Mayans, Aztecs and OPEC — Monopolies Can Be Broken

I'm reading the book, Salt: A World History. It's more interesting than you might think. Because the primary method of preserving food for most of human history was using salt, it was the most important commodity on earth. Milk was preserved with it as cheese. Vegetables were preserved by pickling, which required salt. Meat and fish were preserved with salt. It was vitally important and became more so as time went on, right up until the Civil War, when other ways of preserving food began to become widespread (like canning and eventually refrigeration).

One of the things that surprised me was how many times and places in history someone tried (and sometimes succeeded) gaining a monopoly on salt production or distribution. It was such a vital commodity that tremendous wealth and power could be gained from a monopoly of salt.

As other ways of preserving food became available, salt lost its exalted status. Nobody cares much about who (if anyone) controls the salt market.

The new vitally important commodity is transportation fuel. Everybody needs it. And one fuel dominates. Almost all forms of transportation in the world — 95% of the trains, planes, ships, cars, trucks — run on petroleum. Other viable fuels are available, but the vehicles themselves are made to only burn one. It is a virtual monopoly.

On top of that, OPEC formed a cartel to illegally control the price of oil.

When a commodity is important enough, someone will always try to control it, monopolize it or corner the market in one way or another. The English did it with salt, the French did it, different cities did it back to ancient times, China did it, the Mayans did it, the Aztecs did it. Anyone in power wanted to do it or tried to do it. Mark Kurlansky, author of Salt: A World History, wrote:

The earliest evidence that has been found of Mayan salt production is dated at about 1000 B.C., but remains of earlier saltworks have been found in non-Mayan Mexico such as Oaxaca. It may be an exaggeration to claim that the great Mayan civilization rose and fell over salt. However, it rose by controlling salt production and prospered on the ability to trade salt, flourishing in spite of constant warfare over control of salt sources. By the time Europeans arrived, the civilization was in a state of decline, and one of the prime indicators of this was a breakdown in its salt trade.

The same kind of thing can be found throughout history all over the world. It looks like a fact of life: Someone will try to gain and hold a monopoly on any important commodity. And if we (the people using the commodity) don't want to be the victims of a monopoly, it is up to us to stop it. But how?

Kurlansky wrote, "The Aztecs controlled the salt routes by military power and were able to deny their enemies, such as Tlxalacaltecas, access to salt." Before Europeans discovered America, a tribe in central America — the Tlatoque — refused to participate in the Aztecs salt monopoly. They deliberately avoided using salt.

Kurlansky wrote, "The Spanish took power by taking over the saltworks of the indigenous people they conquered. Cortes, who came from southern Spain, not far from both Spanish and Portuguese saltworks, understood the power and politics of salt. He observed with admiration how the Tlatoque had maintained their independence and avoided the oppression of the Aztecs by abstaining from salt."

We may not be able to abstain from oil, but as Korin and Luft argue in their book, Turning Oil Into Salt, we can certainly add enough competition to break the monopoly and strip oil of its strategic status and thus make the OPEC cartel no longer capable of controlling the price of transportation fuel.

We can become free of oil's monopoly by expanding fuel competition until oil is only one of many viable fuels used by combustion engines, just as salt is now only one of many ways to keep food from spoiling. Robust fuel competition can free us from the monopoly and its economy-smothering, national security-weakening, pocket-emptying effects.

Adam Khan is the co-author with Klassy Evans of Fill Your Tank With Freedom and the author of Slotralogy and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

We Just Want a Choice

This is a great little video to share with people who don't yet know what fuel competition could do for America. What problems can fuel choice solve? This video does a pretty good job answering that question in one minute, forty-nine seconds:

27 Years Alone in the Woods: A True Story -- Season 4, Episode 8 of The Adam Bomb Podcast

What would it be like to be by yourself in a natural setting for decades? Somebody has done it, and his story is remarkable. Get the condensed version in this episode.

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On Sale For One Week Only

Four of my books, in their Kindle versions, will be on sale in the United States and the United Kingdom, from January 10th until January 17th, 2021:

Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought: On sale for 99 cents. Using one of the simplest self-help methods ever created, this small book shows you how to change the one thing that will change everything: Your habitual way of thinking.

Self-Help Stuff That Works: On sale for $1.99. This is a collection of short, easy-to-read, to-the-point articles on how to have a better attitude, how to do better at work, and how to deal with people successfully. The articles were originally published in a newsletter called At Your Best, where Adam Khan's column was voted the reader's favorite.

