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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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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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Patent Reforms to Encourage Innovation and Competition

The original justification for patents and copyrights was to secure the moral right of holders to determine the use of their creations. For some time now, however, patents have been justified in terms of their economic utility. According to this view, market exclusivity is necessary for motivating inventors and investors to put time and money…

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Winning the Race in Quantum Computing

Imagine a computer solving the mathematical problems that today’s fastest supercomputers can’t begin to unlock, in less than a blink of an eye. Imagine a technology that can enable an observer to see through walls, or see into the darkest depths of the world’s oceans. Imagine a technology that can build essentially unhackable global networks,…

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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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Cryptocurrencies: Commodity Dynamics and Cartelization

Bitcoin and the other altcoins now have more “experts” than perhaps any other market. I am no such “expert”: I am neither a cryptographer nor a computer programmer. I am a currency and commodity trader of thirty-plus years, and I approach the cryptocurrency market from that perspective. The cryptocurrency market cannot easily be dismissed, despite…

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A Long-Term Perspective on the Gig Economy

In July 2017, Don Lane, a courier working in southern England for the German logistics firm DPD, attended a hospital medical appointment regarding his deteriorating diabetes condition. The firm fined him £150 because as a result he failed to deliver his allocation of parcels for the day. In the following months his diabetes worsened; he…

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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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Against the Deformations of Liberalism

Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed is a blistering critique of contemporary American culture and its foundational philosophy of liberalism. Deneen’s surprising argument is that “liberalism has failed because it succeeded,” and that the bankruptcy of liberal ideas has resulted in unsustainable forms of political community…

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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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