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 […]
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 […]
“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 Largest Company in History:“The United States Corporation of Government (USCOG)”I follow global social and commercial networks, looking for entrepreneurial opportunities.Innovation surges when industry and government models change. Buggy whips. Landline phones. Railroads. The Soviet Union. Apartheid South Africa. All marked social and commercial innovation, both bad and good.We are witnessing a new form of […]
We’d like to give the banks in Australia some credit. They’ve finally gone and done it. They have caught up with 1960s technology. They’ve figured out how to use PIN numbers.How to only use PIN numbers, that is. They’re considering scrapping signatures on credit cards to cut down on fraud. Apparently, having to verify your […]
We put in a good-citizen call to the SEC the other day.“There’s a massive scheme to manipulate stock prices,” we told the friendly agent.“I have to tell you that your call is being monitored so that we can better serve the public,” he replied.“Oh, don’t worry about that. The NSA is tapping our call anyway.”“Are […]
Dr. William C. Padgett is a retired optometrist who has been trying to bring an elderly care facility to Beaufort County, North Carolina, for over a decade.“Our senior citizens,” he laments, “are finding that it is difficult and in many cases impossible to find an appropriate long-term care facility locally.” Though he has received several […]
If you don’t have the angst out of your system concerning Wall Street banksters, Government Sachs, and the Affordable Care Act, settle in with Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia to make your blood boil one more time.Investors should be reminded of 2008 as they shrug their shoulders and put their money back in the stock market. The […]
What do 8 of the 10 wealthiest people in the U.S. have in common?Aside from being able to fly in private jets, the common thread is that each of them has made their fortune thanks to a start-up.Let me explain…From tech titans like Bill Gates and Larry Ellison (founders of Microsoft and Oracle, respectively), to […]
“Inequality is the defining challenge of our time,” according to President Obama. It’s certainly the topic of the day for Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz and a whole raft of liberal pundits.But have you noticed that hardly anyone else is talking about it? When is the last time you heard a shoeshine person or a taxi […]
In December of last year, I left my career to travel the world for one year.My plan was to visit as many countries as possible on my Star Alliance Around-the-World ticket in the first nine months, then, for the remaining three months, return back to the country that most caught my eye and my curiosity.Nine […]
Economic history is primed to repeat in the nastiest of ways unless the government stops distorting the price of something we use every day.Every product, good, or service has a price, which is essential to rational decision-making. We use prices every day as vital data that guide us. Without true prices, prices not distorted by […]
A new survey from Harvard University found a large majority of young Americans do not believe the law will save them money, do not believe it will improve their health, and do not intend to sign up for insurance through the new exchanges.
Uh-oh!The new pope, Francis from the Pampas, has just warned us to beware the “tyranny” of capitalism.Each man worships his own gods. Some worship at the altar of Jesus of Nazareth. Some at the altar of the Almighty Dollar. The capitalists don’t bad-mouth Francis’ god. You’d think he would cut them the same slack.Bad-mouthing Catholicism […]
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 […]
A president stands disgraced. Congress is scattering. Bureaucrats are baffled. Pundits are reaching. Industry is scared. Politicians are scrambling to do something, anything, to make it better. One political party is in meltdown and the other loving every minute of it, hoping to ride the calamity to electoral gains.The so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care […]
Given the enormous role that the welfare-warfare state plays in American life, it is always easy for libertarians to find deprivations of liberty, such as coerced charity, drug war incarcerations, the IRS, torture, surveillance, and assassination. Infringements on fundamental rights and liberties have become such an integral part of daily life that many Americans have […]
Most people today use technologies without a clue to the larger picture of what is really happening to the structure of the world because of them. People are staring at the trees and not noticing the gigantic, growing, and ever expanding forest, much less considering the meaning of it all.
This is an attempt to provide a larger look, starting with one of the most beautiful images on the entire Web. It comes from Tweetping.net. This site lights up a tiny pixel for every public communication sent through Twitter.
What you see serves as a proxy for the growth of global communication networks far more complex and voluminous than most people imagine. The reach extends far beyond that of any regime in the world. By comparison, the control that government has over the planet, as egregious and ghastly as it is, is miniscule.
This puts into perspective the $3 million that the Eurocrats are spending to skew upcoming elections in favor of centralized solutions and put down Euroskeptics. It cannot be done. Governments think they can control this, but they can’t.
Twitter was born in 2006, but its present form was built by users themselves. The developers made the infrastructure and let it happen. It is not only about just telling your friends what you had for lunch. It serves its users — each of whom has exactly as much power as any other — as a portal to the entire digital universe.
Tweets can be petty (“bathroom on the 2nd floor clogged: see this image”) to very serious (“army mobilized for killing in NE district: map”), from the tiniest network (a household) to the largest (a famous pop star or global corporation). Most importantly, they all overlap in ways that surpass human comprehension.
Communications are organized by users themselves. No two users have the same network, any more than any two people in real life have identical relationships with others. That’s why the complexity is essentially unfathomable. What’s more, it is scalable: It can grow and deepen and widen without a known limit. It has 500 million users (and growing) and sends some 340 million tweets daily (and growing). It handles 1.6 billion search queries per day.
When you load the site, it begins from zero and then begins to light up and fill in. Here is what you see after two hours:
The lighted portions show engaged, online, sophisticated, and prospering populations. Most all populated portions of the world are involved. A surprising world center comes from East Asia: Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam. But South America, Russia, the Middle East, and well-populated portions of Africa are all lit up. Again, this is just two hours of use.
