The Commons

Intel’s Stumble Is Very Bad for America Share This

| Aug 04, 2020 | Domestic Production

America used to dominate the semiconductor industry, but that leadership position is increasingly fragile. There are two parallel forces at work: the rise of our competitors and the decline of our domestic champions.

Our competition is well known. For example, China identified semiconductors as a critical industry in its “Made in China 2025” plan, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) spends freely with the aim to be global leader in less than a decade. Beijing also uses a sophisticated network of corporate espionage and forced technology transfers to acquire intellectual property (IP) from its foreign competitors.

Domestically, the story is different.

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Are Labor Unions Predatory Monopolies? Share This

| Aug 03, 2020 | Unions

Re: Labor and Management Remain Unequal

At Law and Liberty, I took part in a symposium debating the libertarian scholar Richard Epstein’s comparison of labor unions to predatory monopolies, which he described as the “classical liberal” view.  In my contribution, I pointed out that both Adam Smith and J.S. Mill, who were classical liberals by any definition, rejected the idea that wages were fixed by automatic market forces instead of what Smith called “higgling” or negotiation, and both Smith and Mill emphasized the inequality of bargaining power among employers and workers. Read More

Intel’s Troubling Pledge on Outscourcing Share This

| Aug 03, 2020

Intel has been conspicuous among Silicon Valley high-tech companies, insofar as until now it has resisted the siren song to send much of its manufacturing offshore.  As the Indian Express has written: “The Santa Clara, California-based company has been the largest chipmaker for most of the past 30 years by combining the best designs with cutting-edge factories, several of which are still based in the U.S.” Much of this is a product of the corporate culture established by former CEO, Andy Grove, who years ago warned that outsourcing risked squandering America’s competitive edge in innovation, as well as diminishing high-quality job creation. Read More

Big Tech, Antitrust and America’s Future Share This

| Aug 01, 2020 | Antitrust

Wednesday’s “must watch” House Judiciary hearing with the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google raised a host of questions, including what the goal of antitrust should be (maximizing economic welfare or other goals, like protecting small business), and how should we think about platform industries.

There are two key central things to understand about the hearing.

First, the Democrats’ new focus on antitrust is grounded in neo-Brandeisian thinking, a reference to former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who fought against the emergence of the industrial economy, seeing bigness as the “mark of Cain”. Read More

The GOP’s Embarrassing Big-Tech Performance Share This

| Jul 31, 2020 | Amazon

The modern-day Titans of Industry testified before Congress Monday ostensibly for a hearing on anti-trust. 

The hearing could have been an opportunity for left and right to question the immense market power of organizations that have an inordinate amount of power over the daily lives of American citizens. 

All of my optimism for the much-anticipated hearing quickly shot out the window, though, after it suddenly took a dive for the worst and revealed the uselessness of the entire hearing itself. The septuagenarian ranking member of the subcommittee, a Republican, began the afternoon with what proved to be a bad omen—confusing Mark Zuckerberg for the CEO of Twitter (who was not present at the hearing) and asking him questions about censorship on the platform that he did not own. Read More

Another Way 2020 Feels Like 1968 Share This

| Jul 31, 2020 | Inequality

Earlier this month I visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, located at the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. often stayed and where on April 4, 1968 he was assassinated while standing on the outside balcony, chatting with colleagues and getting ready for dinner. The museum has preserved the façade of the motel, as well as the room in which King stayed. The doors are painted a vintage aqua, a white Cadillac like the one King had borrowed from a funeral home for his trip sits in the parking spot below.

My six-year-old son’s highlight was the massive garbage truck, a replica on display in the exhibit about the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ strike, the reason King was in Memphis. I was struck by a sign in this exhibit that read:

“Because You’re A BLACK SANITATION WORKER

You have NO SICK DAYS

You might NOT BE PAID for rain days

You are required to work EXTRA HOURS but do not receive overtime pay

You have NO BREAKS

You could be FIRED for being 1 minute late

You work under LIFE THREATENING conditions hauling maggot-infested trash bins”

I was glad to learn that the hard-won results of the strike have been long-lasting in terms of wages and benefits for Memphis sanitation workers. But I was mostly struck by how common some of these working conditions still are. Read More

Our Educational Colonialism Share This

| Jul 30, 2020

I get criticized for not talking about policy enough, so here we go: No Child Left Behind is a disaster, the spearhead of our misguided attempt to funnel everyone to college.

