Economics
Another Week Ends: Hoffman and Addiction, Parenting Confessionals, Harris v Haidt, Trite Apologies, Super Bowl Commercials and Transform(ers)ational Ministry

Another Week Ends: Hoffman and Addiction, Parenting Confessionals, Harris v Haidt, Trite Apologies, Super Bowl Commercials and Transform(ers)ational Ministry

1. Philip Seymour Hoffman, of Magnolia and, more recently, The Master fame, passed away this week in what the press generally called a “heroin overdose”. On the subject of addiction, it was painful and touching recalling his role in Owning Mahowny, and a moving reflection on Hoffman’s death comes from fellow Hollywood icon and recovering addict Aaron Sorkin at Time, ht BJ:

I told him I felt lucky because I’m squeamish and can’t handle needles. He told me to stay squeamish. And he said this: “If one of us dies of an overdose, probably 10 people who were about to won’t.” He meant…

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A “Love Affair With Lock and Key”: Reflections on Criminal Justice

A “Love Affair With Lock and Key”: Reflections on Criminal Justice

In September of this year, we missed an interesting article over at the The Guardian profiling the then-governor of Bastoy Prison, one of the most successful prisons in the world, located in Norway. ‘Success’ immediately raises the question of what success looks like, and we could say there are two major approaches to this term: the first, ‘success’ in terms of making inmates less likely to reoffend, and second, ‘success’ in terms of how much prisoners serve a just punishment equal to their crime.

The second seems a bit vindictive, though most people would be if they were the victims of these…

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Anxious About Grace: Some Thoughts on Max Weber

Anxious About Grace: Some Thoughts on Max Weber

Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) has been immensely influential, with the “Weber thesis” being one of the most well-known Interesting Ideas around.  The idea, basically, is that Protestantism, especially in Calvinist and Wesleyan and Baptist and ‘Pietistic’ forms, has been a major contributor to the ‘Spirit’ behind capitalism.

But there’s so much more. In looking at religious ideas not strictly in terms of their truth or doxological value, but also in terms of emphases and influence, Weber helped map out a distinctly modern way of doing and evaluating theology.

When I read his book, I hear…

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Jesus (and TAL): Give Cash to Poor People

Jesus (and TAL): Give Cash to Poor People

“Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back” (Luke 6.30).

Of all Jesus’ commandments which his followers expressly disobey (my personal fave being Matthew 6:1 where he instructs his audience “not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them”–ironically enough, the lectionary reading for Ash Wednesday(!)), his instruction that we should “give to all who ask” is, perhaps, the one against which we have built the strongest fortification. In fact, if one were to reconstruct Jesus’ teaching on generosity based on the actions and teachings…

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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Meaning To

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Meaning To

And here we have this morning’s second reflection on Malcolm Gladwell’s must-read “The Gift of Doubt”.

Malcolm Gladwell recently wrote a piece for The New Yorker on the quirky but charismatic economist Albert O. Hirschman and his unorthodox ideas about creativity and success.  Despite being a “planner” himself, Hirschman thought that creativity can only be improvised. It is only when the careful plans fall through, when we find ourselves at the 11th hour sitting in front of a blank Microsoft Word document and an empty bag of stress Oreos, that we’re forced to produce our most innovative work. Why, according…

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To Render Authenticity: The New Business Imperative

To Render Authenticity: The New Business Imperative

We have talked quite a bit about authenticity of late, mostly in terms of its cultural expressions and frustrations, from Nicki Minaj and Anne Hathaway, to its incarnations in the political spheres of conversation, to the hipster modicums toward/against consumerism and the “narcissism of small differences“. We’ve talked about how its been brought into hyperdrive by way of technology.

But we haven’t really covered authenticity from the business side of things. Not like James Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II do in Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want. From the Harvard Business School Press, Gilmore and Pine talk about the changing landscape…

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The Law of Lightbulbs

The Law of Lightbulbs

Andrew Sullivan alerted his readers to a new study whose results should come as no surprise to readers of this blog. The study came from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was picked up by grist.org. Here is how grist.org described the study:

With a fixed amount of money in their wallet, respondents had to “buy” either an old-school lightbulb or an efficient compact florescent bulb (CFL) . . . . Both bulbs were labeled with basic hard data on their energy use, but without a translation of that into climate pros and cons. When the bulbs cost…

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Lunatic Faith, Computer Digits, & the Myth of Money

Lunatic Faith, Computer Digits, & the Myth of Money

This American Life and Planet Money recently produced an episode titled “The Invention of Money.” You can listen to it here.

The story places the concept of money into the framework of faith, mainly due to the fact that money is no longer a physical object with tangible value like gold. Instead, it is fiction, myth, a number generated on a computer, passing through the internet. With just the push of a button, we’ve got the genesis of currency; something they call in the story “Opening the Fed Window.” The only way this money-myth has value is if people have faith…

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The Perils of Bait-and-Switch: or Why do WWII Veterans Still Hate the Red Cross?

