: Knowing, based upon concrete actions, that you are a beneficial being.

The satisfaction generated by accomplishment endures through all of life, and they needn’t be gigantic accomplishments. Hang out with an old carpenter or bricklayer some time; take a drive through their home town. Invariably they’ll point out the stores, houses and factories they built. And each time they do they’ll feel satisfaction… that they created things that served and blessed the world. And that satisfaction will remain in them through the end of their days.

The same goes for raising good children, and other real accomplishments.

Why This Is Important Just Now

This is especially important just now because nearly all the fixes that come from the powers that be involve consumption: Reinvigorate your town with coffee shops and diners. More production is seldom even considered.

There are reasons for this (we covered them in FMP #103), but they are misguided and destructive. Consumption will never deliver what production does.

Without being productive, we degrade. Consumption isn’t remotely enough.


If you want a deeper understanding of these issues, see:

FMP issue #45

FMP issue #103

Parallel Society issue #2

Production Versus Plunder

Paul Rosenberg

The Necessity of Being a Well-Rounded Person… and How to Pull It Off

I regularly go on about the necessity of forming your own opinions and making stands upon them. And while I’m quite certain about that, there’s another side to such things. We are complicated creatures, after all.

The more we express and defend our own opinions, the more we tend to get locked into them. And that part can be a problem, because none of us – not even the best of us – knows enough to claim that his or her opinions are beyond questioning.

No matter how sure we are about something, we need to leave an opening for better information to change our minds. Most often, we’ll need only modify a long-held opinion rather than jettison it altogether, but we have to be ready to jettison anything that doesn’t stand up against new information.

Where we hit danger is when we become set in our ways and can’t let things go. That problem tends to get worse with age, with persecution, or if we become well-known for a particular opinion. But whatever way it comes, being overly devoted is a grave problem.

The most common threat, however, is considering oneself part of a group and being so emotionally tied to the group that you lack the emotional strength to disregard it.

Ask anyone who has left a strong and clannish religious group how hard it was. They know. The people who quit such groups have to face losing all their friends at once. That takes guts, and such people deserve credit for what they did.

Political, academic, or other types of groups can become clannish and controlling in just the same ways, and exert the same pressures.

All such pressures are poisons, and protecting ourselves from them, in my opinion, is a duty we owe to ourselves, our friends, and to the truth itself.

How to Pull It Off

It’s one thing to say, “Don’t allow yourself to get clannish,” but making it a practical reality is something else.

I have three specific tools that have worked for me, and I’ll pass them along to you.

#1: Stay warm to the opposite view. Pay attention to opposing viewpoints, but not with the intent of chopping them up. Face them sympathetically. You don’t have to read every opposing viewpoint, but when you find one that seems to be clear and thoughtful, stop and check it out. More than that, try to find some good in it. Stay open and stay out of us/them imagery. What matters is the truth, not who says it.

#2: Keep friends who don’t believe the same as you. Make sure you spend quality time with people who don’t share your views. Make those people your friends… and I mean actual friends, people you come to care about. Try to find people who are competent, experienced, and different. And try to see them regularly. Two or three times per week would be ideal.

#3: Have someone to try your ideas upon. It would be ideal to have one person in your field or a near one who’s really good at what they do but who doesn’t entirely agree with you; then bounce critical ideas off this person. (Such people tend to be busy, so you should probably ask their thoughts for only the most important things.) This person can be hard to find, but if you do find one, hold on to them.

But More than All That…

Beyond all that we’ve said above, being well-rounded is vital. People who get rigid have a nagging little voice somewhere in the back of their minds, testifying that something is wrong. You don’t want to carry that with you for life.

On top of that, your family will be damaged by inflexibility of character, which is what you’ll get by holding your opinions above examination and change. Likewise, your effectiveness in cooperative ventures – everything from business to your local little league – will suffer.

We need to recognize people as they are, not how they line up with our beliefs.

So, I suggest that you start using the three tools I’ve noted above. Being a well-rounded person is dramatically to your benefit.

* * * * *

As it turns out, history was never too hard to understand; they just told you the wrong story.

Comments from readers:

“This is the most amazing little book I have read on history in 36 years of reading history.”

“It will change the way you look at nearly everything.”

“I will flat out say that this is the best history book I have ever read… I am fairly well read, but I learned a tremendous amount that I hadn’t known before or hadn’t aligned so that it made sense.”

“This is the best and clearest description of the history of Western civilization I have ever read.”

“Packed with insights on every page concerning how the world came to be the way it is and what we might expect in the future.”

Get it at Amazon or on Kindle.

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

How to Gain Confidence and Courage


For more than two years I wrote a free monthly newsletter called Individual Virtue. Recently I’ve received some interest in those articles, so I thought I’d republish some of them (with light editing). This is the first.

