Monday, May 13, 2013
My wife grew up in what Western experts, not without condescension, call a “developing” country. The social life of her village revolved largely around a tree...
Saturday, May 11, 2013
In the real world, public goods include clean air, clean water, street lights, emergency call service, disaster relief, food and drug safety, public parks and beaches, education, and dozens more, all of which citizens make use of every day and enjoy unthinkingly. Over 90 percent of U S citizens who deny ever receiving benefits from a government program actually participated in one or more government programs (Social Security, college loans, the child care tax credit and the like), as admirably documented by Suzanne Mettler of Cornell in her research on “the submerged state”.
Awareness of public goods, and their utility and value, is sorely lacking in public discourse. Instead, we hear about “free markets”, “free enterprise” and “free trade” and are told that “government is the problem, not the solution,” or that “government should be run like a business”. Such neoliberal vocabulary, derived from neoclassical economics, dominates public dialog and policy-making, suppresses the recognition of the ubiquity and value of public goods, undermines effective governance and ultimately reduces the supply of public goods.
Public goods are produced in a non-market environment, an environment inadequately addressed by mainstream economics. In the neoclassical model there is essentially no vocabulary for talking about the production of public goods, no theory of effective or efficient non-market production.
We need to revive and reframe the concept of public goods. This issue is not merely rhetorical. A concept of public goods is immensely important.
- The absence of a widely-held, constructive idea of public goods in public discourse denies citizens the ability to have an informed conversation, or to make informed decisions, about things that matter mightily to the quality of their lives and their communities.
- Its absence robs public policy makers, leaders and managers of the concept that is most central to their reason for being.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Sunday, April 21, 2013
The report is based on in-depth interviews with debt counsellors/advisors from the community and voluntary sector, debt clients, employees and former employees recruited from the finance sector, including high street banks, and a range of other relevant stakeholders. It revealed that debt problems tend to be the result of unexpected life events, rather than irrational spending. Those who are in debt are no more likely to spend irrationally than the general public, but they are often on very low incomes, it said. It also identified that while education around debt management might be worthwhile, "it fails to address the problems of incomes and standards of living which often drive the use and over use of personal credit". It said "a deeply problematic culture of irresponsible lending" has become widespread across the financial sector in recent years and includes practices of cold-calling customers in order to try to sell them credit, often under the guise of introducing services or assessing customers' needs.-On the report "Responsible individuals and irresponsible institutions? Mental Health and the UK credit industry" published by the University of Brighton
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Thursday, March 14, 2013
My new book was released on March 7, and I am pleased to say it has received a very nice review on Dad of Diva's Reviews.
Before I get to the lovely things Mr. Dad had to say, let me tell you a little bit about the book published by Reader's Digest:
Do you know how to tie your shoe? Or do you just think you do but you’ve actually been screwing it up for decades like most people have?
This witty, light book takes a fresh spin on all the mistakes we make everyday that end up costing us big in our wallets, our health, our homes, and beyond. Topics covered are Yourself (appearance, skills, all things you), Your Home, Your Cooking, Your Money, Your Relationships & Family, and Your Health. This perfect combination of humor and wisdom entertains readers as they learn how to make their lives better by avoiding and remedying common screw-ups.
Dad calls it "a valuable book with some amazing tips and ideas."
Thank you for reading!
Saturday, December 15, 2012
Friday, December 14, 2012
And yet, I say it was a silent baptism because there was no celebration, no supportive community gathered to sing hymns, just a check that went into my bank account, and was sent back out and then was gone. Everything went on pretty much the same way as it has. I'm still a starving artist, broke and beautiful.
A couple of weeks later I got a letter from Citibank. "Congratulations, this is the culmination of years of effort. We know how hard this was to do-- you could have written your debt off, declared bankruptcy and left us with the loss, but but you didn't. We admire you. Over the years you paid us $x0,000 in interest. Amazing but true! Thanks to fractional reserve banking, this allowed us to issue $x,000,000 in loans to start-ups like x, and create many jobs. Thank you, job creator! You were a great customer for us. Sorry about that whole punative interest thing and that time with the rude call center lady. Hope it didn't erode the quality of your life too much."