It has hurt the working class, because it devalues their worldview, leaving them feeling humiliated and labeled dumb hicks or lazy hoodlums. It has hurt the “aspirational professionals” by producing too many college graduates, leaving them to compete over a few high-paying high-status jobs in a few expensive cities. All while charging an arm and a leg that piles debt on them.

It has hurt everyone, with the exception of a few tenured literary critics who get increased status, and the CEOs of conglomerates, who get more resumes to choose from.

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Law and Order in 2020 Share This

| Jul 30, 2020 | Culture

In the 1972 presidential campaign, Richard Nixon’s leading theme was “law and order.” Traumatized by urban riots, student protests, and the first wave of what would be a historic increase in crime, voters handed him a historic victory. Nixon won 49 states and 60 percent of the popular vote.

In early June, not a few commentators thought the protests triggered by the death of George Floyd at the hand of Minneapolis police would create a similar dynamic in favor of Donald Trump.

Certainly there are some outraged by the lawlessness manifest in the looting during many protests in late May and early June. They see the toppled statues and vandalized public buildings as assaults on our civic culture. The ongoing nightly clashes with police in places like Portland and Seattle are troubling. But polling suggests that there is no generalized concern. Gallup released results this week showing that 65% of American adults support the protests.

What gives? Why are comfortable suburbanites in Portland and Seattle (and many other places) nonplussed by calls to defund police? Why are they unmoved by video footage of masked people in black outfits hurling rocks at police officers?

One answer: Those people are mostly white. They’re overwhelmed by racial guilt, and this dominates their judgment of recent events.

Perhaps, but I’d like to suggest some other explanations. Read More

AEI’s Michael Strain on Projects Like Ours Share This

| Jul 30, 2020 | Economics

Re: The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg

On the most recent episode of Jonah Goldberg’s podcast, The Remnant, AEI director of economic policy studies Michael Strain delivers a harsh assessment of projects like American Compass. According to Michael, “the arguments that they put forward just aren’t well developed,” “they aren’t supported by evidence, they aren’t convincing,” and “the work they’re doing just isn’t compelling enough to really gain an audience.” It’s worth reading in full (discussion begins around 44:00 in the recording): Read More

China and Civic Piety Share This

| Jul 29, 2020 | China

The Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to eradicate the Uighur Muslim population in favor of the Han majority are horrifying. Programmatic abortions and sterilizations, slave labor, and “re-education” camps recall atrocities of the past. At the same time, the CCP’s ambitions for Hong Kong outrage westerners committed to liberty and the rule of law. And its record for the treatment of prisoners and religious dissidents is miserable. 

As it becomes ever more obvious that the People’s Republic of China is our chief international rival, the temptation grows for America to respond armored in the moral language of human rights. It almost appears a relief to have an enemy to call evil, as we struggle internally once again over the gap between our country’s stated aspirations and the realities of life in our cities. There can be no equivalence between us and them, we think, because we try, at least, to be on the “right side of history.” 

But if they appeal first and foremost to the morality of international law and the memory of totalitarianisms, U.S. leadership runs the risk of forgetting a more basic piety. America owes a strategic counter to China’s rise not to Uighurs and Hongkongers, but to the American people. 

I worry the opportunity to build a prudent national industrial policy may be lost in a righteous fervor. China appears destined to orient America’s global efforts one way or another. But there is a difference between measuring China with the ruler of human rights and measuring our security with China’s industrial strength, and they suggest different policy responses. The American leadership class broke something when, in the name of liberal internationalism, they effectively paid the PRC to become America’s rival. They should fix what they broke, by strengthening American production and rethinking our role in global supply chains, not by condemning the CCP but maintaining the mindset that allowed it to become a rival. Read More