Finances Blog Archive - Oct 2008

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10/16/2008 - Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty
10/24/2008 - Oct. 24th: Take Back Your Time Day

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Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty
Thursday, October 16th, 2008
03:50:35 GMT


Today, as part of Blog Action Day 2008 (October 15th), thousands of bloggers are already addressing numerous aspects of poverty like starvation, homelessness, and so forth. Those issues are extremely important to me as well, but, before I repeat a lot of things that have already been said, I'd first like to draw your attention to something less obvious.

I think a rather less-acknowledged and yet epidemic form of poverty, especially in the developed world, is the lack of time. Far too many people are trapped on a treadmill or hamster wheel, enslaved to the daily grind of doing their mind-numbing, soul-killing, pointless, dead-end jobs giving them hardly any hope of improvement or advancement either for themselves or for the world at large.

If you think about it, the fact that so many people are pressured into living this way is exceedingly bizarre. In our modern society, with all our advanced and labor-saving technology, and the immense production of goods and services, more than ever before throughout history, why is it that average people have ended up having to work more and more instead of less and less?

A quote from an interesting article I found on the web today, Screwing Future Retirees...Again by David Lindorff:

If productivity is rising, as the economists insist it is always doing, which means each worker is producing more goods and services, then shouldn't the workweek be shortening, and the retirement age be moving forward, not back?

I think possibly one of the many causes of the problem of the ever-increasing workload for the average person is the widespread but highly illogical attitude that work for its own sake is virtuous, no matter how much of a mind-numbing, pointless waste of time that work is, and no matter how much your job takes you away from more important things, such as self-education and self-improvement, creative pursuits, taking care of your loved ones, and so forth.

If you're slaving away 8 hours a day or more at a mindless job, then, oddly enough, that act is frequently and irrationally considered more respectable than being unemployed but spending most of your time and energy on improving and educating yourself, and gradually becoming capable of performing far more useful services to humanity than flipping hamburgers, mopping floors, or any number of other mindless, idiotic jobs that could easily be performed by a robot instead.

I'm not sure what it's like in other countries, but here in the United States, our society seems permeated with the ideology that work is good no matter how pointless or even harmful it is, as long as it's profitable; and meanwhile, engaging in any activity which isn't financially profitable, or is believed to be of uncertain financial benefit in the future, is frequently considered bad, inefficient, lazy, useless, worthless, reckless, risky, etc.

An interesting web page I ran across today by Andre Gorz essentially says, among other interesting things, that the ideology of endless work being good no matter what has been rendered obsolete by the advance of technology. Here's a quote:

In actual fact the work ethic has become obsolete. It is no longer true that producing more means working more, or that producing more will lead to a better way of life.

The connection between more and better has been broken; our needs for many products and services are already more than adequately met, and many of our as-yet- unsatisfied needs will be met not by producing more, but by producing differently, producing other things, or even producing less. This is especially true as regards our needs for air, water, space, silence, beauty, time and human contact.

Neither is it true any longer that the more each individual works, the better off everyone will be. The present crisis has stimulated technological change of an unprecedented scale and speed: `the micro-chip revolution'. The object and indeed the effect of this revolution has been to make rapidly increasing savings in labour, in the industrial, administrative and service sectors. Increasing production is secured in these sectors by decreasing amounts of labour. As a result, the social process of production no longer needs everyone to work in it on a full-time basis. The work ethic ceases to be viable in such a situation and workbased society is thrown into crisis.

This makes a great deal of sense to me. In a society where technology has made it possible for much less work to be done for everyone's basic needs to be met, with quite enough food and goods manufactured for everyone to be quite well taken care of, I think it's absurd for people to have to slave away increasingly longer and harder. Especially since many people are not even prospering as a result of their tremendous diligence - they're just barely treading water financially, living from paycheck to paycheck.

Here's another quote I thoroughly agree with. This is from the aforementioned Screwing Future Retirees...Again article by David Lindorff:

There is, let's face it, no logic or virtue in an economic system which, having produced the richest society in the history of the human race, now tells us we have to work harder and longer, instead of having more time to relax and enjoy our lives, or to do something creative and life-affirming.

So, what are some solutions? Well, I don't know for sure. But, for one thing, I think it would be good for people in general to stop mindlessly believing that every kind of work is inherently good and the optimal use of your time despite the fact that many jobs are the equivalent of totally wasting your life on meaningless trivialities that will do little or nothing to improve the world in the long run.

Here's a wonderful article to help unbrainwash compliant wage-slaves: 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job by Steve Pavlina.


On the topic of economic issues in general, such as monetary reform, debt, usury, poverty, etc. - here are two brilliant, fascinating articles by Richard C. Cook. One of the many notable ideas stated in these articles is the idea of a cash stipend for every citizen.

An Emergency Program of Monetary Reform for the United States by Richard C. Cook

Monetary Reform and How a National Monetary System Should Work by Richard C. Cook


One of the things I've been up to in the past several months is spending way too much time hanging around forums, oftentimes discussing financial and economic issues. Here are some of the threads I participated in on the Personal Development for Smart People Forums which have some relevance to the issue of poverty:

An Emergency Program of Monetary Reform for the United States

Usury

US Bank Collapse?

