Americans expatriate because they want to get out of the country. Corporations expatriate for similar reasons. Clem Chambers explains...
In a 2009 article, the Huffington Post went into considerable detail about the number of people with PhD degrees in economics employed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This is the government’s branch of the Federal Reserve. It is not one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, all of which […]
The U.S. dollar is the dominant global reserve currency. All markets, including stocks, bonds, commodities, and foreign exchange are affected by the value of the dollar.The value of the dollar, in effect, its “price” is determined by interest rates. When the Federal Reserve manipulates interest rates, it is manipulating, and therefore distorting, every market in […]
The game of speculation is the most uniformly fascinating game in the world. But it is not a game for the stupid, the mentally lazy, the person of inferior emotional balance or the get-rich-quick adventurer. They will die poor.– Jesse Livermore, How to Trade in StocksThe trouble with capitalism’s guardians is that they have no […]
John Foust, a Democrat running for the 10th congressional seat in Northern Virginia, is — like Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other state Democrats — gung-ho to expand Medicaid. His wife’s position is, shall we say, a bit more nuanced.Foust has slammed his opponent, Republican Del. Barbara Comstock, for her opposition to expansion. He has spoken […]
The midterm election season is upon us, and it’s a tossup whether the Republicans will win the Senate, or if President Obama, seemingly oblivious as conflict flares up around the world, will, through his continuous campaigning, keep Harry Reid in his majority leader seat.The only thing we know for sure is that sociopaths will be […]
Alexander Hamilton was America’s first Secretary of Treasury under President George Washington. When he first entered office in 1789, America was an agricultural nation of just 4 million still broke from its financially costly victory over the British Empire in the Revolutionary War.The states had accumulated relatively massive debts to finance that war, which mostly […]
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.
I was standing outside the hotel when a gigantic bus rolled up. It was a double-decker and seemed as long as a city block. One hundred-plus people poured out. Once empty, the bus drove on. I stood there right in the path of the exhaust fumes. It was a cloud of gray, bellowing like a smokestack, filling the front entrance of the hotel with a thick haze of exhaust that lingered for what seemed like minutes.
As it happened, I had just left my hotel room, where I was researching the Obama administration’s proposed mandates on fuel economy. The standards covering Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) will be tightened on cars so much (52 mpg by 2015) that some observers can’t even begin to think their way around them. Gas-powered cars will have to become so small that we’ll all be driving around like the Italian bourgeoisie, or they will be have to be hybrids or all-electric.
Oh, and for the first time, broadly relevant standards will apply to trucks and buses, which have by and large escaped the squeeze so far. Think about this. Cars have undergone a gigantic transformation over the past 30 years because of these standards. Sure, consumers like to save gas, but at the expense of safety, elegance, and vehicle longevity? A free society would leave the right mix of these to industry and consumers. In a mixed economy like ours, the central planners think they know better.
But why have trucks and buses escaped? The loophole is so large that it is mostly responsible for the invention of this thing called the SUV. Time was when such things were only a tiny percentage of the marketplace. Now more than half the passenger vehicles sold are in this category. Depending on how you calculate it, the category of buses and trucks including SUVs is responsible for more than two-thirds of the pollutants in the air. Yet they keep targeting cars.
I became curious about this a few weeks ago when a neighbor held a party at his house. The whole block filled up with the most gigantic cars ever. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Just as the government is trying to reduce vehicle emissions, these monster cars, called trucks, are selling as never before.
I’ve not seen detailed studies on this, but just glancing at the existing reality suggests that we have yet another case of “unintended consequences” of government regulation. Instead of putting the masses of people in tiny, tin-can cars, the regs have prodded those who can afford to take the step to upgrade to these giant things they don’t need or might not even want.
But this still begs the question: Why have trucks and buses gotten away with this so far? Well, there are the lobbyists, of course, and trucking interests are powerful. But there’s another factor that seems ideological to me: The government doesn’t like individual drivers.
To the miserable bureaucrat, cars seem like too much the sign of capitalistic decadence. The car empowered us as individuals. The collectivist-oriented bureaucracies don’t like that. They want us shuffled around in big mobs from place to place, or wheeling around on bicycles as in Mao’s China. If we are to drive our own cars at all, we are supposed to “carpool” and fight over the radio dial. This is the bureaucratic/political mind at work.
Let’s think about this in bigger, longer terms. The nature of travel is one of the most changed by the advent of the capitalist economy. For most of the human history, travel was something to dread and even avoid at all cost.
Just look at the term itself. The word travel shares the same Middle English root as the word travail, which means to toil or labor. The word in Middle English was travailen, which meant something deeply unpleasant. Looking even further back in time, we find the Latin slang word travailler, which means… to torture!
Indeed, through human history, traveling has usually been torture. If you see a movie set in the Middle Ages in which one person is traveling on his own and is not being forced to do so, you can pretty much assume it is untrue. No one traveled alone. If you did, you would certainly be robbed, beaten, enslaved, or killed. You always traveled in groups, and these groups had to include people who could protect you. There was no other way. Most people stayed put.
What about modern times? Everything has changed. As usual, we take it for granted.
Michael Graham Richard did some interesting research on travel times in the United States, based on the 1932 Atlas of Historical Geography of the United States. What he found is quite revealing. It took people an entire day just to get out of New York. Going from New York to Georgia or Ohio took two weeks. If you wanted to get to Louisiana or Illinois, you had to set aside a full five weeks! That’s just to get from here to there.
But thanks to railways, all this changed half a century later. What used to take two weeks in 1800 took only a day or two by 1857. If you set aside a week, you could get to Texas — the travel time sliced to about 20% of what it was 50 years earlier. In a month, you could get to California, which was rather amazing by historical standards. Also, you wouldn’t typically be beaten, robbed, or killed, which was pretty great.
By 1932, modernity had arrived. You could go coast to coast in four days!
Of course, now you can do all of this in a few hours, thanks to planes and cars. And driving itself became more fun than ever. It’s one of the great changes in the history of the world: Travel went from torture to joy. And it happened because of technological advances working through a market system that serves people in their daily needs. Getting from here to there is one of the strongest needs that we humans have. It is what gets us all the things we rely on for the good life.
We live in times when government regulations are working to turn back the clock. They are after conveniences such as toilets, showers, washing machines, microwaves, and anything else that makes our lives just a bit happier at the margin. That includes cars.
I have some respect for the hope that our cars will emit fewer pollutants. Everyone wants cleaner air and no one really wants to contribute to environmental problems. But I do not for an instant believe that this is the real reason behind these regulations. What the bureaucrats want is to make us just a bit more miserable, dependent, and poorer, plus slightly less mobile. These people know not the meaning of human service, so they turn their powers to the opposite cause: taking away from us the things we dearly love.
They could never convince us to give up our cars by pure persuasion, so they resort to regulatory coercion to make it happen. They want us all to gather in double-decker buses and travel in packs of 100, just like those people I saw pouring out of the bus that day, all coming from the same place and all landing at the same place. This is the bureaucrat’s dream. But it is not ours.
Our dream is for flying cars. We might get there someday, but it won’t be because government pushed the idea.
A final practical note: Remember the “cash for clunkers” program that paid people to buy new cars and destroy their old ones? That ridiculous program sent the prices of used cars soaring. Well, they are falling back to normal now. Used cars on average have gone up at half the rate of the overall CPI, if you look at numbers back to 1995. It’s a good time to buy — now, before the Obama administration has its way.