Ben Stein’s Diary

Ben Stein's Diary

The Real Economic Problem

By 6.10.14

I see that the high muckety-mucks of monetary and fiscal policy are in an uproar about Federal Reserve policy. Is there too much money being shoveled into the economy? Is there too little? If the Fed decides to reverse course and tighten money, what is the best means to do it? Interest rate rises? Reverse repurchase agreements with banks? (I won’t bore you with what those are. I’m not sure myself anyway.)

But as to me, I don’t see a lot of inflation except in luxury goods and groceries, and who needs groceries, so let’s not worry about that.

And I am not wildly concerned about unemployment. As far as I can tell, almost anyone with minimal skills and a willingness to pick up and move to North Dakota or Midland, Texas, can get a job. The real problem is an acute shortage of skilled, energetic workers except in very rare cases.

Ben Stein's Diary

Women With the Headdresses On

By 6.9.14

Now, this is amazing. Here I am in a nightclub called The Bank. It is at Bellagio, a fab hotel on The Strip. I am here to speak to a successful group of life and disability and annuity insurance people. They have rented out this space for a fine meal of chicken and beef, and I am getting pictures with all of them.

I am also being brought Diet Cokes by a server who is as beautiful as any human being on this earth except for my wife. Her name is Candace and she is simply breath taking. She was a sociology major in college, but she found out that through the workings of the market, she, with her unique beauty, could do better serving drinks at “bottle clubs” in Vegas. Well, that’s the workings of the free society. There are a lot of sociologists, not much money to be made in the field, and people won’t pay much to hear about sociology, I guess.

On the other hand, we pitiful men will pay to be hovered over by a staggeringly beautiful young woman bringing drinks. So, that’s the market, once again.

Ben Stein's Diary

The Issue Is the Taliban Five

By 6.7.14

Exhibit A in the case for why I don’t ever want to be President: The fiendishly difficult case of Bowe Bergdahl.

Was he a deserter? Did he go over to the Taliban and in so doing cost the lives of six or more men who were seeking to rescue him from what they thought was a kidnaping? Had he turned out to hate America and have a rooting interest in the terrorists, as he apparently said in an e-mail? Did he actually get along well with his supposed captors, playing soccer with them and even carrying a weapon around them as has been reported ?

And what about his parents, openly cheering on the Taliban and condemning America and speaking Arabic and praising Allah — as President Obama embraced them in the Rose Garden?

Or was he a brave soldier captured while evacuating his bowels, as the Taliban say, who suffered terribly in his captivity, and was President Obama using his powers as Commander in Chief to rescue a devoted American soldier under the rubric of “leave none behind”?

Ben Stein's Diary

Crashing Into My Wall

By 6.2.14

A leisurely swim in my wonderful pool in Beverly Hills after a leisurely afternoon sleeping with my dogs. I showered, got dressed, and looked for my wife to tell her I was going out for a few minutes. When I finally found her, in her office, she was talking to a middle-aged man and woman I had never seen before. I asked her what was going on.

“These nice people crashed their car into our wall and they kindly knocked on our door to give us their information,” said my wife. “Don’t yell at them.”

It turned out that the man, who was apparently driving, had turned his car 90 degrees straight off Carmelita to go up over the curb, go across about a five or six foot grassy strip, cross the sidewalk, and then crash into our wall — a structure of plaster buttressed by cinder blocks with steel bars going through them. They had hit it so hard that they had made a hole — two holes — big enough for a small child to crawl through — right into our pool. I had been swimming in that pool maybe five minutes before they hit the wall.

Ben Stein's Diary

The Heart of the Matter

By From the May 2014 issue


I have always loved West Texas. I came here for the first time about ten years ago for a speech. The benefactors of the event had a reception for me at the Midland Country Club (or maybe it was the Petroleum Club in Midland). I was moseying around the pool and munching chips when a beautiful, middle-aged, blue-eyed woman with an immense diamond ring called out to me.

“Your father-in-law was the handsomest man I ever saw in my life. I went to high school with him in Prescott, Arkansas, before World War II and I had the maddest crush on him,” she said in a beautiful Southern accent.

