Bain Capital is a product of the Great Deformation by David Stockman
Except Mitt Romney was not a businessman; he was a master financial speculator who bought, sold, flipped, and stripped businesses. He did not build enterprises the old-fashioned way—out of inspiration, perspiration, and a long slog in the free market fostering a new product, service, or process of production. Instead, he spent his 15 years raising debt in prodigious amounts on Wall Street so that Bain could purchase the pots and pans and castoffs of corporate America, leverage them to the hilt, gussy them up as reborn “roll-ups,” and then deliver them back to Wall Street for resale—the faster the better.
That is the modus operandi of the leveraged-buyout business, and in an honest free-market economy, there wouldn’t be much scope for it because it creates little of economic value. But we have a rigged system—a regime of crony capitalism—where the tax code heavily favors debt and capital gains, and the central bank purposefully enables rampant speculation by propping up the price of financial assets and battering down the cost of leveraged finance.
So the vast outpouring of LBOs in recent decades has been the consequence of bad policy, not the product of capitalist enterprise.
I abhor the subsidies provided to those that saddle corporations (that build up value through decades of hard work by employees) with huge debt. The actions of leveraged by out firms are atrocious. They seek to pretend that business is once again the land of the amoral behavior, as the robber barron’s sought to convince society of long ago. Those that saddle corporations (that have an obligation to those that built them up) with huge debt are despicable.
Those same despicable people then take huge amounts of cash (for themselves) from the debt they saddled the corporation with.
Quite a few smart people have figured out how to pay congress to allow those smart people to take huge profits out of businesses. By being smart enough to have congress create laws to allow their behavior they can say it was just doing what the law allowed. When you conspire with the authorities to create a system to drain cash from legitimate businesses into your pocket you can claim you are acting legally (if you do so by having them change the law, instead of having them just ignore the existing laws). But what is being done (for decades by both parties) by those we continue to elect to allow this behavior shows just how corrupt the system is.
It is sad we allow those politicians who payoff those that give them large amount of cash, at the expense of our society, to remain in office. But we don’t even discuss the issues in any significant sense. Those using this cronyism and corruption know they are continuing to be given the open door to continue their very destructive ways. These are smart people. They know how to use public apathy and rhetoric to keep from discussing the important issues. It is going to take us to stop the corrupting cronyism that has taken over our political parties.
Related: Too Much Leverage Killed Mervyns – Failed Executives Use Leverage to Increase Their Pay, Let Others Bailouts Later – Executives Treating Corporate Treasuries as Their Money, A Sad State of Affairs – CEOs Plundering Corporate Coffers – Leverage, Complex Deals and Mania – Looting: Bankruptcy for Profit
I have donated more to Tricke Up than any other charity for about 20 years now. There is a great deal of hardship in the world. It can seem like what you do doesn’t make a big dent in the hardship. But effective help makes a huge difference to those involved.
My personality is to think systemically. To help put a band aid on the current visible issue just doesn’t excite me. Lots of people are most excited to help whoever happens to be in their view right now. I care much more about creating systems that will produce benefits over and over into the future. This view is very helpful for an investor.
Trickle Up invests in helping people create better lives for themselves. It provides some assistance and “teaches people to fish” rather than just giving them some fish to help them today.
The stories in this video show examples of the largest potential for entrepreneurship. While creating a few huge visible successes (like Google, Apple…) is exciting the benefits of hundreds of millions of people having small financial success (compared to others) but hugely personally transforming success is more important. Capitalism is visible in these successes. What people often think of as capitalism (Wall Street) has much more resonance with royalty based economic systems than free market (free of market dominating anti-competitive and anti-market behavior) capitalism.
I am frustrated that we have largely allowed those that don’t believe in capitalism to claim their beliefs are capitalist. I believe capitalism is the best system to provide economic gain to human society. When we allow non-capitalist to claim their ideas are capitalist we often lose by allowing bad policies to be adopted and failing to adopt more capitalist ideas.
Robber barons and their ilk are not capitalists. Those attacked today as capitalists are much more like European nobility that fought to let the nobility take most of the economic profit from everyone else.
Capitalism is a wonderful thing.