That's what I wanted it to say.
Instead, it was full of threats for "canceling my payment program." It spelled out all of the horrible things that might befall me if I failed to reinstate it. So that is the kind of congratulations they actually send. Or they just quietly remove your account from the online system. Log in and see the zero balance, log in next time and they say you're not a customer. That's it.
The other thing that happened almost immediately was that my credit rating plummeted. You heard me right. Paying the cards off made my credit rating go down. It has something to do with length of credit history and available lines of credit I suppose.
The fact of the matter is, I don't care that much. Let it sort itself out. A credit rating is part of the debt purchasing game, and one that I no longer want to be part of. I don't want to figure out how to "rebuild my credit." I don't want to play.
Yes, it would be nice if the impersonal world of banks that had such a profoundly personal effect on my life was able to acknowledge this milestone, maybe send a thank you note for years of business. It is better still to be free of them.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Friday, November 30, 2012
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The time has come for poor people to stop letting other people speak for, and about, them; to stop letting others define who they are. Poor Americans need to look to black and gay pride movements. Thinkers like Malcolm X pointed out that it wasn’t enough to change the political conditions of a people; subjugated people also had to stop viewing themselves through the lens of dominant culture, had to shake stereotyped, degrading visions of themselves that they had too often internalized. To put it plainly, the time has come for poor people to have a coming out of the plutocratic closet of shame. Being broke is nothing to be ashamed of.-Jeff Nall, Everyday Feminism
Monday, November 26, 2012
Thursday, November 15, 2012
...even in an economy that gives and receives interest as a matter of course we can at times distinguish what might be legitimate interest from what is probably usury. Although the praxis of the Church for the past two hundred years has been not to disturb consciences on the subject, that does not mean that there is anything wrong with discussion of the matter and with attempts to identify usury where it is present. An increased consciousness of the evil and the ubiquity of usury today (cf. Rerum novarum) cannot but help to make Christians more aware of what to our ancestors was one of the greatest of sins.Is Usury Still a Sin, The Distributionist Review
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Clicked on a link for an article on "Reaching Tween Readers" today expecting perhaps some reflection on young people's passions and interests, their unique view of the world.
Instead, this was the first line:
"All of a tween’s money is spent on themselves so there is a big opportunity for publishers to learn how to get it."
For certainly it appears that usury is no longer a sin that Christians need to worry about. But there is something curious about saying the Church’s teaching has changed. When did this occur? When did usury in the sense which we mean by it here cease to be a sin? If we look in the first half of the nineteenth century as the best place to locate such a change, we find no statement by the Church during that time that says anything about repudiating the teaching of Vix pervenit... Even John Noonan, in an article written expressly for the purpose of proving that there had been changes, or developments as he called them, in moral doctrine, admits: “Formally it can be argued that the old usury rule, narrowly construed, still stands: namely, that no profit on a loan may be taken without a just title to that profit.” It is true that he continues, “in terms of emphasis, of perspective, of practice, the old usury rule has disappeared.”... One can certainly find a nearly universal practical neglect of the question of usury, but one looks in vain to find that the Church ever retracted, abrogated, or substantially altered her teaching on usury.
-Is Usury Still a Sin, The Distributionist Review
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Saturday, September 22, 2012
America (red and blue), you are pushing all my buttons this week. Let’s have a chat. Let’s begin with the most basic question: “Who are the poor?”
Actually, it may be easier to answer the question of who the poor are not. To begin with, the poor are not a distinctive, discrete class. Not an ethnicity, not a race. Not some secret society whose mysteries are impenetrable. Not some strange alien species bent on invading our home territory. The poor are not a monolithic block of partisans, either. Hell, they’re not even the same people from year to year. But, mainly, the poor are not something “other” than us.
