Michael Novak Crafted a Moral Defense of Democratic Capitalism

Philosopher served as ambassador under Reagan and impressed Thatcher

His philosophical heroes included Reinhold Niebuhr, Gabriel Marcel and Albert Camus.
.. Recruited to teach at Stanford University in the mid-1960s, he joined protests against the Vietnam War, though he wavered over the years on whether U.S. involvement was justified. “I came out of it feeling that I had not been as steady in my thinking as I would have liked,” he wrote.
.. So he took up a chance to write speeches for Sargent Shriver as the politician stumped for Democrats across the U.S. in 1970.
.. Yet he believed the party was neglecting a large part of its base, including Irish, Italian and Slavic Catholic immigrants.Such voters, he wrote, “did not want their kids taking acid. They did not want their daughters sleeping around, or having abortions.”

.. His 1972 book “The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics” described people who would become Reagan Democrats, as Mr. Novak himself became.

.. socialism was “the residue of Judeo-Christian faith, without religion. It is a belief in the goodness of the human race and paradise on earth.” Capitalism, he added, was “a system built on belief in human selfishness; given checks and balances, it is nearly always a smashing, scandalous success.”

.. In his book “The Joy of Sports,” he dismissed the idea that sports were a waste of an intellectual’s time. “The basic reality of all human life is play, games, sport; these are the realities from which the basic metaphors for all that is important in the rest of life are drawn,” he wrote.

Kenneth Arrow Won Nobel in Economics and Dazzled Colleagues

Stanford economist examined group decision-making and medical-care market

 When he started a question with the phrase “I don’t understand,” he was being polite, said John Shoven, a Stanford economist: “He usually could have started the question with ‘You don’t understand.’”
.. He presented mathematical proof “that when there are numerous options and a diversity of opinions no voting system can be completely fair,”
.. he examined the problem of “asymmetric information” in the market for medical services and insurance.
.. Dr. Arrow’s family tree was decked with eminent economists. His nephew Lawrence Summers is a former Treasury Secretary and president of Harvard. A relative by marriage, Paul A. Samuelson, also won a Nobel in economics, while his sister Anita and her husband, Robert Summers, were economists and both taught at the University of Pennsylvania.

Trump’s Economic Cabinet Is Mostly Bare. This Man Fills the Void.

During that sit-down, on Nov. 29, Mr. Cohn briefed Mr. Trump on what he regarded as the chief hurdle to expanding the economy, according to people who were briefed on the discussion: a stronger dollar, which would undermine efforts to create jobs.

 .. They have also generated outrage in some quarters. “The way I see this, there was a devastating financial crisis just over eight years ago,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, said. “Goldman Sachs was at the heart of that crisis. The idea that the president is now going to turn over the country’s economic policy to a senior Goldman executive turns my stomach.”

.. Along with Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, Mr. Cohn recently helped persuade the president not to pursue an executive order that would have rolled back rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

.. Still, Mr. Cohn’s 26-year career at Goldman, where he performed an array of jobs, including trading commodities, running mortgages and eventually overseeing day-to-day operations, ended with a remarkable windfall: cash and stock valued at $285 million.

This Economic Phenomenon Is Making Government Sick

K-12 education hasn’t improved very much and also costs more, an economic phenomenon that has been labeled the “cost disease.” It turns out the cost disease also shapes politics: To the extent governments manage, run or fund low-productivity-growth sectors, the spending required to sustain those sectors can automatically boost the size of government over time.

.. Part of the problem is that fixing people is harder than fixing machines, because it requires the cooperation of what are often recalcitrant patients. That’s why productivity improvements are difficult to achieve in education as well. Online learning can be potent and very cheap, but it is hard to get enough of the students to care.

.. If patients and students would diet properly, take the right medicines and crack open their textbooks, more drastic cost improvements could result.

.. The first problem will be that other areas of government spending (“discretionary spending”) will tend to suffer, as money is soaked up by the low-productivity sectors. Voters will feel that governments are neglecting some of their most important interests, such as infrastructure.

.. All of the various sides may be correct in their major claims, but none will have a workable solution. This actually isn’t so far from where the health-care debate stands now, and where the retirement and nursing home debate is headed as America ages.

.. As it stands, we’re set to re-create these debates at higher and higher levels of government spending in the low-productivity sectors. And I don’t view such dramatically tense, life-or-death issues as conducive either to rational decision-making or to a broadly liberal, consensus-based politics.

.. If you care about politics, I suggest spending less time on the candidates and more time studying productivity growth. I also suggest spending more time thinking about how to make working with human beings as easy and as fruitful as manipulating physical capital. Often the real political problem is not the people who disagree with you, but rather the empirical regularities of economies and the humans who inhabit them.