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Trivial Pursuit

It would not be possible in the space of even a lengthy review to do justice to either the scope or the style of Brooks and Papo­la’s cine­matic achievement. I can only share some of what I saw. After a brief credit sequence we meet “Arthur,” which is what I will call the Brooks-esque character in the film. (I am going to assume we are not quite meant to identify him with the real-life Brooks, who cannot possibly be as stupid and sinister by turns as this guy…

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New Gilded Age or Old Normal?

Since the mid-1970s, inequality has increased under Democratic as well as Republican administrations and Congresses. In retrospect, the four and a half decades from 1933 to 1978 were a historical aberration. The longer-term trend toward more inequality in capitalist economies, which prevailed before this period, has re­sumed after it. That leads us to conclude that there may well be no technocratic or tax policy fix for capitalism’s tendency to generate ever more inequality…

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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…

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Liberalism and the Invisible Hand

Liberalism as a concrete sociopolitical order rests upon a series of invisible hand systems: free competition in explicit economic markets, free competition in the marketplace of ideas, institutional competition among branches of government, and so on. Yet liberal faith in these systems far outruns any of the social-scientific mechanisms or evidence adduced to support…

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Conservative Critiques of Capitalism

The 1984 Republican Party platform lauded what it called “democratic capitalism” for having produced, “in the United States and elsewhere, an unparalleled ability to achieve political and civil rights and long-term prosperity for ever-growing numbers of people.” In 2016, the GOP platform continued…

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Radical Markets versus Sensible Politics

Market-based reforms were used in the 1980s—really invented as a concept in the run-up to the 1980s—to counteract the excesses and failures of post–World War II social policy. At the time, marginal income tax rates in excess of 70 percent had shifteind income into unproductive tax-optimization vehicles instead of savings and investment. Excessive urban rent controls were a disincentive…

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Tech Platforms and the Knowledge Problem

Friedrich von Hayek, the preeminent theorist of laissez-faire, called the “knowledge problem” an insuperable barrier to central planning. Knowledge about the price of supplies and labor, and consumers’ ability and willingness to pay, is so scattered and protean that even the wisest authorities cannot access all of it. No person knows everything about how goods…

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What Is Principled Conservatism?

In the future, to adapt a well-worn line, everyone will call himself a conservative for at least fifteen minutes. George W. Bush called himself a conservative, but so, for a time, did Barack Obama. Donald Trump has claimed to be conservative, as, perhaps more fervently, have his Republican foes. The conservative movement describes itself as…

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Neoliberalism: The Movement That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Reactions against the use of the term neoliberalism have usually taken one of two forms: first, that “neoliberalism” is nothing more than a fevered delusion or a mirage perhaps shared with a few other addled persons, and thus best ignored; and second, that if such a thing does indeed exist, it is far too uneven and inconsistent to count as a serious analytical…

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Romance and Socialism in J. S. Mill

John Stuart Mill had the worst personal life of any libertarian philosopher, a competitive category for bad personal lives. Marriage in particular has a record of making libertarian philosophers behave discreditably—that is, in a way that brings discredit not just on their character but on their ideas. Bertrand Russell famously divorced the first of his four wives after a bicycle trip: “suddenly, as I was…

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