8 min read

Culture, Economics, and Politics

Making sense of the big picture: what's going on with society as reflected in our economies and politics. Culture writ large

The articles here will make you laugh, get angry, or scratch your head. Maybe all three. If you want wisdom, see Stoic Wisdom. If you want careful advice, see Career Path.

This is where we explore big issues about which we know opinions differ.


A Stoic Predicts What Strong AI Might Mean for Humanity
Living in an age of technological marvels has blinded us to a simple fact about humankind
How Younger Generations Might Inadvertently Destroy Civilization
We’ve grown comfortable blaming Armageddon on Boomers. But what if Gen Y and Gen Z bring about the end of days?
Do You Live In a Serious Country?
Is Russia or Ukraine more serious? China or the U.S.? Israel or Iran? The answers may surprise you
The Real Reason the French Are Striking Once More
It’s not what you are reading in the news — striking is national entertainment
Americans Are Too Competitive
Competition among individual Americans and American companies has unquestionably made America great. But competition in one particular area is not producing great results: national politics.
Don’t Worry About Greed (Newsletter 059)
Fairness is relative and situational, which means that what we think is fair changes over time and changes depending on who is doing the comparing.
I’ve Got a Tip for You (Newsletter 074)
Tipping in America requires just a few ingredients: a transaction involving at least two individuals and money changing hands, including electronically.
How Will America Decline?
A history of success in almost any endeavor does not guarantee success forever. In fact, it would be foolish to assume so.
The Oppressed Olympics
To be a champion in these games, you look not to who has power, but to who is powerless.
Don’t Be An Idiot!
This list is for amusement only. Any overlap between my list and an idea you hold dear, or something you may have done, or even someone you believe you recognize, is purely coincidental. Really.
In Strangers’ Living Rooms
Every time I fly, the distance I contemplate driving to avoid flying goes up.
Nothing Bad that Happens is your Fault
What are you supposed to do? Not go out to eat? Not take your vacations? Not relieve your stress by on-line shopping? I think not. To do otherwise is to deny your very worth as a person.

Freedom of Speech

Freedom Of Speech
We each have a role to play in making the world the way we want it to be, and this extends to how we interact with our fellow citizens.
Dean Wormer Was Right! (We’re All Flounder Now)
Rather than living in our bubbles of personal truth and wish fulfillment, let’s grow up and interact with the world as it is, in all its complexity.
You’re On Double Secret Probation!
Go ahead, live your life. Ignore cancel culture so it can die the ignoble death it deserves.
Who Can Freely Speak Their Mind?
Every senior manager and CEO I know is (typically rightly) paranoid that they are getting bad information from their subordinates.
The Downside to Academic Life in the United States
I can either go along and not make waves, or I can be an interesting and honest teacher who challenges students to think and learn. I’m not…
How To Respond To Propaganda
Part 1: We live in an era of consensus views and cancel culture
How To Respond To Propaganda
Part 2: The very idea of truth is under assault
How to Respond to Propaganda
Part 3: Why holding fast to the truth is the answer
How to Respond to Propaganda
Part 4: The pledge — what we can do, specifically


Confessions of a Former One-Percenter: Life, Death, and Taxes
Let me tell you what Warren Buffet, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders all have in common
Try Using Economics To Steer Your Life (Newsletter 058)
The basic rules of competition apply in many areas of life beyond buying goods and services.
Pull The Emergency (Debt) Brake
The problems the U.S. faces with both its regular deficit spending and its expanding debt to GDP ratio are serious but solvable. Waiting until disaster strikes would mean the remedy would be that much more painful: think Greece or Venezuela.
The United States Is Not Bankrupt ... Yet
If we continue to spend more than we earn, eventually we will find that we need to sell assets to generate cash flow.
If You Did Your Performance Review Like A Central Bank
This one is for everyone who’s wondering what’s up with “core inflation” and “transitory” inflation.
Where Does The 2% Inflation Target Come From Anyway?
Would you rather have greater purchasing power, or “output that is close to the economy’s maximum sustainable level of output”?
What Are Your Rights as a Taxpayer?
Only one in ten Americans trust themselves to file their tax return without outside help.


Let’s Give Politicians a Vacation
Why is it that our instinct is always to do something, anything? It’s obvious we often make things worse by taking action.
Ways To Make Politics Better
Off the top of my head I can think of ten ways to make politics better. You will not agree with all of these, and you will have some better ideas.
Ten Things We Can All Agree On
We are so consumed with fighting over our disagreements, that we have lost sight of how much we all agree on.
Congress Gets A Grade
We can ask the following questions about Congress’s performance: do the laws Congress passes perform as intended? And are our tax dollars well spent?
Congress Is Performing As Expected
If you hire a fox to guard the henhouse, don’t be surprised if the number of chickens in your coop goes down.
Is Congress Suffering From ADHD?
Can an entire branch of government be suffering from a mental disorder?
Can Big Government Spending Make Anything Better? (Newsletter 055)
I’d argue that the single greatest problem in government is lack of accountability: we look only to the desirability of the policy objective and not to how well our policies achieve the intended result.