The Affordable Care Act creates a new health insurance marketplace (the exchange). But because of the great uncertainty about what buyers will enter the market and who will buy what product, the law creates three vehicles to reduce insurance company risk.
Politicians and bureaucrats are notorious for manufacturing euphemisms -- clever but deceptive substitutes for what they really mean but don’t want to admit. That’s how the phrase “revenue enhancement” entered the vocabulary. Some of our courageous friends in government couldn’t bring themselves to say “tax hike.”
“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” says a proverb often attributed to Yogi Berra. Imagine the world of freedom, or lack of it. Who could foresee the technologies that make our lives so rewarding and convenient? The same technologies have us all under the government’s giant microscope. Thankfully, the brave have turned the microscope around.
In the months since Edward Snowden revealed the nature and extent of the spying that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been perpetrating upon Americans and foreigners, some of the NSA's most troublesome behavior has not been a part of the public debate.
National Treasury Union President Colleen M. Kelly recently described the 2014 IRS budget allocation as “woefully inadequate.” But the agency has not proven itself to be an efficient steward of taxpayer dollars. Here are ten ways the IRS lost the trust of the American people.
It’s easy to be negative about the U.S. economy these days. Find a glint of silver, and folks come running to point out all of the dark clouds looming about. This, of course, is what we got last week when the monthly jobs report was released from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Folks pooh-poohed the number of jobs and whining that they’re not enough or that it’s less than a bunch of economists thought that it might be. But you know what? Stuff ’em.
Given how poorly states like California and Illinois have funded the pension funds for their own employees, one would think that this would stop dead in its tracks any plan to have the government assist in managing private sector funds too. The spate of recent activity, however, suggests otherwise.
Facts are easy. You can check facts. What supporters of the Affordable Care Act are doing, on the other hand, transcends factual bungling. It’s far more advanced: a warping of reality so debauched it looks like something out of a tale by H.P. Lovecraft.
The problem for NSA apologist is that when guys like Snowden disclose that the government conducts comprehensive surveillance in ways that would have made 1984’s O’Brien drool, it puts the entire progressive agenda in jeopardy.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The financial world is plodding along like a drunken sailor avoiding debt collectors by keeping no cash in his wallet. It’s not the kind of calm that’s going to last or end well. But the storm will have to wait until after the Olympics.What a game! We’ve never watched ice hockey closely before. But watching […]
“When they come for my gun, they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands,” is a common refrain I often hear from the Neo-Cons when there is a threat, credible or otherwise, that the U.S. government is going to take their firearms.And, when I hear this crazy talk, I agree with […]
The highest form of charity, argued the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, is when the help given enables the receiver to become self-sufficient.But our systems of state charity — aka welfare — have too frequently had the opposite effect: They have actually created dependency. It is time to rethink the way we help people.I’m going to […]
In times of war and national emergency, it’s sometimes necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to secure vital gains in public safety. In those cases, we may have to accept a loss of privacy or freedom rather than invite mass slaughter of Americans.The National Security Agency’s domestic phone records collection is not one of those.Never have […]
President Obama crowed in his State of the Union speech about the economy, even mentioning “a rebounding housing market.” Maybe he was referring to friends in high places, like the seller of Penthouse One in New York, which just closed for $50.9 million, all cash. Millions of mere-mortal homeowners likely wanted to throw something at […]
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is acting in a bipartisan way to cover up the biggest single threat to the bipartisan political alliance that is stripping America of its wealth: the United States Congress.There is no question that the following policy is bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are completely agreed that the following information […]
Recent difficulties with implementing the Affordable Care Act have increased opposition to the program. A majority of Americans now oppose it. Problems with the HealthCare.gov website are in all likelihood temporary. However, there are serious long-term problems, particularly considering long-term finance and labor supply issues. Given the mounting difficulties with and growing concerns about the […]
