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  • June 8-June 12, 2020

a look back at this week’s essays…


The End of Intimacy, Trust, and Love


I’ve been thinking about how the world has been coming apart lately…


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The End of Real Knowledge


“When I take over the world the first thing I’m going to do is abolish social media,” I announced.


“Yeah, right,” my sister said.


“Not funny!” my niece shouted.


“You can abolish Facebook, but don’t touch my Twitter,” my daughter-in-law warned.


We were joking. Sort of.


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Fine Art As a Long-Term Investment


In my first essay in this series, I made the broad case for why you should consider investing in art…. Today, I’m going to explain why so many ordinary, “amateur” art lovers – people who are not necessarily financially savvy – have, nevertheless, seen their art holdings appreciate amazingly, leaving them and their heirs immensely rich.


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quick quiz


  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence:


*  anagnorisis (6/8/20)

*  cursory (6/10/20)

*  acumen (6/12/20)


  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations:


* “When I got my first _____, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships.” – Andy Warhol



* “The simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most _____ man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.” – Leo Tolstoy (6/10/20)


* “There’s something to be said about the art-industrial complex, the collectors who recognize that your work has some sort of future _____ value.” – Kehinde Wiley (6/12/20)


  1. Are these statements True or False?


*  The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. (6/8/20)


*  According to James Clear, author of the book Atomic Habits, social connection can actually be more helpful to your daily life than understanding the truth of a particular fact or idea. (6/10/20)


* Michael Jordan makes more money from Nike each year than all the Nike factory workers in Malaysia combined. (6/12/20)




recommended links from this week’s blog


* If you don’t approve of the looting, but are horrified by the murder and want to do something actionable that is consistent with your moral and political views, you might want to contribute to this guy. (There are hundreds more like him. You can locate them if you look.) Here


* “How to Change the World by Doing This One Thing Every Day” by James Altucher – a good thought piece. To read it, click here.


* This short WSJ video reports on what some believe schools will be like in the future. I don’t believe it…Here


 * “Full Bore” – a quick, amusing read by one of my favorite essayists in Taki’s Magazine. Click here.


* I’ve watched 50+ interviews with doctors and scientists on COVID-19 and the lockdown. This doctor does the best job in explaining the facts in a way that anyone should be able to understand. Here




Your Question:


I liked your “Free Is Bad” essays.  What you said in Part 1 of this series is a reminder of what we learned in direct mail and have forgotten as we’ve moved into the electronic age. A buyer’s list was always worth more than an enquirer’s file. Also, you can cross-sell much more to a file that bought an expensive product, than you can to buyers of a cheap product. You just have to work harder to get the first sale.

The current trend to get a “small purchase first and then build on this,” I believe has been invented by people with very little direct-mail experience and never fully tested.

I don’t have any experience running charitable foundations, but all your comments in Part 2 made sense.

Will there be  a Part 3?


My Answer:


To your comments about free offers, I would add this: When the direct-response industry shifted from snail mail 20 years ago, there was a five- to six-year window when anyone could make a killing using the free-to-paid model. The Agora, my primary client, was probably the world’s leader of this model back then. Many people still call it the “Agora” model.

But even back then it was clear to my partner and me that those days of easy pickings were not going to last. Because the barrier of entry was so very low, thousands of new companies were flooding into the market and steadily pushing up the cost of acquiring “free” names.

That’s ancient history now. But there are still countless internet marketing gurus out there in cyberspace promoting this antiquated notion. And, yes, it still works – but barely.

The competition has returned to product quality and salesmanship, where it should be.

What many don’t understand about free-to-paid marketing is that amassing a huge free file today is not a meaningful marketing event. It is not a sale. It is merely a digital version of renting a direct-mail marketing list.

As JSN told me a hundred times when I worked for him: “The business doesn’t start until you’ve made the first sale.” Persuading a prospect to sign up for a free product is not a sale. It’s a marketing expense.

The magic happens when the sale is made. And making a sale today is not easy.

