Is Satan a Good Investor
- Posted by James Altucher
First night of sleepaway camp I woke up around 4 in the morning and the bed was completely soaked. I had wet the bed. I was 12 years old and the 10 other beds in the bunk had my friends in them. I would be shamed and embarrassed forever if they found out. My bed smelled like urine. My pajamas smelled like urine. The situation was not good.
Why would God put me in a horrible situation like this? Wasn’t I trying to be a good kid? Why would God do this to me? But then again, I might be an idiot when it comes to the Bible. Or at least, thats what several people are telling me on my post, Was Jesus a Geek?
Why would God make me wet my bunk bed right on the very first day of sleepaway camp with all my friends right in the room. My parents were long gone. I had four weeks I would have to spent with everyone and I was about to spend it in comeplete shame. So I have to ask the question: Was Satan the bad guy or the good guy in the Bible? Because I’m confused. At the very least: would Satan make a good investor?
Lets look at the facts straight from the text:
The Garden of Eden. Genesis doesn’t specifically state that the Snake was the same thing as the Devil but through history its been generally concluded that he is.
So what was wrong with the Snake? You have this Woman creature that was made out of Adam’s backbone like an afterthought and he, the Snake, wanted her to be smart. The snake was a feminist. Why shouldn’t women have knowledge?
And who wants to live in the Garden of Eden anyway. I’m being somewhat facetious here but I like my life the way it is: with books, and computers, and meeting people for dinner at restaurants, and the occasional snowstorm, etc. Sometimes I’m sad and sometimes I’m happy but I like that also. Through our painful experiences we appreciate the pleasurable ones.
And, if I were to take this into a spiritual context, through surviving and breathing through our negative experiences, doesn’t it give us a chance to discover and appreciate the divine inside ourselves. Or am I wrong on this?
To be a good investor, you learn quickly that you must seek out the forbidden knowledge. Everyone is lying to you: your investment advisers, hedge funds you invest in, mutual funds, CEOs of companies you admire (even icons like Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett come under the occasional scrutiny), etc. You must learn to find the knowledge that the apple from the tree will give you and only then can you make proper investment decisions. Without that forbidden knowledge you might as well stay in your garden, planting flowers or whatever people do in gardens.
David. Lets fast forward quite a bit. God basically kills everyone on the planet with Noah, then he kills a bunch of little kids in Egypt. Then he does a bunch of other stuff. And now we’re up to David. What does David do once he’s king? He “numbers” the people. In other words, he takes a census so he can impose a tax and raise some money.
According to the Laffer Curve (developed by the economist Art Laffer, who I’ve had the pleasure of debating on the Kudlow Show), there’s an optimal level of taxation (usually a fairly low rate) where a government reaches max revenues. If taxes were 0% of your income the government would make nothing. If it were 100%, also nothing, because nobody would be incentivized to work. But a government with an army and with some modest level of welfare needs to generate some revenues. The only way to generate revenues is either tax your people. or invade new territory and steal their assets.
But the people protested. They didn’t want to be taxed. David quickly backed off. He said, “the Devil made me do it.” Other than Job (which has uncertain origin in terms of its place in the Old Testament) this is the only place in the Old Testament where “the Devil” or Satan is mentioned.
Is it so bad that Satan wanted the government of Israel to generate revenues? I’m sure we weren’t talking 36% tax rates here. It was probably more like 5-10%. I’m just guessing but that seems like a good starter tax rate. I’m assuming also that Satan understood the Laffer curve, 3000 years before Laffer was born. If Satan, indeed, made David do it then it doesn’t seem like such a horrible thing. Maybe Israel would’ve been able to fight off their invaders 3 centuries later if they started taxing citizens. If only we had someone like Satan on the current economic team then I bet things would be going much more smoothly.
Job. Its clear in the Book of Job that Satan and God are pretty good friends. Job starts off with “the sons of god” and “Satan” hanging out with God in what seems like a conference, discussing matters of celestial importance. God specifically seeks out Satan’s opinion on what he thinks of Job, a pious man. It almost seems like they are friends.
Satan points out, the same way many people today point out, that its easy for rich people to be pious. What happens if Job were not so rich and if he were put to the test? So God himself gives Satan permission to do what he will to Job to test his piety. Not only is God asking Satan for advice but Satan seems to be conducting a lecture on the piety of rich people.
Without going into the whole story, whats the outcome of the story of Job, perhaps one of the most important sections of the Old and New Testament? It shows that sometimes bad things happen to good people and one can still have faith in a higher power despite that. How many people have relied on this aspect of faith through the worst of times (the Holocaust, for instance, where so many Jewish people had doubts after what had happened).
What strikes me here is Satan’s skepticism of Job’s piety because of his wealth. Too often we trust the wealthy and successful, particularly in our investment decisions. Always taking a step back, and having confidence in our own gut rather than the words of others, will help us make the best investment choices. And, being a skeptic, its always important to test. Test, test and test again your theories. One of those theories will be investment gold.
Jesus. During Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness he was tempted by Satan. Among other things, Satan offered Jesus rulership of the entire world. As opposed to the Pharisees, who hated Jesus, and the Romans, who killed him, Satan actually (in the New Testament) considers him an equal (or greater) and offers to let Jesus rule the entire world. I understand the deeper subtleties – that Jesus shows his loyalty to God by rejecting Satan and, in doing so, is allowed to accomplish his mission. But, still, considering what else happened to Jesus in the New Testament, being offered the rulership of the entire planet doesn’t really seem so bad. Does it?
From an investment point of view, Satan clearly recognized a valuable asset before everyone else did. What is this called? Its called buying low and selling high. Why didn’t the Pharisees and the Romans realize what Satan realized? Because, like most people, they weren’t good investors: in people, in divinity, in themselves. There’s no easy way to know that companies like Apple would go up 10,000% in a decade. You need to be shrewd, a little mischievous so as to think outside the box, and have a healthy skepticism for the people around you, including the rulers of the world (i.e. the people who talk to us on TV). Satan clearly had those qualities as exhibited in this section of the New Testament.
What’s my goal in writing this? For me, everyone has their own path. Ultimately, your faith is deeply personal and you find God in your own heart before you can find it anyplace else. Questioning and understanding more deeply the stories we grew up with, as well as the stories from other cultures and ways of thought, help me appreciate the subtleties and obstacles we find on that path. And this appreciation better informs the decisions I make going forward.
But back when I was 12 and had just wet the bed, none of this was any use to me. I turned my bed over, changed sheets with sheets my mom had packed for me, took a shower, changed my pajamas, and went back to sleep. Miraculously none of the other kids woke up during this entire process. God was on my side.
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