Capital In The Twenty-First Century, a “sweeping account of rising inequality” by French economist Thomas Piketty, is the most talked-about economics book in years. An early reviewer calls it “one of the watershed books in economic thinking”. Picketty argues that “modern capitalism has an internal law of motion” that leads, most of the time, to the rich getting richer, and the rest trailing ever further behind (4,215 words)
Discussion and explainer of the report into NSA surveillance commissioned by President Obama after the Snowden leaks. The recommendations are good but limited. “The panel says outright that it is time to roll back some aspects of the surveillance state. But how, exactly, is this to be done? Rather than dismantling the current system, the report advocates chiselling away at it here and there, and beefing up oversight” (2,560 words)
We pretty much understand the broad outlines of the financial crisis in Europe. Banks over-borrowed and over-lent. States bailed them out. Which left governments grappling with rocketing debt ratios. The puzzle is why leaders think public spending cuts are the right response, when all they have done is to make things worse. “It’s all quite mad, but that doesn’t mean it will end anytime soon”. Short of a revolution (1,926 words)
With assault rifles, they’d have killed a lot more people than with homemade bombs. But they wouldn’t have been charged with using weapons of mass destruction. They would, on the other hand, have pretty much ensured the passage of post-Newtown gun-control bills which, instead, perished in Congress a couple of days later. Use a bomb, and you are public enemy number one; use a gun and you’re a nutcase with no policy implications (1,283 words)
Good, accessible explanation of one of the more arcane aspects of the 2007-2008 financial crash: the role played by the credit-rating agencies, such as Standard and Poor’s, which is now being sued by the Department of Justice. The agencies certified that very risky financial products were safe investments. Was this stupidity, or fraud?
Hedge funds are back in the dock, thanks to a high-profile court case focusing on allegations of insider trading. It’s a good moment, says Cassidy, to tackle what the Obama campaign called a tax trick – the carried interest loophole
“The President needs to show independent voters two things: 1) He understands their concerns and is on their side; and 2) The outlook for the country will be a lot worse if he loses and the Republicans take over”
Recent botched campaign to drive Wisconsin governor from office signifies more than a little local difficulty. It was a battle in what’s become a nationwide conflict. It’s billionaires against workers. Class warfare
Cassidy casts his eye over impending Facebook IPO: “It’s the fulfillment of the dreams of the nineties—and a reminder of their potentially fatal attraction.” Has a website that expands at astronomic pace just got to be worth money?
The Obama campaign boasts that much of its funding comes from small donors. Well, up to a point. The president is also successfully hitting up a lot more rich people for donations than is generally perceived
In presidential politics, timing is everything. Noam Scheiber’s new book says President Obama averted economic catastrophe but failed to restore pre-crisis vitality. Now things are beginning to turn, is the bad timing Scheiber’s?
“If Romney isn’t quite restored to his position as ‘Mr Inevitable,’ he’s ‘Mr Very, Very Likely.’ But it is difficult to see how he can change the underlying dynamic of the race, which is slowly but surely dragging him down”
“Romney has done a great public service by offering up his personal finances as a shining example of all that’s wrong with the tax code after 30 years of politicians fiddling with it to make it more generous to the very rich”
One thinks of Cassidy as a business writer, but he’s flourishing on the Republican campaign trail. This piece on the second resurrection of Newt Gingrich will demand a place in any serious anthology of 2012 political journalism
“Has the global economy’s stuttering progress since 2008 demonstrated the limitations of Keynesian policies – or the dangers of abandoning them prematurely?” Cassidy considers with a careful eye. (Article fortunately now ungated)
Profile of Ray Dalio, head of Bridgewater Associates, world’s strangest hedge fund. Macro-economist, aspirational philosopher, radically transparent manager. And hunter. Not only of profits but buffalo. Armed with bow and arrow
Report from conference of George Soros’s Institute for New Economic Thinking, at Bretton Woods. Big thinkers in world economics try to find some new ideas, after their old ideas failed to help them see the 2008 crash coming
Cassidy’s invitation to Davos got lost in the post this year. So he’s free to grumble about the “deluge of meaningless stories” from journalists who did get asked. He’s right, though. Davos floats its boat on free publicity
Barack Obama’s economic adviser was rude, arrogant, insensitive. But on the dominant issue of his tenure, how to respond to the financial crisis of 2008, he was right, and for that he deserves gratitude
Big think-piece on what banks are for. Not much good to society since they got bored with financing industry, shifted to trading securities. Much of this a bit obvious, all of it too late, still a good primer.