Category Archives: Inequality

The Politicization of Sport and the Commercialization of Patriotism

Some professional football players have taken to using their prominence as a platform to call for social action.  These athletes protest during the national anthem before NFL games, an act by which they are bringing attention to the fact that the promise of America has not been fulfilled for everyone.  “Liberty and justice for all,” […]

Is the U.S. Economy One Big Ponzi Scheme?

When I was teaching, I used to joke with students that my classes were particularly demanding because I wanted to be sure they would succeed in the real world so that they could pay for my Social Security checks.  Economists are supposed to believe that self interest is the dominant human motivator. I was only […]

When Did We Stop Worrying About Population Growth?

In the environmental debates of the 1970s, one common name hurled at environmentalists was to call them “neo-Malthusians.”   This dismissive insult was meant to imply that the concern for environmental issues was nothing more than the contemporary application of the failed analysis of Thomas Malthus (1766-1834).  Malthus was a classical economist in the tradition of […]

What Gets Measured, Counts

A few years ago I was visiting the museum of a local Maine historical society.  When the docent discovered I worked as an economist, he immediately wanted to show me their collection of early currency that had circulated in the community.  His assumption was that an economist would, of course, be interested in money.  I […]

Political Courage and Cowardice on Taxes

The trouble with taxes is that no one likes to pay them.  We want the services of government (good roads, public schools, national defense, a functioning court system, etc.) but would rather that someone else pay for these things.  Yet taxation is necessary in modern society.  Taxes are needed to fund what economists call public […]

The Most Important Economist You Probably Have Never Heard About

Economists become famous by winning the Nobel Prize (technically the Swedish National Bank’s Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) or becoming public intellectuals like John Kenneth Galbraith or Paul Krugman.  But economists do not have to be famous to be important.  Significant contributions come in many guises. The most important economist you […]

Two Facts and One Big Question About American Health Care

For several years, Republicans in Congress routinely made a show of voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which they pejoratively labeled Obamacare.  Having refused to participate in the crafting of health care reform, they offered no alternative to the ACA.  Nor did they suggest ways to improve the system despite the President’s call […]

Immigrants in My Family

The new administration in Washington continues to limit immigration to the U.S.A. with policies questioning the suitability of people from various countries to become Americans.  This made me think of immigrants in my own family. In 1913 my grandfather, William Oliver Anderson, immigrated to Massachusetts from Glasgow, Scotland.  He made a career in the shade-grown […]

Be Happy You Didn’t Live in 1870

Robert Gordon’s 2016 book The Rise and Fall of American Growth is a comprehensive history of “the U.S. standard of living since the civil war.”  Gordon, a Northwestern University economist, details changes in consumption of food, clothing, shelter, and transport during a period when Americans experienced unprecedented improvement in quality of life.  From brutally difficult, […]