Trigger Happy Blame

Before we knew who was going to win the presidential election, Slate noted that he would end up being credited with the economic recovery now underway. That’s because our minds work by association, not logic.

America the "Best" and the "Biggest'

Our need to assert America’s superiority to other nations seems to be getting stronger as the case for it gets weaker and weaker. What’s going on?

Immortal Banks

The Daily Beast expressed the other day what most of us are coming to feel about the big banks: “You can slam them. You can sue them. You can even try to split them up. But the big banks won’t care.”

The Hive Hypothesis

A core concept in our culture is that we are individuals in competition with other individuals. Like chimpanzees roaming the veldt....

The Mystery of Consumer Confidence

What do consumers respond to?

What Happened to Truth?

Are we living in a "post-factual age?"

Good Robots, Bad Robots, and Us

Robots are getting better and better, and easier and easier to manage.

Crime Without Criminals?

More and more people are noting that when banks and other financial firms settle charges of fraud and pay out large sums of money as fines, it’s their customers who end up paying the bill. Worse, those actually responsible pay no penalty at all....


The recent high frequency trading disaster at Knight Capital brings home the danger of turning key decisions over to computers.

The Dance of the Behemoth Banks

A significant number of the wizards who put together the giant banks now “too big to fail” are having second thoughts. Why?

Do Banks Really Want Customers?

We used to take banks for granted as places to store our money, and sometimes we borrowed money from them as well. But recently it has looked like banks were getting tired of those boring and unprofitable tasks.

What is a Celebrity?

Why do many convicted felons in the US seem to go on to have active and lucrative media careers?

The Regulator's Dilemma

An investigation into why federal regulators failed to detect the dangerous trading practices at JPMorgan Chase reveals a dilemma that has not gotten enough attention.

Our Average Expectable Corruption

Americans seem to take for granted the almost daily revelations of corruption in the financial industry. It’s news, of course, when the manipulation of interbank interest rates is reported or a senior executive is convicted of insider trading. But it fails to stir much outrage. It seems different in London....

The Sovereignty of Wealth

A vast gap has grown up between the financial industry and the rest of us. The evidence is piling up – and it’s not just a matter of wealth.

The Risk of Investing in Things

Capitalism makes it possible to exchange anything for virtually anything else. All objects become commodities with cash values. But people get attached to things...

Gossip: The Unregulated Market in Information

Gossip has a bad name, as does rumor, innuendo, leaks and many of the other quick and dirty ways we have of disseminating information. We reject the idea of gossip because it is irresponsible. But that’s just another way of saying that it is not subject to the usual restraints we impose on our social discourse.

What Politicians Are Not Telling Us About the Economy

Our candidates are talking to voters about getting America back to work, but economists are talking to each other about how this is not likely to happen.

Leadership Out of the Box

“I thought I had to have all the answers myself,” said Kyle Zimmer on starting out as CEO of First Book. “I don’t think I had the humility or the perspective to understand that that’s never the game."

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