Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

A “Wild and Dangerous” Scheme!

“…a scheme at once wild and dangerous.” “…a trick, too, of the clumsiest description…” I was hunting for the exact location of “Prince’s Tavern” in Manchester in 1833 when I stumbled upon an Economist article from March 30, 1844 addressing the “practical consequences” of  reducing the length of the factory working day from 12 hours […]

Standing on the shoulders of cranks

Standing on the shoulders of cranks I use the term “crank” affectionately. The figure below is a valiant effort by Arthur O. Dahlberg to depict the “socio-economic process” as a network of troughs, pipes and valves. Even this elaborate contraption is confined to “the movement of the major social variables.” Dahlberg believed that his chart […]

“What is the Most Useful Idea in Economics?”

NPR’s Planet Money went to the 2020 American Economic Association conference in San Diego where they asked economists, “what is the most useful idea in economics?” David Autor appears near the end of the episode (minute 16:00) to talk about the lump-of-labor fallacy. Almost exactly 87 years earlier, on January 18, 1933, Arthur Dahlberg appeared […]

2020 Hindsight: Why the world is not zero-sum

According to a report, Global Waves of Debt, pre-published by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development: Waves of debt accumulation have been a recurrent feature of the global economy over the past fifty years. In emerging and developing countries, there have been four major debt waves since 1970. The first three waves ended in […]

What quid did the president quo and when did he quo it?

What quid did the president quo and when did he quo it? Aside from the headline news about a July 26 phone call, I learned four big things from the impeachment inquiry hearing this morning. First, the specific corruption surrounding Burisma Holidings had to do with self dealing by company founder Mykola Vladislavovich Zlochevsky — […]

“Are Robots Stealing Your Job?” is the Wrong Question

Andrew Yang says, “Yes, Robots Are Stealing Your Job” in an op-ed at the New York Times. Paul Krugman thinks they’re not and advises, “Democrats, Avoid the Robot Rabbit Hole.” This is, of course, a classic case of asking the wrong question. The real question is: will robots burn down your house and kill your […]

The Hurricane/Picture of Dorian Gray: A Perfect Moral Storm in Three Texts

The Hurricane/Picture of Dorian Gray: A Perfect Moral Storm in Three Texts Andreas Malm, Fossil Capital: The temporal aspect is particularly striking,’ writes philosopher Stephen Gardiner, who has done perhaps more than anyone to foreground it, in A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change: it catches us in a bind. Given that global warming […]

Prudence, Vice and Misery

In his newly published Limits: Why Malthus Was Wrong and Why Environmentalists Should Care, Giorgos Kallis challenges what has become the conventional perversion of Robert Malthus’s economic argument. Far from being a “prophet of doom” predicting the inevitable overshoot by population growth of food supplies, Malthus was an advocate of industrial progress as the antidote to […]

Goats and Dogs, Eco-Fascism and Liberal Taboos

When remembered at all, Edward Abbey is mostly thought of as an environmentalist and anarchist but there is no gainsaying the racism and xenophobia on display in his 1983 essay, “Immigration and Liberal Taboos.” The opinion piece was originally solicited by the New York Times, which ultimately declined to publish it — or to pay […]