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The Transformation of Banking

There is a scene in the Parable of the Talents in which the returned master berates the shabbiest of his three servants. Discovering that he had buried his seed capital in the ground, the master says: “You should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have …

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The Death of File Sharing

Last week’s violent government attack on the hugely popular site Megaupload — the U.S. government arresting Belgian citizens in New Zealand, of all places, and stealing at gunpoint servers bank accounts and property — has sent shock waves through the entire digital world. The first shock was the realization that the gigantic protest against legislative …

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Zero Percent Uber Alles

We are getting a sense of what life is like with the new Fed policy of openness. It means that the chairman tries to beat the world record for the longest, most-boring press conference in modern history. Ben Bernanke is getting even better at that crucial skill of repeatedly saying nothing at great length. The …

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The Alleged Serving-Size Scandal

When you eat Oreo cookies, if you do eat Oreo cookies, how many do you eat? Three sounds sort of reasonable to me. Surely, after three, you have been “served.” If I were a guest at someone’s house and ate more than that, I would try to do it surreptitiously. But of course, this is …

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It’s Treason to Disagree

A horrifying aspect of modern life is how nearly daily threats to fundamental freedoms and human rights require that citizens become politically aware and active. Here we are struggling to put food on the table, cultivate a civilized private life, support things we care about, manage our households and otherwise meet all the challenges of …

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Capitalism Caused What Crisis?

The Financial Times continues its series on “Capitalism in Crisis.” We’re getting a little tired of it. We were hoping at least one of the writers might tell us what the crisis was. Instead, we’ve gotten a variety of opinions; none offering much light on the nature of the crisis and several offering more darkness …

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The Fed’s Men Behind the Curtain

The debate about the Fed is under way, and thank goodness. But as with many policy debates, there really shouldn’t be a debate at all. That’s because, if you think about it, the idea of central banking makes no sense. We don’t have a government-created central repository that plans and manages shoe distribution. The market …

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Power vs. People in the Digital Age

The government seems determined to turn out the lights on the digital age. And this is with or without SOPA or the other bills that were only this week shouted down by the global digital community on Blackout Wednesday. The very next day, after support for that legislation collapsed after an impressive mass protest, the …

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Violating Rights in the Name of Property

You know that anti-piracy video you sometimes see at the beginning of movies? It explains how you wouldn’t steal a handbag, so neither should you steal a song or movie by an illegal download. Well, it turns out that the guy who wrote the music for that short clip, Melchoir Rietveldt, says that his music …

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Protesting Government Digitally

There’s been a long debate over digital technology. Does it help or harm the cause of liberty, individualism and human rights? People who say it has hurt point out that government has been able to use the products of private innovation for its own purposes. The government can watch us as never before. It assembles …

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Blackout Wednesday: The Time Has Come

The two dominant trends of our time are, on the one hand, the darkening of the physical world ruled by governments and, on the other hand, the re-enlightening of the world thanks to the spontaneous order of digital media controlled by everyone else. Governments are seeking to drag it down and shut off the lights. The protests against these proposed controls constitute a mighty statement that we will not let the raiders, the barbarians, the vandals, have their way.

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What Does Liberty Really Mean?

It is at times useful to imagine how a truly laissez-faire society, one entirely emancipated from the shackles of state coercion, might exist and operate. Morris and Linda Tannehill examine this very idea in The Market for Liberty: Is Government Really Necessary? The Market for Liberty imagines a totally free society: one with no government …

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Mere Mortals at the Fed

The secrecy of the Federal Reserve is legendary, but pressure in recent years has led to some opening up. Already in the last 12 months, we’ve seen some eye-popping records of who received credit during the 2008-09 credit crunch. We’ve seen lists of institutions that the Fed favors, and these lists have confirmed the worst …

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The Nickel-and-Dime Protection Racket

Governments at all levels in the United States have begun to master the art of extracting as much money from the public as possible in every conceivable situation, over and above what we normally cough up to states at all levels year-round (which is commonly 40% of our income).

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The Nearest Thing to a Permanent Thing

You can find a coin shop in nearly every town in the United States. The proprietor is unlike any you will find in any other store. He is unusually steeped in history, intensely aware of the larger context of the passing economic and political scene. This is because if it is a good shop, you …

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Money or Capitalism in Crisis?

We are living under a form of monetary prohibitionism today, forbidden to use any means of payment other than that maintained by the state. And it is not unlike the alcohol prohibition of old. It redistributes wealth, steers gains to the unscrupulous, strengthens the state and promotes various forms of criminality.

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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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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 …