By William K. Black
July 10, 2018 Bloomington, MN
Economists generally focus on increasing productivity as the driver of development. Among the most troubling economic developments in the West in the last decade is the weak gains in productivity, particularly in a time of rapid technological advances. Neoclassical economics pictures firms as engaged in a fierce, endless battle for survival where failure is certain for firms that are even slightly less efficient that their rivals. This struggle is supposed to produce relentless, rapid advances in productivity. Something has gone very wrong with the neoclassical narrative of competition, productivity, and growth.
Weak productivity and efficiency is supposed to remedy itself. The neoclassical (and Austrian) economics claim is that it creates a profit opportunity for entrepreneurs to enter who either will run a more productive firm or serve as consultant to explain to existing firms’ CEOs the secret of improving efficiency. This series of articles focuses on one of these supposed examples of Austrian “spontaneous order” – executive coaching.
By William K. Black
I have been attempting the vain act of trying to embarrass the New York Times’ Deal Book feature into dropping its ethics-free reportage of elite financial crimes. I have had so little success that today’s James Stewart column reached the pinnacle of unintentional self-parody of Deal Book’s zealous efforts to remove any concept of ethics from its reportage of elite white-collar crime. The substance of piece is reporting that Steve Jobs “was a walking antitrust violation.” Stewart focuses on the cartel Jobs formed with other giant firms to fix (and suppress) employees’ salaries.
But the title of the piece takes the fact that Jobs was a serial felon who caused great harm to employees and preforms a remarkable transformation in which he is praised as “Steve Jobs, a Genius at Pushing Boundaries.” “Pushing boundaries” is Deal Book’s euphemism for Jobs’ crimes that he committed in order to make the already spectacularly wealthy CEO even wealthier – at the direct expense of his employees. And, this being Deal Book, and James Stewart being what Stewart has descended to, we have the inevitable claim that Jobs was a “genius” at crime. But it turns out that if you consider the facts reported; he wasn’t a genius. His violations of anti-trust law were obvious crimes. Instead, his key characteristic was the one we always emphasize is critical about the most fraudulent CEOs – audacity. Jobs had gotten away with committing so many crimes that he came to believe he was immune from prosecution.