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Michael Sandel: Why we shouldn't trust markets with our civic life

Michael Sandel: Why we shouldn't trust markets with our civic life
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Those People There’s a food drive happening at the school where I work. Several bins have been set up throughout the hallways, with cute kid-decorated signs that implore us to SCARE HUNGER and donate non-perishables for the local food shelf. As I am wont to do, I look at the food as I walk by. Why? Because I like food. Dang. Like I was doing earlier this week. As she was saying this, another woman happened by. “Too bad they won’t know what to do with most of it.” It was one of those moments in life, when your ears hear something but your brain can’t quite process it. I spoke up, while she was still within earshot. The woman stopped. “Those people won’t know what most of that is. Yep. Those people. The last time I got groceries at our local food shelf was this past February. I can still remember the first time I visited the food shelf. Once you get past the hardest part, which is walking through the door, being at the food shelf isn’t so bad. I wanted to say that, but I didn’t. “I like quinoa.”

6 Ways Money Really Can Buy Happiness | A fundamental aspect of financial planning is to help clients achieve their goals... yet the unfortunate reality is that some clients have difficulty even identifying productive goals in the first place. And for some, even upon achieving their goals, they find the outcome unsatisfying, resulting in a new, greater goal of "more" in a never-ending cycle. To say the least, many clients find that setting and achieving their goals does not result in the happiness they anticipated. While many financial planners question whether it's appropriate for an advisor to "tell their clients how to spend their own money" the research suggests that some financial planner wisdom could go a long way in helping clients to really derive a bit more happiness from their money. (Editor's Note: This post was written by guest blogger Ronald Sier, a financial planner from the Netherlands. Some things are so common, that you think it’s true without even thinking it might not be. Here’s one experiment. Why?

TED talks are lying to you The writer had a problem. Books he read and people he knew had been warning him that the nation and maybe mankind itself had wandered into a sort of creativity doldrums. Economic growth was slackening. The Internet revolution was less awesome than we had anticipated, and the forward march of innovation, once a cultural constant, had slowed to a crawl. And yet the troubled writer also knew that there had been, over these same years, fantastic growth in our creativity promoting sector. The literature on the subject was vast. It was to one of these last that our puzzled correspondent now decided to turn. Anecdote after heroic anecdote unfolded, many of them beginning with some variation on Lehrer’s very first phrase: “Procter and Gamble had a problem.” And that’s when it hit him: He had heard these things before. Had our correspondent developed the gift of foresight? These realizations took only a millisecond. That was the ultimate lesson. And why was this worth noticing? No.

The Plastic Safety Net: 2012 The conventional wisdom says that American households are deleveraging – after years of living beyond our means, Americans are finally paying down debt and getting our financial house in order. But as Demos’ 2012 National Survey on Credit Card Debt of Low-and Middle-Income Households reveals, that’s only part of the story. In February and March 2012 Demos surveyed a nationally representative sample of 997 low- and middle-income American households who carried credit card debt for three months or more. The research builds on our previous surveys in 2005 and 2008, providing a picture of how the recession, its aftermath, and the passage of major new consumer credit card protections have impacted the financial lives of American households. Among Low- And Middle-Income Households Carrying Credit Card Debt Average credit card debt has declined, but many households still rely on credit cards to pay basic living expenses.

15 Fascinating TED Talks for Econ Geeks - If you dream of a career in accounting, economics or finance, there’s a pretty good chance you love learning more about the global economy, monetary decision-making and other fiscal topics. Through these talks, you’ll get to hear some of the world’s foremost experts on behavior, economics, and politics discuss a wide range of issues, from inequality to consumerism– often with an interesting and unique take on the subject matter that’s perfect for stimulating your inner (and not-so-inner) geek. Loretta Napoleoni: The intricate economics of terrorism: You might be surprised at the economic and political issues that go on behind terrorist organizations.

The Mental Burden of a Lower-Class Background For the last week of December, we’re re-posting some of our favorite posts from 2011. Originally cross-posted at Jezebel and Owni. A few years ago my mom took a short-term nursing job at a hospital in the Sacramento area. This was a huge deal for her. She had never been to California, hadn’t lived outside of our rural area of Oklahoma since she divorced my dad when I was a baby, and had never worked at a “big city” hospital. And then, a few days before she was set to leave, she called me. Of course they did, and were. I lied to her. I thought of that experience when I saw this postcard from Post Secret: I’ve built up a lot more cultural capital than my mom, going to grad school and being socialized into the norms of academia.

