The OCTOPEST Oracle
By Amy Willis
Can corporate America, and Big Tech in particular, be democratized? How can we make capitalism more accountable to the people? In this episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes back the OCTOPEST of Microsoft, Glen Weyl. Says Roberts, “I love capitalism. Because capitalism, profit, and loss, gives firms the incentives to discover those new techniques and new products and so on, and it works pretty well. What do we need that’s new? What do we need that’s different?”
Listen to Roberts and Weyl discuss this question and more, and then consider the further questions for thought we pose below. Share your thoughts with us today in the comments, or use them to start your own conversation offline.
1- How have the origins and traditions of antitrust changed over time, according to Weyl? What policy objectives ought antitrust law be expected to advance? How should we be thinking about antitrust and market power in a world where the firms in question often charge zero price?
2- Why does Weyl think that the greatest period of productivity growth in the United States occurred between the 1920s and 50s, and how does Roberts push back on this claim? How might social and/or state institutions play a role in allowing entrepreneurial activity to flourish?
3- What do you think Weyl means when he talks about a “democratized economy?” How does he make the case for it, and what would need to happen to help the United States get there? How does Weyl suggest we may be able to get closer to the sort of feedback loops we find in markets? (Hint: Weyl makes much of the Taiwan example…We wonder what you think of that, too.)
4- Why does Weyl think it problematic that companies such as Google had to rely on venture capital to get their start? What do you thin of his ideas for creating a big pool of (public) matching funds for things like start-ups and research and development? To what extent might such ideas really alleviate the free-rider problem Weyl is worried about?
5- How does Weyl define democracy? What sorts of values does he suggest it should uphold? How does he use the example of the French and American Revolutions to explain the proper role of legitimacy and authority in a democracy?