Confidence and Courage

All of us enjoy feeling confident, or at least we dislike feeling confused and weak. We also like feeling that we’ve been brave and not cowardly. But how do we get these things? If you’re at all like me, how to get them was never really explained to you. It all seemed like magic. Either you have the secret ingredients or you don’t.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s start with the basics:

Confidence is an opinion that you hold about yourself. It would have to be, wouldn’t it? You either believe that you are able to do a thing, or you don’t.

Courage is your ability to make decisions and hold to them in the face of fear. Courage is about what you do, not what you feel. Someone who feels no fear at all in the face of real danger isn’t brave; they’re irrational.

Building Courage

Confidence and courage are not magic. They are built, just like most other aspects of human character. Do you want confidence? Do you want courage? You can have them! But you’ll have to develop them the old-fashioned way: by working on them.

By the way, this is the only way you’ll ever get them. The ‘fast and easy’ methods of building character traits don’t work; they are empty promises from people who have something to sell. Don’t fall for them; you’ll waste your time and end up no place better than where you started.

So, beware of counterfeits. There are many people and groups that will tempt you with them. Their game is this: They give you something that looks and feels like confidence or courage, but only if you are inside of their group. Don’t fall for it. Real confidence and courage come from inside of you, not from an exterior group.

Now, let’s start with specifics on getting confidence and courage. We’ll start on courage with a quote from John Wayne:

Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.

And this is true. Courage is your ability to act in the face of legitimate fears. You have to build this ability like you build your muscles. That means you start at a low level of courage and build up to a high level. Courage grows little by little and only with effort.

So, if courage is built, then something else is true: To act cowardly does not make you a permanent coward.

Imagine a weightlifter who can lift hundreds of pounds. But when he started, he failed many times to lift a fraction of the amount he lifts now. He only became a champion after he decided not to quit – even when he failed repetitively and things were very hard.

It’s the same with courage. If you face a scary situation – and act as a coward – that is not the end of it for you. You can come back next time and do better… and come back the time after that and do still better. And after a long time, people will watch you and wonder how you can have so much courage in the face of adversity.

This has been done by millions of others and you can do it too, but it requires hard, consistent effort.

Building Confidence

As we said earlier, confidence is an opinion you hold about yourself. If you believe you can do something, you are said to be confident. If you don’t believe you can do it, you are not confident.

Judging yourself is where confidence gets complicated. For example, many of us have vaguely decided not to acknowledge our abilities because we fear that people would dislike us for having them. Turning your back on your own ability might have made sense at one time in your life (such as when we were children), but we must always acknowledge our abilities to ourselves, even if we hide them from the world.

Thinking that you can do more than you can is usually only a temporary error; once you try, you learn the truth.

The second part of confidence is having ability. This part is simple, but not easy. All types of ability are built by practice, from physical skills to making moral judgments. If you want ability, act. And as you continue to act, analyze your actions and improve them.

Analyze yourself from time to time. Find your gaps and decide which abilities will be more or less important to you in the future. Keep acting and keep improving. Soon enough, you will begin to be a confident person. In time, you will be highly confident.

Here’s a tip: Don’t think that you should be able to do everything. You can’t. No one can. There are simply too many things that are done in the world, and no one has the time and energy to learn them all.

Carefully choose the abilities you will develop, and never be afraid to say, “No, I’ve never learned how to do that very well.”

And remember this:

Other people’s opinions of you don’t really matter. It’s only when you accept their opinions that you suffer.

Paul Rosenberg

Switching Scripts

scriptAlmost all of us were raised to follow a more or less uniform script through our lives. Sometimes it was specifically taught to us, and other times we just absorbed it by watching others. But regardless of how we were trained, there are two primary problems with following this script:

  1. Following a script is unbecoming to a thinking being and leads in bad directions.
  2. Such scripts reflect what worked a generation ago, and yesterday is gone.

We all know the details of the script, of course. It goes more or less like this:

  • Do well in school.
  • Rebel with music from the entertainment corps.
  • Get shoes, clothes, and gadgets with the best corporate logos.
  • Get a university degree. (If your family isn’t rich, take student loans.)
  • Take a job at a big firm with good benefits.
  • Get a loan and buy a house.
  • Build a 401(k).
  • Believe in democracy.
  • Send your children to daycare, then school.
  • Buy brand-name goods.
  • Watch the best in entertainment.
  • Rely on Social Security and Medicare.

Do these things, and people in authority will approve of you. In fact, nearly everyone from the previous generation will approve of you. After all, you’re following the script that they wrote, back in 1984, a generation ago.

It No Longer Works

In 2014, however, this script no longer works. Manufacturing jobs are way down, selfemployment is down, and even the number of military jobs seems to be declining. We all know college grads who can’t find a job, and others who are working at Starbucks… and lucky to get that.

Poll after poll shows that the Millennial Generation (people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s) have very little expectation of doing better than their parents. The reason for that is obvious: The old script isn’t working. And while the older generation is emotionally committed to the 1984 script, the young generation isn’t. They know they’re being screwed.

Still, the old script is being promoted in media and by politicians. Almost the entire older generation – or at least those who are televised – do homage to this script, and repetitively.