The transparent avatar in your brain: Thomas Metzinger at TEDxBarcelona LENIN'S TOMB Opinion: The most unequal place in America East Carroll Parish, Louisiana, has the nation's highest level of income inequalityThe parish is more economically split than any other parish or county, Census Bureau saysJohn Sutter: The community should try to mend its divisions to move forwardHe says the real problem with income inequality is that it creates gaps in empathy Editor's note: John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion and head of CNN's Change the List project. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Lake Providence, Louisiana (CNN) -- Delores Gilmore used to have a dream. The 44-year-old overnight prison guard grew up on the south side of Lake Providence, the crescent moon-shaped body of water that generally divides the haves from have-nots here in the northeast corner of Louisiana. It's not a place where dreams live long. Not south of the lake, at least. North of Lake Providence, on a side of town Gilmore rarely sees, there are tennis courts and ski boats, swimming pools and manicured estates. John D. "DEAD!"

A New Workplace Manifesto: In Praise Of Freedom, Time, Space, And Working Remotely The conventional idea of luxury is the antithesis of work. Sure, the gilded few are awarded trinkets to soothe their working experience, perhaps with a swanky corner office, a plush company-provided Lexus or--if they're wearing a T-shirt rather than a suit to work--with free gourmet lunches and ping-pong tables. (Or not, as the case may be.) But even for those with the grandest of paychecks and superfluous perks, work is still in direct opposition to luxury. The vast majority of workers across the world still commute in some form. It's not exactly news that long commutes are brutal, but the science behind just how brutal is mounting, and it all points to the same conclusion: Commuting is a recipe for misery, associated with an increased risk for obesity, insomnia, stress, neck and back pain, high blood pressure and other stress-related ills like heart attacks and depression, and even divorce. Of course, that seems like the antithesis of luxury! The fact is that most people like to work.

A Friendly Chat With a Rich Person (Household Income: $360,000) Mike: Why don’t you start by introducing yourself? Rich Person: I am 31, and my husband is 33. We have been married for three and a half years. I am a statistician and I work for a hospital in the research department. He has an MBA in finance and works for a bank. Mike: Your husband? Rich Person: Indeed. Mike: Can you tell us what your household income is? Rich Person: Yeah, so this year we’re going to make about $360,000 total. Mike: And you consider yourself “rich”, yes? Rich Person: Absolutely, although it feels really weird to say that, and I have a lot of guilt about it. Mike: Oh, interesting. Rich Person: Probably because neither of us grew up with any money at all. We had everything we needed, but rarely what we wanted, if that makes sense. Mike: Where did you and your husband go to college? Rich Person: We both went to public state schools near our homes (we grew up in different cities). Mike: But your husband also knew he’d be pursuing a high-paid career too, right? Rich Person: Yup.

This transatlantic trade deal is a full-frontal assault on democracy | George Monbiot Remember that referendum about whether we should create a single market with the United States? You know, the one that asked whether corporations should have the power to strike down our laws? No, I don't either. Mind you, I spent 10 minutes looking for my watch the other day before I realised I was wearing it. The purpose of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is to remove the regulatory differences between the US and European nations. The mechanism through which this is achieved is known as investor-state dispute settlement. The Australian government, after massive debates in and out of parliament, decided that cigarettes should be sold in plain packets, marked only with shocking health warnings. During its financial crisis, and in response to public anger over rocketing charges, Argentina imposed a freeze on people's energy and water bills (does this sound familiar?). You don't believe it? There are no corresponding rights for citizens.

The death of the middle class will undermine our democracy | Suzanne Moore A while back we heard a lot about the "squeezed middle", the decent, hardworking people who were having to tighten their belts or expand them according to the price of spelt. No more long breaks at Easter. More Lidl, less Ocado. Less discussion of house prices, more of the cost of education, all of this underpinned by a niggling anxiety about longterm employment. Sure, zero hours and freelance life is great for young "creatives". Less good if you have children, ever get ill, or (and this may come as a blow) you are not actually a "creative" but a worker. Workers should be able to save but are finding it impossible. A sign of its distress is surely seeing Marx quoted in everything from the Daily Mail to the Spectator, publications not adverse to class war themselves. The diminishing middle class is not only a British phenomenon. The same shifts have happened here alongside the same confusion about what class "is" (46% of Americans believe themselves to be middle class).

Hyperemployment, or the Exhausting Work of the Technology User - Ian Bogost In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes famously argued that by the time a century had passed, developed societies would be able to replace work with leisure thanks to widespread wealth and surplus. “We shall do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich to-day,” he wrote, “only too glad to have small duties and tasks and routines.” Eighty years hence, it’s hard to find a moment in the day not filled with a duty or task or routine. Take email. Now, email is a pot constantly boiling over. If you’re like many people, you’ve started using your smartphone as an alarm clock. Email and online services have provided a way for employees to outsource work to one another. No matter what job you have, you probably have countless other jobs as well. And email has become the circulatory system along which internal outsourcing flows. The despair of email has long left the workplace. Increasingly, online life in general feels like this. Today, everyone’s a hustler.