Barry Lynn

Barry C. Lynn directs the Markets, Enterprise, and Resiliency Project at the New America Foundation. His most recent book is Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction (Wiley).

Recent Articles

Power Failure

Two new books on why nations gain and lose wealth and power miss the real story.

(Crown/Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Americans have never felt at ease with empire, and with good reason. Running an empire often demands that we betray our republican ideals, at least for periods of time. It can also be costly in gold and in blood. So it was no surprise that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the American people leapt at the opportunity to lay down the imperial burdens we had carried since World War II. Politicians in both parties assured us that we could off-load our responsibilities onto a “global” market mechanism, overseen by a new institution created in 1995 called the World Trade Organization (WTO). Many if not most of us said, “Good riddance.” The September 11 attacks soon reminded us that it wasn’t possible simply to lay down our arms. What we failed to grasp then or since was that our Cold War–era hegemony had not been based solely on military force but also on our ability to manipulate a complex cross-border industrial system built with care over decades...

Why Economists Can't See the Economy

"The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to avoid being deceived by economists." -- Joan Robinson, Cambridge University On page one of The Wealth of Nations , Adam Smith illustrates the central principle of his economics with an example taken from, in his words, a "very trifling manufacture": the making of pins. Smith goes to some effort to describe the process. "One man draws out the wire," he writes, "another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head." In all, Smith counts 18 different "operations," then estimates that such specialization boosts productivity at least 240 times over what the same number of men, each working alone, could accomplish. Smith's pin factory has served economists ever since as an organizing vision of what economics should work toward. "Specialization is wealth" is the idea that, to greater or lesser degree, orders the thinking...