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How to Think: Lunchtime Lessons

“I just joined the Club!” That’s the whole content of an email I received from a very old friend who is very special to me. He is speaking of the Spy Briefing Club, the startup digital literary city created by Spy Briefing Books. I credit this writer for (inadvertently) training me in an important aspect …

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Conspiracies and How to Defeat Them

Someone asked me the other day if I believe in conspiracies. Well, sure. Here’s one. It is called the political system. It is nothing if not a giant conspiracy to rob, trick and subjugate the population. People participate in the hope of making our lives better, or at least curbing the damage government does. Yet …

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The Juice that Defied an Empire

What’s great about POM Wonderful? Sure, this pomegranate juice tastes great. POM is one of the few drinks that seems to have the same scrunch-up-your-mouth effect that you get with a bold dry red wine. When I was a kid, it didn’t exist. Like everything wonderful in this world, it comes to us because of …

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The Warehouse: Beauty and Solemnity

The great recession continues in so many ways but online commerce is booming as never before, increasing in the last quarter of 2011 at the fastest rates in six years. Before you know it, the retail side alone will account for $300 billion in sales per year. We click and pay, and if it’s not …

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A Way to Soak the Rich

You might have noticed that lots of people are really down on the so-called 1%. It drives many people, especially politicians, absolutely bonkers that there are lots of people out there sitting on millions, billions. Populists imagine that these people do nothing but hoard and count and let out menacing laughs about the advantages they …

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Are You the Next Prisoner?

The United States is home to a gigantic socialist sector, larger and with a greater reach than any in the world, and it is fed by tax dollars and managed entirely by the government. Strangely, the opponents of socialized medicine and socialized industry don’t complain about it. In fact, all throughout the 1980s and 1990s, …

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History of the Club, Part 2

Dreamers and accountants — they say that both types of people are necessary for a great business. One without the other is a dead end. Together, the magic can happen. And the magic is certainly happening at the Spy Briefing Club, now celebrating what Doug Hill calls its one-month-iversary (I’m pretty sure that is a …

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The Non-Crime of Knowing

Let’s say that Rajat Gupta, former director at Goldman Sachs on trial for insider trading, is toss in the slammer for passing on information four years ago. Let’s say that he really did receive — and then let slip — a tip that Goldman would soon be getting a nice cash infusion from Berkshire Hathaway, …

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My Government Is Worse than Yours

Now that hysteria over my original Brazil column has died down, let me add some comments and reflections about it and what gave rise to the reactions. To review, I had written a piece praising the many glorious features of Brazil and especially the way in which civilization has managed to thrive by virtue of …

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A Century of Cosmetics: Is the End Near?

The organization Campaign for Safe Cosmetics doesn’t just want you to be able to have new choices about the makeup or other products you buy. It wants the FDA to be able to ban and recall products. It will decide for you what is and isn’t safe. And it is prevailing against the industry itself, …

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Five Pillars of Economic Freedom

The great debate between capitalism and socialism suffers from a lack of clarity about definitions. This is why when Walter Block lectured in Brazil this past week, he was very careful to distinguish between crony capitalism and authentic capitalism. And it’s why when I was interviewed, the question came up immediately: What precisely do you …

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Brazil and the Spirit of Liberty

My most surprising findings in Brazil, aside from the amazing fruits that I didn’t know existed because the U.S. government doesn’t think I need them, were the young American kids who have moved here to find economic opportunity. This I had not expected, but now fully understand. Brazil is a marvelous and massive country where …

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Heat and Light in a TSA Line

Time was tight and people were rushing to catch flights. This particular terminal in Miami was usually fast, everyone knew, but for some reason, the TSA was seriously understaffed. What do they care whether people spend 90 minutes waiting in the checkpoint? They have no stake in the profitability of the airlines and no real …

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Government’s Idle Hands: Underwear Bomber 2.0

Government has a serious problem. It’s got nothing worthwhile to do. All the cool things in life come from the private sector, and this is more obvious than ever. The market is creating whole worlds before our eyes, while the government seems ever more like a hopeless anachronism. Government’s life depends on public frenzy about …

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It’s Fun to Resist the State

Libertarianism is, obviously, an idea whose time has come. Or maybe you don’t like that term. There are plenty of others. My preference is old-fashioned. I like the term “liberal” — or maybe “radical liberal” — to distinguish my own intellectual commitments from the generation that naively believed that government could be created and limited …

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What Makes Twitter Great

“I’ve got better things to do than broadcast a message to the world about my lunch.” An uncountable number of people have said this or something similar to me about Twitter. I’ve stopped responding. It’s the same kind of faux snobbery that causes people to look down on Facebook, YouTube, Angry Birds, smartphones and the …

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The Case for Live Blogging a Book

The buzz on the next big thing: products and services that claim to make you smarter. Forbes says it is the next trillion-dollar industry. Get-smart video games are hitting the markets. Websites and apps that promise fast results are booming. I’m a skeptic of the tools being promoted these days, but not of the overall …

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How Government Wrecked the Gas Can

The gas gauge broke. There was no smartphone app to tell me how much was left, so I ran out. I had to call the local gas station to give me enough to get on my way. The gruff but lovable attendant arrived in his truck and started to pour gas in my car’s tank. …

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Material Progress and the American Spirit

The 1968 epic Planet of the Apes ends with Taylor the astronaut, played by Charlton Heston, coming upon the Statue of Liberty, except that it is buried in beach sand to the chest and covered in seaweed. Only then does he realize that this strange planet is actually his own planet Earth and that he …

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The Case of the Missing Low-Mileage Car

How would you like to drive from New York to Los Angeles with just one stop for gas? It seems incredible and wonderful, but it can happen. In late 2010, the Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion set a new world record for the “longest distance traveled by a standard production passenger car on a single tank of …

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If Government Spends Less, Are We Sunk?

Easy prediction: Congress will not cut spending. The hysteria in Washington is for naught, as usual. There will be no “austerity,” at least not the kind brought on by cuts in government. Nor will there be curbs on the Fed. Our credit-drenched, phoney-money culture would never stand for it. But let’s just pretend that this …

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Greedy Governments and the Double Irish

Beginning last year, mainstream reporters began kvetching about a rather brilliant tax strategy used by Google, Apple and hundreds of other technology firms. It’s been the path to survival for these companies. It relies on a feature of digital goods that would have otherwise been impossible with physical goods. Firms are setting up revenue-receiving subsidiaries …

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Economics By and For Human Beings

“Economics puts parameters on people’s utopias.” Yes. That’s exactly it. That’s why the politicians hate economics. That’s why the media are so… selective in which economists they call on to talk about policy. That’s why the economics departments in colleges are put down by the sociologists, philosophers, literature professors and just about everyone else who …

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How to Ruin a Kid’s Life

I was just down at the “feed and seed” buying two baby chicks to replace my female duck that was carried off by a bird of prey, leaving one lonely male duck behind. No one told me that ducks don’t like chicks. The rest of the story is, well, let’s just say “it’s complicated.” In …