It's time to put down Ayn Rand and pick up Milton Friedman
Paul Ryan is worried about the Federal Reserve. He is worried the Federal Reserve will try to bring unemployment down. There's a word for this. I can't print it, because this is a family publication.
For the past four years, Ryan has repeatedly warned about the real menace threatening the economy: inflation. Forget that long-term unemployment has surged to levels not seen since the Great Depression, and prices have barely risen -- Ryan is scared of the inflation monster under his bed, and thinks you should be too. He thinks that trying to bring down unemployment will unleash the inflation monster -- and that's why he wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal back in May of 2008 calling on Congress to revoke the Fed's dual mandate to target both low inflation and low unemployment. He wants the Fed to only worry about the former and not the latter.
Ryan is pushing bad economics, and worse history. The chart below looks at core PCE inflation -- the Fed's preferred measure -- since Congress passed the Humphrey-Hawkins Act in 1978 that gave the Fed its dual mandate. After spiking due to the second oil shock, inflation has been on a steady downward trajectory for the past 30 years.
It takes a vivid imagination to interpret this as evidence that Humphrey-Hawkins has caused an inflation problem. Reality says the opposite. Actually, it's much, much worse for Ryan -- the Fed has gotten much, much better at maintaining price stability since the advent of the dual mandate. We don't have data on core PCE inflation before 1959, but we do have numbers for CPI inflation -- that is, including food and energy costs -- going back to 1914. Which period looks like the nirvana of price stability to you in the chart below? (Note: the yellow dot shows when Humphrey-Hawkins became law).
There was 4.4 times more variance in prices before the dual mandate than after it. And those first 20 years came under the gold standard -- which its advocates today claim would "cure" inflation! This last point is crucial because Ryan has something of a soft spot for goldbugs. Now, Ryan doesn't want to bring back the gold standard itself, but he does want to create a commodity standard -- in other words, tie the value of the dollar to a basket of commodities. This is a distinction without much of a difference. The Fed would have to raise interest rates when commodity prices go up, regardless of the state of the economy. This is all kinds of crazy. Commodity prices have shot up the past decade as developing nations have developed -- unrelated to inflation here. It makes no sense to make our economy worse because China's economy is getting better.
Where did Paul Ryan get such a truly nutty idea? It's not from the hero of conservative economic thought, Milton Friedman. Republicans have abandoned Friedman -- at least when it comes to monetary policy. (Although libertarians and conservatives like Scott Sumner, David Beckworth, and Evan Soltas still carry the Friedman torch). Friedman's insight was that low interest rates don't necessarily mean that Fed policy is easy -- usually the reverse -- and that the Great Depression wouldn't have been quite so great if the Fed had printed money to prevent the banking collapse. Ryan hasn't just ignored Friedman; Ryan is the anti-Friedman. He has sharply criticized Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke for printing money, and issued melodramatic (and incorrect) predictions about "currency debasement." Why is Ryan so out of step with what conservatives used to believe about monetary policy? Because he takes his cues on the Fed from a fiction writer instead of a Nobel laureate.
Back in 2005, Ryan explained that one person informed his thoughts on monetary policy: Ayn Rand. In a great catch by Dave Weigel of Slate, Ryan said that he "always goes back to" Francisco d'Anconia's speech from Atlas Shrugged when he thinks about the Fed. The speech in question consists of a rant against paper money and an ode to gold -- in other words, it's just a hop, skip, and a jump from this to Ryan's championing of a commodity-backed dollar. But even that makes more sense than Ryan's suggestion in a 2010 interview with Ezra Klein that the Fed should raise rates to help the economy. As Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute points out, making credit more expensive does not lead to more growth. Now, long-term interest rates do rise when growth goes up, but that doesn't mean that growth will go up when the Fed raises short-term interest rates. The opposite, actually. It was a disaster when the Fed tried that in 1931. Or when the ECB did in 2008. Or when the ECB did in 2011. It's curious that Ryan isn't aware that his ideas have been tried, and failed spectacularly.
Paul Ryan is a true believer. Back in 2009 he invested in commodity and TIPS funds -- in other words, he really does think the inflation monster is about to jump out from under the bed. But Ryan keeps getting it wrong because he has a wrong understanding of monetary policy. He needs to put down the Ayn Rand and pick up the Milton Friedman.
For those who didn't go to prestigious schools, don't come from money, and aren't interested in sports and booze—it's near impossible to gain access to the best paying jobs.
As income inequality in the U.S. strikes historic highs, many people are starting to feel that the American dream is either dead or out of reach. Only 64 percent of Americans still believe that it’s possible to go from rags to riches, and, in another poll, 63 percent said they did not believe their children would be better off than they were. These days, the idea that anyone who works hard can become wealthy is at best a tough sell.
Along with the Nancy Drew series, almost all of the thrillers in the popular teenage franchise were produced by ghostwriters, thanks to a business model that proved to be prescient.
In the opening pages of a recent installment of the children’s book series The Hardy Boys, black smoke drifts though the ruined suburb of Bayport. The town's residents, dressed in tatters and smeared with ash, stumble past the local pharmacy and diner. Shards of glass litter the sidewalk. “Unreal,” says the mystery-solving teenager Joe Hardy—and he's right. Joe and his brother Frank are on a film set, and the people staggering through the scene are actors dressed as zombies. But as is always the case with Hardy Boysbooks, something still isn’t quite right: This time, malfunctioning sets nearly kill several actors, and the brothers find themselves in the middle of yet another mystery.
There are two types of people in the world: those with hundreds of unread messages, and those who can’t relax until their inboxes are cleared out.
For some, it’s a spider. For others, it’s an unexpected run-in with an ex. But for me, discomfort is a dot with a number in it: 1,328 unread-message notifications? I just can’t fathom how anyone lives like that.
How is it that some people remain calm as unread messages trickle into their inboxes and then roost there unattended, while others can’t sit still knowing that there are bolded-black emails and red-dotted Slack messages? I may operate toward the extreme end of compulsive notification-eliminators, but surveys suggest I’m not alone: One 2012 study found that 70 percent of work emails were attended to within six seconds of their arrival.
This has led me to a theory that there are two types of emailers in the world: Those who can comfortably ignore unread notifications, and those who feel the need to take action immediately.
In most states, where euthanasia is illegal, physicians can offer only hints and euphemisms for patients to interpret.
SAN FRANCISCO—Physician-assisted suicide is illegal in all but five states. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen in the rest. Sick patients sometimes ask for help in hastening their deaths, and some doctors will hint, vaguely, how to do it.
This leads to bizarre, veiled conversations between medical professionals and overwhelmed families. Doctors and nurses want to help but also want to avoid prosecution, so they speak carefully, parsing their words. Family members, in the midst of one of the most confusing and emotional times of their lives, are left to interpret euphemisms.
That’s what still frustrates Hope Arnold. She says throughout the 10 months her husband J.D. Falk was being treated for stomach cancer in 2011, no one would talk straight with them.
New research confirms what they say about nice guys.
Smile at the customer. Bake cookies for your colleagues. Sing your subordinates’ praises. Share credit. Listen. Empathize. Don’t drive the last dollar out of a deal. Leave the last doughnut for someone else.
Sneer at the customer. Keep your colleagues on edge. Claim credit. Speak first. Put your feet on the table. Withhold approval. Instill fear. Interrupt. Ask for more. And by all means, take that last doughnut. You deserve it.
Follow one of those paths, the success literature tells us, and you’ll go far. Follow the other, and you’ll die powerless and broke. The only question is, which is which?
Of all the issues that preoccupy the modern mind—Nature or nurture? Is there life in outer space? Why can’t America field a decent soccer team?—it’s hard to think of one that has attracted so much water-cooler philosophizing yet so little scientific inquiry. Does it pay to be nice? Or is there an advantage to being a jerk?
Soccer’s international governing body has long been suspected of mass corruption, but a 47-count U.S. indictment is one of the first real steps to accountability.
Imagine this: A shadowy multinational syndicate, sprawling across national borders but keeping its business quiet. Founded in the early 20th century, it has survived a tumultuous century, gradually expanding its power. It cuts deals with national governments and corporations alike, and has a hand in a range of businesses. Some are legitimate; others are suspected of beings little more than protection rackets or vehicles for kickbacks. Nepotism is rampant. Even though it’s been widely rumored to be a criminal enterprise for years, it has used its clout to cow the justice system into leaving it alone. It has branches spread across the globe, arranged in an elaborate hierarchical system. Its top official, both reviled and feared and demanding complete fealty, is sometimes referred to as the godfather.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
The plight of non-tenured professors is widely known, but what about the impact they have on the students they’re hired to instruct?
Imagine meeting your English professor by the trunk of her car for office hours, where she doles out information like a taco vendor in a food truck. Or getting an e-mail error message when you write your former biology professor asking for a recommendation because she is no longer employed at the same college. Or attending an afternoon lecture in which your anthropology professor seems a little distracted because he doesn’t have enough money for bus fare. This is an increasingly widespread reality of college education.
Many students—and parents who foot the bills—may assume that all college professors are adequately compensated professionals with a distinct arrangement in which they have a job for life. In actuality those are just tenured professors, who represent less than a quarter of all college faculty. Odds are that students will be taught by professors with less job security and lower pay than those tenured employees, which research shows results in diminished services for students.
In any case, people have probably heard the phrase in reference to something gone awry at work or in life. In either setting, when the shit does hit the fan, people will tend to look to the most competent person in the room to take over.
And too bad for that person. A new paper by a team of researchers from Duke University, University of Georgia, and University of Colorado looks at not only how extremely competent people are treated by their co-workers and peers, but how those people feel when, at crucial moments, everyone turns to them. They find that responsible employees are not terribly pleased about this dynamic either.
Getting experienced educators to work in the highest-need schools requires more than bonus pay.
Standing in front of my eighth-grade class, my heart palpitated to near-panic-attack speed as I watched second hand of the clock. Please bell—ring early, I prayed. It was my second day of teaching, and some of my middle-school male students were putting me to the test.
In a span of three minutes, the group in room 204 had morphed from contained to out of control. Two boys were shooting dice in the back of the room, and as I instructed them to put their crumpled dollar bills away, several others took off their shoes and began tossing them around like footballs. Before I could react, one boy broke into my supply closet. He snatched handfuls of No. 2 pencils and highlighters and sprinted out of the room, slamming the door behind him.