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Private Equity: Overvalued and Overrated?

America is in the grips of a speculative frenzy. Investment bankers, private investment firms, and even a few dozen recently graduated MBAs labelling themselves “searchers” are calling, emailing, wining, and dining small business owners. Their goal is to translate prosaic small businesses into the poetry of private equity. The great postcrisis private equity gold rush…

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Fiscal Balances and the Rise of Catalonian Separatism: The Misuse of Economic Theory

The question of Catalonian independence is once again receiving international attention. The secessionist movement has received renewed impetus from the institutions of the Catalonian regional government, and the Catalan people are now gravely split, almost in half, on the issue. The tension is straining the relations between the central and regional governments and affecting the…

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For a Universal Job Guarantee

The American welfare system—based on means testing and market-driven social services—which has been in place since World War II is increasingly seen as broken by both Left and Right. Progressives are frustrated because they believe the benefits are insufficient, while libertarians and conservatives dislike the model due to the excessive complexity and redundancies that arise…

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Edison’s Legacy: Industrial Laboratories and Innovation

Between 1999 and 2016, the U.S. share of global high technology exports dropped from 18 percent to 7 percent. From one of the world’s leading technology product exporters prior to 2000, the United States has become a net importer since then, and the deficit keeps growing. During this period…

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Black America and Donald Trump

My thinking along these lines is not Trump-centric. It is how I have viewed the political strategy and emotional reaction of the black community to the Republican Party for twenty years. Yes, because so much of our dialogue and activity is a reaction to the Republican Party, we are controlled by it. The impact has been devastating, at times…

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Two Cheers for Tax Reform

The recently announced tax reform package is one of the few serious and intelligent proposals offered by House Republicans in years. Not surprisingly, however, everyone seems to hate it. Defenders no less than critics of the plan seem incapable of thinking about tax policy outside of the simplistic framework of Reaganomics. As a result, most…

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The Incoherence of the Economists

What is an economist? There is an easy answer: economists are social scientists who create simplified quantitative models of large-scale market phenomena. But they are more than that. Besides their scientific role, economists have achieved a social cachet that far exceeds what one might expect from a class of geeky quasi-mathematicians. In addition to being…

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The Conservation of Coercion

It was the anarchists who first told me about the Kapauku Papuans. Among the Kapauku, in West New Guinea, there was no state administration of justice; instead, both civil disputes and grave crimes were adjudicated by a caste of private citizens called tonowi. As tonowi travelled the highlands, collecting evidence, pronouncing judgement, and suggesting sentences, their reputations would spread. The wisest and most impartial tonowi were in high demand, and could command a correspondingly high price from a village for their assistance in settling a dispute. A tonowi who developed a reputation for corruption or partiality, however, would soon need to find a new line of work. Past judgements of great tonowi in difficult cases formed an evolving body of common law that helped inform new cases…

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The Development Delusion: Foreign Aid and Inequality

During the last decades of the Soviet Union, technocrats in Moscow managed to prop up the failing regime by telling a story. They knew that the economy was falling apart, but they refused to admit it. Instead, they hired propagandists to convince the public that everything was still going according to plan, that the Soviet…

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Make the Left Great Again

The West is currently in the midst of an antiestablishment revolt of historic proportions. The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, the election of Donald Trump in the United States, the rejection of Matteo Renzi’s neoliberal constitutional reform in Italy, the European Union’s unprecedented crisis of legitimation—although these interrelated phenomena differ in ideology and goals,…

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