What to Expect in an Economic Crisis

As a libertarian, I am quite optimistic for the long-term future.  I believe that technology and open communication are mostly on our side in the fight for liberty.  I consider myself more optimistic than the majority of libertarians.  One of the many things I learned from Harry Browne is that human nature is on our side.

There are no guarantees.  We can’t be certain there won’t be a nuclear war that ends the world.  We can’t be certain that there won’t be a major terrorist attack that will once again convince Americans to cede liberty for more authoritarianism.  But generally speaking, I think the odds are in our favor.

With that said, I do see economic trouble ahead.  Many people who are not libertarians think I am a pessimist for this.  But this really isn’t pessimism.  It is realism.  It is just dealing with the facts as I see them.

I could certainly be wrong.  It is my opinion.  But it is my opinion based on my own knowledge and based on the facts as I see them.

I know that when the Federal Reserve quintuples the adjusted monetary base over a period of 7 years, it is not a good thing.  Even though we have not seen a commensurate rise in consumer prices, the previously loose monetary policy has misallocated resources.  This leads to activity that does not meet the highest priorities of consumers.  At some point, the resources need to be more aligned to actual consumer demand.

We have a combination of a massive national government debt, massive unfunded liabilities (particularly Medicare and Social Security), and all of the malinvestment created from the Fed.  It is not going to be pretty when things fall apart.

Ultimately, we need some kind of a major correction so that capital is not continually misallocated.  The average American family is really struggling right now and a correction is actually what is needed for the long term.  The problem is the short term.  We can try to avoid the short term by kicking the can, but that will only lead to a bigger day of reckoning in the future.

The biggest problem for the average American family is not their stock portfolio.  Most don’t own individual stocks.  It is just their 401k retirement plans.  The biggest issue is employment.  A big correction will likely lead to higher unemployment and a drop in real wages, at least initially.

We have to consider what things will be like if and when we do hit a major recession.  For this, we have to use some common sense and also use a bit of history.

I think back to 2001.  It was a time when I often went out to eat lunch with a group of coworkers.  We usually had a good time getting away from the work building for lunch.

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, business slowed quite dramatically for a period of about three months.  I’m still not sure exactly why there was such a great impact.  If anything, there should have been a much greater impact after the fall of 2008.  We didn’t stop going out for lunch, but a lot of other people did, at least for a while.

I remember talking to a restaurant owner a couple of months after the 9/11 attacks.  He said that business had been really slow.  He was worried about the survival of his business at that time.  Of course, Alan Greenspan turned on the digital printing press, which helped revive the economy, but also led to the housing bubble and the great recession that was to come.

Anyway, the point of this story is that if we have a significant economic crisis, we should be prepared for how things will take shape.  I think the restaurant business is really going to take a hit.

Fast food restaurants may still do ok.  It is almost just as cheap to eat lunch at McDonald’s as it is to buy food at the grocery store for lunch.  I think more people are trying to eat healthier, so this has cut into McDonald’s business a bit, as well as some other fast food places.  But there are still a lot of people who will indulge for the price and convenience.  If we are in a deep recession, the family treat on Saturday night might mean eating at McDonald’s.

Sit-down restaurants will struggle a lot unless they have a special niche.  This is one of the easiest things for people to cut out of their budget.  They can save a few bucks by buying food at the grocery store instead of going out to eat.  People going to work can pack a lunch instead of buying food in a cafeteria or going out.

People will cut back on vacations.  If gas prices stay relatively low, as they should in a deep recession, then people will seek short getaway vacations for a little relief.  They will drive instead of flying.

Cable television would be one of the hardest and easiest things to give up.  It is easy in the sense that it is almost completely for entertainment.  It is not a necessity for at least 99% of the population, although many more than 1% would label it as that.  I think some people would cut back on the amount of food they eat before they give up cable.  (By the way, it might be something of a necessity for some people.  If you are sports broadcaster on the radio, you are actually expected to watch some of the big sporting events on television.)

Then there are cell phones.  It is true that smartphones didn’t exist all that long ago.  In this sense, it is not a necessity.  But I think this is one of the last luxuries that people would give up.  And for some, it actually is part of their work.  It can be terrible for time management as people waste time playing games and checking social media.

But smartphones can also be a very efficient use of time.  You can use them to do business or read or listen to educational and useful podcasts.  You can listen and learn during commutes.  And if you are ever waiting in line or waiting to see a doctor or whoever, you can make good use of your time.

While I am an advocate of saving money and not always living for today, I am also not one who thinks you should be overly frugal if you don’t have to be.  Some people like their $5 cup of coffee in the morning.  If you can afford it, and you are still saving money, and it makes your day better, then go for it.

