Wednesday, March 14, 2012 3:20 PM
The bike lanes and pathways of Minneapolis are a local source of pride, and rightly so. The city’s majestic 50.4-mile Grand Rounds pathway system connects countless neighborhoods together in a cohesive, reliable network that’s as user-friendly as it is beautiful. In 2010, Bicycling magazine named Minneapolis the #1 Bike City in the U.S., citing innovations the city’s bikes-and-peds-only below-ground Greenway through the center of town. But most important in the decision was the biking culture that goes along with innovations like that: the bicycling couriers, the dozens of bike shops, the relentless winter commuting. In places like Minneapolis, cycling is not just a hobby or subculture—it’s a legitimate alternative for getting around, on par with public transit or driving.
But like other bike-friendly cities, Minneapolis owes a lot to federal investment in cycling infrastructure. And that investment looks perilously insecure.
Last month, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to eliminate federal funding for bicycling projects and infrastructure. As PRI reports, last year, federal support amounted to $1.2 billion—less than 2 percent of all transportation spending—that went toward projects like the Safe Routes to School program as well as Complete Streets initiatives aimed at maintaining safe spaces for bikes and pedestrians on roadways. In the House Committee version, all of this would have been taken out. To the relief of many, a Senate version introduced early in March restored this funding, and it is likely to pass this week. The close call served as a reminder of how important federal dollars are in maintaining and expanding cycling options for city dwellers—and how much Washington’s spending priorities have recently shifted.
For the past 20 years, federal support for bicycling infrastructure has steadily gone up. As Urbanland points out, biking in any major U.S. city wasn’t so easy before 1991 when Congress (and then-President George Bush Sr.) earmarked federal dollars for cycling infrastructure for the first time. The bill allotted less than 2 percent of federal transportation funding to expand bicycle infrastructure, but that was enough to completely reshape the look and feel of many cities like Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon (another recent #1 Bike City winner). And as The Nation reports, on the grassroots side, the Complete Street Movement has been advocating safer and more expansive bike routes for years. Governors in a number of states have approved their proposals, including Minnesota, and Complete Street language has found its way into federal legislation. In 2005 Minneapolis was also the recipient—along with Sheboygan County, WI; Marin County, CA; and Columbia, MO—of a $25 million federal grant for a pilot program to further development biking and walking paths over 10 years.
The multi-city grant will not be affected by whatever happens in the House and Senate this month, but funding in other parts of the country is less secure. This year is a critical one for transportation funding, as benchmark legislation enacted in 2003 is set to expire soon. And unfortunately for cyclists, it’s also a big year for fiscal conservatism. As Huffington reports, The February House bill was only the latest in a series of barebones transportation proposals that have sent biking infrastructure to the chopping block. Fully three transportation bills introduced last fall would have cut or eliminated funding for cycling projects, the latest a proposal by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in November. At issue is whether states can afford to set aside money for these initiatives, when so much of our nation’s (cars-only) infrastructure is in disrepair. Misunderstandings are also rife, says Huffington’s Joan Lowy: in defending his legislation, Paul said that states’ priorities should not be focused on “beautification,” which apparently includes things like bike safety projects.
Paul’s attitude about urban cycling may be a harbinger of a changing dynamic in Washington, one that sees government spending on almost anything as suspect. While much can change over the next five months, right now it seems like the G.O.P. will likely retain the House, and even have a decent shot at the Senate, according to The Hill. Should this happen, transportation policy could look very different this time next year.
But urban cyclists are nothing if not committed. Already, three-time Cyclocross champion Tim Johnson has begun a 520-mile trek from Boston to the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., scheduled for later this month. The trip and the summit are meant to raise funds and awareness on bike politics and safety, reports Slowtwitch. The Summit also aims to push Congress toward action on the Senate bill, which may stall due to lack of support in the House, says Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. Whether that happens will depend on whether cycling enthusiasts can muster enough of a presence in Washington later this month, writes Clarke in the League’s blog.
For years, funding for cycling infrastructure has been more or less below the mainstream radar. It is, after all, a tiny percentage of federal transportation spending, and bikers themselves are a growing, but still small, group of people. But as gas prices approach potential record highs this summer, cycling may enter the national conversation in a bigger way. Whether we can repeat success stories like Minneapolis and Portland may have a lot to do with what happens this year.
Sources: Bicycling Magazine, PRI, Urbanland, The Nation, Bike Walk Twin Cities, Huffington, The Hill, Slowtwitch, League of American Bicyclists, NPR.
Image by jglsongs, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, February 03, 2012 3:15 PM
Decorated with brightly colored wallpaper and pots of cheery flowers, Giveboxes are festive additions to Germany’s city streets. The small structures, which look like a cross between a phone booth and a gardening shed, hold community-donated items that are free for the taking, says Dougal Squires on Slow Travel Berlin. Clothing, books, shoes, blankets, bags, lamps, glassware, and cologne are examples of the useful(ish) things up for grabs.
The idea for Giveboxes came from an anonymous Berliner known only as Andy or Andreas. (Go to Slow Travel Berlin’s website to hear an engaging interview with the Givebox founder.) Since the first Givebox debuted in Berlin last summer—constructed in an eyesore of a spot that was often used as an improvised public toilet—more have popped up in Hamburg, Vienna, Paris, Copenhagen, and elsewhere, with a miniature version making its way to San Francisco.
Cash-free shopping ventures are popular in many parts of the world, with freecycling and free stores found in North America and Europe. But Giveboxes offer an advantage, writes Chloe Lloyd in E Magazine:
The Givebox cuts out the middleman, hassle and arrangement requirements intrinsic to the better-known “freecycling.” The anonymity of the Givebox also supports the notion that it doesn’t matter who we are giving to as long as there is someone who is in need of goods that we no longer use.
To me, Giveboxes most closely call to mind the charming Little Free Libraries springing up in U.S. neighborhoods, which encourage passersby to leave a book or take a book. Both projects encourage community involvement and reuse, along with a pint-size dose of informal artistic expression.
Want to build a Givebox in your town? Andy/Andreas offers plans, costs, and marketing materials on Givebox’s Facebook page, albeit in German. Let’s find a translator and keep up this communal spirit of giving—I’ve got a rice cooker, a dog-eared copy of The Stranger, and a 1960s red wool coat with your name on them.
Sources: Slow Travel Berlin, E Magazine
Images via Givebox.
Margret Aldrich is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter at @mmaldrich.
Friday, December 02, 2011 4:52 PM
Some fallacies die long, slow, hard deaths, and it appears that’s what’s happening with the happy, comforting, brainless mantra “Growth is good.” The ongoing global economic recession and looming environmental catastrophe have finally caused a significant number of people to question just how we think we’re going to economically grow forever on a crowded planet with finite resources.
British economist Tim Jackson, author of the 2009 book Prosperity Without Growth, explains in a Q&A with OnEarth executive editor George Black that this previously unmentionable notion is gaining currency even among some forward-thinking business leaders:
You say in your book that “questioning growth is deemed to be the act of lunatics, idealists, and revolutionaries.” Is that more true or less true now than when you wrote it in 2009?
Both. It’s more true in the sense that there’s a ferocious backlash against those who question the quasi-religious fervor about getting growth back. But at another level there’s this really interesting thing going on, with a whole spectrum of people beginning to question the assumption that it’s desirable, from ordinary people who have always been uncertain about why things must expand indefinitely to groups that have previously been obsessed with the idea of growth, like the World Economic Forum in Davos. It continues to surprise me that my book has had such resonance among business leaders. I was trying to say that it’s a real dilemma to structurally reorganize your economy. This isn’t an easy thing, and there are no off-the-shelf solutions. But we have to go into that place, no matter how dark and counterintuitive it seems. And I think that’s something the more visionary CEOs respond to, actually enjoy to some extent.
Image by Sunset Parkerpix, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011 2:44 PM
Is there still a rap against the OWS movement for being ill-defined? It seems I’m still hearing this, even though the fact that one could pretty much paste all the sections of The New York Times to a wall and play “Pin the Tail on the OWS Concern” and a majority of the time you’d stick the pin right on a story the 99 percenters would take issue with. Just because there are unending problems within this country and across the globe doesn’t mean a movement’s attempt to address many of them is misguided or should be dismissed for a lack of clarity.
Anyway, The Nation’s collected a few of the ideas from the 99 percent in a nice forum. Here’s what the editors had to say:
The astonishing growth of Occupy Wall Street reflects a widespread understanding that our political system has failed to address the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. As William Greider
in this issue, the housing foreclosure crisis continues to smother the economy, and yet both parties are, for the most part, standing with the banks in denying adequate relief for millions of underwater homeowners. There’s no shortage of smart policy proposals to address the crises that beset us, on everything from housing to fair taxation to corporate governance, student loans and racial justice. The problem is that our politicians are primarily answerable to the 1 percent, who fund their campaigns. The OWS movement is already a success for having raised all these issues—explored in the articles presented here.
There it is again: The OWS movement has already succeeded, because just a few short months ago much of the press wasn’t talking about all of the things they’re talking about now. Check out
The Nation’s forum
, including Sam Pizzigati’s “OWS Revives the Struggle for Economic Equality,” Rinku Sen: “Race and Occupy Wall Street,” and much more.
Source: The Nation
Image by Jagz Mario, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011 4:49 PM
You may have tried buying your way to happiness with new shoes and elaborate getaways; tickets to the big game and a sweet rebuilt guitar; the more-than-twelve-dollar bottle of wine and anything from MartinPatrick3. But recent studies suggest a different method: Give away money and get happy.
Researchers find that donating money to a deserving cause or financially helping a friend or family member in need raises the happiness level of the giver, writes Linda Wasmer Andrews in Psychology Today. She lists several reasons for the uptick:
First, it may foster a sense of social connectedness. One theory posits that the more modest your means, the more you and your close family and friends may need to rely on one another to get by; hence, the greater focus on generosity.
Second, donating money gives you a sense of making a difference. That’s a welcome antidote to the feeling of helplessness that can come from watching wild stock market gyrations and wildly frustrating budget stalemates.
Interestingly, there’s a negative physical response to being closefisted with your cash:
[S]haring even a little money may reduce your body’s stress response. [Psychologist] Elizabeth Dunn…led another recent study that looked at how monetary stinginess affects cortisol, a stress hormone. In the study, college students played an economic game, for which they were paid $10. Students had the option of donating some of this payment to another player. Those who kept more of the money for themselves reported feeling more shame. And greater shame, in turn, predicted higher levels of postgame cortisol.
In these times of economic disparity and the 99 percent vs. the 1, doling out money to achieve happiness can seem futile, but Andrews suggests there’s power in the giving. “A case can be made that giving away a few bucks is good not only for your soul, but also for your mind and body,” she writes. “No matter the amount, reminding yourself that you still have the wherewithal to share could be just what you need.”
Source: Psychology Today
Image by josey4628, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 4:51 PM
Remember when buying fair trade meant something revolutionary? These days, purchasing fair trade products is about as subversive as wearing a Rage Against the Machine t-shirt. Heck, you’ll even be able to add “one-of-a-kind handicrafts made by artisans in developing countries” to your online shopping cart on WalMart’s website, according to Huffington Post.
Coffee was one of the first—and most effectively marketed—fair trade products. As I write this, I’m finishing my fourth cup of fair trade coffee this morning—we usually brew two massive pots every day at the Utne Reader office. But fair trade coffee, a certified product meant to supplant the neo-colonial exploitation of farmers in the global South, has done little to impress free trade skeptics and anti-capitalists.
“While it may channel slightly more income into agricultural communities,” writes Ian Hussey for Briarpatch, a feisty, radical Canadian magazine, “it ultimately fails to address the colonial capitalist structures that produce the impoverishment of farmers on an ongoing basis.”
Hussey goes on to bullet-point the moral problems and historical discrepancies that color fair trade economics—including the hemispheric imbalance of international power, ambiguous certification rights, romanticization of the lives of the impoverished, creation of a moral higher ground, and perhaps most important of all, the misperception that buying fair trade is anything but another form of consumerism.
