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Second Handers

Yep, the world is full of ’em (those who derive their self esteem from the perceptions of others, not from objective achievements), and my suspicion is that this sort of personality, demeanor, psychology, psychosis (whatever you want to call it) is behind a lot more than we tend to think it is. Upon due consideration, I also have to wonder if it isn’t sometimes behind things you’d least expect it to be.

Brett Steenbarger tries to make the case that second-handedness is behind pessimism and negativity, and I think his argument is worth considering.

The doomsayer needs followers who feel endangered and vulnerable. The
forecasts of doom make the prophet needed to get through the pending
calamity. No one needs a savior if the forecast is for sunny times
ahead. By undercutting the sense of security of others, the doomsayer
carves out a niche for himself: I will get you through the market
panic, the economic collapse, etc. The same dynamic is at work with the
seemingly solicitous and chivalrous man who wants his woman dependent
upon him.

We know this, right? But how about in libertarian circles? How many
among us, myself included, sometimes go overboard with the doom, gloom,
pessimism — and how much of that is due to an honest assessment of
facts, likely consequences, and real-world failure not of our own
making — and how much of it is second-handedness; the desire to be an
authority, indeed even a sort of victim in the eyes of some?

We see this all the time in the financial world, and curiously enough, the perma-bears are very often to be found amongst libertarian types.

And 20 years after 1987, we stand at new highs and the doomsayers
continue to beat their drum. Odd how we excoriate those who encouraged
people to buy stock in 2000, but say nothing about those who counseled
against equity ownership for the last 10,000 Dow points. If a physician
sickened his patients in order to have a steady stream of revenues, no
one would hesitate to call it malpractice. But what of investment
advisors who fill their clients with fear in order to sell them
services and seminars?

Frankly,
it’s something I struggle with all the time. I see things that are
truly evil, right here and now, and the very fact it exists, it can be
argued, ought to be enough to cause grave concern for what it may
portend in the future. But how much? Does it really have to affect my
life, or can I take small measures that reduce such probability to nil,
like choosing where I live, who I live amongst, what I do for a living,
who I do business with, what kind of wealth I build — wealth that may
buy me options even in the face of civil war, or worse?

"You need not examine a folly", Rand once wrote; "you merely need to identify what it accomplishes".
Pessimism and negativity create dependency and a psychological
crippling. The need to be needed is a need to undercut the certainty
and security of others. That’s why it’s a "symptom of something worse".

Food
for thought, folks. Food for thought. I’m fully aware that someone
needs to shine a light on evil, but isn’t it always going to exist?
Hasn’t it always existed; and yet, here we are? Here we are,
with almost boundless opportunities? When I honestly consider what I’ve
done in my life, what I could have done, and what I still can do, it’s
certainly, for me anyway, impossible to conclude that much of anything
I could and would like to be, but am not, is anything but my own
failing and shortcoming and has nothing whatsoever to do with anything
like limitations on freedom or the reality of taxes and expensive and
irritating regulation. It may have been a bit easier without any of
those things, but is that a really good reason for why I’m not all I
could be, or is it because I, like everyone else, fail and makes
excuses for it?

I’m just sayin’.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

5 Comments

  1. John Sabotta on May 21, 2007 at 23:59

    Um, okay. Except that one of the most dishonest and mendacious individuals I've ever had to deal with used to endlessly berate me about my "dark pessimism" concerning his various ventures. More positive individuals reaped the due rewards of their optimism, losing thousands of dollars or working for weeks on end for rubber paychecks.

    I suppose that it might be sensible to objectively assess the truth or falsity of either optimistic or pessimistic statements, but it's much more fun to indulge in inane motive-hunting and mind-reading.

    "Only second handers will refuse to play this three-card monte game."

  2. John Sabotta on May 26, 2007 at 21:08

    Brett Steenbarger tries to make the case that second-handedness is behind pessimism and negativity, and I think his argument is worth considering.

    No, it isn't. Unless he has mindreading powers.

    The doomsayer needs followers who feel endangered and vulnerable. The forecasts of doom make the prophet needed to get through the pending calamity. No one needs a savior if the forecast is for sunny times ahead. By undercutting the sense of security of others, the doomsayer carves out a niche for himself: I will get you through the market panic, the economic collapse, etc. The same dynamic is at work with the seemingly solicitous and chivalrous man who wants his woman dependent upon him.

    What absolute crap. Sucker's philosophy. The kind of thing you get at Amway meeting while they're trying to get you to max out your credit cards to buy more soap and pay for more training seminars.

  3. Richard Nikoley on May 27, 2007 at 07:48

    Sabotta,

    If you don't start making actual arguments, I'm just going to start deleting your comments.

  4. Richard Nikoley on June 4, 2007 at 17:50

    Sabotta (if you're keeping track this far back):

    For some reason I missed your first comment there. I should point out that we're talking about something entirely different. You're talking about healthy skepticism of unfounded bullshit, especially of the sucker-seeking variety. Oh, yes, I agree with you. This, we have far too little of.

    I'm talking about a general outlook of optimism. I can be perfectly optimistic about my future in part because I'm so skeptical that I'm not bloody likely to fall for bullshit.

    Get it?

  5. Richard Nikoley on June 4, 2007 at 17:53

    …also, notice how when anyone is seeking "optimism," or "partners," or "investors" amongst the uninitiated (inexperienced "speculators"), it is precisely because a qualified investor would tell them to pack sand and they know it.

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