My New Book “Surprising Design of Market Economies” Just Out


You can get my latest book, The Surprising Design of Market Economies, at your local bookstore or from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play etc. In it, I describe the ways that government builds our economy and culture, and argue that these deep structures should be a more explicit part of our public, political conversations. You can read Op-Eds I have written that draw upon the book in The New York Times [How To Get Business To Pay Its Fair Share], and two from Bloomberg View [Capitalism & Government Are Friends and Health Care Will Become a Right, Just Like Water].

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Batista Is A Name That Should Have Been Used More During Obama’s Visit To Cuba

This story by Jim Rutenberg in today’s New York Times introduced a welcome bit of perspective into press coverage of Obama’s visit to Cuba that has been noticeably too rah-rah and lacking in well, perspective, particularly historical. And even Rutenberg did not say the name that should have been in many a Obama-goes-to-cuba story: Batista. Fulgencio Batista, to be exact. The reason why Cuba has a left-wing dictator now, is that it used to have a right-wing dictator, one supported quite firmly for decades by the United States. Support that took the form of money, weapons, advice and policy. That’s why it’s ahistorical and bad journalism for the press to focus so intently on the political prisoners held by Cuba under Fidel and Raul Castro, in a sanctimonious and supercilious way. There should be some mention that the United States had little problem with political prisoners – as well as torture and murder – back when they were being held by a right-wing dictator. Some might say this is ancient history, but it’s not so ancient. It has led directly to the state of affairs in Cuba today. 

Even When It Comes to Fighting Inequality, Both DeBlasio and Krugman prefer Hillary

I went and saw Mayor Bill DeBlasio and economist Paul Krugman converse last night, in a moderated conversation about Inequality at the the Graduate Center of CUNY in the old Altman’s building at 5th Avenue. I was hoping to leap up and ask a killer question about infrastructure, but although I was sitting in the press section, I didn’t have a chance. When questions were asked, on index cards, the first was about the Clinton/Sanders race, or Hillary/Bernie race. Even I was a bit surprised that after an hour talking about inequality, both men essentially said they preferred Hillary, even though both acknowledged Bernie’s leadership on the issue. Of the two men, Krugman was more succinct and memorable, perhaps surprising given that he’s not a politician. The line of his that stuck with me, about Sanders: “Having your heart in the right place is not enough.” And also, that clear thinking and rigorous analysis also needs to be a progressive value. I turned on my recorder when the conversation got to politics, so here is about six minutes, with DeBlasio speaking first.

It’s Our Democracy, Not Our Privacy, that the NSA Threatens

I was bothered by yesterday’s Sunday editorial in the New York Times about not letting fear of foreign hackers erode the move to reign in and put safeguards on the massive government spying program run largely by the National Security Agency. This is the one that Edward Snowden revealed with such success (although not for his own personal fortunes. He remains, sadly, in exile in Moscow.) What bothered me was not the overall sentiments or political viewpoint – yes, we need to reign in, a lot, the NSA – but the reasons the Times gives for doing so. It named respecting or not violating our privacy, twice, as the principal reason, along with unnamed other “civil liberties.” It’s not my privacy I worry so much about. I don’t really give a rat’s ass if the government is watching me watch porn, or whatever. What I worry is about is my democracy. A government cannot long endure, at least not one that is a government by and for the people, that has a situation where a small portion of the governed are spying routinely and massively on the governed. What you get at best is a kind of paternalistic managing class. At worst you get a semi or not so semi police state. Let’s not talk so much about privacy when we talk about how and whether these internal spying programs continue. Let’s talk about our democracy, and the right rules for a vibrant democracy.

Singapore Going Down, Underground

This is an interesting story about Singapore’s planned strategy of developing more underground spaces and tunnels, and I’m quoted a few paragraphs into it. I was sought out for the quote because I’m the author of a book about cities and their underground environments. It’s called Beneath the Metropolis: The Secret Lives of Cities, and it’s still available at Amazon.

Roads Were Not Made For Cars – Really

An interesting new book arrived on my desk: “Roads Were Not Built For Cars”, published by Island Press and authored by Carlton Reid. He details the history which I have known in general terms, which is that the early roads in the late 19th century were built primarily for and because of the lobbying efforts of bicyclists, which had grown dramatically in number and influence in that era. The book is a comeback to those who say that roads were made for cars, and that cyclists and pedestrians should depart from them.

Bacon’s Castle and the Beginnings of Race-based slavery

Great story this morning by my old colleague Denise Watson, in The Virginian-Pilot, where I used to be a staff writer. It was about what the story says is the oldest “British built brick building” in the new world, Bacon’s Castle in Virginia, not too far from where I grew up. It’s celebrating its 350th anniversary. The “castle” was named for Nathaniel Bacon, who didn’t own it or build it, but briefly took it over when he and a bunch of other malcontents, including indentured servants and slaves of various colors, took it over in the late 1600s.

My Take on the Controversy over the New and Old Steve Jobs books

When I was a reporter at The Virginian-Pilot, I frequently noticed that people are really thin-skinned about anything written about a friend or relative, particularly one who has departed. Of course, this is normal but people seemed inordinately thin-skinned.

I seem to be rare – famous last words – in realizing that a story written about someone is not that person, and can never be. At best, it’s a tiny sliver of the reality of someone.

I was quoted and written about a lot during our unsuccessful Brooklyn Cohousing venture. In general, I was far more accepting of the stories that came out than many of the other members. Here is one among many. The exception or two were those that seemed mean-spirited, but those were rare.