The Death Cult of Collectivism

The reproach of individualism is commonly leveled against economics on the basis of an alleged irreconcilable conflict between the interests of society and those of the individual.
Classical and subjectivist economics, it is said, give an undue priority to the interests of the individual over those of society and generally contend, in conscious denial of the facts, that a harmony of interests prevails between them. It would be the task of genuine science to show that the whole is superior to the parts and that the individual has to subordinate himself to, and conduct himself for, the benefit of society and to sacrifice his selfish private interests to the common good.
In the eyes of those who hold this point of view society must appear as a means designed by Providence to attain ends that are hidden from us. The individual must bow to the will of Providence and must sacrifice his own interests so that its will may be done. His greatest duty is obedience. He must subordinate himself to the leaders and live just as they command.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on 12/30/2017.

Why Profit Is So Important

In most cultures, profit is seen as the outcome of exploitation of some individuals by some other individuals.
Hence, anyone who is seen as striving to make profits is regarded as bad news and the enemy of society and must be stopped in time from inflicting damage.
Profit however, has nothing to do with exploitation – it is about the most efficient use of real funding or real savings.
Profit as such should be seen as an indicator as it were, with respect to whether real savings are employed in the best possible way, as far as promoting people’s life and wellbeing is concerned.
If the employment of real savings results in the expansion of the pool of real savings, this could be seen as indicative that this employment was done in a profitable manner.
Conversely, if there is a decline in the pool of real savings as a result of the particular actions of individuals then this could be seen as indicative of a loss. These actions caused the squandering of real savings.
Obviously, an expansion in the pool of real savings, which is the heart of economic growth and is manifested through profits, should be regarded as the key factor for raising individuals’ living standards.
Rather than being condemned, individuals that are instrumental in the expansion of the pool of real wealth, which is manifested in terms of profits, should be praised.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Dec 27, 2017.

The Dark Power Behind the Financial Asset Bubbles – Whose Fool Are You?

“While everyone enjoys an economic party the long-term costs of a bubble to the economy and society are potentially great. They include a reduction in the long-term saving rate, a seemingly random distribution of wealth, and the diversion of financial human capital into the acquisition of wealth.
As in the United States in the late 1920s and Japan in the late 1980s, the case for a central bank ultimately to burst that bubble becomes overwhelming. I think it is far better that we do so while the bubble still resembles surface froth and before the bubble carries the economy to stratospheric heights. Whenever we do it, it is going to be painful, however.’
Larry Lindsey, Federal Reserve Governor, September 24, 1996 FOMC Minutes
‘I recognise that there is a stock market bubble problem at this point, and I agree with Governor Lindsey that this is a problem that we should keep an eye on…. We do have the possibility of raising major concerns by increasing margin requirements. I guarantee that if you want to get rid of the bubble, whatever it is, that will do it.’
Alan Greenspan, September 24, 1996 FOMC Minutes
“Where a bubble becomes so large as to pose a threat the entire economic system, the central bank may appropriately decide to use monetary policy to counteract a bubble, notwithstanding the effects that monetary tightening might have elsewhere in the economy.
But how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade? And how do we factor that assessment into monetary policy? We as central bankers need not be concerned if a collapsing financi

This post was published at Jesses Crossroads Cafe on 27 DECEMBER 2017.

