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The Monetary Metal that Just Won’t Die

For more than one hundred years, governments have been trying to kill gold’s role in the monetary system. They’ve dreamed of a day when the cursed metal would vanish completely except as jewelry and luxurious adornment. And yet its monetary properties won’t go away. Central banks still hold it, and many have increased their gold …

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Elections and the Illusion of Choice

The political season has unleashed its predictable frenzy, much to delight of people who make a living off it. But to what end? There are only two types of politicians who end up holding office, wrote H.L. Mencken: “first, glorified mob-men who genuinely believe what the mob believes, and secondly, shrewd fellows who are willing …

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There’s No Such Thing as a Stable State

Twenty years ago, and much to the shock of just about everyone, the mighty Soviet Union, the very embodiment of Hegel’s view of the state as the divine on Earth, dissolved and disappeared. The malicious foe of the U.S., the deadly grizzly that was said to wander the world seeking whom it would devour, just …

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The Genius of the Price System

The other day, a local hamburger joint was advertising a 99 cent hamburger, and I took the offer. It was great. I wondered: how can they make money this way? A few days later, my head still swimming with memories of that great experience, I went back. This time, I dug in a bit deeper …

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Nicaragua and the Cold War Political Theater

Some friends and co-workers spent their holidays at Rancho Santana in Nicaragua, where you can live like a king on a pauper’s salary. The beaches are among the best in the world, and the people are nuts for Americans. There is every amenity and consumer product, even better stuff than you can get at Wal-Mart. …

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Truth in Advertising

If you are a visitor from another planet and you want to find out about real life on Earth, what do you watch on television to give the most-accurate picture: the news, the shows or the commercials? Think about it realistically. We are seeking here an accurate window into what human beings are really like, …

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The Race for the Coolest Stuff

A staple of action/thriller movies like the Mission: Impossible and the James Bond series is that the government agencies have all the cool gadgets, stuff we can’t get. There’s usually some opening scene featuring geeky scientists displaying the latest technology, such as a pen that is really a flamethrower or special shoes that allow you …

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Who Should Control the World?

In the days following the gift-giving holidays, many millions of people stand in judgement over the quality of the gifts they gave and the gifts they receive. Did they arrive on time? Did the quality hold up? Did the reality match the advertising hype? The Internet ads an extra wrinkle. Anyone dissatisfied can post blistering …

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Two Views of the Internet

The barely-defeated legislation called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) hit out of the blue and caused a global scramble among the smart set to make sure it was defeated. It was a close call, and the legislation isn’t going away. It will come back and back again, and it will require relentless vigilance to keep …

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The Elves of Capitalism

One reason that the Brothers Grimm fairy tales have such appeal — more so than the folklore that came before — is that they deal with a world that is familiar to us, a world that was just being invented in the early 19th century, when these stories were first printed and circulated. They deal …

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The Hidden Cost Of The Payroll Tax

The best part of the chaotic debate in Washington about the payroll tax is that this wicked institution is finally getting the public attention it deserves. In most debates about taxation, the payroll tax has hardly ever been mentioned, even though it accounts for more than one-third of federal revenue, and even though two-thirds of …

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The Regulatory State Does Not Like You

Two important regulatory rulings have been issued in the last day that will have a profound effect on your life, both immediately and over the long run. One forces a continued degradation of AT&T’s cell phone coverage by forbidding a merger with the embattled company T-Mobile. The other targets a feature of Google’s Android phone …

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What is Laissez-Faire?

There stand two broad schools of thought: those who believe in state control of one or many aspects of the social order and those who believe in laissez-faire, that is, that attempts at state control are counterproductive to the cause of prosperity, justice, peace and the building of the civilized life. Laissez-faire says that the artists, merchants, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, investors, and property owners — and not the cartelizing thugs of the state — ought to be permitted to drive the course of history.

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Victory in Iraq?

There is no peace treaty, no humbled enemy, no national glory and certainly no newfound freedom. The “liberation” of Iraq leaves a widely hated puppet dictator in charge with a mandate “to see that process of strengthened central authority continue,” in the words of a U.S. cable revealed by WikiLeaks. Still, the U.S. has declared …

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The Twelve-Year Sentence

You look at the parade of mindless dopes and dopers that make up the Occupy protesters and think: What is wrong with these people? They are mostly kids. They don’t have jobs. Most don’t even look employable. Those who are employable can’t find work at a wage they are willing to accept. Instead, they meander …

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Does the Market Preserve or Wreck Tradition?

The fliers from the local grocery arrive by the day. “Buy your complete holiday meal for $40!” To me, this is just thrilling. You get a golden brown baked turkey, rolls, salad, stuffing, cranberries, and the rest of the works, straight off a Norman Rockwell painting, all for a low and memorably even price, and …

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I’ve Tried But Failed to Become a Wine Snob

Yes, I’ve been the wine-tasting parties with the index cards to fill out sip by sip. I’ve compared the 1984 with the 1986 variety of French wine and commented on their subtle differences. I’ve swished and swirled and learned how to affect a face of revelation just from the mere passing scent of a light …

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Is OWS Really Radical?

The Occupy protesters imagine that they stand in a great tradition of American radicalism, willing to stand up to the man and risk arrest in order to achieve their goals. The most obvious case of such a mass movement would be the anti-war protests of the 1960s. They started small and grew and grew until …

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A Hymn to Taco Bell

We’ve all visited Taco Bell a thousand times – 2 billion of us at least once every year – but now I’ve taken the time to examine why it is we love this place so much. Let’s just start with the obvious thing: the food. It is, of course, wonderful and full of varied textures: …

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Leaping toward the Keynesian Dream

The Fed’s latest inflationary scheme sounds like a technocratic innovation. It lowered the costs of currency swaps between central banks of the world, with the idea that the Fed would do for the globe what Europe, England and China are too shy to do, which is run the printing presses 24/7 to bail out failing …

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Unemployment Solutions: Weird and Scary

There was a brief moment of joy at the news that retailers hired 206,000 new people in November. But only one day later, the other shoe dropped: Jobless claims are, again, past the 400,000 mark — meaning that the unemployment problem is, overall, getting worse, not better. The broadest measure of unemployment exceeds 17%. It …

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Taxes Can Kill the Web Marketplace

Let’s say you are a farmer and most of your animals are dead from disease. But there are a handful of chickens still making it, and a couple of cows too. So you decided to kill them too. Now, why would you do that? I want to ask the same question of those who are …