economics

Wine Is Money: How the Rich Are Changing Napa Valley’s Drink

Stu Smith and his brother, Charlie, put down a $500 option on about 200 acres of land on the slopes of Spring Mountain in 1971, eventually purchasing the property for $70,000. The views of the adjacent Napa Valley were stunning, and Smith, who had developed a passion for wine while completing his undergraduate degree in economics at Berkeley, was determined to get into the nascent California premium wine business.

Didn’t Win a Nobel? The Honors and Prestige Don’t End There.

On April 13, 1888, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who made millions turning his invention into munitions and selling them to the armies of the world, was aghast to read a story in a Paris newspaper that mistakenly reported his death.

It was actually his older brother, Ludvig, who had died, but Alfred was horrified by the headline: “The merchant of death is dead.”

The story went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever, died yesterday.”

In the Water Works: Bringing Clean Water to Kenya’s Largest Slum

Nairobi is a tough town, and there’s no place in Nairobi that’s tougher than Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. Maybe a half-million people live there, maybe a million. No one’s really counting. But virtually everyone is desperately poor, with per capita earnings averaging about a dollar a day. Rape, assault, and murder are simple facts of daily life. The streets are paved with rotting garbage, sewage flows in the gutters, disease is rampant, and city services are largely nonexistent.

From the Summer 2016 Welcome to There issue of California.

What Would Buddha Do? Berkeley Econ Class Covers Supply, Demand and Enlightenment

Let the bull market for college-level economics continue. Despite its daunting math, its abstract models, and its 0-for-1 track record in predicting recent worldwide financial catastrophes, economics remains one of the top 10 college majors across the country, according to the Princeton Review. That trend certainly holds at UC Berkeley where, last fall, econ was the second only to electrical engineering and computer science as most popular major. As the fall semester approaches, expect hundreds more undergrads to flock eagerly to the “dismal science.”

Doing the Right Thing, or Not: What Makes People Less Likely to Be Selfish Jerks?

Some scientific studies come as revelations—biological investigations unlocking keys hidden within the human genome, statistical analyses that identify shocking trends between disparate data sets, and explorations of the cosmos that reveal truths about the very fabric of existence.

And then there are scientific studies that tell us what most of us probably knew all along.

Lights, Camera, Economics

If charisma were measured in inches, Berkeley political economist Robert Reich would be a very tall man—but he’s short. Famously so, barely 4’11”. It’s not something he hides. To the contrary, he works his height the way a fat comic works his weight, beginning speeches with deadpan openers like, “As you can see, this economy has really worn me down,” and, “I’ll be short.”

From the Fall 2013 Film Issue issue of California.

Toward a Common Wealth

If you’ve been paying attention to the economic news you’ve probably noticed pundits using an ecological metaphor: Green shoots are sprouting. It’s a nice image. First the blackened earth of economic collapse, then tender leaves of recovery pushing up from below. If they said instead that we were seeing the early signs of infection, that wouldn’t work so well. Economic growth is never portrayed as the vine that strangles, the multiplication of locusts—it’s always the heroic sprout. The metaphor must jibe with an assumption so fundamental that few stop to consider it: Growth is good.

From the Winter 2009 Food for Thought issue of California.
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