Michael Heller on Inspiration
Michael Heller is one of America’s leading authorities on property. He is the Lawrence A. Wien Professor of Real Estate Law at Columbia Law School.
His new book The Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Ownership Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Costs Lives was released in 2008. In The Gridlock Economy, Heller draws on everyday experiences - from airport delays to new-style rap music - to show why the structure of ownership matters so much more than people may realize. Private ownership usually creates wealth, but too much ownership has the opposite effect - it creates gridlock. This is a free market paradox that Heller discovered and it's the dynamic at the center of our gridlock economy.
Question: What inspires your work?
Michael Heller: I’ve been working on these issues about property and ownership for 20 years. I love the stuff. I find it incredibly important. I started working in shanty towns a lot in America, and I saw people who were trying incredibly hard to, like, make their lives better, to educate their kids and have a safe home, and working in the shanty towns I realized that part what they were missing was a decent legal system that they could rely on that would help them have some control over the resources around them, the ownership of the places that they were living, and that got me started. Working in Russia was very much the same way. It was, here’s the people who really want to make a change, and I was so excited to be part of that, to be part of that transformation towards really giving people the hope that they could create a better life for themselves. So, for me, that notion that you can use ideas to help people make their lives better is just incredibly exciting. When they published law review articles, they got, you know, law reviews get read a little bit, and I’ve been thinking what it is for a long time, so when I thought about this book was I want to write a book that is in plain English and has no equations, that’s fun and entertaining and makes clear some ideas that are really useful. So, the book was written basically for people who, you know, who enjoy [popular] economic, who like to think about the economy, who are interested in assembling resources for everyday, for positive change, who are sort of interested in the hidden mechanisms that drive everyday life.
Question: What inspired your initial work in shantytowns?
Michael Heller: I think those choices early in my career were driven in large measure by a sense of the privilege that I had coming… I traveled a lot as a younger person, and seeing the disparity between how I live as an American and how people lived in other countries, and that, the disparity was sobering but also made me realize that I had a huge amount of, A) privilege in how I lived, but, B) opportunity to maybe make some of the translation between the system that I understood and systems that I could perhaps, you know, in some very small way, make a dent on. Over the course of my career, I’ve moved less and less from doing work in the field in some individual shanty town or with some federal government and more and more to thinking of the real contribution that I can make or I hope to make is to have small ideas, simple ideas that actually can be really helpful for, to empower people generally out in the world, to make their lives a little bit better. That’s the hope.
Helping people to secure ownership rights and take advantage of the resources around them was a driving force behind Michael Heller's work in Russia and Latin America.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.
- Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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