The foolish economic policies the politicians we have elected over and over again for decades are idiotic and not capitalist (they are somewhat capitalist but the things people are complaining about are not capitalism but the corruption of the system by those subverting capitalism). They are the result of favoring cronyism and bribery over capitalist regulated markets.
What we need to do is not throw out the capitalists. We need to actually throw out those that say their cronyistic policies are capitalist.
Capitalism is an economic system designed to achieve economic gain for a society. Adam Smith (and others) understood that if those with power to destroy the functioning of markets (for personal gain) were allowed to do so then the benefits capitalism can produce are reduced. And they definitely would try to (according to the believes fundamental to the capitalist model) so a capitalist system has to account for that.
“Free” markets are good. But in capitalism “free” markets means markets where no entity has “market” power – that is the ability to move the market. This is the idea of perfect competition. In the real world this doesn’t happen but capitalist understand the weakness of unfree markets and that has to be dealt with. Things start to get messy here. There is no perfect way to do this and I don’t know of anyone (that I don’t think is naive) that thinks this can be done in some way that avoid economic friction (loss to the society from what is possible in some ideal state).
Now those that like cronyism and letting whoever has the clout do whatever they want have tried to say capitalism means doing whatever you want to get as much capital as you want. It doesn’t. Capitalism isn’t about letting whoever has the gold get more. It is an economic system to provide gain to society by setting up rules that result in market forces brining benefit to society.
Those thinking about setting up the rules for a capitalist system understood that many people are going to try and get away with taking what isn’t theirs. So you have to enforce the rule of law. You have to prevent those that seek to destroy markets and take personal gains they should not be able to (due to being allowed to collude with other market players, collude with politicians to gain political concessions that destroy market functions…).
I happen to believe capitalism is the best economic system we have by far.
I happen to believe those that have increasingly turned out system into one where croynism is destroying markets to give gains to a few parties dominates are creating great damage. But the problem is not that these people show capitalism is bad. Instead these people show the dangers of not putting in the effort to retain capitalist ideas: your economy suffers and people suffer.
There is a great deal focus recently on the “99%” (via occupy wall street and the like). The truth is these are mainly about the 5% or 10% (those rich, but not quite as rich as the richest 1% – and much further from the richest than they were a few decades ago). As I have written before, most of those in the USA (also Europe, Japan…) are rich (though this is changing, a greater percentage of the USA is not rich, looking globally, than maybe any point since the 1930s).
We get confused because many near us are even richer and think that means the rest of us are very poor. But those in the USA are often in the 5% or 10% – not the 30% or 60% or 90% they seem to think they are. $50,000 in annual income puts you in the top 1% globally. $25,000 puts you in the top 10%.
I agree with the desire to reduce the political and market corruption, as I have written for years.
For the 99% (or the 90% anyway), I really think the best things are government policies that reduce corruption and increase market forces. Letting actually capitalism work instead of political and corporate cronyism failing to let markets work as they should. Also giving education and the chance to build a better life for yourself are important. Thankfully many countries have been doing very well on this front: Singapore, Korea, Brazil, Ghana, China… That doesn’t mean there are not huge issues to still address for most of the 90%, there are.
Microfinance in general, and Kiva in particular, are one great way to help. Again it isn’t perfect. And those getting the loans are not given an easy life. They are given a chance to try and build there business to improve there economic condition. This isn’t a certain success. And I do worry that taking on too high an interest rate, or loan amount, can leave people worse off than before. But when looking at the system of microfinance I really like the opportunity it gives people, who haven’t been given many.
Those getting loans have to make smart personal finance and business decisions. If they do well they can greatly improve their financial situation. I made several more loans today, using money repaid by previous borrowers. I try to find loans where I am able to help fund a investment that will improve capacity (but that isn’t always possible) – a new machine that makes them more efficient for example. I also try to avoid loans where the interest rate is over 30% (which might seem very high, but rates below 20% are very rare given the economics of these loans – they are very costly to service). What Kiva does is provide the funds people like me lend as interest free loans to the partner banks. The idea is that this allows partner banks to provide more capital for loans (obviously) and at a lower rate because the bank isn’t having to pay interest on the funds.
