Confronting our Unicorns
By Amy Willis
Is “real” capitalism inherently unstable? Have we been so worried about the “road to serfdom” that we’ve missed the road to crony capitalism? Are there any sectors of the American economy that are not crony-ized? Have we lost all sense of the concept of character? In this week’s episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes back one of your favorite guests, Mike Munger.
This episode is noteworthy in the way both Roberts and Munger challenge their own deeply held beliefs about capitalism– “confronting their unicorns” as Russ dubbed it on twitter. How has your thinking evolved?
1- Is there something inevitable about cronyism that’s built into capitalism? And why is this an issue now? Is cronyism in America really growing, or is it contained just within a handful of industries? Is the free market inherently politically fragile?
2- Munger invokes longtime Econlib contributor Anthony de Jasay, who argues that constitutions are either ineffective or unnecessary. What do you take that to mean, and to what extent do you find this claim true?
3- Roberts confesses that when a cashier gives him back too much change, he returns it. Does this make him a good person… or a sucker? Why?
4- Should newspapers carry a “Local Cronyism” column? To what extent might that be effective in making crony practices better known? (If you answered no, by what other means might we make cronyism more transparent?)
5- Munger challenges listeners (and Roberts) that we can imagine a different/better world, but how do we get there? What combination of material incentives and intellectual ideas are needed?