Good Reading in the FT

by Don Boudreaux on May 28, 2008

in Antitrust, Foreign Aid

The Financial Times contains some excellent reads.  One is this op-ed by my GMU colleague Tom Hazlett, explaining the pitfalls of government oversight of mergers by private firms.  Here’s a crucial paragraph:

"[A] third problem surfaces when a delicate consumer welfare analysis is roughed up by hard-ball politics. Interests opposed to mergers routinely lobby regulators and legislators to thwart their foes. Google has blasted Microsoft as a monopoly that should be prevented from buying Yahoo – but it is only returning Microsoft’s fire in the Google-DoubleClick merger, when the software giant failed to convince US or EU authorities that the deal was anti-competitive. In breaking off its effort to buy Yahoo, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, admitted that a ‘host of regulatory and legal problems’ pushed it to walk."

A second excellent read in the FT is by NYU’s Bill Easterly.  Here are the opening few paragraphs:

"The report of the World Bank Growth Commission, led by Nobel laureate Michael Spence, was published last week. After two years of work by the commission of 21 world leaders and experts, an 11- member working group, 300 academic experts, 12 workshops, 13 consultations, and a budget of $4m, the experts’ answer to the question of how to attain high growth was roughly: we do not know, but trust experts to figure it out.

"This conclusion is fleshed out with statements such as: ‘It is hard to know how the economy will respond to a policy, and the right answer in the present moment may not apply in the future.’ Growth should be directed by markets, except when it should be directed by governments.

"My students at New York University would have been happy to supply statements like these to the World Bank for a lot less than $4m.

"Why should we care about the debacle of a World Bank report? Because this report represents the final collapse of the ‘development expert’ paradigm that has governed the west’s approach to poor countries since the second world war.  All this time, we have hoped a small group of elite thinkers can figure out how to raise the growth rate of a whole economy. If there was something for “development experts” to say about attaining high growth, this talented group would have said it."

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Jason May 28, 2008 at 8:22 pm

I've been thinking about monopolies, consumer/producer surplus and "delicate consumer welfare analysis." Do consumers have a right to competitive markets? Can and should government ensure that right? I used to take this as a given, but I've been thinking about the XM and Sirius merger and I don't think there's any inherent right to a competitive market. Sure, it is ideal. The stats look a lot better in the perfect competition model, but it is not a right and certainly not something government should hypocritically try to provide.

Ray G May 28, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Growth should be directed by markets, except when it should be directed by governments.

Sounds like a stump speech by one of the current three stooges running for office.

M. Hodak May 29, 2008 at 2:52 am

This post ties in nicely to why Hillary will have a hard time getting donors to repay her debt–she no longer can promise to gain the power to "pay them back."

Actually, she still has her Senate shakedown opportunities.

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