I think the biggest thing that makes me cringe is just how much people spend on cars.  I see people spending $30,000 or more on a new car when they barely make that much in a year.  How can you justify paying even 6 months worth of a salary to buy a new car?  This is going to be an expense that many people regret when times get even tougher.  It is also going to be an industry that suffers a lot.  I expect a lot more people to be buying cars that sell for under $20,000.  There are no longer a lot of new cars that sell for this much.

If and when the next economic crisis hits, you will probably have to adjust your budget, even if you don’t lose your job.  It might be better to make some minor adjustments now so that it is not as painful when the time comes.

The most important thing is income preservation.  If you can keep your job or your source of income, you can probably weather the storm, even if you have to take a pay cut.

It is also good to be mentally prepared for an economic downturn.  This doesn’t mean walking around with a bad attitude or being paranoid.  It just means being aware of the possibilities.  Then when the time does come, it may not seem so bad.

Harry Browne’s Contributions to Liberty

I recently listened to a podcast on the Tom Woods Show.  Tom Woods interviewed Jim Babka, one of the founders of DownsizeDC.org.  I am a strong supporter of both men and their work.

The entire podcast is great, but I was especially thrilled listening to the segment when they discussed Harry Browne.  One thing Tom Woods mentioned is that many of his young listeners are probably not too familiar with Harry Browne.

It is hard to believe that he passed away over 9 years ago, but Harry Browne was such a great influence on me in many ways.  He shaped my thinking in investments and he made me more of an optimist in terms of hope for a more libertarian future.  I was lucky to meet Harry in person one time in 2004.

I was already somewhat libertarian when I became familiar with Harry Browne.  But he brought me over the edge on foreign policy and I have been strongly anti-war since about 2003.  It was Browne’s writings and talk show that convinced me of a non-interventionist foreign policy.  I listened to him frequently in 2002 during the run-up to the Iraq War.

I was sympathetic with American intervention when it supposedly involved helping people under a brutal dictator or when a weaker group of people were being abused or slaughtered by another group.  Browne made the point that any individual should be free to help others in any way they want, whether it is donating money or taking up arms and going overseas.  But nobody should be forced to pay for it or be forced to fight.

I also quickly realized that things were not clean cut.  It was not usually good vs. evil.  It was more often evil vs. evil.  Or sometimes it was just the U.S. government completely lying about the situation.

Harry Browne wrote some magnificent books and I also remember always looking forward to his new articles.  I really do miss him and I wish he could have been alive to see the great success that Ron Paul had in 2007/ 2008.  The libertarian movement is a lot bigger now than it was in the early 2000s.

I can’t emphasize enough just how much of an impact Harry Browne has had on the libertarian movement.  He was one of the few people who reached a relatively wide audience (for those days) and taught them how to be principled while also selling the message.

Ron Paul has created more libertarians than probably anyone in human history.  It was mostly from his 2007/ 2008 presidential campaign.  But we can’t ignore that this likely would not have happened – or at least to the degree that it did – if there had not already been a core base of hardcore libertarians.

When people first discovered Ron Paul, they needed somewhere to go for more information.  They needed books and articles to read.  They turned to places such as the Mises Institute, LewRockwell.com, and even Harry Browne’s website.  They relied on books by hardcore libertarians such as Murray Rothbard, Thomas DiLorenzo, Tom Woods, and Harry Browne.  They also turned to some who were in some way part of the liberty movement such as Ayn Rand.

People such as Harry Browne helped lay the groundwork for what was to come.  Harry even impacted Ron Paul, as Ron Paul gave great praise to Harry and his work.

If you are a libertarian in your 20s, or if you are just relatively new to the libertarian movement, I would encourage you to read some Harry Browne articles.  You might want to even consider purchasing some of his books.

Income Inequality Increases

I recently saw this chart in an article I was reading.  It indicates that income inequality increased greatly after the early 1970s in the United States.


I don’t care all that much about income inequality, except as it is perceived by others.  The problem I have is that the top 1% have prospered while most of the rest have been stagnant in terms of income.

While the statistics aren’t perfect, real household income is a good measure of whether living standards are increasing as they should.  There is no question that we are better off today in terms of technology and communication.  The problem is that our incomes have not increased in real terms for basic needs such as housing, food, medical care, and education.

Of course, 1971 was the year that Nixon took the U.S. off the international gold standard.  The U.S. was already inflating, which is why Nixon was essentially forced to do this.  Otherwise, all of the gold would have been gone quickly.

The last 4 decades have seen unprecedented growth in government spending and deficits.  This has gone hand in hand with easy money policies and artificially low interest rates.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that the top income earners have done well in this system while the rest have been left behind.

We have to hear all of this complaining by the anti-capitalist left about income inequality.  But it is the anti-capitalist policies that are driving the increased inequality.  It is corporatism and central banking that favor the rich.

