If you work for Google or Apple, stock options give you a chance to share in the increasing value of the company. In the N.F.L., nothing like this happens; the players, though rich, are just working stiffs like the rest of us.
When all is said and done, cheap gas is an illusion, because our reliance on gas creates a whole series of costs that aren't factored in to the pump price - among them congestion, pollution, and increased risk of accidents.
Lower oil prices won't, by themselves, topple the mullahs in Iran. But it's significant that, historically, when oil prices have been low, Iranian reformers have been ascendant and radicals relatively subdued, and vice versa when prices have been high.
If someone really wants my company's business, why shouldn't he be able to do everything he can - including paying me off - to get that business? Because bribery encourages people to make decisions based on the wrong criteria, which means in the business world that it distorts the efficient allocation of resources.
Self-dealing, essentially, occurs when managers run companies to line their own pockets instead of those of the companies' owners. It's been a perennial problem in American capitalism and became a real dilemma when America moved toward a model in which corporations would be run by professional managers who had only small ownership stakes.
If you thought the advent of the Internet, the spread of cheap and efficient information technology, and the growing fragmentation of the consumer market were all going to help smaller companies thrive at the expense of the slow-moving giants of the Fortune 500, apparently you were wrong.
In the heart of the Great Depression, millions of American workers did something they'd never done before: they joined a union. Emboldened by the passage of the Wagner Act, which made collective bargaining easier, unions organized industries across the country, remaking the economy.
For most Americans, work is central to their experience of the world, and the corporation is one of the fundamental institutions of American life, with an enormous impact, for good and ill, on how we live, think, and feel.
Critics of consumer capitalism like to think that consumers are manipulated and controlled by those who seek to sell them things, but for the most part it's the other way around: companies must make what consumers want and deliver it at the lowest possible price.
Academics, who work for long periods in a self-directed fashion, may be especially prone to putting things off: surveys suggest that the vast majority of college students procrastinate, and articles in the literature of procrastination often allude to the author's own problems with finishing the piece.
On the simplest level, telecommuting makes it harder for people to have the kinds of informal interactions that are crucial to the way knowledge moves through an organization. The role that hallway chat plays in driving new ideas has become a cliche of business writing, but that doesn't make it less true.
In the struggle between capital and labor, more often than not capital has won, because the real source of value for most companies has historically been the hard assets that they owned and controlled.
The history of the Internet is, in part, a series of opportunities missed: the major record labels let Apple take over the digital-music business; Blockbuster refused to buy Netflix for a mere fifty million dollars; Excite turned down the chance to acquire Google for less than a million dollars.
To be sure, if you watch CNBC all day long you'll pick up some interesting news about particular companies and the economy as a whole. Unfortunately, to get to the useful information, you have to wade through reams of useless stuff, with little guidance on how to distinguish between the two.
Unlike fuel-economy standards, the most common method of reducing demand for oil over the past thirty years, a gas tax doesn't tell people what kind of car to drive. It simply raises the price of gasoline and lets people adjust their behavior accordingly.
Being unemployed is even more disastrous for individuals than you'd expect. Aside from the obvious harm - poverty, difficulty paying off debts - it seems to directly affect people's health, particularly that of older workers.
In terms of productivity - that is, how much a worker produces in an hour - there's little difference between the U.S., France, and Germany. But since more people work in America, and since they work so many more hours, Americans create more wealth.
Of course, looking tough on inflation is part of any central banker's job description: if investors believe that inflation is going to get out of control, you end up with higher interest rates and capital flight, and a vicious circle quickly ensues.
Popular as Keynesian fiscal policy may be, many economists are skeptical that it works. They argue that fine-tuning the economy is a virtually impossible task, and that fiscal-stimulus programs are usually too small, and arrive too late, to make a difference.
Politically speaking, it's always easier to shell out money for a disaster that has already happened, with clearly identifiable victims, than to invest money in protecting against something that may or may not happen in the future.
In practice, downsizing is too often about cutting your work force while keeping your business the same, and doing so not by investments in productivity-enhancing technology, but by making people pull 80-hour weeks and bringing in temps to fill the gap.
Disasters redistribute money from taxpayers to construction workers, from insurance companies to homeowners, and even from those who once lived in the destroyed city to those who replace them. It's remarkable that this redistribution can happen so smoothly and quickly, with devastated regions reinventing themselves in a matter of months.
Now, modern economies have a very effective mechanism for deciding if salaries are really too high: it's called the free market. That's how most people's salaries are set, after all, including those of major-league baseball players and European soccer players.
Instead of mindlessly tossing billions at or taking billions from the Net as such, investors should be spending their time making sure that it's the future Fords and General Motors of cyberspace that are getting the capital they need.