Warren Buffett’s Family Secretly Funded a Birth Control Revolution
Quietly, steadily, the Buffett family is funding the biggest shift in birth control in a generation. “For Warren, it’s economic. He thinks that unless women can control their fertility—and that it’s basically their right to control their fertility—that you are sort of wasting more than half of the brainpower in the United States,” DeSarno said about Buffett’s funding of reproductive health in the 2008 interview. “Well, not just the United States. Worldwide.”
Herbalife is an MLM company that its detractors believe is nothing more than a pyramid scheme. But, John Hempton manager of Bronte Capital disagrees. In a long post he sets out why "it is the stock in the portfolio I am most proud to own. It is also the stock about whose long-term prospects I am most bullish." 20,000 words of economic analysis sounds a dry read. But think again, exploring the economics of this one peculiar company is a rabbit hole of fascinating portraits on globalisation, psychology and everyday life around the world.
Shared Prosperity, Common Wealth, National Equity and a Citizen's Dividend: Nirit Peled takes a look at social experiments in basic incomes for VPRO Tegenlicht, a Dutch public television documentary series. Starting with a German crowdfunded UBI chosen by raffle -- kind of like the opposite of Le Guin's Omelas (or Shirley Jackson's Lottery in reverse) -- the focus moves on to Albert Wenger who wants to disconnect work from income not only as automation progresses but to accelerate the process. Then it's on to Guy Standing who has conducted basic income experiments in India and Namibia (pdf) and is trying to get one off the ground in Groningen (Utrecht apparently is also a go). Finally, a stop in Alaska to ask some of its residents about their views on the state-owned Permanent Fund. This last part brings to mind the question: just what is wealth anyway? [more inside]
Since April three of the biggest movies in history have opened: Furious 7 (with a worldwide gross of 1.5 billion dollars), Age of Ultron (with a worldwide gross of 1.3 billion dollars) and Jurassic World (with a worldwide gross of half a billion after just one weekend, and heading towards a likely record). With Star Wars down the pike in December, we're looking at a record setting year for the box office, largely on the backs of franchise action/adventure films. Mark Harris writes about the new franchise film economy in Park Effects, and relatedly, Alex Pappademas considers the efforts to create a farm league of indie directors for these new billion dollar movies in Mr. DNA.
Joe Stiglitz on Inequality, Wealth, and Growth: Why Capitalism is Failing (video; if you don't have 30m, skip to 20m for discussion of political inequality, wealth, credit and monetary policy) - "If the very rich can use their position to get higher returns, more investment information, more extraction of rents, and if the very rich have equal or higher savings rates, then wealth will become more concentrated... economic inequality inevitably gets translated into political inequality, and political inequality gets translated into more economic inequality. The basic and really important idea here is that markets don't exist in a vacuum, that market economies operate according to certain rules, certain regulations that specify how they work. And those effect the efficiency of those markets, but they also effect how the fruits of the benefits of those markets are distributed and the result of that is there are large numbers of aspects of our basic economic framework that in recent years have worked to increase the inequality of wealth and income in our society... leading to a society which can be better described, increasingly, as an inherited plutocracy." [more inside]
"The world authorities have run out of ammunition as rates remain stuck at zero. They have no margin for error as economy falters" (Telegraph) [more inside]
"To spell out the law of the land in the dead language of your time: on a Letterman Top Ten list of this situation, we are all number one, and you are numbers two through ten. The fleek have inherited the earth." -- A Millennial Revenge Fantasy ( The Hairpin)
Keep Harriet Tubman – and all women – off the $20 bill. "Harriet Tubman did not fight for capitalism, free trade, or competitive markets." [more inside]
The top 25 hedge fund managers earn more than all kindergarten teachers in U.S. combined. "'Last year turned out to be the worst one for this elite group of investors since the stock market meltdown of 2008,' Institutional Investors' Stephen Taub writes, adding, 'How bad was it?' apparently without irony." [more inside]
In The Atlantic, economist Bourree Lam looks at how Marie Kondo's bestselling tidying book reflects the principles of behavioral economics. Marie Kondo previously on Metafilter. AskMe collects great advice from members on how to do KonMari.
