The Decade that Sucked

It’s 2009 and I’m ready to declare the 2000s as a decade that sucked. It started with the 2000 election fiasco. Then 9-11, the rush to war in Iraq, the Enron scandal, the Dean scream, and now the economic crisis. The U.S. income distribution grew increasingly unfair throughout the decade. The real estate bubble grew to such extreme levels that it brought down the entire world economy. What really annoys me is that it all was so obvious.

Hungry for Leadership?

Steven Pearlstein, business columnist for the Washington Post, wrote a column on the lack of leadership that led to the current financial mess - Just One Real Leader, and We Could Have Avoided This Mess - and thus commits one of the fundamental fallacies of business reporting: the leadership fallacy. And that’s where leadership comes in. Because real business leaders don’t just sit there and accept a competitive dynamic, let alone a dysfunctional one that is likely to result in a bad outcome for everyone.

It's a sham

Back when I was an undergraduate at Yale I used to tell my friends that it was all a sham. Then I was usually talking about grades or the system. Today it’s just the system. Via Dean Baker I read that America is abandoning the twenty-five year dream of the free market. Through this uniquely American lens, saving businesses from collapse was the sort of thing that happened on other shores, where sentimental commitments to social welfare trumped sharp-edged competition.

Rethinking the University, Day 2, Final Part

I didn’t make it to the final day of Rethinking the University. But here are some concluding notes from day 2. I hope to have more to say about this topic during the upcoming days. Panel - Surplus Value And The University In Crisis Morgan Adamson - “Student debt and the finacialization of academic life” Since the early 1970s students have been at the center of experiments in financial life.

Rethinking the University, Day 2, Part 1

The conference continues on from yesterday. I got here late today, in the middle of the second morning session. Roundtable - inside/outside: the university and the public intellectual I arrived in time to hear Naomi Scheman make some interesting comments about objectivity as the creation of trust in expertise. But before my thoughts could rush through Galison, Daston, and Giddens her comments were over and it was time for Q&A.

Rethinking the University, Day 1, Part 2

The after lunch panels and discussions. Roundtable 3 - Valuing the Liberal Arts Jigna Desai kicked things off with “no time for fancy titles” about her experience in Asian and Women’s studies. She made a few good points about knowledge production as a form of social change, the “driven to discover” U of Mn branding campaign that subscribes to the positivist goal of more creating more facts, and the fact that marketing campaigns always have pictures of diversity.

Rethinking the University, Day 1, Part 1

I rode into Minneapolis today on Metro Transit to attend the first day of a conference entitled “Rethinking the University: Labor, Knowledge, and Value.” The conference is a graduate student production that grew out of the AFSCME strike at the University of Minnesota last fall. The strike prompted a lot of questions about the various labor groups that make up the modern university: faculty, students, technicians, clerical workers, etc. so in the best academic tradition the grad students decided to host a conference on the topic and this is what they came up with.

Jon Udell on Apprenticeship and Barter in the New Economy

Jon Udell the lead analyst at InfoWorld came to Michigan today to share some of his ideas about online learning and exchange in the new economy. Jon runs a consistently worthwhile weblog at Infoworld that combines a number of my interests: using the web for mashing technology together (Library Lookup may be one of the first examples of a mashup before the term got common), groupware or social software, and online identity.

Visualizing Income Distributions

Clive Crook describes a very interesting visualization exercise for understanding income distribution. The article is in the latest, September 2006, Atlantic Monthly. An excerpt is available on the website. Here’s a long quote that starts the story and describes the visualization. In 1971, Jan Pen, a Dutch economist, published a celebrated treatise with a less-than-gripping title: Income Distribution. The book summoned a memorable image. This is how to think of the pattern of incomes in an economy, Pen said (he was writing about Britain, but bear with me).

Richard Florida and the Cato Unbound Series

Back in June the Cato Unbound web site ran a short debate between Richard Florida, of Rise of the Creative Class fame, and three other economists called “The Future of Work.” Strangely enough the exchange didn’t force me to start pulling my hair out because of unwarranted claims about the utter brilliance of the free market, something I expect whenever I come into contact with the Cato Institute. Florida basically summarized his major thinking in four points.