Christmas Tree Protectionism

Whether it’s for cheap steel or cheap tires, Americans are supposed to be afraid of trade with China because it provides us with products we want at low prices. But to the damage allegedly inflicted on our economy by those who would save us money, must we now add…artificial Christmas trees?
According to a November 27 story in Breitbart News, Chinese companies dominate the domestic market, and their fake trees are ‘driving’ Christmas tree-growers in Oregon out of business. The number of fake trees sold in the U. S. ‘more than doubled’ from 2010 to 2016 (my wife and I contributed to that statistic, purchasing our beloved tree in 2014) while the number of Christmas trees cut and sold dropped by twenty-six percent. The number of ‘active growers’ dropped by thirty percent. All of which is supposed to alarm us.
There’s no reason to be concerned. Demand for real trees is declining in favor of artificial trees because more consumers prefer their convenience, quality, and price. Breitbart claims this is a ‘vicious cycle,’ but it’s just a reflection of consumer desire.
Consumers in the U. S. are buying fake trees because they are cheaper, and because they believe fake trees to be healthier and safer. In a market economy we each decide to the best of our ability which products and services we require; that’s an important part of life in a free society. Oregon tree-growers will suffer the ill-effects of this trend, but players in the market voluntarily take that risk (for which they rightly deserve any reward). Consumers save money, which can then be spent on other things we desire, and our homes have fewer allergens. Perhaps even fewer fires.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on December 26, 2017.

The Economic Lessons of Bethlehem

At the heart of the Christmas story rests some important lessons concerning free enterprise, government, and the role of wealth in society.
Let’s begin with one of the most famous phrases: ‘There’s no room at the inn.’ This phrase is often invoked as if it were a cruel and heartless dismissal of the tired travelers Joseph and Mary. Many renditions of the story conjure up images of the couple going from inn to inn only to have the owner barking at them to go away and slamming the door.
In fact, the inns were full to overflowing in the entire Holy Land because of the Roman emperor’s decree that everyone be counted and taxed. Inns are private businesses, and customers are their lifeblood. There would have been no reason to turn away this man of royal lineage and his beautiful, expecting bride. In any case, the second chapter of St. Luke doesn’t say that they were continually rejected at place after place. It tells of the charity of a single inn owner, perhaps the first person they encountered, who, after all, was a businessman. His inn was full, but he offered them what he had: the stable. There is no mention that the innkeeper charged the couple even one copper coin, though given his rights as a property owner, he certainly could have.

This post was published at Mises Canada on DECEMBER 25, 2017.

Robots Purge Homeless From San Francisco Sidewalks

As the homeless crisis on America’s West Coast forces many cities to the financial brink, one innovative animal shelter in San Francisco is using a low cost, high-tech robot security guard to shoo away the homeless outside its facilities, the San Francisco Business Times reported.
The San Francisco branch of the SPCA (the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) contracted Knightscope to provide a k5 robot (the same model which in July commited suicide at a mall fountain) for securing the outdoor spaces of the animal shelter. Knightscope’s business model allows the SPCA to rent the robot for around $7 an hour, which is about $3 less than the minimum wage in California. According to San Francisco Business Times, the robot was deployed as a ‘way to try dealing with the growing number of needles, car break-ins and crime that seemed to emanate from nearby tent encampments of homeless people.


This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 14, 2017.

Toronto’s Housing Bubble Is Crushing The Strip Club Industry

Until now, Canada’s soaring housing prices were just another innocent asset bubble spawned by low interest rates and an endless supply of Chinese cash that needed to get laundered. That said, massive bubbles are almost always followed by severe unintended consequences that can have a crippling impact on society as a whole…and in Toronto those unintended consequences are now manifesting themselves in the form of a rapidly deteriorating supply of strip clubs.
As Bloomberg points out today, the soaring value of Toronto real estate has made it all but impossible for strip club owners to turn down multi-million offers from condo developers leaving only a dozen strip clubs in a city whose purple neon lights used to be easily visible from the distant fringes of our solar system.
Condos are killing the Toronto strip club. In a city that once had more than 60 bars with nude dancers, only a dozen remain, the rest replaced by condominiums, restaurants, and housewares stores. Demand for homes downtown and for the retailers that serve them is driving land prices to records, tempting owners of the clubs, most of which are family-run, to sell at a time when business is slowing.
‘Sometimes I feel like the last living dinosaur along Yonge Street,’ says Allen Cooper, the second-generation owner of the famous – or infamous – Zanzibar Tavern. The former divorce lawyer says he has been approached by at least 30 suitors for his property in the past few years but is holding out for a ‘blow my socks off’ offer. ‘I don’t know how many condos we’re going to get, but it seems like just a wall’ of them, Cooper says.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 12, 2017.

