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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 Open Office and the Spirit of Capitalism

It would be too much to say that the office is the prime locus of utopian aspirations in American life. But the claim wouldn’t be entirely misleading, either, and it might even shed some light on what the office actually is. From their earliest days as dingy counting houses in Boston and Manhattan, American offices have…

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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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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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