Felix Salmon

How blogging is like being bad at math

Just as I was headed down the pub to drown my sorrow at Ghana’s gut-wrenching defeat in the World Cup, the shop steward of the International Brotherhood of Econobloggers instant messaged me to remind me that I still haven’t written about Kartik Athreya. Apparently this is grounds for expulsion, and so I thank Heather Horn, with a smart little essay against the close reading technique often being found in English classes, for giving me an angle. (I’m not even going to attempt a list of everybody else who’s written great stuff contra Athreya, but for starters try Thoma, DeLong, Yglesias, Sumner, Cowen, Kling, Avent, Wilkinson, Konczal, Wade, Merkel, Harding, Evans-Pritchard, and Ritholtz.)

Fixing information asymmetries

In the wake of my blog entry yesterday about the way in which Goldman’s interaction with AIG helped to exacerbate the financial crisis, I got a very interesting email from a former Goldman employee:

Employment falls

It’s never good when employment falls during what’s meant to be an economic recovery. It’s worth remembering that, if people start getting excited about today’s drop of 125,000 in the total-employment number. Yes, private-sector hiring was marginally positive, by 83,000, but we’d all like to see much bigger numbers than that.


Winemakers are nearly always white. Can South Africans step up and change things? — Atlantic

Communism and the financial crisis, cartoon edition

Remember David Harvey, the chap with the book-length critique of the financial crisis through an explicitly Marxist lens? I’d be surprised if the number of readers of this blog who read his book ever broke into the double digits, but hey, what if I told you that there’s a fabulous little YouTube video from RSA Animate which illustrates a lecture that he gave with inventiveness and verve? That’s more like it:

The financial crisis as PR tool

There’s been an awful lot of weird and unusual PR surrounding The Zeroes, by Randall Lane. My copy has a big white sticker on it: EMBARGOED, it says, until Tuesday June 29 — as though there is hot breaking news buried somewhere in the book. (It’s definitely not in the Vanity Fair excerpt, which came and went with barely a ripple of notice.)

Goldman’s collateral demands and the financial crisis

Daniel Indiviglio is coming over all faux-naive with respect to the FCIC’s grilling of Goldman executives over its aggressive demands for collateral from AIG:

Adventures in financial literacy, Mint.com edition

Aaron Patzer, the founder of Mint.com is pretty economically illiterate, so maybe it’s not so surprising that his site is running the headline “What Inflation? Products That Cost Less Today Than in 2000″ over a chart of things which cost more today than in 2000. If there was a prize for the most incoherent piece of consumer financial journalism, Ross Crooks would surely be a finalist for this:

The Dow yields more than 10-year Treasuries

Calculating the dividend yield on stock indices is more of an art than a science, since no one knows for sure exactly what dividend the stocks in any given index are going to pay over the next year. But one good estimate puts the dividend yield on the Dow at 3.1%, while Eddy Elfenbein has calculated it to be 2.9%. Either way, it’s higher than the current yield on the benchmark U.S. Treasury bond, which was last seen at 2.89% and falling.