≡ Menu

Some Links

George Will rightly ridicules today’s ridiculous FTC. Two slices:

Occam’s razor, or the principle of parsimony, says that when seeking to solve a puzzle, first try the simplest explanation. So: Perhaps the Biden administration, with its pronoun police and it’s-for-your-own-good-that-we-are-coming-for-your-stoves annoyances, is riddled with Republican moles bent on making progressivism ridiculous.

How else to explain the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust worrywarts mounting their high horses and galloping off to rescue affluent consumers from the threat to “affordable luxury” or “accessible luxury” in the market for women’s high-end handbags? Those phrases are, however, semi-oxymorons. And what can “monopoly” mean concerning entirely discretionary purchases?

Tapestry, which owns Kate Spade, Stuart Weitzman and Coach, wants to buy, for $8.5 billion, Capri, which owns Versace, Jimmy Choo and Michael Kors. The two firms’ combined 2023 revenue was about $12 billion. This is about $80 billion less than the revenue of the Paris-based luxury giant LVMH, which owns, among many other status conveyors (e.g., Tiffany, Bulgari, Dior, Louis Vuitton), Hermes, which makes Birkins, the ne plus ultra of to-die-for handbags.


The current FTC, which thinks it has a roving commission to prevent all imperfections, actual or anticipated in the U.S. economy, also opposes the Tapestry-Capri merger because the firms’ hourly wage workers might suffer from diminished competition for such labor. Making a mountain from this hypothetical molehill will strain even the FTC’s imagination: The two companies combined have only 33,000 employees globally, fewer than Walmart has just in Wisconsin.

Gary Galles makes a strong case for repealing the appalling Robinson-Patman Act.

Colin Grabow’s letter in today’s Wall Street Journal is superb:

The starting point for the kind of U.S. maritime renewal called for by Rep. Mike Waltz and Sen. Mark Kelly (“China’s Sea Power Leaves U.S. Adrift,” op-ed, May 23) must be addressing the Jones Act. This protectionist law restricts domestic waterborne transportation to vessels built and registered in the U.S.

Theoretically meant to assure a capable fleet and robust maritime industrial base, the Jones Act has instead helped produce a shipbuilding industry whose output trails the likes of Singapore and Croatia, and a fleet of aging ships reliant on Chinese state-owned shipyards for their considerable maintenance needs. Shielding shipyards from foreign competition and forcing Americans to pay vastly inflated prices for vessels hasn’t proved conducive to either a large, modern fleet or competitive shipbuilding.

To bring a measure of sanity to this law, vessels constructed in allied shipyards should be exempted from the Jones Act’s U.S.-built requirement. Access to less costly vessels would promote the U.S. merchant fleet’s expansion and modernization and generate more repair and maintenance opportunities for U.S. shipyards.

Vague calls for action and tepid proposals that leave sacred cows such as the Jones Act untouched will not suffice. An urgent course correction is needed.

Colin Grabow
Cato Institute

Scott Lincicome is inspired by Ryan Bourne’s reflections on the war on prices.

These revelations, as we discussed here in Capitolism two years ago, materialize because prices “are a giant neon sign about what’s going on in a particular market,” quickly conveying massive amounts of fragmented knowledge via a single, easily understood, and highly visible number. Thus, “High prices … tell difficult truths about supply and demand and, more importantly, government policies affecting each.”

And often politicians backing those policies simply can’t handle the truth.

The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal asks a reasonable question: “Which is a bigger danger to retailers in California—thieves or state lawmakers?” Two slices:

California has been losing retail jobs amid an increase in online shopping and theft. Walgreens has shut more than a half dozen stores in San Francisco in recent years, blaming in part organized retail crime. At the same time, discount grocers with lower labor costs are gaining ground. These trends increase the need for retailers to become more efficient, which unions oppose when it reduces dues-paying union employees.

Enter the state Senate, which last week passed a bill to limit self-checkout at grocery and drug stores. Some stores now task one employee with supervising several kiosks and assign more when needed. The legislation would require one employee who is “relieved of all other duties” to monitor at most two self-service stations.


