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The New Silk Road and the Return of Geopolitics

The grand design came in 2013 from President Xi Jinping himself. The goal was to launch the project “One Belt One Road,” or OBOR, across and around Eurasia, and to ensure mutually beneficial cooperation among all participating countries. At the time, the announcement of OBOR received little if any attention from European observers, distracted as they were by the difficulties of emerging from the euro crisis and the foreign policy challenges of Iran and Russia…

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Managed Obsolescence: Homelessness in America’s Gilded Cities

It was last July, somewhere around Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway, when I first noticed the RVs. Miles and miles of vintage cream-colored RVs parked bumper to bumper along the inland shoulder of the PCH. My first thought was that they must have belonged to tourists spending a day at the beach. But they…

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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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The Economics—and Politics—of Broadband

Today it is hardly possible to imagine an internet without its biggest players. Google’s market share in search is somewhere between 70 percent and 90 percent (depending on whether services like YouTube and Google Maps are included). Facebook has more than two billion active users. Netflix alone is responsible for more than a third of…

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Reconstruction and the End of History

The years between 1865 and 1877 form the period in American history known as Reconstruction—reconstruction, in this case, meaning the rebuilding of the federal Union which had been dis­rupted by the attempt of eleven Southern states to secede from that Union in order to protect legalized slavery. It might have been a new era of…

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Shopping for the Sublime

When Bruce Springsteen—that avatar of a blue-collar America fighting for its life against the riptide of history—asked on his 1981 single “The River” whether a dream is a lie if it doesn’t come true or if it’s something worse, the question was rhetorical. This is America, after all. Dreams and lies are similar things, each with a force derived from desire…

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Revitalizing the Rust Belt

Large swaths of Pennsylvania, New York, and the Midwest have stagnated for decades, resulting in unrecovered job losses nearing 60 percent in some parts of the region since the 1950s. Meanwhile, the languishing U.S. Rust Belt serves as an instrument of blame in a divisive political climate. While solutions remain elusive, the region continues to…

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There Is No Free Market for Electricity: Can There Ever Be?

Electricity is an input in virtually everything we do as a modern society. Few Americans remember what it was like to live without it and its attendant benefits on quality of life, labor productivity, and human health. Electricity is today largely taken for granted, yet for middle-class and older Americans utility bills often constitute a…

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Rebuilding American Infrastructure

When Donald Trump chose “Make America Great Again” as his campaign slogan, he put words to something Americans had increasingly come to see and feel. For many people, their personal lives and communities were no longer as great as they used to be, and they were looking for someone to set things right. Restoring rather than building…

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