An Economist holiday

Economist 12/22/2007 coverEconomist 12/22/2007 cover

If you've never read the annual holiday edition of The Economist, you're missing a rare treat. In addition to the magazine's typical insightful reporting and commentary, this edition includes several special reports on as sundry topics as professional poker to Mao Zedong's management style. Here are just a few articles that I enjoyed from this year's issue:

* Why humans' hunter-gatherer era wasn't quite as idyllic as we think
* The political sensitivity and power that comes from the Census
* China's attempts to encourage panda sex, and why we should care
* The political implications of electing a Mormon president.

Has your interest been piqued? Want to check out this issue of The Economist in its full-text glory? You're in luck! You can access it online in General OneFile, one of our great research databases. After you get into the database, just click the "Publication Search" link and search for The Economist. You will need to login to your account to follow the database link.

Ron Paul's curious economics

As always, the 2008 presidential election brings us some, shall we say, interesting characters. When it comes to economics, though, few are quite as interesting as Republican Ron Paul. In addition to abolishing the IRS, Mr. Paul hopes to bring back the gold standard as the basis for U.S monetary policy. Ben Bernanke is indubitably shaking in his boots.

Currently, our money is basically as good as our word; other countries accept dollars because they trust that we're willing to trade it for other goods & services. The gold standard, however, makes each one of those dollars equivalent to a specified amount of gold. Paul argues that, in the era of the declining dollar, perhaps we need that gold standard back.

Of course, there are plenty of good reasons why we abandoned the gold standard. But one has to give Paul some props for some unconventional economic thinking. Of course, recent economic news may have people clamoring for someone unconventional, just not quite as unconventional as Ron Paul.

Media consolidation: Coming soon to a city near you

Today, the Federal Communications Commission has given media companies a bit more freedom. On party lines, the Commission voted to allow businesses to own both newspapers and television or radio stations in the same city. So what does this mean? It means that MediaNews Group, owners of the The Detroit News could start buying up Detroit television stations, if they so choose.

A little more business with your bestsellers

Being good readers all, you may perchance be familiar with the New York Times bestseller list. Less well known perhaps is the Wall Street Journal's book index, replete with nifty charts comparing different weeks. Not surprisingly, the WSJ has tad more "street" cred at ranking business books than the Times.

You'll likely see some familiar faces on their business list: Alan Greenspan's The Age of Turbulence, Timothy Ferriss' the 4-hour work week, etc. But there's also a little hometown pride there: at #14, Bo's Lasting Lessons. Perhaps the Journal has a more liberal perspective on business than we thought.

Are ebooks in your future?

Amazon kindleAmazon kindle

On the off chance you were under a rock last week or didn't catch the Newsweek cover story, you may have missed some potentially big news for the book business: Amazon launched what some claim to be the iPod of ebooks, the Kindle. This 10.3 ounce piece of tech candy allows you to buy ebooks directly from, read blogs, and other such fun reading-related stuff. And it does all this wirelessly, using the same network as cell phones.

Businessfolk and librarians alike have been abuzz about the possibilities. Specifically, could the Kindle perhaps do what competitors never managed: create a viable market for books in electronic format?

We Want Wiis!

If you braved the streets for Black Friday, or even if you didn't, you might have been seeking a Nintendo Wii, the hottest gaming console of its generation. Wiis may be in short supply this season, according to the BBC, so those holiday Wii-seekers might be especially rabid.

The likely holiday rush on Wiis is yet more proof that Nintendo is clearly winning this latest round of console wars, a particularly astounding feat considering that Microsoft's Xbox 360 had momentum on its side, having been launched nearly a year earlier. Key to Nintendo's success, many say, are their efforts to reach out to "nontraditional" gamers. Equally astounding as the Wii's dominance is the pitiful performance of Sony's Playstation 3, considering Sony's trouncing of competitors in the last generation of console wars.

Of course, if you're not one of the fortunate few who manage to get a Wii this holiday season, fear not! You might just be able to play a round of Wii Sports at AADL's fabulous gaming tournaments.

Well-behaved women seldom make history by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

What a great title. A tribute to women ranging over centuries and cultures. The book was discussed last week on the Diane Rehm show.
Ms Ulrich is a Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University , past Pulitzer and Bancroft prize winner, MacArthur Foundation Fellowship , etc.

Interestingly the book title is popular on bumper stickers across the country. My mother was a Rosie the Riveter in WW2. I bet she'd like this book and the bumper sticker.

Is Consumerism Sustainable?

Kai RyssdalKai Ryssdal

Our consumer culture often produces several unfortunate side effects. Given all those negative effects, can we sustain our consumerism for much longer? That compelling question will be addressed by none other than Kai Ryssdal, host of the NPR business & finance program Marketplace, in a panel discussion next week. Kai will be joined several other notable folks at the event, which is co-sponsored by Michigan Radio and the University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

Interested? The panel will be held on Friday, November 16th, from 11.00a to noon at the Ross School of Business. Find out more on Michigan Radio's events page.


You may be having a sense of deja vu when next you watch your favorite television television show. The Writers Guild of America, the folks responsible for much of the content on TV and in movies, is on strike. The sticking point? Authors want a bigger share of the lucrative DVD market and a stake in the burgeoning web market. Studios and networks say no way, not wanting to cut into their cash cow or hamper their efforts to draw in web viewers.

The effects will be felt most immediately in late night TV and other programming that relies heavily on current events, including, sadly, The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Soap opera fans beware, for daytime television will follow shortly. Prime time TV and movies won't be affected immediately. Of course, if the strike lasts 5 months like the last one, even all you Lost addicts out there may be getting a bit of strike fatigue.

So much for cheap oil

Those of us hoping for lower gas prices (read: pretty much everybody) had our hopes dashed this week as oil hit $90/barrel. And alas, with oil prices also come the gasoline prices.

So does there appear to be any relief in sight? Well, unfortunately oil has an, shall we say, unpredictable economic history. There is much talk about just how random these fluctuations are, though, and more specifically, just how much influence the petroleum industry has over them. OPEC often finds itself chief whipping boy when oil prices are on the rise.

On the up side, the seemingly inexorable rise in prices has created a perfect storm, causing many to call for laying off the black gold. Some consider our reliance on those shady folks in OPEC a huge national security issue. Environmentalists, like award winner extraordinaire Al Gore, increasingly push for reducing our demand for oil, too. And perhaps, just perhaps, as prices continue skyrocketing, more will join those diverse voices calling for change.

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