Category Archives: Values

What It Means When Humans Impoverish Nature

In Henry Beston’s eloquent classic of nature writing, The Outermost House, he worried about the decline in birds he was seeing on the Great Beach of Cape Cod.  Even in the 1920s when he spent his year on the Beach, humans were adversely impacting birds and other parts of nature.  Beston identified a “new” danger:   […]

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 […]

Call Me a Luddite

Back in January I wondered out loud, Was the Internet a Good Idea?  To my way of thinking the information technology (IT) revolution of the past 25 years has been a mixed blessing.  It both created amazing tools for doing everyday tasks and introduced whole new means of mindless addiction and criminal opportunities. This IT […]

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 […]

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, […]

Was the Internet a Good Idea?

I remember clearly my first inkling of something new called the world wide web.  I had recently started using email and two colleagues brought me a U.S. Department of Agriculture publication describing a new information system.   One would be able to use a computer and software that would “crawl” about looking for information stored on […]

The Wilderness Ethic

In many faith communities it is common for adherents to sacrifice.  The Shakers embraced celibacy, though some might find that a flawed “business plan” for the endurance of the sect.  Catholics for years avoided eating meat on Fridays, a practice good for fish mongers. Likewise, many Jews and Muslims forsake pork in their diets.  Dietary […]