The Plutocracy

Tech Meets Trump

Jacob SilvermanDecember 16, 2016
Hawaii Savvy
Hawaii Savvy

It’s clarifying to see the oligarchy assemble itself in the open. President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet selection show has offered a murderer’s row of venal billionaires, spousal abusers, wild-eyed ex-generals, Christian fundamentalists, racists, and the self-admittedly incompetent. Beyond a shared ideology, the common thread is Trump’s total obsession with money and success and his inability to see the world as anything but a series of business deals.

Elon Musk, Fatalist

Daniel OberhausAugust 19, 2016
Elon Musk
Elon Musk

Odds are that you’ve heard by now that SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk said something Totally Trippy at Recode’s Code conference earlier this summer. According to the darling of Silicon Valley, “the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions,” meaning that we are almost certainly operating in a computer simulation created by some far-future civilization.

Politics: You Lose, You Snooze

Helaine OlenApril 27, 2015
The White House: now brought to you by Koch Industries and the letter b, for billionaire. / Grufnik
The White House: now brought to you by Koch Industries and the letter b, for billionaire. / Grufnik

This past weekend, both Rick Perry and Ted Cruz went to Vegas, to kneel in homage—oops, I mean make their personal policy pitches—at gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson’s Republican Jewish Coalition spring meeting. You can think of it this way: While the political press was yucking it up at the annual embarrassment that is the White House Correspondents’ Dinner where, as CNN gushed, “the most powerful man in the world is going to tell some jokes,” a number of politicians who would like to be our next president were busy doing what really matters in American politics: kowtowing to wealth.

He’s the King of Saving the World

Sady DoyleApril 07, 2015
Saving the world, one private island at a time. / McLennan Design
Saving the world, one private island at a time. / McLennan Design

Let us pause for a moment to recognize how much we as a society owe to Leonardo DiCaprio.

I myself became aware of DiCaprio in the glory days of the 1990s, when he ushered “I’m the king of the world!

California, by the Nuts

Helaine OlenApril 06, 2015
The real culprit behind California's continued water shortage. ] / Harsha K R
The real culprit behind California's continued water shortage. ] / Harsha K R

In response to the four-year-old California drought, Governor Jerry Brown ordered a 25 percent cut in water use by municipalities across the state last week. The edict has led to a familiar ring of selective fault-finding that displaces a major system failure—such that California public officials bear responsibility for—onto the collective backs of society.

Daily Bafflements

The BafflerMarch 30, 2015
You're sure it wouldn't fit in your apartment? / LeAnn E. Crowe
You're sure it wouldn't fit in your apartment? / LeAnn E. Crowe

Baffler founding editor Thomas Frank talked bank regulation on WBAI’s Julianna Forlano Show this weekend.

Living in an area with high income inequality could be shortening your life, according to the New York Times.

Focus Group-ing Our Way to Prosperity

Helaine OlenMarch 23, 2015
The secret to solving inequality in America is...a call center? / Photo by Vitor Lima
The secret to solving inequality in America is...a call center? / Photo by Vitor Lima

Paul Tudor Jones, the hedge fund star who is the founder of the Tudor Investment Corporation, says he’s concerned about inequality. And since he’s worth an estimated $4.6 billion, he got to share his ideas on how to alleviate it, on the stage at of TED15 in Vancouver last week.

The Irrational Exuberance of New York Real Estate

Jordan FraadeMarch 13, 2015
The Manhattan condominium One57, under construction in 2012. / Photo by Bosc d'Anjou
The Manhattan condominium One57, under construction in 2012. / Photo by Bosc d'Anjou

Now is the winter of our discount rent.

Enjoy it while you can. On June 15, New York City’s rent regulations expire. One day later, the city’s 421a tax incentive program expires. In a city where housing advocates and housing developers already love doomsday rhetoric (either New York is about to turn into Detroit, or it’s about to turn into a 300-square-mile gated community), the confluence of these two events means it’s going to be a long, angry spring.

The Death of the Millionaire Next Door

Helaine OlenMarch 09, 2015
The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley
The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley

Thomas J. Stanley, the co-author of the personal finance classic The Millionaire Next Door, died in a car accident last week at the age of 71. The obits were both sorrowful and laudatory.

The book “stands today as a sort of promise that everyday people have a shot at accumulating true wealth through habits and not just outsize risk,” wrote Ron Lieber at the New York Times.

The Economist as Culture Hero: Robert Shiller’s Irrational Exuberance

Jonathan ClarkeFebruary 27, 2015
A third edition of Robert Shiller's Irrational Exuberance
A third edition of Robert Shiller's Irrational Exuberance

Once creatures of the faculty lounge, bearing fuzzy sweaters and mugs of oolong, academic economists are now increasingly men and women of the world, moving in and out of elite policy roles, penning meme-establishing best sellers, mixing business and pleasure in Aspen.

Veritas and Vineyards

Sandra KornFebruary 09, 2015
An inscription at Harvard / Photo by Michael Hicks
An inscription at Harvard / Photo by Michael Hicks

What do the following two stories have in common?

In Corrientes, Argentina, local residents were troubled by timber plantations that encroached on their small family farms, provided little economic opportunity for local workers, and disrupted the delicate ecological balance of the Iberá wetlands.

One Dinner Too Far: Posh and The Riot Club

Robert AppelbaumJanuary 20, 2015
Film poster via IMDB.com
Film poster via IMDB.com

How are we to understand the violence inherent to the possession of wealth? In the mid-seventeenth century the revolutionary Digger Gerard Winstanley called the possession of immense private property the “kingly power” of men over men, the “great red dragon, the god of this world, the oppressor, under which the whole creation hath groaned a long time, waiting to be delivered from him.” In Posh, a play by Laura Wade first produced in London in 2010, a less rhetorical approach is taken, but the upshot is almost the same.

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