Capitalism, corruption, civil war…

The list of industries with dominant players is endless.

Courtesy of David Brin, Contrary Brin Blog

Well, your RASR uncle (residually adult-sane Republican) has a week of gloating and joy. Let him wallow in Attorney Gen. Barr's summary no-collusion conclusion…even though its negative about Trump-Russia collusion specifically concerns only Russian 2016 election interference during the 2016 election (always the weakest link to Trump), and has nothing to do with the blatant collusion that's manifested since then, in demolishing our alliances, sciences, intel-services and every other U.S. fact based profession.

Consider: Six essential cons that Define Trump's success: This article by Jonah Greenberg (except for the last (silly) paragraph) cogently dissects six ways that Donald Trump has “succeeded” by cheating. 

  • …by lying his net worth vastly upward to get loans…
  • … by lying it vastly downward to evade taxes…
  • …by ripping off contractors and lenders till only Deutsche bank would work with him, laundering Russian mobster money…
  • …by assaulting the very existence of things called (facts).
  • …by portraying perpetrators as victims.

Never mind all that. Right now, just one U.S. citizen matters. Chief Justice John Roberts. If he swings the decision to decide in favor of basic justice and the American Experiment, political gerrymandering will be banished. If he is a hack - or a blackmail victim - then we will have no easy path out of this phase of the American Civil War. It could wind up pretty harsh.

Essences of Capitalism

As I’ve long predicted, some of the RASRs and saner libertarians are gradually realizing that oligarchy is no friend to open-accountable-competitive-creative market enterprise.  Investment guru John Mauldin is one I’ve long been urging to end his ostrich denial. Now, in his influential newsletter, Mauldin quotes from Jonathan Tepper’s new book The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition.

In industry after industry, (Americans) can only purchase from local monopolies or oligopolies that can tacitly collude. The US now has many industries with only three or four competitors controlling entire markets. Since the early 1980s, market concentration has increased severely. We’ve already described the airline industry. Here are other examples:

  • Two corporations control 90 percent of the beer Americans drink.
  • Five banks control about half of the nation’s banking assets.
  • Many states have health insurance markets where the top two insurers have an 80 percent to 90 percent market share. For example, in Alabama one company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, has an 84 percent market share and in Hawaii it has 65 percent market share.
  • When it comes to high-speed internet access, almost all markets are local monopolies; over 75 percent of households have no choice with only one provider.
  • Four players control the entire US beef market and have carved up the country.
  • After two mergers this year, three companies will control 70 percent of the world’s pesticide market and 80 percent of the US corn-seed market.

The list of industries with dominant players is endless. It gets even worse when you look at the world of technology….  The federal government has done little to prevent this concentration, and in fact has done much to encourage it. Broken markets create broken politics. Economic and political power is becoming concentrated in the hands of distant monopolists.

Mauldin avows that some industries require such massive scale that they can only support a small number of producers. Passenger aircraft, for instance. 

In turn, I have pointed out examples where capitalism is clearly working, when steered by enlightened regulation. One example is the burgeoning of solar and wind power. Another is surprising, till you think on it… automobiles.

With twenty major players, worldwide, competition is fierce, with the result that every year auto showrooms feature better cars that last longer, are built sturdier, offer spectacular standard features and safety, all at declining inflation-adjusted prices. Spurred by regulations, auto-makers deliver vastly improved efficiency, saving consumers billions at the pump, and — after prodding by some geniuses — are shifting to electric at a rapid pace.

So the problem is not what young sophomores are reciting on campus, capitalism at its competitive, AdamSmithian basic. No, the problem is that markets have always been distorted by cheaters!

It’s what humans do, when they get the power to do so. And hence, as Smith himself said, we need governments to transparently and carefully regulate, especially in ways that keep the playing field flat and fair.

And yes, that includes investing heavily in R&D that’s beyond any corporate ROI horizon. And it especially means investing in all children! Because what is a competitive playing field if it is biased to handicap most players, from the very start? 

Most liberal programs – those that aim to uplift all kids out of poverty – are defensible in strictly capitalist terms! And those who deny this aren’t actually Smithians at all. They are oligarchists. They are feudalists.

Short takes

Right now, Democrats still retain a monopoly on expertise and evidence-based policy. They should not relinquish it easily.

Nearly 400 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced sexual misconduct allegations in the past two decades, two newspapers found, with as many as 700 victims — some as young as 3. And this is just one section of the evangelical Baptist movement.  There are reports of over a thousand such cases among “independent” Baptist pastorages… among the most fire-breathing and radically anti-modernist. Oh, do preach to us.

Poseidon: Russia's New Doomsday Machine describes Moscow's unmanned automated drone submarine designed to deliver a 100-megaton warhead to inundate U.S. coasts with nuclear tsunamis, leaving the most populous parts of America drenched-radioactive wastelands. Author Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is one of the nation's foremost experts on nuclear weapons and strategy, director of two Congressional Advisory Boards.

There’s an aspect to this that’s scarier. Throughout the Cold War, we got a stream of defectors who blew the whistle on crazy Soviet plots. Kremlin muscovite craziness hasn’t gone away, but Putin (raised in the KGB) has made it his highest priority to make sure we get few defectors this round, despite planning such horrifically heinous weapons. 

How? Our inflow of defectors in the Cold War depended on our ability to: (1) protect them, (2) offer decent prospects living in the West, and (3) maintaining the moral high ground. Consider how Putin and his agents have undermined each of these systematically.

Short takes

WODI = “What If Obama Did It?”  Latest example, emerging news that Donald Trump used threats and money and oligarchic favors to get not one, or two, but all of his high school, military academy, college and SAT records secured and hidden forever. Now why would he do that? “Former officials of the military academy that President Trump attended say wealthy alumni directed them in 2011 to remove and hide Trump’s academic records.”  

The same fellow who demanded Obama’s birth certificate, then refused to believe it (nor dozens of 1962 copies of the Honolulu Advertiser birth announcement, found in garages all over the islands) and has lied about the IRS audit of his tax returns, and who allows no US officials anywhere near his secret debriefings with communist and “ex” communist dictators, now want us to have no way to verify his “stable genius.”

WODI

And finally…

From the Axios China report: The ideological tightening inside China has contributed to a more rigid and shrill group of PRC diplomats. Earlier this week Bloomberg reported on this trend… “[F]oreign diplomats in Beijing say that the behavior of Chinese officials has become far more aggressive and assertive in private meetings in recent years. Their discussions have become more ideological, according to one senior foreign envoy, who described the behavior as a strong sense of grievance combined with increasing entitlement about China’s international role and rights.

If you want to understand how the top officials at the PRC rationalize their fierce determination to centralize power over their people and the world, I go into it here. They are very smart. Maybe a quarter as smart as they think they are. And therein lies danger for us all.

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Recent CONTRARY BRIN blog articles:

North Korea, China and other concerns

Looking up and out

The magic folks who can save us, though few are still alive. Plus sending the Electors to "College."

Uplift, evolution, biotech… and Yuval Harari's worries.

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