Tag Archives: npr

The Deflating Quality of Economic Journalism

Cato’s Jagadeesh Gokhale with an example of the current state of economic journalism:

[NPR reporter Adam] Davidson: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have an amazing investment opportunity for you. Give me $100, just a hundred, and in one year I promise it will be worth 93 bucks. We call it the deflation special.”

My reaction: No, sir! Under deflation, $100 today would increase in value to $107 (assuming your implicit rate of deflation). Help! Stop the car! …Wait, I’m the one driving…what just happened?

Davidson: “All right, seriously, nobody is giving anybody a hundred bucks just so they can lose seven.”

My reaction: No, no, please, please take my money! I’d give you a million dollars if I had that amount. I really would!

It gets worse from there. Davidson completely misunderstands the effects of deflation — and thousands of listeners take him at his word. No wonder public understanding of economics is so poor.

People spend little time learning about economics in the first place because of rational ignorance. Compounding the problem is that in the little time they do spend learning — usually from economically untrained journalists — they get incorrect information from people who know not of what they speak.

I previously wrote about the troubled relationship between economics and journalism here and here.


Brownies around the Web

My colleague Lee Doren made a short video on the Pentagon’s 26-page brownie recipe. Have a look:

NPR’s All Things Considered also ran a segment on the recipe over the weekend. They had a local chef prepare brownies according to the directions, and dug up a streamlined version of the recipe that is — wait for it — 31 pages long. Have a listen here.

The humor site Fark picked up on Reason‘s write-up.

So did food sites like Chow and Slashfood.

The Chicago Tribune has a blurb on it, St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an editorial, and the tabloid Weekly World News has its own article. The Huffington Post covered the story, along with their friends across the aisle at National Review.

CBS News picked up on it, along with Canada’s The Globe and Mail.

Lots of bloggers are having at it as well, including Instapundit.

Good to see so many people from across the political spectrum coming together for a good laugh!

Goldman Sachs and Crony Capitalism

Over at NPR, George Mason professor Russ Roberts looks at why Goldman Sachs prospers as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers die, despite following more or less similar business practices. Key point:

[C]apitalism is a profit and loss system. The profits encourage risk-taking. The losses encourage prudence. If the taxpayer almost always eats the losses for the losers, you don’t have capitalism. You have crony capitalism.

The content deserves close study. So does the delivery; Russ is one of the clearest economics writers there is.

New J. Robbins Song

J. Robbins has played in some of my favorite bands over the years (Jawbox, Burning Airlines, Channels), and worked with still more as a producer (Braid, Shiner, The Dismemberment Plan, et al).

NPR recently stuck Robbins in the same room as Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie, and gave them two days to write and record a song. The result is worth hearing. You can listen for yourself here.

Robbins should have sung lead. His voice is easier on the ear, and at the same time far more expressive than Walla’s nondescript tenor. But the music is good. The main riff is catchy. The rhythm section is sparse yet tight, and provides the perfect staccato contrast to Walla’s legato, almost trance-like guitar lines.  Robbins and Walla combine for some lush vocal harmonies where appropriate. And drummer Darren Zentek (Robbins’ Channels bandmate) shows once again that he is master of the 16th note — just listen to the ghost notes he lays into his snare drum.

And for someone like me who used to put quite a bit of time into writing music and playing in bands, it brings back some good memories of what practice was like.