Are you a deflationist? Or an inflationist? No matter which way you believe the wind will blow, the truth is this: it’s up in the air. But, as Jim Rickards explains, there are things you can do to cover your assets, no matter which one wins the tug-of-war. Read on…
There are two things you shouldn’t do this Election Day: one, vote; two, buy gold. Why? Chris Campbell explores this and more in today’s Laissez Faire Today. Read on…
America has about 4% of the world’s population, yet houses 25% of the world’s incarcerated. What’s going on here? Chris Campbell digs deep into the industry to figure out the truth. While many blame the private prison industry, the real culprit, says Chris, begins right outside your door. Read on…
“While I heartily subscribe to your premise of pursuing one’s dream,” one reader, Donald J., wrote, “there are alternate perspectives worth considering.”[We’re listening… go on.]“Some wiseguy once said that life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for something better to come along. Milton put it a little more poetically in one of his […]
Want to get rich? Don’t listen to financial “gurus,” says Chris Campbell. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris shares a Zen proverb and shows how understanding it is the only real way to get rich (and live a rich life). Read on…
Where do great investors come from?I’m not sure what the hurdle rate for greatness is, but Guy Spier has put up impressive results. His Aquamarine Fund has returned 463% since inception in 1997, versus just 167% for the S&P 500 (a broad proxy for the market). Put another way, $1 million invested at inception is […]
Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, you’ll learn about one FREE website that has the potential to not only keep your family safe – but also open your eyes to what’s happening in your own neighborhood. Chris Campbell has all the details. Read on…
All over the world, power is dying. The dictators and tyrants of the world are no longer able to wield it like they once used to. And they’re losing it to the “little guy.” Chris Campbell shows you how to be the king of your castle by taking advantage of this fact. Today, you’ll learn how to grab “power gaps” in the market and channel them into your product idea or project. Read on…
The fireflies along the tidal rivers of Malaysia show "feats of synchrony that occur spontaneously, almost as if nature has an eerie yearning for order." Chris Campbell tells you where else this might occur in the world. Also, new technology may revolutionize the agriculture industry and what we think of as a farm.
Jeff Davis is running for Governor in Hawaii and has an interesting campaign strategy. Also, what motivates hackers is revealed and the findings might surprise you. Finally, Ferguson is discussed in a new light. Chris Campbell has more...
Next year is the 65th anniversary of the Peanuts comic strip. And Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and the rest of the gang will appear in their first full-length feature film in 35 years.One small company has the license to the Peanuts brand. The cash flow due to this company could be enormous. In late October, […]
When the government pumps trillions of dollars into the economy, they’re not actually printing the money. It enters as digital entries in banks across the country. It’s made the system fast, responsive, and, unfortunately, vulnerable. Now our money is no longer something we hold in our hands, but something that exists on a very susceptible network.
The so-called recovery is only built on debt and printed cash declares our own Byron King. In the long term, the only option for the government to continue financing it's operations is to print too many dollars. Money printing has it's limits, however. It's Byron's opinion that at some point, perhaps very soon, the government will have to turn to more desperate measures. Namely, capital controls. In the following featured essay, Byron outlines 4 probably ways the government will take your cash and one play you can buy through your broker to prepare today. Read on...
Americans expatriate because they want to get out of the country. Corporations expatriate for similar reasons. Clem Chambers explains...
