Animal Spirits, by Akerlof and Shiller

Yale Prof. Robert Shiller, author of Irrational Exuberance (2000; 2005), predicted the 2008 financial collapse years before it happened. Last year, Shiller partnered with UC Berkeley Prof. George Akerlof to produce Animal Spirits–elaborating on the psychology that inspires “irrational exuberance” and other mass human behavior that affects the economy. . . . → Read More: Animal Spirits, by Akerlof and Shiller

Beauty and Profit: The Evolution of Beauty (2017) by Richard O. Prum

In 1860 Charles Darwin wrote to a colleague: “The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail…makes me sick!” What was Darwin’s problem? He had just published On the Origin of Species, laying out his theory of evolution by natural selection. Yet he worried about seemingly maladaptive features of living organisms–like the peacock’s beautiful but cumbersome tail. In a later book, Darwin would argue that sexual selection also plays a major role in evolution. Yet to this day, as Richard Prum complains in his magnificent new book, The Evolution of Beauty, evolutionary biologists dismiss the possibility of anything besides natural selection. Likewise, mainstream economists dismiss the possibility that anything besides competition for profits could account for the economic world around us… . . . → Read More: Beauty and Profit: The Evolution of Beauty (2017) by Richard O. Prum

Benefits of Military Spending

As Kevin Phillips recorded in Wealth and Democracy (2002), war has created the opportunity for many great fortunes. Thus the frenzied looting–and disregard for the lives of both US soldiers and corporate employees–displayed in Robert Greenwald’s new film Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers. One small example: drivers shuttle empty mail trucks up and down . . . → Read More: Benefits of Military Spending

Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction, by Barry C. Lynn

This is the scariest book I’ve read since The Day of the Triffids. Back in the ‘70’s, US business monopolization seemed bad, but not getting worse. Spinoffs and breakups balanced mergers. Since then, as documented in Cornered by financial journalist Barry Lynn, global monopolization has rapidly returned us to a new age of robber barons. . . . → Read More: Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction, by Barry C. Lynn

David and Goliath, or Why the One Percent Has to Rig the System

Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller, David and Goliath, asks how and why the weak win far more often than we expect. What characteristics of the weak can sometimes make them strong? What characteristics of the powerful can often make them vulnerable? For a long-time inequality buff like me, Gladwell provides some new insights. . . . → Read More: David and Goliath, or Why the One Percent Has to Rig the System

Economan Captures the Knowledge Economy: David Warsh on Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations

David Warsh’s engaging new book Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations tells two stories. One story, beginning with Adam Smith, covers the history of thought about the relationship of economic growth and economies of scale. Warsh finds in Smith a contradiction between the huge technical economies of the pin factory, which should create monopolies, and . . . → Read More: Economan Captures the Knowledge Economy: David Warsh on Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations

Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill) by David Cay Johnston

Remy Welling, an IRS tax auditor, had a problem. In December 2002, her boss asked her to sign off on an audit that hadn’t yet begun, essentially giving a company an advance free pass. She refused, and began investigating. Pretty soon, she discovered what the company was up to: changing the issue date of options . . . → Read More: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill) by David Cay Johnston

Helping People Help Themselves, by David Ellerman

David Ellerman’s new book, Helping People Help Themselves: From the World Bank to an Alternative Philosophy of Development Assistance, (forward by Albert O. Hirschman) is finally out in affordable paperback. Yay!

“The best kind of help to others, whenever possible, is indirect, and consists in such modifications of the conditions of life, of the general . . . → Read More: Helping People Help Themselves, by David Ellerman

How Doctors Think, by Jerome Groopman M.D.

Two years ago, an urgent call from my father: My mother, then 84, was ill. Gray skin, sunken eyes, confused. At the hospital, her blood tests showed abnormally high levels of calcium. She had calcium poisoning. Calcium poisoning? Six weeks prior, it turned out, the family doctor had instructed her to start taking calcium tablets . . . → Read More: How Doctors Think, by Jerome Groopman M.D.

How the U.S. Military Protects and Enriches Multinational Speculators

At a 1972 economics conference, at the height of the Vietnam war, Mason Gaffney presented an invited paper blandly entitled “The Benefits of Military Spending.” The paper so shocked the conference organizer that he refused to include it in the conference volume. Gaffney couldn’t find another publisher willing to touch it. Now, only 46 years later, here’s that paper (draft version), updated by Cliff Cobb, and published in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology (March 2018). What so offended the economics establishment? . . . → Read More: How the U.S. Military Protects and Enriches Multinational Speculators