I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the […]
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 […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
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 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 […]
Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]
“In the beginning, all the world was America.” — John Locke“The Garden of Eden was a perfect place,” my friend Manuel explained. “Man had free will. He could live in harmony with nature and God — and everything would be fine. But if he defied God, the stain of original sin would be on his […]
After a week of reckoning about the American oil and gas boom… I’ve got to get something off my chest.I can’t stand it when a coworker takes credit for something I did.Whether it’s a special report I wrote or just a little investing trick I found on my own — if someone takes it and […]
It might sound like the latest new product from Apple, but IPAB is actually the newest major legal challenge to Obamacare.Recently, a three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard arguments about the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, a 15-member panel created by the Affordable Care Act and empowered […]
Americans have come to believe that the IRS and the income tax are inevitable parts of our lives. After all, most everyone alive today has lived his entire life under federal income taxation.It wasn’t always that way. For some 125 years, the American people lived without having any tax imposed upon their income.The obvious question […]
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Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]
“As the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve derives its authority from the Congress of the United States. It is considered an independent central bank because its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government, it does not receive funding […]
The Keynesian disaster recovery plan has been to lower rates, force people to take more risk in search of yield, and entice others to borrow and spend and, magically, more jobs will be created. If people won’t buy stocks, central banks will.Back in 2011, Ben Bernanke, when asked if QE2 was driving up stock prices, […]
In September 2009, when President Obama made a primetime speech pitching his not-yet-passed health care overhaul, he made the following promise: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future. Period.” To prove his seriousness, he further promised that “there will be a provision […]
Whatever your views on the role of government, one thing is clear: There will be no way to pay for it if the economy doesn’t grow. And I’m not talking by a measly percentage point or two. If we can’t find our way back to 5% annual economic growth or above soon, America’s accumulated federal […]
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer prices are rising at a 2.1% annual rate. This suggests to us that the current stock market boom will die with a bang, rather than a whimper.Fed economists say they don’t think inflation rates are rising. They think the most recent reading is a fluke. But why […]
Real progress happens through real people, ideas, and innovations. Not by legislation argued and debated in Congress. Right now, one of the most influential technologies is changing the way people do business. And reinventing the future in the process.
Innovation can change the world… if the world lets it. Unfortunately, society’s gatekeepers make it a point to constrain, regulate, and control these ideas. But their power is limited, and the power of innovation is too great. Unfortunately for regulators, there are some technologies they can’t control.
“Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.” — Emperor Palpatine, The Return of the JediJon Stewart made great comedic hay during the Bush Administration out of the enormity of Dick Cheney’s “Sith Lord” malevolence. Events in Iraq in the past week have made especially palpable Cheney’s Palpatine-like quality.As Iraq unravels, you may suspect that Cheney might now […]
Entrepreneurs are high-tailing it out of the United States, and it’s the politicians’ faultThe U.S. government is driving some of its most productive citizens abroad. The only beneficiaries are countries such as Singapore and Switzerland, which offer sanctuary to Americans fleeing avaricious Uncle Sam.Three years ago Eduardo Saverin, one of Facebook’s founders, joined 1,780 other […]
Politicians love raising the minimum wage because they don’t have to ask voters to pay more in taxes. They just dump the costs onto shop owners. But they don’t act like politicians and go into debt to pretend like they have all the money in the world. They face real world situations. And sometimes that means replacing workers with more affordable options...
A cushy job in Hawaii that pays six figures. A beautiful girlfriend/boyfriend. Job security and professional experience that gives you plenty of future opportunities. Would you throw that all away to do what you think is right? Last year, one government contractor did just that. And now you see the world the government tried to hide from you.
As the world gets more digital, people forget about the benefits of transacting in cash. And government officials know that.
Regulation is supposed to keep you safe and make the economy function smoothly. At least that’s what they tell you in the news. But there’s another cost to regulation. One that you won’t hear about unless you have to deal with directly. And for the people in the economy who do, they’re the ones who have to pay the final cost.
The experts will tell you the recession is over, but they’re only torturing the data to hide the truth. The economy never recovered from the downturn it experienced. But the downturn happened in 2000, not 2008. The country’s been in the middle of a 14 year recession and hardly anyone knows the truth.
All paper currency has a shelf life. It could be 5 years or 500 years, but at some point, the value of any paper currency eventually reaches zero. That's why, for centuries, people have turned to one shiny metal to safeguard their personal store of wealth. And, as Jim Rickards explains, you still have that option. Read on...
Last Saturday’s column distinguished between two strategies for achieving personal freedom from an invasive state: “Gulching” and “Going Galt.” Gulching, named after Galt’s Gulch in Atlas Shrugged, means withdrawing from society into an isolated community. Going Galt, named after the early strategy of John Galt in the same novel, means removing your support from the state without leaving society.
