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The invisible made visible

Lunatic Faith, Computer Digits, & the Myth of Money

This American Life and Planet Money recently produced an episode titled “The Invention of Money.” You can listen to it here. The story places the concept of money into the framework of faith, mainly due to the fact that money is no longer a physical object with tangible value like gold. Instead, it is fiction, […]

The Perils of Bait-and-Switch: or Why do WWII Veterans Still Hate the Red Cross?

Last week’s Planet Money Podcast unknowingly stumbled upon a Law-Gospel goldmine! Exploring the economic dynamics of “free” (see also here!), the podcast specifically looks at what happens when something that was free is now no longer free. What happens when you charge money for something that was once free of charge? Ask any veteran of […]

Better Off Now Than Ever? A History of Happiness

In a recent New Republic article entitled Happyism: the Creepy New Economics of Pleasure, economist and historian Deirdre McCloskey provides a refreshing historical perspective on the contemporary world’s obsession with happiness. For better or worse, it seems that personal happiness has increasingly become the (explicit) driving force behind human lives. While selfishness is of course […]

Counting Calories (and Human Behavior) in The Social Animal

An enlightening (!) little section from David Brooks’ The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement concerning the difference between classical and behavioral economists. And although while describing the caricature of human nature put forward by classical economists, he may fall into caricature himself, the gist is sound. One guess as to […]

Creditors, Debtors, Forgiveness, and God

Among the podcasts to which I subscribe is NPR’s excellent Planet Money, a program which was born out of the Great Recession and guides listeners through the intricacies of the global financial system, both past and present. Sounds really boring, I know, but it isn’t, and has been very helpful to this New Yorker, living […]

Soul Possession: Just How Much Is Your Soul Worth?

The Freakonomics crew put out a new podcast on selling souls this week, and boy was it a doozie. They featured a Christian from Oklahoma who boldly offered any atheist/skeptic/taker $50 for ownership of his soul. Sure enough, through the comments board on the Freakonomics webpage, he found a skeptic seller, and the two exchanged […]

Boomers and Stickers: Wendell Berry’s 2012 Jefferson Lecture

Last Monday, Wendell Berry, widely known as today’s quotable agriprophet, America’s modern man of letters, was given the prestigious honor of presenting the Jefferson Lecture, the nation’s highest prize for “distinguished intellectual achievement.” What he spoke of–beyond his grandfather’s h0meland loyalty and the tragic industrial legacy of James B. Duke, for whom Duke University is […]

Another Week Ends: Zeitgeistlichkeit, Atheist Religiosity, Freakonomic Fathers, Ralph Erskine, MJ, Devo’s Paradox, Hunger Games, Deep Blue Sea, and Hoarders

1. A pair of terrific book reviews have appeared in The NY Times over the last couple weeks, the first being Generation X author Douglas Coupland‘s inspiring riff on Hari Kunzu’s opus, Gods Without Men, and the exciting new genre it epitomizes (“Translit”). Ironically enough, he makes a number of Twitter-ready observations: [We are living […]

Three Years In, Still Determined, Still Anxious

The 11-part Heartland polls came out, and the Atlantic was quick to pick up on the psychological implications this recession has had on Americans, three years in. It turns out–yes, go figure–that we are just as determined in spirit (though with, as they call it, a renewed sense of “reluctant self-reliance”) and maybe a little […]

Daniel Kahneman on Taking Credit and the Illusion of Control

From a very interesting, very comforting piece by Nobel Laureate economics and psychology professor/Mbird fave Daniel Kahneman entitled “The Surety of Fools/Don’t Blink! The Hazards of Confidence”; October 23rd issue of the NYTimes Sunday Magazine. His thesis, based on years of research, is that much (i.e. all) of what we attribute to good (or bad) […]

Can You Guys Keep It Down Out There? I Can Barely Hear My Self-Condemnation

I don’t know about you but I’ve had protesters occupying my mind, off and on, for over 30 years now.  YOU’LL NEVER HAVE A CAREER…YOU’RE NOT THAT SMART…YOU BETTER GET SOBER… SHE’S NEVER GOING TO LOVE YOU… THE PAIN WILL END IF YOU END. Those are the kinds of homemade signs I see, the sort […]

American Abundance, Lizard Cores and the Parable of the Pheasant

Michael Lewis attempts to uncover the why the Californian economy has “cratered,” and why it is the state most at risk of a prolonged crisis, in his Vanity Fair article “California and Bust.” He’s essentially using the golden state as a petri-dish to look at the factors that have led to the current downturn. While […]