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My guest today is Karl Smith, he is the director of economic research at the Niskanen center.

Our topic for today will be market power. Karl has written a series of posts on the Niskanen center blog discussing markups and market power. The debate was sparked by a paper by Loecker and Eeckhout that claimed that average markups in the American economy had risen from 18 percent in 1980 to 67 percent today.

There are many different interpretations one might have for this data. What Karl points out is that these markups have mainly risen among smaller firms. Wal-Mart has very low markups, but niche specialty firms such as the local vegan café have relatively high markups. This makes sense in the context of monopolistic competition, where consumers pay a small premium in return for greater product differentiation.

Noah Smith had this response to Karl’s article:

“Robin Hanson and Karl Smith both have posts responding to De Loecker and Eeckhout’s paper and attacking the Market Power Story. Both give reasons why they think rising markups indicate monopolistic competition, rather than entry barriers. But both seem to forget that monopolistic competition causes deadweight loss. Just because it has the word ‘competition’ in it does NOT mean that monopolistic competition is efficient. It is not.”

As Tyler Cowen points out, this is not necessarily the case. What is inefficient in a partial equilibrium model may not be inefficient in a general equilibrium model.

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discussions

  • This will be a general discussion to share tips and tricks to survive conventional Keynesian Economics Lessons in university.

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  • Does this list have anything else that could be added to it? The goal is to have a checklist that could be used to check any article on the topic. I would guess most people on this site are aware that arbitrarily raising the cost of labor isn’t the best way to help workers.

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  • The “Tax Honesty” movement has demonstrated a few things to a lot of people.  To cover a lot with a few words, I’ll put it this way:  The IRS breaks its own rules in order to rob us through deceit. Some people (Irwin Schiff, for example) have suffered because they attempted to protect themselves from the rule-breakers.  There is now a theory popular among liberty-minded people that the government is too corrupt and powerful for anyone to succeed in an effort like Irwin Schiff’s.  There is also some good evidence showing this theory to be wrong.  It’s available at Peter Hendrickson’s website, losthorizons.com. I think that a lot of bureaucrats feel and believe that they are helping society.  This leaves them open to consider fixing situations in which their bureaucracy is breaking its own rules.  And let’s face it, there are some rules that can actually help liberty.  Perhaps the loads of evidence that Hendrickson has on his site can be explained by the presence of such “good-hearted” individuals in the bowels of the IRS. In any case, if you can, please entertain the possibility that the US Income Tax is not being administered honestly.  Consider that maybe, just maybe, in the gargantuan tangle of words called “Title 26,” the legal meaning of the law as it applies to most people is not coercive at all.  Maybe, if it were properly applied, the government would be a nuisance like neighbors who let their dogs poop on your lawn, instead of a nuisance like cancer in your lungs.  It could be true.  I think it is true, and I think that failing to follow all the twists and turns that Hendrickson uncovered to see for yourself that it is true kind of justifies you still being enslaved to a government that steals from you in order to cause havoc all over the planet in a massive deception that justifies its existence. If we want to honor the goodness in all people, including those who have been tricked into serving evil, we can do so by understanding the rules they think they should be following, and using them to protect ourselves from enslavement.

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  • Hello, I’ve become quite keen on Jeffrey Rogers Hummel views on inflation. https://fee.org/articles/governments-diminishing-benefits-from-inflation/ That governments don’t get as much cash money as they used to from Seigniorage(money printing)…becuase of some details of the modern banking system. Hummels view is that the US Gov is more likely to actually default on it’s bonds than print it’s way out of it’s financial problems as so many of us libertairans often predict. Any way…. how are people actually calculating the revenue states are getting from seigniorage? There is constant mention to specific statistics in his works on what revenue governments make from printing money…but how are economists attempting to calculate this so exactly? “Almost none of the developed countries could boast seigniorage amounting to more than 1 percent of GDP, despite the fact that the study incorporated the inflationary years of the 1970s. Joseph H. Haslag’s smaller sample of 67 countries over a longer period, 1965 to 1994, finds that seigniorage averaged about 2 percent of total output for the entire sample, ranging from as low as 0.25 percent to as high as 9.98 percent (for Ghana).” However, I’m not smart enough to figure out how this is being calculated? When I Google — I see Seignoarge defined as the cost to money vs what the money is worth. (if it costs 1cent to print a dollar bill than Seigorage is 99cents). Pennies have negative seigniorage — cost the Gov more to mint than 1 cent.) But for the point Hummel is making it seems like a more sophisticated calculation? How did people figure out that for example in WW2 seignorage was 6%? Perhaps this is rather obvious? Thanks! –Luke

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  • Donald Trump knows that raising the minimum wage puts people out of work, and he wants to use it for exactly that purpose. In a position paper (yes, Trump actually has position papers), he proposes raising the minimum wage for H-1B workers so that fewer of them will get jobs: Increase prevailing wage for H-1Bs. We graduate two times more Americans with STEM degrees each year than find STEM jobs, yet as much as two-thirds of entry-level hiring for IT jobs is accomplished through the H-1B program. More than half of H-1B visas are issued for the program’s lowest allowable wage level, and more than eighty percent for its bottom two. Raising the prevailing wage paid to H-1Bs will force companies to give these coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the U.S., instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas. This will improve the number of black, Hispanic and female workers in Silicon Valley who have been passed over in favor of the H-1B program. This is part of Trump’s hostility toward all foreigners; in the same paper, he repeats his intention to build a wall along the Mexican border and implies that immigrant workers are terrorists. The point here, though, is that he has enough business experience to recognize that a legal minimum wage which is higher than the market value of work doesn’t help people who are looking for jobs, but puts them out of work. He agrees with the “left” in wanting to raise minimum wages, but he not only admits but intends that it will put people out of work.

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