Turning to Despair

Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism
Anne Case and Angus Deaton

Joseph Heller once said the effect he was striving for in his second novel, Something Happened, was for the reader to feel like a piece of metal banged into a new shape by the repeated blows of a ball-peen hammer.

I don’t recall feeling that way after reading the novel, but the far more than 400 blows delivered in this book Continue reading

It’s Just a Theory

The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and
the Birth of the People’s Economy

Stephanie Kelton

The only social science that sees its contributions recognized with a Nobel Prize, is economics. So you can forgive the practitioners for mistaking their field of study with chemistry and physics.

If you pause for a moment, though, and consider that the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, is not, in fact, one of the prizes established by the inventor of TNT despite all the energy Continue reading

Having Fun Out Here on Panic Beach

Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity
Michael Lewis (ed.)

When is a story not a story? And when should an author, like children of yore, be seen and not heard? And when is modern insanity not terribly different from historical insanity?

I might answer those questions and I might not because I’m not entirely certain what to think about this book, which I selected to distract myself from this year’s Continue reading

Schizophrenic Egocentric Paranoiac Primadonna

A Beautiful Mind
Sylvia Nasar

Math can be maddening.

That’s one lesson you might draw from this biography of noted mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr. It might even seem of a piece, if you’ve read the biographies of any other major math figure, for instance, Georg Cantor, who has quite a story of his own.

I wonder, though, how many people really read such Continue reading

The Future’s so Bright

The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties
Paul Collier

Turn with me now to serious things.

For some, the sky is falling, what with talk of 70% marginal tax rates. For others, the glorious socialist future is only a moment away.

Some of us, who can remember when things seemed less anxious, may wonder why there are only two choices. Continue reading

Too Much Money in Too Few Places

Other People’s Money: The Real Business of Finance
John Kay

opm_kay“I’m just a banker, doing God’s work.”
Lloyd Blankfein, CEO, Goldman Sachs (11/2009)

“The culture of anonymous trading is divorced from economic context, devalues or eliminates personal relationships and fosters the self-aggrandising self.” (p. 269)
John Kay, 2015

American economists don’t make statements like the second  quote above. Doing so could be hazardous to their career health. Thankfully Dr. Kay is British and so is Continue reading

Light in the Darkness of Insanity

The Economic Consequences of the Peace
John Maynard Keynes

consequencesOnce I read a novel, by Camilo José Cela, that was published under the most wonderful imprint ever to appear on a spine: Lost Books of the 20th Century.  Judging by the number of extant editions, the present work is anything but lost even though I’m thinking of Continue reading

And Men Plunder

Plunder and Deceit: Big Government’s Exploitation of Young People and the Future
Mark R. Levin

plunderEver since I was a kid I’ve enjoyed getting a package in the mail. Paradoxically, the mystery contained in the big envelope or box remains even when I’ve place the order myself.

So when I found a Jiffy bag on my doorstep one day last fall I was intrigued. I hadn’t ordered anything. What could Continue reading

History Never Repeats

This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly
Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff

this_timeLong ago I took a class in economic history. It was taught in the history department, by visiting faculty not terribly well versed in economics.

Let me qualify that last  bit. Not terribly well versed in the quantitative, equation-driven neo-classical post-Samuleson economics most often taught in the Econ Continue reading

Food for the Thinkers

Young_A-TECHNIQUEA Technique for Producing Ideas
James Webb Young

Like everyone, okay, like many people I know, there are days when I doubt the choices I’ve made. I’m talking about the big choices and among the biggest is what I’ve chosen to do to earn my bread.

On the best of days–and oh how I wish there were more of those–I’m pretty certain I could have made another choice. But I’m also pretty certain that the Continue reading