The Problem of Monopoly

The Problem of Monopoly

You are probably aware that one of the airlines will no longer serve food on flights. This is an outgrowth of the concentration of airlines as their numbers diminish. If you don’t have to compete; you don’t have to provide services or make your pricing competitive. Every American who uses air travel will face increasing fees and dismal service because in a monopoly you don’t have to do a good job or provide a decent service. You have to pay them anyway.

James Pilant

This is Edward Lotterman writing in the Pioneer Press

Increasing monopoly power can get you coming and going, especially at the airport. The decreased competition in air travel resulting from successive mergers among airlines has already increased air fares. Now a pending take-over of Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group by either Hertz or Avis promises to reduce competition once you are off the plane.

But these days, questions of monopoly power seem a dead issue in Congress and among the general public. Such apathy is true even in the face of growing concentration in banking and financial services, where just three banks now hold a third of all deposits and are making well over half of new mortgage loans. Teddy Roosevelt must be turning over in his grave.

Newspaper Ethics Roundup 6/30/10

Loren Steffy wonders if British Petroleum naming a drilling rig, Crazy Horse (not the smartest move), decided to misrepresent to the tribes in Colorado the amount of oil it was getting out of the ground.

Jon Talton explains how the loss of manufacturing jobs makes the recovery more difficult and may cause long term damage as our position as a manufacturer deteriorates as opposed to other powers such as China.

Keith Chrostowski writes about creative capitalism.

Jay Hancock discusses the importance in the electronics field of an excellent knowledgeable sales force (particularly if you fired the ones you had).

Edward Lotterman discusses “external costs” and “imperfect information.” These are important and basic economic concepts. He discusses them accurately, simply and in a straightforward manner. If you read any of these pieces, read this one.

David Moon explains scientific research into where in the brain investment decisions are made and why we like to agree with others.

Ethics Columnists Round Up 6/14/2010

Mitchell Schnurman writing for the Fort Worth Star Telegram discusses Radio Shack continued push for more incentives to stay in the Fort Worth area. Schnurman is upset about the whole matter and after you read the article I bet you get upset too. It’s a good two pages and most of it is spent discusses the great deals Radio Shack is already getting. This guy is fighting the good fight. I wish there were more people like him. Give ’em hell, Mitchell!

Loren Steffy has a picture of a crab sporting a new camo paint job courtesy of its friends at British Petroleum.

Steffy’s June 10th essay asks that interesting question, “Do the Chinese want to organize a takeover of BP?”

Jon Talton talks about the poorly performing stock market and asks his readers to vote on what they expect it to do. (It’s going down.)

Jay Hancock asks, “Why is anyone surprised that Moody’s downgraded Greek debt to junk status?” He’s right. The most casual reading of the newspaper would tell someone the country was in trouble. A tiny, little reading of the material disclosed Goldman Sachs’ involvement in the debt crisis. Haven’t you seen enough of Goldman Sachs to realize that all their clients are expected to be “sophisticated investors?” Doesn’t always work out, does it?

Edward Lotterman says what I have already known for a long time: the internet can be a reliable source of information. He recommends using official government reports and cross checking them with other government agencies. I consider it to be a matter of experience and judgment tempered by a willingness to keep on hunting until you are sure you have the answer, and if you can’t find a definitive answer, the willingness to explain where you found the data and that it may not be accurate. (I firmly believe that humility is seriously lacking in this culture.)

Newspaper Columnists I Follow

FThese are my current choices among newspaper columnists. There are going to be a lot of changes over time. It’s taking me a lot of reading to find authors who delve into ethics (which I believe includes reporting and explaining evil doing with a requisite level of outrage). Some that at first appear to be promising turn out to be less than level headed if read for a length of time. Each columnist, once discovered, is favorited to an intermediate category and only moved to my regular reading after a period of probation. I was writing one of my regular recommended authors when I pointed out that I seldom criticize and my writing tends to be very complimentary. So, I wanted him to know that I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings (there is little people are more sensitive about than their writing) and bad writing carries its own reward. If I find writing offensive, incompetent or crankish, it gets deleted from my favorites never to be seen again. I think that counts as criticism.

