Economics

Lawrence Summers on House of Debt

June 9, 2014
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Lawrence Summers on House of Debt

From Lawrence H. Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury and president emeritus of Harvard University, in the Financial Times:

“Atif Mian and Amir Sufi’s House of Debt, despite some tough competition, looks likely to be the most important economics book of 2014; it could be the most important book to come out of the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession. Its arguments deserve careful attention, and its publication provides an opportunity to reconsider policy choices made in 2009 and 2010 regarding mortgage debt.”

House of Debt takes a complicated premise—unraveling the threads of the 2008 financial crisis from a tangle of Federal Reserve policies, insolvent investment banks, predatory mortgage lenders, and private label securities—and delivers a clean-cut conclusion:  the Great Recession and Great Depression, as well as the current economic malaise in Europe, were caused by a large run-up in household debt followed by a significantly large drop in household spending. Recently, in addition to Summers’s endorsement in today’s Financial Times, the book has been profiled at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and the Economist, among others; Paul Krugman, writing for the NYT, noted that  its associated House of Debt blog has “instantly become must . . .

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Gary S. Becker (1930–2014)

May 6, 2014
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Gary S. Becker (1930–2014)

Gary S. Becker (1930–2014), a Nobel Prize–winning economist and longtime professor at the University of Chicago, who in later years became a noted columnist and blogger, died this past Saturday, May 3, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, following a long illness.

Born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Becker earned in MA (1953) and PhD (1955) from the University of Chicago, where he studied with the economist Milton Friedman, and began teaching as an assistant professor in 1954, leaving Chicago in 1957 for Columbia University, where he conducted research at the National Bureau for Economic Research, and returning to Chicago in 1970, where he would spend the rest of his career.

Becker, who held a joint appointment as University Professor in the the Departments of Economics and Sociology, remained active well into his eighties, where his acute stance on the role of human capital in labor economics, free-market orientation, and commentator on the economic dimensions of social phenomena helped earn his reputation as “an original, prolific, and sometimes provocative” scholar.

As a columnist for Business Week from 1985 to 2004, Becker “was forced to learn how to write about economic and social issues without using technical jargon, and in about 800 words . . .

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New Chicago Short from Cass R. Sunstein

December 16, 2013
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New Chicago Short from Cass R. Sunstein

Chicago Shorts offer distinguished selections, including never-before-published material, off-the-radar reads culled from the University of Chicago Press’s commanding archive, and the best of our newest books, all priced for impulse buying and presented exclusively in DRM-free e-book format.

With that in mind, we’re delighted to announce the debut of our latest Short: How to Humble a Wingnut and Other Lessons from Behavioral Economics by Cass R. Sunstein.

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In How to Humble a Wingnut, leading constitutional scholar, behavioral economist, and former Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Cass R. Sunstein examines the unconventional impetuses behind human decision-making. Why it is that people often choose to behave so strangely? Sunstein’s incisive commentaries point to recent empirical findings to demonstrate how and why people convince themselves they are right despite evidence to the contrary; fear dangers they are unlikely to encounter; and ignore real risks. Mining developments in recent behavioral studies for tips on everything from holiday shopping and political biases to staying healthy and clear thinking in general, Sunstein nudges his reader towards that rarest of grounds—understanding.

To read more about How to Humble a Wingnut, go here.

To see the full series . . .

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Manufacturing Morals

October 24, 2013
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Manufacturing Morals

Michel Anteby’s Manufacturing Morals: The Values of Silence in a Business School Education explores the pedagogy behind corporate accountability—from within the closed doors of Harvard Business School, where Anteby, an associate professor, offers an unprecedented take as to how silence, ambiguity, and open-ended directives play key roles in generating a model of learning that leaves wiggle room for moral complexity.

Anteby riffed on this topic in a recent op-ed for the Guardian, where he observed that, “While business schools’ relative silence on moral issues like inequality might have worked in the past, the situation today has dramatically changed.”

He goes on to consider the grounds for this ideological shift:

These business schools’ inclusive historical DNA allowed them to train thousands of students, but also left a lasting imprint on many institutions’ moral outlook. A diverse membership required flexibility on moral issues. To be sure, teaching about increasing productivity, ensuring sufficient margins, and maintaining workers’ satisfaction assumed an implicit moral stand: one that offered legitimacy to profit-making ventures.

Yet, the broader aspirations of these ventures often remained elusive. An idea of higher ethical goals prevailed (such as “setting higher business standards” . . .

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Milton Friedman at 100 (+1)

July 31, 2013
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Milton Friedman at 100 (+1)

Last year, to mark what would have been Milton Friedman’s 100th birthday, we recapped tributes from the web. As a refresher, here’s Friedman at 100 again, +1:

From the Chicago Tribune:

On the 100th anniversary of his birth Tuesday, one may wonder what the Nobel laureate would say about the more controversial policies now unfolding across America. What would Friedman have thought about the recent advances in school choice, an idea he developed in 1955? How would he react to the government’s decision to tax Americans who do not purchase health insurance? Would Friedman take a position regarding the financial impact of soaring public union pensions on state economies? As an expert on monetary policy, certainly Friedman would have an opinion regarding the federal government’s bailout of the financial industry and its impact on our personal freedom.

From Forbes:

I think the most important measure of a thinker’s influence are his once-controversial ideas that are now considered so obvious that no one seriously disputes them. I’ve recently been reading a collection of Friedman’s Newsweek columns from the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time when he was at the peak of his fame and influence. Among the proposals he . . .

