How Much Are You Paying for Your Freedom?

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on May 25, 2016 in Uncategorised

“When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will.”
— Frédéric Bastiat

We’re in the “Paris of the North” this week, sometimes referred to simply as “Paris.”

The weather is overcast, but mild. The attire austere, but unaffected. The waiters curt, but efficient (at least compared to their counterparts in Buenos Aires, who are all smiles…but in no particular hurry).

Meanwhile, wife and daughter are on the other side of town, attending a baby swimming class.

“It’s a Montessori-style group,” Anya informed us before they left.

For readers unfamiliar with the method, it’s a “self-directed” learning technique developed by an Italian doctor, Maria Montessori. According to their website, it’s “based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood.”

“But what if her ‘self-direction’ in the pool is like most one -year olds,” we inquired, “straight to the bottom?”

“Yes, yes. You’re very funny.”

“Well?”

“It just means they get to explore freely. There are plenty of toys and floaties to play with, and no time restrictions for activities. We adults just kind of help them along and encourage whatever it is they’re interested in.”

“The babies basically do what they want.”

This was all news to your editor. He was under the impression that babies always did what they want!

They cry when they want. Play when they want. Eat, crawl, and sleep when—and if—they want. Oh, and melt dad’s heart when they want, too.

But here was someone charging good money (or at least euros) to “encourage” babies to do what we thought came naturally. More power to them.

“Have fun!” we waved them goodbye.

But onto the matters at hand…

Fear: The Real Terror on the Continent.

Our office for today, a neighborhood bistro on the Rue de Lisbonne, serves just a handful of locals. No foreigners to be seen…save for your conspicuously unstylish editor.

Same deal last night, when we dined on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, an area ordinarily humming with American and Asian tourists. Not a selfie stick in sight. Paris, it seems, has been left to the French.

“After the terrorist attacks last November, visitors stopped coming here,” our Airbnb host explained to us. “Then, when the bombs went off in Brussels a few months ago, it was like the world decided Europe was too dangerous. It’s a tough time for us right now.”

Indeed, tourism is down. The big booking websites—Priceline, Expedia, and TripAdvisor—all reported significant declines in traffic after the attacks. The travel-data firm Hopper showed a 13% decrease in searches by travelers considering Europe as a potential holiday destination.

“Searches for travel to South America and Asia, including Japan, Colombia, and India, have increased during the same period,” Patrick Surry, the chief data scientist for the firm, told the papers.

The news ought to come as no surprise to anyone paying attention. It’s hardly a secret that humans tend to move in herds…for better and, just as often, worse.

But remember the Gadarine Swine Fallacy: Just because a group is in formation, doesn’t mean it knows where it’s going.

In markets—just as in fashion, taste, travel, and trends of all kind—the mob thinks as a collective unit. Which is to say, not at all.

A handful of murderous lunatics set off some homemade bombs and an entire continent goes quiet. The immediate result is private tragedy…followed closely by public idiocy.

Before waiting for the moment to exercise a modicum of good taste, the mainstream media ramps up news coverage of the event.

The world looks on. Nervous. Fearful. Ready for “answers.”

And…action!

Pretty soon, it’s wall-to-wall screens showing the ghastly results of humanity’s basest instincts. The killers are given front-page attention. Their cause—however moronic and deluded—is broadcast all over the word. Recruiters (on both sides of the “battle”) count their blessings.

Waiting in the wings, politicians jostle for photo ops. Never ones to let genuine tragedy go to waste, they rush to offer empty, meaningless platitudes.

“They’re attacking our very ‘way of life’,” declares one. As to what “our way of life” is, exactly, he does not say.

“This is an affront to western values,” parrots another…as if his own government is somehow guardian of all that’s good and honest here on Zeus’ green earth.

“We must unite against a common enemy,” chimes a third, beating the war drums, eager to set off a few bombs of his own.

If, indeed, our “way of life” and our “Western values” are supposed to mean the freedom to travel, protection of property rights, basic rule of law…

If somewhere in those vague slogans we’re supposed to find some faint trace of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”…

…then surely governments around the world have done more to curtail these sentiments than a loose band of cowardly thugs could ever do.

Certainly, in terms of sheer size and power, there is no comparison. State governments command the resources of every law-abiding citizen on the planet.

They have all the guns. All the bombs. And all the jails for those who refuse to fund them.

But they have something far more important than all that: they control the narrative…the commonly accepted “version” of reality.

“Wait!” we hear disgruntled readers interjecting. “Isn’t it government that grants us our privileges, our rights? That guards us while we sleep? That preserves and protects our ‘way of life’?”

“No,” is the short answer.

Rather, your government loots your property…invades your privacy…threatens you with life in a cage—or worse—if you don’t submit to its self-serving rules and regulations.

In the U.S., John Q. Citizen is 58-times more likely to be killed by a member of his own police force than he is to die at the hands of a “terrorist.”

And yet, are cops attacking our “way of life?”

Who dares utter the words?

Moreover, if these rights are “unalienable,” as Jefferson and his merry men suspected, then they are (by definition) “unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor.”

How, then, can a government—which is, after all, but a collection of mere mortals—give away that which cannot be given? Or secure for us that which cannot be taken?

It can’t, of course.

Alas, that’s the narrative du jour…the imagined reality.

So Modern Man lines up behind “the system.” He marches in lock step over its imagined borders…sets off to fight in its imagined wars…perpetuates its grand delusions.

And when real tragedy strikes, he watches the news with heavy heart and vacant head.

“Those poor, poor French people,” he says as he turns to his wife. “Better cancel our vacation to Paris.”

T&P Tool Shed

Take a Permanent Vacation from Sky-High Airline Prices

By the Staff of The Savvy Retiree Daily

Oh to be a perpetual traveler…wind in your hair…the sun at your back…a $3,000 ticket from Louisville to Paris…economy.

Unless you own a private jet or yacht (we don’t), your geographical independence is going to involve dealing with some high-priced airlines, their long lines, and some tiny bags of peanuts.

And while we can’t make those lines any shorter (catch up on your podcasts) or those peanut bags any bigger (buy a real bag in the gas station) we can reduce that damage to your bank account.

We all know that online flight-search aggregators are the best way to find the cheapest deals on flights, but which sites are actually finding you the cheapest flights and which ones are serving up duds? Here are our top three:

Kayak: Kayak fights tenaciously for your pennies and will almost always beat out the competitors for cheap flights. Kayak’s advanced search features means you can filter searches to your exact specifications and even find “hacker fares” (flights comprised of two one-way flights on different airlines that are cheaper than a return fare).

Hipmonk: Hipmonk’s domestic flights are a bit pricier than Kayak’s but their international flights tend to be cheaper. Hipmonk lets you filter your results by total travel time, ensuring that you’re lay-over agony is kept to a minimum.

Priceline: Priceline stands out because of its unusual bidding tool, allowing you to “name your own price” on flights. Bidding on flights lets you save up to 40% but you won’t get to choose exact flight times or airlines beforehand. However, it’s guaranteed you’ll be flying between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on one of Priceline’s partner airlines.