“They Called It ‘The Rape Room'” – 10 Women Share Chilling Details Of Ken Friedman’s Sexual Abuse

In a bombshell report that has rattled the food world, several former employees of restaurant impresario Ken Friedman shared chilling details of the sexual harassment and abuse they suffered at Friedman’s hands with the New York Times, describing the omerta that existed among staffers at his restaurant, who inevitably accepted the harassment as part of a job that offered many perks, including great pay and bonuses in the form of concert tickets and other in-demand items.
In addition to Friedman, the story also includes many lewd anecdotes of the egregiously inappropriate sexual misconduct perpetrated by renowned chef Mario Batali, who yesterday admitted that salacious depictions of his past behavior were accurate.
Together, the two men are possibly the most high-profile restaurateurs to be tarnished by the national reckoning with sexual harassment in the workplace that has effectively led many famous and powerful men in a range of industries to be expelled from polite society.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 12, 2017.

A Radical Critique of Universal Basic Income

This critique reveals the unintended consequences of UBI.
Readers have been asking me what I thought of Universal Basic Income (UBI) as the solution to the systemic problem of jobs being replaced by automation. To answer this question, I realized I had to start by taking a fresh look at work and its role in human life and society. And since UBI is fundamentally a distribution of money, I also needed to take a fresh look at our system of money. That led to a radical critique of Universal Basic Income (UBI) and an outline for a much more sustainable and just system of money and work than we have now. To adequately explore these critical topics, I ended up writing a 50,000 word book, Money and Work Unchained. Universal Basic Income (UBI) is increasingly being held up as the solution to automation’s displacement of human labor. UBI combines two powerful incentives: self-interest (who couldn’t use an extra $1,000 per month) and an idealistic commitment to guaranteeing everyone material security and reducing the rising income inequality that threatens our social contract–a topic I’ve addressed many times over the past decade.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on TUESDAY, DECEMBER 05, 2017.

Capitalism and Asymmetric Information

Capitalism is a wondrous human institution for the mutual betterment for all in society. Yet, critics often insist that market systems enable sellers to take advantage of buyers, because those on the demand-side often lack the specialized knowledge that suppliers possess, thus, enabling a possible exaggerated misrepresentation of what is being offered for sale. What is missed is that market competition generates the incentives and opportunities to earn profits precisely by not misinforming or cheating the buyer.
A number of economists, among the most notable being the 2001 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize, Joseph Stiglitz, a professor of economics at Columbia University, have argued that market economies suffer from an inherent inefficiency and potential injustice due to the existence of ‘asymmetric information.’ A core element in his theory is that individuals in the marketplace do not all possess the same type or degree of knowledge concerning the goods and services being bought and sold.
Some people know things that others do not. This ‘privileged’ information can enable some to ‘exploit’ others. For instance, the producer and marketer is likely to know far more about a product’s qualities, features and characteristics that he is offering on the market than most of the buyers possibly interested in purchasing it.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on 12/05/2017.

Plunder Capitalism

I deplore the tax cut that has passed Congress. It is not an economic policy tax cut, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with supply-side economics. The entire purpose is to raise equity prices by providing equity owners with more capital gains and dividends. In other words, it is legislation that makes equity owners richer, thus further polarizing society into a vast arena of poverty and near-poverty and the One Percent, or more precisely a fraction of the One Percent wallowing in billions of dollars. Unless our rulers can continue to control the explanations, the tax cut edges us closer to revolution resulting from complete distrust of government.
The current tax legislation drops the corporate tax rate to 20%. This means that global corporations registered in the US will be taxed at a lower income tax rate than a licensed practical nurse making $50,000 per year. The nurse, if single, faces in 2017 a 25% marginal tax rate on all income over $37,950.
A single person is taxed at a rate of 33% on all income above $191,651. 33% was the top tax rate extracted from medieval serfs, and approaches the tax rate on US 19th century slaves. Such an upper middle class income as $191,651 sounds extraordinary to most Americans, but it is so far from the multi-million dollar annual incomes of the rich as to be invisible. In America, it is the shrinking middle and upper middle class incomes that bear the burden of income taxation. The rich with their capital gains from their equity holdings are taxed at 15%.

