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Ryan McMaken

Ryan McMaken

Ryan W. McMaken is the editor of Mises Daily and The Austrian. He has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014.

Articles by Ryan McMaken

Switzerland Bans Welfare Recipients

3 days ago

Swiss news site The Local reports that new laws taking effect this month will make it even more difficult for immigrants to obtain citizenship.
It has apparently been established law for some time that immigrants collecting social benefits are barred from naturalization. The new law, however, now also prohibits naturalization if an applicant has accepted social benefits at any time during the previous three years.
An exception is made if the benefits “are paid back in full.”
On the other hand, applicants for citizenship now must only have resided in Switzerland for ten years instead of 12, as was the case before the new law took effect.
It’s important to make a distinction here. The change in law is not saying the recipients on social

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Why California Has the Nation’s Worst Poverty Rate

4 days ago

Earlier this week, the LA Times reminded its readers that California has the highest poverty rate in the nation. Specifically, when using the Census Bureau’s most recent" Supplemental Poverty Measure" (SPM), California clocks in with a poverty rate of 20 percent, which places it as worst in the nation.To be sure, California is running quite closely with Florida and Louisiana, but we can certainly say that California is a top contender when it comes to poverty:

This continues to be something of a black eye for California politicians who imagine themselves to be the enlightened elite of North America. The fact that one in five Californians is below this poverty line doesn’t exactly lend itself to crowing about the state’s success in its various wars on

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The FBI’s Attacks on MLK, Jr. Are Helpful Reminders for Today

6 days ago

Writing for the Wall Street Journal in 2005, federal judge and former U.S. deputy attorney general Laurence Silberman recalled how he was "shocked" to discover the extent the FBI abused its power to spy on Americans. Speaking of the first time he reviewed the files of J. Edgar Hoover, Silberman writes how Hoover tasked "his agents with reporting privately to him on any bits of dirt on figures such as Martin Luther King or their families — information Hoover sometimes used as blackmail to ensure his and the bureau’s power."Silberman was writing of having first learned of these abuses of power back in the 1970s. Using a well-worn Hollywood cliché, one might say those days were a "more innocent time." Nowadays it is widely known that the FBI was the personal playground of

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Now’s a Great Time to Stop Meddling in Haiti

8 days ago

Earlier this week, President Trump allegedly disparaged Haiti, describing it as "sh*thole." The response has been what you might expect. It’s been a torrent of demands for apologies from the Trump administration and commentary on how "troubling" Donald Trump’s views are. Upon hearing of such comments supposedly directed at Haitians, a well informed person might be tempted to think "if only this were the worst thing a US president has inflicted upon the Haitian people." But, as is typical for the American left and the mainstream media, uttering mean words is the worst thing a politician can do. Actively meddling in another country’s internal affairs and undermining its elections? Well, that’s no big deal — unless you’re Russia, of course. Indeed, anyone who has any

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Thanks, Government — Nearly Half of Puerto Rico Is Still without Power

9 days ago

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, most of Puerto Rico lost electricity. Since electronic transactions were not longer possible under these conditions, the Federal Reserve was forced to fly a planeload of cash to the island to avoid a total breakdown of the economy there. But even then, we were assured that the loss of power was a momentary blip. Everything would be back to normal soon. But as of December 29 (more than three months after the hurricane hit) only 55% percent of power-company customers actually have power again.The good news is that the "Army Corps of Engineers has projected that power will be restored for most people by March, but those in very remote areas might have to wait until May because of the difficulty in moving supplies."So, in some parts of the

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On-Duty Police Deaths Were Near a 50-Year Low in 2017

12 days ago

The number of police officers killed on duty dropped to near a 50-year low in 2017. As of December 28, 2017, 128 officers died in the line of duty. That’s down 10% from 2016, when 143 officers died, according to new data from National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.The only other year with fewer deaths in the past five decades was 2013, when 116 officers were killed. These deaths should not all be interpreted as the result of attacks from members of the public. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of police-officer deaths, although shootings play a significant role. Although we continue to hear complaints about a "war on cops" from police labor unions, government institutions, and their allies, there is no evidence to support the claim. As Tate Fegley noted