How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English): On sale for 99 cents. You know from experience that when you change your perspective on something that troubles you, it can sometimes quickly change how you feel and improve the way you deal with challenges. This small book explains how to change your perspective deliberately and reliably, which will make you feel good more often and get more of your goals accomplished. This is a short, practical, easy-to-read book on reframing the events in your life so you're more capable of dealing with them and better able to keep a good attitude.

Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot: On sale for 99 cents. While it's true that sometimes you are naturally motivated, especially immediately after deciding on a goal, it is also true that you can cultivate motivation or let it do what it naturally does most of the time: fade. Motivation is a tremendous power. A highly motivated person can accomplish seemingly impossible things. In this tiny book, you will learn how to stoke your inner fire, to get and keep your motivation burning white hot. This not only makes you more capable of accomplishment, but it makes life more fun. Would you like to see what you are really capable of? Intense motivation can unleash it.

Hope Versus Determination

When things are going badly, people will tell you, “don’t lose hope.” But hope is not as valuable as most people think. Determination is a much more helpful feeling. What’s the difference? I’ll show the difference by telling you a true story of a rugby team. 

They were taking a flight to a rugby match when the plane crashed in the Andes mountains. The pilots had miscalculated their position. They thought they were on the other side of the highest peaks, but they weren’t. So they started their descent and flew right into the mountain. 

As they were about to crash, they radioed what they thought was their position, but they were wrong. As the plane came down, the tail section hit a ridge and tore off. The front end of the plane slid to a stop in the snow. Thirty-two people survived the crash. They were now in warm-weather clothes in very cold weather (the temperature was far below freezing at night). They assumed, of course, that the pilots transmitted their correct location, so they expected to be rescued. They lived on hope. 

They had a little transistor radio they listened to all the time, and they heard about the progress of the search for the missing plane. They held onto their hope with understandable desperation. 

Then one day, they heard the search had been called off. Many of them were crushed by the news, some weeping in despair. All hope was lost! But one man wasn’t crushed. All along, most of the others were fixated on getting rescued, but Nando was determined to get back to civilization, and didn’t like passively waiting for rescue. 

When they heard the news on the radio, Nando said, “We’d better go tell the others.” The person he was talking to said they can’t do that. People will lose hope. Nando replied, “What’s so great about hope?” 

To many of the survivors, the idea of saving themselves seemed impossible. They didn’t know where they were, how far away civilization was, or in what direction civilization lay. They knew Chile was to the west, but the way was blocked by enormous mountains. They were at an elevation that was permanently snowbound and they were ill-clothed for an expedition in these conditions. The air was low in oxygen and it exhausted them to hike. 

But Nando and a friend, Canessa, prepared for their hike, and then headed out. The hike over endless mountains in thin air, freezing in inadequate clothing, pushed these young men to their limits. At one point, Canessa said, “I can’t go on.” Nando replied, “You must go on.” 

Seventy days after the plane crashed, Nando and Canessa found civilization. During the ordeal, Nando lost fifty pounds, and he was a slim athlete to begin with. 

Later in his life, Nando said, “When I was at the top of an 18,000-foot peak with Roberto Canessa, looking at the vast scenery of snowy peaks surrounding us, we knew we were going to die. There was absolutely no way out. We then decided how we would die: We would walk towards the sun and the west.’ 

That’s determination. 

Hope is passive and relies on people and forces outside of yourself. Determination is active and self-propelled. Determination is different from hope. If you have a challenging goal, don’t rely on hope to keep you going. Decide what you are going to do, and keep moving toward your goal no matter what happens. 

When you feel disheartened, undemoralize yourself. It will keep your feet on the ground and determination in your heart. 

Read the full story of the Andes survivors: 

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors

Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home 

Or watch the movie: Alive

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

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Fuel Competition is URGENT

In our book, Fill Your Tank With Freedom, we write, "Saudi oil billionaires have hired American law firms and lobbying organizations to promote their agenda within the U.S. political system. They keep these powerful groups on their full-time payroll. The Saudis alone have 100 lobbyists in Washington (just for comparison, the NRA, considered one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington D.C., has 28 lobbyists). According to, the total number of lobbyists reported for the year 2012 who were working for the oil and gas industry is 736!"

(Find out here why we don't want Saudis influencing American lawmakers.)

The longer petroleum remains without serious competition, the more money oil companies can spend on lobbying, and the more influence they can exert over our political system. One of their main goals is to prevent any competitors from gaining a foothold in the transportation fuel market. 

Fuel competition is not only a good idea, it is urgent.

Here's what we mean by genuine fuel competition: Robust Versus Feeble Fuel Competition: A Key Distinction.