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 »

Who is this ‘we’?

At the outset of his The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society , Brad S. Gregory takes aim at Charles Taylor’s overly simplified portrait of the shift from the medieval “naive acknowledgment of the transcendent” to the “exclusive . . . . Continue Reading »

Virtue and rewards

It has long been said that virtue is its own reward. This notion is particularly set against any “instrumentalization” of virtue, any notion that virtue is a means to achieve some other end. We are good because it is good to be good, not because being good is rewarded with some other . . . . Continue Reading »

New Frontiers

In their contribution to American Space/American Place: Geographies of the Contemporary United States , John Agnew and Joanne Sharp describe the context and import of Frederick Jackson Turner’s famed “Frontier Thesis.” Turner wrote in the context of the downturn of the 1890s, and . . . . Continue Reading »

Papal economics

Michael Miller’s essay in Christian Theology and Market Economics focuses on “Business as a moral enterprise.” In part, he offers a summary of John Paul II’s teaching on economics and business, especially as expressed in the encyclical Centessimus Annus . As one might . . . . Continue Reading »

Productive Money

In his contribution to Christian Theology and Market Economics , Stephen Grabill reviews the “pre-Enlightenment” history of economic theory. That is to say, scholastic economics. For many economic historians, the notion of a scholastic economic theory is fallacious, and Exhibit #1 is . . . . Continue Reading »

Perpetual anxiety

Work is worrisome. Time was, though, when you could leave the worries at the office. Not any more, Bauman says ( Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age , 76): “Most of us take those worries with us, in our laptops and mobile phones, wherever we go - to our homes, for weekend . . . . Continue Reading »