Ask a D.C. insider what’s the best way to solve the debt crisis. Nine times out of ten, they’ll recommend taking on more debt. That’s how things operate in the Potomac swamp. Up is down, right is left, digging yourself into more debt is the best way to get out of it. But it wasn’t always like this. In fact, there used to be common sense when it came to the economy. So where did it all go wrong?
Politicians talk about the uninsured. Special interests argue on behalf of those with pre-existing conditions. But why is no one wondering how doctors are affected by the new law? They’re the ones on the frontlines dealing directly with new patients, as well as the red tape that makes bureaucracies go round.
Politicians proclaim the benefits of small business while on the campaign trail. But when they meet in the seedy halls of Congress, they have no problem doing whatever they can to stifle, regulate, and subdue their progress. Instead of siding with entrepreneurs, these politicians often side with political allies and cronies that helped put them into office.
Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you have to stop working. Especially now that you have all the time in the world to do what you really want. Entrepreneurs don’t only come out of Silicon Valley. They come from all walks of life, from all different ages. If you’re retired and want to stay active while you relax, then find out the steps you need to take in order to start, manage, and grow your next small business.
Austrian economics does more than tell you what happens when the government disturbs market forces. In the hands of knowledgeable investors and entrepreneurs, it can tell you exactly what to expect from the market. Market behavior depends on how people behave. And how people behave is central to the Austrian perspective.
The U.S. dollar has been the world's reserve currency for almost a century, and already there are signs it may be in decline. But that doesn't mean it's not still valuable. On the contrary... As Chris Mayer explains, there are many reasons the U.S. dollar will remain relevant on the world stage for years to come. Read on...
World War II might have dragged the country out of the Great Depression, but it did so at a great price. Central planning took center stage, and politicans and bureaucrats suddenly knew what was best for America, the economy, and your life. On top of that, they replaced the free market with a new economic system… Creditism.
If you’re good at something should you be penalized so others have a chance at success? Should award winning actors and actresses be barred from future Oscar ceremonies to give other men and women the chance to succeed? Success should always be rewarded and encouraged. But what happens when you have a government that wants to even the playing field and take away the spoils of success. Gregory Bresiger finds out...
Practical people often pooh-pooh fiction reading as a time wasting dalliance, dominated by a Marxist coloring of the world. However, fiction readers were given a scientific reason recently for spending hours absorbing fanciful figments of someone’s imagination.
Argentina is suffering the ravages of government debasement of the currency -- i.e., inflation, the process by which government pays for its ever-increasing debts and bills by simply printing more paper currency. The expanded money supply results in a lower value of everyone’s money, which is reflected in the rising prices of the things that money buys.
When government expansion is allowed to continue unabated or when it casts a heavy regulatory shadow on America’s entrepreneurial spirit, the freedoms that we’ve come to know, and perhaps take for granted, slowly begin to slip away.
Its acceptance is as widespread as its justification is important, for it provides the rationale for the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented monetary expansion since 2008. While critics may dispute the wealth effect’s magnitude, few have challenged its conceptual soundness. Such is the purpose of this article. The wealth effect is but a mantra without merit.
Baron Rothschild, the famous French financier, was once heard to say that he knew of only two men who really understood money -- an obscure clerk in the Bank of France and one of the directors of the Bank of England. “Unfortunately,” he added, “they disagree.”
The new reality of Obamacare’s tax credits has left finance reporters to pen articles warning readers to “take care” when considering a tax credit and providing strategies for how best to “protect yourself.” So what do finance reporters know that the White House doesn’t?
Nihilo ex nihilo fit. Out of nothing, nothing comes. First put forward by ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides in the fifth century B.C., Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine later used this axiom to prove that the universe needed a “first mover” to get things going. Even if the whole thing began with some kind of “Big Bang” moment, it still needed a banger to bang it. Who? God, of course.
Economic theories don’t lend themselves to laboratory testing, so the work of a national appraisal firm is especially enlightening. A new study lends support to the Austrian business cycle theory, which says that the less government is involved, the faster a market will recover.
What positive steps can we take? The energy that is now expended by well intentioned, freedom-seeking individuals on the destructive course of politics can be turned into powerful steps that will have a positive effect on the future. All are moral, right and just. None require aggressing. Consider the following...
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’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.
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 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 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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
What if we had the following economic system?
This system would shower the globe with free goods day and night, asking nothing and giving nearly everything. Most of what it generated would be free goods, and every living person would have access.
Anyone who amassed a private profit would do so only because he or she served others, and the system would require this person to cough up communally owned information: Everyone on the planet would know the reason for anyone’s success.
It would serve all races and classes this way. It would serve the common man slavishly and knock the elites when they become proud and arrogant. It would make it beneficial to everyone to include ever more people in its productive potential and give everyone who wants it a stake in the outcome.
That system has a name. It’s called the free market. This is more obvious in the digital age, but the proliferation of free goods has always been a major feature of capitalism. It’s just that people haven’t really talked about it, though Robert Murphy’s outstanding Lessons for the Young Economist does an excellent job.
