Just Released – Fourth Edition of “The Maxims of Wall Street”

As J. Paul Getty, America’s first oil billionaire, said, “Sound stocks purchased when their stocks are low and held for the long pull are very likely to produce high profits through dividends and increases in value.”

That quotation and 800 others are included in my classic collection, “The Maxims of Wall Street.” I took some copies with me on my recent Politics & Your Portfolio cruise to New England, and one attendee, John O’Brien of Florida, bought a copy and read it on the ship. He came up to me and said, “There’s more education in this book than with four years of college!”

SkousenOBrienMaxims4

Mark Skousen looks on as subscriber John O’Brien of Florida reads “The Maxims of Wall Street” on the deck of Eagle’s/FreedomFest’s Crystal Symphony cruise (New England/Canada).   
“There’s more educational value in Maxims than with four years of college today,” he said. 

New Fourth Edition Arrives on Thursday — at Half Price!

The Maxims of Wall StreetI’m happy to announce that we have sold out of the third edition, and I’ve gone back to press with the new fourth edition. The new edition will arrive on Thursday! It mentions more than a dozen new quotations and authors, such as this one: “The stock market takes the stairs up and the elevator down.” So true!

For 30 years, I’ve been painstakingly collecting all the wise old adages, proverbs, humor and legends on Wall Street, based on in-depth interviews with old timers, reading rare financial books and my own experiences of more than 40 years in the financial markets. They include famous lines from Warren Buffett (“If you wait to see the Robin sing, Spring may be over”)… J. P. Morgan (“Troubled waters make for good fishing”)… Richard Russell (“In a bear market, the winner is he who loses the least”)… and Steve Forbes (“Everybody is a disciplined, long-term investor until the market goes down”).

I divide the book into various categories: beating the market, diversification vs. concentration, value vs. growth, bulls vs. bears, black swan events… doomsayers and cassandras… hot tips and inside information… chartists vs. fundamentalists… taxes and tax havens… inspiring “pearls of wisdom” and even a few short stories.

The book has been endorsed by Warren Buffett, Jack Bogle, Dennis Gartman, Alex Green, Richard Band and Bert Dohmen. “Maxims” is nearly 300 pages long. The retail price on Amazon is $24.95, but my followers pay only $20 for the first copy, and all additional copies are only $10 each. All are personally autographed and mailed to you for free (I pay the postage). For all foreign orders outside of the United States, add $10 per book.

I’m offering this “half-off” deal because I know “Maxims” makes a great gift for friends, relatives, business colleagues, investors, your favorite stockbroker and money manager. Many people order a whole box (32 copies). The price of a box of books is only $300 postpaid, less than $10 each. As Hetty Green, the first female millionaire, said, “When I see something cheap, I buy a lot of it!” To order your copies at this super discount, call Ensign Publishing toll-free at 1-866-254-2057 or go to www.miracleofamerica.com/maxims.

 

Huge Response to Our Latest FreedomFest Promo

 Dear FreedomFest Friends,

We’re getting a huge response to our announcement that John Stossel is bring his #1 Fox Business show to FreedomFest, with hundreds of attendees signing up so far.

And that’s just the beginning of what the Washington Post calls “the greatest libertarian show on earth.”

One of the reasons people keep coming back to FreedomFest is to enjoy our unique panels and debates you won’t find at any other conference. Here’s 11 new events for this year’s show, all in keeping with our theme this year “Are We Rome?” [Read more…]

Introducing the Social Security Pledge!

I’m delighted to announce the launch of a new charitable initiative, the Social Security Pledge. This project encourages wealthier Americans, those for whom retirement is possible without Social Security payments, to donate their monthly payments to a favorite charity or cause. By donating these payments monthly, there can be a significant contribution to good causes, making a big difference in society.

Please see all about the project, including the beginning of a growing list of Americans who can and have taken the Social Security Pledge, at the Social Security Pledge website.

You can also see my recent interview on Wall St. for Main St. where I announce the Social Security Pledge.

Yours in liberty, AEIOU,
MSkousen

FreedomFest 2012 “Wall to Wall Excitement”

Dear Investors and Friends of Liberty,

I just returned from the “one of a kind” conference, FreedomFest, where more than 2,000 investors and concerned citizens heard from over 150 speakers, including Sen. Rand Paul, Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, Steve Forbes, John Mackey, Peter Schiff, Alex Green, Robert Kiyosaki, and a host of other financial gurus.  One comment overheard: “FreedomFest is wall-to-wall excitement!”