The Perils of Bait-and-Switch: or Why do WWII Veterans Still Hate the Red Cross?

Last week’s Planet Money Podcast unknowingly stumbled upon a Law-Gospel goldmine! Exploring the economic dynamics of “free” (see also here!), the podcast specifically looks at what happens when something that was free is now no longer free. What happens when you charge money for something that was once free of charge?

Ask any veteran of WWII about the Red Cross and surprisingly to this day many distrust and despise what most people consider to be a beacon of benevolence (Katrina debacle notwithstanding). Apparently it all goes way back to the Red Cross’s decision during WWII to begin to charge soldiers for…

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Better Off Now Than Ever? A History of Happiness

Better Off Now Than Ever? A History of Happiness

In a recent New Republic article entitled Happyism: the Creepy New Economics of Pleasure, economist and historian Deirdre McCloskey provides a refreshing historical perspective on the contemporary world’s obsession with happiness. For better or worse, it seems that personal happiness has increasingly become the (explicit) driving force behind human lives. While selfishness is of course nothing new, it’s strange that its vocabulary has largely shed ambition, prestige, virtue, or professional competence as goals independent of ‘happiness’ – though they would still be included under a happiness rubric. Needless to say, the prioritization of happiness over these other components of a…

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Counting Calories (and Human Behavior) in The Social Animal

Counting Calories (and Human Behavior) in The Social Animal

An enlightening (!) little section from David Brooks’ The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement concerning the difference between classical and behavioral economists. And although while describing the caricature of human nature put forward by classical economists, he may fall into caricature himself, the gist is sound. One guess as to which side we find more sympathetic/convincing:

The human being imagined by classical economics is smooth, brilliant, calm, and perpetually unastonished by events. He surveys the world with a series of uncannily accurate models in his head, anticipating what will come next. His memory is incredible; he…

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Creditors, Debtors, Forgiveness, and God

Creditors, Debtors, Forgiveness, and God

Among the podcasts to which I subscribe is NPR’s excellent Planet Money, a program which was born out of the Great Recession and guides listeners through the intricacies of the global financial system, both past and present. Sounds really boring, I know, but it isn’t, and has been very helpful to this New Yorker, living in a finance town with no finance knowledge or experience. And it’s great for sermon illustrations, as you will soon see…

A recent episode caught my attention – “History Is a Battle between Creditors and Debtors” - in which the hosts discuss how the kind of tension…

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Soul Possession: Just How Much Is Your Soul Worth?

Soul Possession: Just How Much Is Your Soul Worth?

The Freakonomics crew put out a new podcast on selling souls this week, and boy was it a doozie. They featured a Christian from Oklahoma who boldly offered any atheist/skeptic/taker $50 for ownership of his soul. Sure enough, through the comments board on the Freakonomics webpage, he found a skeptic seller, and the two exchanged the money for an official contract of soul ownership. This set off a half-hour discussion around the following questions: can somebody sell their soul? Is it ethical? Is $50 a good bargain for a soul? What’s the market value for such a thing, and what does…

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Boomers and Stickers: Wendell Berry’s 2012 Jefferson Lecture

Boomers and Stickers: Wendell Berry’s 2012 Jefferson Lecture

Last Monday, Wendell Berry, widely known as today’s quotable agriprophet, America’s modern man of letters, was given the prestigious honor of presenting the Jefferson Lecture, the nation’s highest prize for “distinguished intellectual achievement.” What he spoke of–beyond his grandfather’s h0meland loyalty and the tragic industrial legacy of James B. Duke, for whom Duke University is named–was an ethic of affection, a turning way from the Diaspora of Modern Mobility–our privatized and lonesome Babylon–a repentance and return to a culture of sympathetic humility to one’s own. Berry’s essay was titled “It All Turns on Affection.”

I am from Kentucky, my family has…

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Another Week Ends: Zeitgeistlichkeit, Atheist Religiosity, Freakonomic Fathers, Ralph Erskine, MJ, Devo’s Paradox, Hunger Games, Deep Blue Sea, and Hoarders

Another Week Ends: Zeitgeistlichkeit, Atheist Religiosity, Freakonomic Fathers, Ralph Erskine, MJ, Devo’s Paradox, Hunger Games, Deep Blue Sea, and Hoarders

1. A pair of terrific book reviews have appeared in The NY Times over the last couple weeks, the first being Generation X author Douglas Coupland‘s inspiring riff on Hari Kunzu’s opus, Gods Without Men, and the exciting new genre it epitomizes (“Translit”). Ironically enough, he makes a number of Twitter-ready observations:

[We are living in a] “state of possibly permanent atemporality given to us courtesy of the Internet. No particular era now dominates. We live in a post-era without forms of its own powerful enough to brand the times. The zeitgest of 2012 is that we have a lot of…

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