Sometimes a writer does a really amazing piece that makes me jealous. Other times they do a piece that just makes me want to give up. Every time I read Katherine Boo I'm just glad that I don't even attempt to do narrative writing. It would be embarrassing to have anything I write put up against her. This dispatch from a refugee center for Katrina victims is heart wrenching and does more than anything else to bring home the psychological dimensions of American urban poverty.
People know Krugman these days as a feisty political polemicist, but back when he was less politically engaged he was absolutely one of the very finest popularizers of economic ideas ever. This piece is a wonderful, brief introduction to the fundamental economic forces driving the world and a lot of my current thinking is preoccupied with the questions it raises. Reading it again, I realized that a point I like to make about the elevator being a great mass transit technology is almost certainly something I subconsciously picked up here.
In an odd way, crime has fallen off the political landscape. To an extent it's been replaced on the agenda by concern about the dire consequences of mass incarceration. But violent crime itself remains a major area in which the United States lags behind other developed countries. To suggest that smarter management of the criminal justice system could make it less brutal while simultaneously creating large reductions in the quantity of crime sounds utopian. And yet the proposals for parole system reform found in this article are utterly convincing.