My loans today went to: Mali, Honduras, Senegal, Ecuador, Togo, Philippines and in the photo above El Salvador. The Curious Cat Kivans group has now lent $12,925 in 320 loans. We now have 11 members, join up and help give people an opportunity to improve their economic condition.
Many talking heads and politicians try to sell their policies of allowing large market players to take profits by prevent markets from functioning properly as capitalist. They are not. Unless liaise-fare capitalism throws out the primacy of free markets being used to aid society by allocating economic resources efficiently it isn’t either. If it does, using the word capitalism is just obfuscation, because it isn’t capitalist.
Crony capitalism is a better phrase for what we have been practicing. Though using the word capitalism is misleading. Even better would be politically supported corporate cronyism. We have elected those that pursue this anti-market approach. And we watch them in great numbers on TV based on what is supposedly popular. But I really hope we can turn away the claims of capitalism somehow being consistent with the crazy things people have done.
Pushing a political desire that anti-government and calling it capitalism doesn’t make it so. Capitalism at the core is about a system that allows markets to efficiently allocate resources to provide the greatest societal good. It is based on markets working. Capitalists know market players will try to prevent markets from working to gain themselves. To support capitalism you need to design systems that deal with this weakness otherwise you are not talking about capitalism you are talking about something else. Something that where anti-market forces which undermine the basis for why capitalism is a useful method for societies to gain economically is subverted to a desire to support those that can buy political power.
I have written about this some, as I care about it: Economic Consequences Flow from Failing to Follow Real Capitalist Model and Living Beyond Our Means – A Free Market is not One with Monopolies and Oligopolies – Mis-representing Capitalism
It is very simple. Adam Smith understood it and commented on it. If you allow businesses to have control of the market they will take benefits they don’t deserve at the expense of society. And many business will seek every opportunity to collude with other businesses to stop the free market from reducing their profits and instead instituting anti-competitive practices. Unless you stop this you don’t get the benefits of free market capitalism. Free markets (where perfect competition exists, meaning no player can control the market) distribute the gains to society by allowing those that provide services in an open market efficiently and effectively to profit.
Those that conflate freedom in every form and free markets don’t understand that free markets are a tool to and end (economic well being for a society) not a good in and of themselves. Politically many of these people just believe in everyone having freedom to do whatever they want. Promoting that political viewpoint is fine.
When we allow them to discredit free market capitalism by equating anti-market policies as being free market capitalism we risk losing a great benefit to society. People, see the policies that encourage allowing a few to collude and take “monopoly rents” and to disrupt markets, and to have politicians create strong special interest policies at the expense of society are bad (pretty much anyone, conservative liberal, anything other than those not interested in economics see this).
When people get the message that collusion, anti-competitive markets, political special interest driven policies… are what free market capitalism is we risk losing even more of the benefits free markets provide (than we are losing now). That so few seem to care about the benefit capitalism can provide that they willingly (I suppose some are so foolish they don’t understand, but that can’t be the majority) sacrifice capitalism to pay off political backers by supporting anti-market policies.
Allowing businesses to buy off politicians (and large swaths of the “news media” talking heads that spout illogical nonsense) to give them the right to tap monopoly profits based on un-free markets (where they use market power to extract monopoly rents) is extremely foolish. Yet the USA has allowed this to go on for decades (well really a lot longer – it is basically just a modification of the trust busting that Teddy Roosevelt tried). It is becoming more of an issue because we are allowing more of the gains to be driven by anti-competitive forces (than at least since the boom trust times) and we just don’t have nearly as much loot to allow so much pilfering and still have plenty left over to please most people.
I am amazed and disgusted that we have, for at least a decade or two, allowed talking head to claim capitalist and market support for their special interest anti-market policies. It is an indictment of our educational system that such foolish commentary is popular.
This is exactly the type of behavior supported by the actions of the politicians you elect (if you live in the USA).
