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Winter 2019 / Volume III, Number 4
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Economic Policy for a New Era

Disruptive Innovation in America and China

The concept of disruptive innovation arose from the study of innovation in companies, but it can also be applied to nations. In this essay I will use some of the concepts of disruptive innovation to analyze the dynamics of national innovation and growth in America and China.1 The United States is supposed to be the…

Rebuilding British Industry: A Plan for the Post-Brexit Economy

Today Britain finds itself in an odd position. In the wake of the vote to leave the European Union and its aftermath, the Conservative Party has been given a new mandate. A substantial portion of the voting public wants a more independent Britain to pursue national restoration and regeneration. On an emotional level, most of…

Tax Sovereignty in the Age of Global Capital

In January 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez found a perhaps unexpected vein of popular support when she proposed raising the top marginal tax rate from 37 percent to 70 percent for those with annual incomes of over $10 million.1 Polling conducted by the Hill and HarrisX soon revealed that 59 percent of Americans supported this idea:…

Feudalism, Capitalism, and Socialism

America’s Drift toward Feudalism

America’s emergence in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represented a dramatic break from the past. The United States came on the scene with only vestiges of the old European feudal order—mostly in the plantation economy of the Deep South. There was no hereditary nobility, no national church, and, thanks to George Washington’s modesty, no royal authority. At least among whites, there was also far less poverty in America, compared to Europe’s in­tense, intractable, multigenerational poverty. In contrast, as Jeffer­son noted in 1814, America had fewer “paupers,” and the bulk of the pop­ulation was “fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to la­bor moderately and raise their families.” Yet in recent decades…

The Cubicle Archipelago

“Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences.” Our current moment of corporate wokeness and “extremely online” pearl-clutching has made this phrase something of a cliché. In its most sympathetic rendering, it means that a free exchange of ideas allows everyone to decide who they wish to associate with…

The Socialist Revival

As the Berlin Wall crumbled in 1989, so too, it seemed, did the dream of socialism. The German sociologist Rolf Dahrendorf declared, “The point has to be made unequivocally that socialism is dead and that none of its variants can be revived for a world awakening from the double nightmare…

The Politics of the Professional Class

The Characterless Opportunism of the Managerial Class

My first reaction to the work of Barbara Ehrenreich was one of complete indignation and contempt. A professor had assigned Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed (2001) for an English prerequisite at my commuter college—the urban satellite campus for two major universities intended to cater to low-income and nontraditional students. (Go Jaguars!) The book was a committed work of first-person journalism premised on a compelling challenge: to “see wheth­er or not I could match income to expenses, as the truly poor attempt to do every day.” What Ehrenreich “revealed” was the constant struggle to make ends meet, a total lack of security in employment, housing, and resources, declining health from backbreaking…

Will Shifting Party Coalitions Change Policy Priorities?

America’s two major political parties appear to be in the process of swapping their historic coalition constituents. With that shift, many of our assumptions about what it means to be a Democrat or a Republican are coming apart at the seams. The most significant development seen in recent polling data is the exodus of college-educated…

The Real Class War

Since at least 2016, the divide between the “working class” and the “elite” has been considered a defining issue in American (and Western) politics. This divide has been defined in occupational terms (“blue collar” versus “information workers”), geographic terms (rural and exurban regions versus major urban cores), and meritocratic terms (non-college-educated versus those with elite…

Questions of Culture

Liberalism and the National Question

Three recent books provoked by the Trump presidency grapple with identity and nationalism, drawing radically different conclu­sions. Jill Lepore, a Harvard historian and staff writer at the New Yorker, wishes that “nation-states didn’t already exist.” She finds them abhor­rent. Nevertheless, she allows that as long as the world is organized into nations, it is probably necessary for the United States to be one, with the caveat that ours must be a dry, creedal affair, based on a commitment to democracy and the Constitution with no ethnicity involved. Except, that is…

Missionaries of Humanity: Popular Confucianism in China

In a state where one may not criticize the regime, one learns the art of the unsaid. In China, as in the premodern West, a citizen can complain freely about bad roads or corrupt officials, but it is considered seditious to criticize the form of government. If a citizen does criticize…

Ending the Interregnum: A Way through the Culture War

Politics is fundamentally agonistic. Not all interests and desires can be harmonized. Periods of cultural and economic hegemony sup­plant one another through material and ideational conflict. Within these periods there are winners and losers. Competing political parties quibble at the margins, but it is rare that an election gives rise to more than superficial change.…

Online Exclusives

  • Commodity Financialization (and Why It Matters)

    In December 2018, a leading European bank sent its customers investing tips for the next year. To navigate “an increasingly challenging investment environment,” the bank advised, “The latter stages of the economic cycle have historically been one of the better times to invest in commodities.…

  • How to Relink Seven Billion People?

    World population has increased from one billion a century ago to roughly seven billion now, with rates varying greatly between different countries, tribes, and religious groups. Many of today’s unsettled political, economic, and environmental issues—the latter reflected in the recently published UN report stating that…

  • Subscription Capitalism: The Story of a Power Shift

    The emergence of the internet changed the business landscape in fundamental ways. Computer-based services could be offered to anyone irrespective of geographic restrictions. This meant that internet companies could become globally significant with relatively little initial investment, as demonstrated by Facebook, Google, and several others.…

  • Marvel’s War on Terror

    When the Norse god Loki threatens earth in the 2012 film The Avengers, the “playboy billionaire genius” Tony Stark confronts him in a Manhattan penthouse. Overlooking the cityscape, Stark warns Loki that if earth’s most powerful superheroes “can’t protect the earth, you can be damned…

  • The Liberal International Disorder

    Foreign policy as practiced by the United States, especially in recent decades, enjoys a special distinction. The chaos engendered by its voluntarist will to power is painfully obvious…

  • The Illiberal Arts

    For thousands of years, the liberal arts were not liberal, and that is why they are increasingly unwelcome in our time. An honest study of the past is unsettling in a liberal age, because a person who learns to venerate earlier cultural traditions, from Homer…

  • Right-Wing Marxists and Left-Wing Nationalists

    On the shelf of academics’ memoir-manifestos, there will never be more than one Allan Bloom. Someone forgot to tell F. H. Buckley. Which is a shame because Buckley (unrelated to that Buckley) can be interesting. But the contours of his navel are not. The Republican…

  • What Another Irish Housing Bubble Says about the EU Technocracy

    On January 20, the Financial Times reported that the European Central Bank (ECB) would start the process of hiring its new chief economist. At the top of the list, the article said, was Irish central bank governor Philip Lane. The article noted that Lane is…

  • Peter Thiel, Rachel Carson, and Regulatory Double Standards

    Buried in the middle of a two-hour debate in 2014 on religion and modernity is a thought-provoking observation by Peter Thiel regarding technology and the modern economy. Instead of praising Silicon Valley for its tremendous digital inventiveness, Thiel criticized the technological advances of the last…

  • Share Buybacks and the Contradictions of “Shareholder Capitalism”

    In the jargon of finance, America is suffering from a capital allocation problem. The country seems incapable of making the necessary investments to fuel future productivity and growth, or to ensure widespread prosperity. At the government level, public spending on basic research and development as…

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