|By Adam Kotsko|
|Issue 2||September 27, 2018|
My first reaction to Scott Ferguson’s Declarations of Dependence was that it was the strangest book I had ever read. One can group together any three significant topics of this book—for instance, monetary theory, the philosophical implications of perspective painting, and Looney Tunes; or Florentine fiscal policy, Thomist ontology, and the critique of neoliberalism—and declare with reasonable confidence that no previous work has ever woven those topics together, or at least not in quite the same way. Yet as I pondered that initial impression, I realized it was not quite fair.
|By Shane Herron|
|Issue 2||December 13, 2018|
While Matthew Lesko may not be a household name, anyone who has watched broadcast television after 10pm in the last decade or so is undoubtedly familiar with his work. Lesko is the informercial pitchman best known for donning a green suit covered with question marks and proclaiming that he can provide viewers with free government money—provided that you purchase his book, of course. Lesko looks like the bastard child of Groucho Marx and a lithe carnival barker. His fuzzy eyebrows and awkwardly-tilted glasses imbue his outlandish puffery with the air of a huckster from a bygone era. Despite this dubious image, little of what is contained in his books is inaccurate. In fact, most of it is perfectly valid, though already widely available, public information. His is a unique grift. It consists in treating the public sphere of language and knowledge as if it were some secret and proprietary reserve of arcane wisdom, accessible only to those in the know. His question marks are a trenchant symbol of how his particular variety of charlatanism functions: it does not provide bullshit answers to real questions, but marries bullshit questions to real answers.
|By Frank Pasquale|
|Issue 2||February 5, 2019|
Calling financial services “products” was one of the greatest marketing triumphs of the banking industry. The convenient reification made complex sets of rights, duties, and promises (like annuities, long-term care insurance, and mortgages) sound as solid and familiar as a car or washing machine. The product frame domesticated the complexities of finance, encapsulating open-ended and contingent relationships in reassuring mental models of reality. Progressives eventually adapted the “product” terminology for their own purposes, but its flaws haunted them.