Amidst all the revelations about how the American people, many of whom are absolutely convinced they live in a free society, have their telephone calls, emails, website visits, and who knows what else under surveillance by their own government, let’s not forget the massive infringements on financial privacy that have gone on for decades.Consider, for […]
Image: ShutterstockBitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, along with alleged co-conspirator Robert Faiella, was arrested by federal authorities last week for allegedly laundering more than $1 million worth of Bitcoins. This is a tiny amount compared to the largest drug-and-terrorism money laundering case ever. Yet when British bank HSBC was found guilty in 2012 of laundering billions, […]
Do you trust your doctor? Most patients assume their doctor is working in their best medical interests whenever he or she orders a diagnostic test or recommends a particular treatment. Customers might wonder whether an unscrupulous auto mechanic is being truthful when he recommends a brake job or a new transmission. But most patients trust […]
The exercise had an awesome name, inspired by the movies: “Quantum Dawn 2.”On July 18, scads of U.S. banks, stock exchanges and government agencies took part in a digital fire drill — a practice run in the event all of Wall Street came under massive cyberattack.This isn’t the first time banks have come under an […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
So you’ve maneuvered the Obamacare website, plugged in your top-secret information and found out how much you are forced to pay to avoid a fine.And for some of you, it turns out you qualify for a government subsidy — making the premium sound like a bargain. But signing on that line to accept the government’s […]
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”As the inequality gap grows, there is an ideological battle unfolding in the West.On the one hand, there are those who think government can fix things. It must do more, tax more, […]
On Feb. 7 the United States will once again reach its statutory debt limit, meaning it cannot legally borrow any more money. Since the obvious option of cutting spending to match the amount of revenue that the government collects is off the table for some inexplicable reason, Congress will have to pass a new, higher […]
The New York Times published an interminable article on health care recently. Plenty of facts — how scrupulous are these journalists! — but the article displayed absolutely no comprehension of the basics of cause and effect. I was left wondering about the whole point.The article details how the health care system rewards specialists to an […]
For critics of the surveillance state, it is tempting to see President Obama’s speech a few weeks ago as a partial victory: Prompted by Edward Snowden’s leaks and the public pressure for National Security Agency reforms, he announced significant changes to the program that collects and stores information about all telephone calls. And he promised […]
The Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress is the least governmentlike building among all the tax-funded monstrosities in the nation’s capital. It was completed in 1897, at the tail end of the greatest period of economic growth in the history of humanity in what was then the world’s most prosperous country, just before civilization was taken down by World War I.
This building is the archetype of Gilded Age culture and confidence. A future of universal peace, prosperity, and learning seemed guaranteed. The captains of industry would replace the kings and dukes of old. The new world would feature a new kind of elite, not government, but business. They would serve society through enterprise. Their leadership in culture and the arts resulted from proven merit. War would be no more. Trade and business would rule the future. All of these themes are apparent in the decor and architecture.
Residents of the city hardly ever go in this building. Tourists, however, love it. I was there with my colleague Doug French to saunter around like a tourist and see it with fresh eyes. The last time I had been there, there was no available Internet. The world was entirely physical apart from localized databases. We lived and breathed paper and ink. We pretty much knew only what we could hold, and if we wanted to know more, we had to find it in the physical world. How did we manage?
We were killing time, waiting for the rest of the people in our party to return from other meetings so that we could meet with Ron Paul following his farewell address to Congress.
In so many ways, this building is a relic of a type of government that we almost can’t imagine today. No expense was spared in construction. Classical themes are everywhere. The slogans on the walls try to capture ancient wisdom and are written with affected Latin lettering and feature characters from Greco-Roman mythology.
There is a beautiful innocence about the whole place. You can discern from this building alone why so many people once believed that government could be part of society, a guardian of the peace and prosperity of the nation. Government in those days seemed to wish us all well, favoring our well-being and prosperity and otherwise leaving us alone. There was no income tax, no central bank, no regulatory agencies, no national police, no passports, and no bureaus. The president was a caretaker, not a demigod.
