Authentic growth vs. trash and waste

Yesterday the stock market surged. The Dow shot up 380 points, the Nasdaq nearly 90. But while I was rifling through my bedside drawers for some Dramamine, I heard this: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to keep the federal coffers open for additional stimulus packages. I got nauseous for a whole different reason. Didn’t we just float an $800 billion note last month? Slow it down, sister.After conferring behind closed doors with practitioners of the dismal science, Speaker Pelosi emerged to say … [Read more...]

The wealth of (Western) nations

"Calvinism is evidently connected with the commercial vocation," writes Luigi Barzini in The Europeans. "It is not clear to an Italian [like the author], however, whether Calvinists, driven by their stern religious code, become the best merchants, or whether merchants become Calvinists because Calvinism is a superior guide for the successful conduct of business."It turns out that Barzini's is an avoidable conundrum. Like the great Italian scribe, I've long been influenced by the concept of the … [Read more...]

Adam Smith for dummies

Despite their obvious differences, Das Kapital and The Wealth of Nations share at least one similarity: Nobody reads them. In the case of Karl Marx, this is no tragedy. Thanks to the colorful antics of history (many of them sticky and sanguinary), anyone can see that the bewhiskered dreamer was full of crap.Not so with Adam Smith, whose tome revealed profundities from which anyone would profit -- that is, unless you count the cost of actually digesting The Wealth of Nations. Any edition of … [Read more...]

If I were a rich man

One of the most memorable numbers in the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, is Tevye's what-if song, "If I Were a Rich Man." There in his ramshackle barn the poor, Jewish dairyman living in czarist Russia daydreams about being wealthy. Most of us probably do it. If I had a million bucks, what would I do? A billion?Some of us feel ashamed if we dream about being wealthy. It's greedy, after all, isn't it? Grasping, crass and base. Such a daydream is probably pretty foolish, to boot. In the … [Read more...]