Economics is all about consumption. People either spend money now or they use financial instruments - like bonds, stocks and savings accounts - so they can spend more later.
'Reinventing the Bazaar,' by John McMillan, is a great and fun introduction to the wild variety and importance of markets throughout history and around the world. I finally understood how a Middle Eastern souk actually works economically and how to compare that to modern-day telecom-spectrum auctions. I love that book.
If the American government can't stand behind the dollar, the world's benchmark currency, then the global financial system will very likely enter a new era in which there is much less trade and much less economic growth. It would be, by most accounts, the largest self-imposed financial disaster in history.
Holiday binge-buying has deep roots in American culture: department stores have been associating turkey gluttony with its spending equivalent since they began sponsoring Thanksgiving Day parades in the early 20th century.
Happiness statistics may be most valuable in smaller, local discussions. Understanding how different sorts of programs affect the well-being of citizens would be enormously helpful to a mayor choosing between building a new bridge or offering a tax cut.
The cardinal rule of taxation is that whatever you put a levy on, you'll inevitably get less of. Taxing corporate activity means less investing, less hiring, fewer jobs and a smaller economy, which hurts the rich, the poor and the middle class alike.
If an alien with an accounting degree touched down in America, it might conclude that we're a weird cult that spends 11 months living frugally and four crazy weeks buying tons of stuff we don't need. It wouldn't be entirely wrong, either.
The America that I think most Americans would want, most economists on the right or left would want, is one in which a smart, ambitious, hardworking person without a huge amount of resources has a pretty good shot, in the end, of beating out a less smart, less ambitious, less hardworking rich person.
The economy works best when better ideas win out over worse ideas, harder work wins out over less work, when it's a fair fight in the marketplace.
Unlike physics, economists don't settle things. There seems to be plenty of room for different conclusions that are still accepted in the academy.
Poverty is not the simple result of bad geography, bad culture, bad history. It's the result of us: of the ways that people choose to organize their societies.
Hating Wall Street is an American tradition that dates back even to the days when Thomas Jefferson cursed that money lover Alexander Hamilton. And for centuries, the complaints about it have largely stayed the same: 'It does nothing! It creates chaos! It's a parasite that sucks hardworking Americans dry!'
The world I want to live in is a world where everybody is a bit more uncertain about their arguments and is a bit more open to other people's arguments. I think that we can engage ideas without ad hominem attacks.
A healthy economy is largely a result of a reasonable balance between consumption today and consumption deferred, and it's pretty clear that balance has been ridiculously out of whack for a while.
We tend in this country to talk about Democrats and Republicans, and think there's little group over there called Independents that's maybe 2%. That is not the case, and it has not been the case for most of modern American history.
One of the great political and economic challenges of our time is figuring out the balance between wealth that benefits society and wealth that distorts.
What there is no dispute about is whether or not China is a currency manipulator. They are a currency manipulator. They actively intervene every single day to keep the value of their currency less than it would be against the dollar than if it floated freely. We think. Even China barely disputes that.
It makes me happy to think that this world of art-as-investment is a minuscule fraction of the art world overall. Most people who create, trade and own art do it for a much simpler reason. They just like it.
I'm not the first to admit that raising a child in Park Slope, Brooklyn, can bear an embarrassing resemblance to the TV show 'Portlandia.' My wife and I try to have some ironic distance from the culture of organic, chemical-free parenting, but we're often participants.
The idea of confidence, of the emotions of the population, is an incredibly important one in economics. John Maynard Keynes called it 'animal spirit.' And if people are feeling generally good about the future, they're more likely to spend money, to start new companies; companies are more likely to hire people, make investments.