Category: Crony Capitalism

epipen22Pharmaceutical company Mylan recently spurred a flurry of outrage after raising the price of their lifesaving EpiPen by 400%, leading many to decry “corporate greed” and point the finger at capitalism.

Unfortunately, such anger routinely fails to consider the systemic reasons as to why Mylan can charge such prices, resorting instead to knee-jerk calls for fresh tricks by the FDA and new layers of price-fixing tomfoolery from Washington.

Yet the problem, as detailed by Rep. Mick Mulvaney in a new video from FEE, begins with the very same interventions, back-room deals, and price manipulations that the critics now propose.

Why, we might ask, is Mylan able to wield this monopolistic power and exploit its consumers with little challenge? As Mulvaney demonstrates, the answer has far more to do with the FDA, Congress, President Obama, and the Affordable Care Act than a free market with free-flowing prices. (more…)

But was anyone listening?

That’s my question after attending the 2015 Nobel-prize-winning economist‘s talk last night in Rome at the Vatican-sponsored Cortile dei gentili (Court of Gentiles).

Like the other speakers, Deaton voiced his concerns about income inequality. Unlike the others, however, he said much of it is caused by crony capitalism, a term whose meaning seems to have been lost on the Italian interpreter and hence the audience. She described it as “a type of capitalism” and “negative capitalism” but never really made the connection to politics, which is unfortunate given the high number of Italian politicians in attendance.

Deaton added that countries become rich by escaping poverty, not by impoverishing others, that technological progress has undoubtedly made us richer, and that the world has greatly benefited from globalization even though too many people are still left behind. Government interference through taxes, regulation and corruption does more harm than good. The major problems with globalization are therefore political, not economic.

There were also a number of Italian cardinals and bishops in attendance. Here’s hoping that some of them relay Deaton’s clear-as-day message to Pope Francis, who really ought to be saying, “Crony capitalism kills!” instead of blaming the market economy in general. It is an obvious distinction to economists. In Italy, no one seems to know the difference.

Blog author: KHanby
Friday, September 9, 2016
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Sistine Hall.

The finances of the Catholic Church, and more specifically of the Vatican, are quite the mess. When Pope Francis was elected, he recognized this problem and appointed Australian Cardinal George Pell as the inaugural Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy.  Cardinal Pell was given the authority and the task to clean up the finances of the Vatican, something that has been an issue since the mid-1970s.  But now reports are surfacing that Pell is losing his authority to make any moves toward resolving this problem.  Samuel Gregg recently wrote a piece for The Stream explaining what is at stake if the Vatican fails to fix its financial problems.  Gregg starts out by making the claim that this could really hurt the Pope’s image:

Whatever the cause, any serious obstruction or even termination of Pell’s efforts to make all the Vatican’s institutions fully financially transparent and subject to modern auditing requirements surely would be judged as a major failure of this papacy. Moreover, given the amount of time and words Pope Francis spends denouncing what he regards as various economic and financial injustices, that rhetoric will seem somewhat hollow if there’s any perception he couldn’t get his own house in order.

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Mike Rowe was recently criticized for his new partnership with Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, whose philanthropy for conservative and libertarian causes routinely garners controversy, despite its tremendous fruits.

Rowe, himself an increasingly provocative figure, recently interviewed Koch on their core areas of collaboration, including work, the trades, cronyism, higher education, and criminal justice reform. 

Koch on the politicization of “work ethic”: (more…)

Photography by Larry D. Moore

Today marks the 20th birthday of the Nintendo 64 (N64) gaming console. Don Reisinger offered a great tribute at Fortune:

On this day in Japan 20 years ago, Nintendo introduced the gaming system, among the first consoles to create realistic-looking 3D worlds filled with monsters, soldiers, and blood. It’s standard game design today, but at that point, it was new and exciting.

Before the Nintendo 64’s launch, gamers were largely forced into games with pixelated graphics and basic gameplay that required scrolling around a screen and solving basic puzzles. The Nintendo 64, which notched more than 30 million units sold over its lifetime, was a sign of bigger and better things to come.

Yet he notes that it wasn’t the most successful console at the time:

If sales are the sole guide of success, the Nintendo 64 was a middling performer. The nearly 33 million units it sold is notably lower than the 62 million Nintendo Entertainment Systems sold and the 49 million Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems the company sold.

While the Nintendo 64’s sales were more than the Sega Saturn, which could only muster 9 million unit sales over its lifetime, Sony sold 102.5 million PlayStation units while competing with the Nintendo 64.

There are a lot of things that Nintendo tried with the N64 that didn’t really work in their favor. But Nintendo’s willingness to take such risks, and their general product differentiation (for example, their massively successful Pokémon series debuted just one year earlier for Nintendo’s Game Boy handheld console, spawning a cartoon and a card game) make it an outstanding example in the long run … not only economically, but (metaphorically) spiritually as well. (more…)

There are numerous forms of crony capitalism, but one of the most subtle and damaging to the economically vulnerable are occupational licensing laws. For millions of Americans, occupational licensing continues to serve as a barrier to work and self-sufficiency. Take, for example, Melony Armstrong.

When Armstrong began her hair braiding business, she was required to have a cosmetology license, which required 1,500 hours of training and $10,000 in tuition. What makes this state occupational licensing requirement so unreasonable? None of the training had anything to do with braiding hair.

In this AEI Vision Talk, Armstrong shares her story and tells how she filed a lawsuit in Mississippi to change the law and create more opportunity for herself and others.

Is the dominant economic system we have today, the market economy or capitalism, compatible with Christianity? Orthodox Christian theologian David Bentley Hart in a June 2016 First Things article titled,”Mammon Ascendant: Why global capitalism is inimical to Christianity,” is skeptical. As you might gather from the title of his article. On Public Discourse, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg takes a closer look at Hart’s curious economic postulates such as the one about the “purely financial market” and his rather overbroad claim that wealth is intrinsically evil. Then there’s the one about the investments that wealthy people and institutions make, with homicidal malice, in new businesses and the like. Gregg:

Even more contestable is Hart’s suggestion that the venture capital that, he concedes, built places like Manhattan and provided millions with jobs is somehow responsible for particular evils. Notable among these is what he calls “the carboniferous tectonic collision zones of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky” in which “a once poor but propertied people were reduced to helotry on land they used to own” and “forced into dangerous and badly remunerated labor that destroyed their health, and then kept generation upon generation in servile dependency.” This is an example of how, to use Hart’s words, “the market murders.”

To murder is to intentionally kill an innocent person. Is Hart really suggesting that the workings of “the market”—which is simply an economy in which there is a free creation and exchange of goods and services by individuals and communities in a particular institutional setting—involves the intentional killing of innocent people?

Did people on Wall Street, for instance, directly will the alleged enslavement of people in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky? Who, one might ask, “forced” people into these jobs in West Virginia? Could it be possible that some of these crypto-peasants weren’t so content with their three acres and a cow and actually regarded working in a mine as a better economic option, given their available choices at the time? It’s likely that the vast majority of their descendants live far more comfortable material existences, enjoy longer life-spans, and are better educated than their small-landowning forebears. Some are probably working on Wall Street.

Read “Global Capitalism versus Christianity? A Response to David Bentley Hart” on Public Discourse by Samuel Gregg.