Where Hussey’s screed is brief and boisterous, Sushil Mohan’s Fair Trade Without the Froth, a book published in 2010, is detailed and “dispassionate.” Mohan attempts to determine how beneficial the fair trade movement has been to farmers in underdeveloped countries with a cool, non-ideological, scholarly eye. In the book, Mohan argues against the pot shots lobbed by both fair trade’s supporters and detractors.
One of Mohan’s most interesting lines of research pertains to fair trade supporters’ claim that the monetary markup of certified coffee trickles down to the farmers in Ethiopia and Colombia. As summarized by Karol C. Boudreaux in a review of the book in The Independent Journal:
Unfortunately, the transaction costs associated with the certification process, exporting, marketing, and retailing eat substantially into any benefits producers might receive. Empirical evidence on this point is limited, but it seems that even in the most generous scenario fair-trade producers retain only 25 percent of the price premium; most probably retain significantly less.
“So,” as Boudreaux continues, “contrary to claims, it is not fair trade per se that guarantees producers a steady income; only consumers can do so.”
Swallow that, ethical shoppers.
Sources: Briarpatch, Huffington Post, The Independent Journal
Image by matt.davis, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 4:13 PM
Cash-strapped state parks are forging partnerships with corporations to close their budget gaps, Governing magazine reports:
In New York, for example, Nestle’s Juicy Juice contributed $350,000 to build playgrounds in seven state parks. In California, Coca-Cola and Stater Bros. Markets have raised about $1.9 million to support reforestation and other state park preservation efforts. And in Georgia, Verizon Wireless contributed $5,000 to cover the cost of park passes for the state’s annual Free Day at the park. Most of these efforts come with recognition—on a playground sign, on a park pass—of the corporation’s contribution.
The trend has already spawned the creation of a new breed of middleman: A California firm called Government Solutions Group has brokered about $7.5 million in such deal since 2004. Chief executive Shari Boyer tells Governing that this is not philanthropy but business: “These are partnerships. The corporation has to get something out of it.”
Some park managers are ostensibly taking care to hook up with companies that are a good fit—but the parameters seem pretty fuzzy:
Asked how Coke products intersect with California’s state park mission, company spokesman Bob Phillips said Coca-Cola’s support of park restoration is part of its “live positively” platform, in which “sustainability is part of everything we do, particularly in this time of cost cutting and downsizing.” Phillips rejected the idea that Coca-Cola products were not in sync with parks’ health and environmental missions, noting instead that state parks “provide opportunities to be physically active.”
If you’re like me, your B.S. meter is off the charts at this contention, but take heart: Overall, these deals are a small piece of the park funding pie. Governing reminds us that in California in the last five years, corporate sponsorships have raised about $6.5 million for parks, while contributions from nonprofit groups amount to $50 million and volunteer hours stack up at a value of $100 million. Even Boyer holds that corporate sponsorships are “not the solution” to larger park funding woes.
Unfortunately, the situation could change as things get worse: One park director says that in the future, “If a corporate citizen wants to put their name on a park, I think that could happen.”
, licensed under
Friday, September 09, 2011 4:39 PM
Economic equality equals happiness. So suggests a new study to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science. In order for Americans to be truly blissed out, it finds, we need to close the gap between our wealthiest and poorest citizens.
“In 1980, the average American CEO’s income was 40 times higher than that of the average worker. Today, it is well over 300 times higher,” writes Carmen Sobczak in YES! Magazine. “Over the past four decades, according to the study, the American people have been the least happy in years when there was the widest gap between rich and poor.”
The study, lead by Shigehiro Oishi of the University of Virginia, took into account economic and psychological factors when examining data taken from 50,000 individuals between 1972 and 2008. Not surprisingly it was the lower-income participants—those in the bottom 40 percent of the U.S. population—who expressed reduced happiness during periods of greater economic disparity, but their reasons for dissatisfaction were unexpected. Expains Sobczak:
People weren’t unhappy just because their income was lower. Instead, the authors’ analysis revealed that greater inequality was linked to reductions in trust and perceived fairness—and it was drops in those attitudes that made people feel less happy.... Oishi and his colleagues argue that their results may explain why economic growth has not been accompanied by increases in happiness in the United States, unlike in other developed nations. The problem, they suggest, is that gains in national wealth in the U.S. haven’t been distributed equally, and this inequality has caused Americans’ happiness to suffer.
Oishi offers this lucent formula to fix our happiness dilemma: “If the ultimate goal of society is to make its citizens happy, then it is desirable to consider policies that produce more income equality, fairness, and general trust.”
Sources: YES! Magazine
Image by Amber de Bruin, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, August 25, 2011 3:31 PM
What’s thriftier than a thrift store? In Baltimore, Portland, San Francisco, and other cities scattered across the United States and Europe, free stores—shops that offer goods at no cost—are a practical protest of consumer culture.
The concept is simple: People bring in good-quality items they no longer want or need (toasters, air mattresses, artwork, clothing); and people who want or need those items take them home, free of charge, explains Victoria Kreha in Green American.
“From a box on a street corner to an open-air market to an actual brick and mortar store, free stores can take many forms,” Kreha writes, but their primary philosophies are consistent. Bonnie Nordvedt, administrator of the Baltimore Free Store says, “The purpose of a free store is for everyone to rethink their shopping habits, spending habits, and general addiction to ‘newer-bigger-better.’”
While free stores are especially helpful to low-income members of the community, Nordvedt explains that they are for everyone, regardless of economic standing:
We have seen a lot of people who think the free items are just for those who can’t otherwise afford them. While that is definitely a part of why we do this, it is not the main reason. We want to bring people together, not continue to segregate them into the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Every single person should be reusing, repurposing, giving, and taking.
Interested in starting up a free store or market in your city? Check out the tips offered by Green Americanand the Really Really Free Market for finding a location, attracting volunteers, and gathering items to give away.
Source: Green American
Image by inggmartinez, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, August 05, 2011 12:36 PM
They’re big. You can’t see around their wide loads and double doors. Acceleration isn’t really their modus operandi. Chances are you’ve been cut-off or nearly run over by many. They flagrantly linger in bike lanes and no-parking zones. They are, of course, semi-trucks—the universally despised, sluggish bullies of the interstate highway system.