If everyone were prospering at approximately the same rate, there would be nothing wrong with inequality.  Anyone who complains about it just because it is exists is doing so out of envy or just to be a demagogue.  I don’t care if billionaires make billions more, as long as it is not being done at anyone else’s expense.  If all classes are rising, there is no problem.

Therefore, the solution is to get rid of central banking and corporatism.  We also need much lower taxes and government regulation in general.  We need to drastically cut government spending.

This will eventually lead to real rising income for lower class and middle class Americans.  It may mean rising income for the upper class too, but that is good for them.

In a true free market, the rich don’t get richer at the expense of others.  They get rich by serving others and making people’s lives better.

A Trump Path to Victory

Donald Trump has made the current presidential race interesting.  Some of his positions are abysmal from a libertarian point of view.  For a hugely successful businessman, he is nearly incompetent when it comes to economics.

While Trump is a billionaire and by far the richest candidate, he does seem to be more in touch with the average American.  He acknowledges that the middle class is struggling.  I think Americans want this acknowledged, even if the person does not have all of the answers.

Bernie Sanders will talk about how the poor and middle class are taking it on the chin, but all of his solutions are more calls for bigger government – hardly a solution to our economic woes.

Back in 1999, Trump was toying with the idea of running for president.  He proposed a one-time wealth tax of 14.25 percent in order to pay off the national debt.  That was at a time when the national debt was relatively small compared to today.

Trump’s proposal at the time applied to wealthy people with over $10 million.  This is really a blatant violation of property rights and it is completely un-American.  Aside from the moral aspects, it is also terrible economics.

Imagine if there were a one-time wealth tax imposed of 14.25% on any wealth over $10 million.  First, most wealthy people would be hiring extra lawyers and tax accountants in an attempt to hide their wealth or move it offshore.

And what about people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett?  If Bill Gates has $50 billion and all of a sudden owes $7 billion to the government, he isn’t just going to write a check from his bank account.  He would probably have to sell a lot of stock, including billions of dollars in Microsoft stock.  When you figure that Gates, Buffett, and other wealthy individuals will be selling stocks, it would crash the market.

And what about an entrepreneur that owns a small business?  If he has a net worth of $30 million because of his business, would he have to pony up several million dollars in a wealth tax?  Would he be forced to sell his business or liquidate some of his assets?

And what about someone who owns real estate?  Would he have to quickly sell some of his big holdings in order to pay the wealth tax?

You can see the problem here.  Trump either didn’t think this through at the time, or he was just being a demagogue.

I haven’t heard Trump talking about this nonsense this time around.  Some of his economic policies are still bad, but not this bad.

I have been listening to an audio book by Robert Kiyosaki, the author of the Rich Dad Poor Dad series.  Trump and Kiyosaki previously coauthored a book together.  While Kiyosaki is not exactly fluent in Austrian school economics, he does have a pretty good understanding of money and the Fed.  If Trump gets elected president, I hope he appoints Kiyosaki as Treasury secretary.

On foreign policy, Trump actually sounds better and more reasonable than most of the rest of the candidates.  It is hard to say what he would actually do in office, but his words are somewhat encouraging that he will at least be rational.

As for Trump’s political incorrectness, I love it.  It is refreshing in today’s world.

Rand Paul made a big mistake in the first debate by attacking Trump.  Well, Rand Paul has made a lot of mistakes, but I really don’t know what he was thinking on this.  According to the Washington Examiner, he is going to continue to attack Trump.

But it is the anti-establishment Republican voters who are going for Trump.  These are the people who Rand Paul needs.  He can’t get them by insulting Trump.  He has already turned them off.  Ted Cruz has been smarter in this respect by keeping a cordial relationship with Trump.  If Trump does trip up on something, then Cruz may get some of his supporters.

While Trump is saying that Rand Paul should drop out, he shouldn’t really mean it.  The problem is that about half of the Republican voters still would prefer almost anyone over Trump.  The more people in the race, the better it is for Trump.

Trump seems to be solid at around 33%.  The other dozen or so candidates are all splitting up the votes.  If a lot of people drop out and it comes down to one or two challengers against Trump and it happens early enough, then Trump could be in trouble for the Republican nomination.

It is funny how worried the establishment is over Trump.  Even though his policies are not that anti-establishment, I think it bothers them that he can’t be easily bought.  This means he cannot be easily controlled, which bothers the establishment more than anything.  Unfortunately, the establishment had trouble controlling Kennedy too and we know how that ended.

The one person more disliked than Trump is Hillary Clinton.  But remember that her husband won his first presidential election with a little over 40% of the popular vote.  The best thing for Hillary Clinton would be Trump losing the Republican nomination and then running third-party.

