The Daily View 5/15/2024: FIRE lifestyle, Music, VCs, Status Games, and more

Item 1: Your Neighbors Are Retiring in Their 30s. Why Can’t You?

Allen Wong’s story is an outlier among FIRE outliers. It’s like, “TIL: High-IQ people earn more money.” His success is so luck dependent even by FIRE standards. He may as well had joined Uber or Facebook in 2009 or been an early investor or early founder in some other tech start-up. FIRE is more about being an employee and investing/saving paychecks than creating a start-up, although anyone can do the FIRE lifestyle.

In 2009, only 2 years after the iPhone debuted, the App Store was considerably less saturated and far fewer draconian rules compared to today. Today, not only do publishers face much stiffer competition and lower profit margins, but much more onerous rules imposed by Apple and the risk of account closures for no reason and no recourse. Everything I have read about the App Store has been negative, so if Wong could make it work, hats off to him. At least one has to.

This also agrees with my post about how younger generations have more wealth than commonly assumed by the media-punditry. Despite alarmism over student loan debt, the vast majority of people who achieve FIRE-status have degrees. If you look at the people who actually achieved early wealth and retirement–not marketers who are selling an e-course on getting rich–they almost all have degrees and used those credentials to land good-paying jobs and then saved and invested diligently.

Item 2: All Bad Music Will Eventually Disappear:

But it doesn’t matter what I think—or what you think. These songs have disappeared from the public’s consciousness, and no critic had to lift a finger to make it happen. Meanwhile, the 1950s recordings by Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, and Charles Mingus will still be cherished a century from now, despite the fact that they were far too smart and ambitious to get on the Billboard chart when they were first released.

It seems like he’s sorta moving goalposts. He says that bad music will be forgotten, yet no one plays these artists on the radio or elsewhere despite their music being ‘good’. Crappy pop music is played way more often. Even bad music from decades ago gets more airplay. The fact that those ‘forgotten’ acts from the ’20s and ’30s have wiki pages and other evidence signifying their existence, as well as media clips of performances, also refutes that they are forgotten. It’s more like music disappears when there is simply no audience for it. It has nothing to do with goodness. Despite famous acts, tastes are also highly personal and individualized. Music that is considered ‘good’ doesn’t really do it for me, for example. I am sure others are like this. There are so many people that even the smallest of genres can find some audience.

Item 3: VC Says Half of Google Staff Do ‘No Real Work’. (that VC being Marc Andreessen)

It’s not so much they are paid to work, they are paid to be available. When something goes wrong, you need someone to fix it ASAP. For a trillion-dollar tech company, an outage or malfunction can means millions of dollars of lost revenue, as well as user defection to a competitor. Tech support and the creation of new features is only part of what is entailed by ‘work’. A lot of work is simply being on-call. I agree that Google seems to have too many superfluous employees, particularly for non-tech or non-critical positions. Investors ought to care about this, as labor is one of the biggest expenses for any company.

Item 4: Social Media and other Status Games:

To offer personal advice, I come back to my belief that grandparents are the winners of the game of life. I would say that you should try to keep that in mind and not get too wrapped up in any particular status game, whether on social media or elsewhere, if it is going to take you off course.

Those seems to be most dismissive of status also have a lot of it, it would seem. I would say someone like Elon Musk is a bigger winner at life than the typical grandparent. If who is a winner is broadened to include include almost anyone or everyone, the term loses its meaning. Being a winner implies some sort of exclusivity. It means beating out those who achieve or have less. This redefining winners to dilute its exclusivity is just another version of the participation trophy, but for the ‘right’, just as the ‘left’ has its own versions of the trophy.

Item 5: Bitcoin hangs on to the low $60,000s.

Bitcoin is repackaged Communism. It’s another utopian scheme that promises wealth and abundance for believers of the cult or pseudo-religion. Where this wealth comes from, don’t ask, but just believe and it will happen. In Communism, wealth is extracted from productive people at the top. With Bitcoin, it’s extracted from late adopters to pay off early adopters. Communism entails a lot of pareto-suboptimal farming, whereas with Bitcoin it’s GPU farms and mining.

Item 6: Trump Media stock (DJT) keeps going up.

So much for those failed predictions it would go bankrupt. It has much more staying power than commonly assumed. The surge of DJT stock may seem irrational. But in the context of the efficient market hypothesis, the market is possibly pricing in a deal or partnership in the not-so-distant future in which DJT can leverage Trump’s brand and name recognition. As mentioned earlier, Trump gets a lot of free advertising in the form of media coverage, which is worth a lot and can explain how DJT stock has become unmoored from its financials. All Trump has to do is slap his name on something and DJT can generate millions of free cashflow on that. Also, a 2024 win, which is increasingly likely given Biden’s poor approval numbers, will help Truth Social and other Trump-related businesses overall.

Item 7: TikTok’s new suitor is former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, as another lawsuit pushes back against ban. A month ago I predicted TikTok would not be banned. This was a no-brainer prediction.

Item 8: Taking the Medium-Term Past Seriously:

Two percent growth a year leads to a doubling in living standards over 35 years. But 4% gets you to the same place in less than 18. If you have children today, that’s an important difference for their future quality of life.

It doesn’t. It leads to a twice as big economy, but this is not the same as standard of living. Per capita GDP in US dollars tells you more about living standards than the nominal size of the economy. For example, Liechtenstein is tiny compared to India but has a much higher average standard of living.

Geopolitical stability if the US continues to play its historic role as the guarantor of the world order, and no I don’t mean in the European sense of becoming a “humanitarian superpower” by helping Hamas win, but rather punishing terrorism and interstate aggression. This will require in many cases tossing aside human rights norms, which to a large extent now work to the advantage of global actors we don’t want to have power.

Agree 100% with this. The US hegemony will remain unassailable, whether it’s the strength of the dollar or overreach of federal agencies and military as a ‘world police’. Wokeness does not change this.