Are we currently living in a new Gilded Age embodied by the multi-billionaires of the Forbes 400, with their excesses of utopian cities and space tourism? Inclusion on The Forbes 400 list for 2021 requires net worth of at least $2.9 billion. However, these data underestimate women’s achievements, and conceal an underlying pattern of increasing entrepreneurial opportunities, socioeconomic mobility, and philanthropy by “robber baronesses.”
Life on the Margin
History Matters for Economists
Usually reputable sources like the Guinness World Record claim that Madam C. J. Walker was the “first self-made millionairess” in the United States. However, Walker was not the first minority businesswoman who acquired enormous wealth. Numerous American Indians, Asians and black women have prospered through their own initiative and entrepreneurship, from the founding of the Republic.
In 1887, the Los Angeles Times declared, “This is an age not only of millionaires, but of millionairesses as well.” Wealthy women “worth their weight in gold” have existed from the beginning of American history, but these entrepreneurs have often remained invisible to scholarship and to financial history.
Any fan of Adam Smith believes in specialization and the division of labour, which implies the efficiency of “rational ignorance.” In keeping with this principle, I know a lot about economics, statistics, history and technology; but very little (okay, nothing) about physics, chemistry, and engineering. I am familiar with a slide rule and trigonometry, and […]
(Yet another) First Women’s Bank:- The First Women’s Bank, opened in 2021, claims to be the “nation’s first women-founded, women-owned, and women-led bank dedicated to closing the gender equity gap in access to capital.” But it is easy to demonstrate that the First Women’s Bank is far from first on each and all of these counts, and […]
Who was the first American woman patent lawyer? Novelty and priority in time are central to patent law, and it is especially apt to consider the pioneers who expanded diversity in the field. For those who think they know the answer to this question, this post will be surprising. She was Edith Julia Griswold (1863-1926); […]
Like millions of innovative individuals, MIRIAM E. BENJAMIN (1861-1947) was active in multiple inventive markets, as the patentee of two inventions, and assignee on another. However, an overlooked and unique contribution is that she was the first black woman who practiced as a patent attorney. Miriam E. Benjamin was born in South Carolina to a […]
Like China, Americans were notorious for cultural piracy and weak copyrights. The U.S. finally acknowledged international copyrights when the balance of trade in cultural goods shifted in their favour. Similarly, China today is strongly enforcing copyrights to protect its emerging global leadership in cultural creativity.
A few years ago, I rated on Netflix over 1000 movies with which I was familiar. The top 10 included (in no particular order): Bladerunner, Woman in the Dunes (Suna no onna), Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, A Bout de Souffle, Pan’s Labyrinth, Das Leben der Anderen, Casablanca, Metropolis, 2001: a Space Odyssey, Chinatown. (Lord of […]
Prof. Samuel P. Newman (appointment in Political Economy, 1824-1839). Samuel Phillips Newman and Bowdoin Economics In 1824, Bowdoin was the first American College to officially introduce a faculty position dedicated to instruction in Economics (or Political Economy, as it was then known). The University of Virginia in 1826, and Brown University in 1828, followed Bowdoin, […]
The breakup of Standard Oil Company in 1911 continues to be wielded as a bludgeon to threaten successful firms, and as a banner to encourage populists in their forays against free markets. Consider the recent Executive Order on Competition: When past presidents faced similar threats from growing corporate power, they took bold action. In the […]
Hostility to patents is associated with the notion that patents are monopolies that harm social welfare. Legal history and empirical evidence together demonstrate that this claim is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the economics of monopoly, and of property rights in patented inventions.
Covid-vaccine innovation has provided a miracle to all of society, making it possible for us to recover from a devastating pandemic in just a year. Vaccines have literally meant the difference between life and death. In response to the truly heroic efforts of these enterprises, the federal government has proposed to seize their property via […]