Friday, June 27, 2008

On Being a Recovering Political Junkie

My father got me a subscription to Time Magazine when I was in elementary school, and that was the beginning of the addiction. The op/ed page was always my favorite part of the newspaper, whether that paper was our local Bergen Record, the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal. In recent years, RealClearPolitics, which aggregates opinion pieces from various newspapers, magazines and websites, became a favorite website of mine. I spent a lot of time reading editorials and op/ed columns, occasionally commenting on them, and engaging in vigorous debates with those who held different points of view. I enjoyed these debates, but most of the time I was simply frustrated, reading ideologues trade volleys on issues while (for the most part) avoiding the seemingly obvious (at least to me), pragmatic compromises.

Recently, I had two epiphanies I should have had a long time ago:
  1. As much as I enjoyed a good argument or debate, this wasn't a profitable use of my time.
  2. Instead of being frustrated by policies I disagreed with, I could find ways to profit from them through investing.
Since then, although I still glance at the op/ed pages of the WSJ and the NY Times, both of which I subscribe to (the NY Times just on weekends), I avoid political websites and blogs. Occasionally, when politics comes up on an investing website, I'll enter the fray, but otherwise, I've gone cold turkey. Good riddance. This has freed up time to research investment ideas, pursue business opportunities and otherwise make better use of my time. I still vote, of course, and have my own opinions, and I'd be happy to engage in good-natured debate others over drinks, next time the opportunity presents itself, but mostly avoiding politics has freed up a lot of my mental energy that I can put to better use elsewhere.


Daniel said...

Looks like we are coming from much the same background with regards to politics--specifically wasting a lot of time on (or arguing about) it.

Something I've learned recently too is not to bother reasoning with unreasonable people. It's a simple conclusion, with simple reasons leading to it, but it's amazing how long it takes most people to realize it, if ever.

Anyway, wish you luck with the blog here. There are a ton of them online it's true, but I expect yours will be one worth reading--which is more than I can say for a lot.

DaveinHackensack said...

Thanks, Daniel. If I can find a handful of readers such as yourself, I think we'll all have a chance to learn from each other and this exercise will be worth it.

Dennis Mangan said...

Good advice, Dave, probably advice that I need to take. Though reading about investing all the time can get old too.

DaveinHackensack said...

That's true, Dennis. One (non-investing) book you may want to check out if you haven't already is Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It's been a while since I read it, but one thing the author wrote about was "sharpening the saw" activities -- things you should do to improve yourself on an ongoing basis -- physically, socially, spiritually, etc. There's nothing wrong with reading about politics (or anything else) if you enjoy doing it. It just got to the point for me where I felt I was wasting too much time and energy on pointless arguments.

If I were an op/ed columnist, getting paid to write about politics, that would be a different story. But why spend so much time on something like that on my own dime? It doesn't hurt that I am not impressed with either major party candidate in this year's presidential election. I'll still vote, of course, as I do in all elections, but it's tough to get excited about this one.