Will Meditation Destroy Business?

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Robin’s Book Report #37
A culture and economics reading list by Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein

Happy July, everyone. I wrote two articles last week for other publications, one about a Jamaican restaurant in Park Slope and one about painter Patrick Brennan. Follow me on Twitter to stay up with what I am doing. Also, please let me know what you have been reading or watching on TV by responding to this email!

In this issue:

  • Is it okay to eat roadkill?
  • Why don’t executives get prosecuted for financial crimes?
  • Is meditation bad for business?
  • Is the “gig economy” not interesting?
Book report

-“Travels in Georgia” by John McPhee

1973 Profile of biologist/ecologist Carol Ruckdeschel. McPhee travels around Georgia with his subject and joins her in eating fresh roadkill. They eat muskrat, snake, raccoon, opossum etc. Another thing I learned: opossums are one of the oldest animals because they are adaptable and will eat anything, just like humans.

-“Who was Milton Friedman?” By Paul Krugman (The New York Review of Books)

A brilliant, measured economist; a deranged public intellectual.

-“Hills of Zion” by H.L. Mencken

H.L. Mencken rarely left his hometown of Baltimore. But, on the occasion of the Scopes Monkey trial, he ventured out in the “Bible Belt” (a term he coined), a region he spent much of his life loathing but never visiting. This narrative has little to do with the trial. It reads like a Southern fever-dream.

The Chickenshit Club: Why The Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives by Jesse Eisinger

Eisinger claims that settlement culture ruins our justice system. Strangely, settlements validate their critics on both sides: corporations can say they’re attacked, and the public sees big business paying off the government.

-”The Hardest Job in the World” by John Dickerson (The Atlantic)

Is the presidency just a clustefuck of a job?

-”The Death Of A Once Great City: The Fall of New York and the Urban Crisis of Affluence” by Kevin Baker (Harper)

Stupid article. The author has a problem with a couple of things about New York: the empty storefronts in his neighborhood, chain banks, the tax breaks for the wealthy, the loss of mom-and-pop stores. He’s right that this stuff exists but the problem is that the affordability issue was better addressed in  Michael Greenberg’s article in the New York Review of Books (Baker refers to this piece multiple times).

What seems to be at odds is that the New York City that Baker moved in to, in the 1970s, doesn’t exist anymore. Well, that’s true. But it is categorically true (i.e. things always change). It’s not worth Harper’s paper and ink. What I feel most annoyed by is that I love living in New York and don’t want to be told by some old guy that it is a city in decline, when I know it isn’t.

The other problem is that housing isn’t affordable anywhere, according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. New York may be having a crisis of affluence, but it isn’t just New York City’s crisis of affluence, but all American cities. Any city that has rampant luxury condominiums is likely suffering.

-”Staying the Invisible Hand” by Jeff Madrick (New York Review of Books)

Is free trade really that necessary for developing countries? The author says: “There is nothing in the historical record to suggest developing countries need low or zero barriers to advanced economies in order to benefit greatly from globalization.” I think free trade is a myth

Hey Boss, You Don’t Want Your Employees to Meditate” by Kathleen D. Vohs and Andrew C. Hafenbrack (New York Times)

A bunch of joy-killing researchers at the University of Minnesota Carson School of Management have found that employees that meditate at work are less motivated. The danger in meditation is that it causes you to be happy with your life and work as it is, instead of pushing for an unknown future. This makes you wonder, if meditation makes your job seem pointless, maybe your job is bullshit?

In this same section of the newspaper was a profile of the CEO of Salesforce who has his employees meditate. A little bit of information dissonance?

Maybe the Gig Economy Isn’t Reshaping Work After All” By Ben Casselman (New York Times

The so-called “gig economy” accounts for under 10% of the economy; most employees still on W2. I am starting to think the gig economy is a bright shiny object that had captured our imagination, but isn’t an economically significant trend/issue.

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