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 […]
For critics of the surveillance state, it is tempting to see President Obama’s speech a few weeks ago as a partial victory: Prompted by Edward Snowden’s leaks and the public pressure for National Security Agency reforms, he announced significant changes to the program that collects and stores information about all telephone calls. And he promised […]
Now that hysteria over my original Brazil column has died down, let me add some comments and reflections about it and what gave rise to the reactions.
To review, I had written a piece praising the many glorious features of Brazil and especially the way in which civilization has managed to thrive by virtue of certain freedoms that we do not have in the U.S.: the freedom to pass on estates in whole to children and the seeming absence of the police-state security apparatus and military-industrial complex that represses us every day in this one-time land of the free.
Many Brazilians were appalled by what seemed to them to be my favorable comparison of Brazil to the United States. Don’t I know that their country is ruled by a wicked socialist dictatorship that strangles the life out of enterprise every day? Don’t I know about the other egregious forms of taxation they deal with constantly? Am I completely unaware of the stultifying bureaucracies that make it nearly impossible to open and run a business?
One thing that all the correspondents said again and again: if you think you have it bad, you should experience our disgusting lives and then you would really know the meaning of despotism.
I also detected in all these letters a sort of idealization of the U.S. that we often find abroad. No matter how much our government tries to wreck our reputation as the place where liberty thrives, many people around the world still like to imagine that we have full constitutional rights and free-wheeling enterprise that they do not enjoy.
As Americans, we should resist this flattery. It is an interesting exercise to travel abroad and discover that, behold, in some ways people living under democratic socialism experience elements of freedom that our current American system (democratic fascism?) denies to us. To me, this is the strongest case for traveling, just so that we can gain some perspective.
But all of this raises an interesting question. Why is it that we tend to be more critical of our own governments than those in other lands?
In a sense, I agree with Noam Chomsky (I’m a sometime fan but not a devotee) who was once asked why he is such a severe critic of the U.S. government but doesn’t have much to say about the evil of other governments around the world.
I’m paraphrasing his answer. First, he knows more about the U.S. government than other governments so he is in a better position to report accurately. Second, his criticisms of the U.S. government can actually have some influence whereas he would have no influence on the policies in Afghanistan or North Korea. Third, because he is a U.S. citizen he has a special and even moral obligation to object when the government that is stealing from him is using that money to murder and oppress people abroad.
He might have had other reasons too but those strike me as reasonable. I might add that we all have a tendency to believe that the government we know the best is probably the worst. For example, many people can tell grim stories of the corruption, graft, favoritism, and brutality of our local governments. We know its victims first hand. We’ve seen it up close and we are appalled.
Our heads should tell us that if it is this bad at the local level, it is surely worse at the state level and unimaginably bad at the central level of the federal government. Most of us have no direct experience with the feds, however, so its depredations are more abstract to us.
It doesn’t help that the sheer numbers that the feds play with are beyond human comprehension. The local official who steals $100,000 is a criminal but what does it mean when a federal agency loses track of $2,000,000,000 in loans? The larger the number, the more abstracted it becomes from our experience.
I take it for granted that all governments everywhere are parasitic, power abusing, thieving, grafting bastions of hypocrisy, depredation, and duplicity. This is not an accident of history but rather an outgrowth of a fundamental structural reality: government operates by different rules from the rest of us.
If we steal, we are doing wrong and everyone knows it. But the government does the same thing and claims it is sustaining the social order — and calls us unpatriotic if we disagree. And that’s only the beginning. The government punishes us for doing things — fraud, theft, murder, kidnapping, counterfeiting — that it does legally every day.
This is not a feature of bad government. The legal right to violate the laws it enforces against the population is the defining feature of the state as we know it. That is to say, there is evil at the very heart of the business of government. The more centralized the state, the less control we have over it and the more egregious the immorality, efficiency, graft, and lies.
I would go further than Thomas Jefferson, who said that the government that governs best governs least. Actually, the government that governs not at all is the best of all.
Returning to Brazil, the difference between the government there and the government here is not a matter of kind but of degree. So it is for all governments in all times and places, which is why we can read about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and find so many parallels with our own time. Measuring the degree of evil can be extremely tricky. Chomsky is right here: if we wish to decry evil in politics, our primary obligation is to focus on the state we know best, which is our own. In that sense my critics are right, from their point of view, and I’m right from mine.
At the same time, there is more to the task of liberty than hating and decrying the state. The other side of the coin is developing a genuine love of liberty, which implies a love of its most spectacular, people-serving feature: commerce.
Commerce keeps the world orderly and rational and free. It gives us drive and ratifies our efforts. It sparks imagination and defines its boundaries. It feeds the world, sustains and builds civilization, and unleashes the best in the human spirit. It keeps us materially connected and linked to our brothers and sisters across the globe. It makes possible, in our own time, beautiful worlds we could never dream up on our own.
Wherever there is liberty, there is commerce. And this commerce breaks down the barriers that the state erects between people. Commerce ignores borders, draws people together whom the state would like to see separated. It always tends toward the service of human needs rather than civic priorities.
Without some liberty, however restricted it might be, and the commerce it sustains society would die in a matter of weeks. The state alone sustains nothing. This is why, when I travel, I’m very much drawn to finding and watching those sectors where liberty lives and observing the massive contribution it makes to the social order.
I take it for granted that the state is too big, invasive, and horrible — not just in Brazil, not just in the U.S., but absolutely everywhere. What’s really exciting is to see people finding the workaround and making lives for themselves, and that usually means some commercial activity that thrives despite every effort to kill it.
This is what I saw in so many beautiful ways in Brazil. To see liberty work is to see a model for building the future. This is why it is so inspiring to visit real markets, to see what people can do with investable wealth, to observe all the ways in which people manage to make good lives for themselves despite every obstacle.
This is the spirit of liberty. The great merit of the work of Mises Brasil is that it encourages intellectual change throughout society, building from the liberty that currently does exist toward a full-blown free society. This is the path of change. It requires that we see more than what is bad but also see what is good, and build from that.
Wendy McElroy’s forthcoming book from Laissez Faire Books is called The Art of Being Free. She raises a very profound question for serious libertarians. If the state went away, what would you be left with to give your life meaning? Find that thing and you will have found your North Star, the inspiration and driving force for building a vibrant and free future.
Hate the state, yes, but love liberty even more. Decry the thicket, yes, but then find the seed, plant it, and see the garden grow.