Monthly Archives: September 2015

The United Nations Doesn’t Understand Wealth Creation

U.N._LogoThe United Nations is wrapping up their latest summit with the approval of a new 15-year plan, containing 17 audacious Sustainable Development Goals, which include everything from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger to providing everyone with work, clean water and affordable energy. While evidently well-intentioned, none of these goals will be achieved through expensive top-down U.N. programs. Instead, only institutional reforms and economic growth will be able to bring about the kind of prosperity that the poorer nations should be able to enjoy.

The latest 17 goals are similar to, and an extension of, the Millennium Development Goals that were adopted as a U.N. initiative in 2000, with a goal end-date of 2015. The fact that these are 15-year plans already hints at what is intrinsically faulty with the U.N. perspective: that growth and prosperity can be centrally planned and socially engineered. The former Soviet countries and the current Chinese government also have 5 and 10-year plans.

The biggest error underpinning these varied U.N. goals is the fanciful notion that governments and U.N. programs can provide sustainable solutions to these problems by transferring wealth from one country to another. The cost is already estimated to be at least $175 trillion over the 15-year period. There certainly are goals which aid programs can attain, especially measurable and short-term projects such as delivering food to a disaster-struck area or vaccinating a specific population. But no program can engineer long-term economic growth, which is ultimately the only way to eradicate poverty.

If this seems unconvincing, consider that up until just a few hundred years ago, the entire world had lived in poverty for thousands of years (save for a handful of kings and nobles.) If redistributing wealth from rich countries to poor countries really fostered economic growth, then how did poor countries become wealthy to begin with, when there were no rich countries around at the time to help them? How did the ‘hockey stick’ of growth happen?

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Medicating and Educating – Does it Matter How Much it Costs?

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The year was 2003. My former wife and I were living in Nevada and expecting a child. Problem was, we were without health insurance and were faced with paying for the baby’s delivery and a subsequent hospital stay.

As a former health care senior administrator responsible for several medical centers in the Midwest, I figured I could exert influence to ensure that our bill was manageable. So a few days before my wife was admitted while in the throes of labor, I took the initiative and asked a Nurse Manager whether he could provide an itemized estimate of our hospital bill. Open-mouthed in disbelief at my question, he was clearly lost for words.

As an advocate for free market competition in the healthcare industry, I am astounded that a price list is not provided prior to medical services being rendered. Pricing is something that every consumer deserves to know in light of the fact that more than one-sixth of the U.S. economy is devoted to healthcare spending, a percentage that continues to rise every year. The ramifications of this are severe: higher costs for health insurance (even under the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare), the perilous state of our nation’s flimsy safety net and our long-term fiscal woes.

Rand Paul, Republican Senator from Kentucky and a Presidential Candidate, says in his new book ‘Taking A Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America’, the problem with Obamacare, and even the old system, is that when insurance or government pays for the first dollar of healthcare, the consumer doesn’t care about the price and neither does the physician; without a market, the price keeps going up.

Paul, who is a board-certified Ophthalmologist, believes that consumer choice is the key to transforming today’s broken healthcare system into one that truly places the patient first. He bristles at the lack of thoughtful consideration on the part of political leaders with respect to a solution. He advocates a model that combines tax-free health savings for routine visits with a catastrophic insurance plan for serious health issues. Doing this, he says, would force healthcare providers to compete on price and quality care: two fundamental elements in a high-quality healthcare system. “

The Hidden Economy of Hemp: Fueling its Emergence

Hemp…..Sure, knew a little about its nutritional repute. In fact, two women that I crossed paths recently at a social event were laudatory in their praise for this cannabis derivitive’s health qualities. But frankly, it wasn’t until picking up the book Hemp Bound: Dispatches From The Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution that it’s stunning implications for the U.S. economy became apparent to me.

First, a little about the author Doug Fine. He’s an investigative journalist with credits at the Washington Post, Wired, The New York Times and National Public Radio, among many others. And he touts his pride at being a father, rancher, patriot and citizen of the planet. But what I found most intriguing is the signature job title he has anointed himself with:

Hemp Journalist

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So What’s All The Fuss About Hemp

Hum? Well let’s start with the fact that this variety of the cannabis plant possesses some of the strongest fibers on the planet. It’s seed oil is nutritious and has proven curative qualities. And it has demonstrated massive potential as an energy source and climate mitigation tool for the planet.

But, as Doug Fine points out…….

Federal law has effectively renedered it illegal to grow hemp (aka Industrial Cannabis) in the United States! Yes, you heard correct, it’s a federal felony to grow it in the U.S. even though Americans consume billions of dollars worth of hemp a year, mainly in the form of health products produced by our Canadian neighbors to the north. “

We’re All Going Loony

For most of us, access to the internet has become old hat. We can check emails on our cell phones while skyping on an iPad, and simultaneously stream instant video to our laptop. Our ability to function and perform daily tasks relies heavily on the availability of an internet connection. But what about the two-thirds of the world that has little or no access to the internet?

