Heavenly Merchandizing

Mark Valeri attends to minutiae as he examines the interaction between religion and commercial activity in early New England ( Heavenly Merchandize: How Religion Shaped Commerce in Puritan America ). He attends to “merchants accounts and ledgers, businesscorrespondence and personal letters, . . . . Continue Reading »

Papal Economics

Maciej Zieba’s PAPAL ECONOMICS: The Catholic Church on Democratic Capitalism, from Rerum Novarum to Caritas in Veritate is a careful, informative study of Catholic social teaching as embodied in papal encyclicals. Though the book does briefly trace the history of Papal statements on democracy . . . . Continue Reading »

Hidden Economy

When Twitter went public recently, it was valued at $24 billion, with revenue of $535 million. 300 billion tweets have been sent since Twitter began, and that number increases by half a billion a day. What’s curious about this, James Surowieki writes in The New Yorker, is that Twitter uses . . . . Continue Reading »

New Corporatism

Nathan Heller explores the “new corporatism” touted by Apple, Google, Amazon and others in The New Yorker : These companies are “proud models of novel efficiency, and yet, in the same breath, they claim that efficiency isnt their real priority. Brad Stone says that Bezos touts his . . . . Continue Reading »

Social economy

I have many commendations, and one complaint/caveat about Charles Taylor’s discussion of the formation of an “economic” image of society in the early modern period ( A Secular Age , 176-84 ). Kudos for Taylor for his modification of the Weber thesis. Like Weber, he traces the rise . . . . Continue Reading »

Business of Breaking Bad

As “Breaking Bad” winds down, the Economist suggests that the show offers as much insight into business as a Harvard MBA at a fraction of the cost. What makes high-school-teacher-turned-meth-producer Walter White’s business successful? There are three ingredients: “The first . . . . Continue Reading »

Why firms?

Why the firm? Ronald Coase, a Nobel economist who died last week at the age of 102, was among the first to ask the question, in a 1937 article on the nature of the firm . His starting point was to notice the discrepancy between the way economic systems were described in theory and the reality of . . . . Continue Reading »

Scarcity upon Scarcity

Cass Sustein reviews Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir in the latest NYRB . The book focuses not on the reality of scarce resources but rather on the psychology of scarcity - the feeling of scarcity, which, the authors argue, has damaging . . . . Continue Reading »

Price of Lobster in Boston

Lobster, writes James Surowiecki in The New Yorker , was not always a luxury item. On the contrary: “In Colonial New England, it was a low-class food, in part because it was so abundant: servants, as a condition of their employment, insisted on not being fed lobster more than three times a . . . . Continue Reading »

Government and innovation

Americans think of ourselves as entrepreneurs, innovators, and self-starters. That description fits plenty of American businessmen, but in the world we inhabit many technological advances that fuel mega-sized companies started in government programs. John Judis makes this point concisely in a . . . . Continue Reading »