April 11, 2016
Today is a sad day for fans of capitalism and Philadelphia sports alike. Entrepreneur, philanthropist, and sports industry legend Ed Snider passed away over the weekend following a two year battle with cancer. Snider was the co-founder and owner of the Philadelphia Flyers and the lead developer of their stadiums—the Spectrum, in the 1960s, and the Wells Fargo Center in the 1990s.
Starting with a degree in accounting from the University of Maryland, Snider went on to build a business empire of sports-related enterprises: professional hockey, facilities management, food services, marketing and sponsorship, and ticket-selling. Snider was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988 and over the years ...
April 7, 2016
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt has an interesting op-ed today in the Washington Post, hitting back against charges that his company is “destroying the moral fabric” of the country with a culture of corporate greed. The thrust of Immelt’s response is that, unlike politicians, companies like GE “create wealth and jobs, instead of just calling for them in speeches.”
April 6, 2016
Last night, the Smithsonian American Art Museum here in Washington hosted a fascinating book event featuring a presentation by Alan Rothschild, co-author of Inventing a Better Mousetrap: 200 Years of American History in the Amazing World of Patent Models. Rothschild is the collector who, along with his wife Ann, assembled an impressive and valuable collection of thousands of the working models that used to be a required component of any successful patent application. The U.S. Patent Office stopped requiring them in 1870 and started actively discouraging their submission after 1880, but for almost a century, they...
March 30, 2016
Serena Ng of The Wall Street Journal reports today on the murky world of marketing for “green” and “natural” household products. Ads for these flower-scented and creatively-named brands often claim—or, at least, strongly imply—that they are safer and healthier that mainstream cleaning and deodorizing agents. Such claims are often made even when both products are chemically similar or borderline identical.
Ng points out that Nature’s Power laundry detergent, sold proudly by Whole Foods, contains sodium laureth sulfate, which they produce from vegetable oil. Arm & Hammer (owned by the same company, Church & Dwight), makes detergent that also contains sodium laureth sulfate, except in Arm & Hammer’s case, it is made from petroleum. It’s the same chemical compound, but...
March 29, 2016
The rise of the sharing economy and related trends, by which individuals are exercising more control over their work schedules and income flow, garners a lot of praise from free market advocates and the usual panicky horror from anti-capitalists. But in both cases it’s being seen as something new; a revolution by which everyone with a Task Rabbit account now has become a profit-maximizing firm of one for the first time. Today’s busy, app-driven professionals would seem to have little to do with, for example, tenant farmers at the dawn of the 16th Century.
Yet the forces that have liberated human beings (most of us, at least) from the...
March 11, 2016
Yesterday, my colleague Fred Smith and I co-hosted the New Intellectual Forum, an exciting event that brought business leaders and free market intellectuals together for a discussion of how both groups can more effectively work together to advance economic freedom. As Fred has long suggested, the defense of a free economy requires an alliance of both “Doers” and “Thinkers” to be effective. Both groups have good reasons for staying focused on their own familiar realms, though, so it was a testament to the open-mindedness of the many participants that they embraced the idea of working across professional boundaries. CEI hosted the even in conjunction with the ...
February 25, 2016
During a presidential campaign, pollsters ride high. Despite perennial criticism, “horse race”–style campaign reporting nevertheless keeps political junkies glued to Twitter, awaiting the latest links to who is up and who is down. Those in the game, of course, are paid to pay attention to such things, but ultimately the news of who is leading 2.3 percent in states that begin with a “C” says little about the country as a whole. If we are going to learn something useful from polling the public, the questions should be about something more revealing than whether Candidate X is marginally less distasteful than Candidate Y.
Thus it is quite gratifying to see the launch of “Portrait of America,” a new series on public opinion...
February 19, 2016
The Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., recently hosted Massimiliano Trovato for a policy forum discussing whether the European Union is a friend or foe of economic freedom. The event was moderated by Cato Senior Policy Analyst Marian Tupy with comments from Dr. Richard Rahn, a senior fellow at Cato. Trovato is a Fellow at the Istituto Bruno Leoni (IBL) in Italy and was previously a Charles G. Koch Fellow at the Mercatus Institute in Washington, D.C. Trovato is most known for his work on the digital economy and state paternalism, but his presentation...
December 22, 2015
In a 2013 essay for Forbes that is quickly becoming a Christmas classic, my colleague Fred Smith took a fresh look at the character of Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Scrooge’s name has long been synonymous with joyless greed, but this piece takes a different view of old Ebenezer’s refusal to donate to the poor or pay an employee for hours he didn’t work.
Looking back to his childhood in the Sixth Ward of Louisiana’s St. Tammany Parish, Fred recounts how locals who had started a small business would quickly be pressured into hiring unemployed family members and friends who, more often than not, contributed little to the profitability of the enterprise. In the end, most of these businesses doubling as community welfare schemes went under.
But there was one entrepreneur in Sixth...
November 25, 2015
Thanksgiving is a day layered in tradition and myth. The standard story makes much of the creative efforts of our ancestors, the assistance provided by the friendly Indians (aka Native Americans) and the richness of the land and seas. That view is romantic, but obscures the fact that over half the original settlers died in the first year, bloody wars between the settlers and the Indians soon dominated the frontier, and that for the first three years, the “bountiful” earth provided little food to the starving colonials.
The Pilgrims were a highly religious group seeking to live as an extended family in a communal order. Initially they placed all farm lands into a “commons” which all would farm and harvest from collectively. That system goes back to tribal societies with strong cultural rules. Protestant culture, it turned out, ...