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 […]
Madison, Wis., was in lockdown mode last night, a day before the visit by the president of the United States. It is Obama’s last stop before Election Day. It just so happened that he and I were in town on the same day to speak to students, faculty, and residents.
My host, Young Americans for Liberty organizer Joseph Diedrich, and I were leaving the restaurant above the Museum of Contemporary Art and walking to a cigar bar on the other side of the Capitol building to meet other student and faculty for late-evening conversation.
We had to go the long way because of all the barricades and equipment.
Crowds were milling about everywhere, and some people were sitting on risers listening to someone giving them instructions on a bullhorn. They sat there all fresh-faced and eager — anticipating the great moment when Il Duce would pay them a visit. I asked someone who these people were.
“What are they volunteering for?”
“To help with tomorrow’s event.”
“And they do this because… they love Obama?”
The guy nodded but detected skepticism in my voice. His face darkened into a scowl. I could imagine these words going through his head: If you see something, say something.
It was time for me and Joseph to get going. We walked on rather hurriedly, and every third or fourth step I turned back to look at the guy. His eyes were following us very carefully, and I kept looking to see if he would whip out his cellphone and call some official thugs to give us the “what for.” He didn’t, but the escape seemed uncomfortably narrow.
Who were all these people? They could have been home surfing the Web, playing with kids, reading a book, watching television. But no. They are dedicating their time to re electing Obama. Why? My own theory comes from a book by Chris Hedges called War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. His thesis is summed up in the title. But his thesis can be broadened.
Politics is the force that gives life meaning. It is what people do in order to convince themselves that they are making a difference in the world, that their lives are not petty and useless, but big and important. It is an illusion. They are dupes of a process. But they do it anyway because they want to affirm their own significance in the course of human events.
Sadly, political activism typically requires brains to be in the off position. And I’m not just picking on these nice people. You would find the same at a Romney rally — though my sense is that his backers are not quite as devoted.
This doesn’t make these people bad. The guy who shot me and my friend the evil eye is probably a nice fellow otherwise. Had he been serving drinks at the local bar, we would have been on great terms. It’s the venue that extracts the suspicion and hate. Politics turn nice guys into thugs.
It’s a microcosm of what democracy does to the whole of society. And where is the payoff? For most people, there is none. What is truly at stake is much smaller than what people believe.
For months on end, I’ve heard people tell me what Romney or Obama is likely to do if elected, and, therefore, why, in the scheme of things, it would be better if one or the other were elected.
And how do people know what either is going to do once in office? Their suppositions are based on an assembly of passing data: what they have said on the campaign trail, their intellectual and personal backgrounds, what the party platform says, who their biggest financial backers are, what kind of people are voting for them, and so on.
But here’s the truth: No one knows for sure what a newly elected politician will do. Intellectual or professional background counts for little when a person is suddenly flush with power, slammed with daily duties, bound by institutional expectations, surrounded by people who know far more about nearly everything related to the affairs of state, and overwhelmed by suddenly being the chief executive of history’s largest and most astonishing complex power apparatus.
The same is true about what was said on the campaign trail. By the time they are sworn in, it’s all ancient history, just data points in the process that got them where they want to be.
Party platforms? Those are as binding as yesterday’s editorial page of the local newspaper. Platforms are pressure valves for chumps, worthless documents that provide a means to convince the party regulars that it really does matter what the workers and peasants in the party believe, even though it doesn’t matter at all, since they’ve already performed the essential service of giving money, making calls, passing out leaflets, and holding approved signs at the conventions.
Financial backers might be the best predictor of future actions of presidents, but even here, the guidance is vague. It’s not even entirely clear to what extent the person of the president himself really possesses the control that American political culture assumes he has. People complain about how politicians betray the people every single time. But what if betrayal is inevitable and all the promises and claims are nothing more than propaganda just to get one gang into power instead of another?
People like to assume that we are voting on issues. The media hector politicians to “stick to the issues.” We are supposed to do our civic duty and bone up on the “issues.” But when you get to the voting booth, there are no issues on the ballot on the federal level. There are only people’s names. That’s what we are voting for: person x or person y. All the rest is guesswork based on fleeting, gassy words in the air. All the talk about issues only distracts from this devastating reality that no one has a clue what this or that elected official is going to do in reality.
And consider the claim that candidate x would be better than candidate y for a variety of reasons. This is non verifiable. You can’t run an experiment. It’s not like the natural sciences. A person who said the following would be considered a lunatic: “Let’s try four years with Obama and then try the same four years with Romney and see which turns out best.”
Yet that’s precisely what we would have to do in order to make any truly valid claims about who would be better. Nor can we tell after the fact that the person who lost the election would have been better or worse.
All we really know is that every president makes a terrible mess. Even the few that do something good or do as little as possible leave a terrible mess in their wake. That’s been true… well… pretty much without exception since the beginning. The ones who make the smallest messes you never hear of, while the ones who make the biggest messes make the history books and, if they are lucky, get their picture put on some paper money.
All of this extremely strange stuff in an election makes for a dramatic contrast with the free market. If you want shoes, you can buy shoes. If the shoes don’t fit, you can take them back. The company that makes the best shoes at the best prices tends to advance itself in the marketplace, and those who do not tend to fall back. At any time, the buying or the abstention from buying determines the outcome, and there is a direct link between what is produced and what is consumed. It’s simplicity itself.
In the marketplace, we are voting every day — without the national psychodrama, divisive frenzy, and astonishing expense, not to mention the lies, graft, and betrayals. Thus do I renew my call for us all to rally around those who truly do serve us and try our best not to get sucked into a racket in which you will certainly be betrayed.
The topic of my speech tonight is the history of ownership and commerce. It is a magnificent history full of drama and meaning. In this way, it is far more rewarding than politics.
Laissez Faire Books has published some extremely important books this year — all of them valuable in their own way. But the book that today stands out to me as having massive explanatory power is Beyond Democracy. This is a book that can liberate your mind. It can keep you out of the slaughterhouse.