Thursday, December 30, 2004

Taming Markets has replaced its homepage to the Red Cross fund for victims of the Asian tsunamis -- the death toll of which is now being reported at over 114,000 as rescuers are able to gain access to more remote villages.

As has been said many times, these numbers are just beyond comprehension. The best attempts fall into a certain navel-gazing kind of mind-limit.

This reminds me of a time when I was able to ask at a presentation a question of then-COO of Continental Airlines Greg Breneman what his airline could do for humanitarian purposes that perhaps fit comfortably within their business model (excess flight capacity, etc.). I was in college. He seemed offended by the question and waxed philosophical (in the most generous of senses) about communism and free markets -- it was wholly incoherent.

But has just demonstrated an action about which I was asking, and one to which I think many responsible world-citizens aspire. If only more companies thought with such a mindset.

This kind of public/private action can seize across a personal psychology that too often is enabled by our markets and that even depends on the circumscription of events such as world tragedy and social problems. So perhaps even more than just the dollars can raise through its action is the blending of market and public mindset that its consumers will encounter, even if briefly.

Because if the death of over 100,000 people in a disaster of any kind can't transcend the so-called private market sphere, can anything?

[BTW: Word is that the site received 48,000 contributions in its first 24 hours online.]

Monday, November 29, 2004

How Long Has This Been Going On?

[originally posted November 2004] Usually I don't like to speak on issues that are already well-covered, but the economic position of the U.S. right now is a topic that cannot be spoken of enough.

With real estate and talk of currency troubles (aka: interest rate watch), we are watching like hawks these issues. Builders all around many metro suburbs are speculating with relatively cheap money, and banks are loading their balance sheets with really shaky things like "100% loans" (like an ARM with a balloon payment/refi instead of an adjustment). It looks scary. Moreover, it can happen like dominoes -- one big entity makes a move, and everyone (foreign financiers of U.S. debt) starts second guessing.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

The Moderate Fringe

Thanks to Brad DeLong for leading me to this eloquent piece from Paul Musgrave about the progressive agenda and the plight of the rural U.S.

The tragedy of rural American life has gone mainly unmentioned, even as some of us have waxed rhapsodic over, say, the exportation of McDonald's to Asia. Why are we more concerned with the loss of "authentic" cultures in Thailand or Indonesia than with those of rural America?

Having interned in a declining rural area of western Massachusetts in grad school, I've become keenly attuned to the haunting silence of drowning rural cities. Paul hits the nail on the head.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The Dismal Science?

Mirriam-Webster's Online Dictionary describes the etymology of "economy" as:
Middle French 'yconomie', from Medieval Latin 'oeconomia', from Greek 'oikonomia', from 'oikonomos' 'household manager', from 'oikos' 'house' + 'nemein' 'to manage'

Basically, the Greeks started it, the Latins copied it, and the French made it popular. The original meaning, however, is extraordinary: household manager. Or, perhaps more appropriately, "the state of household affairs."

I'm delighted. Because the idea of "economy" in the contemporary view is a total perversion of the root meaning. And the idea of "economy" as "household management" promises new understanding of affairs in our world of gross political neglect. (I mean political in both the "ideological" and "body politic" senses.)

Economics is not a science. It's really more a discussion.