Tag: Free Markets

Teach a Bangladeshi Widow How to Artificially Inseminate a Cow…


640px-A_village_women_in_BangladeshLast week, I spitballed an idea for a “Freedom Kit” to be sold to the emerging poor. It would provide them with basic amenities, additional security, and some of the means to help them grow into something more like the middle class. Unsurprisingly, members had a number of excellent suggestions about the idea and for the contents of the kit. Among other things, I’m now persuaded that directly subsidizing the kit would be a mistake, and that it’d probably be much smarter to think of it as a store where products along these lines could be sold but chosen entirely by the customers. (Yes, it’s almost as if people in the third world might know what’s good for them better than some jerk in Massachusetts with a keyboard).

Regardless, such kits (or such products) only make sense for people who’ve already climbed out of the worst dregs of poverty and have at least a little disposable income. As things currently stand, that excludes about 700 million people around the world who earn less than $1.90/day (a common benchmark for abject poverty). The number of people earning so little has dropped dramatically in recent decades: down from 1.9 billion people a quarter of a century ago, when the world had 40 percent fewer people. However, much of that progress took place in China and East Asia, which appears to have been the low-hanging fruit. Helping those last 700 million folks out of poverty is likely to be more difficult.

Via The Economist, these people generally lack the necessary capital to qualify for microloans or suffer from some other form of discrimination. They work like hell when seasonal employment can be found, but their lack of the skills and resources required for steadier employment make it very difficult for them to take the first steps into modernity. In short, they can’t pull themselves up by the bootstraps because they can’t scrape together enough for a pair of boots.

The Roaring Success of Chick-fil-A in New York City


Remember when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that Chicago would not welcome a certain chicken sandwich restaurant? Or when Boston Mayor Tom Menino wrote a letter to that same company’s president saying that there was “no place for your company” in Boston? Good times. But in spite of liberal outrage over an executive expressing his views on marriage and sexuality, the hateful bigots at Chick-fil-A have opened a restaurant in Manhattan. And each day the line to enter winds down the sidewalk.

Just another success story the Mainstream Media won’t tell you.

Your humble correspondent’s interviews in line last weekend revealed that patrons were mostly New Yorkers originally from the South, or people who had tried Chick-fil-A previously while in the South. They were loyal, eager, and willing to wait for a few minutes in a line that looked daunting but moved rapidly. All our orders were handled with typical Chick-fil-A courtesy, and we had our order in less than twenty minutes.

I, Computer


Pasted image at 2015_10_15 07_38 AMI am a Macbook Air—the ordinary 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5 machine familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write.

Writing is both my vocation and my avocation; that’s all I do.

You may wonder why I should write a genealogy. Well, to begin with, my story is interesting. And, next, I am a mystery—more so than a tree or a sunset or even a flash of lightning. But, sadly, I am taken for granted by those who use me, as if I were a mere incident and without background. This supercilious attitude relegates me to the level of the commonplace. This is a species of the grievous error in which mankind cannot too long persist without peril. For, as a wise man observed, “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”

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We’ve all been told why government safety regulations are necessary. Why, without an active government inspecting and approving products and manufacturing methods, consumers will be helpless against the rapacious greed of capitalists. Without government oversight, capitalism results in a “race to the bottom” with manufacturers cutting corners and skimping on quality to protect their profits. […]

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The United States of Awesome: America Still Leads in Innovation and Economic Dynamism


The Economist looks at the challenge advancing technology like sharing platforms poses to left-wing politicians, using France as an example. Check out the fun fact at the end of the paragraph, which is really the main reason for the post:

Emboldened by books such as “The Second Machine Age”, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, France’s economy minister, Emmanuel Macron Macron and his friends are grappling with how to rewrite the rules of equality and welfare for the digital economy, which hollows out the salaried middle, spreads freelance work and sidelines union-backed incumbents. What, they ask, will the left have to say when driverless cars make unionised taxi-drivers redundant? Or about legal working time in an Uberised economy where freelancing prevails? Such questions may seem otherworldly to those handing out flyers and treading pavements to try to stave off electoral defeat today. But the workplace shake-up is on its way faster than Mr Hollande can perform a pirouette on economic policy. Nearly 25% of Europe’s workforce is not salaried. Mr McAfee reckons that half of today’s jobs will in time be automated out of existence. And France is ripe for disruption: mergers aside, the youngest firm in the CAC 40, the main stock index, was founded in 1967.

Could We Please Stop Calling it “Capitalism?”


shutterstock_237930475The moment we call “capitalism” capitalism, I’ve come to believe, we’ve already conceded far too much ground to the other side, which of course portrays capitalism as a coherent system, imposed on economic life, just as socialism represents a system imposed on producers and consumers from the outside. If we’re simply choosing between two systems, the socialists contend, why choose the one imposed on the rest of us by rich cronies, interested only in their own wealth and power, instead of the system imposed by the government on behalf of ordinary people?