This post was published at Paul Craig Roberts on December 4, 2017.

Iceland’s New Government Has Cunning Plan Of Tapping Banks To Boost Growth, Improve Infrastructure

We like Iceland, we’ve never been there, but that doesn’t matter. Besides the outstanding natural beauty, Iceland, unlike the US, UK and practically everywhere else, holds bankers accountable. Last time we checked, 29 had been jailed. As we discussed, it also holds its leaders accountable (partially – see below) when they are complicit in exonerating convicted child rapists. Such an event brought down Iceland’s government in September.
Last week, it emerged that Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson knew of attempts by his father, Benedikt Sveinsson, to have the Ministry of Justice grant ‘restored honor’ to a convicted child rapist. Benediktsson kept this secret as the rapist, a friend of his father’s was essentially exonerated.
Restored honor is the controversial process by which convicted criminals can have their crimes expunged and return to society with all rights and privileges restored. It requires that the convicted person serve between two to five years of their sentence on their best behavior and that they have multiple letters of recommendation. Sveinsson provided one such letter.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 2, 2017.

‘The money is just sitting there…doing nothing for society’

Of all the disturbing side-effects of modern monetary policy, the worst might be the way artificially-low interest rates encourage small savers to take outsize risks. Now governments are starting to insist:
How Denmark Is Trying to Get Savers to Invest in Risky Assets
(Bloomberg) – In the country with the longest history of negative interest rates, an experiment is under way. The minister in charge of Denmark’s finance industry wants savers to shift some of the billions of kroner now in bank deposits over to riskier assets.
Danes have about 840 billion kroner ($135 billion) in bank deposits, the latest central bank figures show. Nykredit, the biggest Danish mortgage bank, estimates that number will continue to grow through the end of 2017, marking a record.
But those bank deposits pay no interest. Add the effect of inflation, and savers are actually losing money. For corporate clients, banks charge a fee to hold their deposits, making the loss even bigger.

This post was published at DollarCollapse on NOVEMBER 29, 2017.

How Do We Really Cut the Burden of Government? Cut Spending!

In all of the talk about tax reform, nobody is considering the more fundamental problem facing America – the size and scope of the federal government.
Peter Schiff has described the Republican tax plan as ‘tax cuts masquerading as reform.’ When it’s all said and done, Americans aren’t going to get tax relief. They are going to get big government on a credit card. The balance will come due down the road.
The real issue is the total cost of government. In an article originally published on the Mises Wire, Ryan McMaken argues that if Republicans really want to ease the burden of government, they need to cut spending.
Washington, DC is currently in the middle of the ‘tax reform’ process, which as Jeff Deist, points out, is ‘ a con, and a shell game.’ Tax reform proposals, Deist continues ‘always evade and obscure the real issue, which is the total cost – financial, compliance, and human – taxes impose on society.’
Tax reform is really about which interest groups can modify the current tax code to better suit their own parochial interests. The end result is not a lessened tax burden overall, and thus does nothing to boost real savings, real wealth creation, or real economic growth. It’s just yet another government method of rewarding powerful groups while punishing the less powerful ones.
Not surprisingly then, the news that’s coming out of Washington about tax reform demonstrates that the reforms we’re seeing are only shifting around the tax burden without actually lessening it. The central scam at the heart of the matter is that DC politicians are more or less devoted to ‘revenue neutral’ tax reforms. That means if one group sees a tax cut, then another group will lose a deduction, or even see an actual increase in tax rates.
This is why many middle-class families may be looking at a higher tax bill. David Stockman explains:

This post was published at Schiffgold on NOVEMBER 28, 2017.

