Thursday, December 29, 2011

Divisive Devices

Under this title, Pamela Paul complains in the NYT that the iPad her husband takes into the family bed was creating an invisible wall between the two of them. My first thought was that her ire was provoked by the devious nature of the device itself (whose purchase she tried in vain to resist). She says she can’t resist glancing at the bright screen at a time of the day when she is desperate to tune out. I even thought of marketing expert Martin Lindstrom earlier column (“You Love Your iPhone. Literally.”) in which he explained how one’s iPhone could evoke an unconscious response in the brain (and probably the body) physiologically indistinguishable from love. So maybe Paul saw the iPad as a potential romantic rival?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The case for moral capitalism

Under this title, the Guardian offers a reminder that Keynes was keenly aware of the potential moral failings of capitalism. He once wrote: “To convert the business man into the profiteer is to strike a blow at capitalism … The business man is only tolerable so long as his gains can be held to bear some relation to what, roughly and in some sense, his activities have contributed to society.” But Keynes, who was not only an economist and speculator, but also an intellectual, feared the available alternatives to capitalism, so he wanted to save it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Events that changed the world in 2011

This is the main caption on the Guardian web site today - or at least was at one point this morning. Can you guess what picture the editors picked to put beneath it? But, of course - a shot from the royal wedding! The Guardian crowd are not exactly flag-waving monarcho-patriots. So they probably though that was what the market wanted. And who could argue with the market?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Create your own reality, or the upside of delusion

Cahrles Blow cites some statistics in the NYT pointing to increased social acceptance of income inequality in the United States. Here are the basics:

- the percentage of Americans who said their country is divided into "haves" and "have-nots" had been climbing slowly since the early 1990s
- according to a recent survey, that proportion has now shown a marked decline
- currently, nearly 1 in 2 Americans are classified as poor or low income
- 6 in 10 count themselves among the "haves" in society
- a third see themselves as "have-nots"
- another poll found out that most Americans think "the fact that some people in the U.S. are rich and others are poor does not represent a problem but is an acceptable part of our economic system"

Friday, December 16, 2011

The revolution is being tweeted as we speak

No, I am not talking about the youth in another MiddleEastern or Eurasian country trying to snatch freedom from the jaws of fundamentalist or tasteless tyranny. I have in mind a curious analogy Virginia Heffernan, an enthusiastic digital watcher for the NYT, makes between the liberating potential of 1) the social media, and 2) the disco scene of the 1970s (“Internet Geeks and Freaks”). Addressing a question Heffernan had long asked (“why do women, gay people and nonwhite people revel in the very forms of Internet culture that make some of the prominent straight white men who write about the Internet most dejected, fearful and furious”), Nussbaum had written simply: “Social media is disco.”

Monday, December 12, 2011

In Euro Era, Opening Bell Is a 2:30 A.M. Alarm

This is the title of a recent NYT article. It opens with the following observation: "As the European debt crisis roils the markets, American traders who once awoke at dawn are now rising in the dead of night to gain an edge when business begins in London, Paris and Frankfurt." After hastily rubbing their eyes, traders start their "workday" in front of the computer monitors (up to six of those) many of them have installed right in their bedrooms. No doubt, this chronic sleep deprivation will do wonders for their ability to gauge risk and make sound investment judgments. These are some of the benefits of competition, thanks to the megaincentives only a global marketplace can porovide!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What Would Gandhi Do?

This is the title of an opinion piece in the NYT by historian Ian Desai. He thinks the efforts of the “occupy” movement to evoke Gandhi’s faith in nonviolent resistance are slightly misleading. With reference to the central slogan of the protesters, he says: “Gandhi would reject the division between the 99 percent and the 1 percent. Gandhi did not believe in enemies: he worked on the premise that solutions emerged only from cooperation.” Indeed, Gandhi was quite consistent in this regard. For example, he advised Britain to bite the bullet and surrender to Hitler, and he thought the Jewish people should resist the Nazis only in nonviolent ways.