I saw this amusing article on metafilter yesterday. The basic idea is that a four-person family making 250K/year is, depending on where they live, just barely getting by because of tax burden. A budget is provided, and it’s reliably absurd. When I last looked at the metafilter comments, however, I don’t know if anyone recognized what the actual rhetorical target of this piece was. To me, it seems clear that the profligate amounts being invested by this family in their 401K and college savings accounts (presumably also investment interests) are designed to make the (almost certainly poorer) readers of the article not just outraged by imaginary tax raises but anxious that they are not putting enough of their money into investments.
I read Denis Johnson’s Shoppers tonight, a collection of two related plays that were written and performed in the early aughts. The first, Hellhound on My Trail was genuinely good on the page, though I wonder at how well it would translate to the stage in every particular. The other play, Shoppers Carried by An Escalator into the Flames, gave every indication of being written without revision of any type, and I can’t imagine how it could have been performed, though the introductory material claims that it was.
Paul Laity on Lee Clarke’s Worst Cases and John Christensen on Raymond Baker’s Capitalism’s Achilles Heel: Dirty Money and How to Renew the Free-Market System. I’m curious if there has been a sustained fictional treatment of a culture/civilization steadily planning for a highly improbable total disaster scenario chosen randomly from a field of many. Posner’s Catastrophe, among others, brought this to mind. Key graf from Christensen: Much of the growth of the offshore economy has been driven by British lawyers and accountants.
Malcolm Gladwell has an angry article in the New Yorker about the American health care system. Like many graduate students I knew, I didn’t have health insurance in graduate school because it wasn’t provided or subvented and thus couldn’t be afforded. After severely spraining my ankle playing football, I laid off the contact sports for the rest of my stay in Florida. If, like someone on my blogroll, I had broken a wrist or arm, I would not have had to ask the doctor to put an Ace bandage on it–as in Gladwell’s account–because I could have borrowed the money from a bank or the government.
Its 5.2 billion yearly spending on health care is having a tremendous impact on its profitability, whereas only 18,000 people in the U.S. per year die because they’re uninsured. GM employs 324,000 people (not all Americans, but let’s not get bogged down in details). If it dropped all of its insurance, approximately 20 of its employees would then die in the next year (since they’ve previously had health care, this wouldn’t quite be as likely, but the stress of losing it would compensate).
“All the work Pinochet did is intact,” said Christian Labbe, a former army colonel and one of Pinochet’s closest advisers. “Nobody is fighting to change the free market that we built, not even the Socialists. We need to give credit to the person who made all of this.” From the Post. I watched CSPAN either last night or the night before (flu has left me in a timeless esplumeoir), and there was a panel from Davos on the Russian economy.
A short review of Richard Parker’s biography of Galbraith contains the following: If that interpretation construes the facts in a light favorable to Galbraith, Parker is consistently so inclined. Yes, he concedes, many economists consider Galbraith not really one of their own in a discipline that extolls mathematical models and aspires to the scientific rigor of physics. For example, Parker quotes MIT’s Robert Solow, who terms Galbraith “fundamentally a moralist.” But Parker sees nothing wrong with Galbraith’s blend of economics and moral conviction.
Is there any doubt that the best moment of Skidelsky’s Politicians and the Slump is the caption to the photograph of Baldwin looking particularly sententious between pp. 82-83 that reads “Mr. Baldwin has invented the formidable argument that you must not do anything because it will mean that you will not be able to do anything else?”
Libby Mayor Tony Berget said he even took a piece of the mine’s asbestos-contaminated vermiculite with him on a high school wrestling trip to Europe, delighting his companions when he set fire to it and caused a loud “pop.” Read more.
“It is easier to explain what is meant by economic nationalism in German than English.” Gregory, T.E. “Economic Nationalism.” International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1931-1939) 10. 3 (May 1931): 289. Also, on a different but still fascinating topic, note “the argument that you have to keep agriculture going as a type of economic production which requires a vigorous manhood, since you also require a vigorous type of manhood in war” (294).
I read with considerable pleasure James Surowecki’s essay on corporate welfare in this week’s New Yorker. His final paragraph, which refers to interburghal competition for corporate largesse as a Prisoner’s Dilemma, reminded me of how interested I am in the theological implications of that glum bit of game theory. The Moretti and Greenstone piece he cites is available here. How hard would it be for publications such as the NY’er to add such links in their on-line editions?