The NFL, CBS, the Value of Money, and Enlightened Self-Interest


“So you think that money is the root of all evil? . . . Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value.” — Ayn Rand Letter 1971-1976 (“Hunger and Freedom)

I often refer to service of others in my philosophy.  Indeed, serving your fellow human is a huge part of living a life of virtue.  Without a doubt, my serving others plays a huge part in my happiness. However, this does not mean I do not expect to be compensated for my service.  In many cases, in our current society of exchange I expect my neighbor to thank me for the value he has received by providing me with a “certificate” of his appreciation (in other words, a note of legal tender…money).  By providing money to me, the receiver of my service has said, “you have provided me something of value, I have labored to earn this money, and what you have provided is worth that labor.  Thank You.

However, direct payment isn’t always how value is exchanged.  On this site, I hope to provide something of value to you, while also exploring the philosophical life.  This is provided free of charge…well, sort of.  When CBS televises, the NFL playoff game between the Houston Texans and the New England Patriots (go Houston!), both the NFL and CBS do so “free of charge.”  What they know, however, is that millions of fans are provided value in watching the game.  For 3 hours, they get to be part of something, whether it’s the feeling of being part of either team’s effort, just to escape for a while and have fun, observe the strategy of the game, or even observe the prowess of the athletes…millions find value in those 3 hours.  More importantly, advertisers know the fans are watching and want them to know that they can provide value as well, so they pay the NFL/CBS some big bucks to get their products in front of these fans.  These ads will mostly miss.  Many viewers will not even pay attention, others will watch the ads simply for the entertainment value, but if 1/10th of 1% buy the product and 1 million are watching, then that is 1000 sales, which would lead to those buyers telling their friends and maybe remaining a returning customer.  Value is very important in this whole setup.  Everybody divides their value into tiny fractions, and everybody is a lot of people (I think 7 billion or so at last count).

My game is just beginning.  Not too long ago, was the opening kickoff.

My game is just beginning. Not too long ago, was the opening kickoff.

Whew, that was a mouthful, but it had to be said.  Anyway, I provide you with (I hope) just a tiny amount of value with each posting.  Just enough to make you (and me) think, and hopefully read again.  Maybe you’ll even share the post with friends, and they will tell their friends…and on, and on.  Hopefully, you will come back.  Like the NFL, I hope that these posts can take you to a place of value, and like the NFL I hope advertisers will see this through my number of hits, views, shares, loyal audience, etc.

Essentially, I am banking on my own ability to convey the Heroic Stoic philosophy to an audience such that they find value in my work.  First of all, I can look myself in the mirror each day and say that what I do is a worthwhile effort.  Additionally, I can view whether my work is catching on.  Without a doubt, this endeavor is not only for money (really, it’s not even close), but at some point I think the value of what I provide will manifest in “certificates” of value (i.e. money).

Certificates of Appreciation

Certificates of Appreciation

This, I think is the essence of enlightened self-interest.  I pursue my life, as well as my work because it satisfies me, AND I hope what I provide is a fair trade for others’ labor.  I help you, you help me, etc. We trade, albeit indirectly.


Tactical Optimism and Strategic Pessimism


I was listening to the Morning in America radio show several years ago, and Bill Bennett, the host said something like this:  “I am a tactical optimist, and a strategic pessimist.  We are all ashes in the end, but we wake up each morning and figure out how to move the ball each day.”

This is a profound and rich quote, full of allusions to sport, religion, and military maneuver, not to mention a little Stoic wisdom (most likely by accident…not sure Dr. Bennett is a Stoic).

In essence, this phrase captures how a Heroic Stoic would live.  Yes, in the end tragedy will befall us, including our own and everyone else’s death, but that does not mean we shouldn’t serve, build, and create anyway.

Tactical Optimism for the Long Trip Ahead – I’m confident I can make it to that next tree. After that, more trees!

The Stoic knows that nothing lasts forever, and that much is out of her control.  However, she continues on and works on those things that she can control.  Moreover, to be a hero she would indeed contribute for the sake of her own excellence, for the very sake of accomplishing the task.  For those who wish to take advantage of her productive endeavors, she will willingly engage in trade with them.

Right now, millions of people are currently grasping for more, or wallowing in self-pity, or even thinking that they deserve something from “the man,” from life, or from those who have the ability to help them.  Many others are happy with the illusion that tragedy will somehow miss them.  Many have never heard of the Stoics, and others might not agree with the individual-centered philosophy of Ayn Rand.  It is my view that this will probably remain the case; neither Stoic philosophy nor individualism seem to be anywhere close to be being described as “en vogue.”  It is the default position of human nature to ignore the suffering around us rather than face it head-on.  Moreover, it is a very common trait of humans to attribute one’s station in life as the fault of another, or of society in general.  In the end, the great majority will never embrace a Heroic Stoic lifestyle, no matter what I do, write, or say.

Strategic Pessimism – Those trees will be ashes soon enough.

Despite all of this, I write about these topics.  I believe in the power of Heroic Stoicism, and hopefully I can move the ball forward just a little today, tomorrow, and every day.  Even though most of YOU out there will not truly embrace what I say, I write about what I believe, because I think it will HELP YOU.

That’s because I am a tactical optimist, despite the fact that I am a strategic pessimist.

The Evil of Altruism


For many years, I felt guilty.  I felt guilty that I seemed to be more put together than some of my friends, and that I produced work of higher quality than many around me.  I felt guilty that I made and had money, and that I didn’t give more of it away.  I felt guilty that I desired…things, people, and reputation.  This guilt continued and grew as I started to further earn my own way and strive for excellence in my life.  Through my upbringing, my religion, and the culture, I was made to feel that the truly great were those who gave up everything for those around them.  They gave up their lives, their fortunes, and their souls.  They were the saints. Continue reading