I still don’t know if Trump will pull this off, but at least it is fun to watch the establishment squirm.  Trump is nothing close to being a libertarian, but at least he seems to be a little less pro war than most of the others.  If Trump does win, I will be promoting Kiyosaki for his cabinet.

Back to the Future – Time Flies

October 21, 2015 marks the day that Marty McFly went to the future in Back to the Future II.  Aside from making us feel old, it is interesting to reflect on where we are versus where the movie writers put us.

Thirty years is a long time in our day.  Over history, 30 years is nothing.  It is said that the people of 200 years ago had more in common with people who lived 2,000 years ago than they would with us today.  People of 200 years ago could not conceive of the world today.  Even people 100 years ago would have trouble, although they did see the beginning of the miracles of electricity and human flight.

In Back to the Future II, there were hover boards, video conferencing, and flying cars in 2015.  The video conferencing is very real today with Skype, Facetime, etc.

Hover boards are being worked on now and they may become a consumer good in the years to come.

While we don’t really have flying cars, or at least nothing practical to use, self-driving cars are just coming on to the scene.  It is not hard to imagine that self-driving cars will be a common thing in 10 years.

While we haven’t yet reached some of the technology that the Back to the Future II writers had in mind, we have surged ahead in terms of communications and electronics.  In the 1980s, the internet did not exist, or at least not in any functional form.  Now it is a major part of our lives.

We do some of our shopping from the comfort of our homes.  We communicate instantly with email, text messaging, video conferencing, etc.

Probably the most incredible thing is just the wealth of information that exists on the web.  Encyclopedias have become obsolete.  We can look up practically anything and get most of the answers within seconds.  It is truly amazing.

If you walk the streets, there is nothing really different today than 30 years ago.  The major difference is seeing people walking around with their smartphones, either talking on them or looking at the screen.

There are always changes in dress and style.  Sometimes they go through cycles.  We have seen some styles return from the 70s and 80s.  Marty McFly’s “life preserver” in Back to the Future was foreign to the 1950s, but it would also be rather foreign to today’s world.

Discussing technology and the future is an interesting conversation to have.  It is amazing how fast things are progressing.  At the same time, as a libertarian, it is a bit depressing knowing how much further we could be if we had an environment of more peace and freer markets.

Technology continues to increase, yet the American middle class continues to struggle.  While the stagnant living standards in terms of basic needs is a bit depressing, it is also encouraging that life goes on and technology keeps advancing at an extraordinary pace.

While many people will celebrate October 21 as Back to the Future day, November 5, 2015 is significant for me.  In Back to the Future (Part I), Marty McFly goes back in time to November 5, 1955.

This gives us a major reality check on time and how fast it passes.  I was a kid in 1985, but I saw the movie and liked it.  It was probably 1986 when I first saw it.  If you are old enough to remember seeing the movie in the 1980s, even if it wasn’t right when it came out, try to remember how you felt about the 1950s.  Those were the old days.  I remember thinking, “so that is what the world looked like when my parents were kids.”

For kids growing up today, the 1980s to them is what the 50s were to me and my generation.  It is a long time ago.

Thirty years can pass in the blink of an eye.  If you have something you want to accomplish in life, you should not put it off.

The lesson from the Back to the Future movies is not about technology and what we have developed and what we have to look forward to.  It is an interesting topic, but there isn’t a lot there for self-improvement.

The lesson is that time flies.  Don’t have regrets when you look back years from now.  If there is something you want to try that is not high risk, then maybe you should try it.  Some people will regret things they did in the past.  Some people will regret things that they didn’t do in the past.

Paid Family Medical Leave

With the Democratic race for the presidential nomination now in full swing, I want to take on one of the issues that was brought up at the debate.

All of the candidates are proposing big government programs.  The cynic in me says it is all an attempt to buy votes.  It is a contest to see who can propose the biggest promises to the most number of people.

Proposals have included raising the minimum wage, equal pay for women, free college tuition, free child care, and paid family medical leave.  That is not nearly an exhaustive list.

The only candidate amongst the Democrats who has acknowledged that there is a cost to these programs is Jim Webb.  Otherwise, they all have an answer of bigger government to every problem, or even every non-problem.

In the case of Hillary Clinton, she proposed equal pay for women in the same breath as paid family medical leave.  In other words, according to Clinton, employers should be required to pay women more, while also being forced to pay them for having babies.  If you are an employer, it would give you an incentive to not hire women.

This is common in government proposals.  The groups that are supposedly going to be helped by a new government program are the people who actually get hurt the most by it.

When the Americans with Disabilities Act passed and put strict requirements on what employers had to provide, it actually gave an incentive to employers to not hire handicapped people.  Who wants to deal with significantly higher expenses along with a bigger threat of a lawsuit?

