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Archive for November 27th, 2011

About a year ago, I spoke at a conference in Europe that attracted a lot of very rich people from all over the continent, as well as a lot of people who manage money for high-net-worth individuals.

What made this conference remarkable was not the presentations, though they were generally quite interesting. The stunning part of the conference was learning – as part of casual conversation during breaks, meals, and other socializing time – how many rich people are planning for the eventual collapse of European society.

Not stagnation. Not gradual decline. Collapse.

As in riots, social disarray, plundering, and chaos. A non-trivial number of these people think the rioting in places such as Greece and England is just the tip of the iceberg, and they have plans – if bad things begin to happen – to escape to jurisdictions ranging from Australia to Costa Rica (several of them remarked that they no longer see the U.S. as a good long-run refuge).

This was rather sobering. I’ve never been an optimist about Europe’s future, as I explain here and here, but is the situation really this bad?

Well, the U.K. government seems to think things will get worse. Here are some excerpts from the Telegraph.

British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible. Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis. The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way. …Recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office instructions to embassies and consulates request contingency planning for extreme scenarios including rioting and social unrest. …Diplomats have also been told to prepare to help tens of thousands of British citizens in eurozone countries with the consequences of a financial collapse that would leave them unable to access bank accounts or even withdraw cash. …Analysts at UBS, an investment bank earlier this year warned that the most extreme consequences of a break-up include risks to basic property rights and the threat of civil disorder. “When the unemployment consequences are factored in, it is virtually impossible to consider a break-up scenario without some serious social consequences,” UBS said.

Let’s think about what this means, and we’ll start with an assumption that European politicians won’t follow my sage advice and that they’ll instead continue to kick the can down the road – thus making the debt bubble even bigger and creating the conditions for a nasty collapse.

I’ve learned over the years that things are usually never as bad as they seem (or as good as they seem), so I don’t expect that a nightmare situation will materialize, but I certainly can understand why wealthy people have contingency plans to escape.

But what about the rest of us? We don’t have property overseas and we don’t have private jets, so what’s our insurance policy?

Part of the answer is to have the ability to protect ourselves and our families. As explained here, firearms are the ultimate guarantor of civilization.

In my discussions and debates about this issue, I’ve traditionally relied on these four arguments:

1. Respect for the Constitution. The Founding Fathers were wise to include “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” in the Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment recognizes the value of a well-armed citizenry, and today’s politicians (or courts) shouldn’t be allowed to weaken that fundamental freedom.

2. The presumption of liberty. It’s sometimes said that everything that isn’t expressly forbidden is allowed in the United States, whereas in Europe it’s the other way around, with everything forbidden unless explicitly permitted. This certainly seems to be the case for guns, with most European governments prohibiting firearms ownership for the vast majority of people.

3. Personal protection against crime. As the first image in this post powerfully illustrates, it doesn’t really matter if cops are only a few minutes away when a person only has a few seconds to protect against danger. And since the evidence is overwhelming that gun ownership reduces crime, this is a powerful argument for the Second Amendment.

4. Ability to resist government oppression. Totalitarian governments invariably seek to disarm people, as this poster indicates. And with the majority of the world still living in nations that are not free, private gun ownership is at least a potential limit on thuggish governments.

But perhaps we now need to add a fifth reason:

5. Personal protection against social breakdown. If politicians destroy the economic system with too much debt and too much dependency, firearms will be the first and last line of defense against those who would plunder and pillage.

Here’s a thought experiment to drive the point home. If Europe does collapse, which people do you think will be in better shape to preserve civilization, the well-armed Swiss or the disarmed Brits?

I hope we never have to find out, but I know which society has a better chance of surviving.

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I’ve been getting some emails complaining that it’s been a while since I posted the funniest politcal one-liners from the late-night comics. Well, I’m susceptible to peer pressure, so your wish is my command.

