March 11, 2016Yesterday, 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.
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, ...
November 20, 2015
Prof. Brad Thompson of Clemson University writes this week in Minding the Campus on the impact of corporate donations to institutions of higher education. In particular, he describes some of the controversy we’ve seen in recent years about donations from unabashedly pro-capitalist sources like BB&T and the Charles Koch Foundation. The allegedly insidious influence of such funding has even inspired the creation of the activist group “UnKoch My Campus.” Of course, as Casey Given of Students for Liberty has recently pointed out, George Soros ...
November 18, 2015
Earlier this month the Cato Institute generously hosted a small roundtable discussion of CEI’s recent study “Virtuous Capitalism: Why there Is Less Corruption in Business than You Think” by Fred Smith and Ryan Young. Our goal was to solicit comments on and criticisms of the paper’s arguments, and to expose more people to the work of CEI’s Center for Advancing Capitalism.
The questions that arose during that session were helpful, but we are eager to open the discussion to as wide an audience as possible. Thus, we invite scholars (and students) to submit written responses to the arguments presented in the paper. Economists who work in the realm of public choice theory might be especially interested in engaging with Smith and Young. As they write:...
November 17, 2015
Government is responsible for billions and billions of dollars of corruption and corporate welfare. Considering the potential returns on investment compared to honest entrepreneurship, it is a minor miracle the vice-to-virtue ratio in the economy isn’t even worse than it already is. Why is that? CEI founder Fred Smith and I wrote a recent paper, “Virtuous Capitalism,” which explores several possible answers to the question.
If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, Fred summarizes it in his most recent Forbes column, to which I contributed:
Capitalism has a bad reputation. Many people see it as corrupt, uncaring, and in bed with politicians. And popular wisdom isn’...
November 4, 2015
The Legatum Institute in the U.K. has an important new international poll out about public attitudes towards capitalism and the business world. They hired YouGov to survey opinions from people in the UK, U.S., and Germany, but also from people in the up-and-coming economies of Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Thailand. The short summary is that there’s bad news and there’s good news.
First, the top-line bad news: large majorities in both the developed and rapidly developing countries believed that, in a capitalist economy, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” As Legatum’s write-up of the results suggest, these impressions are “at odds with reality.”
The rich are getting rich but so, too, are the poorest. They are getting richer in two...
November 2, 2015
Last week I blogged about the idea that some things should not be part of a market economy, and highlighted one rather silly example of a particular item being outlawed: in that case, futures contracts in onions. But there are far more serious examples of policymakers forbidding commerce in specific goods with disastrous results, in particular human organs like kidneys.
The same day I wrote about onions, Shmuly Yanklowitz wrote in The Atlantic about the advantages we could see from allowing a market in “compensated donation” of kidneys. Yanklowitz has an unusual perspective, being the founder of a social welfare nonprofit organization as well as someone who has recently given an...