Modern economics makes itself intelligible by adopting everyday analogies. If inflation worsens, we say the economy is "overheating." If the Federal Reserve raises interest rates, it's "applying the brakes." If it cuts rates, it's "stepping on the gas." The metaphor of the moment is "soft landing." The economy slows enough to avoid higher inflation but not so much that it suffers a "hard landing" (a recession).
Americans live in a permanent state of siege. We are bombarded by telemarketers, direct mail, commercials, faxes and e-mails. It is this constant assault on our time and sensibilities that most threatens what should be a national treasure: the once-a-decade Census.The Census Bureau plans to mail 98 million forms this week to most homes and apartments (an additional 22 million are being hand-delivered in rural areas).
The social security debate is about to take a big step backward. Starting this week, the Social Security Administration launches what it calls "the largest customized mailing ever undertaken by a federal agency." About 125 million workers over 25 will receive annual estimates of their future Social Security benefits.
The furor over the study that attributes falling crime partly to abortion may tell us as much about America as about crime. If you missed it, the study--done by economist Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago and law professor John Donohue III of Stanford University--concluded that half the drop in crime since 1991 might reflect the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v.