Tag Archives | Economics

Three Practical Hurdles to a Universal Basic Income

basic-income

This was originally published on Philosophical Disquisitions.

The campaign for the introduction of a universal basic income (UBI) has been gaining ground in recent years. What was once a slightly obscure proposal, beloved by certain political theorists and welfare reformists, is now being embraced as a potential solution to the threat of technological unemployment. I myself have written about it on several occasions, mainly focusing on different political and philosophical arguments in favour of its introduction. These arguments focused on the normative/political grounding for the UBI. They rarely, if ever, focused on the practicalities of the UBI. How would it be introduced? Would this be an easy thing?

In this post, I want to take up some of those practical questions. In particular, I want to consider a pragmatic argument in favour of the UBI, one that is often trotted out by its supporters. Then, I want to consider some potential pragmatic hurdles to the introduction of a UBI.… Read the rest

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How human composting will change death in the city

joiseyshowaa (CC BY-SA 2.0)

joiseyshowaa (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Katie Herzog via Grist:

What we do with our dead can seem bizarre to outsiders. In a Tibetan tradition called sky burial, the deceased are cut into small pieces by a man known as therogyapa, or “breaker of bodies,” and laid atop mountains to be picked apart by vultures. Later, the bones are collected and pulverized with flour and yak butter and fed to crows and hawks. Feeding your loved ones to the same birds who eat roadkill may seem morbid to those of us in the West, but in Tibet, it’s both sacrosanct (these birds are sacred in Buddhism) and practical (ever tried to dig a grave in frozen ground?).

Tibet isn’t the only place with seemingly odd customs: In Madagascar, the bodies of the deceased are exhumed and sprayed with wine and perfume every few years. In Ghana, people are buried in coffins that represent their lives, so a fisherman might spend eternity in a box shaped like a carp and a farmer may spend it in a six-foot cob of corn.

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Everything I know about homelessness I learned from SimCity

David Blackwell. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

David Blackwell. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Via Aaron Sankin at Kernel Mag:

In October 2012, a gamer posted a provocative comment to a forum run by Electronic Arts about its beloved, long-running SimCity franchise.

“There is one area I’d like to see as future expansion … the homeless,” gamer IanLoganson wrote. “Most cities have homeless … Some of the world’s biggest cities now are in the rapidly developing countries and one big problem [they] seem to have is slums. Let’s say you have a thriving commercial city full of landmarks, high-end jobs and high-end housing. Such city lights draw the dispossessed in search for hope and if there aren’t enough low-end jobs, low-end housing, or a social safety net, they end up on the street.

“A small homeless problem is no big deal, but as it gets bigger it brings down property value and discourages tourists,” IanLoganson continued. “You need to think of helping them with aid, providing more jobs/housing for them, or getting the police to kick them out of the centre.

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Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

Shrine 93rd circus 2014 Paula Lively (CC BY 2.0)

Shrine 93rd circus 2014
Paula Lively (CC BY 2.0)

Tamara Lush via ABC News:

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus says the “Greatest Show on Earth” will go on without elephants.

Animal rights groups took credit for generating the public concern that forced the company to announce its pachyderm retirement plan on Thursday. But Ringling Bros.’ owners described it as the bittersweet result of years of internal family discussions.

“It was a decision 145 years in the making,” said Juliette Feld, referring to P.T. Barnum’s introduction of animals to his “traveling menagerie” in 1870. Elephants have symbolized this circus since Barnum brought an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America in 1882.

Kenneth Feld — whose father bought the circus in 1967 and who now runs Feld Enterprises Inc. with his three daughters — insisted that animal rights activists weren’t responsible.

“We’re not reacting to our critics; we’re creating the greatest resource for the preservation of the Asian elephant,” Kenneth Feld told The Associated Press as he broke the news that the last 13 performing elephants will retire by 2018, joining 29 other pachyderms at the company’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida.

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From Our Prison to Your Dinner Table

Via Graeme Wood at Pacific Standard:

One of my daughter’s favorite stuffed animals is a chocolate-colored, beady-eyed buffalo that was stitched—lovingly, I like to think—by the hands of a convicted felon. The buffalo was born in Cañon City, Colorado, on the grounds of a large rural complex of six state prisons with a total of 4,000 inmates. Some of those inmates manufacture cute toys. Others tend real buffalo on feedlots and dairies outside in the mountain air. The goal, said Steve Smith, the prison-labor program’s mustachioed director until his retirement in December, is to convert the prisoners through labor into productive citizens. “This is a therapeutic community,” he said. “We’re trying to make them into taxpayers instead of tax burdens.” He channeled the Book of Isaiah, or possibly Ozzy Osbourne: “No rest for the wicked.”

