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 […]
If you are willing to look past mainstream media coverage of American politics, you can actually find exciting and interesting activities taking place that rise above lobbying, voting, graft and corruption.
Consider the Free State Project. It is an attempt, and a surprisingly successful one, to inspire a political migration by lovers to liberty to New Hampshire. It is not about lobbying, forming a political party, populating a real estate development or anything like that. It is about seeking a place to live and let live in these times when the political culture seems to be about everything but that.
The idea is to gather people with some consciousness of the idea of liberty so that they can live peacefully among friends and influence the political culture in a way that brings more freedom or at least protects what we have. As the statement that Free Staters sign says: “I will exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of civil government is the protection of life, liberty and property.”
I had heard of this movement for years, but, frankly, didn’t pay much attention to it. I suppose that with only a passing glance, it seemed sort of cranky and unworkable, just another scheme. I was completely wrong. This is a serious movement that is achieving real results, as I observed when I was invited to attend the annual Liberty Forum in Nashua, N.H.
Why New Hampshire? It is the “Live Free or Die” state without a sales or income tax. It has low population density, which increases the chances that the influence of the libertarians can be felt in the culture and the Statehouse. It has lower business regulations than the rest of the country, and wonderful homespun culture that turns out to be highly tolerant toward cultural and political eccentricity.
The whole notion really began in 2001 with research by political scientist Jason Sorens, who was then studying at Yale University. He observed that the influence of the libertarians was muted by their sheer geographic diffusion throughout the country. If they could gather together in one place, they could achieve that critical level of influence over political affairs that would create a tipping point against statist-style management toward individual liberty.
It turns out that there is a huge tradition in American history for this type of political migration. The Mormons did this in their trek across the West to finally land in Salt Lake City. The Amish did the same. But it doesn’t have to be about religion. This migrating impulse also populated Texas in the early 19th century, when the pioneering spirit drove a whole generation to settle this wild country.
Actually, if you think about it, the entire Colonial period was shaped by cultural groups arriving to settle in coherent communities formed around certain themes of safety and liberty. Puritans, Catholics and borderland immigrants all coalesced in geographically defined areas. Then there were the Quakers, the Mennonites and innumerable anarchist sects of the 19th century that formed their own communities. In all these cases, they found the liberty and security they were seeking. Rather than merely dreaming of a new life, they worked to put their dreams into practice in whatever way this world allows.
The Free State Project is different from these only in the sense that the invitation is to move somewhere within the state. And the driving force is simply to be left alone. It turns out that being around others who share your values helps that goal. If the police pull over a Free Stater, I’m told, a dozen others show up within minutes with video cameras. If you go to jail, there are people to defend you to the press. And there is something to say for living among people you can trust, especially in these times when the government is urging everyone to rat out their neighbors, friends and family for any reason.
There is a huge diversity among the 4,000 people who have identified themselves as Free Staters. In my trip, I met attorneys, teachers, bakers, software application developers, people who mint coins, welders, natural statesmen, bloggers, physicians and people from every walk of life one can imagine. Some are religious and some are not. Some look like crazy mountain men, some have oddly dyed hair, some wear suits and ties. They are single, married, young, old, whatever.
Free Staters take any job that suits them. Some run for office, and win, which is not entirely difficult in a state with 400 representatives in the state legislature. Others stay out of politics completely. Some are independent contractors who can relocate, so they choose this state. Others are craft makers who sell their wares from their house or online. Some are wealthy; some are poor.
Their reasons for coming to New Hampshire are all over the map. I met one young person who had graduated from high school two years ago with straight As and a perfect transcript for going to any college she wanted. But she didn’t want to deal with the debt, was tired of the indoctrination and had seen too many people waste four or eight years in school and not find any work afterward. She didn’t want that for herself. So she works various jobs, pays the bills, enjoys a rich social life and is completely happy. Most kids of her generation can’t say the same.
At the opening reception of the Liberty Forum, I stood back, studying the huge crowd with puzzlement at first — the culture of the event might best be described as bourgeois bohemian — but then it became clear to me what was going on. These people were extremely well-read. They had developed a love of liberty, and it became a passion in their life. They realized that freedom is the precondition for everything else in life we love. Without freedom, all dreams die. But they weren’t satisfied to read and reflect. They wanted to do something real, something practical. Moving here and joining this movement was best hope they found.
Human liberation never happens in a social or cultural vacuum. The great steps forward in the history of liberty were preceded by periods in which the social and practical infrastructure had undergone years of development and maturation. The American Revolution was the culminating moment of 150 years of Colonial experience with liberty. The abolitionist movement was preceded by many years of the development of a robust culture and experience of free men and women in both slave and nonslave states. The repeal of Prohibition was made possible because of the giant network of speak-easies and bootleggers and the ever-increasing demand of the population for the freedom to drink.
Perhaps, then, it is necessary that people take up the charge to live their own visions of liberty in whatever way they can, even in open defiance of our overlords, in order to prepare the ground for a brighter future.
A film has already been made about the movement: Libertopia. News coverage is increasing. And the movement is clearly growing as trends in the U.S. get worse and worse. And after this election season, when it becomes very obvious to disillusioned liberty lovers around the country that national politics are now and will forever be hostile to the philosophy of individualism, I can easily imagine that the Free State Project will have another wave of immigrants ready to wave the flag: “Live Free or Die.”
P.S. Here is an innovative payment system being developed in the state. These cards allow micropayments in gold and silver: