The Security Value of Inefficiency

For decades, we have prized efficiency in our economy. We strive for it. We reward it. In normal times, that’s a good thing. Running just at the margins is efficient. A single just-in-time global supply chain is efficient. Consolidation is efficient. And that’s all profitable. Inefficiency, on the other hand, is waste. Extra inventory is … Read more The Security Value of Inefficiency

The Cloud over the Future of America’s Downtowns

America’s downtowns were on a roll. Starting to revive in the 1980s and ’90s after years of decline, they had grown to become regional engines again: destinations for entertainment, residential neighborhoods in their own right, and homes to growth in business sectors as industries like technology startups began to cluster there. Some downtowns were downright … Read more The Cloud over the Future of America’s Downtowns

What About the Rotten Culture of the Rich?

We used to joke on Wall Street that you should marry a trader at another firm, trade with only each other, and by end of the year one would have made a lot of money and the other lost the exact same amount. The winner would be paid a big bonus, and the loser only … Read more What About the Rotten Culture of the Rich?

Local Broadcasters Forget Journalism Ethics, Air Amazon PR Fluff Instead

While US journalism is certainly in crisis mode, it’s particularly bad on the local level, where most local newspapers and broadcasters have been either killed off or consolidated into large corporations, often resulting in something that’s less news, and more homogenized dreck (see: that Deadspin Sinclair video from a few years back). Data suggests this … Read more Local Broadcasters Forget Journalism Ethics, Air Amazon PR Fluff Instead

60 Questions Americans Need To Consider About How To Handle Coronavirus

Shutdowns and bailouts are unsustainable for 18 months to two years. We need a new and better set of strategies, and we can’t put it off any further. In mid-April, 69 percent of 2,394 registered U.S. voters polled said it is “necessary” to develop a coronavirus vaccine “before we reopen the economy.” Politicians are beginning … Read more 60 Questions Americans Need To Consider About How To Handle Coronavirus

Federal Red Tape Is Keeping Local Meat Processors From Helping Fix Our Supply Problem

The increasing possibility of a breakdown in the meat supply chain in the United States due to COVID-19 is prompting Rep. Thomas Massie (R–Ky.) to renew his push for a bill that would make it easier for small, independent slaughterhouses and meat processors to sell directly to consumers. Large meatpacking plants across the country have … Read more Federal Red Tape Is Keeping Local Meat Processors From Helping Fix Our Supply Problem

Trillion‐​Dollar Spending Bills Bring Out the Lobbyists

The Center for Responsive Politics reports that lobbying spending has jumped to near‐​record levels in the first quarter of 2020 “as powerful companies, trade groups and other clients rushed to influence the government’s response to COVID-19, particularly its $2.2 trillion stimulus bill.” Federal lobbying spending totaled $903 million in the first quarter, the most since … Read more Trillion‐​Dollar Spending Bills Bring Out the Lobbyists

How to stop the coming meat shortage

“Where’s the Beef?” was once just a funny (yet successful) advertising slogan. But now, it could soon be an actual question on the minds of many shoppers. Amid the coronavirus crisis, some are calling attention to the coming meat shortages the United States faces as the virus continues to ravage our economy. Rep. Thomas Massie … Read more How to stop the coming meat shortage

Why Politicians Focus on Trivia in the Midst of Disaster

Why would a city, short of tax money in a crisis, pay an enormous sum to disable a public space from being used by the citizens who paid for it? Because the city can do nothing about the virus. In a crisis, we often worry about the wrong things. You’ve probably heard: The municipal government … Read more Why Politicians Focus on Trivia in the Midst of Disaster

The New Class War Comes For The Economy

The coronavirus is being politicized. We hear it all the time. A recent headline at The Atlantic reads: “The Social-Distancing Culture War Has Begun.” On the New York Times opinion page, a contributor laments: “The reopen America protests are the logical conclusion of a twisted liberty movement.” And Vox suspects that GOP megadonors backed recent … Read more The New Class War Comes For The Economy

The Age of Hog and Hominy

Edna Ferber, author of Giant, had a great ear for one of the subtlest American dialects: High Texan Bulls***, the mother tongue of almost every politician to make it from the Lone Star State to the national stage, from Lyndon Johnson to Ross Perot to George W. Bush to Rick Perry. “It was part of … Read more The Age of Hog and Hominy

It’s Time to Tax the University Endowments

You discover that one American institution is already undermining the country’s future: the universities. They have everything you need: a goldmine of intellectual property created by professors with poor op-sec and who are happy to share it for some rubles or yuan deposited directly to their bank accounts; cybersecurity practices that would make a 90s … Read more It’s Time to Tax the University Endowments