Ben Stein's Diary

Feeling the Heat

By 5.15.14

We are having a super heat wave here in L.A. That’s rare. We have a mild climate and heat like this is a stunner. I did the only thing I could do, which was to lie in bed in my air-cooled Garage Mahal with Julie and JoJo while Alex did some charity work.

It was pretty close to perfect lying there with those hounds. I get more pleasure from my Julie and my JoJo than from virtually anything else in life. It is supernatural.

After a couple of hours of sleep, I got up and wrote about the trend toward “Thoughtcrime” in American law. That’s punishing people for their thoughts and private conversations, not for any action. That’s what’s being done to Donald Sterling and it’s terrifying. Pure Stalinist, National Socialist thought control.

My pal, Phil DeMuth, reminded me at lunch today that in Eurasia, under IngSoc, there were no laws. The Thought Police could punish anything. That’s where we are heading.

Ben Stein's Diary

Big Data Medicine

By 5.13.14

Just back from an exhausting speaking tour. Just harrowingly tiring. But I did have an experience that I thought was so interesting in the world of economics that I want to share it with you.

On Thursday, in Philadelphia, I spoke to a company group organized by an entity called Global Healthcare Exchange. It was part of my work, but in prepping for it, I delved back into the land of Supply and Demand curves and how they are affected by the staggering power of the Internet and what we like to call Big Data — in this case, massive stockpiles of information about drugs, medical supplies, the costs of these things, the records of various suppliers, the records of providers and of patients.

What I learned might be called a subhead of Lord Kelvin’s aphorism that “There is no science without measurement.” In this case, we might say that “There is no chance for healthcare we can afford except measurement.”

Ben Stein's Diary

Punished for His Thoughts

By 5.1.14

So, here I am, still in Denver, a lovely city, but too high up.

Herewith, a few lowly thoughts about Mr. Donald Sterling, his private conversations with his mistress, the media lynching of him, and the actions of the NBA sanctioning him severely for those private thoughts and comments.

“It’s a slippery slope,” said billionaire sports club owner Mark Cuban when asked about the sanctions. I am not sure what he meant, but he’s right.

Sterling is being punished for his thoughts. He is being punished for actions that make the NBA look bad even though they were not actions at all, but thoughts.

As far as I have been able to determine, the NBA code of conduct allows sanctions for actions. I don’t see anything that allows sanctions for thoughts. So, where does the authority for that come from?

Ben Stein's Diary

I Hate, Hate, Hate Racism

By 4.30.14

Up around noon in Greenville to prepare for my trip. Tommy, Kitty, and Coco joined my driver and friend, Bob Noah, at the Nosedive, where I had a simply fabulous cheeseburger and egg.

Then, off to Charlotte, fast asleep in the back of Bob’s fabulous Toyota Camry, as smooth riding a car as there is. I have driven a Bentley and I have driven the Camry and the Camry is ten times the car that the Bentley is.

I bid farewell to Bob and went to the US Air counter. Shock! They had me in a bulkhead seat, which I hate, and which I had not reserved.

The men at the ticket counter were utterly unhelpful, but the man at Gate B6, Ron, asked a man to switch seats with me and the man kindly did. When I thanked him and insisted that he tell me his favorite charity so that I could donate to it, Ron cried with thanks.

Memo to US Air: this is how you make a lifetime customer.

Ben Stein's Diary

Disasters and the Enemies of Freedom

By 4.22.14

So, as usual, I spent a large part of the day in my office reading and writing and then lying in bed thinking with my poor old brain.

Often I make lists of who were the most beautiful dogs I ever owned or the men and women of the highest character, but tonight, after reading about the foreign and domestic policy catastrophes of the last several decades, I tried a different approach:

I asked the search engine in my brain this question: What have been the greatest triumphs of mankind in the last century and what have been the worst calamities? Such were my grim searches in the recesses of my mind.

In America, surely by far the greatest triumph has been the liberation of the colored men and women of this country. An entire ethnic group that had dwelt in cruel oppression in a large part of the nation has been set free. A people in bondage within a free country, the African-American people, have been given every single right that white people have under law and then some.