What we see here is a new form of global order, one not organized by regimes, but by people. It is the closest existing picture of the capacity of people to organize their own lives in a setting that no regime has approved, much less implemented. It is undirected, undesigned, and far larger than the individual intentions of any single user or any institution. It is delightfully “out of control,” a picture of a beautiful anarchy.
Twitter Nation is only one piece of the overall digital puzzle, one sector of overlapping and cascading sources of communication and global exchange. If you can imagine the entire picture, what you see is precisely the world that states have worked for generations to prevent from emerging. They took over communications in the early part of the 20th century as a way of maintaining their status as gatekeepers. The people would know only what states would want them to know, and no more. That’s the purpose of the censors, the controls, the official organs of opinion, the propaganda.
That’s all over. It’s a major defeat for the coercive model of social and economic organization.
Now consider another chart: the use of Bitcoin in transactions. Bitcoin is a digital currency created by someone whose identity remains unknown. It became public only in 2009. Today, it is the most widely used alternative currency. It works without central banks, governments, or even user identities.
As with all technology, it is used at the margins of society before it becomes mainstream. Watch what the “weirdos” and “wackos” are saying and doing and you see the future.
In the last few years, it has gained notoriety for becoming the black-market currency of choice. But I knew something had changed when a good friend of mine who works for a very mainstream news source in New York tossed me an instant message: “I’m now a proud Bitcoin owner! These are so cool!!” This was about the time that WordPress started accepting them and reports began to abound about all the mainstream things you can buy with them.
At this site, you can watch a live record of new transactions, which occur about one per second from around the world, depending on the time of day. For the bigger picture, see this interactive Bitcoin node world map. Here is a snapshot:
Here again, we see the emergence of a new form of order that no one planned, no one fully anticipated, no one controls. It is built by the choices of individuals, one trade at a time. The self-interests of the traders coincide with the great good of humanity in building structures outside the regime.
This is only a small sampling. When you consider the sheer size and scale of the global economic order — all its trades, its financial networks, its capital markets, its institutions, its complexities — it now far surpasses anything that be comprehended by those assigned to control them. It is, in fact, outside the control of states. It is beyond geography and being politics.
This emergent reality contracts everything that was assumed at the start of the 20th century. States were supposed to plan. Societies were to be managed. The global order was to be organized by nation-states that would negotiate as if they were homogeneous units with interests and goals. The only planning, communication, and substantial action was to be regime planning, communication, and action.
A century later, this whole system is blown up. And the situation is even worse for all prevailing regimes. Fiscal policy as conceived by Keynesian theory is proven worse than useless. It has saddled the world with unpayable debt and trapped governments in an impossible situation of having made ridiculous promises that can’t be kept.
Similarly, its monetary policies are ineffective and dangerous. Central banks of the world are devoting all their efforts to saving their client banks from market pressures, rather than conducting the “scientific” monetary policy envisioned by technocrats a century ago.
Textbook theory and real-world practice diverged in the extreme.
In fact, the technocrats of all stripes stand demoralized and largely out of ideas. Their communication systems are irrelevant. Their social welfare systems are abused to the point of absurdity. Their schools function only thanks to the infusion of private resources and energy. Their transportation is strained because of lack of money. Their security systems are a laughingstock.
Their wars have been so ineffective that even the politicians who still wage them sense that they gain more propagandistic advantage from proclaiming their devotion to peace, rather than pretending that imperialism is doing anyone any good. Plus, armies are an expense that not even governments want to pay for as they once did.
The people are taxed out. The true nature of political systems — all designed with the idea of serving the people — is so famously corrupt and ridiculed in endless streams of movies, shows, comedy routines, jokes, songs, memes, and novels. The reality is increasingly obvious: While many people seek temporary gain from the system, most people are seeking permanent escape. We no longer believe.
What about political parties? They are the archetype of public-private partnerships. They exist to serve the regime primarily, but also to launder money from interest groups in the private sector to the political class and back again to those groups in the form of protection and favors. That’s their whole purpose. People who take their stated purpose of somehow “representing the people” seriously misunderstand their raison d’être. Those who attempt to crash them and force them to achieve some imagined democratic ideal will always and forever be shut out and punished.
Experience is revealing all these things, season by season.
Think of the regime as a huge and glorious mansion with beautiful pillars. But inside those pillars and under that foundation are tiny termites that have eaten away at everything that keeps it standing. It still stands. It still looks pretty. But it is shaky and strained and weak.
A century ago, regimes jumped at the chance to run the world, but they overreached and now face certain failure.
Even as this takes place, a new order is being built by people every day. We are discovering in the 21st century that we the people have more in common than any people has in common with their own government.
[Note: The best single book on this overriding theme, written at the depths but seeing the light at the end, is Frank Chodorov's The Rise & Fall of Society. We made it a Club selection for a reason: It is an epic contribution that reveals the dynamics of history. Our new special edition is free to Club members.]
The story of the next 10 years will be thrilling to tell in retrospect. It will be a story about the failure of one way of living — one dominated by rulers and their plans — and the rebirth of another way of living entirely built by human volition. We are at only the beginning stages of this new era. More of the new edifice is being built by the day.
The Twitter and Bitcoin maps are keys to understanding where history is headed. In the big picture, the old regime is dying, and we all need to accustom ourselves to living without it.
That means reducing dependence on the physical structures that the regime controls (including its promises to care for you in old age), learning more about the dynamics of the spontaneous order of voluntary associations (this is the purpose of the Laissez Faire Club), and increasing attachments to authentic human associations rooted in liberty.
To get to the end result will not be without friction and difficulty, and the attempt to sustain the old model will create many victims along the way. But the end result will be a wonderful thing to behold.