Empire of things
Posted September 22, 2016
Frank Trentmann outlines the history of consumption and its resonance today.
Denunciations of modern consumer culture have become a staple of the modern environmental movement, the product of an insatiable and corrupting need for more that is driving the planet beyond its limits. On the other side lies the neoliberal view that individual choice is an inherent good that’s driving economic growth. It’s a simplistic summary, but a useful one nonetheless.
Into this debate wades historian Frank Trentmann. His latest book, Empire of Things, is an exhaustive attempt to catalogue the global advance of goods over the past six centuries. In following cultures of consumption around the world, he complicates common misconceptions that consumerism is a modern, western export imposed upon the world. He argues that in West African societies, for example, there were distinct and pre-existing consumer cultures. Another underlying narrative consistently emphasizes the importance of broader factors beyond individual choice, such as consumption patterns influenced by company towns and work camps or government action.Continue Reading...
Blowing hot air
Posted June 16, 2016
Clean energy's Trump card
Posted March 30, 2016
Tax avoidance and corporate social responsibility
The last several years have seen a parade of increasingly cringe-worthy explanations from various multinational corporations seeking to justify their complicated tax avoidance schemes.
When pressed about Apple’s sophisticated offshore tax avoidance regime on CBS’s 60 Minutes last December, CEO Tim Cook dismissed the accusations as “total political crap. There is no truth behind it. Apple pays every tax dollar we owe.” At a hearing in front of a British parliamentary committee this past February, Google tax chief Tom Hutchinson asserted that the company wasn’t unfairly gaming the system. “We are paying the right amount,” he said.Continue Reading...
The simplest way to tackle poverty
Posted March 16, 2016
Proposals for a guaranteed minimum income have been gaining momentum over the past few years. What's all the fuss about?
There was a brief moment in time when both the Republican and Democratic nominees for the U.S. presidency supported a guaranteed minimum income (GMI).
Economists and politicians from across the political spectrum had begun to warm to the idea in the 1960s as a poverty reduction measure – from Nobel laureate and free-market evangelist Milton Friedman to left-leaning economists like John Kenneth Galbraith. A petition in the spring of 1968 calling for its adoption was signed by over 1,000 economists, bolstering similar conclusions from multiple presidential and state commissions.Continue Reading...
Following the Oregon trail
Posted March 1, 2016
Adjusting minimum wage based on population density
The push to increase minimum wages in the U.S. has picked up steam since the financial crisis, spurred on by mounting public pressure to combat income inequality. President Barack Obama has become a vocal advocate for boosting the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, while Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders support increases to $12 and $15, respectively.Continue Reading...