It was electrifying, beginning with standing a room-only (SRO) crowd, listening to Dinesh D’Souza talk about his latest film “2016: Obama’s America,” and ending with Robert Kiyosaki, author of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” speaking on “Be The Fed:  Gaining Your Unfair Advantage in an Unfair System.” The exhibit hall, “the trade show for liberty,” was abuzz with more than a hundred think tanks, freedom organizations, and financial services. C-SPAN was there to interview over a dozen authors (to be aired soon). [Read more…]

A Painless Way to Triple Your Savings

From The President’s Desk
Published in Ideas on Liberty
June 2002

by Mark Skousen

“The human mind is charming in its unreasonableness, its inveterate prejudices, and its waywardness and unpredictability.”

—LIN YUTANG1

“Behavioral” finance is the hot new field in the rapidly growing “imperial” science of economics. Consider the titles of recent books on the subject: Irrational Exuberance by Robert Shiller of Yale University, who correctly warned investors that the bull market on Wall Street in 2000 was not sustainable, and Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich.

Essentially, these writers take issue with a fundamental principle of economics—the concept of “rational” predictable behavior. They argue that investors, consumers, and business people don’t always act according to the “rational economic man” standard, but instead suffer from overconfidence, overreaction, fear, greed, herding instincts, and other “animal spirits,” to use John Maynard Keynes’s term.2

Their basic thesis is that people make mistakes all the time. Too many individuals overspend and get into trouble with credit; they don’t save enough for retirement; they buy stocks at the top and sell at the bottom; they fail to prepare a will. Economic failure, stupidity, and incompetence are common to human nature. As Ludwig von Mises notes, “To make mistakes in pursuing one’s ends is a widespread human weakness.”3

Fortunately, the market has a built-in mechanism to minimize mistakes and entrepreneurial error. The market penalizes mistakes and rewards correct behavior (witness how well business responded to the Y2K threat in the late 1990s). As Israel Kirzner states, “Pure profit opportunities exist whenever error occurs.”4

But the new behavioral economists go beyond the standard market approach. They argue that new institutional measures can be introduced to minimize error and misjudgments, without involving the government.

At the American Economic Association meetings in Atlanta in January 2002, Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago presented a paper on his “SMART” savings plan, which is being tested by five corporations in the Chicago area. Thaler, author of The Winner’s Curse and a pioneer in behavioral economics, has developed a new institutional method to increase workers’ savings rates. Thaler noted that the average workers’ savings rates are painfully low. I blame the low rate on high withholding taxes, but Thaler suggested that part of the problem is the way retirement programs are administered. He convinced these corporations to adopt his plan to have their employees enroll in an “automatic” investment 401(k) plan. Most corporations treat 401(k) plans as a voluntary program and, as a result, only half choose to sign up. In Thaler’s plan, employees are automatically invested in 401(k) plans unless they choose to opt out.

Result? Instead of 49 percent signing up (as they do in a typical corporate investment plan), 86 percent participate.

Raises Invested

In addition, Thaler has participating employees automatically invest most of any pay increase in higher contributions to their 401(k) plans, so they never see their paychecks decline, even though their 401(k) plans are increasing. Consequently, employees under this SMART plan have seen their average savings rate increase from 3 to 11 percent.

Robert Shiller was a discussant at the session and rightly called Thaler’s plan “brilliant.” I agree. Having authored several investment books advocating “automatic investing” and dollar-cost-averaging plans,5 I applaud Professor Thaler for taking the concept of automatic investing to a new level. If companies everywhere adopt his plan, it could indeed revolutionize the world and lead not only to a much more secure retirement for workers but to a higher saving and investment rate. The result could be a higher economic growth and standard of living throughout the world.

Most important, Thaler’s plan is a private-sector initiative and does not require government intervention. In short, through innovative management techniques and education, individuals can solve their own financial and business problems without the help of the state.

1. Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living (New York: John Day Company, 1937), p. 57.
2. References to “animal spirits” and “waves of irrational psychology” can be found in John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (New York: Macmillan, 1973 [1936]), pp. 161–62.
3. Ludwig von Mises, Theory and History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957), p. 268. However, Mises refuses to call bad decisions “irrational.” He states, “Error, inefficiency, and failure must not be confused with irrationality. He who shoots wants, as a rule, to hit the mark. If he misses it, he is not ‘irrational’ he is a poor marksman.”
4. Israel M. Kirzner, “Economics and Error” in Perception, Opportunity, and Profit (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 135.
5. Mark and Jo Ann Skousen, High Finance on a Low Budget (Chicago: Dearborn, 1993) and Mark Skousen’s 30-Day Plan for Financial Independence (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1995).

Mark Skousen is president of FEE.

Can Money Buy Happiness?

Personal Snapshots
Forecasts & Strategies
April 2002

“I’m tired of Love: I’m still more tired of Rhyme. But Money gives me pleasure all the time.” —Hilaire Belloc

I came across a very interesting book the other day called Happiness and Economics: How the Economy and Institutions Affect Human Well-Being (Princeton University Press, 2002), by Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer. It’s a very academic book, with lots of graphs and mathematical regressions, but the conclusions are pretty clear: “The general result seems to be that happiness and income are indeed positively related.” In other words, money can provide many benefits—more opportunities, higher status in society, the ability to travel, enjoy better food, housing, health care and entertainment, etc.

I remember the day I discovered that I would be financially independent. It was a summer day in the 1970s when I came home and presented my wife with more than a dozen checks from a mail-order business I had started. Within a year, we had bought our first home, with 20% down, and by 1984, we had become successful enough that we could move our entire family (with four children) to the Bahamas to “retire.” The experience of becoming financially secure gave Jo Ann and me an incredible feeling of satisfaction.

The graph shows the relationship between income and happiness across nations. In general, people in poor countries are less satisfied than people in rich countries. One reason is that poor nations are often more subject to violence and uncertainty. “Countries with higher per capita incomes tend to have more stable democracies than poor countries have…. The higher the income, then the more secure human rights are, the better average health is, and the more equal the distribution of income is. Thus, human rights, health and distributional equality may seemingly make happiness rise with income.”

But the graph also indicates that more money provides diminishing returns in happiness. Subjective well-being rises with income, but once beyond a certain threshold, income has little or no effect on happiness. That’s why many wealthy people are not any happier than middle-class people. In fact, some wealthy people are downright unhappy.

Four Elements of Happiness

I once read a sermon by a church leader on the “Four Sources of Happiness.” He spoke of work, recreation, love and worship. I think he’s right. You have to find rewarding and honest employment to be happy. Unemployed people, not contributing to society or themselves, are generally unhappy. At the same time, people who spend too much time at the office and can’t relax with their family or friends at home need to learn the joy of recreation with a hobby, sports, travel or other avocation. Some of my most memorable times have been at a county softball game or a pick-up game of basketball with my kids or friends.

Love and friendship are also key elements of happiness. Everyone needs someone to confide in, to spend time with, to learn from, to reminisce with, to love and be loved. For most people, love and friendship take time and effort. You have to work at developing friendships, but the rewards are never-ending.

Finally, worship. Developing one’s spiritual side is essential to happiness. Some of my friends say they don’t need religion, but they are missing out on one of the joys of life—listening to a great sermon, singing hymns, meditating on the word of God and praying for God’s help.

In short, there’s more to life than doubling your money on a hot stock (although that, too, gives a lot of pleasure).

Are You A Company Man or An Entrepreneur?

Forecasts & Strategies
Personal Snapshots
May 2001

By Mark Skousen

The most dangerous advice you can give a child is “Go to school, get good grades, and look for a safe, secure job.” —Robert T. Kiyosaki, author Rich Dad, Poor Dad

I don’t normally write about the same book twice, but I received so many complaint letters about my attack on Rich Dad, Poor Dad last month that a follow-up is necessary. “I was stunned by your review,” wrote one subscriber. “My impression is very different from yours. Robert Kiyosaki comes off as someone who loves life and still has time for his two young boys fascinated by the world of business. Robert says it is the Rich Dad that has time for him, not the Poor Dad who is too busy climbing the job ladder and the rat race. Robert notes that in today’s volatile world there is no financial security—not by employers or government. You have to fill the void yourself through financial education and business entrepreneurship.”

