Biggest Debate Joke: Ukraine Aid is a "Loan" That Will Be Paid Back

Biggest Debate Joke: Ukraine Aid is a "Loan" That Will Be Paid Back

09/28/2023Tho Bishop

Last night's Republican debate was a farce from beginning to end.

The first laugh line of the evening was Fox Business personality Stuart Varney having a difficult time getting through the name of his co-host Ilia Calderón.

The debate's conclusion ended in a similarly awkward moment for the moderators, with candidates rebelling against an attempt to turn the debate into a political game of Survivor. 

In between,  the politicians on stage attempted to deliver carefully planned one-liners designed to demonstrate more personality than what comes naturally to them. In particular, while there is plenty to laugh at Mike Pence about, his attempted joke was not one of them.

The most comedic line of the night belonged to South Carolina Senator Tim Scott. Scott, whose ten-year career in the Senate has left him with no argument for his candidacy beyond latent Republican desires for diversity on the ticket, dutifully stood up to defend the increasingly unpopular bipartisan financial aid lawmakers have provided Ukraine. In response to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stating that he would reject further US financial support for the Ukrainian effort, Scott contended that 90% of the assistance is a loan that will be paid off.

It is difficult to know whether or not Senator Scott actually believes this; most of what is said on a political debate stage should not be taken at face value.  Even if we put aside the question of his 90% figure, which is significantly inflated from the percentage of financial aid that is currently considered a loan, a sincere belief that Ukraine will be expected to actually pay back war-time loans shows a disconnect with the way the modern American empire operates.

It is worth noting that there was a time when the United States government took repayment of political loans seriously. As a 1993 report by the Congressional Research Service noted:

Historically, the U.S. Government has rarely forgiven debts owed to it by foreign governments and individuals. It has been willing to adjust the repayment schedule, when the borrowers found they were unable to meet the original repayment terms for U.S. loans. Generally, however, the rescheduling process has been effected on a businesslike basis. Any foreign assistance effect of U.S. loans was provided up front, through the activity financed by the loan and any concessions or discounts in the payment terms. The debt collection procedure was not treated as an additional avenue for providing aid

Interestingly, a footnote in the first sentence did recognize that $2 billion of the $3 billion of Marshall Plan loans made to West Germany was forgiven in 1953, while most other European nations received direct grants rather than loans from the program and therefore didn't have to worry about repayment.

As the report goes on to document, any pre-existing federal commitment to debt repayment began to quickly erode during the George H.W. Bush Administration.

The movement towards debt forgiveness began with an initiative by Congress in 1989, augmented by subsequent legislation in 1991, authorizing the Administration to forgive foreign aid debts owed by countries in Africa and other very poor countries. As a result, the Administration wrote off $2.7 billion in low-income country debt. In 1990, President Bush proposed, in the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, that debt be written off for Latin America in order to encourage democratization and economic policy reform. Following the adoption of legislation in 1990 and 1992, $605 million in foreign aid debt was forgiven through this program. President Bush also recommended in 1990 that debt owed by Egypt should be forgiven in order to assist and demonstrate U.S. support for that country. Congress concurred and added a similar debt write-off for Poland. As a result of legislation approved in 1990, $8.3 billion owed by these countries (most of it market-rate debt) was forgiven in fiscal year 1991. 

This trend has continued since. President Bill Clinton worked with the IMF and the World Bank for major debt forgiveness for "heavily indebted poor countries." President George W. Bush added on to this legacy with the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative. Further international debt relief was one campaign promise that Barack Obama fulfilled, even after Republicans took back the House after the 2010 midterms. These programs continue today, such as in 2021 when U.S. taxpayers generously financed $120 million in debt relief grants to the Sudan.

Additionally, any pretension that the United States expects repayment from Ukraine and Europe for loans offered during the Russian conflict flies in the face of how NATO currently operates. On the one hand, some political leaders have suggested a future where Ukraine may be admitted as a member of either NATO or the European Union. While, again, it is reasonable to be skeptical of the credibility of these proclamations, particularly given the history of the West cynically entertaining NATO expansion as a bargaining chip in geopolitical relations with Russia prior to the invasion, the financial standards these international bodies have for admission would be severely undermined by the expectation of Ukrainian debt forgiveness after the war. 