Mitchell Schnurman of the Fort Worth Star Telegram.
Loren Steffy of the Houston Chronicle (He has a Blog and a column.)
Jon Talton of the Seattle Times. His column is called, Sound Economy.
Keith Chrostowski of the Kansas City Star.
Jay Hancock of the Baltimore Sun. (He combines the occasional item related to ethics with consumer advocacy on consumer and sometimes very local issues, so he will only appear when I believe he is on point.)
Edward Lotterman writes for Twin Cities Pioneer Press.
David Moon writes for the Knoxville News.

Newspaper Columnists – Ethics Roundup 6-9-10

Loren Steffy (Houston Chronicle) asks the rhetorical question: “Should BP be paying its shareholders a dividend?”

Ben Bernanke predict a sort of, kind of, maybe, might be, probable recovery. (I’m overjoyed.) Jon Talton feels the same way. Discussing Bernanke’s testimony before Congress, Talton writing for the Seattle Times laments the paralysis and stupidity of our political class. He points out the easily discernable budget busters and then points out there is no one willing to deal with them.

Jay Hancock of the Baltimore Sun argues that increasing taxes on manufacturing makes no sense in the light of the enormous losses of those jobs in the Baltimore area over the last years.

Edward Lotterman writing for Pioneer Press argues that even with a good number of bank closings, there are many choices left for those seeking banking services. I’m a little surprised he didn’t discuss the ramifications of his state of Minnesota losing six banks this year.

Ethics Roundup – Sunday – June 6th, 2010

Could British Petroleum cease to exist? Check out this article from Minyanville.

Chris MacDonald in his June 5th blog entry discusses the play between rapidly developing technological complexity and regulatory science. MacDonald quotes from Kenneth Rogoff’s article, The BP Oil Spill’s Lessons for Regulators.

Chris MacDonald in a totally successful effort to keep my off balance has a new post on June 6th. Entitled Galarraga’s Corvette, MacDonald while admitting that everyone is entitled to an opinion points out that even though tax payer dollars are involved in the company’s continued operation that doesn’t mean every corporate action should be second guessed. He says managers are there to manage. I doubt that Chris MacDonald will be very surprised (or bothered) that I don’t always agree with him but he’s dead on this time. Nit picking day to day decisions is a waste of everybody’s time and the giveaway was a shrewd PR move. jp

Dani Rodrik writing in Project Syndicate, A World of Ideas, argues that the nation-state, globalization and democracy are all incompatible with each other and that at the most we can only have two of the three. It’s a thought provoking argument.

Gael O’Brien writing on her blog, The Week in Ethics, discusses the message of John Wooden. During his lifetime, Wooden created a “pyramid of success” comprised of fifteen elements. (The diagram is included in the article.)

Edward Lotterman writing in Twin Cities dot com discusses how salaries in different currencies vary, can be compared effectively and when they can’t be compared effectively. It’s a pretty piece of writing.

Jeffrey Seglin writing in his blog, The Right Thing, tells us that Panera Bread is opening a store where you pay what you believe is appropriate for their baked goods. The new store is opening in Clayton, Missouri. Seglin is interested in your opinion. I’d go to his site and let him know. (There was only one comment when I left.)

Rod Dreher writes that the BP spill is a rolling apocalypse.

Michael Hiltzik writing on the Los Angeles Times business page discusses online privacy. He is a champion of preserving the rights of the individual and when he talks people should listen. This is an issue of considerable importance to me.

Marian Wang writing in ProPublica reports that illnesses reported by the clean up workers on the gulf coast are caused by the oil and not by the host of other possibilities the oil company or the government will cook up.

Elizabeth Warren prophecies the coming collapse of the middle class.