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Milton Friedman at 100

July 31, 2012
By
Milton Friedman at 100

From the Chicago Tribune:

On the 100th anniversary of his birth Tuesday, one may wonder what the Nobel laureate would say about the more controversial policies now unfolding across America. What would Friedman have thought about the recent advances in school choice, an idea he developed in 1955? How would he react to the government’s decision to tax Americans who do not purchase health insurance? Would Friedman take a position regarding the financial impact of soaring public union pensions on state economies? As an expert on monetary policy, certainly Friedman would have an opinion regarding the federal government’s bailout of the financial industry and its impact on our personal freedom.

From Forbes:

I think the most important measure of a thinker’s influence are his once-controversial ideas that are now considered so obvious that no one seriously disputes them. I’ve recently been reading a collection of Friedman’s Newsweek columns from the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time when he was at the peak of his fame and influence. Among the proposals he wrote about most frequently were: severing the link to gold and letting the . . .

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Announcing the 2012 Guggenheim Fellows

April 13, 2012
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Announcing the 2012 Guggenheim Fellows

 

The 2012 class of Guggenheim Fellows was announced this week by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, inciting some exuberant responses on the part of several winners (check out Terry Teachout’s Twitter feed). The Guggenheim has long been hailed as the “mid-career award,” honoring scholars, scientists, poets, artists, and writers, who have likely published a book or three, professed a fair amount of research, and are actively engaged in projects of significant scope. The fellowship possesses some tortured origins—(John) Simon Guggenheim, who served as president of the American Smelting and Refining Company and Republican senator from Colorado, seeded the award (1925) following the death of this son John (1922) from mastoiditis (Guggenheim’s second son George later committed suicide, and more infamously his older brother Benjamin went down with the Titanic).

Among this year’s crop (we dare say more forward-leaning than previous years?) is a roster of standout “professionals who have demonstrated exceptional ability by publishing a significant body of work in the fields of natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the creative arts,” affiliated with the University of Chicago Press:

Creative Arts

Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry magazine and author of three poetry collections, coeditor of . . .

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The New Idolatry: Religious Thinking in the Un-Commonwealth of America

September 6, 2011
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The New Idolatry: Religious Thinking in the Un-Commonwealth of America

Just prior to the Labor Day holiday, Eric L. Santner, Press author and Philip and Ida Romberg Professor of Modern Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago, was in touch with some compelling observations on recent debates over taxation; the Republican penchant for religious thinking; and controversies over purity, job creation, and other new spirits of capitalism. Santner’s most recent book The Royal Remains: The People’s Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty (reviewed here at Bookslut) indeed touches upon the foundation of these issues, often in pursuit of the vital metaphor of the king’s lost body, throughout the difficult transition from subjecthood to secularity in the psyches of democratic societies. Read Santner’s essay in full below:

The New Idolatry: Religious Thinking

in the Un-Commonwealth of America

At a recent debate among Republican presidential candidates in Iowa, all participants raised their hand when asked whether they would oppose a deficit-reduction agreement that featured 10 dollars in budget cuts for every dollar in increased tax revenue. I think one misses something important if one dismisses this moment as a bit of cynical political theater. But it is equally insufficient to see in it a display of genuine political commitments and . . .

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The economics of fairness, or pass the lutefisk

July 12, 2011
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The economics of fairness, or pass the lutefisk

Natalie Angier is a science journalist—and an outspoken athiest—with a thirst for. . . . fairness? At least that’s the case in her recent piece for the New York Times, in which she explores the wealth gap that’s helped spur our worst economic crisis since the Great Depression in light of research on human nature and the evolution of human social organization. Interesting to point out that another NYT study bills the average top executive’s salary at ten million dollars and rising twelve percent per year.

And just who’s fair?

Angier spells it out for us:

Darwinian-minded analysts argue that Homo sapiens have an innate distaste for hierarchical extremes, the legacy of our long nomadic prehistory as tightly knit bands living by veldt-ready team-building rules: the belief in fairness and reciprocity, a capacity for empathy and impulse control, and a willingness to work cooperatively in ways that even our smartest primate kin cannot match.

In The Fair Society: The Science of Human Nature and the Pursuit of Social Justice, Peter Corning draws on evidence similar to what Angier cites in her article: the evolutionary record, along with the latest findings from the behavioral and biological sciences. The result? A . . .

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Unions, the public sector, and the struggle for collective bargaining in Wisconsin

March 10, 2011
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Unions, the public sector, and the struggle for collective bargaining in Wisconsin

“Our democracy is out of control in Wisconsin,” Mr. Barca said. “And you all know it—you can feel it.”

A quote from this morning’s New York Times, by State Representative and Wisconsin Democrat Peter Barca reveals the escalation of already tense emotions in Madison as the State Assembly prepares to vote on a bill curtailing bargaining rights for many government workers.* Wisconsin has been a site for national and international coverage in past weeks, as tens of thousands of protesters have take to the Wisconsin State Capitol in demonstrations against Republican Scott Walker’s proposed legislation—which would weaken collective bargaining for state employees, requiring those employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to cover pension costs, and 12.6 percent towards health care premiums.

Recent studies, including one published by the Wall Street Journal, emphasize that growth in state and local government jobs nearly doubles the rate of population growth, and public unions depend on tax revenues to generate pay and benefits. For Wisconsin, a state whose 2003 and 2011 tax cuts may help to generate up to an 800 million dollar reduction in tax revenues by 2013, the situation is dire; this, coupled with Governor Walker’s legislation, which is . . .

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