Corrupt coronavirus bailout results prove Thomas Massie was right all along

Exactly three weeks ago, Rep. Thomas Massie enraged all of Washington when he attempted to force a roll call vote on the massive $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. The libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican’s move would have required members of Congress, including those who are elderly and among the most threatened by the novel coronavirus, to return … Read more Corrupt coronavirus bailout results prove Thomas Massie was right all along

What Comes Next for Commercial Real Estate

A lot of professional organizations are coming to realize what we figured out many years ago: Working from home has a lot of challenges, but also a tremendous amount of benefits. One benefit we have long enjoyed is, by not requiring someone to move, we are able to recruit the best people to be part … Read more What Comes Next for Commercial Real Estate

Railroad History Suggests Federal Bailouts Could Spell Doom for Airlines

The ultimate lesson of James J. Hill and his Great Northern Railroad is that the “winners” government picks today are the “losers” of tomorrow. . . . A famous saying, especially prescient in times like this, is “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Last month, Congress mortgaged the nation’s … Read more Railroad History Suggests Federal Bailouts Could Spell Doom for Airlines

There are a lot of people on Wall Street and in Washington who see no problem with an America defined by big box stores and chain restaurants.

While Washington is printing money that is increasingly going to the wealthier companies with more accountants and more lawyers, and while the politicians are busy crafting the next stage of their economic relief plan, the offer of reward, the threat of punishment, and the insurance companies should play a major role. There are a lot … Read more There are a lot of people on Wall Street and in Washington who see no problem with an America defined by big box stores and chain restaurants.

The End of New York (NYC)

Will the pandemic push America’s greatest city over the edge? For over two centuries, New York has been the predominant urban center in North America. It remains the primary locale for the arts, culture, finance, and media, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. It has also served as the incubator of the … Read more The End of New York (NYC)

Every Business Is Essential to Its Founder, and Its Employees

Social distancing is necessary to protect Americans’ lives, but state governments do not have the moral authority to decide which products and services are essential, and which ones are not. This is the textbook definition of picking winners and losers in the market. And people of all political affiliations can agree that kind of preferential … Read more Every Business Is Essential to Its Founder, and Its Employees

Financial tsunami threatens housing sector

The housing sector was barely mentioned in the CARES Act, but the impact of the rescue effort for consumers and business is bearing down on the industry like a giant wave. Congress did not deign to actually deal with the implications of granting a legal payment holiday of up to a year on $11 trillion … Read more Financial tsunami threatens housing sector

Building Strong Local Economies (without Cheesecake Factory)

The anxiety over job losses, business loss, and the potential for an eventual recovery are very real, for my daughter and anyone who is likewise thoughtful. Having businesses shut down amid quarantine is a nightmare for those business owners who are forced to lay off friends and trusted colleagues, not knowing if their enterprise will … Read more Building Strong Local Economies (without Cheesecake Factory)

Stubborn Stupidity Vs Hidden Motives – OPM = Other People’s Money

We also seem to see overspending in medicine, law, school, investment analysis, campaign spending, and much else. A consistent pattern I think I see is overspending in areas where spending lets one associate with prestigious folks. So I suggest that much of this overspending is better explained via motives to gain prestige via association. Re … Read more Stubborn Stupidity Vs Hidden Motives – OPM = Other People’s Money

The Hellish Legacy of the Dingell Family

A decade ago, Time Magazine unveiled an in-depth article on the death of Detroit. One of the politicians whom the article blamed for Detroit’s woes was Rep. John Dingell. The Dingell clan has held a congressional seat outside Detroit since 1932. Their 87-year tenure has not coincidentally coincided with the decline of a thriving industrial … Read more The Hellish Legacy of the Dingell Family

You Didn’t Build That

“Detroit did not need a Thomas Jefferson or a Mohandas Gandhi or another great political philosopher with a world-changing idea — it needed someone to fix the potholes, balance the books, keep order on the streets, see to the schools, and keep the city agencies orderly and honest and effective. Without that, all of Detroit’s … Read more You Didn’t Build That

Fannie and Freddie Need Fixing — Urgently

Yesterday, Joe Nocera penned an extraordinary column expressing his bafflement at the Trump administration’s drive to release Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two firms that purchase and guarantee around half of single-family mortgages in the United States, from government conservatorship. Nocera argues against such a move, writing that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it … Read more Fannie and Freddie Need Fixing — Urgently

Fewer Big Businesses

Back in the day, I got a peek into how the state sees commerce and daily life. I was something of a regulator for a while, sitting on the alcoholic beverage licensing subcommittee of the local Advisory Neighborhood Council in D.C. I saw my job mostly as clearing away regulatory roadblocks for new bars and … Read more Fewer Big Businesses