The Bright Side of Dark Times

  Politics in America seems to be going off the rails. Therefore, I thought it wise to pause and try to look at the bright side, if there is one (and it turns out there several). I wanted to imagine how, even if the conflagration comes, we might simply roast some marshmallows and enjoy the warmth of a new beginning. Now I’m not trying to cheer on the end, by any means. Quite the opposite. What I’ll try to illustrate is that whatever… Read more

The Useless People

The useless people in our society are not the poor or the unemployed. Most economic theories and capitalism in particular have taken great pains to account for those who should be working, but aren’t; and such theories have, in their greatness, adjusted themselves for such variables—taking them into account. No, the useless people in our system are of three types: women, children, and the elderly. These are the people whom terms like “productivity” and “full employment” cannot account for—cannot plan for—and therefore… Read more

Now that’s more like it…

All over the United States, poverty and homelessness have been and are being criminalized (as if that makes it stop! Bad Poverty! No biscuit!)  I’m not sure where folks think a family sleeping in a tent are going to go if you kick them out of their tent in the middle of winter. But this is interesting. Apparently Portland, Oregon’s Mayor Hales has made it legal to sleep on the sidewalk in Portland between 9pm and 7am.  And now Willamette… Read more

Two Roads to Gigantism

Gigantism is a condition characterized by excessive growth. In the human body, it is caused by a pituitary gland that doesn’t understand the concept of moderation. In a human society, it is caused by a social philosophy that suffers from the same conceptual ignorance. We have it, and we have it badly. For evidence, we need look no further than the political rhetoric, from either team, which revolves almost entirely around the necessity of growth. Growth (more production and consumption)… Read more

Gar Alperovitz on the Next System (Interview)

Gar Alperovitz, a founding principal of the Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland, is a chaired professor there. He has also been a Fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics and of King’s College, Cambridge. His most recent book is America Beyond Capitalism, and his most recent is What Then Must We Do?, published by Chelsea Green. He is currently serving as co-chair of the Next System Project. To begin with, tell us about the Democracy Collaborative’s focus on community wealth-building. How can that be… Read more

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year!

This started out as a post on the joy of receiving seed catalogues in deep winter, but didn’t get very far. Here’s the tl;dw version- If you don’t already have your seeds, go here, buy them immediately, and get going. It’s time already. Now the thing that kept pulling me away is the other season we’ve all come to know and love: Primary Season, and it’s heating up too. While I find the American political process fascinating to watch unfold,… Read more

C.S. Lewis and the Prostitution of Work

Apropos of my previous outburst on the nature of contemporary work, it seems some clarification is called for regarding what exactly I consider “good work,” as opposed to the bad kind, against which my earlier piece was clearly an assassination attempt. A proper explanation can’t be done in one post, but it can at least be initiated, and some points dealt with. So for starters, I’d like to quote C.S. Lewis (excessively) from his essay “Good Work and Good Works,”… Read more

Into the Desert

“Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.” (Isaiah 43:18,19) A good friend of mine, Matt Talbot, once wrote of the desert, “The austere and naked land reminds me … of my own impermanence and ultimate vulnerability. Abundance too often leads to confused priorities and muddles my perceptions… Read more

Ivan Illich Never Fails Me

Ivan Illich is a writer I frequently return to, not only for information and argument, but just for entertainment. Where else can I find a book of research on modern medicine, riddled with statistic and references, that calls doctors “rash artery-plumbers?”[1] And it is a rare spirit who can sardonically refer to his own cancerous tumor as “my mortality.” At any rate, the book I picked up this week was Deschooling Society. I was drawn to it because I wanted some… Read more

Bankers in Hell

In 2009 I was working on a project in Chicago which put me in contact with an investment banker, an amiable chap who, as it happened, had left Lehman Brothers in New York for a Chicago job just before the New York firm’s collapse the previous year. I waited until we had a casual moment together and then asked him what he thought of the fate of his old firm in New York. “Here’s when I got a sense for… Read more

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