May 30, 2009

Big Thinkers

Some of the more interesting thinkers are those who refuse to restrict their focus to narrow specializations and are able to synthesize widely disparate disciplines into a well-reasoned and credible analysis. A few of my favorite public intellectuals who display this trait in spades have recently been in the news: Nouriel Roubini, Lester Brown, and Atul Gawande.

Most people know Nouriel Roubini as Dr. Doom because he had been predicting the coming economic collapse when most economics and market watchers were still quite bullish. In 2006 when he predicted the mortgage-backed crisis, he did so by looking at the market and the world economy as an integrated whole which let him see the inherent flaws in the system. So how did he come to his unorthodox, yet original way of viewing the world? Recently, The New Republic published a piece that covered the background of the eclectic Dr. Roubini which provides some clues on what shaped his view of the world.

What sets Roubini apart from his fellow economists (and what occasionally gets him in trouble) is his willingness to intuit broad patterns and connect the dots, something that became apparent early in his career. While others spent years refining one econometric model or drilling down on one microsubject, Roubini gorged on a range of diverse topics that, to him, were all related: Japanese public debt, tax evasion, liquidity and exchange rates, monetary policy in the newly formed European Union, the effect of political cycles on industrial economies. As a graduate student, he attracted the attention of older, more established academics both for his ambitiously sweeping econometric analyses and his ability to synthesize vast swaths of seemingly unrelated information.

Lester Brown, the founder of the Earth Policy Institute, has been long known for looking at the linkages between population, agriculture, oil, soil, and water. The problems in each of these areas profoundly affect the problems in the others and as Dr. Brown shows, we can't address one without understanding and doing something about the other. Recently he had a piece in Scientific American which asked whether the growing global food crisis could be the basis of growing global instability.

And finally, one of the best pieces I've ever read explaining why it is so important to get the healthcare problem solved and what really is the problem comes from Dr. Atul Gawande in the latest New Yorker. It is absolutely required reading for anyone who thinks they understand this issue.

Posted by Mary at May 30, 2009 05:11 PM | Recommended Reading | Technorati links |

GM is bankrupt
Quagmire policies finally yielded total disaster: After permanently hyping the oil price with an illicit Iraq occupation, car makers crack like crackers. Finally Bush got the matches he wanted to see burn for his invasion, but instead they are cracking now. The horror scenario we are currently witnessing hits the mark of the US economy, because its not only a high oil price that serves Texans and Sarah Palin.. Revenue drops and drops and state support is not infinite. A state guided by Austrian bodybuilders and other inane crap wont be much help anyway.The perpetual vicous circle of 180days Bush holidays per year wont be broken by unwilling leaders anyway. The truth is far off now anyway. The ridiculous statement that GM "is now ready to file for bankruptcy" is just another joke. It appears like this would serve anybody. It serves noone a shit.

Posted by: ccokz at June 1, 2009 01:46 AM