A great technology solves a problem that we didn’t know we had. It makes us aware of deprivations we didn’t know existed until we discover the new thing. Once discovered, we can’t go back.People in the 1950s, for example, never missed the smart phone. They were pleased to have a phone at all. But today, […]
Fifty years after the 1929 crash, a group of money managers and investment thinkers put together a collection of essays looking back at that experience. The result was a distillation of some pretty fine investment wisdom. Timely, I think, to review now.One of the contributors was Arthur Zeikel, then with Merrill Lynch. The title of […]
Although the mainstream media have turned its attention away from the wreckage of Obamacare, don’t think for a second that all is well.As the politicos in D.C. focus their attention on the midterm elections in November, now is a great time to study, prepare, and seek out the most affordable, accessible, and highest quality options […]
Turn on the tube and economic ignorance seems to be everywhere. There is constant shilling for more government. Business is demonized. Man is said to be trashing the environment. “Workers and women are oppressed” is the constant mantra.And members of the clueless media nod their heads in unison.Only John Stossel has provided the fresh air […]
In early July 1944, delegates from 44 countries gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. A three-week summit took place, at which a new system was agreed to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the Second World War.The U.S. was already the world’s commercial powerhouse, having eclipsed the British […]
In the minds of many people around the world, including in the United States, the term “capitalism” carries the idea of unfairness, exploitation, undeserved privilege and power, and immoral profit making. What is often difficult to get people to understand is that this misplaced conception of “capitalism” has nothing to do with real free markets […]
Some people are saying it is just what the doctor ordered. Others are saying that the cure is worse than the disease.The Affordable Care Act? Reengagement in Iraq? Tea Party bullying in the GOP?Not this time. Just as protracted in the corridors of Congress and the White House is the debate over the proposed reform […]
In 2012, money mandarins running the European Union chose stagnation over restructuring. Here’s a consequence of that choice: expectations for a self-sustaining economic recovery keep getting crushed.Two years ago, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi promised to do “whatever it takes” to hold the eurozone together. He bluffed nervous investors into believing in a […]
People jacked up about income inequality can find a new hobby. The 1% are victims of a doomsday machine, and the countdown is ticking. Machine, thy name is “family.”This came to mind as I was reading a preview of Columbia Professor Andrew Ang’s forthcoming, must-read book on Asset Management. Ang is that oxymoron, an exciting […]
It might sound like the latest new product from Apple, but IPAB is actually the newest major legal challenge to Obamacare.Recently, a three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard arguments about the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, a 15-member panel created by the Affordable Care Act and empowered […]
Americans have come to believe that the IRS and the income tax are inevitable parts of our lives. After all, most everyone alive today has lived his entire life under federal income taxation.It wasn’t always that way. For some 125 years, the American people lived without having any tax imposed upon their income.The obvious question […]
Here’s a fun fact: Although we all hate the U.S. dollar, as it continues to hemorrhage wealth, its foothold as the world’s reserve currency isn’t going to disappear overnight.A Russian gas deal with China won’t change that — as we’ll highlight below.But before we get to the nitty-gritty, let’s dive into a story that’s right […]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]
The Keynesian disaster recovery plan has been to lower rates, force people to take more risk in search of yield, and entice others to borrow and spend and, magically, more jobs will be created. If people won’t buy stocks, central banks will.Back in 2011, Ben Bernanke, when asked if QE2 was driving up stock prices, […]
I want to share some insight and give you a front-row seat to America’s next big shale play.Let’s get to it…Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has turned the ship around, quite literally.We’ve gone from a country that was expecting to import massive amounts of oil and gas — to a country that’s sitting […]
Whatever your views on the role of government, one thing is clear: There will be no way to pay for it if the economy doesn’t grow. And I’m not talking by a measly percentage point or two. If we can’t find our way back to 5% annual economic growth or above soon, America’s accumulated federal […]
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices are rising at a 2.1% annual rate. This suggests to us that the current stock market boom will die with a bang, rather than a whimper.Fed economists say they don’t think inflation rates are rising. They think the most recent reading is a fluke. But why […]
Politicians love raising the minimum wage because they don’t have to ask voters to pay more in taxes. They just dump the costs onto shop owners. But they don’t act like politicians and go into debt to pretend like they have all the money in the world. They face real world situations. And sometimes that means replacing workers with more affordable options...