In a few minutes, we were to meet the last living representative of this point of view, Ron Paul of Texas. In his long career in Congress, he voted against everything, as well he should have. His ideal is pre-WWI. Government should be a night watchman, nothing more. Taxes need to go. The central bank needs to be unplugged. We should get rid of “foreign policy” as that phrase is used today and replace it with global trade managed by private enterprise. He never wavered in his conviction that this is the ideal.
Of course, the Washington, D.C., of today has nothing to do with that ideal.
I was traveling with a fascinating crew. There was French, who loves watching commerce as much as I do. So we talk about the shops, the costs of business, the job of management, the challenges faced by inventory concerns, the tastes of shoppers, the challenges of regulation, and the business cycle. We could do this all day. And we do, when we are fortunate enough to travel together.
It is even true today that Washington, D.C., would be dull and uneventful without its commercial sector. Union Station is a little shopping bazaar. Heading north, once you fight your way through the bureaucracies and come out on the other end, you find fabulous restaurants, bookstores (they still exist), tourist shops, and technology retail stores. I like to think of these capitalist enterprises as good examples of how to make the best of a bad situation.
Other people in our party: Addison Wiggin, the broadly educated and visionary founder of Agora Financial; Ralph Benko, the gold standard advocate who works with Lewis Lehrman and can tell a superengaging story of sound and unsound money starting and ending at any point in human history; John Papola and Lisa Versaci, the creative geniuses behind the Keynes-Hayek video series; and Dominic Frisby, the U.K.’s most interesting short filmmaker and comedian/writer.
They came walking up the sidewalk, and we all took over the Cannon House Office Building. We went into Dr. Paul’s office and heard his voice. But he wasn’t there. He was in the middle of his last speech before Congress, and his staff was watching on the television. There were packing boxes everywhere, because the office was in the process of being vacated. We sat and watched.
Dr. Paul had worked a long time on this speech. When he came to the key passage, he paused and said these words as distinctly as he could: “Our Constitution… has failed.” It was a great moment because, of course, he was precisely right, but who else has said this so clearly? If the Constitution was to restrain government, it didn’t work, obviously. Government won’t restrain itself. It has to be restrained by people. Freedom must seek some other guarantee.
As the speech ended and Dr. Paul was making his way back to the office, I had the opportunity to catch up with Carol Paul and the goings-on with the family.
After a while, Dr. Paul came in, we made the introductions, and the interview began. I had told John before that it would be great if he could film this. He was aghast because he had no equipment with him at that moment. But we all corrected him and said no problem, you have the iPhone 5. He laughed and said he would do his best.
Out came the phone when the interview began, and he immediately swung into his filmmaker role, moving around and shooting like the expert that he is. The results are just fantastic.
Our plan had been to talk about money and banking in light of Laissez Faire’s new edition of The Case for Gold. We stuck to the plan. So minutes after Ron Paul had given a speech with a Jeffersonian sweep, he was back to talking in great detail about the zero interest rate policy, the Bernanke regime, the prospects for complete denationalization, and more. He expressed every confidence that the regime would be replaced with sound money, with or without government’s cooperation.
Following this, we spoke about several new projects that our team is working on and then headed to dinner with friends and some staffers to talk about the future of liberty.
It is common for people who love liberty to think about the past as embodied in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. It represents a world in which government really did seem restrained, a benefactor to the people. But here is the truth: We can’t go back. And we should not go back. As innocent as the classical ideals of the Gilded Age seem, they were the basis from which the imperial-parasite state we know today emerged.
As Dr. Paul said, that system really did fail. The future of liberty has to be about the future of people and their own choices. As Papola put it in his second Keynes-Hayek video, we really do face a choice between top-down and bottom-up social order. Freedom needs to be built by individuals acting outside the scope of government’s control.
Laissez Faire Club
P.S. Laissez Faire has worked fast, as a tribute to Ron Paul, to put his final speech in e-pub and mobi format, free to download for Club members, as a commemoration for his educational role. You can download it now! Just click here.