America Is All About Individualism
July 4, 1776, is Independence Day, the day America officially declared itself to be the first country built on the principle of individualism.
Think about that for a moment. America was constructed with the idea that the most powerful unit, the unit that deserves the greatest protection, the greatest reverence and the greatest freedom, is the individual human being. It is not the group, nor the community, nor the tribe, nor the ethnicity or race, nor the state, nor the nation, nor the king nor even God that gets a privileged status in this country.
“The basic premise of the Founding Fathers was man’s right to his own life, to his own liberty, to the pursuit of his own happiness — which means: man’s right to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself,” wrote Ayn Rand in an essay titled, “For the New Intellectual.” That is about the best definition I’ve ever read of American Individualism.
Indeed, America is, and should always be, all about the individual — and that is what we need to salute and celebrate this Independence Day. Unfortunately, that original idea has come under fire from nearly all sides of the political and social spectrum today.
One side of the political spectrum’s idea of celebrating America is to put her military might on full display and flaunt our many weapons of war down the streets of the nation’s capital. Another side’s idea of celebrating America means figuring out how much “free stuff” you can give to as many people as possible — at the expense of the most successful and most productive individuals among us.
Today, one side’s idea of celebrating America is making her a place that needs protection from herself, i.e., protection from free trade via government tariffs (a.k.a. taxes on Americans) in order to punish them for the free association and commerce they conduct with others around the globe. Still another side’s idea of celebrating America is to implement top-down state control over as many aspects of our lives as possible, including health care, education, childcare, social media and big-tech companies, gun rights and virtually any and all aspects of human action.
The ideas here held by the various factions in modern society represent a departure from what America is all about. America is not about a display of nationalism or a bowing to the will of the collective or the group — America is about individual rights, the rights that no man, group or politician is allowed to violate.
The Constitution of the United States, the greatest political document ever conceived, was written to do one primary thing — to limit the power of society over the individual.
As Thomas Jefferson, also known as the “Author of America,” wrote, “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
Yet what, I ask you, is more tyrannical than a nanny state that wants you to worship it, and/or a nanny state that wants to take the byproduct of your productivity, i.e. your earnings, and redistribute it in accordance with a bureaucrat’s notion of where it can best serve the state?
On this Fourth of July, this Independence Day, I recommend doing what YOU want to do, and living your life the way YOU want to live it, provided, of course, you are not violating the individual rights of anyone else. And if you’re like me, you also will raise a glass and toast to the genius of the Founding Fathers who created a country where YOU are free to think, believe and act the way YOU want.
That is what the Founding Fathers would have wanted — and that’s the principle of individualism in action.
The FreedomFest Extravaganza is a Fortnight Away!!!
It’s almost time to get buck wild in Vegas. And by “buck wild,” I mean intellectually buck wild. Yes, I am referring to this year’s FreedomFest conference and this year’s theme: “The Wild West.”
This conference has been called “The World’s Largest Gathering of Free Minds” for good reason. There will be more than 2,000 attendees and some 250 speakers and workshops.
I cordially invite you to join me, as well as some of the world’s most renowned and celebrated heroes of the liberty movement such as Penn Jillette, John Mackey, Congressman Justin Amash, Dr. Mark Skousen, Glenn Beck, Charles Murray and scores of others on July 17-20, at the Paris Resort, Las Vegas. Use the promo code EAGLE 100 for a special discount offer of $100 off the full retail price of $695 per person… So that’s $595 per person/$895 per couple. Click here to get your discounted ticket now.
Come find out how those of us who love liberty celebrate this virtue and how we get buck wild in Las Vegas!
ETF Talk: This Fund Provides Exposure to Energy
The Energy Select Sector SPDR® Fund (NYSEARCA: XLE) is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that can give a prospective investor access to the segment of the global economy that is involved with energy.
Specifically, XLE tracks the Energy Select Sector Index, which, in turn, attempts to provide an effective representation of the energy sector of the S&P 500 Index. Currently, the fund’s assets are divided between two industries, Oil, Gas and Consumable Fuels, 90.35%, and Energy, Equipment & Services, 9.65%.
This fund is invested almost exclusively in U.S. markets. At the same time, this ETF spans all parts of the energy market, including refining, exploration, transportation, related services, drilling and investment trusts.
Since this fund pulls its stocks from the S&P 500 instead of the total market, it is not surprising that it favors large-cap companies and the portfolio is somewhat smaller than many of its peer funds. However, this flaw is more than compensated for by the fact that XLE has formidable liquidity and a strong trading volume.
The fund’s top holdings include ExxonMobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM); Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX); Conoco Phillips (NYSE:COP); Schlumberger NV (NYSE: SLB); EOG Resources Inc. (NYSE: EOG); Kinder Morgan Inc. Class P (NYSE: KMI); Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX); Occidental Petroleum Corporation (NYSE: OXY) and Marathon Petroleum Corporation (NYSE: MPC).
XLE currently has more than $12.25 billion in assets under management and an average spread of 0.02%. It also has an expense ratio of 0.13%, meaning that it is less expensive to hold than many other ETFs.
The fund’s performance has been stable in the short term and mixed in the long term. While it has been up 8.41% as of July 1, it has been down 3.64% over the last three months. Overall, it is up 11.96% year to date.
