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Marketplace of Ideas

Mary Barra, General MotorsWelcome to the Friday the Thirteenth edition of Marketplace of Ideas!

  • What’s the most important aspect of this week’s budget deal?  It exists.  That’s the Washington Post’s view: “The agreement’s importance is not fiscal but political: It amounts to a truce in the destructive budgetary wars.” Over at Forbes, Karl Smith says that the “failure to slash entitlements and raise taxes leaves us on the road to ruin.” On the bright side, however, that is “less true now than at just about any time in our post war history.”
  • In a week when one of the biggest stories was GM’s appointment of Mary Barra as CEO, making her the most powerful woman executive in the U.S., the Guardian warns that focusing on the handful of women who have shattered through the glass ceiling distracts us from making changes that would improve more women’s working conditions and opportunities. Unfortunately, pseudo-scientific claims like this one in Forbes, suggesting that the “feminine” hormone oxytocin contributes to a better business environment than testosterone, only play into the stereotypes that hold women back in the workplace.
  • Who goes to work to have fun?  In a New York Times op-ed, Oliver Burkeman, author of “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking,” criticizes the Fun at Work movement.  While enjoying your work is never a bad thing, Burkeman is wary of deliberate efforts to make employees have a good time — a sort of unpaid emotional labor.  Earning a living wage with dignity would probably make workers happier than free doughnuts or posters featuring cringe-worthy humor. How many of the top-ten employers for 2014 have an executive role for a “fungineer”?
  • There’s been a lot of debate since the 2008 crisis over the future of economics as a discipline.  Did economists get it wrong, or are critics short-sighted and politicized?  The academic job market for economists may have some answers:  The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the number of new job openings for economics PhDs fell 6.6% in 2013 to 1,924.  That may sound grim, but the demand for economists is still higher than for sociologists (507 jobs), historians (740 jobs in 2012, the latest data available), or political scientists (531). Perhaps things aren’t so bad for the dismal science.

Photo Mary Barra, courtesy GM.com

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