June 6, 2016

THEY’LL TURN US ALL INTO BEGGARS ‘CAUSE THEY’RE EASIER TO PLEASE: What’s Killing Jobs and Stalling the Economy: A toxic regulatory brew, from Dodd-Frank to state licensing laws, has poisoned the formation of new firms that drive growth.

When thinking about what has stymied the U.S. economy, I sometimes recall a biology lesson about the role that cell death plays in explaining embryonic development and normal growth of adult tissue. In economics, as far back as Joseph Schumpeter, or even Karl Marx, we have known that the flow of business deaths and births affects the dynamism and growth of a country’s economy. Business deaths unlock resources that can be allocated to more productive use and business formation can boost innovation and economic and social mobility.

For much of the nation’s history, this process of what Schumpeter called “creative destruction” has spread prosperity throughout the U.S. and the world. Over the past 30 years, however, with the exception of the mid-1980s and the 2002-05 period, this dynamism has been waning. There has been a steady decline in business formation while the rate of business deaths has been more or less constant. Business deaths outnumber births for the first time since measurement of these indicators began.

Equally troubling, the latest analysis of Census Bureau data by the Economic Innovation Group points to the increasing concentration of new business formation in a smaller number of U.S. counties. The findings show that 20 counties account for half of new businesses and that most counties had fewer business establishments in 2014 than in 2010. Even accounting for so-called dynamic counties, the total number of firms in the U.S. remains lower than it was in 2004.

As the Economic Innovation Group shows, the 1990 recovery registered a net increase of over 420,000 business establishments, or a 6.7% increase. The numbers for the 2000 recovery were 400,000 and 5.6%. Since 2010, the number of new business establishments has grown by only 166,000 or 2.3%.

It’s not an accident.

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