“It is the essence of a successful investor that he should be eccentric, unconventional and rash in the eyes of the average opinion.” — John Maynard Keynes (Maxims of Wall Street, p. 44)
“You can’t buy what’s popular and do well.” — Warren Buffett (p. 50)
“The only people who never get criticized are those who never do anything.” — Linda Prevatt (p. 145)
Last week, Jo Ann and I went on an Alaskan cruise with our extended family to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. At the end of the cruise we stopped in Victoria Island in British Columbia, Canada, to see the famous Butchart Gardens and other tourist attractions.
While traveling, I love to visit bookstores, and while milling through the Munro’s Books in Victoria, I came across a provocative title, “The Courage to be Disliked.”
It is written by two Japanese writers who wrote about the philosophy of their mentor Alfred Adler, a psychiatrist who was a contemporary and rival to Sigmund Freud in Vienna, Austria.
I knew nothing about him, but I could see he was one of those philosophers who rejects individualism and the competitive marketplace. He says things like, “Desire for recognition makes you unfree” and “Deny the desire for recognition” and “Listen to the voice of a larger community,” and “the essence of work is a contribution to the Common Good.”
It turns out that Alfred Adler was a hard-core socialist involved in Red Vienna after World War I.
I can see why his philosophy would appeal to the Japanese, who have a strong sense of community and conformity. For example, during the Covid pandemic in 2020-22, everyone in Japan wore masks even though it was not mandated. Japanese businesses work together as teams, and lifetime employment is common.
In many ways, the title of their book was misleading. If you want to be liked by everyone, you need to conform to the crowd. But if you have the courage to be disliked, it means you have to be an individualist and a contrarian who goes against the crowd — the opposite of what Adler and the authors of this book advocate.
The West Versus the East
If you want to accomplish things and be recognized, you need to get out on your own. Every person who has come up with new ideas and inventions has faced opposition, and been envied and disliked at one time or another.
As one friend told me, “There are lots of things you can ‘do’ without being disliked, especially in the non-profit world. But say something principled and controversial and you risk being cancelled, ostracized, de-platformed and, yes, hated.”
In the West, we tend to be non-conformists and individualists who “pursue our interests in our own way,” as Adam Smith put it. Team effort is important in big corporations, but entrepreneurs and inventors tend to be loners. As Humphrey Neil, father of contrary thinking and investing, put it, “Nothing is more frustrating to an individualist than to be mired in a modern group-led, massive, corporate organization.” (Maxims, p. 97)
Winston Churchill is a classic example. He was in the minority throughout the 1930s in criticizing Britain for being isolationist and failing to see the growing Nazi threat under Adolph Hitler. It was only after World War II got started that he became popular.
Adam Smith Singlehandedly Popularized Free Trade
Adam Smith is another example. As Richard Ebeling, professor of economics at the Citadel, wrote recently, Adam Smith spent years in the early 1770s as a “solitary thinker in private study” writing a 1,000-page magnum opus that was published in 1776 as “The Wealth of Nations.” He was an “intellectual Don Quixote” who “singlehandedly overthrew… the world-wide delusion of protectionism.” Read his tribute to Adam Smith here.
That’s why a single individual — Adam Smith — is on the cover of my book “The Making of Modern Economics.”
My book is unique and non-conformist. Unlike other histories of the great economic thinkers, my book has a running plot where the hero, Adam Smith and his “system of natural liberty,” come under attack by the Marxists, Keynesians and socialists. He is often left for dead, but is resuscitated by his supporters — the laissez-faire French, the Austrians and the Chicago school of economics. In the end, Adam Smith’s model triumphs with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet socialist system of central planning.
As Milton Friedman said, “All histories of economics is BS — Before Skousen!”
But the war of ideas is far from over. Even today, the media is full of vicious attacks on capitalism and free markets, as in the example of Senator Bernie Sanders’ new book, “It’s Okay to be Angry about Capitalism.”
Naturally my book has come under attack as well, by Marxists, who banned my book at the University of the Philippines; by Keynesians who canceled my position at Columbia Business School and even a writer at the Mises Institute who called my book “a disaster.”
However, John Mackey, who has had his share of criticism when he was CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a big fan: “Skousen’s book is fun to read on every page. I’ve read it three times. I love this book and have recommended it to dozens of my friends.”
The late great William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote, “I champion Skousen’s book to everyone. I keep it by my bedside and refer to it often. An absolutely ideal gift for college students.”
And Richard Rahn states, “Mark Skousen has produced the single best book on virtually all of those who have had a significant impact in economics. It’s a delight to read cover to cover.”
Who’s right? You decide by reading the book.
Subscribers have bought multiple copies of “The Making of Modern Economics” to give to their children and to students.
Routledge and Amazon charge over $50 for “The Making of Modern Economics.” But I offer a major discount — only $35 — at my website, www.skousenbooks.com. I autograph and date each copy. I will mail it for no additional charge if mailed inside the United States.
Each buyer of any of my books will also receive a copy of my popular essay, “Economics of Life Made Simple,” which was the cover story of Skeptic magazine and a tribute to Adam Smith on the 300th anniversary of his earth. Go to www.skousenbooks.com.
P.S. Come join me and many of my Eagle colleagues on an incredible cruise! If you book before Sept. 29, you’ll receive a spend-as-you-wish $250 ship board credit! In addition, this is all-inclusive — meals, drinks and even the excursions are included in your one-time price! We set sail on Dec. 4 for 16 days, embarking on a memorable journey that combines fascinating history, vibrant culture and picturesque scenery. Enjoy seminars on the days we are cruising from one destination to another, as well as dinners with members of the Eagle team. Just some of the places we’ll visit are Mexico, Belize, Panama, Ecuador and more! Click here now for all the details.
Good investing, AEIOU,
You Blew It!
Why I No Longer Travel to China or Hong Kong
Tourism to China is way down. Typically three million Americans visit China every year, but last year, less than 200,000 went there.
The growing conflict between China and the United States has taken its toll.
Last month, the State Department released an advisory warning to U.S. citizens traveling abroad. The U.S. recommend that Americans “reconsider travel” to mainland China because of “arbitrary” law enforcement and the risk of wrongful detention.
It stated that the Chinese government “arbitrarily enforces local laws, including issuing exit bans on U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries, without fair and transparent process under the law.”
I’ve decided not to travel to China anymore because of the authoritarian nature of the regime under Communist dictator Xi Jinping, who is 70 years old and has been the nation’s leader since 2012.
The Chinese communists have also taken over Hong Kong, and violated its agreement to maintain “one country, two systems” model after imposing its National Security Law in 2020. Anyone who publicly criticizes the government can be arrested. Publisher Jimmy Lai is being held indefinitely in solitary confinement since 2020. He is considered the richest political prisoner in the world.
For decades, the Heritage Foundation ranked Hong Kong #1 in the world in terms of its Economic Freedom Index. Now it’s considered part of China and no longer ranked separately. China is ranked #154 in terms of economic freedom.
Hong Kong used to be my favorite destination in Asia. I’ve been there a dozen times. But no longer. To find out why, read the book “Today Hong Kong, Tomorrow the World,” by reporter Mark Clifford. You can buy it here.