China rates its own citizens - including online behaviour: "The Chinese government is currently implementing a nationwide electronic system, called the Social Credit System, attributing to each of its 1,3 billion citizens a score for his or her behavior. The system will be based on various criteria, ranging from financial credibility and criminal record to social media behavior. From 2020 onwards each adult citizen should, besides his identity card, have such a credit code." [more inside]
Foundation: Public Goods and Options for the Bottom Billions - "Human beings just don't handle the very long run well" and that's where government increasingly comes in... (via) [more inside]
12 minute video on India’s Experiment in Basic Income Grants "cash transfers given to all citizens to ensure that they have a minimal income". [more inside]
Literacy education is not a de facto instrument of personal and economic liberation. The dark side of literacy is social control. Reading can only promote genuine inclusion when people are allowed to engage freely with text on their own terms, and that is not a given. The goodness of literacy ... “depends in part on whether it is used as an instrument of conformity or of creativity.”Martha Poon and Helaine Olen use the history of traditional literacy to look critically at the notion of financial literacy [PDF, 13 pages], and how hard it is to “teach our way out of population-wide financial failure.” [more inside]
The connection between education and occupation is now so firmly ingrained as to seem almost a fact of nature. To get a good job, you get a diploma: at once time a high school diploma stuffed, and then a B.A., but now you're better off with a J.D. or an M.B.A...Yet this familiar system, far from evolving “naturally” or “unconsciously,” is the product of distinct cultural changes in American history. The process that left it in our landscape is less like the slow raising of a mountain range or the growth of oxbows on the Mississippi, and more like the construction of a dam. Three changes, which took place in the past hundred years, produced the system that is now producing M.B.A.s. They were the conversion of jobs into “professions,” the scientific measurement of intelligence, and the use of government power to “channel” people toward certain occupations. James Fallows explains in a 1985 article in The Atlantic. (See also William James 80 years prior on The Ph.D. Octopus).
A short history of gaming in Brazil: "To understand the history of gaming in Brazil dear reader, you must know a little bit about our political and economic history ... In 1991, a small publisher by the name of GSA published a roleplaying game called Tagmar [translation], often lauded as the first Brazilian RPG. ... They also released Desafio dos Bandeirantes, a game set in 17th century colonial Brazil using regional folklore instead of European myths, and a sci-fi game, Millenia [translation] ... In February 1994, the Brazilian authorities set in motion a major economic plan that invigorated the Brazilian economy for the first time since 1973. By March, the currency stabilized enough to assure the population (and companies) that their money would be worth the same by the end of the week ... The happy result for gamers was that companies started buying game licenses right and left." Via. See also History of Brazilian RPGs, History of Brazilian RPG magazines, Role-playing games in education in Brazil: how we do it [PDF], and President Cardoso reflects on Brazil and sociology.
'Looper's Noah Segan (aka Kid Blue) Explains What It's Really Like As a Working Actor
While waiting to interview Looper director Rian Johnson during Fantastic Fest, a chance encounter challenged even my notions of what it meant to be a movie star. Sitting there, in the garish luxury of the Four Seasons hotel lobby, I met a rather lost-looking young man with whom I struck up a conversation. He was passionate and sharp, and it took a good five minutes before I recognized him as Noah Segan, the actor who played Kid Blue in Looper. I assumed he too had been sent by the studio to promote the movie, but in fact he had come of his own volition, on his own dime, and was being soundly ignored by the publicists.[more inside]
Talking with Noah, it became clear that, though he had appeared in several theatrical films, he was far from living the life of privilege and extreme comfort we tend to associate with movie stars. Noah’s experience echoes those of many with occupations in the creative field; the epitome of the blue-collar artist. This interview was completely unexpected, and we didn’t end up talking much about the movie, but if you’re struggling with the financial logistics of doing what you love professionally, you too will probably find a kindred spirit in Kid Blue.
The Japanese government is attempting to end Japan's culture of "death by overwork" (now known as karoshi) by moving to make it illegal to not take mandatory paid vacation days. Why won't Japanese workers go on vacation? The Japanese work some of the longest hours in the world and fear taking paid holidays in case they are ostracised by colleagues. The stress is so extreme that every year thousands of workers succumb to “karoshi”, or “death by overwork”. They either commit suicide (the see suicide as salvation), or die of a stroke or a heart attack. The Japanese are literally dying for work and the phenomenon is spreading to other Asian countries such as China, South Korea, and Bangladesh. A "chapter" of the award winning documentary "Happy" (now on Netflix and other online venues) looks at this Japanese phenomenon of Karoshi. HAPPY (trailer here) takes you on a journey from the swamps of Louisiana to the slums of Kolkata in search of what really makes people happy. Combining real life stories of people from around the world and powerful interviews with the leading scientists in happiness research, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.
"I somehow or somewhere got the idea," wrote Lucy Larcom in the 18th century, "when I was a small child, that the chief end of woman was to make clothing for mankind."
When President Obama appointed Tom Wheeler (a former top telecom lobbyist) as chairman of the FCC, he got a lot of grief for selling out his '07 pledge to protect Net Neutrality -- the founding principle long prized by open web activists that ISPs cannot privilege certain data over others, without which dire visions of a tiered and pay-for-play internet loomed. Earlier, weaker attempts at net neutrality had failed in court, and the new chairman looked set to fold. But after an unprecedented outcry following last year's trial balloon for ISP "fast lanes" -- including a viral appeal by John Oliver, a public urging by the president, and perhaps Wheeler's own history with the pre-web NABU Network -- the FCC yesterday voted along party lines to enact the toughest net neutrality rules in history, classifying ISPs as common carriers and clearing the way for municipal broadband. ISPs reacted with (Morse) venom, while congressional Republicans are divided over what they called "Obamacare for the internet."
Imagine you could invest in the stock market last week, with perfect knowledge of how it will move this week. 25 year old Frenchman Max-Hervé George does not need a Delorean, he is the beneficiary of a very unusual 8000 euro life insurance policy that lets him do just that. He could be a billionaire by the end of this decade and, by the end of the next, his contract would be worth more than the insurance company which stands behind it, Aviva France.
There's been a small, but influential, hysteria surrounding the idea is that a huge wave of automation, technology and skills have lead to a massive structural change in the economy since 2010. The implicit argument here is that robots and machines have both made traditional demand-side policies irrelevant or naïve, and been a major driver of wage stagnation and inequality. Though not the most pernicious story that gained prominence as the recovery remained sluggish in 2010 to 2011, it gained an important foothold among elite discussion. That is over.David Autor and Larry Summers tear apart the idea that a Machine Age is responsible for our economic plight.
Treading Water by Laura Parker [National Geographic]
Phil Stoddard, in his third term as mayor of South Miami, is one of the few politicians willing to talk about when that time might come... He drew a graph with three lines that show population, property values, and sea level all rising. Then abruptly, population growth and property values plummet. “Something is going to upset the applecart,” he says. “A hurricane, a flood, another foot of sea rise, the loss of freshwater. People are going to stop coming here and bail.”[more inside]
Let Us Face the Future - "All parties pay lip service to the idea of jobs for all. All parties are ready to promise to achieve that end by keeping up the national purchasing power and controlling changes in the national expenditure through Government action. Where agreement ceases is in the degree of control of private industry that is necessary to achieve the desired end. In hard fact, the success of a full employment programme will certainly turn upon the firmness and success with which the Government fits into that programme the investment and development policies of private as well as public industry." [more inside]
BIG and BOT Policy Proposals (transcript) - "Many of our current economic policies originated during times of scarcity. But now, says investor Albert Wenger, we live in an era of 'digital abundance', when creating new products costs virtually nothing. To adapt to the resulting economic upheavals, we won't need just more tech, says Wenger, but some strong policies. Here he explores two: basic income guarantee and the right to be represented by a bot." [more inside]
The End of Banking: Money, Credit, and the Digital Revolution - "Unregulated banking with access to government guarantees is an enticing business model. It offers the profits of excessive risk-taking in good times, and allows passing on the inevitable losses to taxpayers in bad times." [more inside]
Raj Chetty gives the 2015 Richard T. Ely Lecture (video, slides; talk begins at 9m) for the AEA: [more inside]
In December 1974, Arthur Laffer scribbled a supply-side economic model on a cloth napkin at the Two Continents restaurant in Washington. His dining companions, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, took the idea to their boss, President Gerald Ford. And by the time Ronald Reagan was elected president, the first major challenge to Keynesian economics had gained a foothold in the White House. [more inside]
JetBlue is adding luggage charges and packing more seats on its planes, and customers are freaking out. Is contemporary airline service so bad because the airlines are colluding to make you suffer, as Tim Wu writes in the New Yorker? Or because low-price, a la carte service is what fliers actually want, as Alison Griswold writes in Slate? For a data-rich deep dive into what passengers really hate about air travel, see "The Unfriendly Skies" (.pdf), a report on five years worth of air travelers' complaints to the US Department of Transportation.
