April 11, 2018

The US might be an SOB of a superpower, but it is our (or at least mine) SOB superpower.

Sir, Martin Wolf writes: “China is, not the real threat. The threat is the decadence of the west, very much including the US — the prevalence of rent extraction as a way of economic life, the indifference to the fate of much of its citizenry, the corrupting role of money in politics, the indifference to the truth, and the sacrifice of long-term investment to private and public consumption. It is indeed a tragedy that the best way we could find to escape from a financial crisis was via monetary policies that risked promoting new bubbles. We could be better than this.” “The rivalry that will shape the 21st century” April 11.

On the “sacrifice of long-term investment to private and public consumption” I could not agree more. But that is precisely why I have been attacking, day and night, obsessively, the risk weighted capital requirements for banks. These make our banks favor way too much the financing of the present “safer” consumption (houses-governments) and stay away, way too much, from financing the “riskier” future production (entreprenuers). Unfortunately too many, Martin Wolf included, have been indifferent to that truth.

But, that said, on the first part “the prevalence of rent extraction as a way of economic life, the indifference to the fate of much of its citizenry, the corrupting role of money in politics, the indifference to the truth”, is China really better than the west or the US? 

I don’t think so, but even if it was so, when push comes to show, there comes a point when you have to decide what superpower you prefer. I have no doubt preferring the west, the US… though Graham Allison of Harvard seems to harbor some doubts on that arguing that “China rivals the US in…ideology”.

In what I entirely agree with Wolf is when, explaining it so well, he states “The idea that intellectual property is sacrosanct is wrong. It is innovation that is sacrosanct. Intellectual property rights both help and hurt that effort. A balance has to be struck between rights that are too tight and too loose”

Yes, and for years I have suggested that balancing could start by taxing the profits obtained when competing protected by intellectual property rights, at a higher rate than profits derived from competing naked in the market. And since what becomes protected with IPRs is the last leg of our human heritage inventiveness, those taxes should perhaps also help to fund a Universal Basic Income, something which would be a de facto social dividend.

PS. That said, when Wolf says “the US can huff and puff about Chinese theft of intellectual property” then I am not sure really which SOB is Wolf’s favorite superpower.


@PerKurowski