Who’s cashing in, and what are they cashing in on? And who’s cashing out?
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is cashing in, via MITx—its new, interactive e-learning venture—by providing the courses online for free but charging “a ‘modest’ fee for certificates that indicate a learner has mastered the content.”
The alternative, of course, would be to support the public university system, and allow all students to get a real college education in residence.
Ian Ayres and Aaron S. Edlin believe we should cash in on the growth of income and wealth by the top 1 percent, by using the Brandeis Ratio—the ratio of the average income of the nation’s richest 1 percent to the median household income—as a trigger to create a new top-income tax bracket.
Or we could use Brandeis’s warning—that “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both”—to find a way of creating democracy in both political and economic institutions.
Blake Gopnik sees the super-rich using their piles of cash to buy up contemporary art, thereby creating a modern-day equivalent of the potlatch of the Pacific Northwest (“where the goal was to ostentatiously give away, even destroy, as much of your wealth as possible—to show that you could”), which blurs the boundary between aesthetic and economic value.
Which doesn’t stop Gopnik from offering his suggestions of “five highly touted artists whose works are lousy investments.”
Multi-millionaires in Hong Kong and elsewhere are cashing in on their growing wealth to purchase not only Asian art but also “wine, gems, watches, postage stamps and other memorabilia–the rarer and more exclusive, the better.”
As Jack Amariglio suggested, we shouldn’t “be shocked if new theories and conceptions of what is beautiful and worth owning and displaying, once again, is radically revised such that what is now considered primarily ‘mundane’ and prosaic among the vast amount of Chinese artistic productions of the past becomes the newly discovered ‘treasures’ and ‘wonders’. . .of the global aesthetic consciousness.
The Freakonomics team of Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have certainly been cashing in, with their growing franchise consisting of a bestselling sequel, SuperFreakonomics, an occasional column in the New York Times Magazine, a popular blog, and a documentary film.
However, as Andrew Gelman and Kaiser Fung explain, Levitt and Dubner have made a number of avoidable mistakes, “from back-of-the-envelope analyses gone wrong to unexamined assumptions to an uncritical reliance on the work of Levitt’s friends and colleagues.”
And then, as Barbara Ehrenreich and John Ehrenreich explain, it’s not the “liberal elite” but the top 1 percent of the wealth distribution—the “bankers, hedge-fund managers, and CEOs targeted by the Occupy Wall Street movement—that has been cashing in, thereby creating the 99 percent.
As it happened, the idea of the “liberal elite” could not survive the depredations of the 1% in the late 2000s. For one thing, it was summarily eclipsed by the discovery of the actual Wall Street-based elite and their crimes. Compared to them, professionals and managers, no matter how annoying, were pikers. The doctor or school principal might be overbearing, the professor and the social worker might be condescending, but only the 1% took your house away.
Finally, there are all the Greek people who, in the midst of the current crises, appear to be cashing out—leading to the highest rate of suicide in Europe.
Painful austerity measures and a seemingly endless economic drama is exacting a deadly toll on the nation. Statistics released by the Greek ministry of health show a 40% rise in those taking their own lives between January and May this year compared to the same period in 2010.
Before the financial crisis first began to bite three years ago, Greece had the lowest suicide rate in Europe at 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. It now has almost double that number, the highest on the continent, despite the stigma in a nation where the Orthodox church refuses funeral rights for those who take their lives. Attempted suicides have also increased.
“It’s never just one thing, but almost always debts, joblessness, the fear of being fired are cited when people phone in to say they are contemplating ending their lives,” said Eleni Beikari, a psychiatrist at the non-governmental organisation, Klimaka, which runs a 24-hour suicide hotline.