This is what the lack of freedom looks like

The cost of freedom. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The cost of freedom. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

This freedom stuff is not just some abstract concept. The lack of economic, political, or religious freedom is ugly and painful.

If you want to see what the lack of economic and political freedom looks like, consider Venezuela today.

5/20 – Yahoo News – Venezuela, where a hamburger is officially $170 – That hamburger priced at 1,700 bolivars is US$170 at the official exchange rate. At black market exchange rates it is about a buck and a half.

Article reports that the middle class is sliding into  poverty. Keep in mind people are essentially paid at the official exchange rate.

Stores that sell anything other than food are closed. Article says nobody is buying anything other than food.

What is going on in Venezuela?

5/28 – New York Times – Venezuela Drifts Into New territory: Hunger, Blackouts and Government Shutdown – The New York Times notices the devastation afflicting the people of Venezuela.

Government offices are only open two half-days each week.

Article says protests at empty grocery stores are turning violent.

The bottler producing Coca-cola products cannot find sugar so it is halting production.

Other suffering this article doesn’t mention:

No toilet paper on the grocery store shelf and no international phone service.

The country’s largest beer producer can’t get enough foreign currency to buy hops so it has stopped making beer.

Water is rationed.

Electricity is only available sometimes and randomly at that.

Infants are dying in hospitals because of lack of medicine and respirators.

Back to the NYT article.

When water is on, people are gathering some in spare buckets for use later. The water (when available) is brownish and is making members of one quoted family sick. Many people say either lack of washing or the water itself is causing illness.

What is the cause of this suffering?

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Why I am so optimistic – 2

200 years ago subsistence agriculture was the norm across the planet. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

200 years ago brutal poverty was the norm across the planet. Not so today. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Previously mentioned when I look at long-term economic trends I am incredibly optimistic. When I look at the headlines this morning or news from the political world, I am very discouraged.

(Cross-post from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

To see one illustration of why I am so optimistic for the long-term, check out a column by Glenn Reynolds at USA Today: Actually, things are pretty good / Free markets and free inquiry have changed the historic ‘norms’ of poverty and violence.

Earlier post summarized in one paragraph what caused this radical improvement.

Here are a final two points from the article I’d like to highlight:

Second, it is possible for us collectively to turn back history.

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Why I am so optimistic – 1

200 years ago subsistence agriculture was the norm across the planet. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

200 years ago brutal poverty was the norm across the planet. Not so today. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

When I look at the political news or any news in general I get very pessimistic about our future.

In contrast, when I look at the amazing things happening beyond the headlines in today’s newspaper I feel incredibly optimistic.

Consider that private companies are developing the technology for space exploration. Consider the energy revolution created by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Consider radical changes in technology that are making so many things easier, faster, and cheaper. Consider that anyone that wants to do so can publish their own book, distribute their own music, or create a feature movie.

As a tiny illustration, look at my company and pastimes. Technology allows me to run a high quality CPA practice without any staff. In my spare time I am a publisher and journalist. Anyone in Europe or North America or most of Asia could easily do the same and at minimal cost.

(Cross post from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

When I look at long-term economic trends I am incredibly optimistic.

For yet one more explanation of why that is the case, consider a column by Glenn Reynolds at USA Today: Actually, things are pretty good / Free markets and free inquiry have changed the historic ‘norms’ of poverty and violence.

Until relatively recently, an illness-filled short life of dirt-eating poverty was the normal condition for practically everybody on the planet. In the last 100 or 200 years life has gotten radically better for practically everyone.

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The morality of get rich quick schemes, view from 1875

From the Library of Congress, created by Currier & Ives, circa 1875. No known restrictions on publication.

The way to grow poor, the way to grow rich the way to grow rich

In case anyone was wondering, I agree.

(Hat tip: Jason Zweig @jasonzweigwsj)

Cross-post from my other blog, Outrun Change.

At $15.62 an hour you are in the top 1% of earners

Admit It: You’re Rich is a discussion from Megan McArdle.

If you are making more than about $16 an hour, you are in the top 1% of income earners in the world. If your time horizon is the last few thousand years of history, sitting in the lower end of middle class or perhaps working poor, you would be in the very tip-top of the 1% for all of history.

(Cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change, because this discussion has so much to say about the radical economic progress that has taken place over the last 100 and 250 year timeframes.)

She is on the story of why people living on either coast are complaining they can barely get by on $350,000 a year.

I’m on it. So is David Sirota. And if your personal income is higher than $32,500, so are you. The global elite to which you and I belong enjoys fantastic wealth compared to the rest of the world: We have more food, clothes, comfortable housing, electronic gadgets, health care, travel and leisure than almost every other living person, not to mention virtually every human being who has ever lived. We are also mostly privileged to live in societies that offer quite a lot in the way of public amenities, from well-policed streets and clean water, to museums and libraries, to public officials who do their jobs without requiring a hefty bribe. And I haven’t even mentioned the social safety nets our governments provide.

So how is it that everyone who is making more than $33K a year doesn’t feel like they are incredibly, wonderfully, amazingly blessed to live a live of such luxury and comfort and ease?

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Would you rather be in the middle class today or the richest man in the world in 1836?

If it was possible to choose, would you prefer to live life in the middle class, struggling to get by in a lousy economy with an uncertain retirement, or would you rather live the life of Nathan Rothschild, who was the richest man on the planet when he departed this life in 1836?

(Cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

John Kay discusses this idea in his article, Precise inflation figures ignore evolutions in product quality and consumer choice.

Mr. Kay points out that Mr. Rothschild was richer than either John D Rockefeller or Bill Gates. He was the second richest man in all of history.

Before you say you’d rather live his life than yours, consider this:

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Your thinking experiment for the day: What economic and political system exists in one country with expanding oil production and another country with collapsing production?

Consider the following two stories.

One country with rapidly expanding oil production with no end of the increase in sight. The other country is a member of OPEC and will start importing light crude.

I’ll ask two questions after mentioning the articles, which are reposted from my other blog, Outrun Change. (more…)

Choosing between liberty and equality? How about both?

There is a long-running debate between those who choose equality as the foundation for all policies and decisions on one hand, and those who choose liberty as the foundation on the other hand. The underlying goal of both options is to help others and make life better for all.

The Wall Street Journal addresses these differing approaches in Free People, Free Markets: (more…)

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

That comment is from Winston Churchill. I touched on it a year ago – On having enemies.

While looking for a somewhat related story, I looked again at a discussion by Philosiblog on the Churchill quote.

(Cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

His article expands on the idea that if you take a principled stand for something, there is a chance you will cause severe offense and perhaps create an enemy.

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A few final quotes from Winston Churchill

While tracking down a great quote from Churchill on free enterprise, I found a number of other great ones at The 40 Greatest Quotes From Winston Churchill, an article by John Hawkins.

I’ll finish this series with two motivational comments:

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

and

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

Winston Churchill

On having enemies

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Winston Churchill

It’s not always a bad thing to gather enemies by standing up for your core beliefs, those things you value most dearly.

While searching on that phrase, found a nice article pondering its implications at Philosiblog.

I found the above quote in several places on the ‘net. Also found it and other quotes in this series at The 40 Greatest Quotes From Winston Churchill, an article by John Hawkins.

Welcome to my new blog on freedom!

Welcome! This blog will focus on the concept that when you consider all the options, freedom is the moral choice.

Whether you want to discuss economics, political systems, or religious expression, the moral option is the one that involves freedom.

I’ll begin by copying a number of posts from my other blogs that talk about freedom. These have a primary focus on economic freedom.

Over time I’ll continue talking about economic freedom and add in lots of conversation on political and religious freedom.

It will take some time to develop the ideas here, but over time I think you will see a detailed and persuasive argument.

Please check back frequently as I make the case that freedom is the moral option.

Spotting wrong questions

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.” 

–Antony Jay,  British writer, broadcaster, director and actor

I’m planning to use that quote in several posts I want to write soon, so I will put it here to have it on the table.

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Free agent status for everyone!

The world of work has changed. We are all free agents.

Even if we don’t change jobs or stay with one employer for decades, we are all now free agents.

What has happened?

The nature of work has changed.

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