Over the past few weeks, several themes in my mind have started to coalesce. The picture that emerges could be titled "relationships are primary." In one corner of that picture, I would describe a tempting but false belief that "money can save you." And I am beginning to wonder to what extent this belief is very close to the root of the problem...? From reading your book, Rob, I am taking that no matter one's economic situation, so long as a human being is well integrated into a community of others (where I am still working out just "well off" that community needs to be), then money really does not do all that much to improve the "quality of life." Conversely, if a human being is isolated in their relationships, no amount of money can lift that person out of the pit of loneliness and insecurity that comes from that experience.

My hunch for the ever shriller "luxury beliefs" (which probably have existed since people cared about any kind of luxury as status symbols) is that the necessary experience of safety -- a place from which to venture into the world and feel courage to act -- has eroded over the past 50 or so years. The reason for this is an ever greater reliance on "individual strength" (encoded in financial/economic status, but also in educational credentials, and other status markers). However, none of these markers can "make up" for the loss in quality of genuine community and friendships. The lonelier people feel, the more desperate they become in finding *SOME* marker that tells them "I am safe here." On college campuses and in cultural elite households, one such marker is a feeling of "shared beliefs" that signal "we all belong together." That these beliefs are an incredibly poor substitute for the real thing (relationships in community and with friends) will become apparent once the house of cards of these beliefs comes crashing down. And similar to a hangover, the resulting pain will be excruciating...

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Incredibly interested in the views on Marxism and happiness. As a psychotherapist who shares similar concerns with them, I found my time with Marxist thought tedious, depressing, and not at all inspiration. I will give them they have some decent critiques of power, but it’s coupled with the most naive anthropology about the working class in particular, and people more generally.

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This is my experience too. There is a very common gap in Marxist's understanding of true human nature. Their fatal flaw is that, and the lack of accurate systems thinking that derive from human nature. I think though that this fatal flaw is ubiquitous in that people pursue their selfish interests as a first priority when they have such unfulfilled psychological needs. Only whole and fulfilled people seem to be able to look beyond for the greater and longer-term good of all the human condition.

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You write “Many affluent people now promote lifestyles that are harmful to the less fortunate.” Yes to Mark Zuckerberg! Here I think your view of affluent people may be limited to progressive affluent people, but how much experience do you have around conservative affluent people?

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Just received your book in my mail this morning (Melb, Australia). Love your posts, I have been forwarding them on to different people. You have changed the way many people view a number of things now. Bravo. I hope the momentum keeps going.

I really look forward to your new thoughts and processes on Marxism, social etc.

Again, love your work.

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Most of us have unfulfilled gaps in our psychological needs hierarchy. My view has always been that there is an over-arching requirement that covers all these needs, that can be described as personal self-confidence for making our way in the world. There is a symbiotic relationship with individual needs fulfillment and the over-arching sense of self confidence. It also varies by individual... some people being born with greater independent drive and determination... and others more sensitive and in need of constant external validation to bring them along. It is called self determination.

I think this over-arching self determination is developmental - for example, children born to a large family of competing siblings would tend to develop greater conflict coping skills and more independent competitive drive and determination. Parenting plays a part. However, the luck of biology and genetics also plays a part.

What I see is that those people susceptible to ideological or theological capture are generally people most lacking either individual psychological needs, or otherwise lacking self-confidence for independently making their way in the world. They are adrift and need anchoring. They need constant validation that they are normal, good and respectable. They might also have a bent for affiliation vs independence. I see this latter difference as also being a female vs male trait... with females more wired for affiliation and group validation, and males more often independently driven.

I think changes in society where smaller families, more single parent households and a general shift in the coddling of children (no bullying, etc.) that is also a byproduct of the rise of female influence in society and the economy, has led us to a place where we have an abundance of people with underdeveloped self determination skills... and then they go get an advanced degree and become vulnerable narcissists. These people are ripe for ideological capture.

In summary I think our population has become psychologically underdeveloped and unwell. Luxury beliefs are a symptom of that problem. Tech changes, primarily social media, just exacerbate the symptoms.