But truckers get a bad rap; outspoken voices don’t often come to their defense. Someone needs to set the record straight. “Let me tell you a little about the truck driver you just flipped off because he was passing another truck,” writes fleet manager Dan Hansen for Minneapolis’ Star Tribune, “and you had to cancel the cruise control and slow down until he completed the pass and moved back over.”
Hansen’s op-ed chronicles the day-to-day life of a long-haul truck driver, focusing on the tragic—nay, Dickensian—career of one of his former employees. His portrait is sympathetic in a drive-1,500-miles-in-another-man’s-shoes sort of way.
Although the job is romanticized and mythologized, the pay isn’t glamorous. “Most of these guys are gone 10 days, and home for a day and a half, and take home an average of $500 a week if everything goes well,” writes Hansen. And, he says, the rising costs of overhead are only compounding the stress: “[T]he best these trucks do for fuel economy is about 8 miles per gallon. With fuel at almost $4 per gallon—well, you do the math. And, yes, that driver pays for his own fuel.”
Hansen urges us to show compassion, or at least patience, for the working class folks who support America’s economic infrastructure:
Everything you buy at the store and everything you order online moves by truck. Planes and trains can’t get it to your house or grocery store. We are dependent on trucks to move product from the airport and the rail yards to the stores and our homes.
Every day, experienced and qualified drivers give it up because the government, the traffic and the greedy companies involved in trucking have drained their enthusiasm for this life.
Source: Star Tribune
Image by ex_magician, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011 12:09 PM
Andy Serwer has some bad news for Barack Obama supporters out there: The economy’s not going to heal enough in the next year for him to ride a wave of recovery back into the White House the way Ronald Reagan did in 1984. “Reagan won re-election in a landslide, telling voters that it was ‘morning in America,’” Sewer writes at The American Prospect. “Unfortunately for President Barack Obama, the American economy has been stuck at midnight for years.”
Many factors are at play here. The recession was worse than predicted, so the economic stimulus didn’t do enough, and now we have a Congress that is doing absolutely nothing about the jobs crisis in the country, but are instead bickering about things that for previous presidents went unquestioned. Serwer points out that many of the cuts in the debt ceiling deal will come down the road and will therefore not affect the Obama reelection campaign, but the deal, according to economist Chad Stone, “is a modest hit to GDP in an economy that’s already facing substantial headwinds,” and therefore is certainly not going to help matters.
Barring a surprise uptick in the economy in the final months leading up to the 2012 election, the outlook, in Serwer’s view, looks pretty grim for the Obama camp:
Even assuming Republican intransigence and obstruction have given Obama the most challenging political landscape ever for a Democratic president, what matters is whether voters feel like he did what he was elected to do: Bring the American economy back from the brink.
Though I, like many out there, am not so keen on many of the decisions Obama has made in office, I can’t imagine some of the alternatives. Honestly, Serwer’s bleak article scares the hell out of me.
Source: The American Prospect
Image by Mike Licht, licensed under Creative Commons
Monday, July 11, 2011 12:19 PM
Last week I wrote a post about what Alison Kilkenny at The Nation has called “the era of the one-sided compromise,” questioning whether the Republican party, both at the state and national levels, could actually compromise on a budget deal that included some sort of new tax revenue. My conclusion was no, they wouldn’t be able to. Which is exactly what played out over the weekend, as Jonathan Cohn writes at The New Republic:
As you have probably heard by now, House Speaker John Boehner on Saturday evening informed President Obama that he was no longer interested in pursuing a “grand bargain” on deficit reduction. It was a major turning point in the debate. For the past week, Obama has made clear that he hoped to use ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling to put in place a massive, potentially historic deal to reorder the nation’s spending priorities – a deal that would reduce deficits by as much as $4 trillion cumulatively over the next decade.
This abandonment by Boehner has left Cohn, like so many of us, wondering, “Does anything matter to Republicans more than protecting tax cuts for the very wealthy?” Cohn points out that any “grand bargain” that could have been reached as a result of the current debate would “reflect Republican priorities far more than Democratic ones,” including cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. In other words, the stuff that matters to one side would be represented far more than the stuff that matters to the other. Still, the Republicans can’t stomach the idea of the Bush-era tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest expiring next year.
Cohn sees Boehner’s willingness to negotiate as genuine and writes, “For what it's worth, I’ve actually gained some respect for Boehner…[he] was genuinely interested in negotiating a deal even if that meant agreeing to some compromises, albeit pretty modest ones from my perspective.” However, he acknowledges that Boehner’s not really in charge of the House Republican caucus. “The lunatics are,” he writes. “And it looks like they’ve won.”
And while the consensus seems to be shifting somewhat that the Republicans’ inability to touch their no-new-taxes sacred cow is actually the culprit for negotiations breaking down, Jonathan Chait recognizes a failure on the part of the media in reporting on this issue:
The other thing to add is that this demonstrates a fact that media centrists have failed to grasp for months: the impediment to a balanced (or even heavily rightward-tilting) deficit plan isn't "both parties." It's Republicans. Democrats may not like the idea of cutting entitlements, but their objections don't come close to matching the GOP's theological opposition to tax increases.
Source: The New Republic
Image by Enter The Story, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, July 07, 2011 9:29 AM
As we near the end of the first week of the Minnesota* government shutdown and talks on the national stage continue in a countdown to August 2, a trend—both local and national—is bubbling to the surface. While one party continues to give concession after concession, the other party clings to a single economic factor that is rarely, outside of the party, touted as the most important among a myriad of economic factors. Taxes. While Democrats have gone against the wishes of many of the party’s far-left constituents and agreed to cuts in the name of balancing budgets, the Republican party refuses to thwart the extremists among them to reach anything that might actually be called a compromise.
In a scathing article in the New York TimesDavid Brooks takes on a Republican party that he sees as abnormal in its inability to seize an opportunity to “take advantage of this amazing moment” where “it is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases.”
He goes on:
But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative….
[T]o members of this movement, tax levels are everything. Members of this tendency have taken a small piece of economic policy and turned it into a sacred fixation. They are willing to cut education and research to preserve tax expenditures. Manufacturing employment is cratering even as output rises, but members of this movement somehow believe such problems can be addressed so long as they continue to worship their idol.
