This technology is not simply for modeling and prototyping, either. TV personality Jay Leno uses a 3-D printer to make custom and hard-to-find parts from scratch for his collection of classic cars. Entrepreneurs have been using these printers in a myriad of ways, and the trend is speeding up.
“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.
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 […]
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 […]
Last year was quite the year for Bitcoin. We’ve seen exponential growth in Bitcoin’s exchange rate and extensive coverage in the media. Another phenomenon we have witnessed is the proliferation of alternative cryptocurrencies, five of which we’ve provided below.What all of these cryptocurrencies have in common is that they rely on a decentralized network to […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
We’ve pointed out in the past that President Obama’s views on the surveillance state shifted completely from when he was Senator to when he was President. As Senator, he supported a bunch of reforms that are very much like the ones his panel have suggested — and which he’s about to ignore. The NY Times […]
Bitcoins are largely considered digital currency (or “crypto currency”) so you’d expect it to be treated like currency on a retail web site. But the Internal Revenue Service might not think so.
The great inventors/businessmen of the First Industrial Revolution, such as James Watt and Matthew Boulton of steam-engine fame, were not just smart but privileged. Most were either born into the ruling class or lucky enough to be apprenticed to one of the elite. For most of history since then, entrepreneurship has meant either setting up […]
Both research and production look poised for a revolution as 3-D printing applies its high-tech charms to the business of creating chemical compounds and turns the production of medicine into a DIY project.
“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”When Capt. Jean-Luc Picard wants a steaming beverage in his ready room aboard the starship Enterprise, he just utters those words. The ship’s “replicator” then assembles the necessary atoms — including those for the cup — and produces it, ready for the drinking. Picard thinks nothing of it — it’s hardly more […]
The market has selected different things as money throughout history. Some of these items have served as money in isolated places for specific periods of time — for instance, cigarettes in prisoner-of-war camps. Cigarettes continue to be a currency in prisons if allowed, but if not, according to Wikipedia, “postage stamps have become a more […]
[Ed. Note: This article originally published on Jan. 24, 2013]Stocks up. Gold down. Bitcoin… waaay up.The S&P 500 busted through the 1,500 mark this morning. Stocks haven’t been this expensive since 2007… right before they got a whole lot cheaper… for a whole lot longer. Gold, meanwhile, dipped a tad. This, despite central bankers of […]
Before the housing market collapsed and the government pumped billions into the economy to save it, there was a programmer named Satoshi Nakamoto. And without much fanfare, he created an idea that’s in the process of changing the world. His idea was Bitcoin.Some background information is in order before I go any further.Think back to […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
The online Internet exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act are up and running.OK, they’re up. Uhh, OK, some of them are sort of up.It has been almost a week since last Tuesday’s initial launch, and there have been more than a few problems.Website crashes, excessive response times and other problems have plagued the exchanges. […]
A growing consensus of IT experts, outside and inside the government, have figured out a principal reason why the website for Obamacare’s federally sponsored insurance exchange is crashing. Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping.This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government […]
As much as I love technology, part of me hates being so dependent on a live wall plug wherever I go. You find yourself trapped in some setting without accessible wall plugs and your phone is dying. You charge from you laptop, but that is dying too. You take recourse to your tablet, but that […]
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ […]
Today, like most days, I fired up my computer.I read freely available information on the latest developments in technology that would, in the not too distant past, have required a drive to a library to flip through journals too numerous for me to afford. I read the latest national and global news without having to […]
On a Sunday afternoon swim, a 6-year-old boy was bugging me in a sweet sort of way. He rode up and down the handrail on the stairs in the shallow end of the pool where I was trying to sit in peace. He was laughing and talking, but I couldn’t understand a word through the […]
The cultural elite routinely disdain reality TV as voyeuristic garbage being churned out for the unwashed masses. But this unwashed woman is a fan of a new subgenre of the category that has become a sensation: reality capitalism. That’s not what the subgenre calls itself, of course, but that’s what it amounts to.
A flood of reality shows now demonstrate the daily operation of capitalism through humor, personal interaction, down-to-earth explanations, and likeable people. The shows are an antidote to crony, phony capitalism because they offer a window into how ordinary people deal in the free market, where there are no government privileges — only voluntary exchange.
