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From “Understanding Obamacare,” in the December 2009 Harper’s Magazine

The idea that there is a competitive “private sector” in America is appealing, but generally false. No one hates competition more than the managers of corporations. Competition does not enhance shareholder value, and smart managers know they must forsake whatever personal beliefs they may hold about the redemptive power of creative destruction for the more immediate balm of government intervention. This wisdom is expressed most precisely in an underutilized phrase from economics: regulatory capture.

When Congress created the first U.S. regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission, in 1887, the railroad barons it was meant to subdue quickly recognized an opportunity. “It satisfies the popular clamor for a government supervision of railroads at the same time that that supervision is almost entirely nominal,” observed the railroad lawyer Richard Olney. “Further, the older such a commission gets to be, the more inclined it will be found to take the business and railroad view of things. It thus becomes a sort of barrier between the railroad corporations and the people and a sort of protection against hasty and crude legislation hostile to railroad interests.” As if to underscore this claim, Olney soon after got himself appointed to run the U.S. Justice Department, where he spent his days busting railroad unions.

Read the rest of “Understanding Obamacare” for free…

the_man_of_the_hour

Is the strategy to bring stability to Afghanistan so absurdly complex that it forces Thomas Friedman to think of the country as a “special needs baby”? And what to make of the fact that the two most important Americans in Afghanistan can’t find “their happy place?”? It’s enough to drive one to drink, (perhaps a fine Japanese beer brewed with interstellar barley)

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