Writing for The Nation, Allison Kilkenny sees this as “the era of the one-sided compromise, where millionaires are taxed at rock bottom rates while the working poor have their pensions stolen from them.” “The national calls for ‘shared sacrifice’ during these times of austerity,” Kilkenny begins, “presuppose that giant corporations like Goldman Sachs and Exxon Mobil share the same amount of privilege and power as, say, your grandmother.” Yet, a somewhat insignificant tax increase among the wealthy (from 35 to 39 percent) is not, argues Kilkenny, in the same ballpark as “significantly gutting the social safety net for the poor majority.” Focusing on Governor Christie of New Jersey, Kilkenny writes of the “one-sided compromise”:
The state Democrats laid down during this vicious attack on the working poor in the spirit of bipartisanship, naturally. Sharing the sacrifice, and what not. Of course, then the Democrats were simply shocked—shocked!—that a Republican governor, who they had just sold out their own party in order to support, would then turn around and stab them in the back.
In another article, Kilkenny concludes, “it seems like state governments operate in one of two modes: paralysis or aggressive punishment of the poor.” Currently the Minnesota state government is operating within the former mode. Here, too, we find the one-sided compromise at play. As Doug Grow writes in MinnPost, “The depth of the problem Gov. Mark Dayton faces grows more evident each day: He cares about governing; the Republican majority he is trying to deal with cares only about winning.” (See “psychological protest” above.) In a side-by-side comparison of the Dayton and Republican-controlled legislature’s budgets from Minnesota Public Radio reporter Catherine Richert, we see mostly cuts and reductions in the “Common Ground” category, including the following: “Cut education department funding by 5%”; “Eliminate scholarships for high achieving, low-income students”; “Reduce grants for child protection and mental health services”; and “Cuts to job training funding.” (Emphasis added.) When we get to the Taxes row, the “Common Ground” column is left blank.
Despite the widely-reported notion that these government stalemates are a product of the people electing officials that fall into one of two camps—no-new-tax-Republicans or tax-and-spend-Democrats—it seems to me that that’s not the case at all. While Democratic leaders continue to disappoint the far-left among them (and not just on economic issues; see, too, the Afghan and Iraq wars, health care, Bradley Manning, et al.), Republican leaders refuse to put aside for a moment a few core beliefs in the interest of anything resembling an actual compromise. As Brooks writes, “The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary. This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.” But since they need to remain steadfast for the most die hard among them, they won’t even entertain that much. And still, some see the exact opposite. The St. Paul Pioneer Press, in the days leading up to the Minnesota government shut down, wrote,
Rather than work out differences and sign off on large portions of the budget on which agreement is within reach, Dayton has as of this writing refused to get deals done and preserve operations in those parts of government. This is not compromise. This is hostage taking.
I’m not sure how you debate, much less compromise, in such an atmosphere. But it seems that if most economists say a balanced budget must come from a combination of spending cuts and new revenue, including increased taxes, then a party that simply says “no” to one of those two is not compromising, while the party that agrees to at least some from both avenues is closer to achieving what that word—compromise—actually means.
Of course, the fact that I can only write about this in terms of two parties is probably really at the heart of all of our state and national problems.
*Utne Reader is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Source: The New York Times, The Nation, MinnPost, Minnesota Public Radio, St. Paul Pioneer Press
Image by GovernorDayton, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, February 24, 2011 11:09 AM
Carl Safina’s new book The View From Lazy Point is a font of environmental wisdom on the natural world and all that affects it, including human behavior, economics, religion, and science. An ecologist who wrote the sea conservation classic Song for the Blue Ocean, Safina in his new book chronicles a year spent near and on the water, interspersing lyrical nature writing with forthright, eminently sensible commentaries on all the forces that threaten the blue ocean—and the blue planet as well.
Here is Safina on the “property rights” movement:
One can fully own a manufactured thing—a toaster, say, or a pair of shoes. But in what reasonable sense can one fully “own” and have “rights” to do what ever we want to land, water, air, and forests that are among the most valuable assets in humanity’s basic endowments? To say, in the march of eons, that we own these things into which we suddenly, fleetingly appear and from which we will soon vanish is like a newborn laying claim to the maternity ward, or a candle asserting ownership of the cake; we might as well declare that, having been handed a ticket to ride, we’ve bought the train. Let’s be serious.
On the immorality of dirty energy:
The right and necessary things are not always decided solely on economic considerations. If ever energy came cheap, slavery was it. Slavery created jobs for slave catchers, a shipping industry built on the slave trade, and a plantation economy that could remain profitable only with slave labor. Slavery was necessary to “stay competitive.” It was the linchpin of the Southern plantation economy. But no normal person today would argue that slavery is good for the economy. We’ve made at least that progress.
Yet we hear—all the time—arguments defending dirty energy on economic grounds. Those arguments are as morally bankrupt as the ones defending slavery in its heyday. It isn’t moral to force coming generations to deal with the consequences of our fossil-fuel orgy. It isn’t moral to insist, in effect, on holding them captive to our present economy.
And on resisting consumerism:
The 1960s counterculture attempted what we need now more than ever: a spirited culture of refusal, a counterlife. … The revolution is as simple as this: Don’t buy the products by which they drain you and feed themselves. Listen to people trying to warn you, but don’t vote for anyone trying to scare you. Resist! Do the unadvertised and the unauthorized. Comb someone’s hair. Plant seeds. Reread. Practice safe sex until you get it right. Go to a museum, aquarium, or zoo. Be .org- and be commercial-free. Photograph someone you love with no clothes on. Not them—you. Walk a brisk mile to nowhere and back. Mark a child’s height on a freshly painted wall. Climb into bed with the Arts or Science section of an actual newspaper and get a little newsprint on your fingers. Eat salad. Clean your old binoculars. Hoard your money until you get enough to make a difference to charity. Go to formal dinners in great-looking thrift-store clothing and brag about how much you paid. React badly to every ad and every exhortation about what you need, as though they are lying, as though they just came up from behind in the dark and said, “Give me your wallet.” Scream when they come to rob you. You’ll never go wrong. You won’t miss anything worthwhile. The country needs your lack of cooperation.
Look for an excerpt from The View From Lazy Point in the May-June issue of Utne Reader.
Source: The View From Lazy Point
Panel image by BaylorBear78, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, January 27, 2011 5:06 PM
More and more voices are pointing out that the idea of limitless economic growth is folly given the environment’s limits, and Utne Reader recently reprinted a Mother Jones story that explored the sensibly radical idea of a no-growth economy. But no one has described as succinctly as Orion columnist Derrick Jensen just how consumption is bumping up against creation. In his February column, Jensen asks:
… what, after all, is production? It is the conversion of the living to the dead, the conversion of living forests into two-by-fours, living rivers into stagnant pools for generating hydroelectricity, living fish into fish sticks, and ultimately all of these into money. And what, then, is gross national product? It is a measure of this conversion of the living to the dead. The more quickly the living world is converted into dead products, the higher the GNP. These simple equations are complicated by the fact that when GNP goes down, people often lose jobs. No wonder the world is getting killed.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010 11:40 AM
The accounting experts have crunched the numbers, and the results are in: We are undervaluing the earth. A new United Nations report says nations had better start incorporating nature’s value into their balance sheets, in both the assets and losses columns, if they’re to reflect what’s really happening in our warming world. Writes Reuters:
Damage to natural capital including forests, wetlands and grasslands is valued at $2-4.5 trillion annually, the United Nations estimates, but the figure is not included in economic data such as GDP, nor in corporate accounts.
The report, “Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature” (pdf), released by the U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP), details in cold, hard numbers exactly how much ecosystems such as tropical forests and coral reefs contribute to countries’ bottom lines—and how much those nations stand to lose should these ecosystems falter or collapse.
I’ve often had conflicting reactions to this increasingly common practice of applying accounting principles to natural systems, or “ecosytem services” as they’re sometimes called (an approach Utne Reader covered in the article “Hiring Mother Earth to Do Her Thing”). On the one hand, putting a value on nature will indeed lead to better measurements of true prosperity than pure GDP, with its blindness to these “externalities,” and speaking in dollars is often the only way to “sell” environmental protection in a capitalist-driven world. But isn’t trying to put a number on the worth of creation a somewhat futile and hubristic exercise? Perhaps the earth is priceless.
Fortunately, the man who’s the driving force behind the UNEP report, German banker Pavan Sukhdev, is making no claims to hanging a price tag on the planet. The Environment News Service reports:
Sukhdev emphasized that the TEEB [The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity] study, which has involved hundreds of experts from around the world, is not a cost-benefit analysis of the Earth.
TEEB recognizes that biodiversity has many different types of values, not all of which can be given a price tag, he said, adding that market solutions represent but a small fraction of the economic solutions available to value biodiversity.
Both India and Brazil have said they’ll use the findings as a guide in forming policy. And the United States? As is usual in environmental matters these days, they’re not exactly leading the way. As the
The idea of incorporating ecosystem benefits into policymaking has yet to gain the same level of traction in the United States, where a proposal to cap greenhouse gas emissions collapsed this year after critics said it would damage the nation’s economy.
“I’m not seeing, as of yet, anything firm coming from the North American continent, but I’m hoping it’s a matter of time,” Sukhdev said.
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity
Environment News Service
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Friday, August 27, 2010 11:15 AM
In the latest issue of YES! David Korten discusses his newly revised book, Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth. In response to a question regarding the housing bubble—“Four to six trillion dollars of value went away when the bubble popped. But what does that actually mean in terms of housing?—Korten replies:
It means absolutely nothing in terms of houses. That’s the part of understanding the difference between phantom wealth and real wealth. It was a financial bubble, and the most extraordinary thing is how few economists and economic policy makers seem to have had any recognition of the distinction. An increase in real housing value would, for instance, provide more comfortable shelter. The simple inflation of housing prices changed nothing except increasing the financial claims of those who held title to those houses.
Later, Korten recognizes that this idea—the idea of something’s worth actually corresponding to something of value that that thing provides—is not unique to him. It’s just that the opposition to such thoughts has been so systematically ingrained in people (as an example, the interviewer asks ealier: “What about the stock market? That’s widely accepted by Americans as an index of economic health”*) that most doubt their own instincts as to how things really should work. Or, as Korten puts it:
Most psychologically healthy people recognize the truth, because I believe the true moral values are innate in our mature human nature. Yet the power of the perverse cultural manipulation in our society is so strong that it causes people to doubt that which they know in their heart to be true.
Korten sees the glorifying of the seven deadly sins in capitalist culture as that “perverse cultural manipulation.”
[I]t’s turning the whole moral framework on its head and convincing us that somehow the pursuit of the seven deadly sins is really good for society and helps us build wealth and happiness. It’s the most incredible moral perversion and the fact that this is not widely recognized is sort of like “oh my goodness.”
*Korten’s answer to this question is probably my favorite part of the interview: “Well, the fact that the total value of stock market assets can go up and down by trillions of dollars day by day is a pretty powerful indicator that it has no relationship to any underlying real value.” Exactly.
Source: YES! (interview only available in print edition; an excerpt from the revised edition of Agenda for a New Economy is available online.)
Friday, April 02, 2010 1:36 PM
Hidden amidst the profit-seeking and selfishness of economic theory, Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for economics, found some hope for the future. She told Yes!:
I don’t see the human as hopeless. There’s a general tendency to presume people just act for short-term profit. But anyone who knows about small-town businesses and how people in a community relate to one another realizes that many of those decisions are not just for profit and that humans do try to organize and solve problems.
If you are in a fishery or have a pasture and you know your family’s long-term benefit is that you don’t destroy it, and if you can talk with the other people who use that resource, then you may well figure out rules that fit that local setting and organize to enforce them. But if the community doesn’t have a good way of communicating with each other or the costs of self-organization are too high, then they won’t organize, and there will be failures.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010 4:32 PM
When two dead, white economists rap battle, the result is actually pretty good. The song imagines a night out with John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich von Hayek, brought back from the dead to argue about politics and party. The lyrics by producer John Papola and Russ Roberts, a professor at George Mason University and host of the Econtalk podcast, don’t shy away from the nuts-and-bolts of economic theory, touching on aggregate demand, devalued capital, and the paradox of thrift. There are also some great insults including this one by Hayek: “So sorry if that sounds like invective, prepare to be schooled in my Austrian perspective.”
(Thanks, Marginal Revolution.)
Tuesday, August 11, 2009 4:06 PM
Museums aren’t just casualties of the current economic collapse, they actively fed the boom and subsequent bust, Ben Davis writes for ArtNet. Museum boards engaged in short-sited speculation, gambling huge endowments in hedge funds and other risky investments.
Now that those endowments are worth a fraction of what they once were, and with governments drastically cutting their support for the arts to stave off budget crises, the large institutions aren’t the ones hurt most. “Everyone knows who is getting hardest hit,” Davis writes, “it is the personnel who do the unglamorous day-to-day stuff that makes these places run.”
Image by gomattolson, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009 9:17 AM
“How is it that we have so many people of energy, ideas, creativity and intelligence in the arts, and yet they haven’t even begun to generate enough money to support what they do?” asks Toner Quinn, editor of the recently launched, internationally minded Journal of Music. Good question.
Quinn has a plan, and it begins with blowing up our assumptions about “the economics of the arts.” We praise arts organizations for doing amazing things on shoestring budgets, he writes, and when there’s extra money to go around, it generally goes toward improving compensation for undercompensated people. Fair enough. Quinn notes, however, that arts organizations and artists often operate in bubbles, struggling to meet their economic needs without tapping into collective economic experience.
“Conventional thinking on the relationship between the arts and business is that it inevitably leads to compromise for the former,” Quinn writes. “Arts communities, however, have many successful people who manage to outwit that, striking a balance between business acumen and cultural concern, between artistic ambition and financial prudence, between the language of cultural entrepreneurialism and the language of commercial business….
“What they know cannot be found in books; and it won’t be issued as a memo by any commercial business. It is only learned through having formative experiences in the arts.”
Quinn proposes that arts councils rustle up their experts in the business side of the arts and offer their advice to newcomers. Extending the concept to art galleries, theater companies, publishing groups, and the like would eventually produce a system of economic mentorship. In addition to reducing missed opportunities and generating more money all around, such an insitutution would also strengthen the fabric of arts communities. Good idea, I’d say.
Source: The Journal of Music
Friday, June 05, 2009 12:02 PM
How much does it cost to spread 650,000 pennies on the floor in a delicate wave pattern, atop a bed of oozing honey? Including the tableau attendant and accommodations for the sheep, about $13,791.36. (1989 dollars, of course.) The installation in question is Anne Hamilton’s “privations and excess,” which The Believer details in the latest installment of Creative Accounting, a series that’s plainly perfect for those among us who love both the arts and getting down and gritty with the details. Ahem.
In past issues, the magazine has unpacked the fiscal details of an unnamed Flaming Lips album ($158,338.53); a modestly-made indie film ($15,4800), and a less-modestly made yet nonetheless indie film ($18 million), which kicked off the series last March.
Source: The Believer
Image by kevindooley, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 4:48 PM
With the economy sliding down the tubes, corporate spinmeisters are struggling to come up with new ways to talk about financial woes. Here are a few great linguistic innovations that have come out of the recession so far:
“A retention award” (executive bonus for a government bailed-out bank, via the Huffington Post.)
“Public capital facilitation” (bank nationalization, via the Economist.)
“streamlining and simplification” (Ebay’s layoffs, via Gawker.)
“synergy-related headcount adjustment goal” (Nokia’s layoffs, via Dollars & Sense.)
Sources: Huffington Post, Economist, Gawker, Dollars & Sense
Tuesday, January 27, 2009 12:55 PM
Even in the midst of the current economic crisis, few would contest the fact that humans live amidst an abundance of wealth and resources. There is plenty of food in the world, yet people continue to die of hunger every day. There is plenty of money in the world, yet people beg in the streets. The problem isn’t poverty, according to the new film The End of Poverty, directed by Philippe Diaz, the problem is wealth.
According to the film, the global poor, especially those in the Southern Hemisphere, have been funding the wealth and greed of the global rich, concentrated mostly in the North. The film sketches out various strategies the rich have used throughout history—from colonization, to religion, to the neoliberal policies of the past few decades—which are designed, according to the films subjects, to subjugate the poor to the will of the rich.
In this reading of history, the capitalist system is a continuation of the slave trade and the global system of subjugation that began under the Spanish Conquistadors. Moving forward, the world must reject “the religion of growth” to create a more equitable global economic system. But one of the film’s experts, William Easterly, seems to belie that reading of history in a recent article for Foreign Policy magazine.
In the past 50 years, the global economic system created “the greatest mass escape from poverty in human history,” according to Easterly. The problem is that governments, in the midst of the current economic crisis, are in danger of rejecting that system in favor of more protectionist economic strategies.
Amir Farshad Ebrahimi
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Here is the trailer for The End of Poverty:
Tuesday, October 21, 2008 1:28 PM
A new study out of the University of California in Berkeley has good news for the economy and the environment: Between 1972 and 2006, energy efficiency measures undertaken in California have been a boon to the state’s economy, creating approximately 1.5 million jobs and saving consumers $56 billion. “We find, I think demonstrably, that energy efficiency is good for the economy and good for jobs,” study author David Roland-Holst told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Unfortunately, while energy efficiency may be good for the economy, the economy isn’t doing such good things for green energy, according to Grist. They report that “renewable-energy stocks around the world have dropped some 45 percent in the past three months,” due to tightening credit lines and dwindling demand for alternative energy as oil prices fall.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008 12:17 PM
World economic prospects were looking dire even before Monday’s bailout bill failed to pass Congress, sending stock markets plummeting and nearly everyone into a panic. A “more palatable” version of the bailout bill might eventually be approved, but it’s safe to say that things are going to get worse before they get better, and no one’s quite sure of the long-term effects of our economic crisis.
