Study of American Capitalism

Study of American Capitalism

Created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and the government’s subsequent responses, the Project for the Study of American Capitalism at The Mercatus Center is a research program responding to the increased concern about the role of political favoritism in American business. The project explores the implications of this emerging character of the economy, examining the effects it has on the standard of living in the United States and public perceptions of the legitimacy of government and business. Does it make any difference to average Americans whether ours is a more or less free market? And what can policymakers do to ensure competition and to commit in a credible way to equality of opportunity?

Drawing on hundreds of academics from around the world, the Project for the Study of American Capitalism helps scholars and policymakers investigate the nature of these problems and identify real and sustainable solutions.

Research

Veronique de Rugy, Andrea Castillo | Jul 16, 2014
This paper provides a brief overview of the history and operations of the Ex-Im Bank, followed by an examination of the key justifications for the bank’s continued authorization.
Russell Sobel, Rachel Graefe-Anderson | Jul 09, 2014
The US federal government’s response to the financial crisis was an unprecedented increase in government subsidies, grants, and contracts given directly to specific private businesses. The terms “crony capitalism” and “cronyism” are now widely used to describe the modern relationship between government and private business.
Matthew Mitchell, Christopher Koopman | Jun 04, 2014
Instead, policymakers should focus on more direct, effective, and less problematic solutions to reduce the tangle of regulatory burdens encountered by craft brewers. Eliminating regulatory burdens for all firms would allow brewers to succeed or fail on the basis of their ability to provide the greatest value to consumers at the lowest cost to society.
Douglas Webber, James Bailey | May 28, 2014
As of 2011, the average US state had 37 health insurance benefit mandates, laws requiring health insurance plans to cover a specific treatment, condition, provider, or person. This number is a massive increase from less than one mandate per state in 1965, and the topic takes on a new significance now, when the federal government is considering many new mandates as part of the “essential health benefits” required by the Affordable Care Act.
Christopher Coyne, Lotta Moberg | May 16, 2014
The governments of American states often attempt to incentivize businesses to locate within their borders by offering targeted benefits to particular industries and companies. These benefits come in many forms, including business tax credits for investments, property tax abatements, and reductions in the sales tax. Despite good intentions, policymakers often overlook the unseen and unintended negative consequences of targeted-benefit policies. This paper analyzes two major downsides of these policies: (1) they lead to a misallocation of resources, and (2) they encourage rent-seeking and thus cronyism. We argue that these costs, which are often longer-term and not readily observable at the time the targeted benefits are granted, may very well outweigh any possible short-term economic benefits.
Paul Dragos Aligica, | May 01, 2014
This paper elaborates the notion of “crony capitalism” and advances an innovative approach to the analysis of the phenomenon in case, seen as a type of rent-seeking society. The argument leads to a pioneering attempt to elaborate an original theory of crony capitalism as a sui generis system.

Testimony & Comments

Veronique de Rugy | Jun 25, 2014
The Bank has long outlived its purpose and cannot manage to meet the standards of the new missions that have been developed to validate its existence. For policymakers who have the facts, the choice is clear: the Export-Import Bank must go.
Veronique de Rugy | Jul 18, 2012
The Department of Energy’s loan guarantee programs have been the focus of much public attention since energy companies Solyndra, Beacon Power, and Abound went bankrupt, leaving taxpayers to shoulder hundreds of mil- lions of dollars in loan guarantees. The evidence strongly suggests that these programs fall short of their stated goals of developing clean energy and creating jobs.
Todd Zywicki | Jul 10, 2012
Much of the government’s political intervention in the bankruptcy cases appears to have been motivated to benefit the UAW rather than the companies themselves over U.S. taxpayers, who put billions of dollars at risk to fund the bailouts.
Veronique de Rugy | Jun 19, 2012
For obvious reasons, more than any other recent events, the waste of taxpayers’ money due to Solyndra’s failure has attracted much attention. However, the problems with loan guarantees are much more fundamental than the cost of one or more failed projects.
| May 25, 2011
Anthony Sanders testified before the House Committee on Financial Services about steps to end the GSE bailout.
Todd Zywicki | May 24, 2011
Todd Zywicki testified before the House Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs.

