What positive steps can we take? The energy that is now expended by well intentioned, freedom-seeking individuals on the destructive course of politics can be turned into powerful steps that will have a positive effect on the future. All are moral, right and just. None require aggressing. Consider the following...
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 […]
The Silk Road was an undercover website where you could buy or sell illegal goods — drugs mainly. I believe passports were changing hands for about $6,000, and I understand weapons were also sold, but that was ceased in response to the spate of shootings in the U.S. over the summer. The essence of the site was narcotics.
My view is that drug laws stink. They are both damaging and dumb. People have always wanted to “get out of it,” as we say in the U.K., and they always will. The desire to do so is normal and natural. Making drugs illegal has not stopped them — if anything, it has had the opposite effect and made drugs more glamorous.
But by illegalizing drugs, the government drives this practice underground and into the hands of criminals, where it becomes dangerous. Far better to have it out in the open, where it can be done safely.
Sure, drugs are dangerous, but the same could be said for water if it were sold by criminals. The danger with drugs is less the drugs themselves and more the impurities they are mixed with, the lack of transparency around dosages, and the world that surrounds them. In our governments’ great war on drugs, our children have been caught in the crossfire.
Right, rant over.
I should say, like Prime Minister David Cameron, I may have erred while at university. But now, at age 44, my need for any of the goods offered on Silk Road was pretty much zero. But that didn’t stop my curiosity, and when I first found out about the site a few months back, I went online to take a look.
Here was a site not unlike Amazon, Craigslist or eBay, but without the frills, bells and whistles. You typed in what you were looking for — 95% of the products I’d never even heard of, that’s how out of touch I am — and up came the various merchants selling said item and in various quantities.
Like eBay, both buyers and sellers had feedback ratings based on their past trades next to their account names. This meant you could tell if someone was a good or bad trader and you could vet them.
Whatever you may think about drug laws, the site worked. People were able to trade peacefully in a way that, for the most part, satisfied both buyer and seller.
To test things out, I even bought a gram of cannabis (don’t tell the authorities) from a vendor. Lo and behold, two days later, a tiny amount arrived in a nondescript brown envelope. I would far rather do this than have to go to some dark alleyway in some shady part of town late at night.
As an anarcho-capitalist, I liked the fact that a site like Silk Road was able to exist outside the law and self-regulate peacefully without the intervention of the benevolent hand of the state.
The speed in growth of the site is testament to people’s need of the service it provided. Since its creation in 2011, some $1.2 billion worth of transactions took place. There were some 957,000 registered user accounts. I bet even the likes of Google, Amazon, eBay, Twitter, or Facebook would have struggled to compete with those kinds of numbers in their first two years of trading.
All in all, I see it as a blow that the FBI managed to shut the site down. They consider it a victory. Many libertarians consider it a loss, arguing the site was not harming anyone. In fact, it was providing a much needed service, and its demise derailed another powerful force for freedom.
But they needn’t feel despondent. Arresting a drug dealer or a drug user never changed anything (except for ruining the life of the arrested). Another dealer just comes along and starts operating on his street corner. The same will happen with the Silk Road — if it hasn’t already. Someone will copy the site, make improvements, and make sure they don’t make the mistakes the Silk Road made, and the inevitable tide that is the Internet will keep on sweeping toward greater and greater freedom.
The key reason the site was able to operate so successfully was Bitcoin. If Silk Road had used government money — dollars or pounds, for example — to effect transactions, you would have needed only a two-minute chart to measure the site’s longevity. But not only is Bitcoin an independent form of digital money, it is anonymous. Bitcoin made the Silk Road possible.
No doubt the authorities are looking at ways to undermine Bitcoin, perhaps under the guise of fighting money laundering or making sure each and every one of us pays his fair share of taxes. But that’s to be expected.
It isn’t sites like Silk Road the state should be scared of. It’s the likes of Bitcoin — independent money. Only by its monopoly of money is the state able to do what it does, to wage wars and grow so big and invasive. But some form of digital currency, gold backed or otherwise, is going to supersede government money within a generation, probably sooner, just as email replaced the letter.
And once the state loses its monopoly on money, it’s toast.
Then the real fun begins.