Americans expatriate because they want to get out of the country. Corporations expatriate for similar reasons. Clem Chambers explains...
Say goodbye to your boring morning commute. New technologies are changing the way people drive their cars. It’s making them safer, more fuel efficient, and could reshape the way America builds its roads and cities. The only thing that could stand in the way...
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 […]
When the NSA surveillance news broke last year it sent shockwaves through CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Andy Yen, a PhD student, took to the Young at CERN Facebook group with a simple message: “I am very concerned about the privacy issue, and I was wondering what I could do about it.”There was […]
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 […]
Let’s head back in time…In 2004, a mere decade ago, the US national debt rang the register at $7.4 trillion. That represents “debt per citizen” of over $25,000. You, me, your neighbor, your 4-yr old grandson, you name it and they’re portion of the U.S. debt is $25k.But flash forward to today and you’ll see […]
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 […]
I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the […]
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 […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
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 […]
Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]
“In the beginning, all the world was America.” — John Locke“The Garden of Eden was a perfect place,” my friend Manuel explained. “Man had free will. He could live in harmony with nature and God — and everything would be fine. But if he defied God, the stain of original sin would be on his […]
After a week of reckoning about the American oil and gas boom… I’ve got to get something off my chest.I can’t stand it when a coworker takes credit for something I did.Whether it’s a special report I wrote or just a little investing trick I found on my own — if someone takes it and […]
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 […]
“As the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve derives its authority from the Congress of the United States. It is considered an independent central bank because its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government, it does not receive funding […]
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, […]
In September 2009, when President Obama made a primetime speech pitching his not-yet-passed health care overhaul, he made the following promise: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future. Period.” To prove his seriousness, he further promised that “there will be a provision […]
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 […]
To be sure, this was a mind-bending experience. I watched Steven Spielberg’s movie Lincoln on the same weekend that I read Joseph Fallon’s Lincoln Uncensored, the e-book of the week released by the Laissez Faire Club. Worlds collided.
Fallon’s book, which is brilliant and the most useful Lincoln book I’ve read, sticks to the facts by organizing material from the 10 volumes of collected writings and speeches of Lincoln. The reader is given Lincoln’s own words on subjects like slavery, secession, Fort Sumter, equality of blacks and Mexicans, habeas corpus, war power, free speech, tariffs, debt, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Union, and vastly more.
Fallon (educated at American University and Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs) is, obviously, a master researcher. His editorial notes take advantage of all modern scholarship and are carefully cited.
Lincoln emerges as the consummate politician, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. Political power was his driving principle. All else was malleable, words and rhetoric formulated as means to an end, and that end was centralization of the state. This is sadly true of his late-life sympathies to the abolitionist cause. They served his purposes well.
Fallon has added to each section some background discussion of the core issues. Just as an example, he assembles Lincoln’s pro-secession statements, such as:
“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better… Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can may revolutionize and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit.”
It’s a great statement, one that summarizes the classical liberal position for right of self-determination. Can this possibly be the same war president who ruled during the appalling bloodbath that killed 620,000 soldiers and perhaps another 100,000-plus civilians in order to prevent secession and shore up a forced union? Yes, it is. The year was 1848. He was speaking on behalf of the Texas secession from Mexico.
At the same time, Lincoln’s liberally minded words do not pertain to human rights generally. He did not oppose slavery in general. He was opposed to the extension of slavery for political reasons. By his own account, he “declared a thousand times” that that government cannot “rightfully interfere with slaves or slavery where it already exists.”
Reading Fallon’s book, the contrast between the liberating demigod of the civic religion and the undeniable reality, as illustrated through Lincoln’s own words, could not be more stark.
Then you see the movie and all the portrayed events take on a completely new meaning. Instead of a charming humanitarian, you see a clever politician drunk on power. Instead of a liberator, you see how the language of liberation was used to support despotism. Parts of the movie hint at the truth. He suppressed free speech. He assumed dictatorial powers without legal justification. He jailed critics. In the name of union, he turned the land of the free into killing fields.
Reading Fallon, two great problems with Abraham Lincoln emerge: his means and his ends. The means were themselves horrifying, and the new Lincoln movie provides only a hint of it with the piles of limbs and bodies that variously appear in battlefield and hospice scenes. This war was ghastly and unnecessary (Britain ended slavery peacefully just 30 years earlier, as Thomas DiLorenzo frequently points out). He ordered mass executions. He made the Bill of Rights a dead letter.
In order to understand Lincoln’s passion for preserving the Union, you have to put yourself into a different era of federal finance. There was but one source of revenue: the tariff. There were no internal taxes. There was no “too big to fail,” because there was no central bank capable of bailing out an entire industrial base. As Lincoln himself said by way of explanation, “The tariff is to the government what a meal is to the family” (1861). The South’s ports collected 75% of all federal tax revenue. Without that revenue — that’s what secession meant — the federal government would be starved.
So in one sense, Lincoln was doing only what we’ve come to expect of presidents. One only has to imagine how Bush or Obama or any modern American president would react to the prospect of a 75% cut in incoming revenue — especially if there were no central bank to make up the difference. Would any modern president let the people go, just stand by, and let the federal government starve? Let every opportunity for graft, payoffs, spending on projects, and patronage just evaporate? No chance.
The controversy has raged for a long time about whether the Civil War was really about slavery. It depends on the meaning of “about.” In terms of Lincoln’s motivation, the Fallon book makes it indisputably clear that it was not the desire to end slavery that drove Lincoln’s prosecution of the war, but the need for national unity, which in turn comes down to enforcing the revenue stream. Anyone who knows anything about how politics operates can see this very clearly. In fact, I don’t even know why this would be a controversial claim at all. Why does the head of any state put down rebellion? To liberate people or to enslave them?
As for the motivation of the South to secede, matters become more complex. The desire to shore up slavery and protect the territory from the abolitionists played a large and even decisive role, given that most everyone assumed that slavery was essential to the South. There was also the desire on the part of Southern elites to set up a new government that could form its own trading relationships with foreign nations. And though the demand for secession is an essential right of a free people, the new Confederate government drafted, taxed, and inflated in a way that contradicts every other principle of liberty.
The lesson here is that no government or power of any size or scale can be relied upon to defend liberty. And governments in wartime come into their own, stopping at nothing to protect their power at the people’s expense.
The movie ends with a sequence that is supposed to inspire, but only gave me chills. Thaddeus Stevens has his wife read him the text of the 13th Amendment. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” He breathes a great sigh of relief.
Slavery is gone, and thank God. But what about involuntary servitude? Ask the hundreds of thousands of people now locked up for nonviolent crimes like smoking pot. Ask those who are jailed for failing to fork over enough of their earnings to the government. Ask those who are jailed for sharing files online. Ask those who are jailed for creating alternative currencies or just trying to run a business but failing to adhere to every jot and tittle of the central plan.
In the film, Stevens believes liberty has won. Yet I’m sitting in a theater full of involuntary servants. Indeed, involuntary servitude is the very essence of government. It is the very means by which government seizes control of society. A real 13th Amendment, one that actually got rid of involuntary servitude, would guarantee freedom in every sense. That is not what happened. How and why should be a concern of every citizen interested in the fate of liberty.
No one book and certainly no one movie can possibly capture the incredible complexities of this astonishing event in American history. But it seems reasonable to start with Lincoln’s own words as presented in his letters and speeches. This requires carefully going through 10 volumes of his collected works. Lincoln Uncensored has done the work for you. It is this week’s free download in the Laissez Faire Club.