What is it, exactly, that makes Insider Trading wrong? 1

When someone with special access uses non-public information to buy or sell stock, it’s called insider trading, and it’s against the law. But why? This was a simple question posed to me by a coworker earlier this week. The answer to the question is less obvious than I initially thought, but comes down to this: ...

America’s Problem isn’t its Politicians. It’s That Our Politicians Don’t Know How to Be Politicians.

I was walking into a mall recently when I stopped by a man who would later recognize as the best salesman I’ve ever met. I know this because he managed to sell me a $40 bottle of something called deep skin cleaning lotion. For context, I am a 28 year-old guy, and I have never ...

The More You Know: There’s a Zip Code in America with One Starbucks for Every 7 Residents

Growing up in Seattle, it sometimes felt like there was a Starbucks on every corner. Well, here’s a fun fact of the day: there’s actually a zip code in downtown Chicago with 1 Starbucks for every 7 residents. 60602, to be precise. In sum, there 9 zip codes in America with fewer than 100 people ...

Regarding the NSA

In light of recent and ongoing NYT and Guardian revelations about the scale of the U.S. surveillance dragnet, it is worthwhile to consider the challenges the NSA faces in successfully operating such a system. For the purpose of clarity, I’m going to omit discussion of the political and constitutional validity of said surveillance, and focus ...

The Serving Class

To understand the dangers of income inequality, one need look no further than the recent news story of a California businessman who tried to pay homeless Los Angelinos $40 to stand in line for an iPhone. While it’s tempting to write this off as just another depressing media story, doing so would be missing the ...

Permissions: A Horrible Solution to a Nasty Problem

If you’ve ever interacted with a computer, you’ve likely come across one of the most needlessly-bureaucratic, Kafkaesque, self-defeating inventions of the digital era: permissions. Permissions affect a range of things you use every day, from your e-mail (passwords) to your Wi-Fi router (network keys) to the username you use to log onto your computer. Put ...

The Fiscal Cliff Negotiations: Things are Better than they Seem

The harbingers of doom are at it again. You can’t open the paper or turn on radio these days without hearing everyone from John Boehner to Erskine Bowles scaring the living daylights out of everyone by saying that the fiscal negotiations – and our economy – is close to failure. Don’t listen. Let me put ...

Aside: Please Stop Calling Tax Hikes “Revenue.” Here are 10 Better Names.

For those following all the (very important) hubbub about the fiscal cliff negotiations, you’ve probably already noticed that neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to be able to call the looming need for the tax increases by their real name. Instead, we get euphemisms like Revenue. As in “we need a balanced approach that includes spending ...

If You Can’t Beat the Market, Why are Financiers so Rich? Here are 6 Reasons. Part Three of an Ongoing Series about Finance

One of the surprising implications of the market efficiency theory (which I touched on in Part Two of this series) is that you can’t beat the market. You can beat it 50% of the time – in fact, you must beat it 50% of the time, otherwise someone could just watch what you do and ...

We Probably Shouldn’t Complain When Politicians Change their Positions – In a Democracy, that’s their Job.

One of the differences between a preacher and a politician is this:  when a preacher turns around and tells you that everything they’ve told you in the past year is wrong, you should probably consider a new congregation. When a politician does it, they’re just doing there job. I raise this important point because, in ...