An incomplete listing of reality capitalism:
Pawn Stars: The show follows daily life at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, Nev., with a focus on transactions with customers.
The affable co-owner Rick carefully checks the authenticity of each item pawned because, as he repeats like a mantra, the pawn shop lives or dies on its reputation. He patiently explains the cost of doing business to customers who want retail value for items being pawned: Namely, he has overhead, items linger on shelves, and the market is down X% from two years ago. Then they negotiate. Each successful transaction ends with a handshake; unsuccessful ones end with Rick saying, “thank you for coming in.” Pawn Stars is the No. 2 reality show in America after Jersey Shore. Spinoffs include Cajun Pawn Stars, Hardcore Pawn and Pawn Queens.
American Pickers: Mike and Frank drive throughout the Midwest buying collectables from barns and garages to sell in their Iowa store. An easygoing nature is their main buying strength, but another is their honesty. They refuse to take advantage of someone who is ignorant of an antique’s value, often offering more than is asked. In a voice-over, one of them explains that this practice is good business because it establishes trust for the rest of the negotiations and ensures a warm welcome if they return for another ‘pick.’ Spinoffs include Canadian Pickers and Picker Sisters.
Storage Wars: Professional buyers and resellers in California aggressively compete in bidding for abandoned storage lockers that are being auctioned. The competitive tactics are entertaining, but the show’s key message is the incredible risk these entrepreneurs take in bidding on lockers based only on what they can see upfront and what they can deduce. For example, Bloomingdale’s bags and plastic-wrapped furniture bode well; cardboard boxes marked “Christmas”…not so much. The lockers won by each bidder during the show are financially estimated at the end, and an individual profit or loss is ascribed to each person. The premier of the second season drew 5.1 million viewers. Spin-offs include Storage Wars: Texas and the upcoming Storage Wars: New York.
These shows — and a multitude of similar others — vividly demonstrate how the free market functions in the lives of real people. The shows stand in marked contrast to what is often viewed as the quintessential capitalist show — The Apprentice, hosted by billionaire businessman Donald Trump, in which 16-18 young business people form two teams to compete in accomplishing largely unrealistic goals, and are then judged by a panel of experts presided over by Trump. The ‘worst’ individual competitor is voted out, and so the field narrows. The prize for the ultimate ‘survivor,’ is a $250,000, one-year contract to head a Trump company.
The Apprentice has little to do with capitalism. Success ultimately hinges on the judgment of a panel — the vote of elites — rather than on free market feedback. The tasks are usually artificial in their content and context. The reward of winning a $250,000 lottery is quixotic and belongs in the realm of game shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? There is no recognition of the role played in capitalism by risk or reputation, overhead and years of specialized knowledge. Worst of all: The final adjudicator of success is one man, and that man is Donald Trump. The Apprentice resembles crony capitalism and politics far more than the free market.
By contrast, reality capitalism TV relies entirely upon feedback from the marketplace. Rick makes a deal for his pawn shop based solely on the worth of an item and the willingness of a customer to deal. The tasks assumed by Mike and Frank are practical, such as sharing pleasantries with a farmer to gain access to an outbuilding filled with old ‘stuff.’ The rewards are reasonable; the winner of a good storage locker can usually expect to double the value of his bid. Risk, reputation, character, overhead and knowledge are crucial to success.
These so-called trash shows are capitalism at its best. It is the type of capitalism that ordinary people take home to pay their mortgages, a capitalism in which people shake each other’s hands at the end of a deal. It is not the bastardization of capitalism in which Donald Trump shouts, “You’re Fired!” at the end of every Apprentice show; the true spirit of exchange is expressed when Rick says, “Thank you for coming,” because he appreciates the business contact and hopes for future exchanges.
If you want to know where capitalism is flourishing, then look away from Wall Street, the White House, and the ivory tower. Capitalism has been thrown into the streets, unceremoniously but with applause. The streets are where capitalism belongs because that is where common people live and work. They are the last and best bastion of capitalism because they know that trading an honest dollar for honest work is what will feed their children.