Wealth, Intellectualism, and Individualism, Part 14: the trinity

Finally, there is the intersection of these pillars. Elsewhere, if it’s not internet and social media fame, high-IQ people are making all the money in the post-2008 economy, whether through stocks, high-paying and prestigious jobs, real estate, entrepreneurship, or venture capitalism. And whether it’s the latest product from Tesla or the latest particle discovery in the field of high-energy physics, their contributions are broadcast by the media to the world.

The success of WaitButWhy is an example of the combination of intellectualism (the content of the posts, the high-IQ of the founder and blogger, Tim Urban), wealth (advertising and merchandising revenue from the blog, which is probably significant given all the traffic it gets), and individualism (being an blogger instead of working a 9-5 job). These intellectual entrepreneurs, who were probably ignored decades ago in school as outcasts or nerds, are now being showered with attention, adoration, and money through blogging and social media such as Twitter, Vine, and Instagram; have tons of Karma and popularity on Reddit and 4chan; or are making tons of money through stocks, coding, and other intellectual endeavors, as their peers, who may have been popular in high school, are toiling away in obscurity at a low-paying, no-status job or are unemployed. Another example, as mentioned earlier in this series, is the huge success and popularity of the personal finance blog Mr. Money Mustache, which combines wealth (the subject matter), individualism (the blogger–a former engineer–who became self-sufficient through personal finance and then blogging about it) and intellectualism (the technical and quantitative subject matter and style of some of the posts, the high-IQ of the blogger, the subject matter).

Another example of the trinity, as shown on Reddit, are millennials who are making a fortune trading stocks.

In combining intellectualism, individualism, and wealth, here’s an article about ‘Tumbler teens’ who are turning internet fame into riches:

So-Relatable and its associated blogs had a good summer, and in September they made $24,296.26 with Google AdSense. With traffic on the rise, Hegstad suggested they move to DoubleClick, Google’s premium ad network, and the move made October their biggest monthly payout to date: $54,269.33. Lilley and Greenfield’s tax returns showed they made $249,000 that year.

Decades ago, many of these teens would have been stuffed into lockers; now they are making piles of money as their less intelligent peers are stuck with low-paying, low-status summer jobs, assuming there are still any such jobs left. The article itself is also very long, at over 10,000 words, as part of the rise of ‘long form’…see it all comes together.

As mentioned before, Elon Musk and especially Martin Shkreli embody the trinity. Shkreli, the son of Albanian and Croatian immigrants, used his intellect to climb out of near-poverty (his parents were janitors) to become a pharma ‘kingpin’ worth tens of millions of dollars. Optimizing ‘the age of the self’, there is Kim Kardashian, who made $100 million by turning her unscripted life into mobile game.

This wealth-intellectualism-individualism synthesis is why many users of Reddit came to Shkreli’s defense after Trump, in 2015, called him a ‘spoiled brat’:

Even though I support Trump, he was wrong in this instance, and Trump was appealing to emotion (to drum up populist support) than any attempt at understanding of the underlying economics behind high drug prices:

These companies are at the frontier of major biotech research. The other thing is to lobby the government to reduce the FDA’s stringent standards on drugs. A drug costs up to $200 million or more to get through the FDA. The only way companies can recoup that cost is by charging enormous amounts for drugs.


This is part of the reason why healthcare and insurance are so expensive. Drugs for prostate cancer, for instance, cost up to $93,000 a month because the billion or so it cost to get through the Federal Drug Administration.

