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’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.
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 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 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 […]
Last year was quite the year for Bitcoin. We’ve seen exponential growth in Bitcoin’s exchange rate and extensive coverage in the media. Another phenomenon we have witnessed is the proliferation of alternative cryptocurrencies, five of which we’ve provided below.What all of these cryptocurrencies have in common is that they rely on a decentralized network to […]
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 […]
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 […]
“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 Largest Company in History:“The United States Corporation of Government (USCOG)”I follow global social and commercial networks, looking for entrepreneurial opportunities.Innovation surges when industry and government models change. Buggy whips. Landline phones. Railroads. The Soviet Union. Apartheid South Africa. All marked social and commercial innovation, both bad and good.We are witnessing a new form of […]
We’d like to give the banks in Australia some credit. They’ve finally gone and done it. They have caught up with 1960s technology. They’ve figured out how to use PIN numbers.How to only use PIN numbers, that is. They’re considering scrapping signatures on credit cards to cut down on fraud. Apparently, having to verify your […]
We put in a good-citizen call to the SEC the other day.“There’s a massive scheme to manipulate stock prices,” we told the friendly agent.“I have to tell you that your call is being monitored so that we can better serve the public,” he replied.“Oh, don’t worry about that. The NSA is tapping our call anyway.”“Are […]
Dr. William C. Padgett is a retired optometrist who has been trying to bring an elderly care facility to Beaufort County, North Carolina, for over a decade.“Our senior citizens,” he laments, “are finding that it is difficult and in many cases impossible to find an appropriate long-term care facility locally.” Though he has received several […]
If you don’t have the angst out of your system concerning Wall Street banksters, Government Sachs, and the Affordable Care Act, settle in with Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia to make your blood boil one more time.Investors should be reminded of 2008 as they shrug their shoulders and put their money back in the stock market. The […]
What do 8 of the 10 wealthiest people in the U.S. have in common?Aside from being able to fly in private jets, the common thread is that each of them has made their fortune thanks to a start-up.Let me explain…From tech titans like Bill Gates and Larry Ellison (founders of Microsoft and Oracle, respectively), to […]
“Inequality is the defining challenge of our time,” according to President Obama. It’s certainly the topic of the day for Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz and a whole raft of liberal pundits.But have you noticed that hardly anyone else is talking about it? When is the last time you heard a shoeshine person or a taxi […]
In December of last year, I left my career to travel the world for one year.My plan was to visit as many countries as possible on my Star Alliance Around-the-World ticket in the first nine months, then, for the remaining three months, return back to the country that most caught my eye and my curiosity.Nine […]
Economic history is primed to repeat in the nastiest of ways unless the government stops distorting the price of something we use every day.Every product, good, or service has a price, which is essential to rational decision-making. We use prices every day as vital data that guide us. Without true prices, prices not distorted by […]
A new survey from Harvard University found a large majority of young Americans do not believe the law will save them money, do not believe it will improve their health, and do not intend to sign up for insurance through the new exchanges.
Uh-oh!The new pope, Francis from the Pampas, has just warned us to beware the “tyranny” of capitalism.Each man worships his own gods. Some worship at the altar of Jesus of Nazareth. Some at the altar of the Almighty Dollar. The capitalists don’t bad-mouth Francis’ god. You’d think he would cut them the same slack.Bad-mouthing Catholicism […]
The market has selected different things as money throughout history. Some of these items have served as money in isolated places for specific periods of time — for instance, cigarettes in prisoner-of-war camps. Cigarettes continue to be a currency in prisons if allowed, but if not, according to Wikipedia, “postage stamps have become a more […]
A president stands disgraced. Congress is scattering. Bureaucrats are baffled. Pundits are reaching. Industry is scared. Politicians are scrambling to do something, anything, to make it better. One political party is in meltdown and the other loving every minute of it, hoping to ride the calamity to electoral gains.The so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care […]
People talk like capitalism is some strange foreign invader, a mechanical system that was imposed on the world a couple hundred years ago, fueled by burning coal and emitting smoke, and certainly not anything organic to the social order.
This is preposterous. The Christmas story that surrounds us in this season, told millions of times in songs and sermons and popular lore, presumes capitalistic institutions. I mean by that: the story presumes private property employed in an extended order of production, organized by human volition, with owners, entrepreneurship, speculation, workers, and consumers all trading to their mutual advantage.
The central place of the merchant innkeeper is obvious enough. But consider scene two, introduced immediately after the trip to Bethlehem and the manger scene. It’s all about the shepherds.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night…. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste… – St. Luke 2: 8-11-20
Who were the shepherds? The profession has a documented existence going back some 6,000 years but anthropologists suggest that sheep were domesticated hundreds of thousands of years earlier. That makes shepherdry one of the oldest known professions, one that continues to this day.
