Posts tagged "economics"
The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern Economy

The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern Economy

I've written a piece for The Atlantic about the hollowness of our modern economy and the effect it has on the working class. Here is an excerpt:

The modern economy privileges the well-educated and highly-skilled, while giving them an excuse to denigrate the people at the bottom (both white and nonwhite) as lazy, untalented, uneducated, and unsophisticated. In a society focused on meritocratic, materialistic success, many well-off Americans from across the political spectrum scorn the white working class in particular for holding onto religious superstitions and politically incorrect views, and pity them for working lousy jobs at dollar stores and fast-food restaurants that the better-off rarely set foot in. And when other sources of meaning are hard to come by, those who struggle in the modern economy can lose their sense of self-worth.

You can read more here. At the moment (before more Trump news pushes it off), it's on The Atlantic's front page.

A Minimum of Dignity

A Minimum of Dignity

This weekend, low-wage workers from around the country will be arriving in my city, Richmond, to make a case for increasing the minimum wage. It’s the first-ever national convention for the Fight for $15 movement, which in the past few years has launched wide-ranging strikes and protests to raise awareness about how a $7.25-an-hour wage—the current federal minimum—just doesn’t cut it for many workers struggling to make ends meet for themselves and their families.

There’s a long line of economic arguments in favor of, and opposed to, increases in the minimum wage. Among other things, opponents say it will raise prices for consumers, cause employers to slash jobs or cut back on workers’ hours, and put many companies out of business. Advocates say it will help the economy by giving workers more money to spend in their communities, encouraging the unemployed to seek out work, and reducing the stress and anxiety the working poor deal with, as well as their reliance on government benefits.

As important as the economic impacts of this policy are, however, it’s even more important to consider its cultural and moral implications. After all, that’s what drives much of the widespread public support for increasing the minimum wage, even among people who have never heard of, say, the elasticities of labor supply and demand. Many Americans just don’t think it is right that people who work hard should have to struggle so hard.

Debunking the Myth of Self-Made Success

Debunking the Myth of Self-Made Success

Here is a short piece I wrote recently for a Zócalo Public Square discussion on the question "Is Rising Inequality Slowly Poisoning Our Democracy?" The discussion included experts from the Brennan Center for Justice, Cato Institute, Economic Policy Institute, and Georgetown University Center on Poverty and Inequality.

When Michael Young coined the term “meritocracy” half a century ago, he meant it to be an insult, not an ideal. In his view, a society where only the best and brightest can advance would soon become a nightmare. Young predicted that democracy would self-destruct as the talented took power and the inferior accepted their deserved place at the bottom.

Of course, the world we live in today is still no meritocracy. If most Americans are expected to go it alone, without the help of government or unions, elites continue to block competitors and manipulate the rules—as Wall Street did in spectacular fashion in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

Maybe in America: A Review of Captain Phillips

Maybe in America: A Review of Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips, the new film based on a real-life encounter between an American commercial-shipping crew and Somalian pirates, opens with the titular character in Vermont, driving to the airport with his wife. Richard Phillips expresses concern about the state of the shipping industry, sunk by the global recession that struck a year earlier. On the other side of the globe, Muse, a poor Somalian fisherman forced into piracy by his own economic woes, wakes up to news that the local warlord has demanded that his village capture another ship, or suffer violent consequences. The angular fisherman-turned-pirate is an obvious foil for Phillips, their stories woven together through crosscut scenes that emphasize the economic anxieties shared by the men, even as they highlight the brutality of the Horn of Africa’s most chaotic state.

Is it Time to Put Morality on the Market?

Is it Time to Put Morality on the Market?

Over the last thirty years, Americans have seen an infusion of market thinking into areas that were previously governed by collective ethics and morality. Today, the drive to make a profit dictates the way we view things like health, education, national security, criminal justice, environmental protection, and even procreation. In What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, Harvard University professor Michael J. Sandel argues that markets have become detached from morals, and that it's time we reconnect them.