Category Archives: Regulations

Updates from Chicago Booth

Should we stop the ‘revolving door’?
The movement of people between industry and government is a political talking point, but how big a deal is it? Research is starting to quantify the extent of the problem.
By Brian Wallheimer – When US President Donald Trump took office, addressing the “revolving door”—the movement of people between industry and government—ranked high on his agenda. In his second week, with members of his staff steps away, he signed new ethics rules while saying, “Most of the people standing behind me will not be able to go to work or do anything adverse to our wonderful country. Five-year ban. It’s a two-year ban now and it’s got full of loopholes.”

But the revolving door proved too irresistible not too push. The Trump administration hired former industry lobbyists for prominent jobs, and several cabinet positions came straight from corporate America. Even before Trump had a chance to sign the ethics order, which critics complained had its own loopholes, his former campaign managers had set up a lobbying shop.

Behind the revolving door is the idea of regulatory capture. Forty-six years ago, the late George Stigler described how a regulatory body tasked with protecting the public interest would ultimately be “captured” to serve the interests of the regulated industry.

Chicago Booth’s Sam Peltzman expanded on this theory, arguing that regulations come about through a balancing act involving politicians and interest groups, which can be companies or other affected parties. more> https://goo.gl/e2yyWn

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Are Internet companies complicit in promoting hateful and harmful content?

By Hany Farid – In 2016, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter announced that they would work together to develop new technology to quickly identify and remove extremism-related content from their platforms. Despite some progress, serious problems remain.

First, we need a fast and effective method to remove content. Once content has been identified, reported, and determined to be illegal or in violation of terms of service, it should be immediately removed (Prime Minister Theresa May is calling for a maximum of two hours from notification to take-down).

Fourth, we need to invest in human resources. While advances in machine learning hold promise, these technologies – as technology companies will admit – are not yet nearly accurate enough to operate across the breadth and depth of the internet. There are more than a billion uploads to Facebook each day and 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube each minute of the day.

This means that any machine-learning based solution will have to be paired with a significant team of human analysts that can resolve complex and often subtle issues of intent and meaning that are still out of reach of even the most sophisticated machine learning solutions. more> https://goo.gl/X2ACdL

When Even the Simple Stuff Is a Crisis

By Robert Schlesinger – What’s going on? If everyone agrees on these successful programs, why are they stuck in legislative purgatory?

The proximate cause is that the Republican majority got too distracted with its endless, fruitless attempts to roll back the Affordable Care Act. That consumed their attention through the year and very specifically in the crunch time during which the final deals should have been cut on basically noncontroversial legislation like renewing funding for CHIP and community health centers. But that went by the boards when the GOP dropped everything to push the late, unlamented, half-baked Graham-Cassidy bill.

Uncertainty abounds. And again, we’re talking about noncontroversial stuff here, which speaks to a larger problem with the political system. The failure of this Congress to understand “the need to act responsibly, to reauthorize needed programs without catastrophic disruption … is simply striking,” says the American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein, who has written extensively on GOP dysfunction (most recently “One Nation After Trump,” with Thomas Mann and E.J. Dionne). more> https://goo.gl/1xQG84

When Wall Street Owns Main Street — Literally

BOOK REVIEW

Makers & Takers: How Wall Street Destroyed Main Street, Author: Rana Foroohar.

By Rana Foroohar – Made up primarily of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, the Inland Empire was at the heart of the subprime mortgage crisis and has yet to fully recover.

In the early 2000s, predatory lenders flocked to the area, offering dicey deals to the largely minority and lower-middle-class white populations who, unable to afford housing on the coast, still craved the American Dream of homeownership. It ended, as it did in so many neighborhoods and cities across America, in tears and massive foreclosures, turning entire cities into ghost towns of derelict properties.

Private equity funds like Blackstone are giant financial institutions that operate largely outside the scrutiny of governmental regulation, since they are officially designated “nonbanks” or “shadow banks”—never mind that many of them are bigger than the better-known institutions that are subject to regulation.

Most people rightly associate private equity with offshore bank accounts (remember Mitt Romney and Bain Capital?), big corporate buyouts in which formerly healthy firms are loaded up with debt and stripped of their assets, mass layoffs, and an utter lack of transparency in their financial dealings.

But these days, the big news about private equity is that it is at the heart of the country’s housing rebound.

Private equity investors have become the single largest group of buyers in the residential housing market, purchasing $20 billion worth of steeply discounted properties between 2012 and 2014 alone and reaping huge rewards as housing prices have slowly risen from their troughs. more> https://goo.gl/P6fcNA

The flaws a Nobel Prize-winning economist wants you to know about yourself

BOOK REVIEW

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness, Authors: Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein.

By Eshe Nelson – Sorry to say it, but you’re not perfect. We like to believe that we are smart, rational creatures, always acting in our best interests. In fact, dominant economic theory these days often makes that assumption.

What was left of this illusion was further dismantled by the The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, who awarded the Nobel prize in economics to Richard Thaler, an American economist at the University of Chicago, for his pioneering work in behavioral economics, which examines humanity’s flaws—namely, why we don’t make rational economic decisions.

People can make bad economic choices based on something Thaler dubbed the “endowment effect,” which is the theory that people value things more highly when they own them. In other words, you’d ask for more money for selling something that you own than what you would be willing to pay to buy the same thing.

