Women’s Equality Day

The long list of calls settled itself into the monotone of routine.  “Hi, my name is Erik, and I’m calling for Jim Scheibel, your DFL candidate for Mayor of Saint Paul.”  The 1989 election was going to be close, so Get Out The Vote (GOTV) calling to loyal Democrats was important.  But just as I let the script propel my calls with their own momentum the soft gravely tone on the other end split the evening open.

“Oh, dear, you don’t have to remind me to vote.  I’ve been voting ever since they let us.”

We’ve been “letting” women vote for 95 years, ever since Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment on August 26th, 1920 by just one vote.  The anniversary of this landmark event, “Women’s Equality Day”, is a good time to reflect on how young and precarious this precious foundation of democracy is for half the population.
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People, not a Machine

You have a goal – lose weight, turn your life around, climb Mt Everest – and you want to be sure to stick with it. What’s the best way to get you to make your goal? According to stickK.com a pledge to a charity or a friend if you fail to achieve it is a powerful motivator. That’s what you do at this site and their results are amazing.

The reason? Fear of loss motivates far more than a possibility of gaining.

It’s not exactly rational, but it’s human behavior. Understanding behavior and what drives people to do what they do is called “Behavioral Economics”. It differs from classic economics in that it never presumes people are always rational and always seeking to maximize profit. We have other things that drive us personally and socially – happiness, fear, morality, and shame among them.

And an understanding of behavioral economics is just what’s often missing in business and public policy.

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Post-Capitalist, Pre-(Something?)

Are you ready for a Post Capitalist world? Paul Mason, an economist and columnist for the Guardian, has outlined what that might mean in his book Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future. The premise of this provocative subject is simply that information technology has a tendency to commoditize everything in our lives and ultimately push the value to zero, rendering concepts of money and markets as we understand them today utterly useless.

No one actually lives in a post-anything world, so the question becomes less about capitalism and more about what might come afterward. Financial writers, far from dismissal of the potential downfall of their trade, are actually quite excited by the concept of a new world where the old rules do not apply. The traditional left, steeped in a quasi-Marxist dialectic, are far more unsure.

That’s what makes this concept exciting.

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Growth is … ?

“Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”
– Kenneth Boulding

The figure for growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for the second quarter came in, and it wasn’t bad – 2.3%, and the revision to the first quarter was a positive if sluggish 0.6%. Like so many economic figures it’s not great but it’s also not bad. We’re still muddling through this year hoping to make it through to better times ahead.

But will there be better times? The Federal Reserve accidentally posted on its website, briefly, some internal estimates from their own economists that show that where 2015 and 2016 won’t be too bad, with growth in the 2.3-2.4% range, it may taper off after that. But can we expect better? Should we, for that matter, expect more growth from the economy?

Or is one of the big changes in this new economy a much lower growth rate than we are used to?

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Fight for $15

The fight for a $15 per hour minimum wage is the hottest issue among progressive Democrats today. There has been a lot of progress as cities including Seattle and Los Angeles have passed this as their minimum wage, as has the entire state of New York (but only for “fast food” workers, strangely). It would be a big hike from today’s $7.25 per hour, a 106% increase that swamps any previous jump. President Obama, and many Democrats, favor a smaller $12 per hour rate as something of a compromise.

But where did these numbers come from? Why are they important? What effects would a minimum wage rise have on the economy? It’s worth spending some time looking at the postwar history of the minimum wage, from 1947 to 2015, to see where we are today and what it means.

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Fight it with Funny

Is it just me, or are there a lot of protest rallies these days? Certainly the South has lit up with marches and displays of the Rebel Flag now that the Palmetto State has taken it down from the Statehouse. There seems to always be something going on somewhere and some of them are from groups or people pushing something that others may find offensive.

What to do about it? The one thing you can’t do is let ‘em get to you – the moment you are offended and act out in a way you might not otherwise is the moment they gain power over you. The key is to laugh, to deflate the moment and dissolve the tension in a roaring guffaw.

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