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The Most Important Valuation You'll Ever Make

Written by Alex Koyfman
Posted December 26, 2019

Dear Reader,

It's one day after Christmas and five days before New Year’s, so let's face it... Buying stocks probably isn't the first thing on your mind right now.

So, taking that into consideration, I'm going to use this opportunity to explore a slightly different topic.

Before I get to the meat of the subject, let me create some context.

Three days ago, while standing on the steps of a Four Seasons Hotel, I saw a sight that I had once thought unthinkable.

Here's the photo I snapped:

moscow

What you're looking at is a Christmas village framing the oldest tower of the Kremlin.

The tree is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, I've ever seen in my life.

The music, which you obviously can't hear, is Dean Martin's "Let it Snow."

To the right and the left of this scene are hundreds of people, mostly Russian but plenty of foreigners, milling about, shopping, introducing their kids to "Ded Moroz" (the Russian Santa Claus), ice skating, taking pictures, and doing everything else we Westerners commonly associate with the season.

As I said before, this scene, to a former Russian, was once unthinkable.

Just a few short decades ago, the celebration, and everything that went into it, would have been illegal.

Anybody wanting to celebrate would have had to do so in private, in secret, knowing full well that discovery by the authorities could have led to time in prison.

And yet today, just spitting distance from the very birthplace of the global Marxist movement, Christmas out-screams, out-sings, and out-sells everything and anything associated with Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.

Of course, the modern Western consumerist image of the holiday season is only a tiny aspect of everyday life, but I can tell you right now, with no uncertainty, that if this sort of thing were possible back in the early ’80s, when my family left the USSR, it's likely we would not have left at all.

Because all of these superficial symbols are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Putting the cherry on the pie, there were even a few menorahs around.

The specter of communism, however, wasn't too far away.

Just behind the image I posted above, a small group of protestors were quietly milling about, waving flags, standing in solidarity with a time that has clearly passed into history.

As we stood in line to see Lenin's rotting old corpse, I took this picture:

msocow

This is what's left of Russia's communist party.

A handful of subdued demonstrators, with ages ranging from the early 70s to the late 80s, standing around, waving their flags, calling for a return to the good old days.

Nobody cared much. Passersby just walked around them or through them with the same level of inconvenience that you might exhibit while walking between some parked cars.

Seeing this unfold brought me to a painful realization... Russia, the country that just a lifetime ago was still murdering poets for speaking badly of the Party, has transformed into something wholly different.

The capital city is unrecognizable.

Filled with light and smiling people and signs of prosperity, despite the fact that the last few years have not been kind to the ruble or the economy, the marks of the dark times are now little more than artifacts — just like the aging protestors.

Let's get real here, though. Things are far from great. In fact, in much of the rest of the country, most things are far from good. People are still poor. The government is still watching. The detritus of communism is still everywhere.

But things are getting better. You can see the sprouts of liberty and prosperity breaking through the crust everywhere you look.

So why is this realization painful?

Because I'm a former Russian and a current American; because the land I call home now isn't getting better. 

In fact, it's starting to look less like the country we immigrated to and more like the country we emigrated from.

Meanwhile... Back Home

Today, the cradle of modern democracy has its own brand of communist protestors, and unlike the ones calling for a return to Soviet times on the threshold of Red Square, ours aren't decrepit pensioners.

Here is a photo that, thankfully, I didn't take with own camera.

moscow

This is Portland, just a few months ago, and if you can't tell, these communists aren't in their 70s.

They won't be dead and forgotten in a few years.

They're in their 20s and will be breathing for decades to come.

And while their beliefs and their movement might not be all that popular, the fact that it exists at all in a country that's fought the deadly ideology for a third of its existence indicates to me that the free, democratic West is undergoing a change no less dramatic than the formerly oppressive, socialist former USSR.

Some will laugh and some will scoff and some will dismiss this as paranoia, but the fact that a modern embryonic communist movement is currently incubating in the Western world is unmistakable.

And if the hammer and sickle flags and the black-clad hordes aren't proof enough, then the gradual descent into groupthink should be.

A New Rule Book

Dubbed cultural Marxism, the ideological prong of today's far-left follows the exact same path that numerous societies throughout history have followed.

A set of beliefs and convictions that cannot be questioned, gradually becoming more and more strict, with penalties growing more and more severe, at a rapid pace.

A hundred years ago, Lenin brought this scourge to Russia and immediately transformed the nation.

Within a decade of its arrival, questioning the supposedly benevolent tenets of the Communist Party led to immediate censure, incarceration, and oftentimes a one-way trip to the KGB headquarters.

It's a set of beliefs that to a modern observer would have seemed draconian. No personal property. No religion. No freedom of expression.

Do something that breaks the strict rules of the system, and the police will show up at your door and arrest you.

Say something questionable on the phone, which is constantly tapped, and the police show up at your door and arrest you.

Careful What You Tweet

Today, we're seeing tiny examples of this cancer at our own doorstep.

Back in February, a British woman was taken from her home, arrested, photographed, fingerprinted, and had her DNA taken after calling a transgender woman a man on Twitter.

In April, a Canadian man was fined $55,000 for the same transgression.

In September, New York City's Commission on Human Rights declared that using the term "illegal alien" to describe an undocumented person (a.k.a. an illegal alien) could result in fines of up to $250,000.

And just last week, an Iowa man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for tearing a rainbow flag from an LGBTQ-friendly church and setting fire to it.