The most familiar prison work programs involve stamping license plates or breaking rocks as part of a chain gang.

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Pope Francis Calls Money the ‘Devil’s Dung’

Pope Francis. Photo: Korean Culture and Information Service (CC)

Pope Francis. Photo: Korean Culture and Information Service (CC)

Pope Francis describes money as “the devil’s dung” in a speech carried by Vatican Radio. “When money becomes an idol, it controls man’s choices,” he said. “It makes him a slave”:

First, the Pope said, co-operatives must continue to be “the motor that uplifts and develops the weakest parts of our local communities and civil society.”

The first priority is to establish new co-operatives, while developing existing ones, so as to create new employment opportunities, especially among youth, he said.

Second, the Pope urged the co-op movement to be a “protagonist” in proposing new welfare solutions, particularly in the area of healthcare.

As a third point, he spoke of the economy and its relationship with social justice and human dignity. Speaking of the need to “globalize solidarity,” he urged the confederation to bring co-operatives to the “existential peripheries” and to continue to be “prophetic” by “inventing new forms of co-operation.”

The Pope spoke of “a certain liberalism,” which “believes it is first necessary to produce wealth—and it does not matter how—to then promote some state redistribution policy.”…

[continues at Vatican Radio, which has audio of the speech]

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Mysterious Space Seed ‘may be proof aliens are watching us and created life on Earth’

alien-seed-554074

University of Buckingham

 

Jonathan Symcox via The Mirror:

Scientists in the UK say this microscopic metal globe could be proof that aliens are watching us.

Balloons sent 27km into the stratosphere to collect debris came back with the object, no bigger than the width of a human hair.

Professor Milton Wainwright, leader of the joint study by the University of Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology and University of Sheffield, said the structure is made from titanium and vanadium metals and has a biological “gooey” substance oozing from it.

Scientists believe it could contain genetic material used to propagate alien life on Earth.

“It is a ball about the width of a human hair, which has filamentous life on the outside and a gooey biological material oozing from its centre,” he told the Daily Express website.

“We were stunned when X-ray analysis showed that the sphere is made up mainly of titanium, with a trace of vanadium.

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The Latest Economic Conspiracy Theory

USCurrency Federal Reserve.jpgConspiracy theories and money go together like … [fill in the simile]. From Bloomberg View:

Friday’s jobs numbers were big, and the revisions below the surface were huge. Yet even before the release, the birther/vaxxer/flat-earther crowd had warned us about phony numbers. As public policy, this kind of conspiracy thinking can cause the deaths of infants and the elderly. At least in markets, it merely loses you money.

In December, I wrote:

Today’s column is about stupidity. Perhaps that’s overstating it; to be more precise, it is about the conspiracy-theorist combination of bias, innumeracy and laziness, with a pinch of arrogance thrown in for good measure.

I am talking about the manifold ways various economic reports get misinterpreted, sometimes in a willful and ignorant manner.

That column discussed some of the sillier theories from within the darker corners of the Internet. Admittedly, these weren’t from influential people or important media outlets; it was the usual collection of oddballs in tinfoil hats.

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Seattle’s Left Coast Formula

Anupam_ts (CC BY 2.0)

Anupam_ts (CC BY 2.0)

Via James N. Gregory at Dissent Magazine:

Contemporary Seattle is a city with a dual personality. On one hand, a dramatic building boom is underway. Towering cranes crowd the skyline as scores of new office and apartment buildings race to accommodate the thousands of code warriors whom Amazon and other tech companies are hiring. Since the start of the twenty-first century, the city’s population has grown by 14 percent and its workforce by at least that amount. Median income is now the third highest in the nation among big cities, behind only San Jose and San Francisco. New restaurants, trendy stores, massive new transportation projects and waterfront developments add to the feeling that a new Seattle is taking shape—a richer, younger, denser, faster city that may loom larger in the world of commerce and culture than the old one. It is a Seattle re-engineered by billionaires, especially Jeff Bezos and Paul Allen.

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