Felix Salmon

Why cab drivers should love Uber

December 12, 2013

Last month the city of New York raised more than $200 million by auctioning off 200 new taxi medallions — essentially, the right to operate a yellow cab in the city. Some 2,000 such medallions are likely to be sold in all, which means $2 billion of much-needed revenue for New York, if prices remain high. But will they? It’s surprisingly easy to justify a million-dollar price tag for a medallion — but in order to do so, you need to assume that medallion owners’ income will remain constant, in real terms, over time.

Can you fact-check a twerking video?

December 10, 2013


Josh Benton of the Nieman Journalism Lab writes in, asking for a 2014 prediction for the world of news. My answer: 2014 is going to be the year of a big debate about what news is —and especially about whether and how news organizations can ethically report on activity in the virtual world.

How online investment advisers add value

December 10, 2013

A year ago, I wondered whether there was an easy personal investment strategy which is better than Vanguard, and looked at two intriguing products — the RealRetirement funds from Pimco, and an online asset manager called Wealthfront.

America’s rental crisis

December 10, 2013

Earlier today, a union organizer from Oakland named Max Bell Alper successfully (if briefly) trolled the internet with a stunt showing him shouting at a protestor. The protest was against Google’s buses: they use municipal infrastructure, but don’t giving anything back in return. Alper’s monologue, delivered in character as an obnoxious Google employee, went like this:

Adventures in art-market commodification, James Stewart edition

December 9, 2013

When I wrote my piece last week about art-market reporting, I didn’t name names, I was just trying to lay out some basic rules. And while I’m happy to engage in the occasional snarky tweet about some of the bad reporting out there, I generally won’t make an entire blog post out of such complaining. Because it’s boring, and also because it’s invidious to pick out just one bad article from hundreds or even thousands.

The truth about Blackstone and Codere

December 6, 2013

I’ve always felt that the Daily Show should do more financial stuff, and there’s no doubt that Wednesday’s piece on Blackstone was funny. But it was also extremely credulous about a single Bloomberg article from October.

Tidings of comfort and joy

December 6, 2013

It’s the season of good cheer, and the BLS is doing its bit to make econowonks happy in December. The last jobs report of 2013 is a great one; it now looks as though Fed chair Ben Bernanke is going to be able to go out on a high note, having brought the unemployment rate down to the key 7% level.

Three cheers for small banks

December 5, 2013

Earlier this week, Matt Yglesias wrote a post about what he calls “America’s Microbank Problem”: this country has far too many banks, he says, and they’re far too small. A rebuttal soon came from Rob Blackwell of American Banker, who called Yglesias “dead wrong”. This is an argument which clearly needs to be adjudicated! And in this case, I’m afraid, Blackwell wins.

When the 2-and-20 crowd drives economic research

December 5, 2013

Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to the CEOs of America’s biggest banks today, telling them to reveal how much money they give to Washington think tanks — policymakers and the public, she says, should know when they’re being fed a corporate-lobbying line, and when they’re getting valuable information from a genuinely independent think tank.