Regulation is supposed to keep you safe and make the economy function smoothly. At least that’s what they tell you in the news. But there’s another cost to regulation. One that you won’t hear about unless you have to deal with directly. And for the people in the economy who do, they’re the ones who have to pay the final cost.
The experts will tell you the recession is over, but they’re only torturing the data to hide the truth. The economy never recovered from the downturn it experienced. But the downturn happened in 2000, not 2008. The country’s been in the middle of a 14 year recession and hardly anyone knows the truth.
Every time Bitcoin crashes, it winds up at a price greater than it’s previous high. Yet the experts still call it a currency fad that will fade away. But a little over a year since it really took up, the digital currency is still going strong, and is once again seeing its price rise. But is there another reason why people are buying Bitcoins.
All paper currency has a shelf life. It could be 5 years or 500 years, but at some point, the value of any paper currency eventually reaches zero. That's why, for centuries, people have turned to one shiny metal to safeguard their personal store of wealth. And, as Jim Rickards explains, you still have that option. Read on...
According to some estimates, one man - whose name you're probably not familiar with - has saved over a billion lives. Who is he? And how has he influenced the current crop of innovators? Josh Grasmick explains...
It’s a destructive cycle that comes around everytime your politicians ask you to take to the polls. The government’s meddling creates unexpected problems that eventually overshadow the planners’ original intentions. But that only leads the way for even more interventions.
Politicians love inflation. It’s a way to pay for the government’s debts without upsetting the public by raising taxes, or their special interests by cutting government. So they’ll flood the economy with easy money and eat away at your savings. But that’s only part of the story...
You can count the number of people who went to jail over the 2008 financial crisis on one hand. Which is strange considering the U.S. loves to put people away in jail. But as one author discovered in his most recent book, having the right connections and a big enough bank account, can protect you from even the worst crimes.
Obama recently claimed this was the “Decade of the Brain”. But it not the first time the government made that promise. The last time they did it, they wasted millions of your tax dollars. Now they’re back for round two. But this time, their failure could mean more than squandered money. It could mean making Alzheimer’s even worse for those who suffer from it.
[Doug French is coauthor of this piece]
A viral video from Australia, complete with a clever song and dance step, describes the many dumb things people do that threaten and extinguish their lives. “Dumb Ways to Die” includes warnings against selling both your kidneys on the Internet, getting toast out of the toaster with a fork, eating a two-week-old unrefrigerated pie, and so on.
In a similar way, there are many dumb ways to kill an economy. Over the last five years, the federal government seems to have set the record for attempting as many as possible in record time. Then we look at growth rates and wonder why they are so anemic, why our kids can’t get jobs, why sector after sector seems to be crumbling, and why so many people are looking abroad for opportunity.
Stimulate Failing Sectors. The crash of 2008 exposed gigantic investment errors goaded on by previous bad Fed policy. The market tried so hard to make things right. But the Fed, the Treasury, and every living government official fought the entire way, with TARP, QE, ZIRP, Operation Twist, bankruptcy protections, debt creation, and many trillions of dollars in squandered wealth. And for what? To save the housing, banking, and financial sectors from the consequences of their errors. But the errors haven’t gone away. The sectors haven’t been stimulated. The net effect has been to ratchet down wealth creation, and so it will be until the stimulators stop diverting wealth and start facing up to reality.
Protect Against Imports and Exports. “Economic patriotism” is one of the most dangerous phrases in the English language. It means using the taxes called tariffs and quotas to prop up economically inefficient industries in our borders and failing to allow consumers to get the best deal whenever they can find it. Obama brags: “We’ve brought twice as many cases against unfair trading practices than the previous administration and we’ve won every single one that’s been decided.” The archetype case concerns China. You are paying more for lower-quality tires due to this intervention, at an estimated cost to consumers of $1.1 billion. The goal of energy independence is a bad one because it diverts production from efficient to inefficient technologies. Protectionism (and we have it for thousands of goods such as sugar, cheese, and ball bearings) is for losers. The belligerence against China is harmful. The sanctions against Iran and a dozen other countries are stupid. The U.S. economy needs to embrace the global economy, or else it will die alone.