In a 2009 article, the Huffington Post went into considerable detail about the number of people with PhD degrees in economics employed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This is the government’s branch of the Federal Reserve. It is not one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, all of which […]
Who can forget Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island? That map, marked with an “x,” is the stuff of high adventure.There is a modern-day equivalent of a treasure map, and it is just as coveted by those who seek reservoirs of oil and gas. It’s called seismic data.What are seismic data? In essence, they’re collected from […]
The U.S. dollar is the dominant global reserve currency. All markets, including stocks, bonds, commodities, and foreign exchange are affected by the value of the dollar.The value of the dollar, in effect, its “price” is determined by interest rates. When the Federal Reserve manipulates interest rates, it is manipulating, and therefore distorting, every market in […]
The game of speculation is the most uniformly fascinating game in the world. But it is not a game for the stupid, the mentally lazy, the person of inferior emotional balance or the get-rich-quick adventurer. They will die poor.– Jesse Livermore, How to Trade in StocksThe trouble with capitalism’s guardians is that they have no […]
John Foust, a Democrat running for the 10th congressional seat in Northern Virginia, is — like Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other state Democrats — gung-ho to expand Medicaid. His wife’s position is, shall we say, a bit more nuanced.Foust has slammed his opponent, Republican Del. Barbara Comstock, for her opposition to expansion. He has spoken […]
The midterm election season is upon us, and it’s a tossup whether the Republicans will win the Senate, or if President Obama, seemingly oblivious as conflict flares up around the world, will, through his continuous campaigning, keep Harry Reid in his majority leader seat.The only thing we know for sure is that sociopaths will be […]
I bet you use different kinds of money all the time, sometimes without even realizing it.In various online accounts, I currently have: some dollars, some pounds, and some euros. I have some air miles from two different credit card companies. I have some supermarket rewards points from three different companies. And I also have some […]
Alexander Hamilton was America’s first Secretary of Treasury under President George Washington. When he first entered office in 1789, America was an agricultural nation of just 4 million still broke from its financially costly victory over the British Empire in the Revolutionary War.The states had accumulated relatively massive debts to finance that war, which mostly […]
A great technology solves a problem that we didn’t know we had. It makes us aware of deprivations we didn’t know existed until we discover the new thing. Once discovered, we can’t go back.People in the 1950s, for example, never missed the smart phone. They were pleased to have a phone at all. But today, […]
Fifty years after the 1929 crash, a group of money managers and investment thinkers put together a collection of essays looking back at that experience. The result was a distillation of some pretty fine investment wisdom. Timely, I think, to review now.One of the contributors was Arthur Zeikel, then with Merrill Lynch. The title of […]
Although the mainstream media have turned its attention away from the wreckage of Obamacare, don’t think for a second that all is well.As the politicos in D.C. focus their attention on the midterm elections in November, now is a great time to study, prepare, and seek out the most affordable, accessible, and highest quality options […]
I’m sure you’ve seen the news. As if recent, past U.S. policy fiascos in Libya, Egypt and Syria were not enough, the wheels are now coming off the proverbial bus in Iraq, site of so much blood and treasure spent in the last decade.Radical Islamist armies are marching toward Baghdad, slicing through Iraqi government troops […]
Turn on the tube and economic ignorance seems to be everywhere. There is constant shilling for more government. Business is demonized. Man is said to be trashing the environment. “Workers and women are oppressed” is the constant mantra.And members of the clueless media nod their heads in unison.Only John Stossel has provided the fresh air […]
In early July 1944, delegates from 44 countries gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. A three-week summit took place, at which a new system was agreed to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the Second World War.The U.S. was already the world’s commercial powerhouse, having eclipsed the British […]
In the minds of many people around the world, including in the United States, the term “capitalism” carries the idea of unfairness, exploitation, undeserved privilege and power, and immoral profit making. What is often difficult to get people to understand is that this misplaced conception of “capitalism” has nothing to do with real free markets […]
Some people are saying it is just what the doctor ordered. Others are saying that the cure is worse than the disease.The Affordable Care Act? Reengagement in Iraq? Tea Party bullying in the GOP?Not this time. Just as protracted in the corridors of Congress and the White House is the debate over the proposed reform […]
In 1995, American agriculture underwent a profound, dangerous change.In that year, Monsanto and other companies pushed through approval for a handful of genetically modified (GM) organisms. These included canola oil tweaked to improve its flavor, potatoes modified to resist pesticide dousing, and tomatoes gene-spliced to delay ripening.“About half of all the crops planted on American […]
In 2012, money mandarins running the European Union chose stagnation over restructuring. Here’s a consequence of that choice: expectations for a self-sustaining economic recovery keep getting crushed.Two years ago, European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi promised to do “whatever it takes” to hold the eurozone together. He bluffed nervous investors into believing in a […]
People jacked up about income inequality can find a new hobby. The 1% are victims of a doomsday machine, and the countdown is ticking. Machine, thy name is “family.”This came to mind as I was reading a preview of Columbia Professor Andrew Ang’s forthcoming, must-read book on Asset Management. Ang is that oxymoron, an exciting […]
There’s a Mexican restaurant I like (I’m not saying where it is) that seems to thrive in good times and bad. It never has a shortage of servers, cooks and people to bus the tables, even when there are only a few customer cars out front. Actually, it is hard to tell the workers from the customers, and extended family seems to appear from nowhere, people of all ages, sometimes eating, sometimes just visiting and sometimes going back and forth to the kitchen.
