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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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The Detached Literature of Remote Wars

In the literature of our post-9/11 wars, the circuit between the home and the field of battle has been severed. Because of that fracture, our stories have struggled to convey the novelty of contemporary combat with the depth and significance that literature demands. Most often, recent war fiction ends up collapsing into exhausted and facile…

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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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A Path Out of the Trade and Savings Trap

Except in Africa and South Asia, the world’s population is aging rapidly. Between 2010 and 2050 the proportion of Americans over 65 will nearly double assuming constant fertility and immigration. By 2034 the Social Security Trust Funds will be depleted. By that time there will be two Americans over 65 for every five Americans of…

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Ricardo’s Vice and the Virtues of Industrial Diversity

There is, however, another explanation for why anti–free trade sentiment has risen: the gains from specialization at the national level were not there to share in the first place, for sound empirical reasons that were ignored in Ricardo’s example. That ignorance has been ingrained in economics since then, as Robbins’s definition—dominant and…

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Our Policy Agenda

Since the launch of American Affairs three months ago, a favorite topic of commentators has been the inversion of the usual order of policy journals and political movements: this time, a “populist” political movement achieved power before its theoretical contours or specific agenda had been thoroughly defined. Moreover, this journal, although in many ways provoked by the 2016 campaign, arose independently of the new administration. The extent of any affinity between the two remains to be seen. We are as cognizant of these challenges as even our most impatient critics, and we are in fact grateful that there are so many of the latter…

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The New Class War

The Cold War has been followed by the class war. A transatlantic class war has broken out simultaneously in many countries between elites based in the corporate, financial, and professional sectors and working-class populists. Already this transnational class conflict has produced Brexit and the election of Donald Trump to the American presidency. Other shocks are…

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Why a New Policy Journal?

The conventional party platforms no longer address or even comprehend the most pressing challenges facing American institutions. Economic mobility is down and inequality is up, while growth, productivity, and wages are nearly stagnant. Trust in government is at historic lows…

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