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 […]
For many people around the world, the first they had ever heard of the great economist Friedrich A. Hayek came from a rap video. That’s right. Some 3.4 million people have watched “Fear the Boom and Bust” since its release two years ago. It has been shown in classrooms and been featured in countless stories on economics.
This video did more than just educate people on the alternative to Keynesian-style macroeconomic policy of which only a small number had been previously aware. It shocked free-market advocates out of their stupor and made them realize they had to do more than write thick treatises that sit on library shelves to get their message out.
This video made economics interesting and dramatic. It took an intellectual battle that had being going on behind the scenes for nearly 100 years and put it into contemporary imagery. The lyrics were not only clever and intelligent; they were accurate as regards the theories of Hayek and Keynes.
Then there was a follow-up last year: “Fight of the Century.” It already has 1.7 million views, and many people think it is even better than the first one (both videos have their strengths, in my view). Then there have been hundreds of media appearances, thousands of stories and blogs, spinoffs and public debates. Several books have come out on the topic.
You can see here the way ideas work to change the ideological landscape. It is now widely understood that there is another side to the issue — a point few understood in the days of FDR’s “fireside chats” or Walter Cronkite’s nightly instructions on what Washington wanted us to think.
Today, not even mainstream journalists can write about the topic of countercyclical policy and economic stabilization without acknowledging another side to the debate. And this new awareness is leading people to truth that has otherwise been suppressed.
Hayek himself would have been overjoyed. He wrote that liberty is doomed unless we “can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task that challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds.” (Emphasis mine.)
The minds behind the videos: economics professor Russell Roberts (who has specialized in finding new ways, such as novels and podcasts, to get the word out) and media genius John Papola. I’m focusing on Papola here because he gets the least attention of this duo, and it has been my pleasure to get to know him personally and interview him on several occasions.
Of course, I’m pleased as can be than John wrote the long and thoughtful introduction to Laissez Faire Books’ new edition of Hayek’s outstanding compilation, A Tiger By the Tail. It is available in a fabulous softcover edition or e-book. Or you can get both for free by joining the Laissez Faire Club, which provides an unrelenting stream of digital bling.
John’s background is in media, having done outstanding work for Spike TV, Nickelodeon and MTV. Then in 2006, he watched the PBS documentary Commanding Heights. He caught the economics bug. He realized that the science of economics holds the secret to the rise and decline of societies, the answer to so many of our cultural problems, the crucible that determines whether we thrive or die as a people.
He could have stopped there, but — as he explains in this introduction — he continued his studies and found his way toward a truth that goes beyond the choices we are presented in current political debates. He realized that contrary to conventional wisdom, neither Reagan nor Thatcher represented some kind of free-market ideal. There are more foundational issues in play than any political party represents.
He set out on a gigantic, and even obsessive, reading plan that took him through the works of the Austrian School economists from a century ago to the present. It was a heady intellectual journey that ended up causing a dramatic vocational change in his life. He decided to use his skills and talents to advancing the cause. He would do it not by merely propounding doctrine, but through civil, creative and imaginative means, just as Hayek has suggested. He was pushing ideas that were otherwise ignored.
The most-conspicuous results of his intellectual journey are the two rap videos. He worked with Roberts to create fabulous rhyming couplets and memorable phrases that have changed the way free-market advocates talk about the issues. If you spend some time with him, you can observe his talent for this at work. I swear that he can make a great rhyme out of anything. It is dazzling just to hear him think out loud.
Here are two of the most-famous passages from the second video, put into the mouth of Hayek:
The economy’s not a car, there’s no engine to stall,
No expert can fix it, there’s no “it” at all.
The economy’s us, we don’t need a mechanic,
Put away the wrenches, the economy’s organic.
We need stable rules and real market prices
So prosperity emerges and cuts short the crisis.
Give us a chance so we can discover
The most valuable ways to serve one another.
Just reading those last two lines absolutely warms my heart. This is the language of genuine liberalism. This is the great truth of the market that has been so long suppressed. The second video in particular makes heavy use of the notion that we face a choice between a society organized top down or bottom up. That’s it exactly, a fantastic summary of what liberal minds have been saying for centuries, finally given to us in an easy-to-understand image.
What his introduction to A Tiger by the Tail reveals is that John Papola is not just a media genius. He is also a first-class intellectual. He discusses the history of thought here, along with the misuse of economic metaphors, capital theory, banking institutions, the role of prices and entrepreneurship, interest rates and the role of money. He places special emphasis on the issue of “Say’s law,” which Keynes claimed to have refuted, but which still stands as the theoretical bulwark of the market’s capacity for self-management.
His essay, which stretches to 5,000 words, is a veritable primer on Hayek and the Austrian School. Of course, he ends with a few rhyming couplets. What a performance! As Hayek would observe, this is the way to use ingenuity and imagination to make economics and liberty living intellectual issues.