Six Economic Ideas that Changed the World

Over the summer, The Economist magazine published independent pieces on six big economic ideas that changed the world (or at least modern finance). These have now been collected into a a single brief. Economic students will recognize many, but these should be read by anyone interested in why markets work (or don't work) in unexpected ways. Among the best are the…

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A Theory of Jerks

We've all been there, perhaps. Struggling through the day to get things done -- noble things, often, for good people. Things that are necessary, important even. Positive outcomes. All that.  And yet sometimes we keep hitting unnecessary obstacles: The line of people in the post office is a mass of unimportant fools; it’s a felt injustice that you must wait…

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Reading List: Herbalife Shorts

Finance is rarely entertaining.  But when it is, it's a doozy.  Last year the activist hedge fund titan Bill Ackerman bet that Herbalife -- a company with 33 years of history and $3.5 billion in annual revenue -- was a souped-up pyramid scheme. Eventually Ackerman bought over 20 million shares of Herbalife short, a tremendous financial bet. Which is where…

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Reading List: Will Sears Survive?

Whatever you might be doing Christmas week, week, it's our guess heading over to Sears won't be high on your list. The rise of online retail continues, all sorts of new services, and a host of other options have made the mass merchant retailer a dying breed, and the actions of the company's majority shareholder has many people shaking their heads…

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Reading List: The Other Shame of College Athletics

The crises at Penn State threatens to eclipse the college football bowl season, but at least one writer identified a source of shame in college athletics far before anyone could pronounce Sandusky, and it was not a sex scandal -- it was economic.  In a long and excellent essay in The Atlantic, author Taylor Branch details the way money has…

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Reading List: Ticker: USA

What if the USA were a business?  Not a novel concept, but trust Mary Meeker to take the idea a little further than simple metaphor.  Meeker, internet research queen before joining the venture firm Kleiner Perkins last fall, has issued a report on A Basic Summary of America’s Financial Statements.  From the summary: Imagine for a moment that the United…

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Reading List: The Sidney Awards

The political commentator and writer David Books gives out annual Sidney Awards to the best magazine essays. All are wonderful, but three bear particularly interest for entrepreneurs and others with an interest in the capital markets. First was "Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds," by Michael Lewis and first published in Vanity Fair. Especially for anyone who has cursed the IRS…

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Reading List: The Patience of Jobs

Perhaps the most amusing and unscripted nugget to emerge from the Apple aura is the reissue of a 1985 interview with a 29-year-old Steve Jobs. In, um, Playboy magazine. It's refreshing to revisit the early incarnation of Apple (back when it still carried the word "computer" in its title), and see Jobs speculate on a yet undefined "nationwide communications network." …

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Reading List: The Strategy of Your Life

On the topic of measuring one's life, Clayton Christensen (a HBS professor best known for his work on innovation) noticed, over the years, something troubling about his students. Their analytical ability to dissect industries and plot their careers was phenomenal, yet they rarely spent the same amount of time on themselves. In a remarkable essay, he writes: Over the years…

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Reading List: Startup Nations and the End of Men

With the July 4th holiday and cookout hangover dissipating into their respective synapses, there were a few interesting commentaries that compared the founding and innovation of nations with that of startups.  As one author writes: America did not merely secede and copy the governing documents or style of the United Kingdom.  Rather, it innovated, creating a system based on the…

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