How does this place handle the high costs of this labor? It’s the sort of question that is impolite to ask. A passing familiarity with the existing labor regulations, mandates, taxes and edicts on resident documentation permits anyone to figure this out. The place survives and thrives because all these niceties are ignored. The whole arrangement works through quid pro quos, barter, cash, underage labor and undocumented workers.
They know it. We know it. No one is hurt.
Consider another case lately in the news. A report from ABC did some sleuthing on educational institutions all over Australia, where government demands that everyone sign up for public school or officially register as home schooling. The report estimates that 50,000 families completely ignore these rules. Some families don’t believe they should have to register. Others have discerned that there is more risk by going legal than schooling underground.
We all know of such cases. We know a person who bakes cheesecakes in her kitchen and sells them to friends — all while ignoring licenses, health regulations, mandates on oven size, zoning laws and all the rest. Her kids help her in exchange for a weekly allowance — an arrangement that looks a lot like child labor. We know of people who have one normal job but also a job on the side making jewelry, designing websites or tutoring. They prefer cash.
All these small anecdotes — and we know many of them — come from every place in the world, especially with the recession’s intense economic pressures. Faced with the choice of complying with government or making a decent life for themselves, people tend to choose the latter. So it is with hundreds of street vendors in San Francisco. It’s this way for thousands of workers in Shanghai who make licit products in the day and “pirated” products at night.
This will be increasingly true in the digital economy now that the US government has shown its teeth and arrested and destroyed property in the name of enforcing copyright. The Web will not suddenly become the great land of compliance. Instead, those providing gray-area services will become more anonymous, less traceable, more private and obscure.
This is already happening, as ever more people are being forced to use IP-scrambling proxies to surf and put their content behind impenetrable walls. There is a tragic loss here, but it might prompt the final showdown in the great struggle between power and market.
Digital or not, the state can’t make trading, sharing and associating go away. It only inspires the traders and entrepreneurs to avoid risks in different ways.
During Prohibition, the speakeasies sensing a threat would change the passwords to get in the door. With the massive increase in government all over the world, vast swaths of the world economy have begun to operate just like these speakeasies of old. They were zones of freedom, but their operations were distorted because they didn’t have access to law and courts and because the people who ran them were from a class of citizens that was willing to take crazy risks.
We know all of this anecdotally, but what does it all amount to in the macroeconomic sense? I’m right now reading Stealth of Nations by Robert Neuwirth. It is a mind-blowing book because it is the first in our time to attempt a broad look at the meaning of all this unregulated, untaxed, unofficial economic activity. Neuwirth estimates that fully half the world’s workers are involved at some level in what he calls System D.
This is the sector that is variously called the “underground” and the “informal sector.” He prefers System D (the street term derived from the African French word for highly motivated people) because it is nonjudgmental. It refers simply to the sector of economic life that exists “outside the framework of trade agreements, labor laws, copyright protections, product safety regulations, anti-pollution legislation and a host of other political, social and environmental policies.”
He documents the amazing workings of System D and demonstrates that it is the world’s second-largest economy, amounting to economic productivity of $10 trillion, which is probably a low estimate. At the pace at which government is growing, System D is set to employ as many as two of three workers by 2020. My own sense is that Neuwirth actually underestimates the size since he overlooks sectors like health, education and finance — which are surely three of the fastest-growing components of System D.
Neuwirth himself is not a libertarian or a free market thinker in any sense. He is a reporter with a lefty bias — a genuine leftist who believes in exalting the contribution of the poor and the working classes to the social and economic order. His reporting led him to discover that a main driving force for the classes is the need for economic relationships, and then also to notice that the state itself is the main barrier to their advancement.
He remains ideologically conflicted throughout the book. For example, he rails against child labor on one page, but then notes that were it not for child labor, many kids around the world would not be able to buy clothes, food and education and would likely turn to prostitution or some form of subjugation. But ideology is not the main contribution here. It is framing up the reality in a way that we can become conscious of the whole.
Reflecting on the sheer vastness of this sector of life, one realizes the fiction, for example, embodied in official government statistics that record only the on-the-books sector of economic life. These agencies are pumping out half-truths and whole myths every day. One further realizes the immense damage that would be done to humanity in general should there come a time when government actually managed to enforce all its edicts. It would be catastrophic. We owe much of our prosperity to people’s willingness to enter the rebel class.