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Before winning this year’s World Cup championship, Germany faced a dilemma during its qualifying match against the United States. Both teams could ensure their advancement in the tournament by colluding to do nothing. If they tied, both would advance. If one of them won, the other might not advance. However, neither could ensure that the other would cooperate. And as a result, they were both forced to compete.

This situation, known a “prisoner’s dilemma,” is one that manifests itself in all sorts of situations, frombusiness to politics to World Cup qualifying games.

It also helps explain where we find ourselves with the Export-Import Bank,or “Ex-Im,” a federal agency tasked with subsidizing U.S. exports. The bank’s charter is set to expire in a few months, and some are making the case that it should be reauthorized to help U.S. manufacturers “compete internationally” by“leveling the playing field.” This is simply another prisoner’s dilemma playing out in the real world.

That is my latest, coauthored with Chris Koopman, at US News.

This July marks the 100-year anniversary of the American Jitney. An early incarnation of Uber and Lyft, it was an enormously popular service that was at one point found in 175 U.S. cities. Haven’t heard of it? That’s because most major cities quickly regulated it out of existence.

My colleague, Michael Farren, and I explore the short life and death of the American jitney in tomorrow’s LA Times.

With the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission recently issuing cease-and-desist letters to ride-share services Lyft and Uber, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto invoked the Age of Reptiles to describe the decision:

“Technologies like ride-sharing evolve with the times and state regulators must, too,” said Mayor Peduto in a prepared statement. “While the commission may wish for Pennsylvania to cling to a Jurassic Age of transportation options, people in Pittsburgh and other communities know our state must adapt or die in the global marketplace.”

That is Christopher Koopman and me, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Click here to read the rest.

Advocates of corporate welfare often claim that when governments privilege a handful of firms, the rest of the economy somehow benefits. This is how the Bush Administration sold the bank bailouts. It’s how the current Administration sold the auto bailouts. And it’s how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is trying to sell the Export-Import Bank.

Mounting evidence, however, suggests the opposite is true: economies whose firms sink or swim based on political patronage grow slower and are less stable than those in which firm success depends on an ability to meet the market test.

That’s me, writing at Real Clear Markets. I’ve always thought that if there were any justice in the English language, “trickle-down economics” would not refer to general tax cuts, but would instead refer to any scheme to privilege particular firms or industries in hopes that their greater prosperity will somehow trickle down to the rest of the economy. I was glad that the editor took my suggestion for the title. Click here to read more.

Some private sector pensions also face funding trouble

July 2, 2014

A new report by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp (PBGC) warns that while the market recovery has helped many multiemployer pension plans improve their funding there remain some plans that,”will not be able to raise contributions or reduce benefits sufficiently to avoid insolvency,” affecting between 1 and 1.5 million of ten million enrollees. Multiemployer plans are […]

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Delaware Senate votes to bail out three casinos

June 26, 2014

Delaware’s state senate has voted to redirect $10 billion in economic development funding to bail out three gambling casinos. The measure now goes to the House. Two reasons the casinos are failing: increased competition from Maryland and Pennsylvania and having to share a large chuck of revenue with the state. Lawmakers admit the bailout is only a […]

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What to do when technology outpaces the law?

June 17, 2014

The recent cease-and-desist letters from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to taxi alternatives Uber Technologies and Lyft remind me of my first trip to D.C. in 1997. An awkward high school junior traveling alone, I landed at National Airport, followed the signs and hopped into a filthy Virginia-sanctioned taxicab. The heavy stench of stale […]

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The barriers to brewing

June 16, 2014

Recently, Evan Feinberg of Generation Opportunity described some of the barriers craft brewers face. In one instance, a brewer — who does not prepare any food — was told he had to install a hood for a food oven that he did not even own. Another brewer — who does not use poultry in his beer — […]

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Strong words from the SEC on Public Sector Pensions

June 3, 2014

As state and local governments begin to pull back the curtain on the true value of their pension liabilities with the implementation of GASB 68, Daniel Gallagher, Commissioner of the SEC issued an important statement last week, noting in plain terms that how governments measure their liabilities would have serious repercussions in the private sector. […]

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The first lesson in economics is a lesson in English

May 21, 2014

Professor Newton: Okay class. Today we are going to talk about my 3rd law. Imagine I am standing on a small, unmoored boat. I am about to step off on to a dock. What advice do you have for me?   Susie: Be careful. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. As you step […]

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