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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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The Return of the Hidden Persuaders

Critiques of advertising are back. Ten years ago, casual talk about how advertising influences behavior would have come across as weird and paranoid—the preserve of the online conspiracy fringe. Today it is everywhere. Leading journalistic outlets fret over something resembling mind control. Politicos talk in ominous tones of stolen elections and Manchurian candidates. And government…

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The Illusion of a “Marketplace of Ideas” and the Right to Truth

The traditional model of a “marketplace of ideas” was intended to justify freedom of speech in terms of its optimal outcome in the production of truth. But today our behavior on the internet, the main locus of the “marketplace of ideas,” is continuously monitored and processed through the analysis of big data. Complex algorithms categorize…

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Solidarity under a Song: What Strikes in China Tell Us

Early one Monday morning in 2010, Tan Guocheng came to his shift at Honda’s Nanhai factory in Guangdong Province. Tan was a twenty-four-year-old migrant worker from Hunan, a neighboring province, and the factory manufactured automobile parts. But…

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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 well as infrastructure investment has declined significantly over the past…

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Principles for Dummies

On the first page of his best-selling memoir, Ray Dalio unburdens himself of the opinion that he is “a dumb shit.” Nothing in the ensuing six hundred or so pages convinced me that I should dissent from this verdict. I can say honestly, in keeping with the book’s own serial inducements to “radical transparency,” that my endorsement of Dalio’s conclusion about his own intelligence was arrived at without prejudice…

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The Open Office and the Spirit of Capitalism

It would be too much to say that the office is the prime locus of utopian aspirations in American life. But the claim wouldn’t be entirely misleading, either, and it might even shed some light on what the office actually is. From their earliest days as dingy counting houses in Boston and Manhattan, American offices have…

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