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OpenMarket: Business and Government

  • CEOs Confront Anti-Capitalist Rhetoric

    April 14, 2016

    Another CEO of a big American company has spoken up about the charge that he and his employees are “destroying the moral fabric” of America. Lowell McAdam of Verizon, in a post at LinkedIn, answered the charges (also addressed recently by General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt) that his company doesn’t pay the appropriate amount of tax, doesn’t invest in the U.S., and, specifically in Verizon’s case, is trying to force inappropriate concessions on the unionized portion of its workforce.

    Today – as we have over our...

  • How to Address Income Inequality

    April 11, 2016

    Over at the Foundation for Economic Education, Iain Murray and I give a short preview of our two forthcoming CEI papers on income inequality and poverty relief.

    In the first, “People, Not Ratios: Priorities, Please,” we argue that inequality in itself is not the problem — poverty is.

    Piketty and Krugman’s focus on income inequality treats people like statistics. Instead, we should focus on individuals’ actual standards of living and on ways to empower them — as individuals — to improve their lot.

    In the second paper, “Policies to Help the Poor,” we suggest a policy agenda to make poor and middle-class individuals better off in absolute terms.

    Of course, the elimination of global...

  • Is GE a Capitalist Good Guy or a Corporate Bad Guy?

    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.”

  • Freedom of Contract at Risk in Carcano v. McCrory

    March 28, 2016

    Virginia’s Dillon rule prevents cities and counties from regulating the employment practices of private businesses. That bars them from setting minimum wages higher than the state or federal minimum wage, or adding new protected classes of employees at businesses’ expense (through anti-bias ordinances). That is good for businesses, promotes freedom of contract, and prevents a confusing patchwork quilt of regulation that varies from city to city and county to county. It is also one reason why Virginia has a better than average business climate.

    North Carolina has now enacted legislation giving businesses the same protection (see, e.g., Section 143-422.2(c)). Unfortunately, it is part of...

  • UnChartered Cronyism: The FCC's Attempts to Block Cable Merger

    February 29, 2016

    When you hear about “crony capitalism,” what comes to mind? The Export-Import Bank? The ethanol mandate? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Tax credits and loan guarantees for “green energy”? These are all prime examples of government intervention enriching narrow yet politically savvy corporate interests at the expense of taxpayers and consumers. But many other pernicious forms of crony capitalism slide under the radar. A case in point: the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) vetting of media and telecom mergers, a highly politicized process that empowers a few unelected bureaucrats to shape the future of entire markets.

    Almost a year ago, the cable company Charter made a deal to purchase another cable company, Bright House Networks. Then, after the FCC decided to block another cable deal—Comcast’s attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC)—Charter announced that it...

  • Market Dominance Doesn't Last; Regulation Shouldn't Either

    January 22, 2016

    One of the justifications for heavy regulation of large companies is that they use market power to crush competition and maintain market dominance. Yet the history of America’s most successful companies—those that make it on to the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)—doesn’t support that theory. Sustainable competitive advantage is very hard to achieve, even for these titans of industry.

    If we look at the history of the DJIA, we can immediately identify several significant changes in its sectoral composition over the years.

    The DIJA was first published in 1884. It consisted of 11 companies, eight of which were railroad companies. The index was later expanded to 12 companies, before being expanded to 20 in 1916. The present Dow Jones Industrial...

  • Three Economists Had the Answer to the President's Questions

    January 13, 2016

    Last night at the State of the Union, the President asked three questions regarding domestic policy (I’ll leave the foreign policy question to others). They were:

    First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?

    Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us – especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?

    And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

    These three questions are best answered by three great economists, Joseph Schumpeter, Ronald Coase, and Friedrich Hayek.

  • Deflate Drug Prices by Reforming the FDA

    December 8, 2015

    This Wednesday, the Senate Select Committee on Aging will hold a hearing on “sudden price spikes” among certain off-patent drugs. The most widely publicized of these spikes was the recent price increase of Turing Pharmaceuticals’ toxoplasmosis treatment Daraprim, which jumped in price from $13.50 per dose to $750. The medical consequences of the price increase, obviously of concern to hospitals, doctors, and patients, was, at times, overshadowed by personal attacks leveled at Turing CEO Martin Shkreli, who quickly became a target for complaints...

  • Much to Be Thankful For

    November 25, 2015

    Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and all of us have much to be thankful for. Over at Inside Sources, I have a Julian Simon-inspired take on the holiday:

    This Thursday is an opportunity to give thanks for a wonderful fact: In all of human history, there has never been a better time to be alive than right now. This might seem an odd thing to say at the moment. War, terrorism, poverty, political repression and hunger still plague many countries. The most recent wounds, inflicted in Paris, Syria, and elsewhere, are still fresh.

    But life is improving in unprecedented ways.

    Over the last century or so, the typical American’s income has grown sixfold. Life expectancy increased 30 years during the 20th century...

  • Thanksgiving: Massachusetts Discovers Property Rights

    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, ...

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