“We can no longer just tell children raised poor to study harder.”

Inequality Begins at Birth [NYRB]

Inequality in America begins at birth, or, for those born to women who are ill during pregnancy or do not have adequate prenatal care, even before. Through no fault of their own, up to one quarter of American children start off well behind, and another quarter live in families that earn only twice the poverty line—about $48,000 a year for a family of four. Armed with the unambiguous findings of twenty-first-century neuroscience, we can no longer just tell children raised poor to study harder and find jobs as they grow up.

This Jeff Madrick essay on inequality is profound. I urge you to read it (and re-read) twice.

“We are reversing the water cycle that has flowed in one direction since the beginning of Earth.”

The upshot is that in the twenty-first century, our species will be subjected to global water torture: alternately raising unaffordable dikes to hold it back, then desperately trying to coax it from any possible source. But like topsoil, there is no practical way to create more fresh water. Removing salt from seawater – the result of millions of years of rain and runoff dissolving rocks en route to the sea—is undercut by the cost of the energy required, and defeated by the distance that separates most arable land from the oceans. Desalination may be the most literal example of how the technological species that we’ve become stands in defiance of nature: As University of California–Santa Cruz Director of Integrated Water Research Brent Haddad told the Santa Cruz Sentinel after a seven-year study of the economic and ecological effects of desalination, “We are reversing the water cycle that has flowed in one direction since the beginning of Earth.”

Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? [Amazon]

“Financial warfare has now officially come to war’s center stage.”

Financial warfare has now officially come to war’s center stage – a stage that for thousands of years has been occupied only by soldiers and weapons. We believe that before long, “financial warfare” will undoubtedly be an entry in the dictionaries of official military jargon. Moreover, when people revise the history books on twentieth-century warfare the section on financial warfare will command the reader’s utmost attention. Today, when nuclear weapons have already become frightening mantelpiece decorations that are losing their real operational value financial war has become a “hyperstrategic” weapon that is attracting the attention of the world. This is because financial war is easily manipulated and allows for concealed actions, and is also highly destructive.

—a passage from an essay called “The War God’s Face Has Become Indistinct,” written in 1999 by Colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Quoted in the excellent James Rickards book Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis.

“It is your mind that matters economically, as much or more than your mouth or hands.”

It is your mind that matters economically, as much or more than your mouth or hands. In the long run, the most important economic effect of population size and growth is the contribution of additional people to our stock of useful knowledge. And this contribution is large enough in the long run to overcome all the costs of population growth.

—Julian Simon, quoted in The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.

The Box

A 25-ton container of coffeemakers can leave a factory in Malaysia, be loaded aboard a ship, and cover the 9,000 miles to Los Angeles in 16 days. A day later, the container is on a unit train to Chicago, where it is transferred immediately to a truck headed for Cincinnati. The 11,000-mile trip from the factory gate to the Ohio warehouse can take as little as 22 days, a rate of 500 miles per day, at a cost lower than that of a single first-class air ticket. More than likely, no one has touched the contents, or even opened the container, along the way.

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson