Creative Capital

On Children’s Literature

“Why do we give children the illusion of a world that doesn’t exist and which all their lives they will compare with a harsh reality?” –Georges Simenon A few weeks ago I published my 300th post since I launched the blog back in 2013. In recognition of this dubious anniversary I’m going to talk about …

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Why We Don’t Take Our Meds: The Conclusion

“If you torture data long enough, it will confess anything.” –Nobel Laureate Ronald Coase “[Medical] science is really hard to turn around. People get emotionally invested, financially invested, professionally invested.” –Dr. Jonathan Moreno, Professor of Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania Last week I pointed out that a ridiculously expensive drug ($15,000/year) that had to be taken …

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No More “Bad Cholesterol”? Not So Fast…

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as though nothing had happened – Winston Churchill It was mid-2015 and I knew I was in trouble as soon as I walked into my doc’s office – he was grinning from ear to ear and waving a piece …

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The Heart Cholesterol Complex

It is difficult for a man to understand something when his income depends on his not understanding it. H.L. Mencken About the time World War I was breaking out in Europe, doctors conducting postmortem exams on heart attack patients discovered that those patients’ coronary arteries were gunked up with cholesterol. “Aha!” said medical science, “People …

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The Really Horrible Versus the Ordinarily Horrible

By “PVCs” I don’t mean the stuff they make pipes out of. I mean “premature ventricular contractions.” When people have heart attacks, especially serious ones, heart muscle dies and turns into useless, deadweight scar tissue. To make matters worse, hearts that are pocked by scar tissue conduct electrical waves very differently than hearts that are …

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How Many Heart Beats Do You Want?

So there I was, at the end of April 2015, off all my prescription meds. (I still took a baby aspirin and a multivitamin, don’t ask me why.) I was feeling great and knew I needed to exercise, but knowing and doing are two very different things. Before my heart attack I had a very …

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Who Says There’s Really “Prediabetes”?

I want to launch this post with a disclaimer—don’t do what I did. On the other hand, the usual advice—consult with your physician—might be even worse, for the reasons I’ll get to. After my 2015 stress test (described in last week’s post) I had a very depressing follow-up call with my doc. “Your ejection fraction …

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My Eureka Moment

So there I was in early 2015, six months after my heart attack and open heart surgery, taking 12 meds and being urged to add another two to the regime. Instead of rebelling, I was Mr. Goodpatient, passively doing whatever I was told, however insane it seemed. When you’ve had a heart attack, one of …

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Why We Don’t Take Our Meds (Again)

Recently, two journalists (Tim Harford and Simon Kuper) working for the Financial Times of London attended the FT Weekend Festival. The topic of their onstage conversation was “the nightmare of writing a weekly column.” Tell me about it. I don’t know about Harford and Kuper, but when I’m stumped for a subject to write about …

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Fed Folly and its Practical Effects

“The… task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” –Friedrich von Hayek Adam Smith was the first to name the “the invisible hand” so felicitously, but he was hardly the first to notice the existence of such a phenomenon. The idea of an …

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The Red-Tape Fed

The long and deep recession of 1930–33 finally ended in March of 1933. Once it ended, the Fed, believing that the economy could now—and should now—fend for itself, backed off. The result was one of the most powerful economic expansions in U.S. history, an expansion that lasted three decades. The short and shallow recession of …

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The Fed’s Act of Cowardice

We are talking about America’s Monetary Keystone Kops, who have, since 1987 (when Greenspan became chair of the Federal Reserve), been masquerading as central bankers. (Or maybe it’s the other way ‘round, it’s hard to tell.) The Fed’s finest hour was saving Bear Stearns while wiping out its equity holders and senior management—that is, the …

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Bernanke’s Blunders

We’ve assessed the successes and failures of central bankers in the 1930s. Now let’s turn our attention to their modern counterparts. I will argue that, unlike the earlier central bankers, whose record was mixed but a net positive, our modern central bankers have done almost everything wrong—and for 30 years running. To wit: Like the …

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Why Gold Had to Go

The “gold standard,” which prevailed in the developed world for many decades, simply means that some fraction of a country’s paper currency has to be backed by—that is, convertible into—gold. In the U.S. that fraction was 40 percent. Since a government on the gold standard can’t print money without increasing its gold reserves, society-destroying events …

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Central Bankers Then and Now, Part III

Scholars of the Great Depression typically blame policymakers of the 1930s for failing to do four things: They failed to rein in the 1920s economic boom, allowing its collapse to lead to the worst depression in US history. Following the Crash of ’29, they failed to inject sufficient liquidity into the economy, causing it to …

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The Great Depression vs. the Great Recession

Subsequent to the Global Financial Crisis, U.S. GDP has grown, in the aggregate, 37%. During the period of the Great Depression, U.S. GDP grew, in the aggregate, 40%. In the 1930s, the U.S. economy declined 26% between 1930 and 1933 and unemployment rose to 25%. During the Great Recession the U.S. economy declined 3% and …

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Central Bankers Then and Now

Not that anyone cares, but in these pages I’ve been highly critical of the “unconventional” policies pursued by every central banker on the planet since the Financial Crisis. My arguments have been many and simple: The policies not only didn’t work, they actually stunted economic growth. The policies were “immoral” in the sense that they …

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Shined Shoes Can Save Your Life: The Conclusion

It was now late winter of 1971 and I was running the traffic division at the 226th MP Company at Fort Benjamin Harrison, outside Indianapolis. In those days Fort Ben was the headquarters of the Army Finance School and the location of the Army Finance Center. The building that housed the Center was the second largest …

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The Legend of Duke Hock

Sergeant Duke Hock was a legend in the Army while I was still in grade school. He was Jack Reacher before Lee Child was born. There are so many stories about Duke that, even though I’ve forgotten 90% of them, I can remember dozens. The two I’m about to relate happened to involve me. To …

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Shined Shoes Can Save Your Life, Part II

So there we were, in late 1970, having graduated from the U.S. Army Military Police Correctional Specialist Academy, the best-trained prison guards in the world. We had been assigned to one of the worst prisons in the world, the stockade at Long Bình, Vietnam, better known as the Long Bình Jail, or LBJ. Our job …

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Shined Shoes Can Save Your Life

A few weeks ago, in a post about J. D. Vance’s book, “Hillbilly Elegy,” I mentioned in passing that I was convinced that having spit-shined my Army combat boots may have saved my life. I didn’t elaborate, and since then several dozen people have inquired about that brief aside. So here’s the story. To understand what …

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Why Democracy Matters

Just to make it simple, let’s define Europe’s “illiberal democracies” as those countries where elected leaders profoundly disagree with the liberal, inclusive, affluent worldview of the EU’s political classes. The British disagreed with this worldview so violently that they left the Union altogether. Most of the other “illiberal” democracies aren’t in strong enough positions to …

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