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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Jefferson Not an Asshole

The review by Edward Rothstein of the show in Washington DC about Thomas Jefferson and his slaves completed a loop for me. Rothstein, a writer I would label a neo-conservative, wrote a courageous article whose conclusion I endorse. Living a wise and good life usually involves doing the best you can within an imperfect or even corrupt system. It does not usually involve being a revolutionary. Thomas Jefferson did the best he could within a corrupt system – slavery — and both he and his slaves arguably had better lives because of it. That’s the conclusion Edward Rothstein comes to in his review of the exhibit in Washington about Jefferson. Had Jefferson been a revolutionary or a true radical, he would left his plantation and become a hermit or something. (I know from reading that it probably wasn’t even legally possible for him to have freed his slaves, but he could have simply walked away from his nice life.) That probably would not have been a good thing, neither for him, nor his slaves, nor the rest of us. But he receives the condemnation of history for the devil’s bargains he made. Of course earlier in his life, in 1776, Jefferson did choose the radical path. He chose to take up arms against his government, and endorse the spillage of blood. Was that a hard decision? Was it even the right one? I sometimes wonder, given what I have read about the roots of the American revolution. Government under Great Britain was not a tyranny. For my own life, I’ll try to choose less the option of saying, “oh the system is corrupt.” Systems are always corrupt. The point is can you work within it, or work to change it. Occasionally the times may demand a complete rejection of something, but those times are rare. Alex

Shilling for Scrubs

Shilling for Scrubs In the last week, probably because I’m home from vacation, I’ve been back to my old habits of watching television on the subway, using my Iphone and shows I’ve downloaded from the Internet (at a cost of a $1.99 a pop.) My favorite and old reliable is Scrubs, the comedy with Zach Braff set in a hospital with residents and such. This show is simply great. These guys sing, they dance, they do physical comedy, they have great characters to embody, and great lines to read (the writing on this show is excellent). They must be the hardest working folks in show business. After many many seasons, they are still going strong, not lagging at all, rarely if ever jumping the shark (okay, there was that one show recently where the whole show was reviewing moments from past shows. That was pretty lame.) My experience of the show is thoroughly post-modern, meaning fractured, unhinged, removed from most common contexts. I was not even aware of the show’s existence till about a year ago. This despite huge numbers of people being saturated with show to excess in reruns on network TV. But Kristi and I have been without cable television for almost 10 years now, and even though we got digital antenna reception recently for the basic networks, we rarely use it. Most of our television is downloaded from the Internet or received from Netflix. I found out about the show through a new, post-modern medium (okay I’ve officially overused that word): the television in the back of the taxis in New York City. Although these devises irritate me and prompt me to compose long internal monologues about the need for quiet, on this particularly day there were advertisements or a pseudo news item about the upcoming season of Scrubs. Zach Braff was dancing around in a silly suit. It looked interesting. I was looking for more TV to watch. I downloaded some shows. I was hooked. Since then, I’ve watched a lot of Scrubs! I’m nearing the end of the Sixth season. Almost all of it watched on my Iphone, in little bite-sized chunks. One show, 20 minutes long roughly, is perfect for a subway ride home from work. So here’s to you Scrubs. You’re beautiful.