La Seratta of American Growth

Sunday is always a wonderful day to find longer, more deeply thought essays than the usual dashed-off pieces during the week.  I was grabbed by Chrystia Freeland’s “Self Destruction of the 1 Percent” in the NY Times.  Using the historical demise of Venice as a great world power, beginning in 1315, when the ruling elite closed their ranks to new contributors to various “collegana” financed trade expeditions, she looks at what has been happening in the US as social mobility has fallen and innovation and ability to compete internationally has followed.

A title I’ve longed to write comes to mind:  Free Markets, Hah Hah!    The only business people who truly believe in free markets are those trying to get in.  Once in, the name of the game is protect and defend:  freedom is a threat.  In the words if Luigi Zingali of the University of Chicago, “Most lobbying is pro-business, in the sense that it promotes the interests of existing businesses, not pro-market in the sense of fostering truly free and open competition.

The story of Venice she cites is one of many in  Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Power, by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson, an economic history long the lines of Jared Diamond’s Collapse, or David Landes’  The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor.  Like the other two, it looks worthy of serious consideration, which of course includes understanding how others have read it and here.   Freeland’s own recent book, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else,” is a longer and more detailed argument for the ideas put forth in the Times article.


Read ON!

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