Tag Archives: economy

The “Sharing Economy”: is sharing really caring?

By krzyboy2o (milkshake anyone? Uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The ‘sharing economy’ is on the rise and it might just revolutionise the way we buy and sell things.  It’s a fascinating new development, which one one hand may be seen as empowering and anti-corporate, or alternatively, as a threat to existing small businesses; a means for deepening existing inequalities of ownership; or something which appears vulnerable to the very corporations it seeks to replace. It’s also known as ‘collaborative consumption’ or the ‘peer-to-peer economy’, but whatever you want to call it, it’s pretty likely that you have already been a consumer or maybe even a ‘provider’ in this emerging marketplace. If like me, you’ve used a car-share website, or rented out a room in a stranger’s house, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

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Banned TED Talk: Nick Hanauer “Rich people don’t create jobs”

Hanauer discusses the perceived wisdom or false premise that tax cuts for the rich creates jobs.

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Income inequality

The following short video provides a really nice presentation of the gap between perceived and actual income inequality in the US .

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No Child Left Behind…But what about programs?

File:Classroom.JPGThere can be little doubt that schools across the nation have experience notable budget cuts since the recent economic fallout. Without protection from larger economic trails, educational systems have had to manage substantial budget cuts and reductions in available resources. Across different media platforms, new articles are peppered with headlines concerning the myriad of challenges schools are now facing. Despite financial tightening and limited avenues for support, it is clear that school performance has not escaped popular attention. With initiatives like “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top”, schools must meet higher expectations within a highly competitive atmosphere – although some schools hit harder than others by adverse economic conditions. (more…)

Progressing from game theory to agent based modelling to simulate social emergence

This article discusses some of the fundamental flaws in game theory and discusses agent based modelling as a successor to model social emergence.

Axelrod (1984) made a major contribution to Game Theory in his book “Evolution of Cooperation” but thirteen years later he, dissatisfied with game theory, moves onto agent based modelling to rework his view of cooperation in his book in 1997 “The complexity of Cooperation: Agent-based Models of Competition and Collaboration”.  In a similar move, the Santa Fe Institute in the US was established in 1984 to grapple with complex social issues and used agent based modelling amongst other techniques to “collaborate across disciplines, merging ideas and principles of many fields — from physics, mathematics, and biology to the social sciences and the humanities — in pursuit of creative insights that improve our world”.  Additionally, the EU acknowledges the failure of traditional economics so adopts agent based modelling.

Agent based modelling captures the interaction between agents to simulate emergence whether at the physical or social level. NetLogo  provides an extensive library of simulations of both physical and social emergence that shows the diversity of application of agent based modelling.  These sample simulations can be readily tailored to meet the needs of social scientists.  The software is free and there is a thriving enthusiastic community support group.

Why is there a move by a prominent game theorist, the Santa Fe Institute and the EU to agent based modelling?  The article Game Theory as Dogma by Professor Kay (2005) discusses ample reasons to search for alternative techniques to model competition and collaboration  and emergence in general.  For instance.

The trouble with game theory is that it can explain everything. If a bank president was standing in the street and lighting his pants on fire, some game theorist would explain it as rational. (Kay 2005, p. 12) (more…)

Yes, You Are a Statistic

I can no longer stomach certain clichés.  Last night at the Democratic National Convention, I heard one of these.  A university student, who introduced Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the Vice-President, noted that she “shouldn’t be here” and was “almost a statistic.”  My immediate response, to my computer screen, was “You still are a statistic and you don’t understand what statistics are.”  I know that she was just rehashing a cliché, but it is a cliché that privileges “self-help culture” and undermines social science.

To be fair, by this point I had listened to a number of speakers say little to nothing of substance for over an hour and was not in the best of moods.  Still, the defiant tone of “I didn’t want to be a statistic” and  “I shouldn’t be here” treat social statistics (not the social reality but the reporting of such statistics) as some form of oppression from which she, with the help of Dr. Biden, freed herself. (more…)

Sustainability, social progress, environmental protection, economic growth and energy

Sustainability, social progress, environmental protection, economic growth and energy are discussed using the sustainability framework in Figure 1, where sustainability is at the confluence of social progress, environmental protection and economic growth.

