Health care costs in the U.S. have been rising so steadily for so long that containment barely seems possible. Even optimists don’t dream of cutting the price tag. As its official name — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — suggests, Obamacare aims for affordability, not radical reduction.But at a time when we’re all […]
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 […]
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, […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
What if I told you that the march of human progress could be traced in a direct line from the Epicureans of Ancient Greece… through the 18th Century’s cure for smallpox… to where Steve Jobs and Bill Gates found inspiration as scrappy teenagers… to the flying car of tomorrow?Stay with me and I’ll show you […]
Real progress happens through real people, ideas, and innovations. Not by legislation argued and debated in Congress. Right now, one of the most influential technologies is changing the way people do business. And reinventing the future in the process.
Innovation can change the world… if the world lets it. Unfortunately, society’s gatekeepers make it a point to constrain, regulate, and control these ideas. But their power is limited, and the power of innovation is too great. Unfortunately for regulators, there are some technologies they can’t control.
What’s the #1 reason a start-up fails?It runs out of money!And why would it run out of money?Because nobody wants the product it’s selling!For early-stage investors, this presents a bit of a conundrum:If a product doesn’t exist yet, how do you figure out if there’s demand for it?And how do you figure it out before […]
A cushy job in Hawaii that pays six figures. A beautiful girlfriend/boyfriend. Job security and professional experience that gives you plenty of future opportunities. Would you throw that all away to do what you think is right? Last year, one government contractor did just that. And now you see the world the government tried to hide from you.
Every time Bitcoin crashes, it winds up at a price greater than it’s previous high. Yet the experts still call it a currency fad that will fade away. But a little over a year since it really took up, the digital currency is still going strong, and is once again seeing its price rise. But is there another reason why people are buying Bitcoins.
According to some estimates, one man - whose name you're probably not familiar with - has saved over a billion lives. Who is he? And how has he influenced the current crop of innovators? Josh Grasmick explains...
Edward Snowden’s one year visa in Russia expires at the end of next month. With only a few weeks left before he finds himself without a safe country to live in, he sat down to give an exclusive interview. Here are the most important things he wants you to remember from his recent sacrifice.
Biotech breakthroughs and other transformative innovations are a few of the brightly shining spots in the U.S. economy. In fact, Paul Mampilly believes this is the golden age of biotech investing, and that you can earn massive returns while investing in companies with drugs that benefit all of humanity. Read on for his latest example...
Harold Hamm isn’t your typical entrepreneur. His life’s story shows you success in America doesn’t always depend on a fat checkbook
Obama recently claimed this was the “Decade of the Brain”. But it not the first time the government made that promise. The last time they did it, they wasted millions of your tax dollars. Now they’re back for round two. But this time, their failure could mean more than squandered money. It could mean making Alzheimer’s even worse for those who suffer from it.
Does owning a gun mean you’re guilty until proven innocent? Considering what happened to one man from Florida, that might be the case. But there’s more to this story than just a case of police overreach. Police departments across the nation could be implementing a new technology that puts the burden of innocence squarely on your shoulders.
American ingenuity. It’s the stuff of lore and legend, and it’s what drives the global economy. We literally bank on the next disruptive entrepreneur — and innovative new technology — to completely redefine or create new industries. It’s what America does really well, our goose that continues to lay golden eggs.And yet, maybe not.The truth […]
When Michael Lewis’ new book Flash Boys came out, the author caused a stir while making the media rounds to promote it. “The stock market is rigged,” he told 60 Minutes flatly. His comments set off a firestorm of debate as to whether sharp techies and their fast computers are screwing small investors.As titillating as […]
Last November, when the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) proposed moderating years of escalating mandates by reducing the amount of ethanol that must be mixed into gasoline, a top ethanol lobbyist seemed perplexed. “We’re all just sort of scratching our heads here today and wondering why this administration is telling us to burn less of a […]
Why Is U.S. Health Care So Much More Expensive?After years of research and many conversations with health policy experts, I see three key culprits of expensive health care in the U.S.In no particular order, they are the third-party payer system (i.e., employer-provided health care), malpractice suits, and administrative support costs/paperwork.The unintended consequence of institutionalized employer-provided […]
At the recently concluded Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russian security officials used state of the art facial recognition software to identify potential terrorists. Today, Byron King takes a closer look at this sophisticated new technology and what it means for the future of national security. Read on...
Back in the 1980s, John Nestor became infamous for single-handedly causing massive traffic jams on the Capital Beltway. But in his professional life, he created a completely different kind of traffic jam... one that may have contributed to the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Juan Enriquez has the full story. Read on...
Entrepreneurs innovate. Bureaucrats regulate. It’s the eternal struggle that exists in our modern economy/government. The people in power try to make the playing field as even and fair as possible. While innovators buck the rules and push the world toward a better tomorrow.
Technological progress moves the world forward. It finds ways to do things better, for less money, while using fewer resources. And if you ask any politician, they’ll tell you that’s the way to grow the economy and get America back on track. But if that progress threatens one of the government’s sacred programs, then that’s a different story. One that results in a crackdown on progress, and protection of the status quo.
Corn prices are officially through the roof, spiking to record highs. It’s been headed this way through six years of crazy volatility. Now the spike is undeniable. At the same time, crop yields are lower they have been since 1995.
Everyone blames the drought, as if the market can’t normally handle a supply change. The real problem is that the corn market is fundamentally misshaped by government interventions that have made a mess of this and many more markets. The distortions are never contained, but spread and spread.
The implications are quite radical, especially given the food price riots around the world the last time this happened.
It is probably going to hit the U.S. this time. Internationally, some writers are raising the specter of a price-driven famine in parts of the world.
