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Summer 2018 / Volume II, Number 2
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Oligopoly and Oligarchy

Classless Utopia versus Class Compromise

In March 2018, China’s state-controlled internet, amid rumors that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un was secretly visiting China, rendered the term “fatty” unsearchable. In China, “Fatty the Third” is a derogatory nickname for Kim, who inherited his position from his father and grandfather. This occurred shortly after Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party…

Old Populism and the New Ideas of Michał Kalecki

Populism in the United States has its roots in the mass protests of the 1880s and 1890s, sparked by the economic depression that gripped the country following Reconstruction. American populists rallied to the banner of William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic candidate for the presidency in 1896, who expressed the populists’ distrust of cosmopolitan elites and…

A Long-Term Perspective on the Gig Economy

In July 2017, Don Lane, a courier working in southern England for the German logistics firm DPD, attended a hospital medical appointment regarding his deteriorating diabetes condition. The firm fined him £150 because as a result he failed to deliver his allocation of parcels for the day. In the following months his diabetes worsened; he…

Cryptocurrencies: Commodity Dynamics and Cartelization

Bitcoin and the other altcoins now have more “experts” than perhaps any other market. I am no such “expert”: I am neither a cryptographer nor a computer programmer. I am a currency and commodity trader of thirty-plus years, and I approach the cryptocurrency market from that perspective. The cryptocurrency market cannot easily be dismissed, despite…

The Decline of American Innovation

The American Way of Innovation and Its Deficiencies

Apple, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook are the world’s largest companies by market capitalization. The United States is also, by many measures, the leader in university research in basic science. From this perspective, American innovation seems alive and well. But it’s a different story when it comes to actually making things. Apple, as is well known, manufactures its products abroad. The same is largely true for other U.S. corporate giants, such as Amazon. In fact, with the supplier base and knowledge required for manufacturing centered in Asia, the United States no longer has the technological prowess to manufacture many high-tech devices domes­tically. When it comes to…

Winning the Race in Quantum Computing

Imagine a computer solving the mathematical problems that today’s fastest supercomputers can’t begin to unlock, in less than a blink of an eye. Imagine a technology that can enable an observer to see through walls, or see into the darkest depths of the world’s oceans. Imagine a technology that can build essentially unhackable global networks,…

Patent Reforms to Encourage Innovation and Competition

The original justification for patents and copyrights was to secure the moral right of holders to determine the use of their creations. For some time now, however, patents have been justified in terms of their economic utility. According to this view, market exclusivity is necessary for motivating inventors and investors to put time and money…

Legislative Gridlock and Reform

Earmarks: Better Government through Honest Graft

George Washington Plunkitt, the notorious leader of New York’s nineteenth-century Tammany Hall machine, famously insisted on a distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. When acting from honest graft, a politician is simultaneously pursuing both personal interest (including the interest in being reelected) and the public good. Our constitutional system, as Madison, Hamilton, and Jay argued in the Federalist Papers, assumes that our leaders will not be angels but can be guided by self-interest to act in ways that, for the most part, promote the common good. For nearly two hundred years, we have set federal appropriations through congressional acts that included “pork-barrel spending” or “earmarks”: specific provisions that benefit the…

Who’s Afraid of an Article V Convention?

There it is, on a platform in Independence Hall in Philadelphia—George Washington’s chair, the very one he planted his bottom on while presiding over the Constitutional Convention that gave birth to our republic in 1787. The wooden chair, with its carving of a gilded sun, is a relic, the only piece of furniture from the…

Evaluating Increases in Think-Tank Executive Compensation

Shortly before announcing his plans to resign from the presidency of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Arthur Brooks outlined a framework for evaluating the “impact” of think tanks such as his own in the Harvard Business Review.1 In his article, Brooks identified several metrics for assessing impact, such as the number of op-eds placed in leading newspapers…

After the End of History

Europe under Merkel IV: Balance of Impotence

Europe, as organized—or disorganized—in the European Union (EU), is a strange political beast. It consists, first, of the domestic politics of its member states that have, over time, become deeply intertwined. Second, member states, which are still sovereign nation-states, pursue nationally defined interests through national foreign policies within intra-European international relations. Here, third, they have a choice between relying on a variety of supranational institutions or on intergovernmental agreements among selective coalitions of the willing. Fourth, since the start of the European Monetary Union (EMU), which includes only nineteen of the EU’s twenty-eight member states, another arena of European international relations has emerged, consisting mainly of informal, intergovernmental institutions looked…

Shopping for the Sublime

When Bruce Springsteen—that avatar of a blue-collar America fighting for its life against the riptide of history—asked on his 1981 single “The River” whether a dream is a lie if it doesn’t come true or if it’s something worse, the question was rhetorical. This is America, after all. Dreams and lies are similar things, each with a force derived from desire…

Baudrillard’s Revenge

The book that shaped the political culture of the 1990s appeared, in 1992, fast on the heels of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Almost simultaneously with The End of History and the Last Man, the French sociologist Jean Baudrillard published a slender reply that never so much as mentioned the name of his target. L’illusion de la…

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