One of the biggest myths about stocks is the belief that profits from stocks come from the earnings of the underlying companies, and when companies make money, they share the profits with their investors. But the reality is, profits from stocks come from other investors who are buying and selling stocks, and when companies make money, they keep everything.

The belief is, stocks represent value in a company. The truth is, stocks are Ponzi assets because investors’ profits are dependent on the inflow of money from new investors and no one is obligated to pay the shareholders anything.

Education makes the wise slightly wiser, but it makes the fool vastly more dangerous.

― Nassim Nicholas Taleb


Fundamental ideas are easy to understand and influence many beliefs.

The legitimacy of the stock market rests on two fundamental assumptions. One is the idea that stocks are “equity” instruments that represent ownership. The other is the perception that stocks are “positive-sum” investment instruments, and investors win more than they lose. However, these assumptions have never been properly investigated, and it can be shown that neither are true.

The Ponzi Factor does not criticize the investment system. It proves why the features of the current stock market system meet the definition of a Ponzi scheme, and explains why even in the absence of insider trading, high-frequency trading, and highly improbable market crashes; the stock market is simply not designed for investors to prosper.

This is not just another story that will disappear after another bubble bursts. It is an idea that will remain relevant for as long as the stock market exists.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident.

― Arthur Schopenhauer



Tan Liu was born in Beijing, China. He moved to the U.S. when he was six and was raised outside Washington D.C. Unlike his sister who finished high school and got a scholarship to MIT, Tan took a less traditional path and went straight into the working world. He was employed as a bike courier after high school and later supported himself through college as a freelance photojournalist for networks such as CNN, MSNBC, and Fox. In addition to his professional life, Tan also spent many years volunteering as a youth mentor in D.C. and Inglewood, California.

In 2006, he completed his undergraduate degrees in economics and finance from the American University. He has worked for two hedge funds and a trading firm in Shanghai, but spent most of his career managing distressed assets for a bank. He officially exited the finance industry in 2015 and is now finishing a master’s degree in applied statistics.

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