Alan Greenspan - Economist, Fed Chairman, Blogger?

He's a legend. A veritable deity in the business pantheon. A man whose words were scripture for bankers and the financial warriors of Wall Street. And now, the venerable former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan is blogging.

Well, sort of, anyway. Greenspan's only actually made one entry, and it seems to be primarily to promote his new book. But it not unprecedented for economists to turn books into blogs. Or in some cases, even blogs into books.

Negotiation: not just for businesspeople

Like nearly all such book lists, Amazon's Business bestseller list is filled with the vagaries of the moment. But there are a few titles that have proven to be perennial favorites, and they're not even strictly about business: the somewhat cheesily-named yet useful Getting to Yes and nearly anything written by preeminent Arizona State University social psychologist Robert Cialdini.

I say not strictly business because the books are actually about negotiation. Sure, businesspeople need good negotiation skills to seal a deal. But other folks need them, too. For instance, in Cialdini's latest book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he details how if a saleswoman can get to like her, she's a lot more likely to make a sale, and get you to pay more. And these principles don't only matter for sales. Ever had your significant other point out your inconsistencies in an argument? More of Cialdini's weapons of influence at work.

So whether you're in business or not, don't be fooled by that "business" moniker. These negotiation and influence books will help you whether you're trying to persuade a client or your kids.

So you think you can vote?

Well, if you're a citizen, you probably can vote. The question posed by Bryan Caplan in The Myth of the Rational Voter is whether you're good at it. Specifically, he questions voters' intelligence in making decisions about the economy. The American voting public routinely advocates policies, Caplan says, that make them worse off.

Why, you might ask? I'm a smart person, I know what I'm doing when I vote. But according to Caplan, many voters have four biases that screw up the economy: voters tend to be anti-market, anti-foreigner, think more jobs solve everything, and are overly pessimistic. And Caplan demonstrates graphically, as economist are wont to do, that as stupid policies less directly affect voters, they become more irrational. Think global warming.

Whether people think it's genius or elitist, the book is bound to be influential. Check out the intro here. Does it pique your interest? Then why not check it out from your friendly public library?

Why the credit hoopla matters to you

The business world has been abuzz lately about the growing credit crisis. Several large subprime lenders have been finding it increasingly difficult to stay afloat, as investors are becoming less willing to take on extra risk. And as the Financial Times demonstrates in this nifty interactive map, the problem isn't just in the United States.

So what does this mean for mere mortals like us? Well, if you're planning on buying a home, watch out. People are finding it increasingly difficult to secure mortgages, particularly if they are what the credit industry considers subprime borrowers, i.e. those who might be a bit less likely to pay back their loans. Those of you who already have homes with adjustable rate mortgages may find your rates creeping up as lenders try to recoup their losses.

And what can be done about this? Well, major financial institutions from across the globe are trying to dampen the crisis. The U.S.'s own vaunted Fed is still concerned with inflation, though, so don't count on them to cut interest rates anytime soon. But you can always check out the what's available at your local AADL branch for help. Here are a few resources to help you traverse the increasingly stormy waters of credit and mortgages.

One Stop Shopping for Information about Businesses

If you're looking for detailed information about a corporation, try Reference USA. You may be surprised to learn that you can get contact information for major American corporations, just by clicking into this database. Maybe you thought Reference USA was mostly for phone numbers? Wrong. Check again. This is an excellent database that includes management directories, images, competitor reports, public filings, and Uniform Commercial Code profiles.

The Wall Street Journal, brought to you by Rupert Murdoch

Big news in the business world this week: Dow Jones, and along with it the vaunted Wall Street Journal, now belong to media mogul Rupert Murdoch. The WSJ reports that, despite some heavy opposition from the controlling Bancroft family, Dow Jones accepted the $5 billion offer from Murdoch's News Corporation.

The WSJ is quite a laurel in Murdoch's already well-laureled hat. News Corporation is one of the largest media companies in the world, with holdings including HarperCollins, The Times, MySpace, 20th Century Fox, Fox Broadcasting Company, and many more names you've probably heard of. Murdoch hopes that Dow Jones will complement these already formidable media holdings by providing trusted business and stock information.

Opponents of the sale, notably Leslie Hill of the Bancrofts, fear that Murdoch will compromise the journalistic integrity of the newspaper, as has been alleged with other of his holdings including Fox News, ReganBooks, and The Times. Whatever the ultimate result, there is one group that will undoubtedly be overjoyed by the sale: Dow Jones shareholders. Murdoch's $60/share bid is worth two-thirds more than current DJ stock prices.

BitTorrent > Scholastic

Now that the potterdammerung surrounding the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has subsided, its publisher, Scholastic, has some debriefing to do. Despite some pretty extensive security, a bonafide copy of the book was released on the peer-to-peer file sharing network BitTorrent several days before the book.

The leaked copy consisted of a digital photograph of every page of the much sought-after volume, a fact that may help Scholastic track down the culprit. Nonetheless, the event is making book publishers wonder if they, like the music recording industry, should worry about internet piracy. Their concerns may grow as the market for ebooks increases, as they may prove just as easy to copy as digital music files.

What do you think? As books are increasingly being digitized, should book publishers be worried about pirates?

The Big Mac, a (nearly) perfect form of global currency


Have you ever exchanged your dollars for a different currency? I don't know about you, but I'm always confused as to how much I'm actually getting. If I can trade one dollar for 0.75 euros, can I still get as much stuff as I would with a dollar (which, admittedly, is not that much)?

For over 20 years, The Economist has been giving a clever answer to this complex question: Big Macs. The Economist's Big Mac Index compares the prices of that beloved artery-clogger around the globe, and in the process helps show just how much you can get for your dollar. Or franc. Or rouble. In their latest index, you can get a burger in the U.S. for about $3.41. But in China, it will only cost you $1.45. If you're traveling to Norway, though, it will cost you a whopping (pun intended) $6.88!

The Big Mac isn't a perfect way to measure exchange rates and purchasing power. After all, you can't trade them across international borders (eww!). But they have the advantage of being made the same way no matter where you go, an elusive quality in international markets.

Want to find out more about the Big Mac index, or any number of other current events or international trade topics? As an AADL cardholder, you can actually access The Economist in its full-text glory in General OneFile, one of our great research databases. You will need to login to your account to follow the database link.

Participatory . . . lending?

Prosper logoProsper logo

The Web 2.0 revolution has brought user participation to a new level. Thanks to sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, and the newly announced Media Predict, mere mortals can create and judge content previously controlled by large media companies.

But according to a pair of segments on the July 4th episode of Marketplace, the participatory mantra is coming to an unlikely sector: banking. and both connect borrowers directly with lenders, without bank intermediaries. Prosper allows users to solicit lenders by posting their need and fully explaining their situation. They can then borrow from (or lend to) multiple individuals, at various dollar amounts and interest rates. Taking a similar approach, Kiva puts a slightly more philanthropic spin on participatory lending: it facilitates microlending. You can make small loans to entrepreneurs in developing nations, where access to credit is difficult to come by.

What do you think? Would you borrow/lend on such a site? Should banks be afraid?

Help for Job Hunters

Whether you’re a new graduate looking for your first job or a seasoned professional making a change, the AADL has tools to help with your job search.

The ReferenceUSA database provides company descriptions, links to news articles, and corporate family trees to help you learn about potential employers. Plus, you can find mailing addresses and a management directory to help get those cover letters and resumes to the right people!

Access the database from the Business and Investment section of our Research page. From the ReferenceUSA home page, choose “US Businesses” to start searching.

And, Library cardholders can access ReferenceUSA from home!

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