It is ludicrous that we provide extremely anti-market policies to help huge companies extract monopoly profits on public resources such as the spectrum of the airwaves. It is an obvious natural monopoly. It obviously should be managed as one. Several bandwidth providers provide bandwidth and charge a regulated rate. And let those using it do as they wish. Don’t allowing ludicrous fees extracted by anti-free-market forces such as those supporting such companies behavior at Verizon, AT&T…
Related: Financial Transactions Tax to Pay Off Wall Street Welfare Debt – Extremely Poor Broadband for the USA (brought to us by the same bought and paid for political and commentary class) – Ignorance of Capitalism – Monopolies and Oligopolies do not a Free Market Make
The current frustration with economic conditions in the USA and Europe has at its core two main elements. First the anti-capitalist concentration of power in a few monopolistic and oligopolistic corporations (along with the support and encouragement of governments and the governments failure to regulate markets to encourage capitalist practices). And second the consequences of living beyond our means finally becoming much more challenging.
What we have had has been very questionably capitalist. The largest reason for this “questionable” nature is not related to labor but instead to the inordinate power given to a limited number of large corporations. The corporations are suppose to not have “market power” in real capitalism. They have huge and growing market power. To me the main problem is that power disruption to the functioning of capitalist free markets.
There is also the problem that we have been living far beyond our means. This has nothing to do with capitalism or not capitalism. It is as simple as you produce 100 units of goods and use 110 that can’t continue forever. The USA started building a surplus in the 1940′s, I imagine Europe did in the 1950′s. Since about the 1980′s both areas have been living far beyond their means. While they were consuming what they saved over the previous decades it wasn’t so bad. While they mortgaged their future to live lavishly today that was worse. We continue to live beyond our means and are beginning to see some consequences but we haven’t come close to accepting the lavish lifestyles we enjoyed (while Europe and the USA lived off past gains and off very advantageous trade with the rest of the world) is not possible any longer. We can’t just have everyone in Europe and the USA live exceeding well and the rest of the world support us. Eventually we have to realize this (or in any event we will experience it, even if we don’t realize it).
Those 2 factors need to be addressed for our economic future to be as bright as it should be.
The USA has extremely poor broadband service (compared to other rich countries). It is slow and expensive. Those that support economic policies more in line with the USA than other nations have a great deal of explaining to do about why the options are so bad. It is similar to the broken health care system.
Those that support politicians leading to this state for broadband say they support “free markets.” In actuality, they support anti-competitive practices by extremely large companies (oligopolistic behavior). Free market theory (the original form) requires that no individual company can dictate to the market. You have free competition – no barrier to entry, no restraint on entry, customers can buy where they want… But the politicians we elect instead support policies and practices that restrain free trade and prohibit good solutions in order to benefit those that pay the politicians well. And then we vote for those politicians.
Those wanting the anti-competitive markets have won in our political system. The main thing I wish was clearer was that we stop pretending these people have some capitalist leaning. They are anti-capitalist. If they want to support the policies they do I wish they would be required by the voters to at least be honest. Unfortunately the voters elect them with their dis-honest representations. If the politicians were honest they would have a more difficult time being elected (because voters want to pretend they like capitalism even while voting for politicians that just seek to give special benefits to those that pay the politicians. And then the politicians claim to support markets, and business and consumers when really they just favor making anti-market legislation and regulation to favor their contributors. As long as we vote for people that claim to support capitalism but undermine it at every step to help their friends we do deserve to suffer. I just wish we could convince enough of our fellow citizens that flashy propaganda and repeating lies over and over isn’t the same as facts and truth.
Given the anti-competitive policies in the USA, if they have much success they will probably just be bought (or maybe as others suggest fought in other anti-competitive ways, but buyouts are normally easiest for actually strong competitor) to allow anti-competitive pricing and service to continue. The only real hope is someone with actual power sees it in their interest to fight against the entrenched interests. Google is the best hope I think. It isn’t that Google has nearly as much political power as those interests but they are smart and have the advantage of just having to expose the anti-competitive behavior and apply pressure.
The narrative the politicians and voters say they support is capitalism. But the reality is just those with the gold make the rules. But when this is made obvious and continually pressed by someone with power, clout, intelligence and political savvy it makes politicians and regulators hesitant to continue business as usual. Normally they just delay for a few months and then continue the corrupt practices. Google, plus others, plus lots of individual interest can fight that off – but it takes perseverance.
