Privilege: you're probably not the one percent

If you live near a Whole Foods, if you don't have a relative in jail, if you don't know anyone on meth, you're not in the one percent. Read the rest

Welfare encourages entrepreneurship

Conservatives wring their hands at the "moral hazard" of letting people earn without working, but clever, long-running empirical research projects show that people who fear starvation and medical bankruptcy don't quit their jobs and start new business. Read the rest

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Piketty on the pointless cruelty of European austerity

The economist says that the US's post-crisis job creation record and the EU's lagging record demonstrates that austerity cripples recoveries. Read the rest

IT feudalism: the surveillance state and wealth gaps

My latest Guardian column examines the relationship between technology, surveillance and wealth disparity -- specifically the way that cheap mass surveillance makes it possible to sustain more unequal societies because it makes it cheaper to find and catch the dissidents who foment rebellion over the creation of hereditary elites. Read the rest

Read Dickens with the prices adjusted for inflation

So many times I'm reading a Victorian plot that revolves around some gentry fop handing a scullery boy a sum of 100 half-whatevers. And I’m left wondering: is that a staggeringly large amount of money or an insultingly small one?

Historical Currency Conversions is a tool for finding the current value of historical currency. Type in an amount you see in a book and it spits out: “100 guineas in 1850 had the same buying power as 14647.25 current dollars.” Sure there are socioeconomic challenges to comparing 1850 London with current times, but you get in the ballpark enough to move on with your book. Read the rest

Greece's new finance minister used to be Valve's games economist

Yanis Varoufakis used to manage in-game economies in games like Counter-Strike; now he's finance minister for a Greek government that has set its sights on reforming the entire basis of austerity and debt service in the Eurozone. Read the rest

Pacific Edge, the most uplifting novel in my library

This utopian story, about a world where people live together without the need for extreme haves and have-nots, is available as a DRM-free audiobook
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Busting Sex Workers' Clients Increases Demand

Economist Charles Hill argues attempting to reduce the demand for sex services will backfire, increasing its supply and harming sex workers, free agents and coerced alike.

Why you're so busy

The Economist's feature on time-poverty is an absolute must-read, explaining the multi-factorial nature of the modern time crunch, which combines the equivalence of time and money (leading to leisure hours that are as crammed as possible in order to maximize their value), the precarity of the American workplace (meaning that affluent workers work longer hours), and the pace of electronically mediated communications (which makes any kind of refractory pause feel like a wasteful and dull eternity). Read the rest

15-20% of Xmas gifts are crap

"The Deadweight Loss of Christmas," published in American Economic Review (Joel Waldfogel, UMN) estimates that "on average, the waste attributable to poorly chosen seasonal gifts was between 15 and 20 per cent of the purchase price of the gift" ($10B/year in the US alone!). Read the rest

Stross's Merchant Princes books in omnibus editions

Charlie Stross's "Merchant Princes" series-- a sly, action-packed romp that blends heroic fantasy, military science fiction, economics, politics, and alternate worlds -- originally published as six mass-market paperbacks, is now available in three handy trade-paperbacks. Read the rest

LISTEN: Systems thinking and medicine -- brilliant lecture on systemic problem-solving

The lecturer for the BBC's 2014 Reith lectures is Dr Atul Gawande, a celebrated author and MD whose book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right is a classic on how to think about systemic problem solving (which pays attention to how different people and activities come together to make and solve problems). Read the rest

David Graeber and Thomas Piketty on whether capitalism will destroy itself

Graeber wrote the magisterial Debt: The First 5,000 Years; Piketty, of course, wrote the essential Capital in the 21st Century -- in a must-read dialog, they discuss their differences and similarities and offer views on whether capitalism will collapse. Read the rest

The Peripheral: William Gibson vs William Gibson

In The Peripheral, William Gibson's first futuristic novel since 1999's All Tomorrow's Parties, we experience the fantastic synthesis of a 20th century writer -- the Gibson of Neuromancer, eyeball-kicks of flash and noir; and the Gibson of Pattern Recognition, arch and sly and dry and keen. Cory Doctorow reviews.

Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century, in 20 minutes

Piketty's bestselling economics book is seismic, a vital infusion of data into the ideological debate over economics -- but it's also 700 pages long. Read the rest

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