Hopefully, this is not an earth-shattering revelation for most of you.
And yet, there is so much rhetorical energy spent in this country on painting just that picture...
In America, we tend to think of “the poor” as a distinct, discrete class – a “them” – and tend to speak of the poor, the middle class, and the wealthy as fixed segments of the population...
Census statistics could conceivably bear this idea out. Looked at from year to year, the percentage of the population that could be classified as “poor” remains relatively stable. However, when we track the life of an individual throughout its course, we are presented with a very different picture.
Since 1968, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) has studied the economic situation of nearly five thousand Americans household... According to the findings of the PSID, over the course of a lifespan, by the age of 75, nearly 80% of Americans will have lived at least one year, and most likely more than one, at or below 1.5 times the poverty line. Not just 47%, but nearly 80%. Poverty is a systemic issue. We are all part of the system. We are all at risk of paying the price. Who are the poor? We all are... If we are the poor, then the responsibility falls to us to contribute to the end of poverty. Not only is it the right thing to do, but now it falls well and squarely into the realm of our own self-interest and sense of self-preservation (just in case “the right thing to do” is not a compelling enough argument for you).
Friday, September 21, 2012
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Notably, the programs recipients seem least likely to recognize as a government program are among those the middle (and higher) classes are most likely to use, while those more common among the poor are more clearly recognizable to those using them as government programs. Yet allowing you to write off mortgage interest (but not rent), or charitable donations, or the money you put aside for a child’s education, are all forms of government programs, ones that benefit some more than others. But the “submerged” nature of these policies hides the degree to which the middle and upper classes use and benefit from federal programs.Read the full article at Sociological Images
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Thinking like a business still seems to be something many entrepreneurs feel is beneath them. [Chris O'Brien, "Twitter bruised by wheels of industry," San Jose Mercury-News, 24 August 2012, p. C1.]
See, some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs think all they have to do is create some beautiful new idea, and everything else will take care of itself. This is analogous to congregations that think all they have to do is religion (or not even religion, but mere community), and everything else will take care of itself.
But what does it mean to "think like a business." Think like a business in what way? Putting aside the fact that businesses are not people and can't think (regardless of what the Supreme Court may say) what aspect of business-think is it that should be applied to every situation in life?
There are a lot of different aspects to running a business. Some are directly applicable to other contexts and some are not.
When someone says that churches should be run "like a business" I assume that they do not mean "for profit." So right there, we have a big divergence from thinking "like a business."
The Daily Show had a segment a couple of weeks ago during the Republican convention in which the correspondents agreed that the country should be run "like a business" and that under performing states-- those that took in more in Federal money than they put in-- should be fired and let go from the union.
Is that what we mean by "thinking like business?"
Often when people say we should "think like a business" they mean we should focus on efficiency and eliminate waste. How does this apply to a church? It would be a much more efficient route to harmony to just prevent annoying people from coming through the doors.
I, in fact, do think there are many things that successful businesses do that can be held up as an example and applied to other areas, but that does not mean that every aspect of running a business needs to come with it.
Maybe you begin by saying "we should be more like a business" meaning we should have clear, measurable goal. But down the line that often ends up being translated as "we should make our financial goals the most important." It risks making the financial bottom line the only line.
It can become quite literal in questions of politics when "thinking like a business" does not mean streamlining government organizations, making sure everyone on the team is goal oriented (even when the goal is not financial profit, but making sure the children are well educated or the roads are well paved). It comes to mean selling them to a for profit business because only "business" is efficient and results oriented. (Incidentally, in some cases a for profit business may be a better way to get a result. The question should not be is it a for profit business or a government organization but is it doing the job we need it to do the best way.)
The other problem I have with this expression "think like business" is that it implies that other fields do not have certain qualities that, in fact, they do. My associations with the positive ideals of "thinking like a business" are that businesses are supposed to be efficient, well-managed, accountable (if they don't reach their goals their stock price will fall or they will lose customers), hard working and goal oriented. Sometimes people add "team players" to that list.