“Corn is the single most important commodity for retail food,” Richard Volpe, an economist for the USDA told the Los Angeles Times. “Corn is either directly or indirectly in about three-quarters of all food consumers buy.”
Fine, then, answer me this, Mr. Government Economist Man: Why is 40% of the corn crop being burned up in our gas tanks? The answer is a Soviet-like, fascist-like, stupid-like government mandate. It is actually relatively new. It came about in 2005 and 2007. It mixes nearly all the gas we can buy with a sticky product now in rather short supply.
Of all the government regulations I’ve looked at in detail over the last 10 years, the ethanol mandate is, by far, the worst. There are no grounds on which it is defensible. None!
Of course, you might just think that it is great to vastly subsidize Illinois farmland and corn growers and ethanol makers, at the expense of everyone else in the planet and for zero savings in energy. In that case, we should agree to disagree.
I don’t recall much debate in 2005 and 2007 when these draconian, civilization-attacking laws were imposed in the name of the environment and security. If a debate took place, it sure blew right past me. Organizations like the Institute for Energy Research and newsletters like The Daily Reckoning were trying to draw people’s attention to what was taking place, but most people figured this was just some wonky and forgettable concern.
Kate Incontrera spoke the truth in the The Daily Reckoning, July 16, 2007: “One of the obvious side effects of the ethanol craze is that the price of corn has risen 73% in the past year — but that isn’t the only food whose price is on the rise… And because animal feed with corn in it is more expensive, that cost trickles down to chicken, beef, eggs, cheese and — making soda-chugging Americans cringe — high fructose corn syrup.”
Also, from 2006, Greg Guenthner predicted everything that was coming down the road. It is worth your time to have a look at this report, just to demonstrate that some people had their eyes on the trends that matter.
The more you look at this, the more you see that this is halfway to the realization of the freakiest dream of the Rousseauian left: the abolition of the internal-combustion engine as we know it. It is a sledgehammer to the whole idea of market-provided energy. And paradoxically, it represents the worst of crony capitalism: an outright subsidy to agribusiness.
Looking this up and examining the history, it appears that government has been trying to put corn in our gas tanks for decades, even back to the 1960s. There were tax breaks, subsidies, lofty national goals, smiley stickers for executives who publicly backed this nonsense, but none of it took. Finally, our masters brought out the brass knuckles and everyone shaped up, culminating in a coercive mandate imposed six years ago.
Now we are stuck with this de facto mandate that we have to put corn in our gas tanks, all based on the kooky idea that fossil fuels are just too primitive, that we have to mix our gas with a movie-theater treat to make it truly clean and efficient.
But clean and efficient are two things that ethanol is not. The reason your edger and weed whacker don’t fire up in the spring months is most likely due to the presence of corn in the tiny gas tanks. The fuel mixture does not stay stable over time and tends to gum up engines. This is why the store shelves are filled with gas-tank additives of all sorts that did not used to exist. The whole point is to correct for the mess that ethanol makes.
Of course, there is a huge industry out there dedicated to debunking the idea that there is anything the matter with ethanol. But here’s the problem: People who make the pro-ethanol argument are either 1) the same people who think we ought to turn our toilets into composting pits or 2) speaking for industries highly dependent on the many forms of ethanol subsidies, so they have every incentive to deny the obvious for as long as possible.
But ask people who depend on a stable and reliable fuel for their livelihoods, and sometimes their lives. Talk to any boaters. You don’t have to know any. Head over to any boaters’ forums and see what they say. They go out of their way to find the few gas stations that actually sell ethanol-free gasoline, mainly because they can’t afford to take risks that come with bad gas and bad engines. They find stations that sell no ethanol gas, like those listed at pure-gas.org.
Another fact: Though people have thought for centuries that corn is a decent fuel, it took the mandates to force it into cars. Why? Because consumers knew better. Manufacturers knew better. The petroleum industry knew better. Government and the corn industry had a different idea and gave it to us all good and hard.
Nor is it efficient. As even Paul Krugman admits, “Even on optimistic estimates, producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains.” We also have to add the huge expenditure associated with fuel additives, engine fixes, lawn mower replacements and the vast frustration that comes with the regulatory wrecking of the internal-combustion engine.
Now let’s look at what’s happened to crops since 2005. The percentage of crops devoted to corn have gone from 24% in 1999 to 30% today. Meanwhile, the crops devoted to soybeans, hay and wheat have all gone down, thereby increasing feed costs for ranchers and consumers. Again, this is not the market talking. This is not what any actual market players are pushing. This all results from government mandates.
Meanwhile, the price index of Illinois farmland has tripled in the same period. Even though every price signal would otherwise indicate to farmers to plant less corn, they plant more. And even though land values all over the U.S. went into a major bust in 2008 and following, Illinois farmland goes up and up. This is a result of government intervention, building artificiality into the system and creating unpredictable distortions.
It almost seems hard to believe. It’s a scandal that government has degraded home appliances, indoor plumbing, paint, cosmetics, gas cans and so much else. Yet the ethanol nonsense might be the worst of all, because it represents a fundamental attack on the technology and literal fuel of modernity itself. As you look back at it, it’s been going on a very long time, from the initial ban on lead fuels, and now look where we are.
In the name of efficiency and “clean fuels,” the government is shutting down the technology essential to life as we know it. And the spillover effects are everywhere, affecting nearly everything we eat. As usual, all these regulations are premised on the supposition that conditions will never change and that the state can take the existing world and pound it into its preferred shape. But the existing world as the state knows it is always a world of the past. Introduce one change and the whole model blows up.
That is what is happening with ethanol right now. The mandate is causing vast distortions and crazy costs for everything and everything. The scandal is how little we know or care. Maybe famine will make the difference?