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


Boom Boom Boom Boom

Boom_CrashBeyond Boom and Crash
Robert Heilbroner

We live in the age of CNBC and the Fox Business Network. That might, if my grasp of history was a bit less shaky, lead me to wonder when someone was going to get around to saying,”Of course we do, America means business. ” But someone already did.

Today I’m reaching back to the mainstream of the recent past. That would be 35  to 40 years ago, just before we started down the current path, when things looked just a little Continue reading

When Bad Things Happen to Good Scholars

Plenitude: The Economics of True Wealth
Juliet B. Schor

Plenitude_FNL_cvrMaybe it’s an east coast thing.

The United States, unlike most countries in Europe (and maybe the world), has 3 capitals: the political one (DC), the financial one (NY) and the cultural one (split between NY for publishing, news and ‘high’ culture and LA for entertainment). Since the only one on the west coast focuses on a product for the masses I can imagine that a scholar there finds it easier to ignore.

If that supposition is correct then the east coast is the place where scholars risk being seduced by the bright lights of the ‘public intellectual’ industry. I think there must be an entire army of publishing and TV news functionaries who do nothing but troll campuses from Virgina to Continue reading

Timing is Everything

The Great Inflation and its Aftermath
Robert J. Samuelson

Talk about a period piece.

Robert J. Samuelson writes about economics for the Washington Post and, back when it was owned by the Post, he penned a column on the same subject for Newsweek. I first encountered him there and always found him a lucid explicator of whatever subject was at hand.  I didn’t always agree with him but in some ways his mandate is to explain the dismal science to the uninitiated. So he can hardly be faulted for explaining the status quo in positive terms.

Early in the present volume Samuelson describes himself as a slow writer. That’s an odd description for anyone with a 40-year career in journalism. But I wonder if it’s meant in an Einsteinian manner or was an on-press Continue reading

Politics and Markets: The Myth of the Rational Voter

The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies
Bryan Caplan

When Messner Vetere won the MCI business the trades reported that their pitch revolved around casting the long distance business as a daily election. Having spent some time as a consultant for AT&T I could buy that analogy as long as we’re talking about an election where votes can be bought. The efficacy of advertising aside, the game of getting people to switch is all about delivering a bribe and by the time I touched the business in the early 90s the Continue reading