“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."

Why Businesses Don't Hire

Businesses today do not want to hire workers if they can possibly avoid it, and for reasons not so hard to grasp.

The Beauty Quotient

Yet another way that life isn’t fair: “Two economists say…that investors assign higher share values to companies run by attractive chief executives.” The report in The New York Times went on to state: “These chiefs are paid more than less-appealing counterparts and that the better looking the C.E.O.’s, the better they are at undertaking financially successful deals.”

Fighting Bias

Neuroscience has convincingly demonstrated what many psychologists have always known: Bias is inevitable and ever-present. Now big business is coming to be aware of its high cost to productivity.

Schadenfreude and Envy

They are inevitable, normal, even, at time, useful – but does that make them good? Can we justify taking pleasure in the misfortune of another, or, as the German’s put it, “Schadenfreude?” Or can we keep ourselves from being envious of other’s good fortune? (See, “Our Pleasure in Others’ Misfortune.”)

Big Data, Bigger Data . . . Too Big

While we most of us were busy unwrapping presents on Christmas, The Wall Street Journal published an article on the NSA’s data collection. The point was not that it violated privacy – which is true – but that they were gathering far more than they could use. In short, it was also stupid.

Why Selfies?

Obama was caught taking a selfie at Mandela’s memorial service. Was he trying to show that, unlike the other world leaders there, he was just like the rest of us, an ordinary guy?

Mandela: Hero, Terrorist, Human Being

Reading about Nelson Mandela’s career, as we mourn his death, we might never know that he had been branded a “terrorist” by our government, joined the Communist party at one point, or had been vehemently opposed by American conservatives such as Dick Chaney, George Will and William Buckley who fought efforts to support his anti-Apartheid campaign.

Unconscious Suppression of Truth About Public Pensions

Municipal finances are a mess, as exemplified by Detroit’s filing for bankruptcy, while other cities teeter on the edge. It’s not a new problem, but we have never wanted to face it….

A Mongrel Species

Analysis of the genome of a young boy buried in eastern Siberia 24,000 years ago shows overlap with European but also American Indian DNA. That’s a new piece of the puzzle about the origins of native Americans, but it also supports the idea that mankind is inherently nomadic—and adaptable, and something of a mongrel species.

Where We Draw the Line on Money

Society has many strictures about money: we shouldn’t use it to bribe judges; we shouldn’t pay for sex or traffic in slaves. Those things are often actually done. But then there are the issues that really feel wrong, that are sacrilegious or taboo.

Edison's Team, The "Muckers"

We like to think of the inspired inventor working alone in his lab ….

Surprise: Consumers Can be Protected

The economists were surprised: legislation designed to curb the hidden fees banks charged their credit card customers actually worked….

Waiting for Equality. . .and Waiting

As portrayed in the media, the economy is a kind of uncontrollable beast. Pundits watch it expand and contract. They scrutinize its stirrings, take its pulse, check its circulation, and try to assess its health. So they note the lack of jobs, the growing disparity between the rich and poor. But they confirm our sense of helplessness…

Drones and Video Games

Piloting drones in Afghanistan while sitting in a dark room in Arizona can seem a lot like playing a video game. Looking at a screen, the operator focuses in on a target, stalks him, presses a button, and a missile hones in – and the “target” disappears in a cloud of smoke.

Degraded Jobs

At one time there was a reliable supply of undemanding, simple jobs — but that was before computers. As The New York Times noted recently: “The multi-trillionfold decline in the cost of computing since the 1970s has created enormous incentives for employers to substitute increasingly cheap and capable computers for expensive labor.”....

Child Abuse in the Shadows

Common sense tells us that during periods of economic hardship there will be more victims of child abuse. People will take out their pain and frustration on those more helpless than themselves. But, surprisingly, during the Great Recession, the number of reported incidents dropped. Can that be?

Less Than Meets the Eye on Wall Street

When the government fines banks hundreds of millions of dollars, it looks like it is getting really tough with them. But as Andrew Ross Sorkin pointed out recently in The New York Times, it’s a bark with no bite...

The Real Reason Our Schools Are Failing

According to current conventional wisdom, our educational system is a disaster. The truth, of course, is more complex. It’s the poor who are failing. The rich are thriving—and learning.