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No, We Don’t Need a Federal “Solution” to Infrastructure Problems

13 days ago

On December 19, an Amtrak train in Washington State killed three people and injured 100 others when it derailed and crashed into traffic lanes on a nearby highway.The day before, Atlanta’s international airport suffered a disastrous power outage:the whole airport, the world’s busiest, went dark for 11 hours. Thousands of flights were disrupted. For many hours nobody in authority attempted to explain—or even seemed able to explain—what had happened.Both cases have been used to bolster claims that the US federal government needs to spend more on infrastructure. In the wake of the Washington derailment, President Trump quickly took to Twitter to call for more government spending:The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be

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Cannabis Tax Revenues Will be a Roadblock to Sessions’s Drug War

16 days ago

Through November of 2017, the State of Colorado collected more than $226 million in revenues from cannabis taxes, licenses, and fees. That’s a lot for a state government with total discretionary spending of about $10 billion. This doesn’t count tax revenues produced by industries that serve cannabis industries — but aren’t cannabis businesses per se. Like other businesses, cannabis businesses also hire bookkeepers, lawyers, landscapers, janitors, and construction workers. In other words, cannabis employs people, produces tax revenue, and is as much a part of the local economy as any other industry. (The industry employs more than 30,000 people.)What’s happening in Colorado, though, is likely to be dwarfed by the new cannabis industry in California where there are far

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School Vouchers Are Basically Food Stamps

17 days ago

In modern America, government schools are one of the last remaining truly socialist institutions. And when I use the term socialism, I’m using the technical and old-school definition: government ownership of the means of production. Although private schools do exist in America, schooling in general — especially at the pre-college level — is overwhelmingly delivered by government-owned institutions called "public schools." Few other industries in America are operated this way, and this is true even when we include products and services essential to human life and safety, such as food and housing. While the US did flirt with creating a large number of government-owned housing projects during the 20th century, housing is nearly all privately owned in the US today. Most

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Was Scrooge the Victim in A Christmas Carol?

29 days ago

In the past, a few brave iconoclasts have taken exception to the treatment Ebenezer Scrooge of A Christmas Carol has received from his critics. While a fictional character created by Charles Dickens, Scrooge has become, in the minds of many, a representative of the imagined miserly financiers who serve as caricatures of capitalists everywhere. This has led some defenders of markets to step in and offer a defense of Scrooge.Butler Shaffer writes that Scrooge is one of "the true heroes of the time of which [Dickens] wrote, namely, the industrialists and financiers who created that most liberating epoch in human history: the Industrial Revolution."And Michael Levin avers: "Dickens doesn’t mention Scrooge’s satisfied customers, but there must have been plenty of them for

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Automobiles Freed Us from the Tyranny of Horses

December 22, 2017

Thanks to the automobile, Americans live in an age of extremely inexpensive transportation, by historical measures. In the United States in 2015, there was approximately one motor vehicle per 1.21 people. With the exception of the small, wealthy city states of San Marino and Monaco, the United States employs more motor vehicles than any other country. Even if we make similar calculations using just "passenger cars," the number of vehicles per person remains quite high: fewer than 2.3 people per passenger car. People who don’t like automobiles tell us this is a symptom of bad urban planning and a dysfunctional American obsession with cars. This may or may not be the case, but the number of automobiles is also a function of a society’s wealth. It’s not a mere coincidence

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Free Parking Isn’t Free

December 21, 2017

How much off-street parking should a restaurant have? This of course, is a pretty important question for the owner of the restaurant, since he or she will need to make sure that people can easily access the building in order to eat there. Any entrepreneur who wants to run a profitable restaurant will need to guess how many parking spots are needed, based on a variety of factors — such as proximity of housing, public transportation, and the personal preferences and demographics of the clientele.If the owner supplies too little parking, then motorists will simply drive on by, opting to dine somewhere that offers an easily-accessible parking space. On the other hand, the owner doesn’t want to provide too much parking because parking spaces use up square footage that could

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In a Stateless World, Can You Grow Veggies In Your Front Yard?