Chart Courtesy of Stockcharts.com
In short, while XLE does provide an investor with the ability to profit from the world of energy, the sector may not be appropriate for all portfolios, especially given the current geopolitical situation. Thus, interested investors always should do their due diligence and decide whether the fund is suitable for their investing goals.
As always, I am happy to answer any of your questions about ETFs, so do not hesitate to send me an email. You just may see your question answered in a future ETF Talk.
In case you missed it…
10 Punk Rock Rules for Success
“I just wish to shine brighter, and if it burns my body to a crisp, I’m happy to go right now.”
That bit of high-intensity wisdom comes from a man who I admire deeply; singer, songwriter, spoken-word artist, author, actor, radio and TV show host, publisher and true renaissance man, Henry Rollins.
Henry made his mark on pop culture as the frontman for the quintessential punk rock band Black Flag, and then later via the Rollins Band, and he turned that experience into a multi-faceted and eminently interesting career fit for a true polymath. His career continues today, mostly through writing and one-man spoken word shows that combine the intensity of a punk rock concert with the intellectual stimulation of a Ted Talk.
If you are a long-time reader of The Deep Woods, you probably know that I am a huge music fan and a huge fan of renaissance men (and women) who do many different things in life and perform those things very well. In fact, I have an entire website and podcast appropriately called Way of the Renaissance Man, which is dedicated to extracting wisdom and knowledge from these types of individuals so that we can apply that wisdom and knowledge to our own lives.
A couple of years ago, another polymath I admire, entrepreneur, investor and business inspirer Evan Carmichael compiled a list that he called “Henry Rollins’s Top 10 Rules for Success.” You can watch the video on YouTube. I recommend doing so, as it will give you a sense of the intensity and focus Henry puts into just about every breath he takes.
Here is a list of those top 10 rules (complete with sage advice straight from Henry himself), rules that I also try to live by, and rules that can help everyone — regardless of what stage they are in life — achieve just that little bit extra that makes life glorious.
Rule 1: Be Driven
Rollins says he uses childhood anger and fear of failure to fuel his sense of drive. “I descend from the sky and land on things really hard, and I go at everything with that amount of fury,” Rollins says. Now that is a definition of drive that we all can admire.
Rule 2: Work Hard
Rollins says that no matter what he does, he goes at everything “fully engaged, and that intensity has served him quite well.” He also credits his punk rock roots for that work ethic, as everything in the early days was a sort of do-it-yourself exercise in just trying to make it from week to week.
Rule 3: Keep Moving Forward
Continue to consistently work hard and always move forward in life. “I keep moving forward boldly because I have nothing to lose,” Rollins says. Of course, regardless of whether you think you have nothing to lose, life requires constant movement, or we fall into stagnation. “I like to work… It’s about activity and challenge,” he adds.
Rule 4: Just Do It
He tells the story about starting his own book publishing company, which was the essence of punk rock “DIY.” “You just do it; you don’t even think about it… and without hesitation I’m making my own book company. Stop me. I dare you,” Rollins recalls.
Rule 5: Take Your Shot
The “shot” for Rollins came when he was asked to audition as the singer for the iconic punk band Black Flag. He took a train from his home in Washington, D.C., to New York City and sang every song the band had. About 10 minutes after the audition was over, he was offered the job as the frontman of his favorite band. Now that is taking advantage of your “shot” in life.
Rule 6: Communicate Emotionally
“I feel a genuine need to communicate with an audience,” Rollins shares.
That’s the way he describes his interaction with a crowd, because he sees it as the best way to genuinely connect with others. “It’s about communication, warning, broadcasting, emitting and trying to leave something of myself with the audience,” Rollins says. This rule is one of my favorites, because it’s also what I attempt to do each week in this publication.
Rule 7: Try Out Different Things
“Yeah, I’ll try that. I mean, why would I hold back?”
This also is one of my favorite rules, as it encapsulates the fearlessness with which life should be approached. If there is something you want to do in life, try it out. The worst that can happen is you don’t like it, or you aren’t good at it. So what, at least you challenged yourself to stretch out and experience life in a different way.
Rule 8: Manage Yourself
“The repeating factors of my life have been application, discipline, focus, repetition,” Rollins says. These keys are also largely the keys to success of many high achievers.
The reason why is because application, discipline, focus and repetition are how you really get good at something. No matter how much natural talent you might possess, you never will be extraordinary at a skill unless you apply yourself with the requisite discipline, focus and repetition required to achieve the highest levels of whatever it is you do.
Rule 9: Learn from Your Past
“The past holds all of your mistakes and humiliations. The future holds whatever you can make it,” Rollins says. He doesn’t think you should ignore the past, but he doesn’t think you should dwell on it and be miserable. Instead, you should learn from it and move on. “The future’s ready for you to not make those mistakes,” Rollins adds.
Rule 10: Have Passion
Here is the key rule to life that both Rollins and I embrace, as it’s really at the heart of your existence. Because whatever you do, and whatever time you have to do it, why not live it all the way? Forget about half-hearted effort or “just okay” results.
Have the passion to attack life like a punk rock front man — with all the intensity and hard-core aggression that meets life head on and that embraces the struggle. Because in the end, all we have is how we lived.
Ideas Trump Force
“In a battle between force and an idea, the latter always prevails.”
— Ludwig von Mises
In one of his many brilliant observations, the Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises succinctly reminds us that what we think has more power than any form of physical force. Ideas are what move the world, and as long as those ideas are sound, they will prevail in any clash with force.
Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.
In the name of the best within us,