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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 Past and Future of Political Economy

In this remarkable work, Robert Skidelsky—historian, biographer, and tribune of Keynesian ideas in the House of Lords—unites his experience, knowledge, and talents in a sweeping account of money and power. His topic is not money and power…

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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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The Rise of the Financial Economy

Remember auction rate securities? For decades, financial institutions hosted “auctions” of these fixed-rate instruments for buyers and sellers. They were considered so safe, and the auctions (where the interest rate would be “reset” depending on the level of interest in the securities, among other factors) so routine, that auction rate securities became an alternative to money…

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Financing Long-Term Care

Long-term care involves services that meet a person’s health and personal care needs when they are no longer able to perform these tasks safely on their own. Nearly eleven million people in the United States use some form of long-term care, and that number is projected to double…

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Postal Banking’s Public Benefits

The financial crisis of 2008 made clear to the public, in a way that had not been apparent for some time, that banks depend for their existence and operation on a structural framework created by the federal government. But policymakers as well as the public at large do not have a clear view of the…

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Building the Venture Capital State

In a 1986 speech, then president Ronald Reagan lamented that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” This statement epitomizes the neoliberal view of how Silicon Valley became a global beacon of high-technology ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and venture capital. For followers of Ronald Reagan…

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The European Banking Union: Intentions and Reality

Emmanuel Macron’s recent proposals for European reform have concentrated on fiscal issues but also include the demand that the European banking union should be completed, since its third pillar (a pan-European deposit guarantee scheme) is not yet implemented. The formation of the European banking union, initiated in 2012, is the last major reform in Europe…

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The American Way of Innovation and Its Deficiencies

Apple, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook are the world’s largest companies by market capitalization. The United States is also, by many measures, the leader in university research in basic science. From this perspective, American innovation seems alive and well. But it’s a different story when it comes to actually making things.…

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