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Cecily Cecily

Writing Worth Reading

Transformers 4 Is A Master Class In Economics

The lessons are in the making of the film, not in the content. First, the real money comes from owning the machines: Transformers made $300m in its opening weekend, the biggest film of 2014. Second: Humans are dispensable; the franchise has got rid of its human star Shia LeBoeuf, and nobody cares. Third: China is as big a market as America; this Transformers is full of scenes tailored to a Chinese audience (1,800 words)

Eleven Lessons From Eric Cantor’s Loss

Here’s the main one: It’s good news for Hillary Clinton. “In terms of legislative achievements, Obama’s second term has been done for some time. But in terms of protecting his legislative achievements — and protecting coming executive branch actions like his proposed climate rules — what matters most for Obama is that a Democrat wins the presidency in 2016. Tonight made that a little more likely” (660 words)

Why The Government Should Provide Internet Access

Interview with Susan Crawford, former White House tech adviser, on America’s need for a “public option” providing universal low-cost high-speed internet access. “This is by nature a monopoly. It really makes sense to have one wire going to your house. The problem is we’ve gotten stuck with the wrong wire. We’ve got a cable wire and it should be fiber and it should be then shared by lots of competitors” (2,150 words)

Go Ahead — Scare Yourself

The public spat between 23andMe and the US Food and Drug Administration should force the FDA to update its rules and philosophy. The FDA views gene-testing as a medical product, whereas, to others, it’s an information product. “The danger isn’t that a genetic test will harm you directly but that you will act rashly on the information it provides. But is preventing patients from making bad decisions the FDA’s mandate?” (1,000 words)

Bill Gates: ‘Death Is Something We Really Understand’

Interview. Health care in the developing world. “When you’re running a poor country health-care system, you can’t treat a year of life as being worth more than, say, $200, or else you’ll bankrupt your health system immediately. But here’s the good news: If you spend less than 2 percent of what rich countries spend, but you spend it on vaccinations and antibiotics, you get over half of all that healthcare does to extend life” (2,884 words)

How Van Halen Explains Obamacare

Critics of government, take care: things that sound stupid may be things you just don’t understand. Here’s an analogy: Van Halen’s touring contracts required promoters to provide bowls of M&Ms with the brown ones taken out. Which sounded like prima-donna behaviour, but was really a litmus test of whether everything was in order. If the band arrived and found brown M&Ms on the table, the promoter had not read the contract. (1,180 words)

Lessons Of The Fiscal Cliff

Some grounds for hope: “The Republicans aren’t quite as crazy as they’d like the Democrats to believe. They were scared to take the country over the fiscal cliff. They’re going to be terrified to force the country into default”

Twelve Facts About Guns And Mass Shootings In The United States

After massacres the air is thick with calls to avoid “politicizing” the tragedy. That’s code for “don’t talk about reforming our gun control laws”. And it’s clearly political. Here’s what should inform a debate (h/t Daniel Lippman)

The Best Case Against The Obama Administration

It failed on household debt: “You couldn’t fix the housing crisis by fixing the economy. You had to fix the economy by fixing the housing crisis. And the administration’s housing policy wasn’t anywhere near sufficient to do that”

How Obama Created The Greatest Threat To His Presidency

File this under “be careful what you wish for”. The prominence of the Ryan budget today is at least partly down to the attention the Obama administration drew to it. It’s a political gamble. And it could backfire spectacularly

Unpopular Mandate

How was it that a legal argument that was considered fringe in 2010 could become mainstream by 2012? It happened with the individual mandate in US healthcare. Here’s how and why it happened, and could happen again

The Unpersuaded

“The power of the presidency is the power to persuade.” Really? History suggests not. Public aren’t any more persuaded by presidential rhetoric than opposition politicians. Trouble is, US system isn’t set up for partisan politics

Our Corrupt Politics: It’s Not All Money

Review of books on lobbying, by Laurence Lessig and Jack Abramoff. The threat to democracy comes not from bribery, which is rare. It comes from “legislative subsidy”, a nice way of saying that the lobbyists get to write the laws

A Decade Of Missed Chances Bedevils US Prospects

“After the failure of the 1973 Geneva Peace Conference, the Israeli diplomat Abba Eban sighed that ‘The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.’ In recent years, the same could be said of Americans.” Here’s why

Obama’s Flunking Economy: The Real Cause

Wrong to blame Geithner, Summers for Obama’s weakness, as Ron Suskind does in “Confidence Men”. Blame Obama himself, for underestimating 2008 crash. There again, if he had attempted strong remedies, Congress would have blocked him

Doing 9-9-9-Style Tax Reform Right

“The 9-9-9 plan is a mess. It’s poorly constructed and comically regressive. But to be fair to Herman Cain, it’s based on some genuine insights about the American tax system.” Someone should make a policy out of them

What ‘Inside Job’ Got Wrong

An excellent reminder from Ezra Klein that it’s always easy to understand the past once it’s past. Back when the past was still the future? That’s the tough part

The Hood Robin Economy

Why has economic inequality been rising so much in America? Because government has not been acting to counter the long-term drift towards a winner-take-all economy. Why has it not been acting? Because the rich control the government

Common Mistakes Made By Economists

Ten useful suggestions for ways in which economists could communicate and interact more effectively with policy-makers and the public. See, especially, number nine: “No one knows what ‘stochastic’ means”

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