Regulate Everything. In the name of health, safety, the environment, and intellectual property enforcement, nothing that exists has been left outside regulatory management. Each day, an average of 68 new regulations appear, giving bureaucrats the opportunity for endless meddling and harassment, and shutting down entrepreneurial ideas. Every machine in your home has been forcibly degraded, from your toilets to your washing machines to your soap. We can’t kill bugs in or out of our homes. Lawn equipment is wonky now, thanks to the regulatory tsunami. IP enforcement through patents and copyrights has slowed the pace of development of media, software, and industrial machinery. Enterprise lives in a cage and still somehow manages to stay alive. But what are we missing as a result? That’s the great unknown.
Kill Cars and the Gas That Runs Them. American cars used to be cool, even amazing. Now the new cars all look alike, like in the old East Germany. The central plan has done this through “Corporate Average Fuel Economy” standards that have forced cars to take a certain shape unless they can be redefined as light trucks. Then there are the extremely weird regulations on pedestrian impact. As a result, the vehicles on the road look boxy and boring or seem big enough to transport the high school band. This is why the only good-looking cars in the new models are hybrids: Only the mix of electricity and gas gets around the regs. And speaking of gasoline, 40% of America’s corn crop is burned up in our tanks (thanks to ethanol regs since 2008), and then it leaves residue that degrades engine quality. And we wonder why the American car industry is being creamed.
Save the Banks. Few remember that then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s first plan as the financial system melted down was to have the Treasury buy $700 billion in bad assets from the banks. That would not have been enough. Banking is a leveraged business. What the system really needed was capital injections. Thus, the birth of TARP and so many other programs. It was all designed so that we could go to our ATM machines and have money come out. The problem is that the whole system is unsound. If the banks had been allowed to fail, a banking system would reemerge that is sounder and less likely to create the booms and busts that continuously rock the U.S. economy. Instead, the banks live on, getting bigger and more unstable all the time. The latest estimates guess that TARP will cost taxpayers $65 billion. That’s nothing compared with the coming costs of sustaining this dinosaur industry that is so easily replaceable in the digital age.
Raise the Minimum Wage. It’s tough enough for young people and unskilled workers to find gainful employment. Legislators have had make it impossible for some by pricing this labor out of the market. Gas stations used to have attendants, typically young men. They would pump your gas, check your oil, and fill your tires. With labor price control, technology had to replace labor (except in attendant-mandatory states like New Jersey). Grocery stores are going the same way. The unemployment rate for workers under 25 years old is 16%, more than double the overall rate. It’s no wonder the minimum wage has been hiked three times since 2006 by a whopping 41%. On top of the federal requirements, some states like Nevada and California have higher rates. Indexed to inflation, the minimum wage is 50 cents higher in Nevada, and in San Francisco, the minimum jumps to $10.55 this New Year’s Day. Youth unemployment in California has grown 35% since 2000. Unemployment among young people in Nevada is 27%. The young should blame their rulers for this calamity.
Soak the Rich. The war on the rich is completely out of hand, so much so that no one dares state what everyone once knew: The rich are our benefactors. They give most of the donations to philanthropy. They start the new businesses. They provide the capital. They most often have the good ideas. Their consumption habits provide a testing ground for innovations before they reach the rest of us. Yes, there are some sectors of the rich who become that way at others’ expense, but that is still the exception, rather than the rule. But don’t the rich need to be looted to pay for the debt Congress has run up? Doing so would fund the government for about 10 seconds. No, the real driving motivation behind the campaign against the rich is plain old envy. Envy is a bad habit of heart, one that will kill prosperity dead if it is unleashed in public policy.