In fact, the free market is the most misunderstood idea out there, by its detractors and, just as often, by its proponents as well. As for the characterization of the market as a utopia for profiteers, moguls and scamsters, one doubts that people who think this way have ever really tried to make a buck in a competitive system. It’s hard as heck. The whole process is seriously tilted against private gain at public expense.
Now, I could go on with a theoretical argument here, but sometimes personal examples get the point across better. To be sure, we do not live in a free market now; instead, the world’s largest and most intrusive apparatus of intervention interferes with ours. But there is enough of a market remaining in this world to clue us in to how it works, and sometimes the simplest retail example suffices.
So let me tell you about the barbershop I stumbled into yesterday. The people there cut hair. But they also have pingpong tables, darts, pool and free beer that you can drink at a bar.
I walked in with a friend and stood marveling at the pingpong table and asked: “Can we play?” They said, “Oh, sure.” So we played and played.
Finally, after a while, I asked, “Pardon me, but can I have a haircut?” They were pleased but surprised since they thought I was just another person who wanted to only play pingpong! They were perfectly happy to let me play for free.
The haircut happened; I hung around for a beer, continued to be dazzled by this extraordinary entrepreneurial venture and finally asked if they had a Facebook page. “Of course,” came the answer. I took a picture, posted it on my page, liked their page and, within minutes, people all over the world were talking about this little place. “Salon de barbier avec tables de pool et pingpong, dards et bière gratuite,” said one share in France that swirled around that network.
Now, consider this: Did I do the place a favor? The owners probably think so. It is a new business just starting out. It needs advertising and promotion. On the other hand, look what I did: I immediately alerted every other potential competitor to a great idea to get customers in the door. Now every barbershop in town can “steal” the idea. They can buy a pingpong table, grab a case of beer, put up a dartboard and off they go.
The barbershop would absolutely love to find a way to reach possible customers without also giving away its tricks to its competitors. But you know what? This is not possible. One comes with the other. Information is a free good; once it is released, it can be consumed and used by anyone who runs across it.
What then happens to the competitive advantage enjoyed by the new and struggling place? It is seriously threatened. It faces wicked competition, even from big chains that can implement these suggestions in a few days at very little cost. The thing that made the new place cool and great is now copied by everyone else. If this happens, the new place will face new pressure on its bottom line. It will be forced to innovate again.
To be sure, every other barbershop in town is unclear whether this pool-and-darts thing really is the magic bullet to achieve success. So rather than emulate that strategy right away, others might wait to see how it works for the first adopter. It might flop. Or it might be amazing. If it is amazing, others will adopt the practices, but there’s a problem: The first mover has the advantage. It already has a loyal clientele and a fan base.
Billions of bits of information (free goods!) hit business owners every day that allow them to copy the successes (and failures) of others. Knowing which to implement and which not to is an essential part of the job. It might even be the hardest part of the job.
But here’s the point I’m making: It is not possible to succeed in this market without giving away the “secret recipe” to success. Fortunately, there is no patent or copyright on things like putting a pool table in a barbershop, so the government can’t stop learning from taking place. And this is the way it would be in a pure free market in every industry. To succeed means first to give — giving goods and services to customers (this is the key to profitability) and then giving away the method by which you succeed (or the reason for your failure) to everyone in the world who cares. The very act of doing commercial enterprise — which always tends toward being an open-source undertaking — make your methods an object of study.
The information you give away is the price you pay for the prospect of profits. But those profits are always being threatened by competitors who emulate your successes. This means that you can never rest, you can never be satisfied with the status quo. You must innovate and revamp on an ongoing basis — and you have to do this with an eye to bringing the public what it wants in the most-efficient possible way. This is what gives the market such dynamism, such forward motion, such an innovative spirit.
Chances are that you are reading this article in a venue that is perfectly free to you. Maybe you saw it on a website you did not pay for or saw it linked on a social network that you do not pay to use. These are free goods, the means that capitalists use to entice your interest in what they are doing.
But these free goods are only the start of what the market offers. The most-valuable free good that that market is cranking out by the minute is the ocean of information about success and failure, about what people want and don’t want, about what works and what doesn’t work. This vast reserve of information is being poured out globally and constantly, and it is like a relentless shower of blessings on civilization. Digital networks have increased the blessing by degrees no one ever imagined possible.
The example of the barbershop might not seem like much, but if you understand it — really understand it, and the underlying dynamic it reveals — you understand the thing that has lifted the entire world out of the state of nature into the glorious prosperity that is currently spreading all over the world. This is the market at work — that network of exchange, cooperation, service, innovation, emulation and competition that makes the world tick, all in the service of human well-being. The more market we have, the more progress we will see.
So let’s ask the question: Why is it that so many people think they are against the free market? It must be because they don’t really understand it. I would first suggest Robert Murphy’s book. Then I would invite them to join me for a beer and a game of pingpong and ask what they think made this little slice of heaven possible?