In the case of the quote above, I believe from context that the writer is defining "thinking like a business" as "doing practical work toward goals."
But is taking practical steps toward goals only a quality of "business?"
That's great. A well-run business is all of those things. But are those qualities only found in business? Doesn't a parent have to be an efficient time manager? Isn't she directly accountable? Who will be held responsible if the children are not fed or do poorly in school and so on?
As a writer and ballet producer, I personally find the pervasive idea that artists do not possess these qualities offensive. Perhaps we are less "accountable" in the sense that no stock indicators are riding on whether or not we finish the novel. And we are certainly not doing it because it is the fastest track to improving the financial bottom line. Although a certain amount of daydreaming is part of the creation process, you are unlikely to meet a more dedicated and hard working person that one who is choreographing a stage production or deep in the process of creating a painting, or making the final revisions on a novel. Artists are goal oriented, they take the practical steps necessary to reach those goals and are surprisingly efficient at times when it comes to the creation of their work. In fact, working artists have a lot in common with serious business people. The business person might put all other concerns aside as she focuses on reaching financial goals, while the artists might put all other concerns aside (such as whether there is a paycheck at the end) as she focuses on reaching her artistic goals.
Shouldn't we describe being dedicated to a goal as "thinking like an artist?"
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
"Two (now defunct) printing companies — Parker-Holladay Company and Mather & Co. — were at the forefront of this burgeoning motivation business. Both companies created a line of motivational materials that business owners could subscribe to (new posters and cards would arrive each month) and hang up and hand out in the workplace. The two companies hired some of the best illustrators of the day such as Willard Frederick Elmes and Hal Depuy to create these handsome motivational posters."
The "now defunct" part struck me as pleasingly ironic. (I did write a book once called Schadenfreude, Baby!)
Anyway, this particular poster brought to mind a section of the book Broke is Beautiful that praises "groping."
Gordon MacKenzie wrote a wonderful little book called Orbiting the Giant Hairball. The titular “hairball” is the corporate group-think that grows in an organization over time. Corporations don’t begin as giant hairballs. They begin life as simple, effective concepts, one or two strands of the ideas that will produce success. As success builds on success, more and more strands of “things that have worked in the past” get woven together. Next thing you know, you’ve got a giant hairball.
“It is a common history of enterprises to begin in a state of naïve groping, stumble onto success, milk the success with a vengeance and, in the process, generate systems that arrogantly turn away from the source of their original success: groping,” MacKenzie wrote.
Picture Michael Douglas delivering this line: “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that groping -- for lack of a better word -- is good. Groping is right. Groping works. Groping clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Groping, in all of its forms -- groping for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind. And groping -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Lawyer Ash Kalb, musician-anthropologist Cici James, stylist-writer Jamil V Moen, and former Gawker media community manager Kaila Hale-Stern are the intrepid crew behind the Brooklyn-based bookshop. Each month, Singularity & Co—with the help of its community—chooses one great out-of-print or obscure science fiction novel, tracks down the copyright holders and makes that work available in DRM-free PDF, Epub, and Mobi format for subscribers.
Founded in April, after a massively successful Kickstarter campaign that earned them 350 percent of their $15,000 (£9,500) goal and kudos from authors like Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow and Ken McLeod, Singularity & Co hasn't always had the easiest time unraveling vintage sci-fi's copyright issues. "We knew it would be difficult to track down the legal status of the books, but it's simply much harder than we though it would be," said James.
Books get lost along the way for a variety of reasons. There could be no perceived demand for it, publication rights become muddled, or the books are simply forgotten. Sometimes, things get political. "It's really sad because a lot of really great books get lost not because nobody wants them but because people with lots of money who claim they have the rights are stopping people who have the rights from actually doing things. We hope to help these people down the road," said Kalb, the lawyer of the group, who takes charge of helping authors and author estates untangle the copyright mess.
