How To Get Rich Quick

Sante Fe

If you’re paying attention, you’ve probably seen more listings, more price reductions, and longer time-on-market for real estate, and not just in Los Alamos. Redditors are warning each other about “not catching falling knives” in crypto. At time of writing, year-to-date on the S&P is down some 19%.

The fundamental flaw—the lie we’ve been sold by asset brokers—is that there is a particular path to wealth. You see, “rich” and “poor” are relative: when we say “rich,” this is shorthand for “richer than X% of the population,” where X is probably 70% or 80%. Because of this, not everyone can be rich, and as a consequence, the common wisdom is unlikely to make you rich.

Narratives about how to become rich are really the stuff of asset bubbles. The thing people seem to easily miss is that the money has to come from somewhere: every buy needs a sell, and vice versa. Bitcoin doesn’t create money, it just redistributes it—so bitcoin can make a few people rich, but it can’t make everyone rich. And if you feel like commenting “actually bitcoin is money,” I’m sorry to tell you that it isn’t.

Anyway, this was an elaborate lead-in to a point about local government. As one example, Los Alamos County contracts the services of a tourism marketing contractor. The flaw with tourism marketing is that there’s a relatively fixed pool of tourism dollars in any particular year, which means that a marketing company’s clients are competing with each other.

Even more broadly, a locality cannot create economic vitality by following the common wisdom, because economic vitality is also relative. When people talk about how desolate Los Alamos is, they almost always mean that with respect to Santa Fe—or compared to where they went to graduate school, or their hometown, or the places they vacation, or what have you.

If there were a silver bullet for economic vitality, then everyone would have it. That would just increase competition for a relatively fixed pool of investment capital, state and federal grant money, and of course tourism dollars—and we’d be right back where we are now.

There are three main ways to get rich: be born rich, win the lottery, or do something different (while having the competence and dedication to see it through, and the cleverness to pick things that actually make money). For this reason, I believe that local government has very little bearing on whether a locality is successful, because most local governments are terrified of doing the abnormal.

Los Alamos in particular is a slave to “experts,” where experts are people who recite the common wisdom. They say that “nobody got fired for buying stock in IBM,” but at the same time, the only people who get rich off blue chip stocks—bought them before nobody got fired for buying them.

And as the obvious final caveat, I’m not a financial advisor. Nothing here is financial advice, not least because I can’t advise you on how to be clever.