My response: I have a mixed attitude about the philosophy behind Rich Dad, Poor Dad. In many places, he makes a lot of sense. I agree 100% that too many good people earn too little, spend too much and use their credit cards excessively, causing undue financial hardship and unpaid bills. I agree 100% that not enough time is spent in school educating young people on the virtues of self-discipline, budgeting, thrift, business acumen and entrepreneurship. I agree 100% that too many Americans have adopted a “bash the rich” and an “entitlement” mentality, believing that their company or government owes them a guaranteed life of benefits and security.

Kiyosaki favors the Rich Dad who sets his own hours and takes his chances in construction, chain stores and restaurants while he dabbles in real estate and penny stocks. He opposes the Poor Dad whose advice is, “Go to school, get good grades and look for a safe secure job.” He calls it “the most dangerous advice you can give a child” because in today’s global world, there’s no such thing as a safe, secure job. “That may be, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t work for several companies during your lifetime. Going out on your own as a capitalist/entrepreneur isn’t your only choice, and frankly, for most people it may not be the best choice.

Not everyone is cut out to be a capitalist/entrepreneur willing to go out on their own and invest in high-risk ventures. Most people prefer to work for a company. That’s fine—there’s no reason to be guilty about being an employee or executive of a big corporation. My advice is to work hard at that job, get up-to-date training, earn those raises, stay out of debt—and save and invest as much as possible. Many of my subscribers fit in this category.

Kiyosaki belittles his real father who had advanced degrees from Stanford and the University of Chicago but never could make ends meet as a school administrator in Hawaii. He was the Poor Dad who had little interest in “making money.” But Kiyosaki’s criticisms are misplaced. His dad’s troubles were not due to his non-pecuniary interests or in his working for the state of Hawaii. Poor Dad simply didn’t live by George Clason’s basic rules of The Richest Man in Babylon: Always save at least 10%, no matter how much you earn. That way you get richer every year, no matter what your lifestyle. Poor Dad could have been Rich Dad without taking any big risk in high-flying businesses or penny stocks. He could simply invest his 10% in index funds or even money market funds.

Who Gets Caught Up in the Rat Race?

I had to laugh when Kiyosaki accused his Poor Dad of getting caught up in the “rat race” of life with bigger homes and higher credit card bills. Believe me, the Rich Dad is also involved in the rat race. When you start your own business, that’s all you can think about. You will work 14 hours a day or more. Time for the kids and spouse? Forget it! Sure, you may show up to see your son play Little League, but more than likely you’ll be on your cell phone talking business. It’s the nature of the beast.

Rich Don’t Pay Taxes? Get Real!

One final comment. Kiyosaki boastfully declares, “The real reality is that rich are not taxed.” They use corporations and other tax breaks to beat the taxman. “It’s the middle class who pays.” That may have been the case a few years back, but not anymore. The rich are paying through the nose these days. Today the top 1% are paying over 30% of the federal income taxes. I know-I’m one of them. Sure, you may reduce your tax burden through corporations, but it’s harder and harder to escape taxes entirely.

In sum: Kiyosaki’s books are fine for self-employed risk-takers (and I’m one of them!). But for those who like working for others, don’t panic. You, too, can be a Rich Dad by following George Clason’s prudent formula, “A part of all you earn is yours to keep.”

What If Social Security Was Like a 401(k)?

Forecasts & Strategies
Personal Snapshots
December 2000

by Mark Skousen

“Of all social institutions, business is the only one created for the express purpose of making and managing change…. Government is a poor manager.” -Peter F. Drucker, “The Sickness of Government,” The Age of Discontinuity (1969)

In the ongoing debate over the privatization of Social Security, one story has been overlooked: The private sector in the United States has already solved its own pension fund crisis by converting their old “defined benefit” plans into individualized 401(k)s.

Here’s the story: After World War II, major U.S. companies added generous pension plans to their employee benefit programs. These “defined benefit” plans largely imitated the federal government’s Social Security plan. Companies placed funds into a large investment pool based on employees’ salaries, the trust fund was managed by company officials, and a monthly retirement income was projected for all employees when they retired at age 65.

