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.


Robert L. Beekman, Brian T. Kench | Aug 27, 2015
Authorization for the Export-Import Bank of the United States recently lapsed for the first time in more than 80 years, though it may be reestablished at any time. We present an economic efficiency analysis of bank’s activities in a simple open-economy model. This analysis brings clarity to the ongoing political debate regarding this institution. We discuss key arguments in support of and against the bank’s continued activities. We highlight the special privileges that the bank offers to a few domestic businesses, negatively distorting the private market opportunities in the markets in which these favored businesses operate and widely distributing the economic costs across nonfavored constituencies.
John E. Anderson, Seth H. Giertz, Shafiun N. Shimul | Aug 24, 2015
We analyze the spread of use-value assessment (UVA) programs applied to agricultural and rural land for property tax purposes across the 50 states. Taxing such land on the basis of its current use in agriculture rather than its full market value can confer significant property tax reductions on owners of the land. Effects are often substantial for land near large urban areas. Using a time-to-event model, we find, as others have posited, that a driving force behind the spread of UVA has been the secular trend toward urbanization across all 50 states.
G. P. Manish, Daniel Sutter | Aug 18, 2015
A new study published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University synthesizes psychologists’ research on intrinsic motivations with research on the motives of entrepreneurs and shows that entrepreneurs are often motivated by a desire to succeed in competition with others. Consumer choice in markets provides validation to entrepreneurs about who provides the “best” product, so government intervention that results in disruption of choices in markets can make entrepreneurs who care about mastery worse off and harm economic growth.
Timothy Sandefur | Jul 09, 2015
Occupational licensing is a major burden on economic liberty. It raises prices, restricts consumer choice, and deprives countless Americans of their right to earn a living for themselves and their families—often for no better reason than to enrich existing, politically influential firms. Among the worst of such abuses is the certificate of public convenience and necessity law, which does not even purport to protect the consumer against dangerous business practices or against incompetent or dishonest practitioners, but is explicitly designed to prevent economic competition.
James Bailey, Douglas Webber | Jun 17, 2015
By 2010, the average US state had passed 37 health insurance benefit mandates (laws requiring health insurance plans to cover certain additional services). Previous work has shown that these mandates likely increase health insurance premiums, which in turn could make it more costly for firms to compensate employees. Using 1996–2010 data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages and a novel instrumental variables strategy, we show that there is limited evidence that mandates reduce employment. However, we find that mandates lead to a distortion in firm size, benefiting larger firms that are able to self-insure and thus exempt themselves from these state-level health insurance regulations. This distortion in firm size away from small businesses may lead to substantial decreases in productivity and economic growth.
Christopher Koopman, Thomas Stratmann, Mohamad Elbarasse | Jun 09, 2015
Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia currently limit entry or expansion of health care facilities through certificate-of-need (CON) programs. These programs prohibit health care providers from entering new markets or making changes to their existing capacity without first gaining the approval of state regulators. Since 1975, Arkansas has been among the states that restrict the supply of health care in this way, with six devices and services—including nursing home beds and long term care beds, psychiatric services, and assisted living and residential care facilities—requiring a certificate of need from the state before the device may be purchased or the service offered.

Testimony & Comments

Christopher Koopman, Thomas Stratmann, Mohamad Elbarasse | Jun 12, 2015
There is little evidence to support the claim that certificates of need are an effective cost-control measure; and Stratmann and Russ have found that these programs have no effect on the level of charity care provided to the poor. While controlling health care costs and increasing care for the poor may be laudable public policy goals, the evidence strongly suggests that CON regulations are not an effective mechanism for achieving them. Instead, these programs simply decrease the supply and availability of health care services by limiting entry and competition.
Veronique de Rugy | Jun 02, 2015
Contrary to what you will hear from its supporters and beneficiaries, the Ex-Im Bank plays a marginal role in export financing—backing a mere 2 percent of US exports each year. The vast majority of exporters secure financing from a wide variety of private banks and other financial institutions without government interference or assistance. With US exports hitting record high levels, it is obvious that such financing is abundant and government assistance is superfluous.
Christopher Koopman, Matthew Mitchell, Adam Thierer | May 26, 2015
The commission should shift enforcement efforts away from stopping private restraint of trade and toward stopping public restraint of trade. In light of George Stigler’s observation that “the state has one basic resource which in pure principle is not shared with even the mightiest of its citizens: the power to coerce,” the commission would be wise to adopt Commissioner Wright’s approach and shift resources toward fighting public restraint of trade.
Veronique de Rugy | Mar 24, 2015
Policymakers who are interested in supporting the entrepreneurs and companies that will deliver the next generation of energy supplies and products should focus their attention on correcting the federal government’s hostile tax climate and dispense with the futile hopes of outsmarting the marketplace.
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.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Speeches & Presentations