December 14, 2017

The Miami Herald reports that a local couple is going all the way to the state supreme court to fight a local ordinance banning front-yard vegetable gardens: Hermine Ricketts and her husband Tom Carroll may grow fruit trees and flowers in the front yard of their Miami Shores house…Vegetables, however, are not allowed.Ricketts and Carroll thought they were gardeners when they grew tomatoes, beets, scallions, spinach, kale and multiple varieties of Asian cabbage. But according to a village ordinance that restricts edible plants to backyards only, they were actually criminals.“That’s what government does – interferes in people’s lives,” Ricketts said. “We had that garden for 17 years. We ate fresh meals every day from that garden. Since the village stepped its big foot

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Net Neutrality and the Problem with “Experts”

December 11, 2017

The FCC is preparing to vote this week to roll back "net neutrality" regulations adopted in 2015. Supporters of net neutrality claim the regulations protect internet traffic from discrimination and ensure broadband providers don’t abuse their power as gatekeepers to the internet. Supporters also claim "[n]et neutrality is the principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally."The problem, of course, is that net neutrality regulations do none of these things. In the past, we’ve explored how government regulatory panels cannot and do not ensure fairness. In fact, they encourage abuse by the most powerful actors in the marketplace. Moreover, as Peter Klein has noted, it is impossible to allocate goods "neutrally" even if government regulators were untouched

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The US Constitution Was Never Necessary for Military Defense

December 7, 2017

Before the US Constitution of 1787 was ratified, its proponents have claimed a centralized and powerful American state was necessary for the purposes of military defense.But, as the Anti-Federalists of the time pointed out, the older constitution (known as the Articles of Confederation) had already been sufficient to allow the colonies to defeat what was the most powerful state on earth — the British Empire.By the time the Federalists were advocating for a new, stronger, more costly constitution, the US was, as Richard Henry Lee put it, "in no immediate danger of any commotions; we are in a state of perfect peace, and in no danger of invasions."Then as now, though, advocates for more government intervention wrapped up their agenda in calls for more "security" through a

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Why James Madison Hated Democracy

December 1, 2017

Why was James Madison so critical of democracies? Moreover, why was he so concerned about them when, according to the definition he provided, "democracies" basically don’t exist anywhere, either in his time or in our own. Today, many conservatives like to claim that "the Founding Fathers" opposed democracy and supported less majoritarian republics. However, as is nearly always the case whenever "the Founding Fathers" are involved, a more accurate statement would be "some Founding Fathers" condemned democracy. Indeed, many of the Founding Fathers — especially among the Anti-Federalists, openly described themselves as being in favor of "democracy" and "the democratical spirit." This is no coincidence. By attacking democracy, Madison was attempting to discredit the more

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Eliminating the State and Local Tax Deduction Is a Terrible Idea

November 29, 2017

The tax "reform" currently being discussed in Washington is mostly a political exercise for politicians who can use the process to extract more campaign contributions from supporters, and punish non-supporters. The actual tax burden imposed on Americans overall will change little. The proposed elimination of the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) is an excellent illustration of how the tax reform is really about playing political games. Forever in pursuit of "revenue neutral" tax reform, the GOP is simply turning to the elimination of the SALT deduction so it can raise federal revenues, and this allow for a tax cut for some other well-heeled special interest group. Using bizarre "logic," supporters of the deduction’s elimination claim that an increase in the

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Thanksgiving: A Celebration of Domestic Life

November 23, 2017

If recent years are any indication, this year we’ll be treated, yet again, to a smattering of articles about the supposed politics behind Thanksgiving, and how the bad guys (whether on the left or right) are opposing all things decent by refusing to celebrate the holiday in a way that promotes the correct political agenda. On one side are the leftists who feel compelled to use Thanksgiving as an extension of Columbus Day, in which we’re all reminded that it’s a bad thing to steal from indigenous tribes. One the other side are the conservatives who insist on making Thanksgiving into a day celebrating a national origin story. July 4, it seems, isn’t enough for them. Unfortunately, both of these efforts at hijacking the holiday for political battles refuse to go away.