The shepherds served as security workers and providers. Their main job was to keep the flock safe from invading thieves and from predatory animals, shuffle the sheep from pasture to pasture, and get them to the right spot so that they wool could be shorn and their milk taken for food. The end result is sold to weavers or cheesemakers or at the public markets.
The sheep were privately owned capital. They needed to be protected and cultivated, so that the produced goods could make it to the final consumers. It’s all an effort to — prepare yourself — make money. The protectors were most like paid in cash for their work.
Why was domestication of animals even necessary? It wasn’t always. But early man (we are talking about 500,000 years ago) discovered that without private animal ownership and breeding, people would starve. That’s because collective ownership led to the “tragedy of the commons.” That is to say, everyone rushes to right for what exists to the point that nothing exists for anyone (kind of like modern democracy).
In absence of ownership, people would kill any animals for food. They would kill them when they found them, eating what they could when they could. Sheep were particularly vulnerable to overutilization because human beings could catch them, unlike deer and tigers and the like.
The animals began to disappear, introducing the possibility of mass famine and death. In order to preserve them, much less use them to make clothing, animals had to be owned and reproduced and hence came domestication and the beginnings of capitalism.
Thus did ownership come about as a social convention as a way of addressing the great economic problem: nature herself does not provide enough of everything to go around. Using what we find, with no attempt to cultivate and allocate, is a prescription for death. Things have to be produced. Production is made possible through private ownership.
The same is true of the land itself. Through either title or informal convention, the pastures were owned privately as well. Shepherds had to know where to allow grazing or face accusations of invasion, trespassing, and theft. Even the Code of Hammurabi (the Babylonian legal document that traces to 1770 years before the events mentioned in the Bible) listed stiff penalties for uninvited grazing.
Also private were the products of the production cycle: the wool, the milk, the meat. In other words, there would be no shepherds without the existence of a capitalist sheep owner and pasture owner.
The shepherds were not typically slaves. There is a reason for this. The owner has to fully trust the shepherds, who worked under contract but could not be monitored. They would be in a position to steal. Forcing people into this role would not be a good idea. It’s best to pay them as willing workers, and count on their desire for continued employment to assure for a long-lasting and trusting relationship. In other words, they were just like us.
So, yes, they were paid. And with what money? They were paid with the saved proceeds of the previous year’s profit, mostly likely, given that banking institutions were not likely advancing loans. Regardless, the payment to present workers is granted unto the workers before this season’s profit is earned. The shepherd might also enjoy a bonus at the end of the season based on the return brought back to the owner.
No owner of sheep or pastures could know for sure that the wool, milk, and meat would turn out to be a good investment. The future is always unknown. There could be a blight, terrible weather, mass theft. The very employment of shepherds represented a speculation on the part of the capitalist — an entrepreneurial judgement made in a world of uncertainty.
The particular case reported in the Bible adds an interesting twist. An angel of the Lord shows up to tell the shepherds that a savior is born and that they should head to Bethlehem right away.
That’s an offer that is difficult to refuse. But there was a problem: work commitments and schedules. Money was tight and jobs that allow you to lie around in green pastures — living out the dream of the Psalmist — were not entirely easy to come by. So it is not likely they would just abandon their jobs. They surely had to ask permission and seek replacements. After all, the Bible tells us that they later returned to tell of the good news.
That means, essentially, that unless the shepherds took the whole herd with them, the owner gave them a bit of vacation time. The circumstances certainly seemed momentous enough to justify it. After all, an angel had appeared to them!
Note there was no legislation mandating worker leave. It was an agreement between the workers and the capitalist. And in the story as it appears in the Bible, they seemed to get along just fine. So much for the inherent conflict between labor and capital. Everyone figured out a way to trade and work without conflict.
This story resonates with us, as do many stories from the Bible, because so many deal with commercial realities that remain with us today. We are all workers with responsibilities. But there are also unforeseen circumstances that intervene. We hope that others understand and we work it out between ourselves in a mutually agreed upon way.
There are also capitalists who employ people and have to pay for security services. They have to speculate about the future, paying workers now before the profits appear later.
But such productive arrangements between people are only made possible by the existence of private property, not only in land but also in tools and machinery (and the sheep qualify as such). This is not anything unusual. It is normal life, wholly visible in the story of the birth of Christ. Capitalist institutions are so much part of our storied past — appearing everywhere in our songs, history, fiction, and our respective religious traditions — that we tend to overlook them. We don’t see what is everywhere around us.
And yet, for hundreds of years fanatics have tried to get rid of these institutions. Remember that it is private property, trade, and capitalist production processes that enable beautiful things to be born in this world. They are truly the foundation of peace on earth and good will toward all men and women.