Eco blogs are beginning to speculate and offer commentary about the situation’s impact on environmental politics, and Gristmill is leading the analysis. Joseph Romm debunks the suggestion that Barack Obama would put funds for the bailout bill ahead of his clean energy plan. David Roberts explains how more energy efficient homes would raise housing stock while lowering the cost of utilities—the unstable housing market being the catalyst, of course, for the current financial crisis. And Kate Shepherd hopes the bailout won’t push Congress’ renewable energy tax-credit bill off the table.
But EcoGeek Hank Green laments that the bailout legislation has already killed carefully crafted solar legislation. “These people simply do not understand. The bailout is about preventing disaster,” Green writes. “But what about planning for an America that can see beyond damage control to growth and prosperity?”
A more optimistic—if long-term—outlook comes from Angelique van Engelen at Triple Pundit, who predicts that the next bull market, when and if it arrives, will be heavily influenced by green investing. “Admittedly, it's a bit obscene to talk of a new bull market now that Wall Street is heavily sick and in need of a trillion-dollar bailout,” she writes. “But perhaps it makes sense to do it anyway because it's very likely that the next bull's going to be colored brightly green.”
Image by Shiny Things, licensed by Creative Commons.
Friday, September 19, 2008 3:11 PM
Set down that copy of Moby Dick, and grab your bank statement. Colleges and universities are increasingly focused on arming students with a “new” kind of literacy: the financial variety. As education costs balloon and student debt rises, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education, more and more institutions are following the lead of Texas Tech University, which established a financial literacy program eight years ago.
From the basics of budgeting to the principles of managing debt, there’s a lot of heartache that could be prevented if financial literacy were made as central to education as regular old book-lovin’ literacy. The Chronicle cites a recent survey by the nonprofit Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy that found that fewer than half of high school seniors were aware that credit card companies assess charges if cardholders pay only the minimum balance due. Eesh.
Perhaps from personal financial literacy, greater economic literacy will blossom. To get a head start, brush up, or dig into the front-page headlines of late, check out our online feature: Econ 101: A Crash Course of Economics Blogs.
Image by kevindooley, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008 11:11 AM
We all have different definitions of financial security and wealth, but some are more realistic than others. When asked to define a “rich” income level at the Saddleback Forum this past weekend, the responses from Barack Obama and John McCain were revealing. Obama said $150,000, while McCain posited, “How about $5 million?” He was ostensibly joking, but his response is the perfect example of sincerity cloaked in fatuousness, and completely in line with his party’s economic philosophy.
Ezra Klein, at the American Prospect, made a chart to contextualize the candidates’ definitions of wealth:
Klein concludes that McCain’s “profoundly out of touch” answer, facetious or not, is frustrating but inevitable: He's been richer, for longer, than Obama and most of his fellow Americans. “Nothing weird or malign: Just the naturally skewed perspective of someone who lives on a particular extreme, in this case, the extreme edge of the wealth distribution.” Obama is, by his own definition, undeniably wealthy, but Klein argues that because his family’s acquisition of wealth is relatively recent, Obama’s outlook is more realistic.
McCain and his companions in the richest slice of America’s population have no concept of what it is to barely get by on a middle-class income, much less at or below the unrealistically low poverty line. While statistically unsurprising, this warped economic outlook will have dire consequences for the middle and lower classes if McCain becomes president, all but ensuring an extension of the Bush Administration’s apparent mandate that the rich get richer at the expense of pretty much everyone else.
Chart courtesy of Ezra Klein.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008 10:44 AM
Everyone seems to be watching the economy a little more closely, whether they're most concerned about the foreclosure crisis, credit card debt, or paying for college. Media coverage often misses the boat on these complex issues, but lively economics blogs have stepped in to fill the void, delving into politics and media criticism while deciphering the latest research. Here are a few to get you started:
Dean Baker, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, criticizes and clarifies the media’s economic coverage at the American Prospect's Beat the Press blog.
Brad DeLong, a professor at the University of California–Berkeley, writes Grasping Reality with Both Hands, where he frequently corrects errors in economic and political reporting under the not-so-subtle heading “[Publication Name] Death Spiral Watch."
, an oft-updated site maintained by George Mason University economics professors Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, appears on DeLong's helpful list of recommended econ blogs. Last week, Tabarrok posted an in-depth critique of the latest "math wars" study that questioned the existence of a math ability gap between boys and girls, attracting dozens of responses about sexism and former Harvard President Larry Summers' 2005 imbroglio over sex and scientific ability.
Another pair of George Mason economists, Donald Boudreaux and Russell Roberts, author the more conservative Cafe Hayek, which can be refreshing in challenging such conventional wisdom as the evils of Wal-Mart or off-shore drilling.
At The Fly Bottle, Cato Institute research fellow Will Wilkinson offers a center-right view of economics, from critiquing global-warming alarmism to questioning the benefit of the minimum-wage hike.
is a Harvard professor who blogs (infrequently, but quite readably) about globalization and economic development. For a more regular feed, Rodrik recommends Yale political scientist Chris Blattman's economic development blog.
Image by genericface, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008 11:30 AM
The kernel at the core of every conventional economic model is alluringly simple: Growth is good. But due in large part to our planet’s finite resources, this premise is fundamentally flawed, the April issue of the Ecologist points out in an enlightening group of stories dubbed “The Earth vs. the Economy” (articles not available online) that call into question everything we’ve been taught about goods and services, supply and demand.
“When Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, life was hard, the world vast and the supply depot of nature seemed without limit. . . . How could goods lead to anything but good?” writes Jonathan Rowe in the leadoff article, “The End of Economics.”
“More than two centuries later, that assumption no longer works. . . . The connection between wealth and weal, goods and good, has become increasingly frayed,” he posits. Rowe goes on to construct a withering critique of prevailing economic thought and describe the “epidemic of market-related disease” that is sickening both humans and the planet.
In subsequent articles, ecological economist Herman E. Daly puts forth the framework of a new economic model, and Andrew Simms points out that the current British recession (sound familiar?) may present “a good time for a rethink” of old assumptions. Simms reminds us that such thinking isn’t entirely new, or even all that radical: Forty years ago, he notes, Robert Kennedy famously pointed out that the GNP measures everything “except that which makes life worthwhile.”
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