Prior to Russia's invasion, Ukraine's economy would have been an extreme outlier relative to other E.U. nations. As Ryan McMaken notes, E.U. admission of Ukraine would create new economic hardships for a political union that has already been tested in recent years by financial crisis. Does Senator Scott honestly expect the U.S. government to add to these pressures with the expectation of debt forgiveness?

If the answer is yes, that would arguably be more disqualifying than telling a knowing lie.

Image source:
Flickr | Creator: North Charleston

Separate Tech and State

6 hours agoRon Paul

Some libertarians dismiss concerns over social media companies’ suppression of news and opinions that contradict select agendas by pointing out that these platforms are private companies, not part of the government. There are two problems with this argument. First, there is nothing unlibertarian about criticizing private businesses or using peaceful and voluntary means, such as boycotts, to persuade businesses to change their practices.

The second and most significant reason the “they are private companies” argument does not hold water is the tech companies’ censorship has often been done at the “request” of government officials. The extent of government involvement with online censorship was revealed in emails between government and employees of various tech companies. In these emails the government officials addressed employees of these “private companies” as though these employees were the government officials’ subordinates.

Government officials using their authority to silence American citizens is a blatant violation of the First Amendment. Yet some conservative elected officials and writers think the solution to the problem of big tech censorship is giving government more power over technology companies. These pro-regulation conservatives ignore the fact that it would be just as unconstitutional if a conservative administration was telling tech companies who they must allow to access their platforms as it is when progressives order social media companies to deplatform certain individuals. Furthermore, since the average government official’s political views are closer to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez than to Marjorie Taylor Greene, giving government more power over social media companies is likely to lead to more online censorship of conservatives.

Instead of giving government more power over social media, defenders of free speech should work to separate tech and state. An excellent place to start is pushing for passage of the Free Speech Protection Act. Unlike other legislation, such as the PATRIOT Act and the Affordable Care Act, this bill is accurately named. Introduced by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, this bill makes it a crime for any federal employee or employee of a federal contractor to use his position to communicate with a social media company to interfere with any American’s exercise of First Amendment protected rights. Violators of this law would face fines of at least 10,000 dollars as well as suspension, demotion, or even termination and a lifetime ban from working with the federal government.

In addition to working to pass the Free Speech Protection Act, those who object to the big technology companies’ “content moderation” policies should abandon big tech for more free speech friendly platforms. Many of the newer social media companies were started to meet the demand for a “content moderation”-free alternative to the dominant companies. Senator Paul himself stopped posting videos on YouTube because of its suppression of free speech. While my Liberty Report still airs on YouTube, its main platform is Rumble. It is wonderful to do a show on any topic I choose without worrying about being canceled.

Big tech censorship is a problem created by big government. The solution lies not with giving government more power but with separating tech and state. Passing the Free Speech Protection Act and making big tech pay a price for cooperating with big government by leaving to use sites like Rumble are two excellent places to start.

Originally published by the Ron Paul Institute. 

The Truth About JFK’s Assassination

November 22 was the sixtieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination. It was obvious in 1963 that the “official” story that a ‘lone nut,“ Lee Harvey Oswald, had gunned down the president was a lie.

Here is what the great Murray Rothbard wrote about the assassination in 1992, in a review of Oliver Stone’s movie JFK:

“The most fascinating thing about JFK, as exciting and well-done as it is, is not the movie itself but the hysterical attempt to marginalize, if not to suppress it. How many movies can you remember where the entire Establishment, in serried ranks, from left (The Nation) through Center to Right, joined together as one in a frantic orgy of calumny and denunciation. Time and Newsweek actually doing so before the movie came out? Apparently, so fearful was the Establishment that the Oliver Stone movie might prove convincing that the public had to be thoroughly inoculated in advance. It was a remarkable performance by the media, and it demonstrates, as nothing else, the enormous and growing gap between Respectable Media opinion and what the public Knows in its Heart.