But what frosts me more than anything is the political exploitation of this malady. People already resentful and cynical that they are gap-unfilled are inflamed by political forces exploiting the 24x7 media feeds to generate more resentfulness and cynicism... and rage... only to motivate voting. The political forces are, for lack of a better explanation, are stirring up all the inmates of the asylum to protest and riot and then handlers are running around to collect the votes of all these people made crazy.

That is a corruption of the democratic process and it will never end well.

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You’re killing it Rob! I’m very proud that you’ve got such great reviews and your ideas are informing and influencing the world. It’s still early days, much more attention will be coming your way throughout the years to come. One sentence in this newsletter caught my attention “to be prepared for the adrenaline dump”, and this is really “a thing”. You’ve probably already experienced something like it throughout your life with the chaos and trauma, but it’s actually a physiological response and to take extra care that you are mentally prepared for this sort of physiological withdrawal phenomenon. It takes a few months for the body chemistry to return to baseline. The good news is that it’s temporary and hopefully being forewarned will help you stay on track.

On a side note, I can’t find where to review you on Goodreads, I searched for your book title, your name etc, nothing coming up. Ofc I did review you on Amazon. Have a great week!!!

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I would love book reviews! Recommandations by podcasters / authors / journalists is my primary source for choosing books to read.

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Feb 26·edited Feb 27

Rob, you have by now seen the self-immolation of 25-year-old Air Force airman Aaron Bushnell in front of DC Israel embassy with shouts of 'Free Palestine' prior to lighting himself up. I read about this morning after reading your Memoir last night. The 'Air Force' juxtaposition between you and Aaron, was jarring. I know nothing about Aaron but would make 'educated guess' that he does not come from the very top class-affluence. Is he in part the victim of waterfall/cascading luxury beliefs to lower classes? I do note that his cheerleaders seem to be from upper crust, with MSM outlets calling him a 'hero'. We'll have to wait and see, to know more about this young man who sadly committed suicide, and whether it's part of the thinking system you expound on, or something else. He appears to come from 2-parent family in small town, Mass. and dabbled in Left-leaning anarchist organizations, and Benediction church affiliation.


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Good comment. I think he is a victim of luxury beliefs on some level. So many of our people fall prey...

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Write about happiness

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A number of times throughout your book I wrote the following question in the margins: “What is the solution to this?” For example on page 263, I asked this question in response to your sentence, “The affluent have decoupled social status from goods and reattached it to beliefs.”

Here are my thoughts on this. Affluent progressives are detached from conservative notions of character education. What is this character education and why are progressives are detached from it? Character education varies, but can best thought of as a mix of traditional American values and Judeo-Christian values. I personally like values espoused by Thales Academy in their Top 15 Outcomes of a Thales Academy Student (see below). These values can be based entirely on secular beliefs, and thus could be appealing to most progressives.

Character education is best taught in private schools and churches that are not encumbered by state funds. What is wrong with state funds? Martin Luther King Jr writes about this problem in his own college experience. See this link.


Once character education is in the clutches of state funds, that education becomes a state sponsored secular “doctrine” or secular “religion” such as DEI. Those receiving state funds work in the interests of the state and in accordance with regulations of the state. See John McWhorter’s book Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America. Or this excerpt from Coleman Hughes’s new book The End of Race Politics: Arguments for a Colorblind America at this link. https://open.substack.com/pub/scottgibb/p/the-end-of-race-politics?r=nb3bl&utm_medium=ios&utm_campaign=post

Why are state-sponsored doctrines harmful to the less fortunate? For all the reasons that you point out in your book. Luxury beliefs are an outcome of state sponsored education which can be thought of as state sponsored secular religion. I argue that state funded secular religion and state sponsored discrimination are violations of the First Amendment.


The Top 15 Outcomes of a Thales Academy Student

UNFAILING INTEGRITY compels a person to follow a strong code of ethics with honesty in all situations.

2. A VIRTUOUS LEADER WITH WELL-DEVELOPED JUDGMENT combines thinking skills and traits such as humility, generosity, and courage.

