The United States is facing an opioid and heroin epidemic that is killing and harming record numbers of people; more people died of overdoses in 2014 than in any other year on record.
One of the latest and most troubling images of this problem was a widely circulated photo of a couple passed out in their car with their four year old left watching from the back city. The City of East Liverpool, Ohio saw fit to share the photo on its Facebook profile to “show the other side of this horrible drug”. Continue reading →
One of the most insidious and terrorizing elements of racism and white supremacy in the United States was lynching, broadly defined as an extrajudicial public execution carried out by a mob against an alleged criminal or transgressor. In most cases, the intention was not simply to mete out supposed justice in place of a court of law — not that the legal system in much of the South was any fairer or more impartial — but to enforce social control against particular groups, especially African Americans.
Montgomery, Alabama, which was the center of some of the worst racist atrocities and policies, will soon host one of the nation’s first and largest memorials to lynching, immortalizing the thousands of victims of racially motivated lynchings. (Appropriately, it will sit on the highest spot in the city, which was once the first capital of the Confederacy.)
According to a 2015 paper by American political scientist Larry Bartels of Vanderbilt University, the gap between the rich and poor — and the subsequent unresponsiveness of government to the needs of the majority — is not just a feature of United States, as a multitude of studies have revealed. The struggle between the haves and have nots seems inextricably tied to our species, varying only be degree.
For example, in almost every nation Bartels studied, the wealthy were generally and categorically opposed to social spending, even during bad economic times. Continue reading →
Over at Everyday Feminism, Sara Whitestone wrote an excellent piece addressing how best to respond to panhandling, a sadly common experience in our daily lives that is usually met with indifference, discomfort, and sometimes even hostility.
For those seeking a more constructive and compassionate approach to panhandlers, the article is well worth reading in full. I personally found the following bit of advice to be especially worth highlighting, not least because it echos some of my own sentiments over the years: Continue reading →
One of the most alluring things about the Star Trek series is its vision of a near-Utopian world, where peace, social justice, and economic prosperity exist for all humanity (and other enlightened species).
Underpinning this success is replicator technology, in which anything anyone could ever want can be made for free, completely eliminating the need for money and, with it, socioeconomic inequality and poverty.
This unusual concept is explored in the book “Trekonomics“, by Manu Saadia, which examines the implications and feasibility of Star Trek’s “post-scarcity” economy. The New York Times covered some of the book’s key talking points. Continue reading →
Despite its reputation for offering unmatched upward mobility and opportunity, the United States is still a difficult place for people on the lowest rungs of society to climb to prosperity. So concludes some recent research reported in the Washington Postthat found even the most resolute and intelligent among the poor have a difficult time getting ahead.
[In] large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on “enrichment activities” for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents.
But, of course, it’s not just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s also a matter of letters and words. Affluent parents talk to their kids three more hours a weekon average than poor parents, which is critical during a child’s formative early years. That’s why, as Stanford professor Sean Reardon explains, “rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students,” and they’re staying that way.
Poverty makes it difficult for parents to spend quality time with children, let alone afford the various extracurricular activities that enhance a child’s aptitude for learning and good behavior earlier on. Even middle class families find it increasingly hard to raise a child optimally, especially as most households require at least two incomes to stay afloat, and ever longer workings hours. Continue reading →
Following my recent post about the merits and applicability of the Nordic Model, I figured I would continue with a more in-depth analysis of the Nordic country that can perhaps be considered the most exemplary: Norway, which has consistently been ranked as the best country in the world in overall human development and prosperity.
Needless to say, a nation with as many plaudits and positive outcomes as Norway deserves some measure of scrutiny. What accounts for the country’s unprecedented success in just about every area of human flourishing, from economic wealth and security to civil liberties and health? How did a country that was once among the poorest in the world rise to the upper echelons of social, economic, and political achievement?
American writer Ann Jones spent four years living in this seemingly idyllic country, and recounts her experiences — and why Norway has succeeded where the U.S. has failed — in an article in TomDispatch, later reproduced for BillMoyers.com. She found that enjoyed short working hours, ample time for family and leisure, an accommodating pace of life, and an overall sense of safety and satisfaction.
Most importantly, Norwegians, like the rest of their Nordic neighbors, take a pragmatic approach to government, supporting policies across the political spectrum based simply on whether they work for the majority of people at minimal cost. Continue reading →
The Nordic countries — Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland — are some of the most successful, and subsequently admired, nations in the world. They often rank high, if not highest, in just about every metric of prosperity, including life expectancy, gender equality, political stability, civil liberties, and economic competitiveness.
These achievements in human development are attributed to the so-called Nordic Model, which combines the competitive, dynamic, and business-friendly economy of a capitalist market with the stability and safety net of the state — in short, the best of both worlds.
But as the Finnish-born Anu Partanen writes in The Atlantic, there is much about this vaunted approach to governance that is misunderstood by Americans across the political spectrum. Continue reading →
While law enforcement of some form or another is as old as humanity, the use of an organized, permanent police for to maintain order emerged only around two centuries ago. This, along with mounting scrutiny and debate regarding the effectiveness of the law enforcement system, has led some, like Rolling Stone’s José Martín, to question whether police are even necessary.
It seems like a rash, if not unthinkable, claim; police are taken for granted in just about every place where stability and rule of law exist. It is an institution most people consider to be a given in civilized society, let alone something whose existence should be questioned. What would be the alternative?
Well, Martín lays out at least six of them, all of which have been proven effective, or at least feasible, to some degree. Continue reading →
All too often, the world’s poorest denizens are dealt the added blow of being invisible to their wealthier neighbors, governments, and even many of the humanitarian groups keen on helping them. Furthering worsening the plight of the poor, according to Claire Melamed of Aeon, is the shocking lack of information about what they think, feel, and experience everyday. Without these data, it is more difficult to connect to the human side of poverty, let alone to devise evidence-based solutions to alleviating it.
The World Bank recently did a brave and very revealing piece of research. They asked their own staff to what extent they imagined poorer and richer people in three countries would agree with the statement: ‘What happens to me in the future mostly depends on me’. Bank staff predicted that around 20 per cent of poor people would agree with the statement.
In fact, more than 80 per cent of poor people felt that what happened to them in the future depended on their own efforts – four times as many as the World Bank staff had predicted, and about the same proportion as richer people. It’s worth letting that sink in. Here we have staff in one of the most powerful development agencies in the world, freely assuming that the people whom they are employed to work with, and for, feel passive and helpless when in fact the opposite is the case.
If more people — from the average citizen to policy makers and development agencies — knew exactly what poor people believed and how they behaved, a lot more progress could be made towards eliminating this scourge once and for all. Continue reading →