The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, claims her goal is to reduce shoplifting, as if retailers want to be pillaged. If Democrats truly cared about theft, they’d champion reforms to the state’s Prop. 47, which effectively lets organized criminals plunder stores with impunity as long as they steal less than $950 in goods each time.

Instead, Democrats are hitting retailers when they’re down. When their regulations harm workers, they will blame the businesses. Robots could surely run California better than the gang in Sacramento.

Paul Schwennesen is no fan of Steven Conn’s The Lies of the Land. Two slices:

Though he doesn’t come right out and say it, Conn clearly wants to skewer the sacred cow of the American Rustic in pursuit of larger game—Big Capital or the free market more generally. Conn repeatedly betrays a predictable lefty-historian’s anti-capitalist streak: using “land grab” to describe voluntary sales, claiming that capital “often bought up the state and local politicians,” or that “almost as an afterthought, Capital paid for the workers … as exploited a class of workers as Karl Marx ever imagined.” He trots out the tired fabricated Upton Sinclair clichés about slaughterhouses with “satanic dark interiors,” that “brutalize their workers” while paying them “pittance wages,” and so on. He doesn’t, in short, have much faith in the ability of free peoples to freely transact—all are instead victims, trapped in the pernicious thrall of a cabal of corporate cutthroats. He doesn’t imagine that people are free to make comparatively better choices for themselves at the margins, and that these choices have enormous positive cumulative effects.


The New Yorker magazine (which wrote an elegant, if predictably sympathetic, review of Conn’s book), shares Conn’s disaffection with the dynamism of the marketplace. It laments the corporatization of small-town America, noting the dramatic shifts in labor force and retail choices that confront rural Americans today:

As jobs rush out, discount retail chains swoop in—notably Dollar General, which has more than four times as many stores in the US as Walmart. Although its former chief executive, Cal Turner Jr. has written a book about Dollar General’s “small-town values,” the corporation essentially preys on distressed rural communities. It pursues profits by minimizing staff and pay, and by shutting its stores whenever they stop making money.

“Essentially preys” is also a way to say Dollar General does not prey on its customers—instead it offers competitively priced things rural people want in places they don’t have to drive hours to get to. I share Conn’s and the New Yorker’s tender aesthetic sensibilities and would frankly prefer the quant little brick mercantile that replaced our steamboat docks two centuries ago, but I don’t get to make that decision for people. And so I go to Dollar General—our local outlet is run by a guy named Clint, who knows the kids’ names and who fills the same role as his shopkeeper forebears. Beyond the ugly façade, I really have a hard time justifying the antipathy toward Dollar General. Conn’s critique of rural America’s sellout of its values, in short, rings hollow. Moreover, Conn’s and the New Yorker’s brand of sneering embodies precisely the elitism that powers the rural angst Conn professes to want to understand.

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby looks back 100 years on “the law that ruined America’s immigration system.” A slice:

ONE HUNDRED years ago this month, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Immigration Act of 1924. Passed by large majorities in the House and Senate, the law overturned the system of mostly free immigration that had prevailed for the previous century and a half, transforming America from a collection of English colonies hugging the Atlantic Coast into a mighty, continent-spanning nation of immigrants. In place of the old system, Congress created strict limits on the number of newcomers who could immigrate to America and imposed an annual global quota of just 165,000.

For the first century and a half of American history, “illegal immigration” was a nonexistent concept. Individual foreigners could be excluded by law for specific reasons — for example, being guilty of crimes of “moral turpitude,” having a contagious disease, or being a known anarchist. Immigrants were not admitted if they were likely to become a “public charge,” dependent on government assistance. Otherwise, almost anyone who could get to America was welcome to become a legal permanent resident.

David Henderson argues that both legal and illegal immigrants promote U.S. economic growth. A slice:

[Donald] Luskin points out, and it’s hard to disagree, that the state of the southern border is a mess. Yet, there is a partial fix that he doesn’t discuss: get rid of the restriction that those who apply for asylum must wait 180 days before working. It’s that restriction that causes many of the recent immigrants to go on welfare and help break the budget of the city governments of New York and of other major cities.

Amichai Magen uses Adam Smith as a “guide to the evolution of better political order.”