People experience the negative feeling of loss more strongly than they feel the positive sense of a gain of the same size. This is also impact by anchoring: If you are selling an item, your reference point is most likely to be the price you paid for something. Even if the value of that item is now demonstrably worth less, you are anchored to the purchase price, in part because you want to avoid that sense of loss.

This can lead to pain in financial markets, in particular. more> https://goo.gl/eR1B2B

The next financial crisis is probably around the corner—we just don’t know from where

By John Detrixhe – The German bank’s study of developed markets uses this criteria to define a financial crisis: on a year-over-year basis, a 15% drop in stock markets, 10% decline in foreign-exchange, 10% fall in bonds, 10% increase in inflation, or a sovereign default.

Deutsche Bank argues that crises have been increasingly frequent since the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system, which, after World War II, fixed exchange-rates and essentially linked them to the price of gold. That coordination ended in the 1970s when the US broke the dollar’s peg to the yellow metal. The link to a finite commodity helped limit the amount of debt that could be created.

As strategists at the Frankfurt-based lender see it, the resulting fiat money system has encouraged rising budget deficits, higher debts, global imbalances, and more unstable markets. At the same time, banking regulations have been loosened. In the US, the industry may soon have fewer restrictions and less oversight, a mere 10 years since the last worldwide crisis. more> https://goo.gl/vDnQ2w

People Don’t Actually Want Equality. They Want Fairness.

BOOK REVIEW

On Inequality, Author: Harry Frankfurt.
Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil, Author: Paul Bloom.

By Paul Bloom – Bernie Sanders talks about economic inequality all the time, and it’s a message that resonates. You don’t need to be a socialist to worry about the divide between rich and poor in America.

People might be troubled by what they see as unjust causes of economic inequality, a perfectly reasonable concern given how much your income and wealth are determined by accidents of birth, including how much money your parents had, your sex, and the color of your skin.

We are troubled as well by potential consequences of economic inequality. We may think it corrodes democracy, or increases crime, or diminishes overall happiness.

Most of all, people worry about poverty—not that some have less, but rather “that those with less have too little.” more> https://goo.gl/wvLUdU

Why nation-states are good

BOOK REVIEW

Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy, Author: ani Rodrik.

By Dani Rodrik – A principled defense of the nation-state would start from the proposition that markets require rules.

Markets are not self-creating, self-regulating, self-stabilizing or self-legitimatizing, so they depend on non-market institutions.

Anything beyond a simple exchange between neighbors requires investments in transportation, communications and logistics; enforcement of contracts, provision of information, and prevention of cheating; a stable and reliable medium of exchange; arrangements to bring distributional outcomes into conformity with social norms; and so on.

Behind every functioning, sustainable market stands a wide range of institutions providing critical functions of regulation, redistribution, monetary and fiscal stability, and conflict management. These institutional functions have so far been provided largely by the nation-state. more> https://goo.gl/yjmnyK

Parasites, Security, and Conflict: The Origins of Individualism and Collectivism

By Daniel Hruschka – Ferdinand Tonnies, German sociologist and political activist, outlined two primary forms of sociality.

The first social form, Gemeinschaft or community, people worked together for collective goals and where individual wishes were subordinated to those of the group.

The second form, Gesellschaft or civil society, turned this relationship between individuals and the group on its head. Exemplified by modern nation-states, corporations, and voluntary clubs, Tonnies’ civil society existed to serve its members needs and wishes—not the other way around.

Often framing the distinctions in different terms, such as collectivism vs. individualism, embeddedness vs. autonomy, or particularism vs. universalism, these investigators discovered striking and reliable cross-population differences in how people endorse a group’s interests over their own goals, how people value personal relationships over impartial rules with strangers, and how they define themselves in terms of their social relationships rather than their own individual qualities and accomplishments.

Researchers have also found that a basic element of Tonnies’ Gemeinschaft—in-group loyalty—hitchhikes with a suite of other “traditional” values and behaviors.

Notably, people who are more concerned about loyalty are also more likely to value obedience to authority, to conform to group norms and to avoid impure, unnatural, unchaste and ungodly acts. more> https://goo.gl/Q3GXQj

Is taxation theft?

BOOK REVIEW

Anarchy, State and Utopia, Author: Robert Nozick.

By Philip Goff – Outside of academia, almost everyone assumes that the money I get in my pay-packet before the deduction of taxes is, in some morally significant sense, ‘mine’.

This assumption, although almost universal, is demonstrably confused.

There is no serious political theory according to which my pre-tax income is ‘mine’ in any morally significant sense. Moreover, this matters: this confused assumption is a major stumbling block to economic reform, causes low and middle earners to vote against their economic interests, and renders it practically impossible to correct the economic injustices that pervade the modern world.

Your gross, or pre-tax income, is the money the market delivers to you. In what sense might it be thought that you have a moral claim on this money? One answer might be that you deserve it: you have worked hard and have done a good job, and consequently you deserve all your gross income as recompense for your labor. According to this line of reasoning, when the government taxes, it takes the money that you deserve for the work you do.

This is not a plausible view. For it implies that the market distributes to people exactly what they deserve for the work that they do.

But nobody thinks a hedge-fund manager deserves many times more wealth than a scientist working on a cure for cancer, and few would think that current pay ratios in companies reflect what philosophers call desert claims.

Probably you work very hard in your job, and you make an important contribution. But then so do most people, and the market distribution of wealth patently does not reward in proportion to how hard-working people are, or how much of a contribution they make to society. more> https://goo.gl/vTK8Vn