What is the only thing free in America?

Jul 10, 2014

Annecy, France

Dear Diary,

We are down here in Annecy, a beautiful city on a lake.

What takes us here? Business, of course. We travel a lot. But never for fun. That is not to say we don't enjoy it. We do. But you cannot have much fun by trying to have fun. It has to come into your life, unbidden, like love or hummingbirds.

Here in picturesque France, we think of home. Baltimore. America.

Annecy is not Baltimore, but what is?

As for America, what happened to it?

A new Gallup poll shows freedom is on the wane in the Land of the Free.

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Free people? Not with the largest prison population on the planet. Free minds? Not with public schools, TV and TIME magazine. Free markets? Don't make us laugh.

The only thing that is still free in America is money. Yes, the Fed lends out money for less than the real rate of inflation. The free money corrupts every price, every market, and every transaction. In fact, it is part of the reason freedom is disappearing. Free money feeds the zombies. Without super-abundant credit, made possible by the Fed's central planning, much of the government wouldn't exist. We couldn't afford it. As it is, one out of every 6 or 7 federal employees is paid with borrowed money. His job? To reduce Americans' freedom by transferring power and wealth to zombies and cronies. That is not his official job description, of course; that is just what he really does.

According to the new Gallup poll Americans are number 33, between Bahrain and Cameroon, in their appreciation of their own freedom. It is one of the few places where freedom is in decline. In fact, only two of 100 nations registered a larger drop in the index than the US.

Of course, this is not surprising.

The Obama administration has prosecuted 3 times as many people under the 1917 Espionage Act as all previous presidents combined. Edward Snowden is no fool; he knows that he wouldn't be protected as a 'whistleblower' in the US. He'd go to jail.

We got a new book entitled "Three Felonies A Day." The point of it is that new securities and technology laws are so vague and open-ended that the feds can prosecute almost anyone they want.

And this week, a front page article in the Wall Street Journal glorified the efforts of the FBI to entrap some poor schmucks into an apparent violation of SEC rules. We say apparent because we couldn't see what the crime was.

An FBI snitch pretended to run a hedge fund. He said he'd invest in various small companies, provided the companies would rebate half the money for 'consulting.'

What's the problem with that? Don't major Wall Street companies collect billions in fees for 'consulting' as they help take companies public, organize mergers and acquisitions, or otherwise help the rich get richer by gaming the system?

The paper says it was a fraud on shareholders. But how so? Effectively, the hedge fund got its shares for half price. Why shouldn't it? Doesn't Warren Buffett negotiate special deals? Aren't warrants and options routinely awarded to large investors? What kind of a dopey mom or silly pop would believe that he got just as good a deal as a hedge fund with millions to invest?

(It seems such a shame to go to prison without violating a substantial law; it is a little like dying prematurely, even though you've never smoked a cigarette or drank a glass of whiskey. It seems unfair and downright un-American. So, we are planning a special report to help dear readers avoid this tragedy: "How to break the law for fun and profit.")

But at least Americans are coming to a more sensible view of their own country. In a poll conducted by Pew Research, the percentage of Americans who think the US "stands above all other nations," has dropped from 38% in 2011 to 28% in 2014.

    Why the lower numbers? USA Today reports:

    The recession that ended in 2009 ravaged the economic fortunes of many American families, with median household wealth still about 40% lower than it was before the recession. Jobs have finally started to return, but for many workers, pay is lower than it used to be. People feel they're falling behind, and the data show they're not imagining things. That's a loss of economic freedom, which impacts other choices.

    Many Americans seem to question the basic premise that everybody can get ahead in the so-called land of the free. A recent analysis by USA Today found living the American Dream, loosely defined, costs a typical family of four roughly $130,000 per year. That's in a country where the median household income is only about $53,000, or less than half of what's needed for a middle-class lifestyle.

Our guess is that America is likely to do down further the ratings, as the feds continue to protect our freedom by putting more and more people in jail...and their goofy 'free money' policies make people poorer.

Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.

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