Deviant Art/Wikimedia

Political figures are fond of making moves they say will help "the economy."  And often, out of sight, economists roll their eyes at the politicians. 

They rely upon each other, but economist Alan S. Blinder sees a dysfunctional relationship. 

And he demonstrates why in his book Advice and Dissent: Why America Suffers When Economics and Politics Collide.  Blinder advocates for more hard-headed but soft-hearted policies. 


Capitalism rules the world now.  Even countries we once thought of as committed to communism now allow at least some semblance of a free-market economy. 

And that creates some problems for the planet, since capitalism can be tough on the environment. 

Several economists have pointed this out; now a pair of college professors make a more pointed case in A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet

Raj Patel and Jason Moore are not using "cheap" in the good sense--it's not about low prices. 

Excel23/Wikimedia Commons

Americans love Wal-Mart.  Enough to spend most of their retail dollars there, anyway.  But Wal-Mart has many detractors, including people who blame the big store for killing off the mom-and-pop stores in many downtowns. 

Even Wal-Mart can't make a go of truly small towns, and that's where the dollar stores are taking hold, with nearly 2,000 expected to be built in the United States this year. 

Retail business observer Garrick Brown keeps an eye on trends in the retail world. 

Any effort to improve your life would probably not begin at the doorstep of an economist. 

But let's keep an open mind about this.  Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, is best known for writing about "the invisible hand" of the market. 

But he also wrote works about morality and encouraging good behavior.  Russ Roberts dug up this more heart-centered version of Smith for his own book, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life

Howard R. Hollem/Library of Congress/Wikimedia

There's a lot of longing for "good old days" in America, the time when many people could graduate from high school and step into a well-paid manufacturing job--and send their kids to college. 

The economic boom that followed World War II was long and impressive... and quite possibly, an anomaly. 

Marc Levinson explains in his book An Extraordinary Time: The End of the Postwar Boom and the Return of the Ordinary Economy.  It shows the factors and forces that made so many people so much money from the end of the war up to the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973.

All That Glitters...

Apr 6, 2016

It makes a certain amount of sense for James Rickards to advise people to buy gold. 

After all, his last book was called The Death of Money, in which he foresaw a major collapse in the economy (that was in 2014, and he joined us on JeffX then).  So... about that gold: got any? 

Jim Rickards says it's generally a safe investment in his book The New Case for Gold

Economic Hit Man Spills The Beans

Mar 16, 2016
Berrett-Koehler Publishers

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, it often appears. 

And it's often hard to believe that it happens by accident.  Not an accident at all, says John Perkins, who once used his economic training to advise the likes of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. 

He calls himself in those days an "economic hit man," and wrote a book about the activities of himself and his colleagues. 

He's now added chapters to update The New Confessions of An Economic Hit Man

Does Inequality Actually Help Anyone?

Jan 26, 2016
Daniel Maleck Lewy/Wikimedia

Report after report on the economy and incomes shows a widening between rich and poor in the United States. 

There are always people who insist that SOME inequality is a good thing, a potential motivator for people with lower incomes to work hard enough to get higher incomes. 

One of the offerings from the Conversation Project of Oregon Humanities is a session called "How Much Inequality Is Acceptable?" 

Writer/storyteller/professor Julia Hammond from Portland is the session leader. 


The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has made it clear for years that its work extends beyond the confines of its stages, to a real interest in people and the human condition. 

OSF's "Living Ideas" program brings conversations about issues raised in its plays to communities around the region. 

This year's world premier of "Sweat" shows the effect of industrial layoffs on people and communities, something the timber towns of our region know too well. 

Thinking Of Economies As Computers

Jun 29, 2015
Basic Books

You would not expect your first computer from years ago to be able to stream video.

Likewise, it's perhaps unrealistic to expect developing countries to register economic growth by leaps and bounds. 

MIT associate professor César Hidalgo sees economies as akin to computers... information systems that process information at different speeds. 

He fleshes out the concept in his book Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies.

Advocates Push For $15 Minimum In Oregon

Jun 18, 2015
Deviant Art/Wikimedia

Oregon already boasts one of the higher minimum wages in the country, at $9.25 an hour. 

But activists in the state are joining up with national campaigns to push it up to $15/hour. 

City votes in Seattle and Los Angeles will raise wages there... there are several steps before a similar vote in Oregon, but petition signatures are already being collected. 

Economy Stuck In Rural Oregon

Jan 6, 2015
Gary Halvorson/Oregon State Archives

Oregon's economy took a long time to recover from recession, but total employment numbers are now roughly back to where they were pre-recession. 

But not everywhere. 

Rural Oregon, often timber-and-resource dependent, is still stuck in a number of ways. 

Oregon Employment Takes Off

Nov 26, 2014
Public Domain

The last time Oregon's employment shot up this high, Bill Clinton was president, and "Waterworld" was in movie theatres. 

Figures from the state Employment Department show October of this year adding nearly 10,000 to Oregon payrolls. 

Several sectors of the economy performed better than economists expected. 

Rogue Valley Economy Stirs

Nov 11, 2014

The last time we talked to University of Oregon economist Tim Duy, the news was not so good for the Rogue Valley. 

Duy's analysis showed the valley lagging behind other parts of the state in growing out of the effects of recession. 

Now the flicker may be turning into a flame. 

Learning "How The Poor Can Save Capitalism"

Sep 29, 2014
Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Maybe the one percent have all the money, but the other 99 percent do most of the consumer spending. 

That gives them economic power, if not political power.  And it is power than can be wielded. 

Entrepreneur and poverty activist John Hope Bryant has a few ideas on how that power can be used. 

Medford Still In Recession's Grip

Aug 7, 2014
Ian Poellet/Wikimedia

Oregon seems to take longer to emerge from recessions than the rest of the country. 

And Medford seems to take longer than other Oregon metro areas. 

While the Medford area showed strong growth until the recession, a recent report shows it still struggling to get back to that success. 

"The Reckoning" In Accounting

Jul 8, 2014
Basic Books

The art of accounting is a very old and useful one. 

It helps us know where the money goes, in personal and business and governmental accounts. 

But as accounting grew in stature and usefulness, efforts to get creative with numbers also grew. 

What's Behind Oregon's Improving Employment

May 23, 2014
Public Domain

Officially, the national recession ended several years ago. 

You could not prove that by a lot of workers, especially in Oregon. 

But employment in the state appears to be improving, if not surging... it's just not consistent across the state; Southwest Oregon lags behind.

Southern Oregon Economic Forecast

May 21, 2014
Deviant Art/Wikimedia

Economists frequently make predictions about the direction the nation's economy will go. 

Such predictions are harder to come by at the local level. 

But marketing consultant Mark Dennett takes a stab at predicting the pathway ahead of the Southern Oregon economy. 

The Death Of Money

May 19, 2014
Penguin Books

Many of us are still trying to recover from the last financial downturn. 

James Rickards says there's another one on the way. 

Rickards is an investment banker who assesses threats to the financial system, and he says the current threat is a big one.