I have dealt with the issue of equal pay for women before.  As a libertarian, I believe fully in freedom of association, including the right to discriminate.  I also believe that the free market makes discrimination less likely to occur.  Money is a great motivator in that respect.

So what about paid family medical leave?  People like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will say that the U.S. is the only advanced country that doesn’t provide this.  But who really is “providing” it?

From a libertarian perspective, this government program – like most others – is morally wrong because it uses force or the threat of force.  If an employer does not abide by the law, it will result in fines, possible bankruptcy, and eventual arrest if taken far enough.

In terms of economics, this is also bad policy, unless you happen to be a family giving birth to a child.  Then you will benefit in the short term at the expense of others.  You probably won’t benefit in the long term.

Let’s say the government passes a new law requiring employers to pay a woman for 6 weeks if she is out on maternity leave.  What if the woman was just hired?  Can she start collecting a paycheck and then go off on maternity leave and continue to collect a paycheck while not working?  Will the law require a woman to be with the company for so long?

This would be an incentive for a pregnant woman to get a job.  She can collect her free money and then quit her job as soon as her paid maternity leave expires.  In the world of Bernie Sanders, maybe she can collect her vacation time too before quitting.

This law would also be an incentive for companies to not hire pregnant women, or even women of child-bearing age.  Do you really want to hire someone and then be forced to pay them when they are not giving you any productivity?

A law such as this would likely have the perverse effect of making it more difficult for women to find jobs.

Also, as the Democrats talk about equal pay for women, a standalone law requiring paid maternity leave would actually lead to lower pay for women.  A company is going to spread out its risk by paying women slightly less, knowing that a certain percentage will be collecting money while not working.

This view by people who support forcing employers to pay for leave is that the mission of businesses should be to take care of employees.  But a business’ mission is to take care of its owners/ shareholders by taking care of its customers.  Its decisions are really based on pleasing customers because they are the ones paying the money.

This isn’t to say that companies should not treat employees well.  Part of running a successful company is usually treating employees well enough that you retain good talent.  In a free market environment with increasing capital investment and competition to retain dependable employees, real wages will increase.

Some companies may choose to voluntarily pay women a certain amount when they are on maternity leave.  That should be their decision as to how they want to retain employees and keep a healthy work environment.

In the long run, mandating pay for those taking maternity leave or other kinds of medical leave will make virtually everyone poorer.  It is a misallocation of resources that incentivizes less production.

It imposes an added cost to employers at a time when employers already have huge costs in the form of payroll taxes, unemployment taxes, corporate taxes, and huge regulatory burdens.  This would essentially be another tax.

This gets passed on to somebody in some way.  Wealth does not automatically appear with the signing of new legislation to fund the people going on medical leave.  It may mean lower profits for companies, meaning reduced shareholder value.  It may mean reduced wages for employees.  It may mean reduced employment.  It may mean higher prices for consumer goods.  It may mean all of these things.

Politicians who advocate programs such as paid family medical leave are likely not doing it because they are kind and caring.  They are doing it to exploit the economic ignorance of the people.  These programs are morally wrong, and they are bad economics.

Politics as a Measure of Public Opinion

I take an interest in politics, especially national politics.  It is a little ironic in that I consider myself anti-political.  I believe that the way forward for liberty does not lie in politics.

If politics is at all useful to libertarians, it should be for only two things.  One is to use it as a platform to educate others, just as Ron Paul has done.

Second, if you want to get into politics and have any effect, it should be done at a local level.  You will have a greater impact if you can have one at all.

Yet here I am interested in national politics.  I am far from being the only hardcore libertarian to feel this way.  I see it as something of a game, even though lives are at stake.

It is also good to know what is going on, not just because I sometimes write about it, but also because I know that other people are paying attention and want to talk about it.  I know that most people who pay attention will have someone they favor, but it is still an opening to have a general discussion about the role of government and the fact that just about everything it does is based on force or the threat of force.

There is also something else that political races, especially for the presidency, give us.  They give us a little bit of a hint about public opinion and what the climate is.

While Ron Paul didn’t have much of a chance to get the Republican nomination in 2008 or 2012, it was still very encouraging from a libertarian point of view.  Most libertarians could not have imagined in early 2007 what would happen with the fundraising and the overall enthusiasm.  He ended up receiving in the ballpark of 2 million votes in 2012, and this was in the Republican primaries/ caucuses.

Some anti-liberty people in the media are saying that libertarianism is dead now because Rand Paul is doing so poorly in the polls.  I don’t know if these people really mean it or if they are just being demagogues.  But I don’t believe this at all.  The reason is that Rand Paul is not a libertarian, therefore, he is not receiving the support of most libertarians.