The Old Pension Plan System Fails

But over the years, corporate executives recognized serious difficulties with their traditional pension plans, similar to the problems Social Security faces today. Corporations confronted huge unfunded liabilities as retirees lived longer and managers invested too conservatively in government bonds and blue-chip “old economy” stocks. Newer employees were also angered when they changed jobs or were laid off and didn’t have the required “vested” years to receive benefits from the company pension plan. Unlike Social Security, most corporate plans were not transferable. The Employment Retirement Income Security ACT (ERISA), passed in 1974, imposed regulations on the industry in an attempt to protect pension rights, but the headaches, red tape and lawsuits grew during an era of downsizing, job mobility and longer life expectancies.

The New Individualized Solution

The new corporate solution was a spin-off of another legislative invention-the Individual Retirement Account (IRA). The 401(k) rapidly became the business pension of choice, and there is no turning back. These “defined contribution” plans solve all the headaches facing traditional corporate “defined benefit” plans. Under 401(k) plans, employees, not company officials, control their own investments (by choosing among a variety of no-load mutual funds). Corporations no longer face unfunded liabilities because there is no guaranteed projected benefit. And workers and executives have complete mobility; they can move that, 401k savings to a new employer or roll it over into an IRA.

According to recent Labor Department statistics, there are about nine times more defined-contribution plans than defined-benefit plans. Almost all of the major Fortune 500 companies have switched to 401(k) plans or hybrid “cashbalance” plans. Companies that still operate old plans include General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Delta Airlines and The New York Times Company. IBM, a company that once guaranteed lifetime employment, switched to a “cashbalance” plan two years ago, giving its 100,000 employees an individual retirement account that they can take with them in a lump sum if they leave the company before retirement (long-service workers are still eligible for IBM’s old defined-benefit plan). But virtually all “new economy” companies, such as Microsoft, AOL and Home Depot, offer 401(k) plans only.

Congress could learn a great deal studying the changes corporate America has made in pension fund reform. Converting Social Security into personal investment accounts is a step in the right direction, a policy change already achieved in Chile and other nations. Unfortunately, government – unlike business – is not prone to innovation. As Peter Drucker notes, “Government can gain greater girth and more weight, but it cannot gain strength or intelligence.” Hopefully, Bush will prove me wrong.

UPDATES

Death of Leader, Communist Party USA: Two months ago, Gus Hall, 90, longtime leader of the Communist Party USA died. In reading Hall’s life story in The New York Times, I was reminded of my father’s own story as an FBI agent in the 1940s, when he was an undercover agent and spied on Gus Hall in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1948, Hall was convicted of espionage under the Smith Act and spent eight years in prison. My father, Leroy Skousen, lived a fascinating life as a missionary, FBI agent, lawyer, and anticommunist speaker. His life has been written up in a book titled Thunder Broke the Heavens, available from Skousen Publishing Co., P.O. Box 2488, Winter Park, Florida 32790, $20 postpaid (checks/cash only).

Bankrupt Millionaires

Personal Snapshots
Forecasts & Strategies
October 2000

Bankrupt Millionaires
by Mark Skousen

“In the midst of the biggest economic boom ever, millionaires are going bankrupt.” – Forbes (October 2, 2000)

Last March, I reported the findings of Professor Thomas J. Stanley, author of The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind, that the rich are model citizens-frugal, well-educated, balanced, religious and happily married. But according to the October 2 Forbes, a growing number of millionaires are going bust. Doctors, lawyers, accountants and executives are declaring chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcies at record numbers during this time of prosperity, due to bad business decisions, poor budgeting, overuse of credit cards and divorce. I also know a few financial gurus who continue to dispense advice yet are strapped (but I won’t mention any names).

There are several important lessons here:

(1) An above-average income is no guarantee of financial success. Forbes describes individuals earning $300,000 a year, and some with assets exceeding $5 million, going under. Las Vegas singer Wayne Newton was earning a million dollars a year when he went bankrupt in the early 1990s. (He blamed it on his advisors for getting him into leveraged real estate projects.) Earning more money is not the answer to one’s financial problems-living within your budget is.

(2) Open-ended credit card and business debt is a major source of trouble. If you can’t pay off your credit cards every month, you are headed for trouble. Replace them with debit cards or the American Express card, which requires you to pay off your obligation every month.