The man was clearly deranged and possibly dangerous, but 15 years? For burning a flag?

Do similar penalties apply to people who burn the American flag? Does anybody give even a fraction of a damn when somebody burns a flag featuring the Star of David?

These are just four examples, but they're numerous, and they're becoming commonplace. 

And as these new rules of conduct become more set in stone, cultural Marxism is starting to do exactly what this sort of ideology has always done: consume an ever-broadening cross section of people.

One Mouth. No Brain. Many Teeth

These days, it's perfectly okay for a pack of white people to throw a black person out of a restaurant, screaming insults and threats as they do so — provided that the black person is of the right (or perhaps wrong) political conviction.

This happened to conservative commentator Candace Owens last year, when she was attacked by a leftist mob in a Philadelphia diner for being a "white supremacist."

Andy Cuong Ngo, another outspoken conservative, was attacked by pack of leftist activists in Portland earlier this year, leaving him with a bloodied face and a concussion.

He was also banned from Twitter.

Andy is both Asian and gay, but that didn't seem to matter. In the eyes of the horde that beat him to a pulp, he was subhuman.

And just last week, J.K. Rowling, who three years ago announced that "idiots were going to idiot" in response to public protests to a black actress being cast as Hermione Granger in a Harry Potter play, earned herself a big fat transphobia stamp for opining that "men cannot be women."

She may not have been beaten up or forced out of a restaurant, but you can bet your bottom dollar that her status as a good guy has been stripped by the ever-vigilant thought police.

Think You're Safe?

There are many other examples of this happening to less famous people, but you get the idea.

Without even noticing it, modern mainstream society is starting to follow the same path that the French beat at the end of the 18th century; the same path that the Russians followed in the early 20th century; the same path that the Germans followed just a decade later.

Fines. Legal repercussions. Loss of liberty. Public witch hunts.

And it will continue to escalate, unless something is done to stop it.

But how?

If our lawmakers are already falling into step and passing legislation that bans specific kinds of speech, specific words, then it's clear the law is no longer on the side of liberty.

If society is an organism, then the counterattack must be on a cellular level.

We need to go back to evaluating each other, person to person, along a different set of criteria.

Which brings me to the title of this rant.

The Most Important Valuation You'll Ever Make

When picking stocks, you look at objective characteristics. Numbers. Facts. Things you can measure on a scientific basis.

The same needs to be done when comparing humans, only unlike stocks, where the metrics are numerous, there is only one thing to consider when deciding whether a human is worth associating with or not...

How much does a given person expect in return for the effort he or she puts forth?

Or, put more succinctly: Value = Sacrifice/Expected Reward.

It sounds simple, but it's amazing how consistently and universally this equation answers the question of a human's relative value.

It starts with the most basic of relationships.

A significant other who is generous with his time, his affection, his thoughtfulness, but asks little in return, is of high value.

One that does the opposite is of lesser value.

An employee that goes above and beyond the to-the-letter description of her job title, but doesn't demand more money, is of high value.

An employee that does average or less-than-average work but asks for raises and increased authority is of lesser value.

A friend that's always willing to listen, to help, to commiserate, to sympathize, but rarely asks for the same, is of high value.

A friend who's always taking but, when the time comes to give, is never there is no friend at all.

A person who refuses to mock or humiliate others but can take criticism or ribbing with a smile is somebody you want to have around.

A person who allows himself to say anything he wants, no matter how disrespectful, to anybody he wants, but immediately seizes up, goes silent, or worse, becomes hostile at the first hint of criticism, is a textbook narcissist... a weakling posing as a force to be reckoned with. In short: a bully.

Social Justice Warrior vs. Actual Warrior

This equation applies equally well to the ways in which one conducts himself in public.

A man willing to risk his reputation, his financial security, his very existence, while expecting little to nothing in return, is of high value.

A man who makes high-profile gestures from the safety of popular opinion is of no value.

This is what makes people like Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King, and Former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered by polonium poisoning after criticizing his former employers, heroes.

This is also what makes people whose activism is limited to collecting Twitter and Facebook likes, or marching for the rights of protected classes in places like Berkeley or New York City, where those rights are already sacrosanct, nothing more than self-aggrandizing glory-seekers. 

One group gives all, up to and including their lives, with no expectation of personal gain.

The other group expects praise while risking nothing.

You get the idea.

This isn't a new concept. It is, in fact, one of the oldest rules there are, and by no coincidence, it is the very embodiment of the holiday season.

If we, as a society, learn to judge based on this ancient metric and do away with today's tribal obsession with race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status, then the world will improve.

Deadly ideologies that cause groups of people to pass judgment on other groups of people will be snuffed out.

Virtue signaling, perhaps the worst human instinct to rear its ugly head in modern times, will end.

If we continue down the road of classifying people along a hierarchy based on attributes they were born with; if we remain focused on our own innate identities while forgetting where real human value comes from, we will descend into calamity.

I know all of this is going to change few people's minds, but given this time of year, and given where we are in history, it needed to be said.

I wish you all a happy new year, whoever and wherever you may be.

Fortune favors the bold,

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Alex Koyfman

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Coming to us from an already impressive career as an independent trader and private investor, Alex's specialty is in the often misunderstood but highly profitable development-stage microcap sector. Focusing on young, aggressive, innovative biotech and technology firms from the U.S. and Canada, Alex has built a track record most Wall Street hedge funders would envy. Alex contributes his thoughts and insights regularly to Wealth Daily. To learn more about Alex, click here.

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