So Where Are All the American Economists?

A French economist “has put creditable numbers on tax evasion, showing that it’s rampant–and a major driver of wealth inequality,” according to a story in The New York Times. What some have long suspected has proved to be true.

Drug Companies Making Drugs–or Money

A professor of management practice at Harvard Business School recently asked a provocative question about the drug industry: “Is the role of leading large pharmaceutical companies to discover lifesaving drugs or to make money for shareholders through financial engineering?”

Bigger and Bigger and Better?

Increasingly, our financial world is an oligarchy of big established firms: big banks, big cable companies, big hospital systems, big advertising agencies, big airlines – you name it. It has frequently been argued that economies of scale will result in lower prices. Bigger, in other words, is better. But it isn’t always turning out that way.

Are Banks Bad For Us?

After years of an active revolving door between banks and their government regulators, their friends in high places are deserting them. Plain talk and sharp criticism are replacing what The New York Times referred to as “a general willingness to assume that everything was fine.”

Creativity on the Cheap

The secret is to trick yourself into ignoring what you know so well. Half closing your eyes, for example, blotting out the familiar to “see” something new. Turning an image upside down. Being playful or humorous.

Amnesia or Obfuscation?

The chief financial reporter of The New York Times seemed incredulous when he heard what some congressmen were saying about our markets not needing financial regulation: “Representative Jeb Hensarling, the chairman of the committee, proclaimed ‘it is almost inconceivable that an asset manager’s failure could cause systemic risk.’

The Power of Short-Term Thinking

There is a growing consensus that our economy has become hostage to short-term thinking, the demand of investors for immediate returns on their investments. The Harvard Business Review focused on this in this month’s feature: “Are Investors Bad For Business?”

"There Is No Job Security"

That’s what a career counselor commented to The New York Times, in a story about rising fears of unemployment. “Job security is maintaining cutting-edge skills and establishing a far-reaching network.” In other words it is about continually preparing to be fired.

Bankers Running Away From Shareholders

Goldman Sachs is holding its annual meeting in Texas, though it is based in New York. Citigroup met in St. Louis. Wells Fargo, based in San Francisco, met in San Antonio. Why?

The Hard Work of Trust

Charlie Munger, Vice Chairman of Berkshire-Hathaway, suggests that “instead of filling your ranks with lawyers and compliance people, hire people that you actually trust and let them do their job.” A radically simple idea – and a good one....

Detecting Lies

Researchers know that we can be much better at detecting lies than we are – and that should not be so surprising given that polygraphs can do it. The information is stored in our bodies and brains, but the statistics that measure our conscious judgments show us to be miserable failures.

Is the Executive Brain Different?

The Wall Street Journal presented some findings about the “executive brain,” based on neuro-imaging, a technique for observing the brain’s activity while engaged in thinking. It turns out that the executive brain is no different from any other brain. The suggestions it makes for effective performance apply to all forms of thinking.

A Glimpse of Power From Inside

“I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them.”

Oligarchy? Democracy?

Two professors, one at Princeton, the other at Northwestern, have concluded in a recent study that power is highly concentrated in America in a way that threatens democracy. The study got a lot of press, but the language that was used describing it was particularly interesting....

Our Poor Middle Class

What might get us to really pay attention to the growing gap between the rich and the poor?

Why Is the World More Depressed?

There is good reason to believe that the world is getting more depressed. T.M. Luhrmann, Professor of Anthropology at Stamford, travels a lot, frequently to the third world, so she has a chance to sample what people say and note how that changes over time. But she also cites data such as the World Health Organization’s report that “suicide rates have increased 60 percent.

G.M. Responds

G.M.’s CEO has responded all too predictably to the Cobalt crisis by firing its senior vice president for global communications, responsible for “handling . . . the public response to the recall of nearly 2.6 million cars.” . . . .

General Motors: Too Big to Fix?

Could some companies be just too big to manage effectively? They may offer too many dark corners, too many layers of responsibility, too many opportunities for their executives to get distracted and forget.


“So what makes the obvious unsayable?” asks Paul Krugman in The New York Times....

Americans' Need to be Number One

We like to think America is exempt from the limitations of other countries, that we are richer, better, wiser, freer. But why is that so important to us?

Climate Deafness

If you know anything, you know climate change will never be reversed. The best we can hope for is a slowing down of the rate greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere. So we all already know “the worst is yet to come,” as The New York Times headlined its piece on the new UN report.

The Meaning of Poverty

Poverty calls to mind starvation and inadequate clothing, leaky roofs, no doctors or medications for illness. But David Brooks recently reminded us of something even more important. The primary effect of poverty is “raw fear.”

Hints and Glimpses

We still don’t know where Malaysian Airlines flight 370 disappeared to, but most things disappear into the depths of the mind....

The True Story of Capitalism

“A long-held tenet of free market capitalism, is wrong,” writes Eduardo Porter, business reporter for The New York Times. Economists have long held to the belief was that income disparities in a market economy would eventually level out....

Is Privacy Still Possible?

In the wake of the revelations that the NSA has been hacking our phones and collecting massive amounts of personal data, can we still think privacy is possible in our world? More and more our lives are open books. For the most part, we seem to like it that way....

Are Family Businesses Lazy?

The CEOs of family businesses “worked 8% fewer hours than managers without genetic ties to their companies.” This conclusion was reached by a study of CEOs in India, but it “found similar disparities in Brazil, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the U.S.,” according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. But what does that mean?

Deserving Wealth?

Over the past year, we have awakened to the reality of income inequality. “Occupy Wall Street” made it harder to deny the growing disparity of wealth in this country. But how to explain it? What to do about it?

Phony Apologies

Apologies from leaders have become routine and no longer credible. What makes them believable? But do we really want to believe them?

The Dotage Curve

Conventional wisdom tells us that as we age, we slowly but inevitably decline. But do we really?

Encouraging Failure

You usually don’t want to fail. But we can be too careful. Risk-taking — even excessive risk-taking — may be the path to surprising discoveries and important breakthroughs, according to Astro Teller, Google’s self-described “Director of Moonshots."