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Summer 2019 / Volume III, Number 2
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The Insularity of the Knowledge Economy

Automation Anxiety in an Age of Stagnation

A cursory glance at Google Trends reveals that interest in robot­ics and automation was far less intense throughout the last decade than interest in proposed solutions to the problems that these tech­nologies are supposedly creating, especially universal basic in­come (UBI). Automation—the process of applying technology and organ­ization to do more with less, with robotics being…

Financing Advanced Manufacturing: Why VCs Aren’t the Answer

In 2013, a group of MIT researchers published a study examining the business trajectory of 150 start-up firms that grew out of technology developed at the university. These were production-related “hardware” firms that actually manufactured things. The firms were able to attract early stage venture capital (VC) funding. They were also able to find the…

McLuhanomics: The Medium versus the Market

Why has digital technology so scandalously betrayed the expectations set by market liberalism? What accounts for the vast divergence between the starring role digital tech was meant to play in the global consummation of market liberalism and the dis­ruptive, discrediting, disillusioning role it actually is playing? Why did liberal experts and liberal economics get it…

Algorithmic Governance and Political Legitimacy

In ever more areas of life, algorithms are coming to substitute for judgment exercised by identifiable human beings who can be held to account. The rationale offered is that automated decision-making will be more reliable. But a further attraction is that it serves to insulate various forms of power from popular pressures. Our readiness to…

The State of the Cities

The New Shame of Our Cities

Perhaps no song has been belted out more often than the one that claims that America is moving “back to the city.” Newspapers, notably the New York Times, devote enormous space to this notion. It gained even more currency when the Obama administration sec­retary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Do­novan, pro­claimed that the suburbs were “over” as people were “voting with their feet” and moving to dense, transit-oriented urban centers. This celebration perhaps reached its crescendo when Amazon initially announced its move to Crystal City, Virginia, and Queens…

Uber’s Path of Destruction

Since it began operations in 2010, Uber has grown to the point where it now collects over $45 billion in gross passenger revenue, and it has seized a major share of the urban car service market. But the widespread belief that it is a highly innovative and successful company has no basis in economic reality. An examination of Uber’s economics suggests that it has no hope of ever earning sustainable urban car service profits in competitive markets…

China’s City Clusters: Pioneering Future Mega-Urban Governance

The coordination of development within city clusters in the Peo­ple’s Republic of China (PRC) is a striking case for organizing institutions, planning, infrastructure, and economic development across many local administrative boundaries in very large urban re­gions, some as large as European countries. To benefit from the many efficiencies that could be reaped from such coordination,…

The Economics of National Development

Nationalism’s Dividends

Here are some facts about China from the World Bank: Since initiating market reforms in 1978 . . . China has expe­rienced rapid economic and social development. GDP growth has averaged nearly 10% a year—the fastest sustained expan­sion by a major economy in history—and more than 850 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty. . . . Although China’s GDP growth has gradually slowed since 2012, as needed for a transition to more balanced and sustainable growth, it is still relatively high by current global standards. There is nothing in the entire history of the world that compares to this Chinese achievement of last forty years, in terms of…

National Developmentalism: From Forgotten Tradition to New Consensus

In response to the rise of “populism,” members of the Washington establishment have adopted a reassuring way to frame the ques­tion of America’s proper relationship to the world. As they see it, Americans are divided into two camps—open or closed, globalist or nationalist, interventionist or protectionist. In this framing, the closed, nationalist, and protectionist camp…

Trade, Antitrust, and Restoring Domestic Competition

Will more restrictive trade policies harm the U.S. economy by shielding domestic businesses against competition? That’s what standard economic theory holds, insisting that pressure from foreign rivals is needed for U.S.-based businesses to continue to in­novate, to create the highest quality goods, and to sell them for the lowest possible prices. Although this theory has…

The Literature of Liberal Exhaustion

Literature as Flattery

In 1934, the Saturday Review of Literature published an ad on how to read James Joyce’s Ulysses. The ad is remarkable for its relationship to reading, democracy, and elitism. On the one hand, the ad dismisses critics who fret over the difficulty of the novel and presents it as a challenge that is rewarding to every…

Online Exclusives

  • 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…

  • Utopia’s Borders

    The political future of the European bloc looks distressingly rough. Already in a December 2016 essay published in the Financial Times, Wolfgang Münchau warned that the “liberal capitalist order” was in peril of capsizing under what he called “uncontrolled flows of people and capital.” The…

  • Sweden’s Ambivalence on Immigration

    In 2015, immigration to Sweden reached an all-time high. At its peak, more than 10,000 people arrived in a single week. The total for the entire year was 162,877 people—1.6 percent of the Swedish population. In September, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven welcomed the immigrants, saying…

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