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Do We Really Need a Federal Ban on Horse Meat?

November 21, 2017

For decades in the United States, turkey has become the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal. Some eccentrics may offer other choices, such as roast beef or duck, but nowadays, it’s a sure bet that few households will be offering horse meat as one of Thursday’s featured dishes. Horse meat has largely disappeared from the Western diet, and not even our pets eat much horse anymore.In the United States, however, this flight from horse meat has been helped along by the federal government, which, as with so many other matters, has taken up the task of micromanaging how meat is produced in the United States. In fact, while Congress debates issues like Obamacare and tax reform, it has also been debating whether or not to end a federal ban on horse meat production: Animal

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Hey GOP, Want to Cut the Burden of Government? Cut Spending.

November 13, 2017

Washington, DC is currently in the middle of a the "tax reform" process, which as Jeff Deist, points out, is " a con, and a shell game." Tax reform proposals, Deist continues "always evade and obscure the real issue, which is the total cost — financial, compliance, and human — taxes impose on society."Tax reform is really about which interest groups can modify the current tax code to better suit their own parochial interests. The end result is not a lessened tax burden overall, and thus does nothing to boost real savings, real wealth creation, or real economic growth. It’s just yet another government method of rewarding powerful groups while punishing the less powerful ones. Not surprisingly then, the news that’s coming out of Washington about tax reform demonstrates that

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There’s No Such Thing as an “American” Homicide Rate

November 9, 2017

In September, the FBI released new homicide data, and the overall US homicide rate rose for the second year to an eight-year high. According to the report, the nationwide homicide rate in the US in 2016 was 5.3 per 100,000, up from 2015’s rate of 4.9. The homicide rate in 2014 — 4.4 per 100,000 — had been a 51-year low, and comparable to rates not seen since the 1950s. Homicide rates still remain well below where they were in the 1980s and 1990s, when homicide rates sometimes exceeded 9 per 100,000. 

When it comes to making any serious analysis, however, nationwide homicide rates for a place as large as the United States are next to useless. When we look at numbers on a state-by-state basis, we find that homicide rates vary from 1.3 per 100,000 in New Hampshire to

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Why a Small State Is More “Voluntary” than a Big One

November 7, 2017

Because of their physical size, large states are able to exercise more state-like power than geographically smaller states — and thus exercise a greater deal of control over residents. This is because larger states benefit from higher barriers to emigration than smaller states, thus allowing them to avoid one of the most significant barriers to expanding state power: the ability of residents to move away. Moreover, by virtue of the fact that the land area of the earth is more or less fixed, a small number of large states prevents the formation of a large number of small states.The economic and political implications of this are explained by Ralph Raico in his seminal work "The European Miracle." Raico explains how a large number of small states — and thus the relative ease

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When Gunmen Strike, You’re on Your Own

November 6, 2017

Here is an often-used tactic to defend government police organizations from criticism. Whenever critics point out abusive tactics of police officers, defenders counter with: "And yet you won’t refuse police help the next time there’s a robber in your house!" This, we are told, illustrates that all police critics are "hypocrites." This has always been a dishonest tactic, of course, since "consumers" of police "services" are forced to pay for the local monopoly police force, and have no other options. Government police forces have monopolized the marketplace and crowded out affordable private security through other means. Thus, calling the police to scare off some robbers on one’s property is no more hypocritical than a critic of the local power company who nevertheless

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Madison’s Definition of Democracy Is Now Irrelevant

November 3, 2017

The claim that the United States political system is "a republic, not a democracy" is often heard in libertarian and conservative circles, and is typically invoked whenever the term "democracy" is used in any favorable context. This claim is generally invoked when the user believes one of the following:"I don’t like your idea, and since it involves aspects that are democratic or majoritarian, I’ll invoke the republic-not-a-democracy claim to discredit your idea.""A majority of the population appears to support this idea, so I will invoke the republic-not-a-democracy claim to illustrate that the majority should be ignored." Also key to these claims is to invoke the authority of "the Founding Fathers" — by which is meant the pro-centralization nationalists and not the

