Rob Larson

The Odds That the Beer You Drink Is Actually 'Craft' Are Getting Smaller and Smaller Each Year

When major beer label Budweiser announced they would rename their product “America” through the 2016 U.S. election, it raised droll hackles from a variety of observers. George Will suggested in the conservative National Review that the beer was less than fully American because it was produced by a foreign-owned firm, an irony also observed in the more liberal Washington Post. John Oliver’s HBO staff did what most US media did in 2016, and took the opportunity to give more TV time to the Trump campaign, in this case to mock Trump’s taking credit for the name change. Most commenters counted themselves clever for being aware the Bud label is foreign-owned, but all of them missed the real point: It’s not that “America” is foreign-owned, but that it’s owned by a brand-new global semi-monopoly that perfectly represents the power-mongering of neoliberal capitalism.

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Frackonomics: Why the Economics of the Gas Boom Doesn't Add Up

Between 1868 and 1969, Cleveland’s Cuyahoga river caught fire at least ten times, including one blaze that reached the Standard Oil refinery where storage tanks detonated. Ultimately, the seemingly impossible and unnatural phenomenon of burning water came to represent the dangers of unregulated industrial development and generated popular support for the environmental laws of the 1970s, including the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Today the unsettling sight of burning water has returned, from a new industry that is exempt from both these laws. In homes near installations using the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the tap water has been known to ignite with the touch of a lighter. The industry is relatively new, so the scientific literature yields only tentative results and provisional research conclusions. But the early research suggests fracking has serious negative consequences for public health and local ecology, from flaming tap water to toxic chemicals to ground tremors. Industry spokesmen insist that the negative side-effects of fracking are insignificant. But there’s one positive side-effect everyone should be able to agree upon: fracking is an ideal vehicle for explaining key economic concepts of market failure and market power, including externalities, asymmetrical information, and regulatory capture, along with brand-new ones, like science capture. Let’s start with the firewater.

Liar Liar, Taps on Fire

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5 Scandalous Reasons Big Finance Is Trying Hard to Keep a Low Profile

Few news outlets are more sympathetic to the financial services industry than the Wall Street Journal. So it’s interesting when the paper reports from London that “antibanking sentiment here is still off the charts,” leaving the industry “gun shy about flaunting wealth.” That was also true at the Olympics, even though “The games are typically one of the biggest corporate schmoozefests on the calendar.” This is part of what the Journal calls “a wave of banker austerity,” with executives skipping the usual “hired black sedan” and champagne, and even resorting to putting up important clients in mere three- or four-star hotels. Overall, “The City of London’s high-rolling banking industry is rolling as low as possible,” in order to “avoid displays of wealth that will further inflame an already angry public.”

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Clinton Foundation Fueled By Blood Money

When President-elect Barack Obama nominated Hillary Rodham Clinton for secretary of state, the Clintons agreed to release the donor lists of the Clinton Foundation, the global charity created by former President Bill Clinton. The Clintons agreed to air their dirty laundry in a deal with the new Obama administration, as Secretary Clinton tries to clean up the smoldering diplomatic wreckage of the Bush years.

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Why Big Finance Is Laughing All the Way to the Bank

The country's financial markets have collapsed, as they tend to do when left without adult supervision, and they're taking our economy with them. With the large banks refusing to make loans after losing billions on worthless subprime derivatives, the government stepped in and agreed to October's financial bailout package.

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