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’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 […]
I became lost the other day, wandering around in Mon Ami Gabi, an upscale French restaurant situated within Las Vegas’ Paris Hotel. Standing somewhere between the outdoor patio and the bar that opens to the casino, I began to turn around in circles, looking in sheer awe of the size of the seated crowd, the dazzling display of busyness of the staff, the plates of food and drink coming and going from the kitchen, the hundreds of people who had come to be served in this miniature factory of fabulous eats and fun.
A factory it is, but more than that. At a regular factory, there are no customers demanding gratification right there on the spot. The workers make the stuff and ship it out. But here, the consumers are in the same spot as the producers, and every cook is a producer of goods. The service must be perfect and the food delicious, and incredibly so. At these prices, the slightest slip up could lead to disaster.
With food reviews as ubiquitous as they are today, one tweet, status update or Yelp post could cost thousands, even tens of thousands, in profits stretching for weeks and months. If the customer is thirsty, the water must be there. The cocktails must be exactly right. No twists when the customer orders olives. No soda when the customer asks for tonic. In other words, this is not the TSA: an unaccountable bureaucracy that does what it wants.
The crowd was sheer madness this evening. There were several lines of people waiting to get in. People with reservations wanted immediate seating, but plenty of people with reservations would never show, unable to leave their winning streaks at the poker table. With this level of demand, the staff can’t leave tables empty. Other people just show up, sometimes with a party of two and sometimes with a party of 10. The wait extended to fully 90 minutes.
The more people that the wait staff could get in and out, the more food and drink the restaurant could sell. But no one must be made to feel rushed. But neither can the service be too slow. The difference between too slow (grumble) and too fast (hey, what’s the rush?) might be only a matter of minutes. Knowing the difference is science, art and experience.
And there is no way to know in advance what people will be ordering from the gigantic menu. The kitchen food inventory must be vast and adaptable to sudden changes of taste and interest. There must be perfect coordination between the prep chefs and the cooks, between the cooks and the wait staff, between the bartenders and hosts and hostesses and everyone else.
As I said, there were hundreds of people either dining or waiting to dine. All the while, the sounds of the casino were everywhere, the talking was loud and louder, the needs of the gathered masses were as individualized as the number of people there. Every single person had an issue: Meat must be cooked this way not that, the wine must be dry not sweet, the potatoes must be replaced with broccoli, the water must come from a bottle and not the tap and so on through thousands of possibilities.
I tell you, it could have been madness, riotous. Yet the situation was orderly in every way, not like the mechanical workings of a clock, but even more impressively the coordination of volitional human beings each exercising free will. It was like a market economy in miniature. No police. The “thin blue line” was profitability.
Every person there was a king, a paying customer who wanted everything exactly right. The staff worked tirelessly to oblige. As soon as one party left a table, it was cleaned and moved and reset to accommodate a new party with new demands, new tastes, new preferences.
And remember, too, that we aren’t talking about the run-of-the-mill customer here. Most of these people come to Vegas for the time of their lives. They’ve all had a drink or two. They are prepared to spend more money on food and drink than any normal person ever would. And they come expecting the best of the best and will accept nothing less, especially after standing around in a noisy, smoky casino waiting.
And this doesn’t just happen in the course of one hour. The frenzy begins late afternoon and continues this way well past midnight. And it happens not just this day, but every day. Among the staff and management and chefs, there is no time for exhaustion, frustration, annoyance. You must work like crazy from the minute you get there to the minute you leave, and that could be a shift of eight hours or more.
Who is holding a gun to people’s heads to make all this happen? The answer is no one. Kings of old would display their wealth through their dining habits and make ostentatious display of the number of people who served them. Today, we are all kings. But we are even better off, with more selection between dishes and the number of places we can eat. We coerce no one. Our servants beg for the chance to wait on us and work themselves to the point of total exhaustion.
The structure of production of this amazing place extends beyond what exists in its four walls. The food comes from all over the world. The coordination extends to transportation, agriculture and ranching, herbs and spices from remote places, liquors and beers from all corners of the earth. And the coordination extends back in time, even decades and even centuries from the first seeds planted in the vineyards that make the wines and liquors. And the technology to make it happen is all relatively new, from refrigeration all the way through digital communication between the kitchen and the maitre d’.
This stunningly complex operation — far more complicated than any operation attempted by any government bureaucracy — must come together for everyone who happens to show up at one particular hour at one particular place. Or maybe no one will show up. If this happens too often, the whole thing collapses. All the planning, payments, skills, everything is shown to be a waste. What makes the difference between the existence of this tiny society and its disappearance is the decision of the man or woman on the street to eat there or not to eat there.
If you were to propose such a system to a person who had never seen it in operation, that person would never believe such a thing as this could happen. And it’s not just upscale restaurants to Vegas; the miracle extends to every fast-food eatery at the exit of every stop along every interstate highway. It’s all there for us, waiting for our decision, ready to serve.
We are the most served people in the history of humanity. The market has made it so. We repay this system by teaching our students that capitalism is evil, by protesting the market in mass demonstrations, by taxing the entrepreneurs, by spitting on the accumulators of capital who fund the system and take the risk.
Then we elect politicians, even presidents, who are sworn enemies of our great benefactor, the free market, which we — through crazy logic and deep historical ignorance — blame for all our troubles. Then, these same people praise government as the source of all good things.
It’s an upside-down world. But no matter how much the market is smeared and denied credit, it is still there for us, like a puppy that keeps returning affections no matter how often its master kicks and hits it.
These were my thoughts, and I was lost in them while standing in the middle of the room at Mon Ami Gabi. A waiter got my attention and said, “Excuse me, sir, may I help you?”
Civility in the midst of madness. Lovely. Just lovely.