Uneven Development by Neil Smith

Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and the Production of Space by Neil Smith is a seminal work in marxist geography first published in 1984. He and David Harvey were two of the great interpreters of Marx and geography during the 1980s and are still active today. Nature and space are, according to Smith, produced through social interactions and altered, over time, by the development of capitalism. The developmental story is the standard one found in Marx, starting with the use of nature to fulfill human needs, the gradual accumulation of surplus value from nature, and the eventual arrival of capitalism, which extends accumulation into a worldwide phenomenon.

Is Economics Advancing? - Considering Expertise

I’ve been thinking a lot about the problem of expertise. Alvin Goldman, a philosopher at Rutgers, has written some interesting papers on the interaction between novices and experts. Next week I’m going to be leading a discussion on the topic. I restarted my research on this topic after participating in some other recent discussions about economics and the reactions to the recent recession. How can economists propose such dramatically different explanations and remedies to the current crisis?

Freedom at Work and Libertarians

Why are libertarians so afraid of governmental interference in personal freedoms but seemingly so blase about business or management interference in worker’s liberty? Two recent essays and posts by Timothy B. Lee and at Reason magazine reminded me of this conundrum. It seems obvious to me that a worker surrenders plenty of freedoms as soon as he or she enters the workplace. In some cases it is a surrender of political opinions in workplaces where having a different political point of view from your boss can get you fired.

Rhetoric of Markets - Consumers and Choice

Another of my favorite economic-moral connections is choice. I recently talked with a friend about health care and choice and was treated to the full-on Republican explanation that as long as people have choices they will do fine. Choice becomes the most important value and making bad choices becomes the fault of the individual. The organizations and social structures that force a particular choice are glossed over or completely ignored. It all fits into the Randian argument of the economic overman.

Money, Morality, and Ayn Rand

Back in March there was a brief media flurry over a libertarian rant by Rick Santelli. I was struck at the time by the persistently moral language used by the right to describe economics and capitalism. Making money has become a moral obligation for the right and a reflection of the moral worth of a person. If you’re poor then you are a moral failure, if you are rich then you are an angel.

Business, We're Swimming In It

I’m an occasional visitor to the local Socrate’s Cafe discussion group. Most of the time it frustrates me. It’s predominantly a white, middle-class group that never wants to talk about business or personal experiences with culture. The talk always returns to politics - usually national. And vague reifications about this culture does x, when it should be doing y. Business is one of my ongoing obsessions that I wish more people would think about in a serious way.

Talent, Work, and Justice

A few weeks ago I wrote a bit about the immense amount of talent that gets wasted or ignored in the world today. I claimed that the problem was based on a winner-take-all morality that has infused Western society. CEO salaries are just the most recent example. I think any argument that can be made against oversize CEO salaries can also be made against celebrity salaries in sports or entertainment.

Borrow and Leverage - The Language of Money

Listen to the way rich people and poor people describe the same thing and you will start to understand some of the divides in this country. The financial apocalypse has brought different ways of speaking to the forefront of our media and our attention. There are many examples of linguistic difference between rich and poor. For example consider the way we use the words “leverage” and “borrow.” Let’s go the dictionary first to read the definitions.

Poverty is Good For You

I’m struggling to understand and explain a spectrum of opinions about the recession that I see exhibited by conservatives. I have three examples that seem to form a gradient around the idea of self-reliance and group action. At the extreme is Charles Murray who recently delivered a lecture at the American Enterprise Institute entitled The Europe Syndrome and the Challenge to American Exceptionalism. I found the lecture via a link at Matthew Yglesias weblog.

Parables of Global Talent

Watch this: [youtube] I found this video at Presentation Zen. It’s one of the 34,000 60-second video applications that people all over the world submitted to the Queensland Tourism Board for the “best job in the world”, working as an island caretaker on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Here’s another video, one of 50 that has been put on the short list: [youtube] After watching these videos I realized something about the paradox of talent in the contemporary world.