Following Facebook

The recent Facebook IPO not only fizzled but went on to arouse considerable skepticism in the public about investments in the stock market. That’s probably a good thing.

The Fear of Atheism

Why are Americans afraid of atheists? The belief that god does not exist is not hard to come by these days, and appears to be growing throughout the world. But as a Pew Research Center report put it, when it comes to religiosity, “the US is closer to considerably less developed nations, such as India, Brazil and Lebanon than to other western nations.”

Can Risk Be Managed?

JP Morgan’s recent loss of $2 billion embarrassed a bank that has been vigorously claiming that rules to restrict trading are not needed. But it also casts doubt on a settled conviction in the financial industry that risk can be managed.

Shareholders Act Up

One slight gesture towards economic reform in the U.S. has been the provision that shareholders can vote on executive pay, and, last week, Citigroup shareholders rejected its CEO, Vikram Pandit’s $14.9 million package.

Bound Together by a Common Problem: the Economy

Two radically different solutions to a common problem are being proposed in Europe and America – or so it seems. All our economies are in trouble: massive indebtedness and credit shortages, on the one hand, while housing, employment, and growth are stalled. In America the answer is, by and large, stimulus. In Europe it’s austerity. How to make sense of this?

Why Laptops Are Screened

“There must be a reason the laptop is singled out” at airport security, wrote Matt Richtel, a technology reporter for The New York Times. But in trying to find our what that reason might be, he ran into a bewildering array of evasions and obfuscations.

How to Create Wealthy Societies

A new book, Why Nations Fail, argues that the wealth of a country is most closely correlated with the degree to which the average person can profit from his or her own initiative and effort.

Financial Instruments as Drugs

The potential dangers of financial instruments, argue two professors at the University of Chicago, “seem at least as extreme as the dangers of medicines.” So they should be vetted by a “financial products agency,” like the Food and Drug Administration for drugs.

Does Polling Make the Public Stupid?

Politics and Markets “The first lesson you learn as a pollster is that people are stupid,” said Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling. That certainly seems warranted by the wild gyrations and arbitrary opinions expressed during the current Republican primary campaigns.

Goldman Sachs and the Fog of Envy

Greg Smith's description of Goldman's "toxic and destructive" culture certainly has the ring of truth, and comes as no great surprise to those who know anything about the financial industry. Conflicts of interest are among the very least of Wall Street's sins. Contempt and arrogance are endemic.

Unreliable Memory

We tend to think that memories are stored in our brains just as they are in computers. But neuroscientists have shown that each time we remember something, we are reconstructing the event, reassembling it from traces throughout the brain

What Motivates Workers

It’s Not Just Money Conventional wisdom tells us what motivates most employees is money. Classical economics confirms: the bigger the salary, the more work an employer can expect to get — and better work too. But a new book challenges this....

The End of Privacy

Our minds are being read and our impulses and habits analyzed and exploited without our knowing it.

Fostering Creativity

If a person is forced to speak his own words, he gives a more reliable sense of the validity of his ideas. He also makes a connection with the person he is speaking to, and out of that connection new ideas can flow.

Boss Zuckerberg

In all the attention given to Facebook’s public offering, it has been repeatedly emphasized that Mark Zuckerberg will retain complete control. Can he handle it? ....

The Two Faces of Facebook

Who doesn't know that Facebook is about to go public, with a projected market capitalization of one hundred billion dollars? That's the new face of Facebook, an economic blockbuster. But where is all that money going to come from? And why?

Too Big to Be Liable

The accountability banks don’t want to face.

The Secret of Credit

Most of us view trust as valuable and desirable, something that improves the quality of our personal lives. We seldom take the next step and view it as indispensable, a vital ingredient in society — and in the economy.

Problems Without Answers

Our Need for Fictions. We like to think that all problems have solutions. The reasons may be complex and difficult to grasp, but our faith is that if we understand the causes, we can cure the effects.

Bankruptcy, Default, Debt — and Being a Person

In the eyes of the law, a corporation is a person, but when a real person, that is, a person of flesh and blood, declares bankruptcy or defaults on his or her debt it is usually considered a moral failure....

Beta Wealth

Preoccupied as we are with the 1% at the top, we lose sight of how volatile all wealth today has become....

What Do Banks Add to the Economy?

What justifies the bloated expenses of the finance industry, the exorbitant salaries, percentages taken off the top, the finder’s fees, the bonuses? We have to wonder what do bankers do that justifies the added cost of their services?

Are We All Connected?

Here Comes Not Quite Everybody It is a cliché that the Internet connects everyone, so it probably has escaped consciousness that many actually cannot afford the high-speed service the rest of us now take for granted.

Political Desperation and Hatred

“Anyone But Mitt” Democratic politics, in theory, is about people choosing leaders to guide the country. But lately it has come to seem in the U.S. that the process has become vindictive and charged with hatred.

The New Look of Retirement

Retirement used to be thought of as an ideal goal, almost a right. After 30 or 40 years of productive work, people expected to be able to take it easy. But that idea has now become obsolete - and maybe it is undesirable as well.

The Contradictions of Inequality

Though Americans pay lip service to the idea that “all men are created equal,” as Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence, we have always taken huge inequalities for granted.

Truth, Faith, and Evangelical Truth

The line between religion and science seems to be increasingly sharp and abrasive these days, which is bit of a puzzle if you know something about history. Scientists have not been atheists, by and large, and believers have not always been so certain of their beliefs.

We the People and Fraud

How could anyone object to a campaign against fraud? In a society mesmerized by the presence of fraud everywhere – on Wall Street, in corporate headquarters, in politics and, of course, on street corners – it looks all too plausible for government to mount a campaign against voter fraud as well.

Occupy Wall Street Revisited

Those who took the "carnival" on Wall Street seriously seem to have been right. The protesters camping out in lower Manhattan and other financial sites around the world have struck a deep chord that continues to resonate.

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