The ToB, presented by Field Notes, is here!

It's the 2023 Tournament of Books, presented by Field Notes! And it's finals week! Dig in!

This Week

To Good Wealth!

Every Friday, starting today: a look back at the week’s headlines, centered on a theme we’ve singled out as particularly important. Sure, another dictator passed, but this week we found ourselves considering income inequality, the poor, and the wealthy.

U.S. rated the world’s most charitable country in 2011:

The group said the richest countries were not necessarily the most likely to give to charity—only five nations that are in the World Bank’s top 20 economies by GDP appear in the latest CAF giving index top 20.

Mark Thoma demonstrates with a simple game why the great economic divide makes everyone poorer:

This is, of course, an argument for the government provision of certain types of goods through a tax structure that requires the wealthy to pay a larger share of the bill based upon efficiency rather than equity grounds, but here’s the problem. This only works if the rich and the poor live in the same neighborhoods, share the same roads, use the same parks, attend the same schools, and so on.

Slightly more inequality found in the U.S. than in the Roman Empire:

[In the Roman Empire] the top 1.5% controlled 15-25% of income while in the United States around 2007 the top 1% controlled 23.5% of income thus suggesting slightly more inequality in the United States.

Life of the Baghdad Country Club, bar founded in the middle of the war zone of 2006 Iraq:

Anyone—mercenaries and diplomats, contractors and peacekeepers, aid workers and Iraqis—could walk in, get dinner, open a decent bottle of Bordeaux, and light a cigar from the humidor to go with it. Patrons would check their weapons in a safe, like coats in a coatroom, and leave the war behind.

Shafer: Hollywood wants to do excess damage to free speech, association, and commerce in the name of scuttling scurvy pirates:

Oh yah, sure, youbetcha. The entertainment complex missed its big chance to suggest the word “murder” to describe illegal downloads. And it spends many sleepless nights worrying about all the victims of credit card fraud.

By purchasing a hardcover book, you’re doing more than buying a pricey title—you’re telling the publisher to continue printing your favorite author:

Lightning Rods is not necessarily a safe bet as a Christmas gift (if your mother is like my mother, she will hate the book). Still, if you have a friend or friends who love the books your mother hates, this could be the perfect choice.

Economist’s guide to gift-giving:

People consistently overrate the extent to which money in general and material possessions in particular will make them happy, underweighting interpersonal relationships and new experiences in the process. So try to give your loved ones the opportunity to go do something new, ideally with other people.

The differences between your debt and American Airlines’s:

The double standard here is obvious and offensive. Homeowners are getting lambasted for doing what companies do on a regular basis. Walking away from real-estate obligations in particular is common in the corporate world, and real-estate developers are notorious for abandoning properties that no longer make economic sense.

Kim Jong-il’s cook on culinary shopping sprees, racing jet-skis while North Korea suffered:

From that day, every evening at 10:00 P.M. for the next month, five or six of his administrative staff members and I would be injected with the same painkiller that Kim Jong Il was taking. He was afraid he would become addicted to it, and didn’t want to be the only one.

The poor man only rings once; India’s ring-once, hang-up nudge phenomenon:

Callers who aren’t willing to spend on, well, really anything, use the “ring once, hang up” to signal to commerce companies and friends alike on the receiving end that they want to communicate with them.

Deft overview of mafia and state powers intermingling in Russia finds “gradations of respect” in different types of assassination:

These days, however, the level of professionalism is chilling. Snipers make head shots at hundreds of meters, or evade 10 security cameras on their escape, leaving behind an untraceable weapon. It does not take a genius to understand that new people have arrived on the scene.

Disloyalty cards in Singapore support an ecosystem of cafés:

The card is stamped each time they purchase a coffee from one of the other seven cafés and, once the card is full, they return to the original café to receive their free coffee.


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