There Are No Technical Solutions To Political Problems

Robin’s Book Report #66
A reading list by Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein
Agenda
-new articles
-reading list


 
New article alert

I have three recent articles for you this week. The first is a review of a book about the San Quentin News, a media operation run out of California’s San Quentin Prison. The book is written by the veteran journalist Bill Drummond, who was one of the founding editors of NPR’s Morning Edition. Drummond advises the newspaper at San Quentin, and in his recollection of his experience there, I found a story about how the media contributed to the rise of mass incarceration by broadcasting the most grisly and depraved events from our inner cities in the 1980s and 1990s. But Prison Truth makes the argument that the media can contribute to the decline of mass incarceration.  

I also wrote for the Baffler about the financial literacy programs on college campuses. The thrust of these programs is that borrowers should do everything they can to pay back their loans (bring your lunch to work!). It’s eerily obvious advice, and should make you wonder why this advice is suddenly so necessary. How did anyone ever get by without the financial literacy initiatives that started in the 1980s? Is the advice necessary because a bunch of irresponsible borrowers took out student loans? It’s not. It is because the cost of college has risen to such a high level that almost no one can afford it without enormous loans. Expecting every college-bound student to read and understand the entirety of their loan documentation is, simply, crazy. And the idea that anyone will be able to pay off their loans by being thrifty is also crazy.   

Lastly, in my first article for The Nation, I wrote about why banks act so badly. The article is called Essentially, I wrote about why being Too Big To Fail is extortion, why it happens, and what we might do about it. (hint: nationalize!)

  Also:   My union and I were also featured on NewYorker.com. Check it out!
Reading list

  Come and See dir. Elem Klimov

I saw this harrowing movie, about the terrifying Nazi campaign through Belarus in 1943, last weekend. (Webster’s defines ‘harrowing’ as “acutely distressing” which is quite accurate.) Tremendously effective as an anti-war movie.  

SoftBank Is Funding Every Side of a Bruising Startup BattleMoney from the Japanese tech investor is fueling a price war in Latin America between three of its own: Uber, Didi and Rappi
By Robbie Whelan and Eliot Brown (Wall Street Journal)  

Softbank, the Japanese international conglomerate and private equity fund, is starting to look like a global monopoly super-power. The profits flow in one direction.  

It’s Still Not the Supply SideYes, workers should be able to move and work freely. But economics remains fundamentally about power.  By Mike Konczal and Marshall Steinbaum (Democracy Journal)   Choice quote, with my bolding: “The bottom line here is this: There are no technological solutions to political problems, and the power of the financial sector is a political one. Even if FinTech shakes up consumer lending, it will do little for the way finance exerts power over the rest of the economy.”  

Where’s the Savior?” by Patrick Blanchfield (n+1)                    
 Already irrelevant but still a hilarious article about Bloomberg’s failings and Freud’s least funny book.   

Oxford and Cambridge are the world’s foremost producers of bullshitYou can’t understand Oxbridge or, to an extent, Britain, without understanding this. by Maya Kaiser (The Outline)  

What do Boris Johnson and Caroline Calloway have in common? The antiquarian schools of England.                          

Freelancers resist precarity by sharing rates and organizing”           

For many workers, openness about pay has helped to make conditions more equitable. Still, they fear retribution. By Elizabeth King (Columbia Journalism Review)  

I work as a freelancer in two different fields and I have found that one of the problems is that no one knows what anyone else is making. This tends to keep rates low because we are often unsure whether we should ask for more money. But once I have found ut that others make more, it’s been easy to ask for a higher rate. Ignorance keeps rates low, and for atomized workers like freelancers, who are also working without worker protections, the rate needs to be as high as possible. Sharing rates is incredibly important for a functioning freelance economy, or at least a freelance economy that isn’t set up to exploit workers. Thanks for reading!

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