Word on the Suite

With flash, hip-hop echoes rock’s golden age.

When rock was at its peak in 1972, Americans earning the equivalent of $1m a year took just over 1 per cent of national income. In 2010, this group’s share of national income had grown to almost 10 per cent. At the same time, the average tax paid by these top earners almost halved. The rise of Jay-Z’s “new black elite” reflects the growth in numbers of the super-wealthy. But the opulence that he and West flaunt also reflects the growing estrangement of those at the top from the rest.

I Was a Teenage Gramlich

On competing in the High School Fed Challenge Championship as “Ed Gramlich”:

A team of five students prepares and presents a 15-minute analysis of the US economy, recommends a course of action with respect to interest rates, and then withstands a 10-minute question-and-answer period from a panel of Federal Reserve economists. To prepare for the competition, students look at the same economic indicators and the same forces influencing the economy that our nation's economic leaders examine. And to lend extra verisimilitude to the whole proceeding, competitors are also advised, as we were, to act out the parts of real members of the Federal Open Market Committee.

White Collars Turn Blue

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.

-M. Yglesias

A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib as Arbitrage

The absurd scale of McDonald’s’ economics suggests a company more like a commodity trader than a chain of restaurants.

At this volume, and with the impermanence of the sandwich, it only makes sense for McDonald’s to treat the sandwich as a sort of arbitrage strategy: at both ends of the product pipeline, you have a good being traded at such large volume that we might as well forget that one end of the pipeline is hogs and corn and the other end is a sandwich. McDonald’s likely doesn’t think in these terms, and neither should you.

American Everyman

How Warren Buffett’s public image has aided his success.

As a successful investor, he merely moved markets; but as the charismatic, reassuring, quotable prototype of the honest capitalist (a sort of J. P. Morgan with a moral sense), he's capable of influencing elections, galvanizing rock-concert-size crowds, and in general defining how we Americans feel about the system that underlies our wealth.