Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Tepper’

Lots and lots of people seem to have opinions on “capitalism” these days. I think that’s a positive because I think there are some things that warrant discussion. The problem is that many who have rose to prominence right now, especially on the political left, have not a clue what they’re talking about and probably haven’t read anything that ever challenges their small minded understanding of what capitalism is, or could be. You even see it with some on the political right which I often find a lot disconcerting.

The reality is, we have nothing right now that even remotely resembles “laissez-faire capitalism.” The market is not free. Price discovery is on life support in many industries. Capitalism hasn’t failed, hell we barely have it in this country right now.

There’s a new book out by Jonathan Tepper called The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition. Tepper is a Rhodes scholar, and off the charts brilliant.

I’m yet to read the book, but I’ve read a couple of other books by the author. Tepper has been all over much of the financial media I follow, and I’ve heard him interviewed a couple times. He makes a compelling argument, but I’m concerned what solutions he may propose. I need to read the book to establish a better understanding and opinion.

Here’s the summary of the book:

The Myth of Capitalism tells the story of how America has gone from an open, competitive marketplace to an economy where a few very powerful companies dominate key industries that affect our daily lives. Digital monopolies like Google, Facebook and Amazon act as gatekeepers to the digital world. Amazon is capturing almost all online shopping dollars. We have the illusion of choice, but for most critical decisions, we have only one or two companies, when it comes to high speed Internet, health insurance, medical care, mortgage title insurance, social networks, Internet searches, or even consumer goods like toothpaste. Every day, the average American transfers a little of their pay check to monopolists and oligopolists. The solution is vigorous anti-trust enforcement to return America to a period where competition created higher economic growth, more jobs, higher wages and a level playing field for all. The Myth of Capitalism is the story of industrial concentration, but it matters to everyone, because the stakes could not be higher. It tackles the big questions of: why is the US becoming a more unequal society, why is economic growth anemic despite trillions of dollars of federal debt and money printing, why the number of start-ups has declined, and why are workers losing out.

I’ve mentioned John Mauldin multiple times in my writing. He’s probably my favorite financial writer, and one of the smartest people I’ve ever read. (Tepper has co-written two of Mauldin’s books). His weekly Thoughs From the Frontline is alwas a must read for me. I don’t think I’ve missed one in over five years now.

The Soviet Union’s collapse and spread of semi-free markets through Eastern Europe seemingly ended the socialism vs. capitalism argument. Capitalism had won. Collectivist economies everywhere began turning free. Even communist China adopted a form of free market capitalism although, as they say, with “Chinese characteristics.”

The fruits of capitalism: millions of people freed from abject poverty and a few who got rich indeed. Nor is this a recent phenomenon. Capitalism in the last three centuries, with all its faults and problems, with all its contradictions, generated the greatest accumulation of wealth in human history. From a few hundred years ago when the vast majority of the people of the world lived below the poverty line, barely above subsistence levels, today we have less than 10% doing so and that number is shrinking every year.

Yet now, perhaps because this prosperity is so easily taken for granted, some on the left are again embracing socialist ideas and irrationally high tax rates. What drives this thinking? One problem is “capitalism,” in practice, does indeed provide many points for justifiable criticism. It is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, the worst of all systems, except for everything else.

Today’s capitalism has a contradiction that is increasingly hard to ignore: lack of competition in key markets. That’s a problem because competition incentivizes producers to get more efficient and reduce prices for consumers. Without competition, you end up with bloated monopolies that may be highly profitable for the owners, but don’t serve the greater cause of economic growth.

My good friend Jonathan Tepper, with whom I wrote Code Red and Endgame, has an excellent new book on this: The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition. He and co-author Denise Hearn explain why this is a serious problem with world-shaking consequences. I highly recommend the book and today I want to give you a brief taste of it, plus a few more thoughts afterward.