On the other hand, I have heard a few libertarians say that Ron Paul might have a chance at the nomination this coming year if he were running again.  I don’t believe that either, as there are still too many war hawks in the Republican Party.  I do believe he would probably improve even more over the last campaign cycle.

The Republican race has been interesting this year.  It is mostly because of Donald Trump.  He is the entertainment.  Rand Paul has been a dud.  I wonder if Paul will regret this campaign later in life.  He could have chosen a path more like his father and left something of a legacy.  His only legacy here is a failed campaign.  He didn’t convert anyone to be a libertarian.

In the Republican race, there are three “outsiders”.  They are not exactly outsiders, but they haven’t held political office before.  Between Trump, Carson, and Fiorina, they have over 50% of the support in the polls.  I can’t stand Fiorina and her desire for more war, but it is still interesting.

Meanwhile, the establishment candidates are doing terrible.  Jeb Bush has spent a load of money and he can’t get to 10% in most polls. Scott Walker was so bad that he dropped out of the race.

This tells you that Americans, at least within the Republican Party, are not happy with the status quo.  They are tired of the establishment, even within the party.  I believe the middle class is struggling a lot and that is a major reason for turning away from the establishment candidates.

Donald Trump’s positions in most areas are terrible, but I think he may be a decent guy.  It is hard to know for sure.  His supporters obviously don’t care that he is rich, or they may even see it as a benefit.  I think they also like the fact that he is blunt.  He is not politically correct, which I believe a majority of Americans are tired of.  They are tired of being afraid to say something that is deemed un-PC.

I’m not sure what to say about the Democratic race.  They are all a bunch of hacks except for Jim Webb.  It’s not to say that I like the Republicans, but at least they don’t talk as if the whole American populace is completely stupid.

The Democratic candidates are in a competition to see who can give away the most free goodies through the use of government force.  Webb is the only one who acknowledges that there is any cost to it.

And the political correctness and the sucking up is just beyond ridiculous.  When a bunch of people are afraid to utter the phrase “all lives matter”, you know we have reached a point of insanity.

It is mildly encouraging that Hillary Clinton is not completely coasting to the nomination.  Bernie Sanders is terrible in most areas, but at least he is a little bit decent when it comes to foreign policy.  I just have to tell myself that the Democrats only make up about a third of the voting population, so it isn’t all bad, especially if some of them do go to Jim Webb.

Unfortunately, most of the Republicans are still very pro war, but that has gotten a little better.  At least Trump has come out with some less militaristic proposals.

Overall, I see great dissatisfaction with the status quo.  Most Americans are not happy with the government.  The problem is that most still cannot quite figure out what the problem is.  They certainly can’t articulate it.

In this sense, I really wish Ron Paul were on the debate stage again to straighten everyone out.  He would be the voice of reason.  He would be educating millions of more people.

This is why our work is so important as libertarians.  We have to spread our message in a coherent way.  It doesn’t mean arguing with people, but gently pushing them in our direction.

There is great discontent out there if the polls are any indication.  It is something that libertarians can continue to tap into.  Technology is on our side and our numbers have grown greatly over the last 8 years.

Libertarianism is far from dead.  It is rising.  There are just no libertarians in the presidential race to show this.

Democratic Presidential Debate – October 13, 2015

I am suffering through the Democratic presidential debate on CNN.  I don’t know if I will be able to do an analysis like this again.  I have already done two for the Republican debates, but at least those had some entertainment with Trump.

Watching a Democratic debate is watching a contest on who can promise the most money to the most number of people.  In the world of Democratic politics, costs don’t exist.  You can raise the minimum wage, have paid family medical leave, free tuition for college, etc., all at the point of the government’s guns, and you never have to worry about how you will pay for it.  You just repeal the Bush tax cuts and the money is there.

I didn’t care for Anderson Cooper.  He seemed to interrupt the candidates a lot, especially when they were finishing their sentences.  Still, CNN probably did a better job than Fox News.

I will attempt a brief analysis here.  This is both from a libertarian perspective and how I think others will view the candidates, even though it is hard for me to get into the head of an average Democrat.

Lincoln Chafee

He is the only one who would not throw Edward Snowden in a jail.  He also emphasized his vote against the Iraq War.  So from a libertarian perspective, there were  few things to like.

Overall, I thought he was dull though and I believe others will see him the same way.  I highly doubt he has any chance.

It is also interesting that he claims to have never changed his positions in going from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.  He says the Republicans left him.  I say it just shows how little difference there is between the two major parties.

Martin O’Malley

I originally thought he would be the big challenger for Hillary Clinton.  He is a major leftist, but he doesn’t even get to claim the far left mantle on the stage.  If Clinton gets in more trouble with scandals, and Biden doesn’t enter the race, O’Malley still has a chance.  He should probably stay in the race just because he could win by default if Clinton’s supporters are forced to abandon her and go with someone else.