Figure 1 Sustainability framework

(Source: IUCN 2006)

There are designs being made toward Ecological Civilization and welcome moves to address the shortcomings of GDP in Completing the picture – environmental accounting in practice by the Australian Bureau of Statistics .  Extending the national accounts to include degradation of natural resources makes a measurable target for politicians to focus on rather than purely GDP.    However, there are problems when social progress is overlooked in the move toward more environmental protection. (more…)

Facing More with Less: Thinking about School Budgets

There can be little doubt that because of the current economic conditions, a large part of society has undergone considerable strain. Whether discussing unemployment rates, downsizing, closed up businesses, or market trends, it seems that little has been left unaffected by these financial times. Of concern for this post is how schools, specifically secondary schools, have had to adapt to and deal with the economic state. Often making top news reports on major broadcasting stations or making the front-page of newspaper outlets, it is not uncommon to hear of another school having to face financial cutbacks and crisis. It is the budgetary tightening within schools that this post considers; more specifically, when facing budget cuts, what policies and programs are left in place and which are discarded.

A mentor and I are currently writing about the financial context of certain school practices and policies. When discussing school budgets, the primary concern is with which programs – on a continuum of being financed – receive budgeted funding given both the economic situation of the school and, more broadly, the larger economy? Stated another way, are there programs and policies that remain funded while others are cut, and if so, what is the reasoning or rational behind how budgeted funds are distributed? (more…)

On the Streets: Spaces of Opportunity and Marginalization

On my weekly trip to the grocery store, the traffic seems heavier than usual; perhaps the nice weather has coaxed people from their homes or out of work. It is surprisingly warm today with a high reported to reach the 70s. Taking advantage, my car windows are rolled down, sunglasses are on, and it seems that Bruno Mars has gripped popular radio channels. While stopped at a red light (about a dozen cars back), I notice a group of about eight cars parked on the right side corner of the upcoming intersection.

This intersection is rather bleak and run-down. The building on the lot is abandoned; it seems to have been a major fueling station, but now, all that remains is the building’s structure and gas lines protruding from the ground. It resembles a quilt with different shades of white – some patches are more faded, some soiled from the dirt of the lot, and some brightly white. Having driven by this lot a few times in the past, graffiti artists oftentimes ‘tag’ and ‘piece’ this building for recognition but their artwork is quickly covered by a fresh coat of white paint.

As the light turns green, I find myself looking toward the gathering instead of the road. Three cars have been parked so that their trunk opens toward the road. From a distance I can see NFL jerseys, shoe boxes, clothing accessories, and a set of 22s (rims/wheals). Looking for a Bears jersey for the upcoming season, I pull in. Packed in the trunk of a ‘murdered out’ Dodge Charger, I notice “NFL Authentic” jerseys being sold for $40 instead of the sport store’s $120. Also, there are new air force ones, hand bags, new car parts, and even fresh sea catches being sold for a fraction of what major stores charge. During the roughly five to ten minutes on the lot, the three different ‘retailers’ had cycled through nine ‘customers’ making approximately $340. It seems that the deal was always on the turn; that the street-level sale had garnered attention from both ‘entrepreneurs’ and prospective ‘consumers’. (more…)

Declining Racial Segregation and Racial Inequality

“Many US Blacks Moving to South, Reversing Trend” reads a recent headline from the New York Times.  This article evokes more than a reversal of geographic mobility as it cites a “New South.” This article follows, an article from a few days earlier entitled, “Black and White and Married in the Deep South: A Shifting Image.” Based on 2010 Census data, these articles suggest an America where the reversal of racial migration flows and long-standing taboos may signal an end to racial inequality.

Other recent articles have noted that suburbia, the once all-white enclaves that allowed its inhabitants to hoard resources gained in a discriminatory labor market, are now places where new immigrants settle and an emerging black middle class embraces home ownership.  The population shifts and more fluid racial boundaries that allow a growing number of people to identify as “mixed race” are encouraging signs. Certainly growing segregation and hardening racial boundaries would be unwelcome.

While these articles qualify as “good news”, I am both skeptical of the perennial overarching claims about the “end of racism” as well as concerned because the factors which continue to perpetuate racial segregation and its negative impacts still require attention. (more…)