God Won’t Repay Your IOUs

Big Data can give us insight into a surprising number of things - including the claims of religious apologists. To wit, take this story that I saw in New York magazine.Three economists conducted a study based on data from Prosper, a peer-to-peer lending site that connects people who want to borrow money with those who have money to lend out. The question they wanted to answer was whether anything in the language of a borrower's loan application predicts whether they'll pay back the money … [Read more...]

Do Right-Wing Christians Want People to Be Destitute?

This article was originally published on AlterNet in 2014.The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is now in its fourth year, and the numbers point to a solid success. Thanks to Obamacare, millions of people can afford health insurance for the first time, and millions more still have health insurance because now they can't be dropped by their insurance company for getting sick. The once-astronomical growth of costs has slowed substantially, and in some markets is even … [Read more...]

The Fountainhead: Market Forces

The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 3In last week's post, we met Guy Francon, who was once a famous architect but now spends all his time drinking and gorging himself at fancy dinners. Here's how he made his reputation:The Frink National Bank Building displayed the entire history of Roman art in well-chosen specimens; for a long time it had been considered the best building of the city, because no other structure could boast a single Classical item which it did not possess. It offered so … [Read more...]

Can Basic Income End Poverty?

Last year, in "The Post-Work Society", I wrote about whether a universal basic income would be a feasible option in a society where there aren't enough jobs for everyone.I was skeptical that this wouldn't lead to a tragedy-of-the-commons problem - that the people who get the money would drop out of the workforce and leave everyone else to pick up the slack. But a test run in Kenya, at least so far, is offering evidence to the contrary.The program is being run by the nonprofit … [Read more...]

The Fountainhead: McMansion Hell

The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 3Peter Keating shows up for his first day of work at Francon & Heyer, the prestigious New York architectural firm. At first he's impressed by the well-dressed people and the lavish office (its walls decorated with "etchings of Greek temples", naturally - damn those evil Greeks).When he sits down at a drafting table, he fears the plans he's been given to work on are "someone's tremendous achievement which he could neither question nor equal". But he soon … [Read more...]

Getting Off the Carousel of Consumerism

As holidays go, I've always liked Thanksgiving better than Christmas. It's not because one is a secular holiday and one is religious - really, both are secular holidays that have been layered over with religious propaganda - but because, of the two, Thanksgiving has only things I enjoy. It's all about togetherness, gratitude, and great food. I'm up for those things any day. Christmas has those too, but it has one other aspect I dislike: the expectation to buy things.I hate shopping, I always … [Read more...]

We’re All In This Together: A Humanist Sermon

Certain recent events in my life have made me think about how human beings depend on each other. However privileged or fortunate you are, you're all but certain to eventually face a challenge you can't overcome alone and need other people's help to pull you through. And I don't just mean in a disaster or a crisis, but for everyday, ordinary things, the kind of situations that most of us can expect to encounter in the course of life.Having children is the perfect example, because it's such a … [Read more...]

Why We Have to Pay for Media

I think it's a good moral principle not to be a free-rider. I want to pay my fair share of upkeep for whatever I use. If you agree, then this John Oliver segment on the decline of print news is essential:This is something I've been concerned about for a long time. It's no accident that freedom of the press is written into the First Amendment, making it as foundational as freedom of speech or religion. But that vitally important right is empty if there's no one to exercise it. And in the … [Read more...]

Why We Shouldn’t Want Manufacturing Jobs Back

The words "Rust Belt" evoke a vanished age of American greatness.Cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit, once mighty economic powerhouses, now have a reputation for dwindling and decline. Their factories have closed; their populations are aged and shrunken; their civic architecture has fallen into desolation and decay, spawning the genre of "ruin porn". And the resentment and despair of rootless former blue-collar workers is a central issue in the presidential race.This story resonates … [Read more...]

Are the Olympics Worth It?

I rarely watch sports, but I make an exception for the Olympics. I can't deny that it's thrilling to see the world's top athletes in one place, showing off the greatest feats of strength, speed and grace that human beings are capable of. And I still believe the international cooperation that makes the games possible is a triumph of diplomacy and a good sign for human civilization.But it's getting harder and harder to ignore the problems threatening to overshadow the competition. Every … [Read more...]