It’s the Ideas, Stupid


Some astonishing facts: the average human living before 1800 “could expect to make, earn, and consume” about $3 per day. Today, the average Afghan and the average Liberian—residents of two of the poorest countries in the world—spend $33 per day, adjusted for exchange rates and inflation. In the emerging economy of Brazil, real per-person income is “about the same as it was in the world-beating United States in 1941, or in the still-recovering postwar Britain in 1959.” And the average per-person daily income in “well-off free-trade democracies,” which are home to one-sixth of the world’s population, is about $100. In fact, worldwide, “[i]ncome now is thirty to one hundred times more than our ancestors could manage….”

Calvin Versus Calvinism

John Calvin

You can run across a reference to Calvin just about anywhere. For instance, in the recent book about Chinese philosophy, The Path, of all places, appears the following: “… This vision of a good life is rooted in history, specifically sixteenth-century Calvinist ideas about predestination, a chosen ‘elect,’ and a God who has laid out a plan for each individual to fulfill.” The authors add, “The Calvinists rejected the following of ritual, which they saw as empty and formulaic, and instead emphasized sincere belief in this higher deity.”

When Architects Smiled at the Future

It was as streamlined as a coffeemaker. As compact as an electric shaver. As modular as a Lego-block kitchen. As impossible as a dream. The Monsanto House of the Future may have been the most comically over-rationalized construction ever allowed to escape an architect’s sketchbook and actually get itself built. But there was nonetheless a kind of weird joyousness about the absurd thing, which stood as the centerpiece of Disney’s Tomorrowland from 1957 to 1967.