As the author of the new Living It Up: Our Love Affair With Luxury (Columbia University Press), James Twitchell is well-versed in the rich language of status symbols. ("Needing the Unnecessary," page 36.) Yet Twitchell, a professor of English and advertising at the University of Florida, insists that he recently purchased a used—er, "pre-owned"—BMW because "it was just too comfy," not because it would impress his colleagues. Twitchell, who started his academic career studying the Romantics, last appeared in Reason with a cover story called "In Praise of Consumerism" (August/September 2000). His next book, Branded Nation, is due out from Simon & Schuster in late 2003 and will explore "how branding is determining not just what we buy but what we believe in."

Economist W. Michael Cox and journalist Richard Alm, authors of "Off the Books" (page 46), have accomplished a remarkable feat: After a decade of collaboration, they remain friends. Cox, senior vice president and chief economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, says Alm is "one of the most well-read and well-reasoned persons I've ever met." Alm, a business reporter at The Dallas Morning News, writes a weekly column on the sports industry. He calls Cox a rarity among economists: "He's grounded in the real world." In 1999 the duo published Myths of Rich and Poor: Why We're Better off Than We Think (Basic Books).

"I have a total responsibility concept of life. Disease is not an excuse," says longtime Contributing Editor Thomas Szasz, who castigates the Catholic Church for shielding child-molesting priests ("Sins of the Fathers," page 54). Szasz, a professor of psychiatry emeritus at the SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, has been one of his field's most controversial figures since the 1961 publication of his groundbreaking The Myth of Mental Illness. His July 2000 interview with reason, "Curing the Therapeutic State," is online at