Sunday, December 01, 2013

Book Review: Enjoy the Decline by Aaron Cleary

I read this book back in January, and am finally getting around to writing my review of it. I'm way late to the party.

Enjoy the Decline is a tagline Cleary has been using for years on his blog "Captain Capitalism" and is also the title of his book.

If I'm rendering it correctly, a major point to the book is, the America we were promised as children isn't going to happen. It's gone. A land of freedom and limitless opportunities has been replaced by wealth redistribution and punishment for success. And it's not your fault. It was taken from you. So what can you do about it?

You have to accept it. Then you have to find a way to enjoy it. Rather than bust your ass in a corporate world ruled by status quo Silent Generation and Baby Boomers, scale back your economic production to what you need to support your lifestyle (go Galt) and enjoy the decline. If you do well, you will be taxed and regulated by the parasites. But if you scale back far enough, the parasite can get nothing from the host.

Cleary analyzes the death of the United States, complete with economic models and charts (he is an economist).

On page 52 (of the Kindle version at least), Cleary beats a drum I've been beating for years: income and wealth are NOT THE SAME THING. He explains it very well.

Chapter 3 is an examination of minimalism, and steps you can take to achieve it: rent housing instead of buying, buy used things, don't buy things you don't need. Cleary advises not having children, a choice he made for himself. You need to decide what is best for you though, and I don't believe children are as expensive as some people claim. You don't need a $600 crib, and a baby certainly doesn't need a $40 "onesie" (I have actually seen these things; what are people thinking?) When my children were little, my ex wife and I got by on a lot of used products and hand me downs. She made her own baby food, and we were into cloth diapers for a while. It's not that hard.

As part of minimalism, Cleary advises you to consider trade school over college. Great idea. People like Mike Rowe are working hard to encourage the trades, which are definitely honorable professions. He covers the benefits of minimalism, which include less anger and frustration, more travel, more time with family and friends.

Chapter 4 is about mortality: you are going to die. Why not live? Be an individual.

Chapter 5 is on family and friends, the most important thing in your life. In this chapter, among other things, for the young men he gives advice on how to choose a wife. I can't emphasize this enough: this is one of the most important choices you will make in your life. I apparently chose the wrong one. After years of contempt, she divorced me. And of course got the children and a good chunk of my income. And divorce isn't cheap. Choose wisely, young grasshopper. For the ladies, Cleary gives advice on how to choose a husband.

Chapter 6 is on career and education, and how to choose wisely (Cleary also has a book, Worthless, that goes more into depth on this subject. If you must go to college, Cleary advises getting a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) degree. Don't listen to college recruiters telling you that a degree in medieval Guatemalan Lesbian Poetry will make you money. Look at the starting salaries for the fields in which the degree you're considering pays.

Also consider the trades and the military, although I have to warn you the military is an insane, Kafkaesque bureaucracy which also has the habit of either putting you in harm's way or leaving you bored for long periods of time. The military is full of politics and favoritism. It also has stupid rules. I had to stand watch on a weapons console, which gets real boring off the coast of California with no missiles or ammunition on board. But we weren't allowed to read, which would have kept our minds stimulated and alert. We took a request to read on watch all the way to the Captain, and it got denied. But the military is a good way to get a start in life. I learned electronics in the Navy which gave me a great start to my career. And at least for the time being, veteran status is beneficial. Some places give hiring preference to veterans, and you get a free lunch every Veteran's Day. Also, I believe taking your DD-214 to Home Depot and/or Lowe's gets you 10% off.

But make sure you consider the "harm's way" aspect: military service *could* lead to your death or severe disability. And that's not even from combat. I took 20,000 volts across the arm when somebody ignored the danger tag I hung on the control panel during maintenance and energized the mount electronics while my arm was touching a plug. You can be harmed or killed by the incompetence of your fellow service members. Just keep it in mind.

Chapter 7 is on finance and investing. Inevitably, you will have money coming in, so what to do with it? Cleary demolishes the traditional parroted lines, like "buy a house" or "save for retirement". Buying a house introduces a lot of complications into your life, like perpetually increasing property taxes (the property taxes on my 4 bedroom house on .18 acres in New Jersey were over $10,000 a year, although the state subsidized half. Had that subsidy gone away, I would have been screwed!) Other complications are dealing with souless amoral banks.

As for retirement, in the 70's, when the government created the 401k's and 403b's, it ordained stocks as the chosen retirement vehicle. People began throwing money into stocks, which caused stock values to go up much faster than dividends, which are really the point to owning stock anyway. What happens when Boomers start pulling their money out of the market in retirement? It will go down, affecting our investments. Plus, you now have to worry about confiscation and nationalization of retirement account, which has already happened in other countries and the idea has been floated here. Cleary advises things like metals, alcohol (seriously, in an economic collapse, a whiskey still could give you the greatest means of barter ever!) land, and other hard assets you could use to get by. He also summarizes his "Smith and Wesson Retirement Plan, which is the price of a single bullet you can "eat" when the quality of your life degrades physically.

Chapter 8 is on Plunder, where Cleary gives advice on how to get your hands on these great government benefits you've been funding your entire life.

Chapter 9 is "SHTF", or what to do when and if the "Shit Hits The Fan". This is on survival and bugging out.

Chapter 10 is "Fight or Flight". A lot of people are expatriating, but is that an option? Some people can and are willing to pack up and leave to live in another country, or a series of countries if needed. That's not an option for everybody though, because of family and community ties.

Chapter 11 is Revenge. It was, after all, the electorate of the United States that did this to us. Cleary gives ways to get revenge on them. Cleary points out that leftists tend to be ugly, angry, and miserable, and the best way to get revenge on them is to not fund their programs, have fun, be happy, and let them suffer the consequences of their beliefs.

Cleary points out that, counter-intuitive as it may seem, those who have scaled back their work and lifestyle are also in the best position to come up with the great ideas that can lead to wealth and economic improvement. When you're not wasting a couple hours a day to drive to an office to do work that could be done at home, you have time to think. You have time for epiphanies.

I hope I've done the book justice. I recommend reading it. Enjoy the decline!

You can buy the book from my affiliate link.

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