You would think from the shock of the Respectable Media, that Stone’s JFK was totally outlandish, off-the-wall, monstrous and fanciful in its accusations against the American power structure. And you would think that historical films never engaged in dramatic license, as if such solemnly hailed garbage as Wilson and Sunrise at Campobello had been models of scholarly precision. Hey, come off it guys! Despite the fuss and feathers, to veteran Kennedy Assassination buffs, there was nothing new in JFK. What Stone does is to summarize admirably the best of a veritable industry of assassination revisionism – of literally scores of books, articles, tapes, annual conventions, and archival research. Stone himself is quite knowledgeable in the area, as shown by his devastating answer in the Washington Post, to the smears of the last surviving Warren Commission member, Gerald Ford, and the old Commission hack, David W. Belin. Despite the smears in the press, there was nothing outlandish in the movie. Interestingly enough, JFK has been lambasted much more furiously than was the first revisionist movie, Don Freed’s Executive Action (1973), an exciting film with Robert Ryan and Will Geer, which actually did go way beyond the evidence, and beyond plausibility, by trying to make an H.L. Hunt figure the main conspirator.

The evidence is now overwhelming that the orthodox Warren legend, that Oswald did it and did it alone, is pure fabrication. It now seems clear that Kennedy died in a classic military triangulation hit, that, as Parkland Memorial autopsy pathologist Dr. Charles Crenshaw has very recently affirmed, the fatal shots were fired from in front, from the grassy knoll, and that the conspirators were, at the very least, the right-wing of the CIA, joined by its long-time associates and employees, the Mafia. It is less well established that President Johnson himself was in on the original hit, though he obviously conducted the coordinated cover-up, but certainly his involvement is highly plausible.

The last-ditch defenders of the Warren view cannot refute the details, so they always fall back on generalized vaporings, such as: “How could all the government be in on it?” But since Watergate, we have all become familiar with the basic fact: only a few key people need be in on the original crime, while lots of high and low government officials can be in on the subsequent cover-up, which can always be justified as “patriotic,” on “national security” grounds, or simply because the president ordered it. The fact that the highest levels of the U.S. government are all-too capable of lying to the public, should have been clear since Watergate and Iran-Contra. The final fallback argument, getting less plausible all the time is: if the Warren case isn’t true, why hasn’t the truth come out by this time? The fact is, however, that the truth has largely come out, in the assassination industry, from books – some of them best-sellers – by Mark Lane, David Lifton, Peter Dale ScottJim Marrs, and many others, but the Respectable Media pay no attention. With that sort of mindset, that stubborn refusal to face reality, no truth can ever come out. And yet, despite this blackout, because books, local TV and radio, magazine articles, supermarket tabloids, etc. can’t be suppressed – but only ignored – by the Respectable Media, we have the remarkable result that the great majority of the public, in all the polls, strongly disbelieve the Warren legend. Hence, the frantic attempts of the Establishment to suppress as gripping and convincing a film as Stone’s JFK.

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Explaining 2020

11/27/2023Robert Aro

In the not-too-distant future, during the next economic bust, recession, or stock market crash, many people will naturally examine the most immediate events and wonder what led to the latest catastrophe. When this occurs, remind them it's an ongoing boom/bust cycle, where the boom leads to the bust, followed by another boom in a vicious circle caused by intervention in the free market.

The question then becomes: "What did the government do in 2020?" The complete answer would be loaded, to say the least. However, regarding the official economic response to the question, Governor Lisa D. Cook provided a succinct detail in a speech titled Global Linkages: Supply, Spillovers, and Common Challenges.

As explained:

Policymakers around the world faced the common challenge of supporting incomes and limiting the scarring from temporary shutdowns in activity. The response was similar across countries: fiscal support, particularly to help those most in need, although the magnitude differed, in part because of differences in fiscal space. Initially aimed at preventing sharp financial and economic deterioration, monetary policy easing was later extended to support the nascent economic recovery. Policy rates were cut to or held near zero in both advanced and emerging market economies. A wide range of central banks also bought assets to support market functioning and provide stimulus once overnight policy rates hit their effective lower bounds.