For example, a businessman might retire rather than deal with ruinous taxes, a maze of regulations and bureaucratic paperwork.
Two words are key to either strategy; they are “state” and “society.” Definitions may seem to be dusty things but they offer the incalculable benefit of clarifying your thoughts so that you better understand the ideas that deeply impact your life. Defining “the state” and “society” allows you to know where the line is drawn that separates one from the other.
One of the clearest presentations you can find of these two terms comes from the classical liberal Franz Oppenheimer in his brilliant and very readable book, The State (1914).
He defined the state as “that summation of privileges and dominating positions which are brought into being by extra-economic power.” By “extra-economic” he meant the institutions and people with power that did not come from the act of creation or from free exchange. In short, they were not productive.
Oppenheimer defined society as “the totality of concepts of all purely natural relations and institutions between man and man.” These institutions included the free market, churches, the family, charities, and the arts. In short, society is what is often called “the private sphere.”
Springboarding from these definitions, Oppenheimer contrasted what he called “the political means” with “the economic means” of acquiring wealth or power.
The state uses the political means — in other words, it uses force — to acquire wealth and power. It neither produces wealth nor trades for it on the marketplace. Instead, it takes wealth from the productive people who constitute society. It takes riches directly through such means as taxation and indirectly through such means as regulation. The ultimate source of the state’s power is the use or threatened use of force.
By contrast, society uses the economic means — in other words, it creates and cooperates — to produce wealth and social dynamics. Any power acquired by those within society is the result of earned wealth or reputation.
Because the state drained society for its own enrichment, Oppenheimer considered the two to be in basic conflict.
The American individualist Albert Jay Nock was one of the main conduits of Oppenheimer’s thought into the United States. Nock captured his mentor’s political philosophy in a book entitled Our Enemy, The State (1935). He wrote, “Taking the State wherever found, striking into its history at any point, one sees no way to differentiate the activities of its founders, administrators, and beneficiaries from those of a professional criminal class.” Both stole wealth from productive people and both were willing to use force to do so.
At this point in his argument, Nock introduced a third concept: government. To Nock, government, unlike the state, provided a valuable service. It protected the individual rights of society, presumably in exchange for a fee, such as that embodied in a reasonable tax rate.
Nock was not alone in distinguishing between government and the state, and in giving a nod to the former while frowning upon the latter. Ayn Rand also embraced a limited government that would function as a night watchman who unobtrusively protected the person and property of those within his territory.
We now live under a state, not a government. And true to the title of Nock’s book, the state is the enemy of our rights and property. Unlike the government envisioned by Rand, it is not a night watchman but a prison guard both day and night.
An effective path to personal freedom is to withdraw from the state as much as possible while continuing to live in and embrace society. A problem immediately arises. The line between the state and society keeps blurring. What should be a private business, like the post office, becomes a state agency instead. What should be a family matter, like the education of children, becomes the public school system.
Highly personal decisions, like medical choices, are turned over to a bureaucratic process and lodged in an official database. As the state expands, society contracts; the public sphere thrives while the private sphere withers.
Why not just leave and “gulch” instead of “going galt”? After all, a cabin deep in the woods offers unbridled individual freedom whereas in society there is always the threat of violence. Why run such a risk? I believe the answer lies in the reason people form societies in the first place.
Society offers tremendous benefits, including friendship, expanded knowledge, culture, a division of labor, the free market of exchange, family and romantic love. Society can maximize your range of choice because many of your decisions require the presence of other people; for example, the decision to have a child. The maximization of choice is itself a form of freedom.
And, yet it is possible to imagine a society from which some people would gladly flee into solitude; for example, in antebellum South, slaves fled from plantations. The point at which reasonable people flee is when the state is so totalitarian that being within society no longer maximizes their choices but minimizes them. They can no longer benefit by trading with others because the trade is taxed too highly or choked by regulations. Their life savings is stolen by currency inflation, bailouts for miscreants, senseless bureaucracy and projects, or by wars and policies that affront their morality.
If they exercise basic rights as such freedom of association, which includes non-association with anyone for any reason, then all of their rights can be stripped away through imprisonment. Or their wealth can be dissipated through lawsuits.
It takes a great deal of theft and corruption by the state to outweigh the extraordinary benefits of society. Whether or not we are at that point is a judgment call. My judgment is that we are not there yet. The tipping point may be perilously close but the state has not yet succeeded in reversing the advantages of being in society.
In pursuing those advantages and avoiding the state – in “Going Galt” – the first step is to ask yourself where and how you co-operate with and, so, support the State. Try to support society instead. Rather than making phone calls for a candidate, donate those hours to a private charity. Maintain whatever privacy you can. Never invite the state into your home even when it offers you advantages to do so.
The foregoing are vague suggestions that I will be unpacking to provide specifics in future articles. Meanwhile, as the Amish sometimes say, “Be safe out there among the English (non-Amish).”