The Project for the Study of American Capitalism
Free-market capitalism is an indelible part of the American identity, but is the U.S. economy completely—or even mostly—free?
No economy is completely free. Like other countries, the United States is a mixed system, a hybrid of capitalism and government involvement. As such, can Americans legitimately claim to have a mostly free economy?
In a free market, businesses compete on a level playing field. Those who earn success do so by providing the best goods or services for the best price. The government’s role is limited to that of a neutral umpire who establishes the rule of law and then polices against theft and fraud.
Increasingly, American businesses compete on an unevenplaying field. They court policymakers who in turn sway the umpire to call shots in favor of some companies and against their competitors. Under this system, success no longer hinges on providing the highest-quality goods at the lowest price; it depends on political favoritism.
What are the implications of this emerging character of the American economy? Does it make any difference to average Americans whether ours is a more or less free market? What is at stake for the standard of living in the United States? What about public perceptions of the legitimacy of government and business? What can policymakers do to ensure competition and to credibly commit to equality of opportunity?
The Mercatus Center at George Mason University will address these and related questions through our Project for the Study of American Capitalism. Drawing on hundreds of academics from around the world, this project aims to help scholars and policymakers investigate the nature of these problems and identify real and sustainable solutions.