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Some Non-Covid Links

GMU Law professor Joshua Wright is right, in this letter to the Wall Street Journal, about the FTC:

It’s a touch ominous when a bureaucrat begins her tenure by sending bipartisan procedural safeguards to the paper shredder. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Lina Khan wasted no time making confetti of the guardrails at the FTC, including the Obama administration policy statement placing minimal limits on how the agency could use its theretofore undefined power to police “unfair methods of competition.” Shredding the statement clears the way for Ms. Khan’s attempt to remake antitrust law in her image (“Lina Khan’s Power Grab at the FTC,” Review & Outlook, July 6). With the announcement of a global gag order on FTC staff, Ms. Khan has made it clear the FTC will now speak with one voice—hers.

All that has been overshadowed by an executive order aimed at competition and loaded with goodies, good intentions, new regulatory regimes and a blissful ignorance of unintended consequences (“Joe Biden, 20th Century Trustbuster,” Review & Outlook, July 10). Some of its pronouncements, like occupational-licensing reform, are to the good. But the FTC’s competition authority is about to become a free-for-all for the Biden administration to reshape the economy. One wonders how the Republicans going along with all this to “get Big Tech” are feeling right now; I’m guessing “played.” If not, they’ll catch up soon enough.

Imagining the FTC as Icarus flying without the constraints of history, economics or law is a fun thought experiment, but we’ve been here before. Ms. Khan’s initial steps are indicative of a regulatory overreach that will end with the FTC’s wings melting in the courts. This path does not lead to incremental, much less radical, change. I predict early headlines that appease a rabid base, frustration for FTC staff and a new, volatile partisanship at the agency, but actual results that leave unsatisfied the progressives aching for radical change.

Mark Jamison is correct: “Joe Biden sets regulation and antitrust back 100 years.” A slice:

As I have explained, more merger controls would result in fewer startups and less innovation, as acquisition by an established firm is sometimes a startup’s goal. Absent such acquisitions, numerous important products might never have existed. For example, Earle Dickson created Band-Aid for his wife’s use. Business development wasn’t his strong suit, so he gave the invention to his employer, Johnson & Johnson, who gave him a promotion and turned the product into a household name. In the tech space, products such as Microsoft’s Disc Operating System, Microsoft Word, Apple’s mouse, and Facebook’s Instagram all originated elsewhere and became business successes via companies with the necessary acumen.

Eric Boehm explains why “the trade embargo allows Cuba’s regime to blame the U.S. for communism’s failings.” A slice:

Despite being in place since 1962, the trade embargo has plainly failed to accomplish its primary goal of toppling Cuba’s regime. If anything, the policy has likely bolstered the regime by allowing the communist government to blame the U.S. for its own economic problems, as Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel did on Sunday. The trade embargo has contributed to the Cuban government’s impoverishing of millions of Cubans while limiting Americans’ economic freedom, too. That it remains in place nearly three decades after the fall of the Soviet Union shows that America’s foreign policy towards Cuba has failed to learn the primary lesson of the end of the Cold War: Economic freedom is the best weapon to aim at communism.

Richard Vedder identifies the real problem with critical race theory. A slice:

CRT banishes any classroom mention, let alone thoughtful discussion, of the full range of ideas about race currently articulated across the political spectrum. (The same thing is true in corporate America and at universities, where employees know better than to openly object to CRT’s rigid dogmas.) The CRT-approved story, in a nutshell, is that white racism is pervasive and accounts for all racial deficits and disparities. What is not being taught—what students are not exposed to, and not even allowed to hear—is the contrary position that persistent racial inequalities are oftentimes rooted in cultural differences and behavioral tendencies that are not all traceable to slavery or Jim Crow, and cannot all be solved by purging the vague category of “structural racism.”

Also writing on critical race theory is Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley; he correctly calls CRT “a hustle.” Here’s his conclusion:

And while Mr. Kendi is using trendier language—“antiracism,” “implicit bias,” etc.—critical race theory amounts to little more than a fancy argument for affirmative action, and always has. The theory comes out of the legal academy, and early proponents argued that race, ethnicity and gender should be used as academic credentials in hiring and promoting professors. It’s less a serious academic discipline than a hustle. It posits that racial inequality today is the sole fault of whites and the sole responsibility of whites to solve—through racial preferences for blacks. It’s employed by elites primarily for the benefit of elites, though in the name of helping the underprivileged. Ultimately, it’s about blaming your problems on other people—based on their race—which might be the last thing we should be teaching our children.

I’m honored to have been a recent guest on Marc Victor’s podcast, “The Live and Let Live Moment.

Joakim Book is always worth reading.

Juliette Sellgren talks about campaign finance with the Cato Institute’s Trevor Burrus.

My former student Alex Nowrasteh explores the ability of the so-called “deep-roots hypothesis” to explain economic outcomes in the United States.