For those unfamiliar with the Austrian school, it might appear to offer a robust explanation of how politicians and central bankers stepped in to fix the economy in times of crisis. However, we know this is not the case, as policymakers cannot fix that which they are responsible for breaking.

The idea that policymakers around the world took on a very similar response speaks to the global-socialist world of the 21st century.

Beginning with fiscal support, the inherent problem lies in the fact that for the government to provide funds to certain members of society, it must either take or borrow money from other members. Determining who is most in need becomes an impossible task for politicians. It leads to a system where the government has the power to determine who is most worthy of a bailout, making it prone to abuse and corruption.

The reliance on monetary policy to support a "nascent economic recovery" underscores the ineffectiveness of fiscal policy in alleviating economic downturns. Like governments worldwide, central bankers similarly coordinated their intervention effort.

By cutting or maintaining rates around zero percent, along with buying assets like government debt, stocks, and bonds, central banks revealed themselves as more powerful than governments. Without the support of their central banks, governments would be much less powerful than they are today, if they could even exist at all.

That these interventionist activities could prevent a "sharp financial and economic deterioration" cannot be reasonably explained, as trillions of dollars were essentially counterfeited and circulated across the globe. This act of inflation (the boom) led to widespread currency debasement and set in motion the next worldwide economic downturn (the bust).

Coupled with forced economic shutdowns, these interventions resulted in numerous negative consequences still felt today. As for the Fed’s shrinking of the balance sheet between 2018 to 2019, it’s possible this wasn’t forgotten as much as it was never known by most people. And as far as the long-term effects of this entire economic experiment, we’ll find out… eventually.

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Of Turkeys and Turduckens

11/25/2023Robert Aro

As millions of Americans recover from their Thanksgiving indulgence, an intriguing question arises: How much did your Thanksgiving dinner cost?

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 38th annual survey:

…the average cost of this year’s classic holiday feast for 10 … is $61.17 or less than $6.20 per person.

They also mention that:

This is a 4.5% decrease from last year’s record-high average of $64.05, but a Thanksgiving meal is still 25% higher than it was in 2019, which highlights the impact high supply costs and inflation have had on food prices since before the pandemic.

Anyone who hosted dinner this week will immediately know their proximity from the $61.17 average.

According to the data, the average meal for 10 people looked like this (comparison to last year in brackets):

16-pound turkey: $27.35 or $1.71 per pound (down 5.6%)

14-ounces of cubed stuffing mix: $3.77 (down 2.8%)

2 frozen pie crusts: $3.50 (down 4.9%)

Half pint of whipping cream: $1.73 (down 22.8%)

1 pound of frozen peas: $1.88 (down 1.1%)

1 dozen dinner rolls: $3.84 (up 2.9%)

Misc. ingredients to prepare the meal: $3.95 (down 4.4%)

30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix: $4.44 (up 3.7%)

1 gallon of whole milk: $3.74 (down 2.6%)

3 pounds of sweet potatoes: $3.97 (up .3%)

1-pound veggie tray (carrots & celery): $.90 (up 2.3%)

12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries: $2.10 (down 18.3%)

While not everyone consumes alcohol, many average people do, so it's immediately noticeable that it's not included as part of the meal plan. And those in the South might feel a bit slighted as there is no mention of peach cobbler, collard greens, or sweet tea, but the list of omissions is long.

This is one of the challenges with averages. Similar to the concept of inclusiveness, which inherently involves exclusiveness, arriving at an average number certainly gives us a number, but its relevance becomes questionable. Who exactly is it relevant for, and how does this number help inform us of anything useful?

A closer look at t Wal-Mart’s website should raise more eyebrows:

The Turkey on the left from Shady Brook Farms approximates the average Turkey price we’ve been given, but the Perdue Farms (for two Turkeys) is considerably higher.

