Tracing consequences both seen and unseen.
John W. PayneIn Government, Every Day Is Opposite Day
Posted at 12:24 am on July 30, 2010, by John W. Payne

There is a brief but important article in Wired on how regulations designed to protect small investors have made it impossible for them to seek out attractive investments in non-public companies, and it’s worth quoting extensively:

Here’s a hot stock tip: Buy Facebook. Sure, the company’s valuation has bounced around over the past six years, but now it’s believed to be around $20 billion and likely to keep climbing. If you buy a chunk of Facebook and flip your shares in a few years, you could make millions.

Oh, but wait: You can’t. Facebook isn’t a public company. The only people who can invest in it already are millionaires.

The hot IPO market of the 1990s, which allowed Regular Joes to buy stock in new companies, has been replaced by a rich insider’s club that trades in pre-IPO equity sales. The middle-class folks who daytraded their way through the dotcom boom are now locked out. And that’s a problem. The current government regulations just make the rich richer, and they block alternative avenues of investment at a moment when funding is hard to find. It’s time to change the rules.

Here’s how the current system works: Even though no IPO is in sight, a company can still give contractors, advisers, and employees equity to keep them fat, happy, and working. But SEC rules limit the number of shareholders to 500. To get around this, talent can be granted something called restricted stock units, which they can get without being official shareholders. Then the contractors, consultants, and employees who leave the company can sell their vested stakes privately in what’s called a secondary market. “We have seen explosive growth in the private market across dozens of different companies,” says Barry Silbert, CEO of SecondMarket. “We are on track to do $500 million in private-company transactions this year.”

But the Securities and Exchange Commission doesn’t let just anyone buy shares in a corporation that hasn’t gone public. Pre-IPO sales are limited to “accredited investors,” people with a demonstrated net worth of $1 million or a yearly income of $200,000. It’s been that way since 1982, when Rule 501 of Regulation D of the Securities Act went into effect. The measure was intended to protect less-informed investors—widows and orphans, in Wall Street parlance—from gambling away their savings. So who has bought pre-IPO Facebook stock? A reported 10 percent of the company went to the Russian investment group Digital Sky Technologies, whose backers include one of that country’s richest oligarchs. In other words, the extremely wealthy.

I get very tired of saying this, but it will never cease to be true, so I will keep at it: the government is the primary tool by which the rich and powerful preserve their riches and power, and whenever a law is passed for the purpose of helping the weakest in society, it will be manipulated to the advantage of the strongest. These problems are systemic and intractable because the powerful have the time and money to invest in keeping their stranglehold on the political system. No matter if they are monarchial, communistic, or democratic, governments all prop up some set of oligarchs.

Link via Hit and Run.


Filed under: Regulation, Unintended Consequences
Comments: None
 

David M. BrownThe lesson designed: An example of the new national conformity educational standard
Posted at 9:20 pm on July 22, 2010, by David M. Brown

From the Times report on how many of the states, bribed, are embracing “National Standards for Schools” (maybe):

The common core standards, two years in the making and first released in draft form in March, are an effort to replace the current hodgepodge of state policies.

They lay out detailed expectations of skills that students should have at each grade level. Second graders, for example, should be able to read two-syllable words with long vowels, while fifth graders should be able to add and subtract fractions with different denominators.

Two years in the making. The kids should learn to read and add and subtract. Also, by the ninth grade, I want them doing a précis of Chapter 11 of War and Peace.

Of course, no “national standards” are necessary, no timeline. It’s okay to have the hodgepodge. It’s okay if some kids learn some things faster or slower than other kids. It’s okay if some kids and some teachers and some parents and some schools and some towns and some states do things differently from and perhaps better than other kids, teachers, parents, schools, towns and states; better with respect to some grand timeless objective scale of Means and Content of Learning and Teaching or at least better with respect to their own individual goals, abilities and situations. A country of non-slaves doesn’t need to be and perhaps would not even enjoy being subjugated to any “national standards for schools” either so generic as to be meaningless or so specific and totalitarian as to be obliterative of competition, innovation, and independent-thinking alternative ways of fostering the mental skills and moral values needed to understand that coercively imposed “national standards for schools” is a fascistic egalitarian crock.


Filed under: Education, Nanny State
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Henry Hazlitt"[T]he whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups."
Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson
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