Premier Foods, one of the UK's biggest manufacturers, has been asking its suppliers for payments to continue doing business with the firm.
ON MONDAY: You are on your way to the fruit market, because you want to buy five oranges. Someone you’ve never met before accosts you on your way and says “Hey, you! Could you buy me five oranges please? I’ll give you the money when you come back and pay you ten pence for doing it”. You think what the hell, and say yes.Daniel Davies tries to explain the FX scandal using the analogy of a fruit market.
An article from The Atlantic's Olga Khazan discusses the invention of a $1 fresh salad vending machine in order to make healthier food options available in lower socioeconomic communities like East Garfield Park in Chicago's West side. [more inside]
LEMONADE WAR: a short film starring Patton Oswalt, Taylor Buck, Mo Collins and Werner Herzog. View more films here from We The Economy: 20 Short Films You Can’t Afford to Miss.
If mega-rich people could buy places on clinical trials, would this help drive forward the development of new treatments that could benefit everyone? [more inside]
Robert Peston, BBC : "Well you may recall that the Office for National Statistics recently recalculated the size of our national income to take account of unreported or under-reported parts of the economy, such as research and development, illicit drugs and prostitution. So thanks in part to the inclusion in the official economy of our productive sex workers, our EU membership fee has been augmented." - The BBC's economic editor's take on the UK's new, increased (by £1.7 billion) EU subscription. [more inside]
In the Billfold: a tale of a day-long tryout for an early stage startup, the author dubs The Start-up From Hell. The COO responds in Valleywag, "While it posted today (October 21), the article [...] relates to an experience she says she had 15 months ago. [...] At that time, Handybook employed less than 15 people. Today, Handy is two and a half years old and employs 200 people. [...] In short, as we continue to grow we're working every day to ensure the happiness of our customers and employees." [more inside]
What is a work of art in the age of $120,000 art degrees? A new report (PDF) by activist collective BFAMFAPhD laments the shrinking job prospects and growing debt burden for art school graduates. [more inside]
The return to pushing children hard consists of the increased likelihood that they will do well later in life. How important this is to parents depends crucially on the degree of economic inequality, and in particular on the return to education. In an economy where education and effort are highly rewarded and where people with little education struggle, parents will be highly motivated to push their children hard. Thus, we expect economic inequality to be associated with intensive (authoritarian and authoritative) parenting styles. In contrast, in an economy where there is little inequality and artists and school dropouts earn only slightly less than doctors and engineers, parents can afford a more relaxed attitude, and permissive parenting should be more prevalent. [study here]
This Is What's the Matter With Kansas: Sam Brownback tried to create a conservative utopia. He created a conservative hell instead. [more inside]
So you wanna join this bitcoin thing but can't afford the processing cycles to actually mine stuff? Now you can earn bitcoins using pencil and paper!
The political economy of a universal basic income: "your view of what is feasible should not be backwards looking. The normalization of gay marriage and legalization of marijuana seemed utopian and politically impossible until very recently. Yet in fact those developments are happening, and their expansion is almost inevitable given the demographics of ideology... UBI — defined precisely as periodic transfers of identical fixed dollar amounts to all citizens of the polity — is by far the most probable and politically achievable among policies that might effectively address problems of inequality, socioeconomic fragmentation, and economic stagnation." [more inside]