And these are just two brands in a country with many Turkeys. Of course, this leads to an additional problem: the existence of the Turducken:

Those fortunate enough to pay north of $100 to serve the famous Turkey/Duck/Chicken combination have been entirely excluded from the analysis. If the market price of Turduckens were $300, it would have no impact on the $61.17 average; we must wonder how this data could be considered representative.

There exists no magic or secretive technique behind this; the sample method is described as follows:

This year’s national average cost was calculated using 245 surveys completed with pricing data from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers checked prices in person and online using grocery store apps and websites. They looked for the best possible prices without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals.

Statistical sampling and averages may sound convincing to some, but this should be compared against one's own perception and anecdotal evidence. Not only are we informed that the average dinner costs only $61.17, but we're also being told that Thanksgiving dinner this year is less expensive than last year. While one may lack statistical survey data to support this, the idea of Thanksgiving deflation this year seems more like wishful thinking than anything else.

This is not to say the data was compiled maliciously in any way; however, when compiling data, a malicious person can compile it in any way.

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Napoleon's Silver Lining

11/24/2023Ryan McMaken

The great David M. Hart writes: 


I was thinking about the impact Napoleon had on Europe as reviews began to appear of the new film about Napoleon by Ridley Scott. As Smith noted in TMS [Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments] people admire and defer to people of higher rank and authority and Napoleon is a classic example. He was a monster in so many ways and was a powerful force in the destruction of the lives, liberty and property of millions of people. 

However, there is a silver lining to this very dark cloud. As the Austrian economists like to point out there are always “unintended consequences” (usually bad) of government policies. In the case of Napoleon, his actions led to the efflorescence of liberalism in France, with so many great classical liberals rising up to oppose him: JB Say, Destutt de Tracy, Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer, Benjamin Constant, Madame de Stael - the list goes on.

As a scholar of these people I can only say “Thank you Boney”!


11/23/2023Doug French

The Formula One Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix is on for next year and scheduled for November 21-23. This despite reporting from SFGate’s screaming headline, “Las Vegas’ biggest event in years was a disaster.” According to The Messenger's Arash Markazi, "Tickets for Thursday’s practice sessions were selling for around $100 on Wednesday night and tickets for Friday’s qualifying were going for around $250 on the secondary market. Both events were selling for around $1,000 originally," Markazi reported. "A ticket to Saturday’s race is still over $800 but they were over $1,600 just last month."

Markazi reports that his hotel room cost him $18

The race’s sore winner, Max Verstappen, viewed the event as a joke and couldn’t wait to get out of town. “For me, you can skip this,” he said. “It’s not about the singers. We are just standing up there, looking like a clown.” (whatever that means) However, the reigning F1 champ and race winner sang “Viva Las Vegas” over the radio as part of a new tradition he agreed to with Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, reports the Athletic.

Driver Lewis Hamilton was more diplomatic, “For all those that were so negative about the weekend, saying it’s all about show, blah, blah, blah… I think Vegas proved them wrong.” 

Strip workers will be happy to see the lifesize erector set defacing the Strip being dismantled around the clock and the cocky drivers in onesies out of town.

For all the belly aching about the event, corporate Vegas looks to have made out fine. 

The local paper reports “Southern Nevada appears to have had the best week financially in its history, thanks to the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix.”

Caesars Entertainment’s regional boss Sean McBurney said their properties were completely full. He spent four days at the race and noted, ”I don’t know if I’ve been to an event where the feedback was so unanimously positive.” 

MGM’s VP of citywide events, Andrew Lanzino, said all properties, close to the track or not, “performed as if it was New Year’s Eve.”

MGM president and CEO Bill Hornbuckle told the LVRJ, “The average [room] rate at Bellagio was $2,200.

The gushing by casino execs is confirmed by Jacob Orth, who wrote on X,

After the race at Bellagio between 1am-2am:

  • About 70-80% of all tables had action
  • One guy won $40,000 on high limit Top Dollar
  • Of 10 craps tables on the main floor, 2 were $25 min, the rest were either $50 or $100 (all had action)
  • $300 min for 3:2 BJ on main floor (4 tables, 2 vacant)
  • $1,000 min 0 roulette in high limit
  • $1,000 or $5,000 min high limit BJ
  • One $5,000 BJ table had 3 people playing, another had a couple playing
  • Two $1,000 BJ tables had 2-3 people playing
  • The casino floor was busy, not necessarily crowded, but there was no shortage of people willing to gamble with the higher minimums.

