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War for Scotland: 007 vs. David Bowie

April 7th, 2014


With all the focus on Crimea, Syria, U.S. college basketball and Malaysian jetliners, few Americans know that Scotland is close to pulling out of the UK.  On September 18, Scots will go to the polls and possibly grab the lever that says “independence.”  Polls show a slim 6 point deficit for the nationalists, but they are gaining ground.  And why not?  The world is in a sour mood, and citizens have been throwing the bums out all over the world  … Continue Reading →

Cows, Trains and Teslas

March 19th, 2014

What do cows, trains and Telsas have in common?  They symbolize the fight for progress versus entrenched interests.  Read my essay here and in Investors Business Daily:
Cows did not care much for railroads in the 1880s.  Those steel grills on the front of locomotives are called cow-catchers and would turn live steer into instant hamburger.  That’s pretty much the story of economic progress, which the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction.”  There’s often a lot of blood Continue Reading →

Why GDP is a Mess

March 10th, 2014


GDP is flawed.  Not just flawed like a sticky cupholder but more like a dangerous speedometer that tricks you into slamming on the brakes or the accelerator.  The way we calculate GDP incites leaders to spend more money on bogus stimulus, for instance.   The IMF asked me to comment on GDP and review a new book.  I never turn down the IMF.  After all, you never know when you’ll need a billion-dollar bailout. Here’s my analysis from IMF Finance &

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Venezuela and the “Devil’s Excrement”

February 27th, 2014


Venezuela is a troubled and troublesome place today.  I was in Cartagena, Columbia recently, and a taxi driver volunteered without my inquiring, that the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez was “crazy,” and that Cartagena now houses many people from Caracas fleeing from Chavez’s followers.  Venezuela has a raging inflation rate probably exceeding 100%, terrible joblessness, and a murder and kidnapping epidemic that makes Afghanistan seem calm.  It has one other thing, too:  oil.  Even with oil prices bouncing around in … Continue Reading →

Return of the Grinch

February 8th, 2014

Why were so many economists fooled into thinking that the U.S. economy was starting to roar like a Sochi downhill skier bursting out of the starting gate?  After all, holiday retail sales looked miserly.  Why did they think a Grinchy Christmas season would inspire a cheerful winter?  No one should’ve been surprised when the Bureau of Labor Statistics rolled out a dreary January report (just 113,000 net new jobs).  Fox TV asked for my thoughts, and you can click to Continue Reading →

Green Acres Turning Red?

January 13th, 2014


Parabolas make me jittery.  Oh, I’m fine with roller coasters, but when a market surges straight up, double-fasten your seatbelt, or jump off.  When you plot a speculative bubble on a graph, you often see a parabola, whether the NASDAQ in the late 1990s or Las Vegas condos in 2005.  I’ve recently been looking at U.S. agriculture and come away concerned that farmland prices may be teetering on the slope of something ugly and parabolic.  Since 2008, farmland prices have … Continue Reading →

Learning Business from Your Sofa

December 2nd, 2013


Can you learn anything about business by watching television? Of course, the first step in climbing the ladder of success comes when you get off the sofa. But if you’re sitting around watching TV and you’re interested in entrepreneurship, you could do much worse than ABC’s Shark Tank. The New York Post’s excellent columnist Naomi Schaeffer Riley recently interviewed me about the show. Here’s the test I suggested:

Take two people who have an idea to start a … Continue Reading →

America’s Hunger Crisis

November 6th, 2013


Next time you stand in line at the supermarket, divert your eyes from the National Enquirer and notice that nearly one in six Americans pays for groceries with food stamps. Let’s throw partisan pitchforks aside and ask this question: If 47 million Americans can’t afford to toss a slice of cheese, a few chicken wings and a stalk of broccoli on the table tonight, why don’t we make the price of food cheaper? To do that, President Obama and other … Continue Reading →

Learn Tech With Me for Free at Columbia

November 2nd, 2013


Technology is not just blinking gizmos. Technology includes better inventory systems, greener architecture and tools that don’t show up on the cover of Wired or fit in your kid’s back pocket. For example, containerization has revolutionized shipping, driving down costs. Those rectangular, steel boxes represent a technological leap! If you’re in NYC on Wednesday and care about education, come to Columbia University’s EdLab, where I’ll be giving a talk on the Math Arrow, a new invention that makes numbers … Continue Reading →

Obamacare’s Dilemma

October 27th, 2013


Obamacare is being gored on the horns of a dilemma.  If the White House can’t get its website to work and can’t prod people to sign up for insurance, it creates an epic policy disaster.  Like Custer’s Last Stand but shot down by blinking computer cursors, not bows and arrows.  But what if the technology starts working well?  Maybe Steve Jobs comes back from the grave and miraculously cures the bugs from www.healthcare.gov.  Let’s assume even more good news and … Continue Reading →