Today, I spent some time exploring the redesigned Yahoo! Finance site and inevitably I wound up reading the latest works of some of the columnists there. In the past, I was pretty harsh on some of their columnists, but I have always quite enjoyed the work of Ben Stein, and thus I spent an hour wandering around his column archives there.
My conclusion? He’s the best overall columnist there by a wide margin. He writes about complex issues for a general audience with a tone that makes them seem incredibly simple, but rich enough to keep an intelligent person engaged. Here are ten reasons why I love Ben Stein:
January 8, 2007: Investing Strategies For The New Year
In just four paragraphs, he elegantly lays out how the weakening dollar affects the global stock market and makes a great, sensible case for investing in international funds, an issue that I’ve seen other writers burn pages on and not explain this clearly.
December 22, 2006: Success Is All In A Day’s Work
As an aspiring writer, this article gave me a lot of inspiration to keep The Simple Dollar going. In fact, I have the article printed out in my “inspiration” folder to read when I’m not feeling very confident as a writer (which actually happened just last weekend).
November 22, 2006: Lessons From An Economic Maestro
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the work of Milton Friedman and I consider myself nearly an expert on the “Chilean Miracle,” so I really enjoyed this application of Friedman’s life and teachings to our individual lives. Yes, market economics have a direct connection to your wallet.
October 13, 2006: The Art of (Killing) the Deal
Rather than listing stuff that you should be doing professionally, Ben makes a list of things that you shouldn’t be doing professionally – and adds a pretty healthy pinch of rationality and of humor to the mix.
June 23, 2006: Wise Words For Getting Ahead In Your Career
A continuation of his previous article (listed right below this one), I had to mention this because of his line about Hollywood execs: “There are a great many sick people here with serious rage problems.” I actually collect sentences I like for my own writing inspiration, and this is one of them.
June 9, 2006: How To Succeed In Hollywood – And Anywhere Else
This is perhaps the best collection of “get ahead” advice I’ve ever read in such a condensed, short package.
March 4, 2006: Standards Of Life In The Future: Think Grim
This is a pretty strong indictment of the lousier standards of customer service that seem to be becoming the norm. That’s actually why I often value customer service so highly on here; when you need some assistance, you should receive some healthy preferential treatment as a paying customer, not ignored by a receptionist or placed into automated phone hell. This is why I do business with Land’s End regularly, often recommend ING Direct, and so forth; their customer service is stellar.
February 17, 2006: Trade with China: More Gain Than Pain for Americans
As a free trade advocate (yes, even knowing it may be detrimental long term to my individual standard of living), I was pretty happy to see that Ben Stein was on the same page – and quite eloquent at laying out the case. I forwarded this article to many of my friends – and wound up in some pretty good discussions with a few of them.
February 3, 2006: Living Hand to Mouth – and Barely Getting By
This is a powerfully strong indictment of living paycheck to paycheck, with a very entertaining anecdote to start things off. I actually read this when I was going through my financial meltdown and it was one of my inspirations for turning things around.
December 12, 2005: Want Big Returns? Think Small
Here, Ben seems to be targeting younger investors who can afford to take some losses early on in order to hit on some big winners. How? By investing in small cap stocks.
Yes, I am a big fan of Ben Stein’s writing. I think he has a gift for making complex issues seem easy to grasp, but yet leaves plenty of meat on the bones to leave you thinking afterwards, and that’s exactly what I want when reading. I don’t want writing so dense that I need reference materials just to parse it, but I want it complex enough that I’ll think about it and my own curiosity will cause me to dig in further. Stein hits that sweet spot almost every time.
If you have any favorite Ben Stein-authored articles that I didn’t list here, please put a link to them in the comments for both me and the other readers to enjoy.