I read various things stating that the USA is behaving in socialist (or similar ways). And there are often attempts to state that what the writer desires is capitalism and what they don’t like is an attack on motherhood, apple pie and capitalism.
I’m not sure when or where those writers would say capitalism did exist. It is true we have corporations using their power (political power and market power [oligopolies, monopolies]) to serve their interests. This would not surprise Adam Smith at all, from the Wealth of Nations:
He knew that is what they would attempt to do and said they had to be regulated to allow capitalism to function (but many that say they want capitalism don’t want any regulation of the sort they don’t want). Some seem to agree that some regulation is needed but any regulation they don’t want is seen as “socialist” or “anti-capitalist” or… At least the Libertarians are very consistent about practically no regulation – I question that being capitalism, but at least I understand their position.
Maybe the amount of direct cash payments and sheer amount of not very indirect subsidies (free money from the Fed, huge government contracts to political friends, tax breaks for big contributors [hedge fund managers, corporations using offshore tax havens...], quotas to aid political contributors) have been very high recently. But those changes are more a matter of degree than a qualitative change from the few years before that and few year before that and so on.
I am not sure if people are thinking back to the days when we had large trusts as “capitalism”? Some people equate “capitalism” with essentially no government (no FDA, no SEC, no DoD, no FDIC, no EPA…) – so then maybe the wild west or Afghanistan today is capitalism. I don’t. I would say that we have been become less interested in maintaining a free market (allowing oligopolies and monopolies to exist and distort markets) and an excessive amount of letting those with gold pay politicians to get special deals lately (the last 20-30 years). But it is really just a matter of being worse in those areas not some huge qualitative change.
We broke up trusts for awhile but lately have been supporting those with lots of clout using the clout to prevent competition.
Of course perfect competition is not really reasonable to expect in many markets in the real world. But the aim of shooting toward open and competitive markets is just not something we seem to have paid much attention to for decades. I’m not sure when we did. And paying attention to sensible things like externalities is still very weak. Even in the trust busting era the actions (to move toward a more capitalist economy where markets could function more freely) were fought by many. And while the efforts made a huge difference, it isn’t as though they went to anything close to perfect competition.
Countries like Hong Kong (questionably a “country”) and Singapore do lots of things that are nice capitalistic practices. But they have plenty of practices that are not very capitalistic. I’m not really sure what paragons of Capitalism those that appose regulating markets suggest as better models than the USA. Perhaps they believe the USA is the most capitalistic but it is still not capitalistic enough. A perfectly reasonable positions, I would think, but I am not sure if that is their belief or not.
I made 6 more loans to entrepreneurs through Kiva today, including the 2 mentioned below. I have now made 227 loans through Kiva.
Christopher Kibubi Wahinya (in photo), Nairobi, Kenya, buys old computers, which he repairs and sells to the local people. He has been in this kind of business for the last four years and he says that the business is profitable. He is using his loan of Kes 50,000 to purchase old computers, repair them and sell to the local people. He plans to grow his business by moving to the ground floor of a busy building where he will stock all computer accessories and later own a computer showroom.
Carlos Alberto Pereira Granados is 43 years old and resides in the town of Cojutepeque, El Salvador. He has a workshop where he repairs sewing machines and sells all types of related parts. His business is located at the municipal market. Carlos Alberto works Monday through Sunday repairing the machines of his customers. He is requesting a loan so that he can buy sewing machines wholesale as well as parts such as bobbins, belts, hooks, and other items so that he has everything required to perform his work and attract more customers.
Kiva is a great way to support entrepreneurs. I try to focus on loans I think will benefit the borrower and grow the economy (not always easy). One of the things I try to watch is the “portfolio yield” (which is similar to Annual Percentage Rate) – the lower the better. Some banking Kiva partners are charities or partially funded by charities and therefore can 1) fund some of the administrative expenses of the bank and 2) are focused on helping the customers not making a profit. I would rather have my money used where it most helps entrapranuers so the lower the rate the better.
I encourage you to join me: let me know if you contribute to Kiva and I will add your Kiva page to our list of Curious Cat Kivans. Also join the Curious Cats Kiva Lending Team (the team has now lent over $7,500).