3. SELF-RELIANCE creates confidence to depend on one's own powers and resources to meet all of one's needs.

4. A TRUTH SEEKER searches for the correct, right, or accurate explanation of reality following the scientific method.

5. A CRITICAL THINKER discerns the truth of a statement or observation through questioning and examination.

6. A CONTINUOUS LEARNER takes lessons from all aspects of life and work, learns from mistakes, and adapts to change.

7. COMPETENT TECHNICAL SKILLS allow individuals to join modern technological industries and navigate modern life.

8. ASTUTE PROBLEM-SOLVING leads one to identify the solutions to a problem, evaluate likely outcomes, assess risk, and choose correctly.

9. A COOPERATIVE AND CONTRIBUTIVE TEAM MEMBER knows how to collaborate to achieve successful results.

10. A STRONG WORK ETHIC links perseverance, reliability, and honesty.

11. DREAMS AND ASPIRATIONS TO CHANGE THE WORLD help us remember that directed efforts bring us closer to our goals.

12. TRADITIONAL AMERICAN VALUES AND ENTREPRENEURIALISM drive a leader to build and sustain a thriving economy.

13. WELL-DEVELOPED PEOPLE & COMMUNICATION SKILLS promote effective sharing with a clear message.

14. GRATITUDE acknowledges the gifts one has been given and the contributions of others.

15. A HEALTHY MIND, BODY, AND SPIRIT offer the freedom to operate at an optimal level and achieve a higher sense of fulfillment.


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Scott, I read Rob's book last night and had some of the same questions as you, what do we do about all this? Right before I picked up Rob's book, I had just finished Tom Holland's 2019 'Dominion' (2,000 years of Christianity history), and then earlier in the day meditated on Deuteronomy chapters 10 and 11. My current thinking is flooded with same/similar thoughts you share. Nietzsche's 1884 'God is dead' proclamation has continually inched its way into every facet of our culture. In my small corner of the world, I'm increasingly open with secularist around me, how much I love and cherish both the Old and New Covenants and gratitude that we have the 1st Amendment in this Republic of ours to freely say so.

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It’s a slow process. Like dripping water on a rock. A little bit every day.

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Rob - I’m curious where this definition of upper class comes from? “The upper class includes (but is not necessarily limited to) anyone who attends or graduates from an elite university and has at least one parent who is a university graduate.”

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Me too. I feel like I’m from the middle class although my dad had a phd.

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Rob, if you can hear me,

I subscribe to your substack and bought, read, and loved you book, but I have a couple questions for you:

1) Are you against Israel's current actions in Gaza?

2) If so, and if you were still in the Air Force, what would you do if you were ordered on a military campaign to assist Israel?

I think I know your answers, and don't hold it against you, but would be interested in your reply. Keep up the great work !!!

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The book arrived! I am eagerly reading it this week.

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You use the phrasing “vexing question” in the book, but use “vexed question” here. I like vexing better.

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Just before your Steve Jobs excerpt, on page 261-262, you write about a former classmate telling you that she planned on getting married, but “insisted that traditional families are old-fashioned and that society should ‘evolve’ beyond them.”

So there are two important perspectives here.

The conservative perspective that includes the promotion of traditional family values within one’s family and near one’s family.

The classical liberal perspective that includes the promotion of freedom of choice, expression, conscience, religion, speech, education in the context of wider society (e.g the federal government).

It’s important to discern between the two in the conversation with your former classmate.

I advocate for traditional family values within and near my own family. Thus I am conservative.

I advocate for freedom of religion, marriage, choice at the level of federal government. Thus I am libertarian or classical liberal.

Thus I am both conservative and libertarian.

Your classmate is probably both conservative and progressive. Who wants to articulate the progressive perspective? It might start like this: Women, people of color, gays, and other minorities have been oppressed and…

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Regarding the Steve Jobs excerpt on iPads: Engineers and technologists sometimes have no idea how their products will be used. An iPad loaded with a YouTube app is very different from an iPad loaded only with its factory installed apps: Notes, Keynote, Pages, Reminders, etc. In other words to build technology isn’t necessarily to advocate for kids using or not using certain apps. Rather, building technology can be “values neutral.” In the case of Steve Jobs it is probably mostly neutral or good in terms of values and lifestyle.

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