In truth, of course, capitalism represents the absence of any imposed economic system. Instead, it is simply what arises in conditions of freedom — the organic order that establishes itself as people come together in markets, pool their capital, respond to price signals, and so forth. Our choice isn’t between two systems, imposed on the rest of us, one by the rich, the other by the government. Not at all. Our choice is between freedom and coercion. The term “capitalism” obscures that absolutely basic point.

Which is why I found myself struck by one phrase in an email from a friend. He was writing about the pope’s visit, but the pontiff isn’t the issue here. Words — that is the issue here:

Perhaps the Most Powerful Defense of Market Capitalism You Will Ever Read


092115marketEconomist Deirdre McCloskey recently spoke in London, and this brief summary nicely captures her talk and her work on the power of economic freedom. Next year will see the arrival of her latest book, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World,” the completion of a trilogy on the wonder-working power of modern capitalism.

Now, McCloskey does not like the word “capitalism.” She would prefer our economic system be called “technological and institutional betterment at a frenetic pace, tested by unforced exchange among all the parties involved.”

Or perhaps “fantastically successful liberalism, in the old European sense, applied to trade and politics, as it was applied also to science and music and painting and literature.”

Weekend with Bernie


BernieBernie and Elizabeth came to Phoenix this weekend. A crowd, estimated between 2,000 and 2,000,000 filled the convention center. Imagine that! Insular as my existence is, I’m still surprised that an avowed Socialist and a faux Pocahontas populist statist could find so many enthusiastic supplicants in free-carry Arizona. Then again, the world is filled with government workers, teachers’ union members, students, and would-be artists, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

They all gathered in the whinefest I’ll call the “New Weekend with Bernie.” Sanders is markedly old and stiff, but filled with vituperous energy directed at “banks, big business and Republicans” — Satan’s trilogy of the free markets. Republicans blame the government. Socialists blame free markets. Elizabeth has obviously joined the Sanders entourage as the de facto VP candidate. Bernie, as we all can see, is one weekend away from being a recyclable mass in the mulch pile, so Elizabeth is the real heir apparent, challenging Hillary from behind. Interesting strategy.

But the really interesting thing about all this is that any pretense of free markets as a force for any good at all is condemned as vulgar, reflexively ignorant, and a kind of mass Stockholm Syndrome. To paraphase their muddled logic: We’ve all had to accept corporatism because we rely on it for everything, but this is a massive lie. Right wing corporatism, that is free markets, has no conscience. Those on the Right seek only one thing, money, and they use this money to control everything and to buy power, which gives them access to more money.

The Material and Moral Poverty of Equality


imageCapitalism has long been reviled because of the material inequality it is said to foster. In his essay, Discourse on Inequality, Jean-Jacques Rousseau railed against the evils of market-coordinated cooperation:

[So long as men] undertook only what a single person could accomplish, and confined themselves to such arts as did not require the joint labour of several hands, they lived free, healthy, honest and happy lives, so long as their nature allowed, and as they continued to enjoy the pleasures of mutual and independent intercourse. But from the moment one man began to stand in need of the help of another; from the moment it appeared advantageous to any one man to have enough provisions for two, equality disappeared, property was introduced, work became indispensable, and vast forests became smiling fields, which man had to water with the sweat of his brow, and where slavery and misery were soon seen to germinate and grow up with the crops.

In reality, this meant that — while individuals lived just on what they themselves could produce — they remained equally poor and in equally miserable squalor, since even the most industrious and talented can create little in isolation. But Rousseau didn’t stop there, arguing that when people began cooperating and expanding their efforts’ yields through the division of labor, slavery and misery became inevitable because unequal talents necessarily led to unequal results:

Free(?) Market


tumblr_inline_nf1oyfC7CQ1rwpoc4Some things are legal only because a law has yet to forbid them. For example, take the home manufacture of un-serialized, untraceable, “ghost guns.” Building your own firearm is not a federal crime, and people have been doing it for years. The time and expense required have kept the hobby to a very niche market. However, a confluence of events is changing the dynamic. As gun-grabbers make the purchase of commercially manufactured weapons ever more difficult, the market has responded by harnessing technological innovation to bring home manufacturing of firearms within reach of more gun enthusiasts.

3-D printing is one such technology that makes building your own weapon an easier task. The problem with this is that the durability of plastic materials makes them less preferable to metal gun parts. In order to make the required bits out of metal, one has, until now, needed an expensive mill, the cost of which made the project unrealistic for most consumers. One company, Defense Distributed, solved the problem by creating a small CNC mill capable of creating AR-15 lower receivers at a price affordable to almost anyone who wants to make his own semi-automatic rifle. Pre-sales of the machine sold out in less than two days after its announcement. There is, however, a problem. The manufacturer cannot get the machines to its customer because both FedEx and UPS have refused to deliver the mills.