(3) Avoid margin debt and leveraged business ventures. The majority of busted millionaires made the mistake of getting in over their heads in leveraged real estate deals and highflying stocks. In many cases, greed drove them to put too much of their savings into one risky scheme.

(4) Most importantly, always spend less than you make, year after year. This advice may sound simplistic, but I’m amazed at how often it is violated.

The Best Book on Avoiding Bankruptcy

There are some excellent books on the subject: Rich Man, Poor Man by Robert T. Kiyosaki, The Wealthy Barber, by David Chilton or High Finance on a Low Budget, by my wife, Jo Ann, and me (all available through amazon.com). But the classic work on the subject is The Richest Man in Babylon (New Library edition). I require it in all my investment classes. It tells the story of Arkad: “In old Babylon there once lived a certain very rich man named Arkad. Far and wide he was famed for his great wealth. Also was he famed for his liberality. He was generous in his charities. He was generous with his family. He was liberal in his own expenses. But nevertheless each year his wealth increased more rapidly than he spent it.”

How could Arkad accomplish this financial miracle of being a big spender and yet still grow richer every year? Simple. Whether he earned a lot or a little, he always set aside at least 10 percent of his income, which he religiously saved and invested. He scrupulously avoided living beyond his means. Thus, in times when he earned more, he could afford to spend more-even as he added to his net worth.

My Financial Life Story

I read The Richest Man of Babylon when I was a young adult and have followed it ever since with great success. I started college with $50 in my pocket, but have always lived frugally. I pay cash for everything, including big-ticket items like cars. I seldom buy stocks on margin. I put aside 10%-20% of my income every year through my pension plan and Automatic Investment Plans (AIP) with various brokers. Like Arkad, I spend money liberally on my family, church, charities and other good causes (such as the Foundation for Economic Education). My only major debt was my home, and I paid off my mortgage several years ago, so I am totally debt free. Yes, I invest frequently in high-risk ventures, but I always diversify enough to keep out of trouble.

If you haven’t read The Richest Man in Babylon, I suggest you do so. It is entertaining and enlightening-and will keep you financially straight.

The Gap Between Rich and Poor Is…Narrowing!

Personal Snapshots
FORECASTS & STRATEGIES
April 2000

by Mark Skousen

“The poor remain poor and the command of income by those in the top income brackets is increasing egregiously.” — John Kenneth Galbraith

“The poor have not gotten poorer. The average family below the poverty line today is doing as well or better than middle-class families in 1971.” — W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm

Recently two Washington, D.C., think tanks warned that the income gap between rich and poor was getting worse, much worse. They blamed differences in education and skills, immigration, and the stock market boom. To remedy this injustice, they urged increasing the minimum wage and unemployment insurance while reducing “regressive” taxes.

I strongly disagree with these findings for several reasons. First, these studies ignore the fact that families and individuals move from poor to middle class, and middle class to rich over time. For example, a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas indicates that 29% of poor families in 1975 had moved to the top income brackets in 1991. Only 5.1% of those in the bottom in 1975 remained at the bottom in 1991! In a dynamic market economy, there is constant upward mobility.

Second, other more in-depth studies demonstrate that the poor have improved their material condition tremendously during the 20th century and even the past 20 years.


The above chart shows the benefit of looking specifically at examples of living standards instead of relying on income figures. The overwhelming fact is that if we measure standard of living by the quantity, quality and variety of goods and services, we see that our material lives have improved dramatically and profoundly over the past 100 years, for peoples of all incomes. The rich have gotten richer, but so have the poor.

The Rich Aren’t So Different After All

I would go one step further and argue that the poor have actually advanced the most in this country and are gradually and sometimes speedily catching up with the rich. The rich are having a harder time distinguishing themselves from the poor. The rich have cars with air-conditioning and radios, and so do most of the poor. The rich watch the World Series (or an opera) on their big color TVs, and so do the poor. The rich jump on a jet and fly to exotic lands and, with recent cheap excursion fares on the Internet, the poor are doing the same thing. In fact, the Internet is the great leveler. It’s so cheap today that anyone can get online and obtain information with hardly any cost at all. The Internet is increasing dramatically the level of competition and thereby reducing the cost of living. For example, it won’t be long before long-distance telephone calls will cost nothing. What was once the domain of the well-to-do is now open to every one. Compared to yesteryear, every house today is a castle, every man a king.