Sep 15, 2019

Scaling environmentalism

From a review of Tatiana Schlossberg’s Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impacts You Don’t Know You Have:

For 10 or 15 years beginning in the 1990s consumer-driven environmentalism was a constant refrain, leading to endless disputations about paper towels and disposable diapers versus sponges and cotton nappies. When I picked up this book, I feared it might go down the same cul-de-sacs, but it doesn’t, and for the obvious reason: That earlier campaign was essentially useless. Some fairly small percentage of people read those books, and an even smaller percentage took regular and clear action. Those people are morally consistent heroes whom we should all salute, but it turns out there are not enough of them to make a difference….

The changes we make in our transportation lives will matter mostly if we make them “as a collective.” That is to say, instead of trying to figure out every single aspect of our lives, a carbon tax would have the effect of informing every one of those decisions, automatically and invisibly. The fuel efficiency standards that the Obama administration put forward and Trump is now gutting would result in stunningly different outcomes. And so on….

We aren’t going to solve our problems one consumer at a time. We’re going to need to do it as societies and civilizations, or not at all.

Read more here.

Sep 12, 2019

Inequality’s human price

For many, inequality is a matter of life and death:

The expanding gap between rich and poor is not only widening the gulf in incomes and wealth in America. It is helping the rich lead longer lives, while cutting short the lives of those who are struggling, according to a study released this week by the Government Accountability Office.


Almost three-quarters of rich Americans who were in their 50s and 60s in 1992 were still alive in 2014. Just over half of poor Americans in their 50s and 60s in 1992 made it to 2014.

Read more here. See the GAO report here.

Sep 11, 2019

An alternative to “shareholder capitalism”

The U.K. Labour Party has a plan:

The Corbyn project dates to September 2018, when John McDonnell, Labour’s leading economic policymaker, proposed that British corporations be required to establish “Inclusive Ownership Funds” (IOFs). These would grant employees of large companies 10 percent of their employer’s shares, the right to a share of economic profits, and a voice in corporate governance. The plan would create employee trusts, where employees are granted equity shares collectively as a right of employment, which they do not have to pay for and cannot sell. The funds would give employees a collective voice in electing the board of directors and would ensure that employees participate in the wealth created as a corporation’s shares appreciate.

Read more about it here.

Aug 16, 2019

America’s “low road capitalism”

From (of all places) the New York Times:

Those searching for reasons the American economy is uniquely severe and unbridled have found answers in many places (religion, politics, culture). But recently, historians have pointed persuasively to the gnatty fields of Georgia and Alabama, to the cotton houses and slave auction blocks, as the birthplace of America’s low-road approach to capitalism.

Read more here.

Aug 13, 2019

Nice non-work, if you can get it

From Bloomberg’s survey of the ultra-rich:

The numbers are mind-boggling: $70,000 per minute, $4 million per hour, $100 million per day.
That’s how quickly the fortune of the Waltons, the clan behind Walmart Inc., has been growing since last year’s Bloomberg ranking of the world’s richest families.
At that rate, their wealth would’ve expanded about $23,000 since you began reading this. A new Walmart associate in the U.S. would’ve made about 6 cents in that time, on the way to an $11 hourly minimum.

Read more here.

Aug 5, 2019

Education alone isn’t enough

Nick Hanauer writes in The Atlantic:

Income inequality has exploded not because of our country’s educational failings but despite its educational progress. Make no mistake: Education is an unalloyed good. We should advocate for more of it, so long as it’s of high quality. But the longer we pretend that education is the answer to economic inequality, the harder it will be to escape our new Gilded Age.

Read more here.

Jul 29, 2019

Frank Ackerman’s last post

From the final post by the extraordinary economist and thinker Frank Ackerman, who passed away this month:

I am honored to be invited to talk about a lifetime in economics. My work in the field follows a perverse arc of progress: from youthful optimism about a complete understanding of economics, to a more mature pessimism about how unpredictably bad the worst cases can turn out to be. Was studying economics still a good idea, despite the worsening implications that turn up as one digs deeper into it? How did the personal satisfaction of exploring the mathematics of the field relate to the unfair and uncomfortable reality of the U.S. and global economy?

Read his retrospective here.

Jul 29, 2019

Sociopaths in the boardroom

A corporate lawyer sees a problem:

Mr. Gamble has had an epiphany since retiring nearly a decade ago that is so damning of his former life that it is likely to give his ex-partners a case of agita.
He has concluded that corporate executives — the people who hired him and that his firm sought to protect — “are legally obligated to act like sociopaths.”

Read about it here.

Jul 24, 2019

School segregation in the USA

Nikole Hannah-Jones dissects the renewed controversy about “busing” in the effort to break apart America’s educational caste system:

I was one of those kids bused to white schools… Starting in second grade and all the way through high school, I rode a bus two hours a day. It was not easy, but I am perplexed by the audacity of people who argue that the hardship of a long bus ride somehow outweighs the hardship of being deprived of a good education.

Read more here.

Jul 22, 2019

Big Plastic

The plastic industry has an image problem:

Read about the industry’s spin control efforts here.

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