Although no legal prohibition exists, the culture of fear surrounding firearms is creating a market pressure against the home milling machines sufficient to prevent their delivery to end users. This is interesting because there is also a market demand for the machines. Some might believe this is just the free market working out the problem, but I question whether or not that really is the case. I write this because the pressure bearing down on the shippers is legal and political rather than commercial. The statement by UPS makes this clear:

Capitalist Heath Care For Everyone


shutterstock_155901572For thousands of years, the question of healthcare has been basically irrelevant. If you got seriously ill, your death or survival — usually the former — had little to do with how much care you received, and it didn’t matter if you were the King of England or an American slave. People may have thought healthcare was important, but it didn’t really matter; environmental factors such as general health and diet, shelter, and workload mattered much more. To put it in perspective, most of us can count how many times we would have already died had we lived 150 years ago. For me, the score is two: I’ve had appendicitis and bacterial pneumonia so bad I was coughing blood. Neither was tremendously problematic or fearsome.

Because we’ve made such remarkable progress, healthcare matters. That progress is broadly the result of two things. The first is evidence-based medicine. In the late 1800s, somebody did a study and realized that outcomes were no better if you went to a doctor for treatment. That didn’t speak well for doctors. More recent studies have shown the same thing for Medicaid: outcomes are better for people who are totally uninsured rather than for those on Medicaid.

The second is market-based incentives. Here is an examination of health care innovation since World War II (after which, many countries nationalized care). Of 22 major advances, 17 were first applied in the U.S., four occurred in mixed public-private healthcare markets, and one occurred in a fully nationalized market (the artificial cardiac pacemaker). It’s safe to say that — absent free markets — we wouldn’t be debating health care as public policy because there’d be nothing worth arguing over.

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As part of my effort to get more people enrolled in the idea of liberty, I teach a weekly entrepreneurship class to a small group of girls. My goal in doing so is two fold. The first is immediate. I get to impact and inspire a group of young women – who in turn will […]

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Let’s Support Uber, Lyft, and Free Markets


Ride share companies like Uber and Lyft offer customers added choices in transportation. Unfortunately in big cities like Atlanta, governments have erected barriers to entering the taxi business by requiring taxi drivers purchase expensive “medallions” and limiting how many taxis can operate in their cities. These regulations artificially raise prices and stifle innovation.

In some cities around America, government officials have even threatened Uber and Lyft drivers with arrest, and had their cars impounded. Here in Atlanta, taxi medallion owners have sued Uber drivers trying to prevent them from being in business.

Immigration: The Long-Term Solution (Update)


1000px-Flag_of_Honduras.svgA few weeks ago, I argued that the long-term solution to the United States’ immigration problem is for Latin America become a place worth living in. While Latin Americans are both ultimately responsible for their situation and the only ones capable of fixing it, I suggested that we may be able to offer some help around the edges.

Lo and behold, some folks are trying to do that in an incredibly ambitious way: by attempting to carve out semi-autonomous, privately-run areas within Honduras called ZEDEs. Though required to abide by Honduran law, ZEDEs will be able to set their own local rules, maintain their own police forces, and run their own courts through a collaboration between private corporations and local citizens. The objective — besides making money — is to create model free cities that can be emulated outside the ZEDEs.

Reason recently sent a film crew to Honduras and shot a series of four five-minute documentaries on ZEDEs. Take a watch when you have a few minutes:

Uber: Poster Child For Free Markets


Last night, my wife had a stomachache and asked if we could take a taxi home from work rather than the metro. I’ve had mixed experience with cabbies and — given the combination of high price and great unpredictability — I avoid taxis wherever I can. Still, I wasn’t the one with a stomachache, and a few extra dollars is a small price to pay for a happy and comfortable wife.

I was all ready to hail a cab when I remembered that I had a $20 credit toward my first ride with Uber, the online driver service/app, so I decided to give it a try. Result: I’m never taking a cab again.

Education Standards: Government or Free Markets?


So yeah — there has been some chatter on Common Core around here and elsewhere.

Let’s say that there is a widget that is the best in the world. It’s really, really good. It is a magical widget that makes life easy for everyone who possesses it. It is clearly the best widget in the world. It has great American tech support and comes in every color. You never have to wait for Europeans to come online to get issues with this widget fixed. I think the Ricochet community gets the value of this widget. Would making the widget mandatory for all humans be the right thing to do then?

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The latest heart-breaking news coming out of Central Africa is the kidnapping of 300 Christian school-girls at the hands of the brutal Boko Haram (a diffuse Islamic terrorist organization). There is likely no good outcome for these innocent children. The possibilities are unspeakable. But their fates should not be inexpiably linked to U.S. national security […]

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