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Spring 2021 / Volume V, Number 1
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Value Capture versus Value Creation

Wall Street’s Rental Gambit

The Covid-19 pandemic set off a frenzy for suburban houses. But it’s not just millennials looking for patios and home offices; Wall Street is house hunting as well. Private equity firms, insurance compa­nies, and pensions are betting that many Americans will have to rent the suburban lifestyle to which they have now become accustomed and…

The Airline Industry after Covid-19: Value Extraction or Recovery?

The magnitude of the financial collapse currently facing the airline industry is unprecedented. In 2020, the Big Four airlines that dominate the U.S. industry (Ameri­can, Delta, United, and Southwest) reported GAAP net losses of $31.5 billion and operating losses of $33.1 billion. This was a $50 billion decline…

The American City’s Long Road to Recovery

Even before 2020, America’s great cities faced a tide that threatened to overwhelm them. In 2020, the tsunami rose sud­denly, inundating the cities in ways that will prove both troubling and trans­formative, but which could mark the return toward a more hu­mane, and sustainable, urbanity. The two shocks—the Covid-19 pandemic…

The Politics of Tollbooth Capitalism

No historical analogies are perfect. But in many ways the election of 2020, along with that of 2016, echoes the election of 1896. In 1896, the geographic and social bases of the two national parties were the opposite of what they are today. McKinley in 1896 and Biden in 2020 did best in the same…

China’s Disruptive Technologies

The Future of China’s Semiconductor Industry

Over the past four years, the Trump administration—driven by growing concerns over China’s rise as a technological competitor and the coupling of its military and civilian industries—has ratcheted up controls on semiconductors and semiconductor manu­facturing equipment destined for Chinese end users. China hawks in the administration viewed American companies’ dominance of key semiconductor subsectors, particularly…

Meritocracy and Its Discontents

A Tyranny without Tyrants?

Sandel is among the few thinkers who warn fellow elites that the very system that has afforded them prestige, material comfort, and the tools to survive, and even thrive, amid economic and social instability has given rise to pervasive political discontent and lies at the root of the recent populist backlash against elites. He notes that liberal and center-left political parties—once the champions of the working class—have become the home of the meritocrats, and hence the party of the new aristocracy. Liberal-left parties have developed a self-serving obliviousness to their complicity in creating the threat to their own position…

The Death Cult of Smart

In his recent book, Fredrik deBoer tells an anecdote about one of his freshman writing students. Bright but indifferent to academics, the student asked deBoer—not rhetorically—“What else am I sup­posed to do?” “I couldn’t answer,” writes deBoer, whom you may know from sharp essays first posted on his blog, such as “The Iron Law of Institutions and the Left” and “Planet of Cops,” which criticized…

Rediscovering E. Digby Baltzell’s Sociology of Elites

With increasing income inequality and social stratification remi­niscent of the Gilded Age, talk of an “establishment” has re­turned to our political discourse. As in the past, the word is typically used as a pejorative describing an incumbent power structure that needs to be overturned. Yet today’s sociopolitical regime is vastly different from the establishment that…

Reforming the Administrative State: A View from China

Size matters. In the case of a state, smaller is usually better. Plato specifies that a state informed by justice and moderation should have 5,040 citizens. Aristotle concurs that a relatively small state, with a maximum of about one thousand households, is more likely to be well governed. It is difficult, if not impossible, to run a state well in large political communities composed of diverse peoples with large class differences. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is famous…

A Tale of Two Immigration Systems: Canada and the United States

It is an understatement to say that Americans and Canadians do immigration differently. It is not only vastly different immigration policies and systems that separate the two countries, nor merely the facts of geography—as undeniably significant as it is to share a long border with a less developed neighbor—but there are also sharply divergent histories, cultures, values, principles…

Noble Lies

Biden’s Dreampolitik at Home and Abroad

In a timely new book reflecting on the inner springs of Joe Biden’s biography and personality, New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos notes a central contradiction that has long animated the new president. During the campaign, Donald Trump and most Republicans tried to associate Biden with a malevolent plan to smuggle socialism into the United…

Liberalism for Losers: Carl Schmitt’s “The Tyranny of Values”

To those familiar with his most famous writings, it may seem that Carl Schmitt is an enemy of liberalism. In texts such as The Concept of the Political (1932) and Legality and Legitimacy (1932), Schmitt critiqued the Weimar Republic and the liberal tradition, the weaknesses of which Weimar seemed to embody. Liberalism, Schmitt argued, depends…

Online Exclusives

  • The Left’s Culture War Rebranding

    Technically, you could call it a victory. But what was expected to be a historic blue wave in 2020 turned out to be barely a ripple. Despite many polls predicting a blowout, Democrats only narrowly defeated a president widely believed to have mismanaged a pandemic…

  • New Fault Lines in a Post-Globalized World

    The economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic has upended the global economic system and, just as importantly, cast out the neoliberal orthodoxy that dominated the industrialized world for the past forty years. But Covid-19 has only accelerated a process that was already well underway, impacting trade…

  • How Late Liberalism Undermines Itself

    Just as surely as the French Revolution devoured its children, modern-day liberalism is eating itself, and destroying with it all the norms and institutions that help complex societies to mediate differences. As liberalism grows illiberal, as it turns its back on pluralism, its universalism gives…

  • United We Stand

    Amid the stresses and strains of today’s America, with our national political fabric seemingly at the tearing point, the notion of disunion as our defining idea might seem ripe for embrace. But is this, really, our national experience? The answer matters…

  • Individual and National Freedom: Toward a New Conservative Fusion

    The 2011 hit series The Newsroom begins with a memorable scene. A panel of pundits is asked by a sorority girl to say “in one sentence or less, why America is the greatest country on earth.” The liberal smugly answers, “Diversity and opportunity.” The conservative,…

  • America’s Unhealthy Gerontocracy

    America in its present state of decline increasingly resembles the late Soviet Union, but one of the most unsettling parallels is its unmistakable slide into gerontocracy. From Trump to Biden to Sanders to Pelosi to most of the Senate, one might think that the biblical…

  • Lenin versus the God-Builders

    James D. White’s Red Hamlet: The Life and Ideas of Alexander Bogdanov is the first comprehensive English-language biography of Bogdanov. In it, White alternates chapters of straight biography with dense chapters that rehash Bogdanov’s philosophy and the debates surrounding it. The volume meticulously provides an…

  • After AIPAC

    Bernie Sanders’s announcement that he would not attend this year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee (aipac) conference in Washington set off the usual round of recriminations, but it should not have come as a surprise. On his Twitter feed, Sanders described the annual pro-Israel gathering—typically…

  • A Public Baseline: The Australian Health Care Model

    Health care in the United States is riddled with contradictions. The country spends $3.5 trillion a year on health care—more than $10,700 per person and 17.9 percent of GDP—yet 28.5 million Americans are uninsured—nearly 9 percent of the population. America is the richest nation on…

  • The Reformation in Economics: Back to the Future

    It is hard to think of another book of the same genre, less still one recently published, that provides such a clear and accurate guide to what economics should be about and how it should be employed to analyze actual economies…

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