Category: Free Enterprise

Globalization is routinely decried for its disruptive effects, particularly as it relates to local culture and community enterprises and institutions. Even as it’s proven to drive significant economic growth, questions remain about its steamrolling influence on the culture.

“Even if we grant that global competitive markets create prosperity, is it worth the fast food chains and the big box chains we see everywhere we go?” asks Michael Miller in an excerpt from PovertyCure. “What about a sense of vulgarity and bringing things to the lowest common denominator? And perhaps most important, does globalization destroy local culture?”

The threats to culture are real and pronounced. It is undeniable that globalization can and has and will diminish or destroy certain cultures, traditions, and enterprises. Yet as Miller and others remind us in, we are not powerless in our response, whether as creators or consumers. (more…)

Blog author: abradley
Thursday, December 29, 2016
By

On December 27, 2016, at the age of 86, Thomas Sowell published his last column. After publishing dozens of books and hundreds of columns, Dr. Sowell’s retirement may mark the beginning of the end of an era of black intellectuals who were champions of political and economic liberty. Other black scholars like Walter Williams, W.B. Allen, and Shelby Steele are all in the 70s or 80s and there does not seem to be a cadre of like-minded black scholars in their wake.
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Although the Cuban people continue to suffer and struggle under the weight of communist rule, many have been encouraged by even the slightest of Raul Castro’s incremental changes toward private businesses.

Out of a total population of roughly 11 million, the number of self-employed Cubans rose from 150,000 to 500,000 between 2010 and 2015. The state still controls the press, the internet, and most of the “formal” economy, but a small portion of the Cuban population is finally gaining the freedom to innovate and create on their own.

To explore that shift firsthand, entrepreneur and investor Marcus Lemonis recently visited the country to film a special edition of CNBC’s The Profit — walking the streets of Havana and talking one-on-one with the country’s “pioneers of capitalism.”

“Walking around the old city, I saw a place full of life, energized by the changes,” Lemonis says. “Instead of working for the State, thousands of Cubans are now working for themselves…A taste of capitalism has helped, but it’s just a taste.” (more…)

Global-Communications-900Free trade and trade agreements are not the same thing. In fact, they are often times in direct contradiction with each other. Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg recently wrote an article about this at The Stream. Gregg explains how all trade agreements are ‘managed trade,’ not free trade. He explains how free traders should approach the issue of economic nationalism and the best ways to work toward freer trade. Concerning the issue of trade agreements and managed trade, Gregg says this:

There’s no-one-size-fits-all form of trade agreement. Some are bilateral arrangements between two nations. Others are multilateral and embrace several nations. Within that framework, there are several possible arrangements.

You can have, for instance, single markets like the European Union. These involve the free movement of goods, services, capital and labor between all member-nations of the single market. But barriers are maintained or created against all non-single market members. Another model is a preferential trade area. Participating nations give preferential access to certain products from all the area’s members. Tariffs are reduced, but not completely abolished.

Note, however, that all trade agreements involve two or more governments negotiating how their citizens economically interact with each other. That also means they’re indirectly deciding how the same citizens will economically engage with people from nations who aren’t part of the trade agreement.

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Last week, President-elect Donald Trump along with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who is the current governor of Indiana, struck a deal with United Technologies, the parent company of Carrier, in order to save over 1,000 jobs from being sent from Indiana to Mexico.  This deal will supposedly give Carrier over $7 million in tax break incentives and it has everyone across the political spectrum reacting in different ways.

People on the far-left such as the self-described democratic-socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders say “It is not good enough to save some of these jobs.”  According to Sanders, the President-elect should be doing more to intervene with the private market in order to save more jobs.

Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan overlooked the fact that the government is meddling in private business in order to defend Trump’s actions by saying “I think it’s pretty darn good that people are keeping their jobs in Indiana instead of going to Mexico.”

On one hand you have a democratic socialist advocating for more intervention on the private market and on the other hand you have prominent leaders within the Republican Party (the party that many perceive as championing the principle of free enterprise) defending actions that resemble crony capitalism.  Even the VP-elect, someone who many thought of as a smart fiscal conservative, is giving up on the ideas of free enterprise.  He said this in a statement shortly after the Carrier deal “The free market has been sorting it out and America’s been losing.” (more…)

In a new article at The Christian Science Monitor titled “Can ‘economic nationalism’ keep more jobs in US?” Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg is interviewed about President-elect Donald Trump’s stated goal of keeping jobs and businesses from leaving for foreign countries. In the analysis piece by reporter Patrik Jonsson, he cites Gregg as a critic of protectionism:

In short, the United States cannot step back from the world without losing out, critics say.

Trump’s plans are in the short-term “likely to have some benefits for some local communities, but in the long term no amount of protectionism is going to stop you from losing your competitive edge,” says Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Mich. “At the moment, the pendulum has shifted toward fixing an immediate problem … but those programs will all have to be wound back precisely because they’ll cause inefficiencies.”

Acton Institute Director of Research - Samuel Gregg

Acton Institute Director of Research – Samuel Gregg

This is not a surprising position for Gregg.  He has been a consistent advocate for free trade and whenever possible has opposed the ideas of protectionism and crony capitalism.

The author closes out his article by quoting Trump’s adviser Stephen Moore, who says this: “Trade and immigration are unambiguously good for the country – but it will have to be done in ways that are supported by the American people, not shoved down our throats by the elites.”  While this is an appealing statement, it comes across in a way that portrays Trump’s economic populist ideas as willing to accept the harmful long-term effects for the short-term benefits.

You can read the full article at The Christian Science Monitor here.

The Dodd-Frank Act became law in 2010, adding more regulation to a banking industry that was already heavily regulated.  The main purpose of this 2,300 page act was to give consumers protection against big profit seeking banks but the unintended consequences prove to be much greater.  The regulation was supposed to help the little guy but as Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg writes at The Stream, it actually hurts the little guy.

President-elect Donald Trump claims that he wants to deregulate the financial industry but in order for this to happen successfully, we need to understand the argument for why such actions would be beneficial.  Gregg says this:

Consider, for instance, the costs associated with meeting the ever-growing demands of regulatory compliance. Such costs are more easily borne by large banks than smaller-sized institutions such as community banks. The result is that excessive regulation makes it harder for smaller banks to compete. That often puts access to capital out of reach for many people.

But perhaps the most harm which excessive financial regulation inflicts upon ordinary people concerns the ways in which such regulations can — and have — contributed to financial meltdowns. Such crises are far more likely to hurt those on the lower-side of the economic scale than the already-wealthy.

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