Corporations Can’t Oppress Us without the State’s Help

In a piece recently published at The American Conservative entitled ‘Americans, We Aren’t So Tough, and It Shows’ I discussed the way in which a confluence of factors such as the decay of the intermediary institutions of civil society and economic insecurity leads to individuals being vulnerable and anxious. This vulnerability, I argued, leads to political tribes seeking to control the power of the state in order to prevent its massive power from being used against them, with the end result being increasing civil strife over the institutions of political power. In order to try and reduce such conflict, I argued that power should be disbursed throughout society, rather than concentrated with the state, in part by the revitalization of the institutions of civil society.
While many online commentators agreed with the detrimental effects of the decline of civil society, a somewhat unexpected vein of criticism emerged, arguing that reducing the power of the government will only leave individuals even more vulnerable and at the mercy of powerful mega-corporations than ever before. Given the large role that economic insecurity plays in the anxiety that leads many people to look to political institutions for protection, it makes sense that the power of large corporations would be concerning. However, this fear is based on an incorrect conflation of political and economic power that misunderstands the way in which the state distorts the dispersion of market power.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on November 27, 2017.

The Market for Literary Products

Capitalism provides many with the opportunity to display initiative. While the rigidity of a status society enjoins on everybody the unvarying performance of routine and does not tolerate any deviation from traditional patterns of conduct, capitalism encourages the innovator. Profit is the prize of successful deviation from customary types of procedure; loss is the penalty of those who sluggishly cling to obsolete methods. The individual is free to show what he can do in a better way than other people.
However, this freedom of the individual is limited. It is an outcome of the democracy of the market and therefore depends on the appreciation of the individual’s achievements on the part of the sovereign consumers. What pays on the market is not the good performance as such, but the performance recognized as good by a sufficient number of customers. If the buying public is too dull to appreciate duly the worth of a product, however excellent, all the trouble and expense were spent in vain.
Capitalism is essentially a system of mass production for the satisfaction of the needs of the masses. It pours a horn of plenty upon the common man. It has raised the average standard of living to a height never dreamed of in earlier ages. It has made accessible to millions of people enjoyments which a few generations ago were only within the reach of a small elite.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on 11/23/2017.

Monaco Has To Build Into Mediterranean Sea To House Super-Rich

The principality of Monaco is about the same size as New York’s Central Park and slightly bigger than London’s Regent’s Park. Besides hosting the Monaco Grand Prix it is home to thousands of multi-millionaires, including tennis player Novak Djokovic and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton, who enjoy the fact that Monaco does not levy income tax or capital gains tax. As the Financial Times notes.
Monaco’s enduring popularity for tax exiles also rests on its year-round climate, unrivalled security and its wealthy, multicultural society…
It has an opera house, a philharmonic orchestra and concerts throughout the year. It has good transport links: Nice International Airport is just six minutes away by helicopter.
The problem for Monaco is that more and more millionaires want to live there – even though property is the second most expensive in the world after Hong Kong – and there simply isn’t the space. Furthermore, the average Monegasque home only changes hands once every 37 years.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 23, 2017.