Monday, September 3, 2012
Service workers are also emotionally exhausted. Service work requires emotional exertion yet is less fulfilling than jobs in the creative class. “[Manufacturing workers] are able to retain their inner lives while they’re on the job,” says labor historian Peter Rachleff, a professor at Macalester College, “as opposed to service workers whose inner lives are being f--ed with.”
– Nona Willis Aronowitz
Sunday, August 26, 2012
All of these strategies share a few key assumptions: that demand for cars within the Millennial generation is just waiting to be unlocked; that as the economy slowly recovers, today’s young people will eventually want to buy cars as much as their parents and grandparents did; that a finer-tuned appeal to Millennial values can coax them into dealerships.
Perhaps. But what if these assumptions are simply wrong? What if Millennials’ aversion to car-buying isn’t a temporary side effect of the recession, but part of a permanent generational shift in tastes and spending habits? It’s a question that applies not only to cars, but to several other traditional categories of big spending—most notably, housing. And its answer has large implications for the future shape of the economy—and for the speed of recovery.
Half of a typical family’s spending today goes to transportation and housing, according to the latest Consumer Expenditure Survey, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the height of the housing bubble, residential construction and related activities accounted for more than a quarter of the economy in metro areas like Las Vegas and Orlando. Nationwide, new-car and new-truck purchases hovered near historic highs. But Millennials have turned against both cars and houses in dramatic and historic fashion. Just as car sales have plummeted among their age cohort, the share of young people getting their first mortgage between 2009 and 2011 is half what it was just 10 years ago, according to a Federal Reserve study.
Needless to say, the Great Recession is responsible for some of the decline. But it’s highly possible that a perfect storm of economic and demographic factors—from high gas prices, to re-urbanization, to stagnating wages, to new technologies enabling a different kind of consumption—has fundamentally changed the game for Millennials. The largest generation in American history might never spend as lavishly as its parents did—nor on the same things. Since the end of World War II, new cars and suburban houses have powered the world’s largest economy and propelled our most impressive recoveries. Millennials may have lost interest in both.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
The Misconception: There is nothing better in the world than getting paid to do what you love.
The Truth: Getting paid for doing what you already enjoy will sometimes cause your love for the task to wane because you attribute your motivation as coming from the reward, not your internal feelings.
Read the full article here.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
The only approach that China and other developing countries will accept is to aim to make consumption rates and living standards more equal around the world. But the world doesn't have enough resources to allow for raising China's consumption rates, let alone those of the rest of the world, to our levels. Does this mean we're headed for disaster?You can read the full article here.
No, we could have a stable outcome in which all countries converge on consumption rates considerably below the current highest levels. Americans might object: there is no way we would sacrifice our living standards for the benefit of people in the rest of the world. Nevertheless, whether we get there willingly or not, we shall soon have lower consumption rates, because our present rates are unsustainable.
Real sacrifice wouldn't be required, however, because living standards are not tightly coupled to consumption rates. Much American consumption is wasteful and contributes little or nothing to quality of life. For example, per capita oil consumption in Western Europe is about half of ours, yet Western Europe's standard of living is higher by any reasonable criterion, including life expectancy, health, infant mortality, access to medical care, financial security after retirement, vacation time, quality of public schools and support for the arts. Ask yourself whether Americans' wasteful use of gasoline contributes positively to any of those measures.
Other aspects of our consumption are wasteful, too. Most of the world's fisheries are still operated non-sustainably, and many have already collapsed or fallen to low yields — even though we know how to manage them in such a way as to preserve the environment and the fish supply. If we were to operate all fisheries sustainably, we could extract fish from the oceans at maximum historical rates and carry on indefinitely.
The same is true of forests: we already know how to log them sustainably, and if we did so worldwide, we could extract enough timber to meet the world's wood and paper needs. Yet most forests are managed non-sustainably, with decreasing yields.