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?

Guns and the Self-Interest of Politicians

The recent defeat of all efforts at gun control is shocking, given the fact that 90 percent of Americans supported the measures. How could that happen?

Capitalism: The Return of the Repressed

Talking about capitalism has not been easy. The word is freighted with ideological connotations of conflict. Merely using it raises the specter of Marxism, along with such concepts as “alienation” and “exploitation,” terms that reflect historic struggle.

Convenience and Ignorance

We don’t really need to know how things work in order to use them, do we? More and more, technology is hidden behind “user friendly” controls. But there is a growing case to be made for the dangers of our increasing technological ignorance – or incompetence.

Real Hearts, Real Minds

A prominent researcher in Positive Psychology now suggests that our “heart’s capacity for friendship . . . obeys the biological law of ‘use it or lose it.’ This has implications not just for our states of mind, but for our ways of communicating.

The Marx Brothers on Wall Street

“Gibberish,” concluded Floyd Norris, the financial reporter for The New York Times, summing up the “London Whale’s” description of his disastrous strategy to the JPMorgan group charged with overseeing investments.

The Papal "Awards"

The parallels between the papal conclave and the Oscars, Tonys, and Grammys are just too striking to miss, and not just because the Vatican ceremony came in the middle of our awards season.

The Purple Squirrel

There is an interesting story hidden within the news about the rise in employment.

Crime Without Punishment

It often looks as if banks are being punished for their infractions and crimes, but appearances can be deceptive.

Narcissism and Leadership

“Levels of narcissism are increasing among college students, says Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer at Stanford’s business school.” Worse, “business school students are more narcissistic than others.” But, surprisingly, he adds that may not be so bad. (See Businessweek, “Does It Matter If B-Schools Produce Narcissists?”)

Shoddy Credit Ratings

A recent report of the Federal Trade Commission called attention to disturbing practices in the credit rating business. Among the findings: “nearly 26 percent of consumers . . . found at least one potentially material mistake on at least one of the three credit reports....

Money and Happiness

Studies have shown that money does not makes you happier -- beyond a certain point.

When is a Job Real?

It is a difficult fact to face but businesses do not want to be stuck with most of their employees.

Guns, Paranoia and Twinkies

Since the school shooting in Newtown Connecticut, the National Rifle Association reports gaining 100,000 new members. Gun sales have gone through the roof, many items are in short supply. Prices have doubled or tripled. What’s going on?

What "Big Data" Can't Do

Sometimes called “the internet of things,” Big Data has arrived. It will “replace ideas, paradigms, organizations and ways of thinking about the world,” said Professor Brynjolfsson, Director of M.I.T.’s Center for Digital Business at a recent conference. Well, maybe. But it’s worth thinking about what it might not be able to do.


Economists like facts, facts with numbers. And they like to link those facts with human behavior, specifically choices we make about spending, saving and investing. For many years, they had a favorite theory of motivation....