Jim Webb

Webb spent half of his time talking about how he wasn’t being given enough time and that he needed more time.

This is far from an endorsement of Webb, but he seems to be the most logical person on the stage.  He was more reasonable on gun control and he is the only one who came close to admitting that there are costs to all of these government schemes being offered.

When the candidates were asked whether “black lives matter” or “all lives matter”, they were all scared to say that all lives matter.  I thought Webb should have taken the opportunity to differentiate himself.  Even within the Democratic Party, blacks do not make up a majority of the voters.  And even many black people will accept the radical statement (note the sarcasm) that all lives matter.

I know there exist some somewhat reasonable and rational Americans out there who are registered Democrat.  Webb should try to get these people and stake himself as the only non-leftist.

Bernie Sanders

Sanders is a self-avowed democratic socialist.  But he just likes to talk about the top 1%.  His economic views are terrible and basically don’t make any sense.

Sanders was decent on foreign policy, but he is no Ron Paul.  He is just less of a war hawk than the other candidates in the race.  I was hoping he would give Clinton an even harder time than he did.  Sanders also showed opposition against the NSA, which was good to hear.

Sanders said that black lives matter and criticized the fact that the U.S. has the greatest prison population in the world.  But he said nothing about the war on drugs.  When asked later, he mildly supported the legalization of marijuana.  Big deal.  For someone on the far left, he sure is terrible on the issue of the drug war.  Sanders has previously avoided the subject by saying it isn’t that big of an issue.  But if he cares about the large percentage of black people in prison, he should care about the drug war and its harmful effects.

Hillary Clinton

What can I say about Hillary Clinton?  I already think she is a career criminal who desperately wants to exercise power over others.

She spoke about wanting equal pay for women.  In the next breath, she spoke about wanting paid family medical leave.  So employers are supposed to pay women more while also paying them for having babies.  If you combine her two proposals, it sounds like a formula for increasing unemployment for women.

She is still forced to defend her support for the Iraq War and she was well prepared to do so.  Clinton is a decent debater, as she has had a lot of practice in the past.

Clinton is a war hawk.  She softens her positions in the primary debates.  But we know her record as senator and secretary of state.

Overall, I don’t think that much is going to change after this debate.  We will have to see if Joe Biden gets in and brings a little entertainment.  Clinton is still the frontrunner, but you never know what will happen with the email scandal or any other scandal.

Please forgive me if I don’t do a full analysis the next time there is a Democratic debate.  Watching a couple of hours of this is not without pain.

Treasury Yields Aren’t Indicating Much

You can view the latest U.S. Treasury yields here.  For the month of October, the one-month and three-month yields have been at zero on most days.  A few days they were at .01%.

It is hard to say why anyone would buy short-term treasuries at zero percent.  Then again, there were negative yields at one point in Germany and Switzerland, even on longer-term debt.

It was a little more understandable in Europe, especially during the crisis in Greece.  (The crisis isn’t over yet, but it has temporarily settled down.)  If I lived in Greece and had the options of putting my money in a Greek bank or putting my money in a German bond that yielded (if that is the right word) a negative interest rate, I would go with the German bond.

The fact that U.S. Treasuries are at or near zero shows that our economy is in a continual state of fear.  The stock market is not an indicator of what is happening in the general economy.  If it crashes quickly, it may give us a sign of what is to come for the economy.  But the gains over the last 6 years have not been commensurate with prosperity for the middle class.

The 30-year yield is currently just under 3%.  The 10-year yield is just over 2%.  It has been in a relatively narrow range lately.

The inverted yield curve – where short-term rates are higher than long-term rates – has been a good past indicator of a coming recession.  In many ways, this no longer works.  The long rates would have to fall to near zero, unless the short rates went up significantly.  I don’t see that happening.  I think the best we can hope to see as far as a warning sign is just a somewhat flattening yield curve.

The Fed pumped in over $3 trillion over a period of about 6 years (2008-2014).  Much of this money went into excess reserves held by banks.  This has helped keep price inflation down because it is not being multiplied by fractional reserve lending.

It is obvious that most investors have little fear of price inflation right now.  The gold price has been trading in a relatively narrow range.  And when the 30-year yield is less than 3%, it tells you that bond investors have little fear of inflation.

The fact that QE3 – the Fed’s latest round of money creation – ended almost a year ago, indicates that the long-term rates are not being manipulated by the Fed to any great degree right now.  Investors have little fear of inflation and virtually no fear of default.  On the last point, they are probably correct, but you never know what could happen 30 years from now.

We also have to consider that foreign investors (which could include foreign central banks) have an impact on U.S. yields.  Perhaps foreign investors are seeking more safety, which would include an investment denominated in dollars.

