Cronyism and its Scapegoats

Cronyism destroys trust and assigns the blame to scapegoats of its own creation.

Only a fiercely committed left or right-winger would fail to recognize that there is today a social and political divide that does not easily fit within the traditional mold of left vs. right. If, loosely speaking, the left leans socialist and the right leans capitalist, there is a third branch, cronyism, that is characterized by the rising power and wealth of rent-seeking industries and individuals. In the past, this branch was dominant mainly in poorer countries with weaker institutions. But today it has also gained significant strength in a number of developed countries, including the United States.

In fact, if the Republican Party has been hijacked by Trumpism, as some allege, then we could say that capitalism has been similarly hijacked by cronyism. In our view, this parallel is nearly seamless, given that the GOP is traditionally pro-capitalism – in words if not always in deeds – and that the incumbent administration is largely populated with captains of rent-seeking industries. Read more

Capitalism Did Not Win the Cold War

This article first appeared at Foreign Affairs.

Why cronyism was the real victor.

When the Soviet Union collapsed 26 years ago, it was generally agreed that the West had won the Cold War. This was affirmed by the prosperity and possibilities awaiting citizens of Western countries, as opposed to the political and economic stagnation experienced by those in Communist states. A natural conclusion, much repeated at the time, was that capitalism had finally defeated communism.

This sweeping statement was only partially true. If one took capitalism and communism as the only two protagonists in the post–World War II struggle, it was easy to see that the latter had suffered a mortal blow. But there was a third, stealthier protagonist situated between them. This was a system best identified today as cronyism. For if capitalism did win over the other two contenders in 1991, its victory was short-lived. And in the years that have followed, it is cronyism that has captured an ever-increasing share of economic activity. A survey of the distribution of power and money around the world makes it clear: cronyism, not capitalism, has ultimately prevailed. Continue reading at Foreign Affairs >>>

New York, Two States of Mind

Is New York City helping or holding back Upstate New York?

Towards the end of times, when all of mankind congregates in a final purgatory to draw the main lessons of this grand adventure called Life, there will be special attention paid to the centuries’ long efforts at harmonizing individual happiness with the needs of the collective. There will be seminars on leadership and war. There will be a thick chapter on the blessings and dangers of science. There will be a long section, co-written by poets and undertakers, on the success of freedom and the failure of tyranny. There will be wonder and consternation about religion and the nature of the universe. And there will be, inevitably, extensive reporting on economic ideology.

Here, a slim primer on laissez-faire will easily outshine ponderous encyclopedic tomes on communism, socialism and other failed -isms. Capitalism, the word and the theory, will be presented as a zealous and perhaps unnecessary attempt at creating a code for laissez-faire, something that occurs naturally. Cronyism will be understood as the corruption and distortion of laissez-faire and the phrase crony capitalism will be dismissed as an oxymoron and an unwarranted amalgamation. Read more

Manhattan Ultra-Luxury ‘Battling the Serpent of Chaos’

The deceleration of China and resulting commodities crash have created a problem for developers of ultra luxury condominiums.

The ancient Egyptians believed that the sky was a solid dome, the belly of the goddess Nut who arched her body from one side of the horizon to the other. Every day, the sun god Ra emerged in the east and sailed in his boat across the sky until dusk when he disappeared in the west by dipping below the surface of Nun, the ocean upon which the whole flat earth floated. Read more

Manhattan Real Estate: A Conversation with Lisa Larson

14 April 2015

Sami Karam speaks with Manhattan’s Lisa Larson, a licensed associate real estate broker with Warburg Realty and a REBNY Deal of the Year award recipient. Topics include the state of the residential market and the boom in supertall tower construction, from the real to the surreal.

LisaLarson

“I get asked almost daily: ‘How is the market? What is happening in the market?’ And increasingly, it is getting much harder to define the market as a whole. So I always say: ‘Which market are you talking about?’ The super tall and skinny market [of new high-rise towers in Midtown], we read about every day. It is exciting and we see the towers from every angle. But that is not really the market that most of us live and work in, and buy and sell in. What really makes this job so exciting to me is that there are so many different sub-markets in this city.”   Lisa Larson, Warburg Realty.

TO HEAR THE PODCAST, CLICK HERE OR ON THE TIMELINE BELOW:

Lisa Larson can be reached at Warburg Realty or through her website.

Disclosure: Sami Karam and populyst have no business dealings with, and receive no compensation from, Lisa Larson, Warburg Realty or any other parties named in the podcast.

WSJ: For Creative Cities, the Sky Has Its Limit

RICHARD FLORIDA WRITES IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:

It’s not enough to build tall if people aren’t thrown together to interact—just look at Shanghai vs. New York.

Ours is the century of the city. For the first time in history, more than half of the people in the world, 3.3 billion of us, live in cities. By 2050, according to the best projections, urbanites will account for as much as 70% of the global population.

Over the next 50 years we will spend trillions of dollars on city building. The question is: How should we build? For many economists, urbanists and developers, the answer is simple: We should build up. But the answer is more complex than that.

Researchers at the Santa Fe Institute have been able to demonstrate that bigger, denser cities literally speed up the metabolism of daily life. Larger beasts may have slower metabolisms in the animal kingdom, but the opposite occurs in cities, which get faster as they grow. Doubling a city’s population, the Santa Fe researchers found, more than doubles its creative and economic output, a phenomenon known as “superlinear scaling.”

Still, density is only part of the solution. In the hyper-crowded skyscraper districts of Shanghai, densities can approach 125,000 people per square mile. Giant buildings often function as vertical suburbs, muting the spontaneous encounters that provide cities with so much of their social, intellectual and commercial energy. People live their lives indoors in such places, wearing paths between their offices and the food courts, always seeing the same people. READ MORE.

New York Times: US Public Pensions are Underfunded

MARY WILLIAMS WALSH AND DANNY HAKIM WRITE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES:

Few investors are more bullish these days than public pension funds.

While Americans are typically earning less than 1 percent interest on their savings accounts and watching their 401(k) balances yo-yo along with the stock market, most public pension funds are still betting they will earn annual returns of 7 to 8 percent over the long haul, a practice that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg recently called “indefensible.”

Now public pension funds across the country are facing a painful reckoning. Their projections look increasingly out of touch in today’s low-interest environment, and pressure is mounting to be more realistic. But lowering their investment assumptions, even slightly, means turning for more cash to local taxpayers — who pay part of the cost of public pensions through property and other taxes. READ MORE.