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 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 […]
The sad and tragic story of Andrew Wordes — the chicken farmer who was driven to despair by government harassment and killed himself last month — continues to haunt me. And it turns out to be just one of millions of cases of similar psychological torment caused by government, directly and indirectly. These are wholly unnecessary events, inflicting terrible loss on the world.
For every one person who these days dies fighting in U.S. wars around the world, 25 other soldiers kill themselves. Veterans are killing themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. There are than 6,500 veteran suicides every year. That’s more than all the American soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last 10 years, according to a New York Times analysis. Being a veteran apparently doubles your risk of suicide.
Economic conditions wrought by government policies around the world have contributed to the death toll. Europe is undergoing an epidemic of suicide in countries seriously hurt by the downturn. In Greece, the suicide rate among men increased more than 24% since the disaster hit. In Ireland, male suicides have shot up more than 16%. In Italy, economic-motivated suicides have increased 52%.
The big aggregates reported here do not convey the level of tragedy experienced in the lives of every single individual here. They leave behind shattered families and wrecked communities. There is an unbearably sad story behind every single statistic.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the same is happening in the U.S and that the broad trend follows economic prospects. The difference between the rising prosperity of a free market and economic desperation caused by government is really a matter of life and death. The desperation and sadness wrought by war — an extension of domestic policy and carried out with much higher stakes — is a symptom of the same problem.
These represent both direct and indirect ways that government is spreading misery around the world. The direct way involves war and its psychological effects. Being harassed by regulators is another direct way: The person sees no way out and is thereby driven to desperate measures. The indirect way results from the economic stagnation caused by government policies.
Life is hard enough on its own. Government makes it harder. Its recession-causing policies; its policy responses that do not work; its regulations that makes people crazy; its poverty-inducing taxes and inflation; and, most of all, its wars have driven millions to despair.
Why the state in particular? It all comes down to the sense of having control over your life. The essence of statecraft is the absence of choice and the inability to escape. Many operations of the state try to disguise these features.
Once you develop a nose for this, you see it everywhere. The faces of people in line at the DMV, the sauntering mass in line to be screened by the TSA and even the blank stares you see in the post office lines. There is something about state policy that demoralizes us all. That takes a toll on our health and our outlook on life and even leads to tragedy.
I think back to the old Soviet days, which to me typify what it means for a society to be entirely under state control. The government put out a magazine called Soviet Life, and it was filled with pictures of happy, healthy people who were living fulfilling and active lives. The contrast with reality couldn’t have been more extreme. Emigrants told stories of a demoralized population turning to alcohol, drugs and suicide — anything to escape the toxic combination of sinking living standards and the absence of choice due to despotism.
Today we know that the propaganda was a lie. What we fail to realize is that this human tragedy is not unique to a fully socialized society. We can get there in small steps by growing the state and expanding its reach year by year until it envelops us in all our life activities. We have to turn to the state ever more. We are blocked by barriers. Everywhere we go, we encounter bureaucrats who demand our papers, riffle through our belongings, forbid what we want to do and mandate what we do not want to.
Of course, soldiers in war face this reality every day. They are not their own persons. They must obey orders whether they make sense or not. They see things that no one should have to see and they are ordered to do things that no one should have to be forced to do. It is hardly surprising that people who go through such an ordeal have confused perspective on the value of human life.
To a lesser extent, citizens in every country with an interventionist state face an analogous situation. They may have a dream of starting or growing a business, but they are blocked — not because of their own lack of vision, but because of the thicket erected by public policy. The state acts as a dream killer. It becomes all the more maddening when there is nothing that the citizen can do about it. There is no real choice.
Oh they tell us that in a democratic system, we can vote and that this is our choice. We have nothing to complain about. If we don’t like the system, we can change it. But this is wholly illusory. The government completely owns the democratic system and administers it to generate the types of results that government wants. More and more people are catching on to this, which is why voter participation falls further in every election season.
The great thinkers of the libertarian tradition have always told us that freedom and the good life are absolutely inseparable. I think of Thomas Jefferson, Frederic Bastiat, Herbert Spencer, Albert Jay Nock, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, F.A. Hayek and so many others. Even contemporary authors have addressed the theme. They had long warned that every step away from freedom would mean a diminution of the quality of life. We are seeing these prophecies come true.
Too often public policy debates take place on the wrong level. The core point is not to make the “system” work better or otherwise fine-tune the rules within a bureaucracy. We need to start talking about larger issues about the dignity of the human person, the moral status of freedom and the rights and liberties of the individual in society. The expansion of the state is not just wrong as a matter of “public policy”; it is wrong because it is dangerous to the good life and the quality of life.
To kill freedom is to kill the essence of what makes us human.