Happy New Year, Fellow Reckoners!
Another fascinating year is drawing to a close…and clearing the stage for the next 365 days. What will lucky number 2013 bring? A Reagan-esque “Morning Again in America,” perhaps? Or maybe the grisly, gnarled wreckage of an economy that plummets over a fiscal cliff? Or maybe something in between?
Your editors have no idea, of course. But we do have one confident prediction for the year ahead: the bull market in state-sponsored terrorism will continue — not the kind that straps explosives onto a fanatical teenager and sends him into a crowded Iraqi marketplace to detonate himself into the laps of celestial virgins; the kind that straps fear-mongering catchphrases onto self-serving politicians and sends them into the public eye to terrify Americans into begging for “more government.”
“Fiscal Cliff” is just such a catchphrase. It is terrifying…and to the extent that it incites fear — bordering on hysteria — it promotes a subconscious desire for “more government.” Without more government, according to the Fiscal Cliff fear-mongers, the economy will implode upon itself like a black hole.
Pretty scary stuff.
But here’s an alternative perspective — a kinder, gentler assessment of the dreaded Fiscal Cliff. It may not be a national disaster; it may simply be a good start, you know, just like that old lawyer joke:
What do you call 1,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?
A good start.
The Fiscal Cliff does not guarantee a recession; it does not guarantee a crisis; it only guarantees one thing: smaller government. The Republican Party used to call that “success”…and so did Aristotle, Henry David Thoreau, H.L. Mencken, Murray Rothbard…and more recently, our own Chris Mayer and Joel Bowman.
Earlier this year, in two very memorable editions of The Daily Reckoning, Chris and Joel — each in his own way — highlighted the virtues of a government that becomes smaller.
“As for me,” Chris wrote last September, “I always liked Henry David Thoreau’s opening salvo in his essay ‘Civil Disobedience’:
I heartily accept the motto, — ‘That government is best which governs least.’
“I think he is right,” Chris continued. “H.L. Mencken had a similar view. I reach for my copy of A Mencken Chrestomathy — under the section ‘Government’ — and find this passage highlighted:
The ideal government of all reflective men, from Aristotle onward, is one which lets the individual alone — one which barely escapes being no government at all.
“While I have no love of government,” Chris concluded, “I do love America…I love several of its cultural attachments — such as barbeque and blue crabs, blues and jazz, poker, American sports like football and baseball and American beers — to name just a smattering… But in the land of politics, I am the standing opposition. Whoever is in power, I’m against him.”
A few months earlier, Joel Bowman took up a similar theme.
“Some people can’t just leave well enough alone,” Joel observed. “Whether or not that something is the right thing is, to their mind, beside the point. Just so long as it’s not nothing…That’s the real problem with Statism, Fellow Reckoner. All its various machinations are, in one way or another, inherently prescriptive. You try to mind your own business. You try to live a quiet and decent life…but there’s always someone telling you there’s a better way: Their way. Oh, and they’ll be needing your money and/or person to make it happen.”
So please enjoy today’s “Best of” edition of The Daily Reckoning, while waiting to pop champagne corks to the coming Fiscal Cliff!
for The Daily Reckoning
Eric J. Fry, Agora Financial's Editorial Director, has been a specialist in international equities for nearly two decades. He was a professional portfolio manager for more than 10 years, specializing in international investment strategies and short-selling. Following his successes in professional money management, Mr. Fry joined the Wall Street-based publishing operations of James Grant, editor of the prestigious Grant's Interest Rate Observer. Working alongside Grant, Mr. Fry produced Grant's International and Apogee Research, institutional research products dedicated to international investment opportunities and short selling.
Mr. Fry subsequently joined Agora Inc., as Editorial Director. In this role, Mr. Fry supervises the editorial and research processes of numerous investment letters and services. Mr. Fry also publishes investment insights and commentary under his own byline as Editor of The Daily Reckoning. Mr. Fry authored the first comprehensive guide to investing internationally with American Depository Receipts. His views and investment insights have appeared in numerous publications including Time, Barron's, Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Business Week, USA Today, Los Angeles Times and Money.
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