Bryan Caplan explains why the reactions of many of today’s intellectuals and politicians to companies such as Amazon and Google reinforce his confidence that the big and demonized businesses of the past – companies such as Standard Oil and Swift & Co. – were in fact not vile monopolies but, rather, great benefactors of humanity . A slice:
History textbooks are full of populist complaints about business: the evils of Standard Oil, the horrors of New York tenements, the human body parts in Chicago meatpacking plants. To be honest, I haven’t taken these complaints seriously since high school. In the absence of abundant evidence to the contrary, I say the backstory behind these populist complaints is just neurotic activists  searching for dark linings in the silver clouds of business progress . When business offers new energy, new housing, new food, the wise are grateful to see the world improve, not outraged to see a world that falls short of perfection.
(My own research – as well as that of several other scholars – into the history of American antitrust legislation confirms that Standard Oil and companies labeled in the past as “monopolies” were in fact unusually entrepreneurial and innovative firms that delivered unusually large amounts of benefits to consumers.)
Even protectionist China has been active. It has effectively been dropping its tariffs against U.S. competitors while it raised its duties against U.S. producers. Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics calculated that China’s tariffs against the United States rose from 8% on January 1, 2018, to 20.7% on June 1, 2019. Tariffs against all other countries, however, went down from 8% to 6.7% during that same period. As Bown writes, “Now, there is a 14 percentage point difference between the average Chinese tariff U.S. exporters face versus all other exporters.”
My Mercatus Center colleagues – and GMU Econ alums – James Broughel and Emily Hamilton, writing in the Los Angeles Times, identify the real source of California’s absurdly high housing costs . A slice:
Permitting more housing — especially relatively economical and much in-demand multifamily housing — that keeps Californians in the Golden State would also promote energy efficiency. Exorbitant housing costs push Californians to less-expensive states such as Nevada, Arizona and Texas, where per capita emissions are much higher due in large part to those states’ less temperate climates.
The founders envisioned Congress as a deliberative body in which outcomes are discovered. We are fast approaching the point, however, where Congress exists as little more than a formality to legitimize outcomes dictated by the president, the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader.