Monthly Archives: November 2015

Most of What You Learned in Econ 101 Is Wrong


Principles of Economics, Author: Greg Mankiw.

By Noah Smith – Mankiw’s book, like every introductory econ textbook I know of, has a big problem. Most of what’s in it is probably wrong.

In the last three decades, the economics profession has undergone a profound shift. The rise of information technology and new statistical methods has dramatically increased the importance of data and empirics.

And what they have found has often been revolutionary. The simple theories we teach in Econ 101 classes work once in a while, but in many important cases they fail. more>

Shoppers’ Sagging Holiday Spirit

By Mark Whitehouse – U.S. retailers have come to rely on a shopping frenzy toward the end of the year, as the annual gift-giving season compels people to open their wallets.

That holiday bump, though, appears to be shrinking.

There’s also a darker possibility: Declining incomes may have left a large portion of Americans less willing to splurge. The median U.S. household income has fallen more than 3 percent over the past decade in inflation-adjusted terms. December’s share of spending tends to suffer when budgets are tighter, as evidenced by the sharp drop during the 2008 recession. more>

The World’s First Nuclear Reactor was Built in a Squash Court

By Danny Lewis – The experimental reactor was built during the height of World War II as part of the Manhattan Project, the army’s nuclear weapons program.

Led by physicist Enrico Fermi, who described the rudimentary reactor as “a crude pile of black bricks and wooden timbers,” CP-1 was built in a matter of weeks out of a large stack of graphite bricks and uranium pellets, with cadmium and iridium control rods inserted to keep it from going critical, Michael Byrne writes for Motherboard.

Fermi theorized that the uranium would act as fuel by emitting neutrons that would collide with the other uranium atoms in the pile and split them apart. The more atoms that split, the more energy they would release, which would in turn perpetuate the reaction. The graphite bricks would slow the uranium neutrons, making these collisions more likely; control rods absorbed the neutrons, allowing Fermi and his team to control the reaction. more>

Syria, Yemen, Libya — one factor unites these failed states, and it isn’t religion

By Jack Goldstone – As they think about climate issues, they should remember that the connection between climate change and Islamic State — and more broadly, between climate change and political instability — is not just a coincidence.

It may instead be the key reality of the 21st century.

Unfortunately, Central America, most of Africa, the Middle East, and much of South Asia are dominated by precisely the wrong kind of governments. These regions have too many fragile states where large segments of the elite or populace distrust the government because of ethnic, religious, or economic exclusion; where governments have limited economic resources to respond to humanitarian crises; where governments are disinclined to respond to problems among marginalized groups or regions of their country; and where the economies are too dependent on agriculture or mining, and so cannot provide work for people if they are forced to move. more>


The Biggest And Boldest Ideas For How To Stop Rising Inequality

By Jessica Leber – As inequality has grown over the last several decades, the United States has become a nation where a few are making it, and the many are being left behind.

Poverty and elite wealth are in. The working middle class is out.

  • Should everyone get a minimum inheritance at birth? How about a government-guaranteed income or job? In the face of a growing income gap, we may need to get revolutionary.
  • The U.S. ranks among the lowest among developed countries for upward mobility, despite clinging to the mythology of Horatio Alger.
  • Technology, globalization, and political choices all play a role. The current debate is over how much of each. What’s at stake is our future.
  • Experts don’t know what a poor person needs. But guess who does? Poor people.
  • Where you grow up shapes your adult wellbeing, especially if you’re poor—which is why we should worry that communities are more segregated than ever.

For all the talk from both sides of the aisle, we have the makings of another mostly meaningless election buzzword. more>

The cult of productivity is preventing you from being productive

By Jess Whittlestone – “Productivity” has become such a buzzword that it can seem like it’s the goal in itself.

But productivity is useless if what you’re producing isn’t meaningful or helpful to you or others in some way.

The reason we really care about productivity—or the reason we should care—is that it allows us to do the things we care about as well and effectively as possible.

Productivity isn’t a goal, but rather a tool for better achieving our goals. more>

How Lockheed Martin, Cisco and PWC manage cybersecurity

By Bruce Harpham – Talented information security professionals remain the linchpin of a successful cybersecurity program.

Several employment surveys have found that security skills continue to be in high demand, and some high profile security jobs can command salaries over $200,000 per year.

A major part of Lockheed’s security success comes down to the organization’s talent strategy.

“When I bring a new security analyst into Lockheed, they have the opportunity to rotate through several groups: Lockheed’s internal security unit, the group serving government clients and work with our commercial clients,” Angela Heise shared.

“We empower our security staff by giving them a say in the tools they use and help them develop their careers,” she continued.

Diversity and cross-generational cooperation is another opportunity. more>

Updates from GE

Jody Holtzman: The Upside of Longevity — Beyond the Status Quo
By Jody Holtzman – There is an often unspoken assumption when policy makers and others speak about the implications of the aging demographics of the country.

When you tear away all of the niceties, it comes down to this — “We can’t afford all of these old people.”

While only 34 percent of the U.S. population in 2013, people over 50 generated $5.1 trillion in consumer spending and accounted for $7.1 trillion — or 42 percent — of U.S. GDP. This supported just under 90 million jobs, or 49 percent of the total, and generated over $1.5 trillion in federal, state and local taxes.

For the first time in human history, we have an abundance of experienced human capital — capable and wanting — and continuing to add value to their communities, companies and the economy.

The only thing stopping them from greater contributions is the narrow thinking of a corporate America that views experienced workers as a cost, rather than an asset with skills, wisdom and experience. While some bemoan the long-term challenges facing Social Security, current policies penalize those who can and want to continue working. more>

The World Isn’t Ready for Gross National Happiness

By Noah Smith – Humanity has puzzled over the meaning of happiness for millennia, but now it’s being asked by economists.

The focus on happiness represents a philosophical shift for the economics field, but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Economists’ traditional measures of well-being are based on utility, or the degree to which people get what they want.

Economists who study happiness have begun to entertain the notion that perhaps what matters isn’t the degree to which people get what they want, but how much they like what they get. Good emotions may be more important than satiation of desires.

That’s not a crazy idea. There’s one huge problem with happiness research, however.

There is really no good way to measure what people are actually feeling. more>

How To Build A Culture Of Listening

By Karin Hurt – There are a few signs that your company has a culture founded on listening.

It takes time to develop, but here’s how to tell when it does.

  • People at all levels are thinking about the business and sharing ideas, and solutions to challenges show up in surprising places—not just every blue moon, but regularly.
  • A great idea is a great idea, regardless of who thought of it, and your company rewards whoever does—fairly.
  • Employees at all levels are really listening to what customers are saying, and that includes negative feedback.
  • When the call for questions goes out, the room doesn’t fall silent.
  • No one freaks out when an exec shows up unexpectedly.
  • No one is shocked by the employee engagement survey results.
  • Employees don’t feel like value-generating machines, but actual humans who have mutually respected relationships with their employer.

Listening is one of the most important behaviors to build in a company’s culture. more>