Re your question: Yes, there will be a Part 3… and probably a Part 4.



Your Question:


In reading your June 5th blog, you state that “last year there were 41 deaths of unarmed people by police.  Of that group 20 were white and 9 were black.”  I can’t find that statistic anywhere on the web.  Can you send me the source?



My Answer:


The numbers came from The Washington Post’s Police Shooting Database. (Since 2015, the Post has created a database cataloging every fatal shooting nationwide by a police officer in the line of duty.)

Following are some additional numbers. Note that the ratio of black to white deaths has been getting smaller every year since 2015. Next week, we will be publishing a longer essay on this issue.


201594 Total

32 White

38 Black

19 Hispanic

5 ‘other’


2016 – 51 total

22 White

19 Black

9 Hispanic

1 ‘other’


2017 – 70 Total

31 White

22 Black

13 Hispanic

3 ‘other’; 1 ‘unknown’


2018 – 58 Total

25 White

23 Black

8 Hispanic

1 ‘other’; 1 ‘unknown’


2019 – 55 Total

25 White

14 Black

11 Hispanic

5 ‘other’


2020 – 24 Total

10 White

7 Black

3 Hispanic

1 ‘other’; 3 ‘unknown’


Totals (2015-2020)

352 Total

145 White

123 Black

63 Hispanic

16 ‘other’; 5 ‘unknown’


Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page.



For a look back at the stock market, click here.



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The End of Intimacy, Trust, and Love 


“When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships.” – Andy Warhol


I’ve been thinking about how the world has been coming apart lately.

Homo sapiens, as is often pointed out, are social creatures. We live in concentric social circles that extend outwards from the individual in degrees of love, trust, and intimacy.

At the center is the individual – i.e., YOU. Around you is a small circle of people you greatly love and deeply trust. This may include your spouse and immediate family and closest friends. But it may not. You know they are in your innermost circle because losing any one of them would be devastating to you. It would change your life forever. It would feel like losing a part of your heart.  This is your Circle of Love.

Beyond them is a larger circle of people with whom you have good and comfortable relationships. You like them and they like you. You know how to enjoy each other’s company, and when you are together, you shift immediately into that familiar social mode. You may even say (and believe) that you love them. But you know – if you are honest with yourself – that you would not be devastated if they disappeared from your life. Still, you believe that you can trust them to help you if you need help. That matters to you. This group, too, can include family or friends. This is your Circle of Trust.

The third circle that surrounds you is your Circle of Acquaintanceship. It is comprised of people you interact with regularly but don’t know – or care – very much about. These are people from whom you might ask a favor and for whom you might do a favor, but only if it is not a terribly big one. And then it would depend on your mood.

Beyond that, there is a fourth circle: the billions of people you don’t know and that you care about only in the most abstract way. This is the Circle of the Others.

Those four circles have comprised man’s social universe for millennia. However, in the middle of the twentieth century, as we began to get most of our daily information from radio and television, a new circle appeared. This fifth circle was comprised of all the people we had never met personally but about whom we had strong feelings and opinions.

This fifth circle quickly pushed the fourth to the perimeter and then moved into third position. We began to trust the pundits we admired on radio and TV more than we trusted our neighbors. And we began to love our favorite TV personalities more than we loved our neighbors, too, even though we knew nothing about them but the characters they played.

Welcome to the Circle of Delusion… otherwise known as the Circle of Social Entropy…otherwise known as How We Put an End to Civilization.

Since the proliferation of social media, the Circle of Social Entropy has been nudging its way inwards towards the center of our social universe. It bypassed the Circle of the Others almost immediately and then the Circle of Acquaintanceship soon thereafter. Today, for millions, it has bypassed the Circle of Trust and is threatening to bypass even the Circle of Love. (An easy way to measure this is by seeing what’s been happening on Facebook the last few years. People are deleting “friends” over social and political issues.) In real life, friendships and families are disintegrating over social media posts.