Unless you need liquid money in a specific period in the future, I don’t see the point of investing in short-term U.S. government debt.  If you know you are going to be buying a house in just over a year and you have a down payment already saved, I can understand buying a one-year cd or something similar.

I can also appreciate buying long-term bonds.  I advocate a permanent portfolio as described by Harry Browne in his book Fail-Safe Investing.  Long-term bonds aren’t an attractive investment right now, but they do give you some diversification, especially as protection against a bad recession or depression with falling rates.

The bottom line is that the economy never really recovered.  The Fed has attempted to cover up the problems by artificially boosting the economy, but even this has been modest in terms of growth.  Meanwhile, the Fed has built up massive malinvestment with its money creation.  It just has not resulted in massive price inflation because of the continued fear.

The American middle class is right to be afraid.  They know – or at least sense – that their incomes are not keeping up with the basic costs of living.  Health insurance has been the biggest killer, but even food and housing have been tough.

A recession is already baked into the cake based on the Fed’s previous actions.  It is just a matter of when and how big.  For the American middle class, they will actually be better off in the long-term if the recession happens sooner rather than later.

A recession will be tough no matter what, particularly with unemployment, as resources reallocate to fit actual consumer demand.  Americans need a recession to clear out the misallocated resources and to bring prices more in line with their incomes.

In a true free market, near-zero interest rates would be indicating that savings are really high.  Unfortunately, this is not the case because the Fed has greatly distorted the marketplace, including the marketplace of interest rates.  We are still going to pay dearly for the Fed’s actions since late 2008.  It is just a matter of when.


We are still trying to learn the details of a bombing mission against a hospital in Afghanistan.  The death toll is currently reported at 22, but it will likely rise further as many people were severely injured or unaccounted for.  It also doesn’t take into account that the hospital was basically destroyed and won’t be around any more.

The timing of this event was interesting.  Just days before, there was a mass shooting at a community college that took the lives of 10 people, including the killer.

In a matter of hours, Obama was in front of the cameras.  But he wasn’t just offering his sympathies.  He was babbling on about the need for more gun control.  He sounded like George W. Bush at times, not so much in what he was saying, but in how he sounded like a bumbling fool.  At one point, he was trying to sound out the word “purport” and he couldn’t spit it out, so he used a different word.  He sounded like Porky Pig.

Meanwhile, Putin announced that Russia would get involved in the mess in Syria.  Russian planes started a bombing campaign supposedly against ISIS.  The U.S. government started complaining and warning the Russians of civilian casualties.

I am not one to frequently quote the Bible, but this passage is quite appropriate (roughly translated): ” First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”

Then the news came of this attack on a hospital in Afghanistan.  12 of the dead so far were staff.  It was run by the organization known as Doctors Without Borders.

The organization is fighting back.  They are not accepting any excuses by the U.S. government of collateral damage, as they shouldn’t.

Let’s hope this is a defining event.  The U.S. military has killed thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq.  None of these people had a trial.  If you take the total deaths from the chaos of the wars, there are hundreds of thousands dead.  The blood is on the hands of the U.S. military and those who commanded them to go to war.

This story is getting more attention than the many wedding parties and businesses that U.S. drones and planes have blown up.  The doctors from the hospital command more respect.  They have more credibility.  They can speak English.

They have also said that the U.S. military was given the coordinates of the hospital to avoid this type of scenario.  It is either a case of total incompetence or a vicious attack.  Even if it was incompetence, which is looking less likely, it is still murder.

The U.S. government has already been changing its story on what happened.  It is already contradicting former claims and claims by hospital workers.  I will take the word of the hospital workers who are the victims, not the ones dropping the bombs and killing innocent people.

But let’s talk about gun control Obama.  Or maybe that is O-bomb-a.  More gun control would likely have done nothing to prevent the murders at the college.  But Obama can directly control what the military is doing in Afghanistan.  He can simply stop the drone bombings and the plane bombings and that will start saving lives right away.

If there is going to be any gun control, it should be for U.S. troops occupying foreign countries.  They cannot have weapons because they are carelessly killing innocent people.  We need bomb and missile control too.  Again, it is something that Obama can put a stop to right away.

But instead, O-bomb-a is going to lecture us on guns while he oversees the murder of innocent civilians in foreign countries.

In the case of the school shooting, the killer would have gone to jail if he had survived.  What will happen with the murderers of the people in Afghanistan?  Will anyone go to jail for this?  We know what the answer should be versus what the answer is.

Obama and Bush should share a jail cell for the mass murder of thousands of people, along with those who did the actual killing.  Or maybe they can spend the rest of their lives paying restitution to all of the families of the victims.  The American people need to put a stop to this killing that is being done in their name.