In 2013, a small Google initiative was started and dubbed Project Loon or simply, Loon. The stated goal of Loon is to provide global internet access, using balloons sent up into the stratosphere. Thirty balloons were launched in 2013 from New Zealand, and Google hasn’t looked back since. Up in the stratosphere (higher than aircraft fly or weather systems occur), the balloons network together using the popular LTE telecommunications system. This networking of balloons aims to fill coverage gaps, bringing the internet community to the remotest parts of the world, while also serving to bring people back online after a disaster.

How Does It Work?

Upon reaching the stratosphere, the launched balloons are caught in the stratified wind currents that are present at those particular heights. The winds travel in different directions and at varying speeds; this posed a problem of controlling where and how these balloons would navigate. An algorithm was therefore created, controlled by a computer at project headquarters, which determines where each balloon is in relation to the earth, and where it is in relation to its member balloons. For example, as one balloon is slowly whisked away from providing coverage to Indonesia, another balloon takes its place and assures that there will be consistent LTE network availability. Each balloon provides networking within a 25-mile diameter circle, relaying communications from LTE-capable cell phones to the global internet. Every 100 days, the balloons have to be switched out (a vast improvement on their original 2-day life). This ensures that each balloon is always working at optimal capacity and safety.

The Balloon

A fully inflated balloon measures approximately 15 meters by 12 meters, and is made of polyethylene plastic which can resist the temperatures and wind currents of the stratosphere. They last for about 100 days and then descend to earth in a controlled fashion. If a balloon begins descending too rapidly, it deploys a parachute to prevent a devastating crash. Hanging below the balloon is a box containing the electronics, radio communications system, plus two angled solar panels which run the electronics and charge up the lithium ion batteries so that usage can continue during the night. A big selling point for Loon is its ability to operate on a completely renewable energy source.

Goals Of Loon

It’s clear that the primary goal of Loon is to provide internet access for people everywhere in the world. While Netflix, YouTube and other entertainment media consume a large portion of internet activity, Loon has loftier goals, aiming to bring people closer into the global community and also provide services that improve quality of life. It’s estimated that one in three global citizens have no access to secondary education. With Loon, secondary education can come to them. Farmers can check weather patterns to ensure a healthy crop and to make sure their animals are staying dry and warm. Medical access is limited in a large portion of the world, so with the LTE internet that Loon provides, people can interact with doctors from around the globe. Google hopes that one day soon we can say that everyone is ‘on the internet’.

Wrapping It Up

All in all, Loon is an amazing project, and so far it has brought internet to a small portion of New Zealand. Conceptually, Loon does work, and it will eventually provide internet to all ends of the earth. However, there is still the challenge of getting the LTE-capable devices into the hands of people in the remotest (poorest) parts of the globe. Not only would they need the devices, but they would have to have some viable option for paying Google for the internet service. Thankfully, this is the only significant issue I see with Loon. Let’s give credit where it’s due and applaud Google for yet another brilliant contribution…. in the hope that, our global community will be a reality one day soon.

Could ‘Dig Once’ Bury Free Internet?

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Internet regulation has become one of the hottest political topics of late, taking it’s place alongside such old chestnuts as foreign policy and social agendas. So far, net neutrality has been the most widely discussed and publicized internet regulation, inciting bloggers and pundits across the web to opine. Early this year,
the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality. Many people supported the decision and were pleased with this outcome. On the surface, it seems to have certain benefits, but it also sets a precedent for related issues in the future.

 

According to a recent Washington Post article, Obama has begun to make broadband issues a key part of his remaining agenda. Part of his proposed plan is to implement

The Poverty of Marginalization: Can Free Market Capitalism Help?

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I have an embarassing confession to make……..

Due to my meager earnings these past three years, I officially meet the government’s threshold for poverty. Yep, you read that correctly: pure-on 100% original Made in America poverty.

Talk about being hard to swallow, after having been a middle-to-upper income earner almost all my life.

The main catalyst for my present circumstance was a divorce which left me with clothes and bare essentials. It’s been very humiliating at times because people do judge you. I never imagined waiting for a public bus while enduring weather extremes, couch surfing at the homes of strangers, or trolling networking events for free food.

For me, this face-plant-in-the-mud period of my life has delivered untold wisdom and perspective about the ugly financial truths that face so many Americans. I continue to be intrigued by the number of people I encounter daily who are deep in the trench of silent dispair, including small business owners, college students, baby boomers and even former top-level executives. In my opinion, none of this has to do with a lack of willingness to work hard or a desire to succeed. Rather, I believe it’s largely the result of systemic forces like unsustainable wages, public mandates, rising housing and food costs, and onerous government regulations that are quietly chipping away at our economic freedoms.

But despite my recent experiences, I remain an avowed advocate of free market capitalism. More on that in a bit. “