In his 1964 book Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan argued that, by its nature, media has an effect on the ideas and sentiments that people form. He was right about that.

What social media has done in a very short time is astonishing. It has essentially allowed virtual relationships to move closer in our universe of intimacy than real ones. Increasingly, we have greater trust in the pundits, politicians, celebrities, and influencers we encounter daily through social media than we do in our neighbors, extended family, and friends.

I believe we are at the end of the way we have, for more than 100,000 years, developed relationships with other people. We are quickly moving into a world where love, and trust, and intimacy will be a largely digital experience.

What’s happening today is the end of real relationships. To me, that means an end to freedom and individuality.

And it gets worse. We are also on the threshold of The End of Real Knowledge. I’ll talk about that on Wednesday.


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The Exposure Explosion

You Think Sexual Harassment Is News? Really?

Men – mostly powerful white men – are being exposed as sexual predators. They are being punished by losing their jobs, their reputations, and, in some cases, their families and friends.

Like the presidential election, it is freaking people out and polarizing the population.

First it was Harvey Weinstein. Then it was Louis C. K., Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, John Conyers, and (gasp!) Matt Lauer.

Hardly a day passes without another well-known name being added to the list. And it’s not just celebrities and politicians. Gavin Delahunty, chief curator at the Dallas Museum of Art, resigned after allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior. James Levine, the world-famous conductor, was suspended by the Met Opera after three men accused him of abusing them when they were teenagers.

The liberal press was the first to jump on the “news.” Conservative commentators were initially quiet on the subject, but began speaking when a significant number of the accused turned out to be liberals.

So we are all talking about it now.

It was never really acceptable. But some of it sort of was.

For the first 30 years of my life, sexual harassment was not something people talked about. I doubt if the phrase was even used until the 1980s when workforce regulations and laws were put into place.

As for “inappropriate behavior” creating a “hostile work environment” – I don’t remember that being an issue until around 2000.

But for what we might call “hard core” sexual harassment – trying to exchange workplace rewards for sexual favors – that was always considered repulsive. It was also, however, regarded as somehow “to be expected,” at least in Hollywood and on Wall Street.

How many cartoons have been published over the decades – even in dignified liberal-leaning publications such as The New Yorker – depicting the Hollywood powerhouse and the starlet on “the casting couch”? Or the boss chasing the typist around the room?

A young person today might well wonder why this sort of behavior was considered a laughing matter.

One reason, I think, is that there was, until relatively recently, a very different view of male and female roles when it came to sex.

The man’s role was to pursue the woman. The woman’s role was to be pursued.

The man was expected to want to have sex whenever he could get it. The woman was expected to refuse a man’s sexual advances, and to make only small and gradual allowances depending on her assessment of his attractiveness and worthiness. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Women who initiated sex or said yes too easily were considered whorish. Men who were persistent in asking for sex were considered normal – “red-blooded” at the worst.

And now, as the exposures and admissions and expulsions continue, it is pretty much impossible for anyone to pretend that this double standard has not been a real and serious problem since… well, certainly since the Mad Men days. Arguably since 1492.

So why does it feel like sexual harassment in the workplace is something new?

Until recently, the behavior that men are now being punished for was accepted… or at least ignored. And as long as it was ignored, some men felt that it was somehow okay.

I can think of several contributing factors:

  • Although it has always been illegal as well as reprehensible to rape, fondle, or act out sexually in front of one’s colleagues and employees, there was always some allowance given for the lesser of these offenses when the victims were single women – i.e., not some other man’s wife.
  • And when it came to Hollywood and Wall Street, the idea that a powerful man might persuade a single (i.e., available) woman to grant him some sort of sexual pleasure by offering career benefits was considered a form of mutual consent. (After all, the woman could always say no.)
  • Casual sex – i.e., sex outside of marriage – has gradually become thought of as ordinary. And the idea of a woman having such sex has evolved from something to be ashamed of to something she has a perfect right to.

So how far can a man go?

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