Start a War. It was bad enough that the Bush-era wars have been sustained, maintained, and even entrenched in the Obama era. The war hawks seem to be on the lookout for other countries that the U.S. military can muscle and invade, with Iran topping the list. The U.S. military is outrageous bloated. The U.S. spends 800% more than Russia, the next-highest spender on the planet. The military budget is 15 times that of Japan, 47 times that of Israel, and 73 times that of Iran, according to many reports. It has doubled over the last 10 years. To maintain that kind of bloat, you have to whip up the population in periodic frenzies about witches abroad that need to be burned. From an economic point of view, this is catastrophic, throwing good money after bad and killing people in the process. Yes there are winners: the military-industrial complex. But the profitability of DynCorp, ManTech, Textron, Honeywell, and Northrop Grumman is not authentically based on consumer demand; these companies are private in name only.
Confiscate Private Property. The war on drugs has turned into a war on private property and private citizens. In most states, if you are stopped by law enforcement, your car may be searched, and any item suspected to be involved in the drug trade may be confiscated. Cash is the primary item local law enforcement agencies are looking for. Carrying a large amount of cash in your car, instead of having it in the bank is thought to be suspicious. These asset seizures are all an attempt to pay for the prison industrial state that has nearly 2.5 million people behind bars. It’s impossible for taxes to foot the bill for all this policing. Now cops on the beat have turned into pirates seeking booty on the streets. Investigating murders and rapes doesn’t pay the bills anymore. And stopping the inflow of drugs is the last thing on their minds. They just want the money.
Socialize Health Care. There is nothing more dastardly than ruining the ability for people to get medical care. It is a life-and-death matter. To destroy the market mechanism of property and prices is to destroy economic rationality, with the result being poverty, chaos, sickness and death. Ludwig von Mises wrote in 1922 that to socialize health care was the equivalent of placing this vital service in the hands of the army or prisons, centers of disease and disaster, not health and well-being. Americans complain about health care in this country and agitate for socialized care, when, in fact, 29% of American adults get their health care from Uncle Sam. Three-quarters of those over 65 years old depend on the government for medical care. Medical care is a scarce good. It must either be allocated by force or voluntarily at a cost of either time, money, or both. The price system in health care has been destroyed by government force, making health care unobtainable for millions.
Kick Out the Immigrants. Immigrants have been demonized for decades. The Irish used to be lazy drunks. Now it’s Latinos. A strange brew of political bedfellows — the nativist right and environmental left — seek to shut the borders. But the facts prove that immigrants make us much better off. Immigrants are more likely to save and start businesses. They don’t steal jobs from Americans; they create new jobs and do work natives don’t want to do. The beauty of (especially) illegal immigrants is that they respond to the business cycle by arriving when work needs to be done and being flexible enough to go where the jobs are. In my own home state, the immigrants are sustaining much of the economy. By the way, the cost to keep immigrants out is billions of dollars and doesn’t begin to pay the “supposed” costs that immigrants impose.
Abolish Interest Rates. Since 2008, the Fed has decided to go after natural law itself by using its power to impose a policy of zero interest rates. Problem: You can’t earn money by saving anymore. That’s seriously awful, since saving is the basis of investment and growth. Another problem: Banks can’t earn money by normal lending anymore. That’s just extremely strange. Banks, instead, are learning to live on the income stream that comes from keeping their deposits at the Fed, playing the derivatives market, and selling inflated debt securities. This is one step short of nationalization, but it is far from normal banking. Then there are the private-sector lending institutions that are completely ignoring the yield curve and getting normal market returns. But this private sector is seriously hindered by regulations and the money monopoly. The result: a broken banking system that has no conventional way to fix itself.
Look at this list of dumb ways to kill an economy. It is a stunning tribute to the private sector and the power of enterprise that we manage to grow and still somewhat prosperous, regardless of this relentless beating.
And we wonder what’s happened. We wonder why capital is fleeing, why people are leaving, why wealth is not being created, why growth is anemic. This is not a reality built into some kind of civilizational way or some inexplicable great stagnation. It is all a direct result of a conscious decision to wreck the machinery of freedom. It’s dumb.