The drain cover incident which postponed Thursday night practice until 2:30 am (Friday) will be long forgotten other than by those kicked out of viewing areas who have ramped up a class-action lawsuit.

@VitalVegas who posts on X (formerly Twitter) about all things Vegas is not an F1 fan “F1, LVCVA and Clark Co. Commissioners—with fingers in ears and heads lodged deeply up asses—announce another year of insanity before even assessing the failure or success of this year’s financial and P.R. disaster, so there’s that.” 

But, a guy who is by now an old Vegas wiseman, Donny Osmond, probably has it right about the Grand Prix, "The traffic has been horrendous...But the locals, eventually, are going to embrace this thing completely."

And most importantly, Joe Pompliano posted on X,

“Dealers at the Wynn in Las Vegas split $700,000 in tips on Saturday, per @LasVegasLocally. That means each dealer went home with ~$2,000 in tips — 5-6 times more than their $350-$400 average and the highest amount in Wynn's 18-year history. “I guess F1 wasn't so bad after all.”

F1 is likely something Las Vegas residents will love to hate, for many years.


Ready for Some Funflation!

11/22/2023Robert Aro

Just when you thought every inflation related economic term was used up, CNBC headlines:

‘Funflation’ drives sporting event ticket prices up a whopping 25%

One might assume terms such as transitory, creeping, galloping, and entrenched inflation, along with shrinkflation and foodflation, would suffice. Nonetheless, we can now include "funflation" to the array of consequences resulting from the expansion of the supply of money and credit, also called inflation.

Funflation is characterized as:

…a term used by economists to explain the increasing price tags of live events as consumers hanker for the experiences they lost during the pandemic.

The economists who coined this term remain unmentioned.

In the October Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) reading of 3.2%, sporting events experienced the most significant increase among the few hundred categories comprising the index. One economist from the College of the Holy Cross attempted to explain the reason:

People are getting back to things that they enjoy doing and are willing to pay a bunch.

Despite both fun and inflation coexisting for quite some time, we’ve never seen a mashup between the two until now, yet CNBC tries to explain:

Much of the upward pressure on admission costs has come this year, underscoring the role of funflation as consumers shift their attention from Taylor Swift and Beyoncé concerts to NFL and Major League Baseball games.

Funflation has even spread as far north as Canada, where the government owned news channel CBC offers four possible causes for this growing phenomenon:

1. It's a natural response to existential dread

2. Concerts provide a sacred experience that's priceless

3. The post-pandemic effect is greater than a potential recession

4. Concerts are a long-term investment in your soul 

It's important to scrutinize the sources of the information we are fed. In the case of the responses from a mainstream economist, a mainstream news source, and a government-owned news channel, it seems that the explanations provided are more about filling a knowledge gap, which they may not even be aware of. It becomes a matter of explaining for the sake of providing one, rather than genuinely delving into the underlying causes.

Even if we were to accept the data showing an increase in attendance in ticket sales this year compared to the previous, or a shift from Taylor Swift to the NFL, this merely indicates changes in behavior without explaining the underlying cause of the change.

No one can definitively attribute the change to lockdowns or clarify why more people are watching the NFL this year. However, what is barely, if ever, considered by a mainstream news source is a discussion of changes in the demand and supply factors of money itself: Specifically, the demand to hold onto the money you have vis-à-vis fluctuations in the supply of money largely due to the Federal Reserve’s inflationary monetary policies.

Given a society still grappling with the repercussions of a multi-trillion-dollar monetary binge from several years ago and the threat of a continuously depreciating dollar, it's plausible that people are allocating more funds towards leisure and enjoyment this year compared to the last. That said and oddly enough, the notion of the "natural response to existential dread" may not be too far off the mark after all!

