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.

What We Can't Know About the Economy

Economics may no longer be the “dismal science,” the English historian Thomas Carlyle once said it was. So many students are drawn to it today and go on to enjoy lively and lucrative careers. Some can even become celebrities and earn Nobel Prizes along with considerable stature and respect. But how much of a science is it?

The Spectre of Class War

The campaign for Mayor of New York City pits a Republican defender of the retiring billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, against a severe critic who is calling for higher taxes on the rich. The media is calling it “class war,” while a new analysis of the income gap suggests that may be plausible.

Violence, Real and Imagined

It is no longer just a matter of opinion. Evidence has been accumulating that shows exposure to violence on TV and the movies increases the likelihood that people will act violently in life.

The Cost of Noise

Noise can damage the mind, even when we're asleep.

All Memories Are False

There has been a lot of excitement about neuro-scientists at M.I.T managing to plant a false memory in the brain of a mouse. The New York Times suggested that this provided “detailed clues to how such memories may form in human brains.”

Can Financial Ratings Be Objective?

The financial analysts who rank public offerings for the ratings agencies, such as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, like to think they can be objective. Their reliability is what they sell, really, along with expertise in puzzling out balance sheets.

Two Economies or One?

What do we make of the news about jobs?

Identity in the Modern World: Conferred, Stolen, Changing

It stands for “First name unknown, Last name unknown” and is used for legal purposes when the real identity of an individual is unknown.

What Holds Us Together?

Long ago, when I was growing up in post WWII America, a “millionaire” was a very rich person. What could he possibly want that he couldn’t buy? But today . . . .

Out Sourcing Oversight

In an article on how financial derivatives have helped banks deceive the public, Floyd Norris in The New York Times indirectly made a good case for why we need leaks – and, of course, leakers....

Another Housing Bubble

Capitalism’s insatiable drive for returns remains a wild card at the center of our economic system, a source of economic instability. A case in point: the current recovery in the housing market may have less to do with the optimism of prospective home-owners about the slowly improving economy as with Wall Street’s demand for new investments.

The Whistle Blower's Fate

Many of us are inclined to view the whistle blower as a kind of hero, the person who sacrifices his own career to warn others of the danger he alone knows, a danger that could eventually ensnare others in suffering or moral corruption. But it hardly ever works out that he is rewarded for his daring.

There Are No Secrets

The public was not alarmed after Edward Snowden blew the cover on the government’s vast data mining operation. Without thinking too much about it, it looked like most of us had assumed it was going on all the time.

Capitalism's Growing Imbalance

When capitalism took over the world roughly 200 years ago, it vastly increased society’s productivity but at the cost of immense human suffering.... Over time, the imbalances have been modified and corrected.

Rotten Apple?

Clearly the guys at Apple, talented at developing amazing products based on brilliant technological innovations, are also busy innovating in other ways, and that tells us a lot about how dysfunctional our financial system has become.

Suicide, Loneliness, and the Vulnerability of Men

Suicide rates have been rising dramatically. But of special concern, as reported in The New York Times is the number of middle-aged men killing themselves: “Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly, and the surge in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans is surprising.” (See, “Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in U.S.”)

God in the Closet

The escalation of religious intolerance has reached a point, according to the noted anthropologist T.M. Luhrman, that people are becoming reluctant to own up to being religious at all.

"Zombie Directors"

Does shareholder democracy really matter? .... But inactive or complicit boards are a real problem.

Too Much Media

James Gleick, writing about the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing, noted that we have reached a turning point in our embrace of new media, but could he be mourning the end of old media?