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From Germany to America: A Dialog on Inequality

At a coffee break between sessions at a history of economics meeting, I chatted with a young woman professor of political science at a German university. On hearing that I work on inequality, she immediately challenged me: “I don’t believe in equality. Inequality is just a statistic… What matters are policies to improve citizen’s wellbeing, like health or education, not policies to reduce inequality.” . . . → Read More: From Germany to America: A Dialog on Inequality

How Colonies Can Liberate Themselves by Taxing Real Estate

A colony is an area of land belonging mostly to outsiders, who extract more than they put in, hold good property underused, and control local politics. Greece, Haiti and Puerto Rico are colonies. Given the political will, and absent military intervention, colonies can liberate themselves by taxing the land. . . . → Read More: How Colonies Can Liberate Themselves by Taxing Real Estate

Putting Land and Power Back into Economics

Rethinking the Economics of Land and Housing, by three British economists, puts land and power back into economics, by recognizing–as did the classical economists–that ownership natural resources conveys wealth and political power. It also provides an enlightening history of British postwar housing policy, which has gone from building inexpensive rental housing for the working class, to pumping up property values for the ownership class. . . . → Read More: Putting Land and Power Back into Economics

The Democrats Confront Monopoly

At a June 2016 event organized by Barry Lynn of the Open Markets Institute, Elizabeth Warren delivered a stunning speech on the damage of monopoly and the importance of reviving antitrust. Shortly afterwards, I attended a New York presentation by Alan Blinder, Hillary Clinton’s economic policy advisor. He focused on Hillary’s positions on issues vis-à-vis Trump’s and those of the median voter, complete with graphs. He suggested that Bernie had pulled her away from that median voter—a bad idea. One issue Blinder didn’t have on the list was antitrust, so I raised my hand and asked. “Oh,” Blinder said, “that’s not a priority at present, but maybe after her first two years…” . . . → Read More: The Democrats Confront Monopoly

Part II Beauty, Cooperation, and the Hadza Hunter-Gatherers

In The Evolution of Beauty, Yale ornithologist Richard Prum focuses on how female choice affects natural selection. Among the brightly-colored neotropical manakins, the females do all the work of raising chicks, while the males contribute only sperm. That gives the females the pick of the males. The males respond by dancing and singing on a common ground called a lek. Some males even dance in cooperative groups; the females mate with the alpha male of the group they pick. Prum says this cooperativeness happens because that’s what females prefer. Among the hunter-gatherer Hadza tribe in Tanzania, as reported by Nicholas Blurton-Jones in Demography and Evolutionary Ecology of Hadza Hunter-Gatherers (2016), the women produce 90% of the food. Hadza men and women are extremely cooperative and non-violent. Could this be due to female choice? . . . → Read More: Part II Beauty, Cooperation, and the Hadza Hunter-Gatherers

Beauty and Profit: The Evolution of Beauty (2017) by Richard O. Prum

In 1860 Charles Darwin wrote to a colleague: “The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail…makes me sick!” What was Darwin’s problem? He had just published On the Origin of Species, laying out his theory of evolution by natural selection. Yet he worried about seemingly maladaptive features of living organisms–like the peacock’s beautiful but cumbersome tail. In a later book, Darwin would argue that sexual selection also plays a major role in evolution. Yet to this day, as Richard Prum complains in his magnificent new book, The Evolution of Beauty, evolutionary biologists dismiss the possibility of anything besides natural selection. Likewise, mainstream economists dismiss the possibility that anything besides competition for profits could account for the economic world around us… . . . → Read More: Beauty and Profit: The Evolution of Beauty (2017) by Richard O. Prum

The Dissing of Henry George

Henry George (1839–1897) was a journalist, self-educated economist and philosopher, and eventually prominent politician. In 1879 he published Progress and Poverty, which soon became a worldwide bestseller. His followers played a major role in the early 20th Century Progressive movement. How could it happen that if he is remembered at all today, he’s considered a crackpot? . . . → Read More: The Dissing of Henry George

What’s the Matter with Wisconsin?

In 2016 BT (before Trump) Professor Katherine Cramer of U. Wisconsin explored how upstate Wisconsin – which later voted heavily for Trump – passionately hates the downstate cities of Madison and Milwaukee, and government at all levels. Read my review of The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker from Dollars & Sense, March/April 2017. . . . → Read More: What’s the Matter with Wisconsin?

The 7 Secrets of the Prolific

If you’re like me, you always wanted to be a writer—but obligations came first: family, friends, bosses, students, bills, good causes. Recently, I grumbled about my lack of productivity to my editor Chris Sturr at Dollars & Sense magazine. He sent me The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer’s Block by Hillary Rettig. . . . → Read More: The 7 Secrets of the Prolific

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right

Arlie Hochschild, a retired sociology professor at U.C. Berkeley, has spent five years interviewing and becoming friends with Tea Party supporters in Louisiana. As she puts it, she has been trying to climb over the “empathy wall,” to “turn off the alarm bells”, in order to understand how her friends view the world. Her new book, Strangers in Their Own Land, should be essential reading for Democratic politicians from Hillary on down. . . . → Read More: Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right