All The Old World Systems Are Being Deliberately Torn Down

As we approach the holiday season many people turn to thoughts on tradition, heritage, principles, duty, honor and family. They consider the accomplishments and even the failures of the past and where we are headed in the future. For most of the year, the average American will keep their heads in the sands of monotony and decadence and distraction. But during this time, even in the midst of the consumption frenzy it has been molded into, people tend to reflect, and they find joy, and they find worry.
What perhaps does not come to mind very often though are the institutions and structures that provide the “stability” by which our society is able to continue in a predictable manner. While many of these institutions are not built with the good of the public in mind, they often indirectly secure a foundation that can be relied upon, for two or three generations, while securing power for the establishment. The problem is, the establishment is never satisfied with a static or semi-peaceful system for very long. They are not satisfied by being MOSTLY in control, they seek total control. Thus, they are often willing to create chaos and crisis and even tear down old structures that previously benefited them in order to gain something even greater (and more oppressive for the rest of us).
The official Thanksgiving holiday, for example, did not really begin as a homage to the colonial settlers and pilgrims of America’s birth and their struggles to build a new life. While George Washington did proclaim a “Day of Thanks” in 1789, the model for Thanksgiving began far later, in 1863 as the Civil War was raging. It was the Civil War that upset the traditional balance of power between the states and the federal government, nearly annihilating the nation and asserting federal power as unquestionable for decades to come. A moment of great chaos which destroyed old institutions (like the 10th Amendment) but gave establishment elitists even more control in the end.

This post was published at Alt-Market on Wednesday, 22 November 2017.

The Approaching Silicon Valley Meltdown

To say that we are living through precarious times seems to be an understatement. Whether one lives in the so moniker’d ‘developed world, emerging, or frontier’ there seems to be one constant currently: No one seems to be able to accurately ponder what tomorrow may bring, whether its political, economical, social, or combination there of.
The only thing constant right now is one of two things: Either, further instability is on the horizon. Or, complete and utter chaos is already knocking on the door. (See Kim Jong-un or Robert Mugabe for clues.)
Stability, the once deemed word for progress throughout civilized society now seems, to have devolved to mean, at what point of the instability around them they’re currently coping with. i.e., If you’re currently muddling through economically while dodging being a statistic, as the term goes, that currently means you, or your situation, is currently ‘stable.’
This now applies to not only people, but business, as well as politics worldwide. If you think I’m exaggerating? Hint: Hollywood. Need I say more?
However, there has been one outlier, for the most part, which seemed to skirt around all the current chaos, relatively unscathed. That would be Silicon Valley and all its ancillary provinces aka ‘Disruptive Tech.’
So far the coveted group known collectively as ‘FAANG’ (e.g., Facebook™, Apple™, Amazon™, Netflix™, Google™) seems to have held the ‘barbarians at the gates’ known as investors relatively at bay, or ‘stable’ in their positions, if you will. What has been, anything but, is their cohort of IPO brethren that were supposed to have joined them.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 20, 2017.

George Soros To Congress: “Please Don’t Cut My Taxes”

After transferring over the bulk of his personal wealth to his ‘Open Society’ Foundation – the umbrella organization for a network of dozens of political groups that push Soros’s far-left agenda across the US and Europe, Soros is still comfortable enough to justify giving away even more of his money – this time to the US federal government.
Taking a page out of Warren Buffett’s book, Soros and a group of some 400 other rich Americans – including doctors, lawyers and CEOs – are sending a formal letter to Congress chiding lawmakers for trying to reduce taxes on the richest American families at a time when wealth inequality is rapidly expanding. Instead, the letter asks Congress not to pass any tax bill that ‘further exacerbates inequality’ and adds to the debt (both of the current Republican plans would add $1.5 trillion to the debt over 10 years).
The letter was penned by Responsible Wealth, a group of ‘enlightened’ rich people that includes Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, fashion designer Eileen Fisher and philanthropist Steven Rockefeller, in addition to Soros. Along with the big names are many individuals and couples who rank among the top 5% of Americans (those who have $1.5 million in assets or earn $250,000 or more a year).
In a rebuttal to Congress’s argument that corporate tax cuts will help stimulate growth, the letter argues that corporations are already reaping record profits. Instead of handing more money to the wealthy, the letter’s signers argue the government should use the funds to invest in education, research and roads that benefit everyone, while protecting entitlement programs like Medicaid.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 14, 2017.