Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sociological Images on American Working Hours

"     On average, U.S. workers with jobs put in more hours per year  than workers in most OECD countries. In 2012, only Greece, Hungary, Israel, Korea, and Turkey recorded a longer work year per employed person.

       A long work year is nothing to celebrate. The following chart, from the same Economist article, shows there is a strong negative correlation between yearly hours worked and hourly productivity. "
 Full article here

When you factor in the opportunity costs of time spent working, such as forgone unpaid work and social capital accumulation, the picture is probably even worse.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Al-Jazeera Article on Renewable Energy Investment

The results of the report should give governments the confidence to embark on plans to cut emissions by investing in renewables before the 2015 climate change conference in Paris, Steiner said...
The renewable market and cost reductions are out-pacing the impacts from reduced investments and government support, Nathanael Greene, director of the National Resource Defense Council's renewables program, told Al Jazeera. 

So from the sounds of it, renewable electricity generation may finally be becoming competitive with fossil fuels. It would be all well and good to see a big push of public sector support for renewable right now, which is what the National Resource Defense Council seems to be pushing for. What would be just as good though is if renewables are able to maintain their expansion without such an outpouring of public money. Aside from the fact that that would save tax payers money and be easier to manage politically, it would set renewable energy capacity on a stronger  base independant from the ephemeral support of strained government budgets. It seems like this is where the technology is taking it anyway, but if renewables are proving themselves able to grow even as public support withers, might that be the trajectory we want to maintain?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Emergent Economics on "Poverty Porn"

Full post here

"Ogling the dispossessed misrepresents poverty, says Emily. Poverty isn’t just an individual experience that can be reduced to an image — it’s rooted in social and economic conditions. Poverty porn makes it seem like you can sort out deprivation with handouts when it’s really part of a complex set of circumstances including the behaviour of rich-world consumers and producers. Charity isn’t enough; a change to the system which creates poverty is essential."

 To its credit, the post later acknowledges that 'poverty porn' is often effective at raising money for efforts to ameliorate poverty. It is fair enough for someone to question whether or not the money raised is worth the resulting misconceptions. I think what is important, is to explore other ways of fundraising that do a better job representing the people the money is meant to help. Maybe such methods are too unprofitable, and so the misconceptions are just something we have to tolerate, but I have not really seen much experimentation with anything besides 'poverty porn', so how can we know.