The intersection of intellectualism and individualism is also observed with academia, which like reality TV, celebrates the individual and individual merit, whether in the former it’s the lone genius making a discovery (such as Higgs Boson), or in the latter, in the case of social media, having a lot of followers. Both highlight the individual. From Post-2008 Themes:

The common thread here is individualism, a defining characteristic of post-2008 society…Our culture of individualism prizes individual accomplishments (like a physics or math discovery), popularity (Instagram & Twitter followers), and merit (related to individual intellectual accomplishments), which tend to be harder and more exclusive and celebrated than collectivist ones. Religion is inherently collectivist, generally having a low barrier to entry to salvation. Same for political parties, which tend to have low barriers to entry for participation. Neither spotlight the individual. But a degree in physics or math, while much harder to obtain than going to church, brings much more prestige to the individual than being a random churchgoer. Perhaps some are tired of the celebration of ‘self’ and wish to return to simpler, more collectivist times. As I discuss earlier, some individualism and intellectualism is need to for society to advance, and there is is probably an optimal balance between the two.

From Reddit and again related to finance, is the thread You dildoes need to understand unemployment numbers, posted on /r/wallstbets. It ‘only’ got 320 upvotes, but that is because the particular sub, although popular, is not nearly as popular as /r/personalfinance, but 320 is still a lot for /r/wallstbets, and the thread creator was gilded two units of ‘Reddit Gold’ as further evidence of its importance. Here is a passage that stood out:

Edit: A final note: Unemployment data is almost certainly not manipulated

The last piece I need to address here is the frequent claim that this data is manipulated. First, let me say that I dislike and distrust government authority very much. I am skeptical of pretty much every government claim and action that comes from the corrupt hellhole that is Washington DC and I think both political parties are completely insane, retarded, or both. In other words: I’m no government shill. However, your tinfoil hat is on way too tight if you think that there is some sort of cohesive government conspiracy to inflate job data. Who would be doing it? And who would benefit? You could argue that republicans in congress have an incentive to lean on the BLS and show good jobs numbers so that they get re-elected. But wouldn’t it also be possible for the democratic administration (and non-trivial numbers of democrats in the congress) to do the same? And who’s to say how the public will interpret the data? Do good or bad job numbers reflect on the administration or the congress? How do all these varying factions all vying for political power draw public opinion one way or another based on data sets this large and public? For you to believe that this data is manipulated maliciously, you have to believe that there is one underlying ruling faction in DC that calls the shots and perfectly manipulates the data every time so that it roughly fits with independent analyses and the overall macroeconomic picture which is studied by literally tens of thousands of people whose job it is to study said data. And if that’s the case, why would we ever have bad data? Why did 2008-2009 have bad jobs data at all if the NWO/lizard people/zionist jews (those are the things people are afraid of, right?) have complete and utter control over the data? No, the far more likely scenario is that the BLS data is actually pretty good and can be reasonably used to measure macroeconomic variables to the extent that we are capable of measuring them. So take of the tinfoil hats and embrace the data.

The post embodies the entire trinity: wealth (the thread is related to finance, which is very important to millennials), intellectualism (the subject matter itself – measures of unemployment data – which is complicated, and until recently only economists cared about such technicalities, but in post-2013 society, with the rise of intellectualism culture, such esoteric subjects have gone ‘mainstream’ and now a lot more people care about esoteric stuff), and individualism (the theme of the passage about government data not being manipulated agrees with the summary earlier about how millennials are less inclined to believe in conspiracies. Also, the thread creator, in demonstrating intellect, boosts his own personal status. Additionally, the word ‘dildoes’ in the tile could be considered a form of ‘counter-signaling’ by using crude language to downplay intellect when high intellect is otherwise exhibited).

Also, note the qualifying statement: ‘First, let me say that I dislike and distrust government authority very much. I am skeptical of pretty much every government claim and action that comes from the corrupt hellhole that is Washington DC and I think both political parties are completely insane, retarded, or both,’ as an appeal to recent antidemocratic sentiment, and is probably a major reason why the post was so popular. Faith in democracy is at multi-year lows right now as more and more people realize it doesn’t work. Both liberals and conservatives realize democracy does an inadequate job of allocating public resources, fails to protect the ‘successful minority’, suppress unpopular ideas, and panders to those who are the least informed and or contribute the least to the economy. The argument is that democracy gives power to the uninformed masses to vote in wasteful, dysfunctional policy that hurts the most productive members of society.