What is promoted isn’t working for most of us, and government/corporate promoters will change last of all.

So, what is to be done?

Switching Scripts

The obvious answer to the question above is to switch scripts: to stop doing what no longer works, and start finding things that do work.

The problem with doing sensible things such as this, however, is that they’re scary.

Those of us who have gone to traditional schools and grew up surrounded by the televised culture (that is, almost all of us) were taught to stay within the lines and to take part only in things that have been authorized. Venturing outside the borders of the approved seems dangerous to us. That’s for weird people.

But what we find authorized is the script from the last generation, and that no longer works. So, we can either stay within the lines that were drawn for us, or we can act on our own judgment, go rogue, and work at improving our situations.

However dangerous leaving the authorized script may feel, it’s the only reasonable path to take. 1984 is gone.

So, What Is the New Script?

Obviously, there isn’t one. We have to start creating it ourselves. But if we don’t do this, the only alternative is 1984’s script – the one that worked for the generation that is in power now, and who sees the world through 30 year old lenses.

Furthermore, the most effective new ways of living won’t be handed to us from some genius authority. They will form in bits and pieces, based on the things that are working now. And it will come through many minds and by many examples, not from unified and authorized sources.

Come to Dallas in October

This October 17-19, we’ll be inaugurating a new festival, called the Going Rogue Festival. The purpose of the festival is to find, promote, and explain the things that are working now, outside of the authorized script. We’ll be covering everything from Bitcoin to home schooling to 3D printing to home farming.

We have a great group of speakers, with more to be added, but this is not just a seminar: It’s a festival. We’ll also have vendors displaying their products and services, catered meals, and a great group of people to meet, work with, and grow with.

Please come if you can. There is a discount for early registration. (When asked for a coupon code, please enter FMP)

Paul Rosenberg


Are You a Gorilla or a God?

god or gorillaHumanity stands about halfway between gorillas and gods. The great question that looms over us, is this: “Which will we incorporate into our lives? Gorilla things or God things?”

The choice is ours. Yes, various choices are thrust upon us all our lives, accompanied with various levels of intimidation and threat, but at some point, all of us find ourselves able to choose freely. And it is then that we go in one direction or the other. We are able to change directions of course, but every time we choose, we move a step in one direction or the other.

What We Are

Please understand that I am not endorsing any specific theories here – religious, scientific, or otherwise. I’m merely describing the situation in which humanity finds itself. We are halfway between gorillas and gods: The worst things we do are gorilla-like, and the best things we do are god-like. Either direction is open to us.

Strange as it may seem, we are a lot like apes. Our bodies are built in the same ways, our body chemistry is nearly identical, and the worst aspects of human nature are essentially the same as the worst aspects of primate behavior.

We are also a lot like gods. We transcend entropy; we create. We can touch the soul in others, and the best aspects of human nature are essentially the same as the best characteristics attributed to the gods.

This is not what we can be; this is what we are. What we become in the future depends on whether we choose gorilla things or god things, here and now.

What Are Gorilla and God Things?

Gorilla things are those which operate on a dominant/submissive model. Hierarchy (high-level individuals controlling lower-level individuals) is the blueprint of the gorilla world. Dominant gorillas seek status and the power to control others. The submissive apes seek to pass along their pain to the apes below them (females, juveniles, etc.) and to avoid punishment. They are servile toward the dominants and cruel toward those they are able to dominate. Females trade sex for favors.

God things operate on a creative model. Blessing is the blueprint of the god world: distributing love, honesty, courage, kindness, blessing, awe, gratitude, and respect into the world and to other humans.

Gorilla things are these:

  • The desire to rule.
  • The desire to show superiority and status.
  • Servility.
  • Avoidance of responsibility.
  • Reflexive criticism of anything new.
  • Abuse of the weak or the outsider (women, children, Gypsies, Jews, immigrants, homosexuals, etc.).

God things are these:

  • Producing things that preserve or enhance life.
  • Invention and creativity.
  • Expressing gratitude and appreciation.
  • Experiencing awe and transcendence.
  • Adaptability and openness.
  • Improving yourself and others.

The Two Wolves

You’ve probably heard the old story of the two wolves: A young boy becomes angry and violent, and then feels guilty about his violence. He goes to his grandfather for advice. The old man says, “You have two wolves inside you: one of them is nice, the other is dangerous, and they’re fighting inside of you.”

The boy then asks his grandfather, “Which one will win?” The old man replies, wisely, “Whichever one you feed.”

In the same way, humanity becomes like gorillas or gods depending on whether we put gorilla things or god things into our lives.

I’m not going to tell you this is always easy, but the difficulty hardly matters: Somehow, we’ve been given a choice between becoming gorillas or becoming gods. No other creatures in this world have been given such a choice.

Bring god things into your life, and reject gorilla things. It doesn’t matter if these things are hard – you are defining your own nature between two wildly different options, every day.

Leave gorilla stuff to the gorillas.

Building god stuff into your life is your job, my job, everyone’s job.

Paul Rosenberg