April 24th, 2011



William Wordsworth wrote his complaint about the masses despoiling the Lake District in 1807.  I leave to the reader's imagination what his reaction to day-trippers coming by the London and North Western Railway would have been, or what lament he might have written about roller coasters being built at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.  But with prosperity comes stuff for its own sake, and positional competition, and laments for what is lost, and fretting about What It All Means.  Thus Book Review No. 8 considers Dalton Conley's Elsewhere, U. S. A.: How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, Blackberry Moms, and Economic Anxiety.  Don't have to worry about any spoilers with that title.  The book has a publication date of 2009, although the work on it appears to have finished before the housing bubble popped, and thus readers get an attempt to use every shiny model of social behavior (positional arms races!  behavioral economics!  information cascades!) to understand -- albeit not to consider reforms -- a way of life that might have already become history.  Turn to page 84.

We all have to buy into this economic pyramid to keep it running.  And since many of us enjoy decent, long-run returns on our 401 (k)s and our home values -- while simultaneously afflicted by fraud anxiety -- we tend to go along with the program and hope it all works out in the end.


Come the next economic recovery, the substitution effect of a pay increase dominating in labor supply decisions -- which Professor Conley commingles with the fraud anxiety he refers to, and reinforces by the ability of improved communication to blur boundaries between work and home -- might again be counteracted by the income effect, something that is unlikely to surprise regular readers of Cold Spring Shops.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
narry twirl

Heart of the Matter

Heart of the Matter
Author: Emily Giffin
Genre: Chick Lit, Romance
Pages: 354
Summary from Goodreads (linked above): Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her own mother's warnings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life.

Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie--a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance--and even to some degree, friendships--believing that it is always safer not to expect too much.

Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.

Comments: I liked this book well enough but I thought the pacing was kind of off. It took quite a long time for anything to actually move with the plot. This would have been fine if that time had been spent developing the characters or adding suspense but it didn't really do either of those things. All of the characters seemed fairly underdeveloped and uninteresting and I had a hard time relating to any of them. It was an easy read though and after the story picked up a bit I did want to continue reading it to see the outcome.

4 / 50 books. 8% done!

1507 / 15000 pages. 10% done!