Category: Economics

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. “

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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. “

The Perils of Purchasing a Lottery Ticket in Illinois

 

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My former home state of Illinois is in awful shape. Known for it’s long history of corruption, cronyism, and fiscal irresponsibility the state is now billions in the hole. Perhaps the most tragic part of all of this is that of the state’s last 7 governors, 4 have served prison time for improprieties.

Not a pretty picture.

On the heels of this current financial armageddon, my friend John who lives in Chicago called me the other evening to deliver some shocking news that nearly sent me to the nearest bar for a stiff cocktail. His breaking news:

That Illinois is so far in the toilet fiscally that they are now unable to pay their state lottery winners.

That’s right. Disbursements of Illinois Lottery winnings of $25,000 or more have come to a screeching halt becuase the state is without a budget. Several winners have been issued IOUs in the interim with assurances that they eventually receive their money once a budget is in place.

Oh, what a joy!

This comes on heels of growing media buzz about the perilous state of the Chicago Public Schools–a school system that is on the edge of bankruptcy.

For more on the larger context of this issue, check out these two recent Anthem Vault articles about Chicago, arguably the epicenter of all of this fallout.

Chicago Schools Debt Crisis

City of Chicago Debt Crisis

In the meantime, if you’re pondering purchasing an Illinois lottery ticket, you might want to reconsider. Employing the power of delayed gratification through the purchase of gold is a far better investment in my estimation.

Michael Scott is a freelance journalist specializing  on the intersection between free markets and economic freedom.  His regualr updates can be found on Twitter @biz_michael

Uh-Oh Canada

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“Oh Canada, my home and native land….”

This opening refrain of the Canadian national anthem is a melody which is indelibly etched in my mind as an earworm (defined as a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind, after it finishes playing). It’s a song I unconsciously memorized while watching live hockey games featuring my two favorite teams: the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadians.

My love for our northern neighbor began when I was in college. It all started with a road trip with some good friends back in 1983; a journey from Columbus, Ohio, up and across the Ohio Turnpike, around Buffalo, New York, and then across the U.S./Canadian border to the Queen Elizabeth Way. Our destination was Toronto, Ontario, Canada, a cosmopolitan and culturally diverse city that reminds me a great deal of Chicago. I’ve also visited Vancouver, a city in western Canada that is annually listed as one of the top places to live in the world.

So are you impressed by all of this? Well, don’t be. That is, unless you are Canadian.

Recession in Canada?

Canada is currently experiencing a fascinating time, an era that has become fodder for lively neighborhood conversations over Molson beers. Amid what some economists are calling a recession, questions are now being raised about the country’s long dependence on natural resources extraction as its economic underpinning. Boom towns are a relatively recent Canadian phenomenon, attracting miners and builders to build expensive pipelines and terminals. With this development, the country subsequently became what one might describe as a dig-and-deliver producer of pricey raw materials in a world flush with inexpensive commodities. “

Land of the Free, Home of the Idiot

testscoresForgive the suggestion, but it seems we may have reached an era in history where finding the village idiot may not be so difficult. Bloomberg reported that this year’s SAT scores were lower than they’ve been in some years. The SAT is a globally recognized collegiate admissions exam that tests a student’s critical reading, mathematics and writing abilities. This year’s students earned an average score of 1,490 out of the possible 2,400 points that the exam has to offer (800 per section). 

The two traditional sections, critical reading and mathematics, averaged 495 and 511 respectively. The writing section was an addition to the test in 2005 in an effort to assess a student’s ability to read and respond to a prompt in an analytical fashion. This section received the lowest average score since its conception: 484. The ACT, which is another (more popular) collegiate admissions exam, had average scores that remained relatively stable when compared to previous years. While the ACT exam tests what a student has learned in high school, or their ability to recall information, the SAT is more of a test of reasoning, logic and verbal skills. 

These statistics reveal much about the current nature of education in the United States. Regardless of beliefs regarding traditional education versus common core, American students are not learning. They are not learning to think critically, logically or rationally, and it doesn’t take any explanation to understand how this is becoming a dangerous phenomenon. A student, in order to learn, must be open to the learning process. It may not be a matter of which educational tactic is best, but rather teaching a student who is attentive and willing to put in the necessary hours to truly learn. As a biology student with aspirations of attending medical school, I know that for every hour spent in class, I require two hours studying outside of class. It’s not always enjoyable and it is certainly detrimental to an exciting social life, but it is what’s necessary for greatness. There seems to be a problem with high school students where academic mediocrity is not only acceptable but even encouraged among one’s peers.