Speeches & Presentations

Expert Commentary

Jul 27, 2014

It is simply not true that “the St. Louis metropolitan area benefits greatly” from the Ex-Im Bank. In fact, Ex-Im contributed to less than 0.63 percent of St. Louis-area exports from 2007 to 2014. The bank benefited roughly 1.5 percent of all Missouri exports and 1.38 percent of all Illinois exports at the same time.
Jul 22, 2014

These giant corporations that Ex-Im serves - such as the mining group Hancock Prospecting (which is owned by the richest woman in Australia) and Pemex, Mexico's government-owned oil company - would have no problem arranging financing without Ex-Im. They simply would not get a government-granted discount courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.
Jul 22, 2014

Subsidized firms undoubtedly enjoy their government privileges — but we must remember the other 98 percent of us who do not have friends down at the Export-Import Bank.
Jul 21, 2014

At their worst, Ex-Im loan programs introduce political incentives into business decisions, creating the conditions for companies to seek financial rewards by pleasing political interests rather than customers. The economic costs this cronyism imposes are real and inexcusable.
Jul 19, 2014

According to the Bank's own data, the vast majority of Ex-Im beneficiaries in Texas are large, politically connected firms like Bechtel and Nobel Drilling. From 2007 to 2014, less than 30 percent of Ex-Im's portfolio in Texas went to small businesses.
Jul 17, 2014

Americans now know the Export-Import Bank is a corporatist program built on bad economics. Its corporate beneficiaries are fighting tooth and nail to protect their subsidies. Do not be fooled by their rhetoric.

Charts

This week’s maps use data from the Export-Import Bank and the US Census Bureau to display the effect of Ex-Im Bank financing on each state. The maps show that Washington state, home of Boeing, garners the bulk of the benefits in terms of both Ex-Im Bank disbursements and as a percentage of total state export value, even though taxpayers across the nation are equally exposed to liability.

Experts

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Her primary research interests include the US economy, the federal budget, homeland security, taxation, tax competition, and financial privacy. Her popular weekly charts, published by the Mercatus Center, address economic issues ranging from lessons on creating sustainable economic growth to the implications of government tax and fiscal policies. She has testified numerous times in front of Congress on the effects of fiscal stimulus, debt and deficits, and regulation on the economy.
Matthew Mitchell is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he is the lead scholar on the Project for the Study of American Capitalism. He is also an adjunct professor of economics at Mason. In his writing and research, he specializes in economic freedom and economic growth, public-choice economics, and the economics of government favoritism toward particular businesses.
Eileen Norcross is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. As lead researcher on the Mercatus Center’s State and Local Policy Project, she focuses on questions of public finance and how economic institutions support or hamper economic resiliency and civil society. She specializes in fiscal federalism and institutions, state and local governments and finance, pensions, public administration, and economic development.
Adam Thierer is a senior research fellow with the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He specializes in technology, media, Internet, and free-speech policies, with a particular focus on online safety and digital privacy. His writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and Forbes, and he has appeared on national television and radio. Thierer is a frequent guest lecturer and has testified numerous times on Capitol Hill.

Podcasts

Matthew Mitchell | July 14, 2014
Matthew Mitchell DIscusses Uber and Lyft on KPCC

Recent Events

Despite the ideological miles that separate them, activists in the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements agree on one thing: both condemn the recent bailouts of wealthy and well-connected banks. But when it comes to government-granted privileges to particular firms or industries the bailouts were just the tip of the iceberg.

Books

Media Clippings

Veronique de Rugy | Jun 25, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in The Washington Post.
| Jun 15, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal.
Veronique de Rugy | Jun 08, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal.
Veronique de Rugy | May 20, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in Wall Street Journal.
Matthew Mitchell | Oct 22, 2013
Matt Mitchell discusses "Uber Wars" on Reason TV.
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