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Short Memories in Crypto

11/22/2023Doug French

Nowhere are memories shorter than in finance and speculation. Yield farming is back in the crypto market, meaning the “ lending of cryptocurrency which gets you interest and sometimes fees, with the kicker being new cryptocurrency is paid on top of the interest. “The real payoff comes if that coin appreciates rapidly. It’s as if banks were luring new depositors with the gift of a tulip -- during the Dutch tulip craze,” wrote Olga Kharif for Bloomberg back in 2020. 

The Sam Bankman-Fried trial should have jogged everyone’s memory of the crypto crash and the dangers of leverage. Muyao Shen reminds us that just a year and a half ago Terra algorithmic stablecoin triggered an industry-wide meltdown. Upwards of 70% are being offered by “exchanges ranging from GMX to Binance are offering double-digit incentives as a way to jumpstart trading activity after months of stagnation.” 

“It’s always gonna be this” way, said Zaheer Ebtikar, founder of crypto fund Split Capital. “People can’t help it. [Crypto] is literally the most FOMO [fear of missing out] industry ever.” Ever? Ebtikar wasn’t around for tulipmania. Shen writes, 

GMX, a DeFi derivatives exchange that allows users to trade Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies with up to 50 times in leverage, started an incentives program on Wednesday with Arbitrum DAO. The decentralized autonomous organization is behind Arbitrum, a so-called layer 2 blockchain that seeks to ease congestion on Ethereum network. Through the program, users can earn annual yields of up to 70% for trading, providing liquidity and other activities on a version of GMX. About 12 million, or $12 million of ARB tokens, the governance token of Arbitrum, will be used to pay the extra returns.

Okay. The only thing I know about what is being described in that paragraph is that absolutely, positively nothing can go wrong at 50x leverage. 

“With animal spirits starting to pick back up, projects may feel that now is a good time to spend token emissions to gather some momentum,” Keone Hon co-founder and chief executive officer at Monad Labs told Bloomberg. 

John Law thought the same thing over 300 years ago. 

Remembering the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy 60 Years Ago

Sixty years ago today, I was in Mrs. Isles’ fifth-grade class on Friday afternoon at Boothwyn Elementary School in Pennsylvania when we got the news: President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas. They sent us home immediately and the next several days were consumed with the killing and its aftermath.

First, there was the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, who was accused of shooting the president from a sniper’s perch on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, which was located by the presidential motorcade route. Two days later, Oswald himself was shot to death by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner who managed to slip into police headquarters with a gun when authorities were transferring him from the Dallas city jail to the county jail.

Finally, on Monday, there was the funeral, which I watched with one of my friends on his black and white TV at his house on Meetinghouse Road. I was only 10 years old but knew that something momentous had happened. I didn’t realize that it would be a watershed event.

Much has been written about the events of November 22, 1963, and six decades later, there is much disagreement with the government’s official story that Oswald was the lone shooter. Most people, to be honest, don’t buy the government’s account, which is summed up by the Warren Commission Report.

There is a veritable industry of writing and speculation about the assassination, and perhaps no one has been more dogged than Jacob Hornberger of the Future of Freedom Foundation. With each major anniversary of the assassination, new information seems to come out about the case, and the FFF site has linked two accounts, one involving medical professionals who saw the president’s fatal wounds, and one from the Kennedy Beacon blog. They make for compelling reading.

According to Hornberger, the Kennedy assassination was an inside job with the CIA taking out the president because he wanted to end American involvement in Vietnam and pursue a more vigorous course of détente with the Soviet Union, as well as dismantling at least part of the developing national security state. Certainly, others who closely follow the various conspiracy theories associated with the assassination have different variations, but most agree that it is unlikely that the angry loner Oswald did all of the killing himself – or was even directly involved.

I see myself as unqualified to make a judgment on these theories, although there is nothing implausible with the account that Hornberger has created these past several years. Too many things happened after the shooting with too many witnesses to debunk them. If Hornberger’s viewpoints are correct – and I, for one, believe they are plausible – then America as we have known it died that day at Dealy Plaza.