Expert Commentary

Aug 30, 2015

Health care in America isn’t a topic reserved only for the federal government. Debates over its future are playing out in statehouses across the country, including North Carolina’s. In Raleigh, it centers on decades-old laws requiring qualified doctors and medical providers to secure permission from the state in order to build or expand their own practices, by purchasing certain devices, offering particular services, or opening new facilities. These are known as “certificate-of-need” or “CON” laws, and North Carolina has the fourth-most restrictive program in the country.
Aug 24, 2015

One benefit touted in favor of fiscal federalism is that states can act as laboratories. Over time, states adopting better policies will be copied, bad policies will die and good policies will spread. A lesson from use-value assessment is that this is not always the case.
Aug 11, 2015

Paris was recently beset by a horde of riotous protesters. They besieged the airports, blockaded the thoroughfares with piles of burning tires and assaulted people in the streets. Who were these ruffians? Taxi drivers — almost 3,000 of them — rose up to protest ridesharing services. The taxi riots in Paris this summer highlight the dangers inherent when governmental power is captured by special interests. Although the French experience with taxi cartels is an extreme example, it provides a useful lesson in the consequences of “regulatory capture.”…
Aug 10, 2015

The recent showdown between ride-sharing service Uber and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio provides a vibrant illustration of what we economists call “public choice”—basically, the study of politics through the lens of economic theory. Mayor de Blasio attempted to limit ride-sharing drivers, but Uber exposed this proposal, unleashing thousands of New Yorkers onto city council. After a weeklong public debate, de Blasio dropped the proposal. Uber’s strategy, de Blasio’s forfeit, and even the actions of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Comptroller Scott Stringer provide important lessons for our nation on the dangers of idealizing politics.
Jul 18, 2015

As of July 1, Virginia now licenses ridesharing companies — such as Uber and Lyft  —  as “transportation network companies.” This is part of the legislation signed into law this past February, which allows these companies to operate throughout the commonwealth. Among other requirements, this new law also requires ridesharing companies to pay an initial licensing fee of $100,000 and another $60,000 each year to renew their license.
Jul 15, 2015

The sharing economy is here to stay, and Washington is beginning to take notice. While we often enjoy talking about jobs, growth and opportunity in abstract terms, the sharing economy offers a chance to support these ideas in a very concrete way. For the 80 million Americans engaging in the sharing economy, both to make money and make life more affordable, this offers a crucial opportunity for policymakers to remove barriers to making it work for everyone.


Defenders of the US Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) cite its working capital programs as evidence that the agency plays a critical role in supporting small businesses. As one of four main components of Ex-Im’s export subsidies, the working capital programs represent a relatively small component of the agency’s overall portfolio. The agency as a whole mainly benefits large, politically connected firms, as I have previously demonstrated.


Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a nationally syndicated columnist. Her primary research interests include the U.S. 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 director of 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 director for 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.


Christopher Koopman | August 25, 2015
Chris Koopman discusses the impact of regulations on the sharing economy for “Coffee and Markets” podcast.

Recent Events

The Mercatus Center invites you to join Research Fellow Christopher Koopman for a presentation examining the economics and policy issues surrounding the sharing economy.


Randall G. Holcombe, Andrea Castillo | Apr 23, 2013
By examining how real governments have operated, this book demonstrates why—despite their diverse designs—in practice all political and economic systems are variants of either liberalism or cronyism.

Media Clippings

Adam Thierer, Christopher Koopman | Jan 25, 2015
This excerpt originally appeared in Wall Street Journal.
Veronique de Rugy | Aug 24, 2014
This excerpt originally appeared in Wall Street Journal.
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.
' '