Here are some from Jay Leno:

  • A 6th-grade student from Springfield, New Jersey, who asked Gov. Chris Christie for campaign advice, wound up losing his election for student council. Worse still, he asked President Obama for economic advice and he now owes his school $14 trillion.
  • Sarah Palin announced that she will not run for president. The reason? She couldn‘t find her birth certificate.
  • Chris Christie has officially endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Christie said President Obama is “shrinking the American pie.” And believe me, if there’s one thing Christie hates, it’s a small pie.
  • China is facing a financial crisis. The unemployment rate there is a staggering 12 percent among 3-year-olds.
  • White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley announced he’ll be leaving the White House after the election. I get the feeling a lot of people are going to be leaving the White House after the election.
  • The economy is still hurting. Thirty percent of Americans are so disillusioned, they are thinking of moving back to Mexico.
  • President Obama joined other world leaders in trying to convince Greece to cut back in spending and reduce their debt. This is part of their “do as we say not as we do” summit, apparently.
  • Political experts say that if Greece goes under, the world banks will go under, and then the U.S. economy will go under, and this will cost President Obama the election. But Obama still has three chances to win: Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Herman Cain.
  • Conrad Murray was found guilty of giving Michael Jackson an overdose of a prescription sleeping aid. Pretty reckless on the part of the doctor. They said the sedative he prescribed was five times more powerful than a Joe Biden speech.
  • Herman Cain said he would be willing to take a lie detector test. But that’s kind of a double-edged sword. If he fails, his career is over. And if he passes and it turns out he’s not a liar, he’s obviously not cut out for politics.
  • A guy named Reggie Love leaving the White House to get a degree at the Wharton School of Business. I guess he realized you can’t learn anything about economics in the Obama White House
  • People say Herman Cain was rambling and embarrassed himself while trying to answer a question about Libya. Some say it proves he’s not qualified to be president. But the good news is, rambling and embarrassing himself does qualify him to be vice president.
  • Energy Secretary Stephen Chu testified before Congress yesterday that he thought it was a good idea to lend $535 million of our tax dollars to the solar panel company Solyndra right before they went bankrupt. If he’d taken all of that money, put it in a big pile and set it on fire, it would have produced more energy than Solyndra.

And David Letterman:

  • I love the protests. And if you think about it, what better way to send a message to Wall Street than by sitting in a pup tent banging on a drum.
  • Rick Perry is now behind in the polls and he’s not taking it well. Today he executed his pollster.
  • President Obama had his annual checkup and everything looks good. His cholesterol is down, his blood pressure is down, and his approval ratings are down.
  • Rick Perry announced today to satisfy environmentalists he is now using solar power. And this is brilliant thinking, using solar power to run the Texas electric chair.

Two good ones from Craig Ferguson:

  • It’s the third week of the Wall Street protests and they’ve closed down an entire Manhattan street. And then, the cops asked Michael Moore to move.
  • The protesters stood outside the homes of five rich dudes. Michael Moore was actually able to stand outside all five homes at the same time.

Jimmy Kimmel has a couple:

  • There’s a bill in Florida to repeal the state ban on dwarf tossing. Is this what Republicans mean when they say they want smaller government?
  • The big movie was the latest installment of ” Twilight” It made more than $140 million over the weekend. I have to say it’s refreshing to finally see a story about wolves and teen pregnancy that doesn’t involve the Palins.

And also Jimmy Fallon:

  • A team of American scientists just traveled to Russia to search for the Abominable Snowman. That’s right, a mythical creature who probably doesn’t exist. Or as Republicans call that, “a presidential candidate.”
  • President Obama had beer with four unemployed construction workers. And Obama asked the guys what was it like to lose their jobs, and they were like, “Oh, you’ll see.”
  • A company in Illinois is selling a collectible baby doll of President Obama. It’s really cute. The doll can even say a few words, as long as it has a teleprompter.
  • And just so Republicans don’t complain, it comes with a birth certificate.
  • Happy Birthday to Vice President Biden, who turns 69 this weekend! When they saw him coming, White House staffers turned off the lights, hid behind the couch, and then waited for him to leave.
  • President Obama came home after a nine-day trip to Asia. Well, he got to see some stuff he never sees at home, like jobs.
  • Tonight was the 14th Republican presidential debate, or as Barack Obama has started calling them, campaign ads.

Conan takes a few shots:

  • At the last Republican debate, the candidates were seated according to how they’ve been doing in the polls. So Jon Huntsman was seated next to Tim Pawlenty at a Denny’s across the street.
  • This morning on the “Today” show, Jenna Bush interviewed Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy was so confused and inarticulate that Jenna accidentally called him “dad.”
  • According to a new poll, 42 percent of Americans say they are uncomfortable with the idea of having a Mormon president. When asked why, the people said, “We’re still getting used to having a Muslim president.”
  • Over the weekend in New York, two Occupy Wall Street protesters got married at the protest. They are registered at Bed, Bath, and Seriously, You Need to Take a Bath.

If you like these types of jokes, you can read more of them here, here, here, here, and here.

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