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Welcome to the Third World

Years (actually decades) ago I lived in a New York University grad student dorm that housed mostly elite kids from other countries. Sons of African finance ministers, daughters of European bankers, that kind of thing. And the developing-world students all told the same story: Back home, people who wanted to get rich went into government […]

One would think that great health coverage would be a basic perk of working for an insurance company, but those days are apparently over. Investment News reports that John Hancock has not only eliminated health insurance for its agents, it has converted those agents from employees to commission-based independent contractors. John Hancock B-D to terminate […]

This morning’s housing report was huge. As one representative headline put it: “Housing starts up sharply; permits highest since 2008”. Dig just a little deeper and it’s still huge, though in a different way. Turns out that all the increase was in apartment building, while single family homes — the linchpin of what used to […]

Not so long ago, a reasonably-presentable American could live an hour outside of a city and commute in for a government or banking job, thus getting the best of both worlds: city-level wages and a 3,000 square foot house with a big yard for the kids. But then municipal governments ran out of money and […]

The main difference between well-run and badly-run countries is certainty. In well-run countries, money is worth pretty much the same from one year to the next, the police come when called and protect rather than prey on the caller, and contracts, including pensions and other retirement plans, behave as advertised. In badly-run countries, not so […]

“How did you go bankrupt?” “Two ways, gradually and then suddenly” – Ernest Hemingway, The Sun also Rises Senate majority leader Harry Reid is on C-SPAN this morning lamenting the republicans’ unwillingness to negotiate even after Reid and his party agreed to what they consider to be painful cuts. “[Speaker of the House] John Boehner […]

Poverty – or its prospect – sometimes leads one to make surprising choices. Here’s a truly disturbing example, from London’s Independent: Students and the sex industry: Empowering or the last resort of the debt-ridden? With unemployment levels soaring across Britain, job prospects for graduates have never looked so bleak. But one sector proving resilient, and […]

For most small business people, the ideal life goes pretty much like this: a few years of all-consuming obsession to get set up, followed by a few decades of 12-hour days to build a reputation and client base sufficient to make the business valuable. Then sell out for enough to retire comfortably. This is easier […]

Newly-minted anthropology PhD Sarah Kendzior has written a chilling piece for Aljazeera on what things are really like in academia these days: The closing of American academia It is 2011 and I’m sitting in the Palais des Congres in Montreal, watching anthropologists talk about structural inequality.   The American Anthropological Association meeting is held annually […]

Meredith Whitney was an obscure Oppenheimer & Co. bank analyst back in 2008 when she broke from the pack and predicted Armageddon. She was right, the pack was wrong, and she parlayed her new-found fame into a research boutique of her own. Last year she went for it again, predicting that the next big crisis […]

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