The government’s actions after Kennedy’s assassination from the US escalation of the Vietnam War to the development of the vast national security state has eroded liberty and empowered the American state. Whatever hopes there were to preserve the constitutional republic known as the United States of America ended with the death of John F. Kennedy.

Did Milei Win Argentina's Presidency by Employing Honesty?

In Argentina, Javier Milei recently won the presidential election with 56 percent of the votes, a remarkably wide margin in any country holding reasonably free presidential elections. Milei, an economist, subscribes to the Austrian school of thought. He identifies as a libertarian and even an anarcho-capitalist. In some appearances, he is presenting himself as Captain ANCAP.

Unlike many libertarians seeking political office, Milei has not sanitized his language or tailored his message to sensitive ears. In interviews where journalists are shocked by his labeling of leftists as evil, he doesn't back down or smooth things over; instead, he further clarifies why he believes this description is accurate. In one instance, he demonstrates his intention to shut down unnecessary departments, such as those for transport and education, by ripping them one by one from a chart and shouting ¡AFUERA! (OUT!) each time. He concludes the segment by declaring an end to the era of politician thievery, and with a cheer for “damn liberty”.

Among some libertarians, Milei faces criticism for not being libertarian enough. He waves the Israeli flag, and he seems to believe that neither American nor Ukrainian politicians are culpable for Ukraine being at war. He has even visited the World Economic Forum, a place apparently off-limits for those wishing to spread knowledge of Austrian economics. Other libertarians argue for pragmatism, pointing to the now-open opportunity to disseminate libertarian ideas and economic knowledge.

Regardless of one's stance on this issue, we can acknowledge that the world has never before witnessed a libertarian winning a presidential election or even coming close. It’s also apparent that the path to the presidency for Milei did not involve methods tried by many other liberty advocates.

Broadly speaking, we see mainly two strategies for making society more libertarian:

  1. Cautiously hint that one or another prohibition might not be appropriate or effective, hoping that this way, an occasional parliamentary vote might swing "our" way. The reason for choosing words carefully is that people may not accept proposals that challenge the status quo too harshly.
  2. Outright state the fact that the state is evil, that taxation is theft, and that politics is the vilest game ever invented. The proposal is to shut down the state and not replace it with anything. The challenge lies in getting enough people to realize that it's worth a try.

Those of us who have adopted the more radical strategy have so far little to show that we can achieve results. At best, we count among our achievements those in our immediate circle who we believe we have influenced. Most of us understand that as long as people are reasonably well off, a significant portion of them won't spend much time pondering whether the state is morally defensible. A severe crisis, making it difficult for people to put food on the table, might be necessary. Capitalism works against our cause in this regard. At least for now. Politicians work for our cause. With fervor.

On the other hand, the more cautious strategy hasn't shown any real successes either. Politicians are incredibly skilled and effective at creating crises and using them to undermine and curtail our freedoms. We are rapidly heading towards increasingly total tyranny.

But something has just happened in Argentina that suggests a more radical approach might be more reasonable and effective in changing a society in a libertarian direction. Someone who openly and unambiguously explains the evil of the state has stepped up and grabbed the bully pulpit. Unfortunately, it probably required the Argentine society to suffer deep misery for a long time, but the fact remains that it is possible to reach people with a very radical message, without watering it down.

Did he succeed despite insisting on calling a spade a spade? No, his success is thanks to his clarity and forthrightness.

People are not mindless fools. It's likely the purity and unvarnished nature of the message that paves the way for it to reach its intended audience. If Milei had too often backed down and sent increasingly adapted messages, he would have been suspected, and rightly so, of being just another politician with his own interests at heart. (It may still turn out that this is precisely what he is, but so far, that’s an open question.)

Now then. If Milei has proven that the path lies in clarity and that it is reasonable to assume that people are thinking individuals who can understand even radically unfamiliar arguments. What does it mean for us, other than that we should continue on our chosen path, continue to drum out the songs of freedom and economic sense in our most heartfelt verse?

Perhaps it means that we don't need to wait for our society to be completely brought to its knees, making people receptive in that way. We have a golden opportunity to borrow Milei's megaphone, provided we find ways to amplify the signal.