The latest issue of Foreign Affairs has a great piece by Ian Bremmer which describes “state capitalism” and explains why that is the best term for the particular government expansions currently taking place. Unfortunately, the article is only available to susscribers, but you can listen to an audio of the article here. Bremmer, who is President of Eurasia Group, does not make modest claims about the economic developments of the past few years. He notes that in developing countries, “the state’s heavy hand in the economy is signalling a strategic rejection of the free market doctrine”:
If you’ve been following the presidential race, then you’ve no doubt heard what President Barack Obama said over the weekend during a campaign stop in Roanoke, Virginia. In promoting his plan to raise taxes on higher-income earners, Obama said, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
As you can imagine, those comments been met with outrage, and rightfully so. They’re incredibly disrespectful to hardworking business owners, many of whom have sacrificed everything to live the American Dream. The Wall Street Journal slammed President Obama’s “burst of ideological candor”:
The Internet is awash with images of the President telling the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and other innovators they didn’t build that. Kevin Costner’s famous line in “Field of Dreams,” as adapted for Mr. Obama: “If you build it, we’ll still say you didn’t really build it.”
Beneath the satire is the serious point that Mr. Obama’s homily is the soul of his campaign message. The President who says he wants to be transformational may be succeeding—and subordinating to government the individual enterprise and risk-taking that underlies prosperity. The question is whether this is the America that most Americans want to build.
The Internal Revenue Service is a thorn in everyone’s side. Americans dread April 15th every year, when they have to file their tax return. But now they’re not only hounding taxpayers, but also tax preparers.
According to a new policy implemented by the IRS, smaller, independent tax preparers are now required to become licensed by them and submit to annual “continuing education.” While bigger firms support the licensing requirements, it would force many of these small businesses to close their doors.
Thankfully, the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, is fighting back for these tax preparers by filing a lawsuit in federal court challenging the IRS’s authority to impose such a substanial regulatory burden:
Once upon a time, America stood on the idea that anyone could achieve anything. It wasn’t just allowed, but encouraged. This nation knew that greatness was a worthy goal, that immortality could be achieved through achievement itself. We marveled at self-made millionaires and billionaires. Men like Rockefeller, Morgan, Vanderbilt were encouraged to achieve all that they could. Do they always do it right? No. Humans do stupid things from time to time, so they made missteps along the way.
Fast forward to today. America will still, to some extent, permit a man to achieve greatness. However, culturally, we have shifted to where that’s no longer desirable. Our culture seems to revere people who work for no monetary gain, which has a nobility to be sure, but curses the men who strive to achieve things that will net them wealth. “I want to be rich,” is now seen in a similar light to “I want to kill someone.” Instead of it being accepted by many as a different goal, it’s looked at by some as being a form of anti-social disorder.
Far to many people understand that it was those wealthy men who made this country what it is. A welder may be a wonderful welder, but without someone to employ him, he’s no different than anyone else without a job. An engineer may have a wonderful idea, but without investors to make it reality, it will stay in the formless void of imagination.
Today, the wealthy are being beaten up. The protestors on Wall Street aren’t without some valid arguments after all, so some of the beating is warranted. But not all. We need to recognize where we’ve come from and understand that without brave men questing for greatness, we will achieve nothing more of note. So far, we haven’t ruled the whole thing out. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook notoriety, for example, may be the most famous modern example.
Sean Parker is unique. He has a reputation for unreliability that is only tolerated because he’s pretty good at what he does. Part of the technological wunderkind duo that created Napster and a key player in Facebook, he’s got serious street credit. In an interview with Slate, Parker points out a reality of the small business owner.
In the piece, he says:
“You have got to be willing to be poor [as an entrepreneur],” he says. “There was a time when I was living out of a single suitcase. I had a rule that I wouldn’t stay on one person’s couch for more than two weeks because I didn’t want to become a bother.”
Parker is right on with this. Being an entrepreneur is tough. It requires hard work, sacrifice, and a whole bunch of things most folks don’t have it in them to deal with. I read this, and my first thought is that he knows what he’s talking about. Perhaps he’s a kindred spirit?
Then I read this:
So is a billion dollars cool? He ponders the question carefully. “No, it’s not,” he says. “It’s not cool. I think being a wealthy member of the establishment is the antithesis of cool. Being a countercultural revolutionary is cool. So to the extent that you’ve made a billion dollars, you’ve probably become uncool.” He laughs at his retort to Aaron Sorkin.
This is in response to a line in the movie The Social Network where the character based on him, played by Justin Timberlake makes a comment about how a million dollars isn’t cool, a billion dollars is.
From the Institute for Justice:
Under a Dallas law enacted in 2008, businesses are prohibited from putting signs in the upper two-thirds of any window or glass door, and no more than 15 percent of any window or glass door may be covered by signs. The only way to comply with the new ordinance is by putting tiny signs at peoples feet—which is not an effective way to advertise. The law also bans signs that cover more than 25 percent of a buildings façade. Failure to take down the signs means you are at risk to be hit with a fine up to $2,000.
The law only targets commercial messages. Businesses are free to put anything except a commercial message in their windows. For example, a business could paint a giant Dallas Cowboys helmet on its window—but not advertise that it offers Cowboys merchandise for sale inside. Businesses can paint their windows black or put coolers or other items in front of them. In fact, businesses are not even required to have windows at all. What they cannot do is put messages in their windows that tell customers about the products and services offered inside.