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If American Federalism Were like Swiss Federalism, There Would be 1,300 States

October 31, 2017

In a recent interview with Mises Weekends, Claudio Grass examined some of the advantages of the Swiss political system, and how highly decentralized politics can bring with it great economic prosperity, more political stability, and a greater respect for property rights. Since the Swiss political system of federalism is itself partially inspired by 19th-century American federalism, the average American can usually imagine in broad terms what the Swiss political system looks like. There are Swiss cantons, which are like the American states. And there is the Swiss federal legislature, which is like the American congress.What the American tends to miss, however, is that the scale of political units in Switzerland is much, much smaller than that found in the United States.

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In Fed We Trust

October 26, 2017

At this point, does anyone believe the Fed is willing to do anything that might really spook markets? During the 1990s, back in the days of "Maestro" Alan Greenspan, it was widely believed that investors should pay careful attention to every word uttered by Fed chairment for clues as to where Fed policy was headed in the near future. Did Greenspan seem to favor higher interest rates, or was he keeping the money spigots open for the foreseeable future? If it looked like there was no threat of rising rates, then the markets responded bullishly. Monetary policy in that era will still easy-money oriented, historically speaking. But, the target rate did rise above six percent at times, so when the Fed chairmen talked about "tightening" there might at least be some mild rate

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Pentagon Pushes Plan for Female Draft Registration

October 26, 2017

The Pentagon is moving forward with pressuring Congress to add women to the Selective Service program, which will make virtually all young people eligible for the military draft. The Washington Times reports: The Pentagon says the country should stick with mandatory registration for a military draft, and it advocates a requirement for women to sign up for the first time in the nation’s history.The recommendations are contained in a Defense Department report to Congress that serves as a starting point for a commission examining military, national and public service.Congress ordered the Pentagon report, and the office of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness completed it in the early months of the Trump administration.Currently, only male citizens and

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Can Trump and Rand Paul Save Healthcare?

October 19, 2017

Last week, Donald Trump signed a new executive order facilitating more flexibility for consumers of health insurance. The order allows for more flexibility in purchasing insurance across state lines, and greater freedom both small businesses and groups of consumers in creating "association health plans" (AHPs). In theory, this will broaden access to the benefits currently enjoyed only by those with employment-based insurance, and other types of group insurance. The order paves the way for healthcare reforms long favored by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul who believes the reforms will help bring down healthcare costs. In an op-ed for Breitbart, Paul writes: Millions of Americans will be eligible to band together to demand less-expensive insurance. The 28 million individuals left

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Europe’s Secession Problems Aren’t Going Away

October 19, 2017

Earlier this week, The New York Times noted that movements for greater local autonomy appear to be spreading throughout Europe. In some ways, the conflict in Catalonia is just the tip of the iceberg. The Times reports: Coming on the heels of the Catalan vote, the Lombardy and Veneto referendums are yet another signal of the homegrown conflicts that persist in many of the European Union’s member states. Separatist movements are also simmering in Britain — where voters in Scotland rejected independence in a 2014 referendum but continue to debate the issue — as well as France, Germany, Belgium and Romania.Like Catalonia — and unlike Scotland — the Lombardy and Veneto regions of Italy are among the wealthiest regions, and send enormous amounts of tax revenue to Rome. Italy’s

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Ayn Rand Was All Wet

October 12, 2017

One of Ayn Rand’s most notorious claims is that Europeans and their descendants were justified in driving Indian tribes off their lands because aboriginal Americans “did not have the concept of property or property rights,” and because they “wish[ed] to continue a primitive existence.” Rand also claims the Indian tribes had no right to the land they lived on because “they didn’t have a settled society,” and “had predominantly nomadic tribal ‘cultures.’” Rand even uses scare quotes around “cultures” to perhaps imply that Indian culture was not any type of culture at all.
Today, many critics of laissez-faire liberalism (i.e., libertarianism) continue to quote these lines in order to indict all defenders of private property, whom critics

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