Some countries obese others malnourished.

Are You Afraid To Be Rich? (Blog)

Finding a Charity


I believe that taxation is a major contributing factor to poverty in many places. Here's an interesting essay on the topic of income taxes: The Income Tax: Root of All Evil by Frank Chodorov.

The broken child support system is another major issue - in the United States, legally up to 65% of your paycheck can be taken for child support (source: http://www.dol.gov/compliance/guide/garnish.htm). I really don't see how people who pay child support are expected to live on a tiny fraction of their earnings - possibly considerably less than 35% of their paycheck, since not only can 65% be taken for child support, but there's also a hefty percentage taken for taxes.

Another thing that can befall people who owe child support is that they can have their driver's licenses and professional licenses revoked, which can totally wreck their ability to make a living. Also, throwing a child's mother or father in jail because that mother or father couldn't pay child support definitely traumatizes children.

Wage garnishment, bank account levies, and eminent domain are also problems. And then there are the problems of economic inflation, and usury. I discussed some of the foregoing topics a bit in the forum threads above.

I especially loathe usury, since I regard it as despicably profiting from someone's continued misfortune of not being able to pay back a loan. Also, credit cards contributed enormously to my financial ruin, not to mention the ruin of millions of other people - which is why I support a credit card boycott.


Another form of usury that I find absolutely deplorable is the fact that when "aid" is given to Third World countries, it often is given in the form of a loan that has to be paid back with interest. Here's a shocking statistic from GlobalIssues.org - Poverty Facts and Stats:

For every $1 in aid a developing country receives, over $25 is spent on debt repayment.

And according to this page, the country Mali paid 8 times the amount it owes to creditors, and still continues to pay.

In my opinion, that kind of "aid" shouldn't even be called "aid" - to me it seems like it's just an excuse to despicably and usuriously profit from giving loans to those who can't afford to pay the loans back all at once, thus keeping the recipients of the loans in continual indentured servitude.

So, I think grants, not loans, should be given to impoverished countries, and all existing debt should be cancelled.


However, I think it would be good to be very cautious even about giving grants, because even true grants with no strings attached could potentially be harmful. According to this article, Spiegel Interview with African Economics Expert: "For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!", apparently the floods of clothing and food from abroad damage the local economies and reduce their self-sufficiency, since local farmers and tailors can't compete in price with the free food and clothes and hence end up going out of business.

Another reason to be cautious about giving grants is because grants that are given to corrupt, oppressive rulers would most likely do more harm than good.

I really liked this video, with its emphasis on empowering the common people: Iqbal Quadir says mobiles fight poverty | Video on TED.com


Also on the topic of usury - before any of you out there decide it's a good idea to lend money through Kiva, I highly recommend that you read this first: Why Kiva doesn't work for me And also this.

Whew, I'm almost out of things to say here. Anyone who has explored this website thoroughly will have already seen the following already, but, since it's on topic, I guess I might as well also toss in this link to my comments to BusinessWeek.com in May-June 2007 on The Debate Room topic "Stop Fleecing Poor Americans".



By the way, here are a few unimportant notes. I know it says October 16th above this blog post, but, my time zone is EDT, not GMT, so actually, this post is in fact not late for Blog Action Day 2008. :-) It is approaching midnight, though, so it is almost late. I would actually prefer to edit it a while longer, but if I do that it will be late. So, I guess I'll just post now, edit later (if needed).

I didn't have much time to write this post, since I only got started it on it at about 2:53 PM (after several hours of gathering the above links and searching the web), so, I had to rush through it to get it done.

So, it's probably not my best work, but I hope it provided some good food for thought, at least. Poverty is definitely a very complicated issue, with tons of different possible causes. I know I haven't covered everything here, but, I guess the above is OK for about 12 hours of work (plus all the hours I spent writing all those forum posts months ago, etc).


Click this link to display the blog comment thread hosted at the Eryss.Com Forum:

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Oct. 24th: Take Back Your Time Day
Friday, October 24th, 2008
07:43:04 GMT


Today (October 24th) happens to be "Take Back Your Time Day". I first heard about this a few days ago when I ran across an interesting article called Working to Live has Been Overtaken by Living to Work by Barbara Sumner Burstyn.

That article contains plenty of interesting info. According to it, Take Back Your Time Day (Oct. 24th) is the day when "the average American will have worked the equivalent of a full European work year." And, apparently, Americans "spend nearly nine full weeks more a year on the job than their counterparts in Western Europe."

The article also states that "Americans work more now than they did in the 1950s," (...) "more than medieval peasants did, and more than the citizens of any other industrial country."

I knew things were bad, as far as how much people have to work just to scrape by, but I didn't know things were that bad! I wonder if things have gotten even worse since that article was released - it's a bit old, dated September 22, 2003.

Here's another interesting article: PBS.org - Livelyhood - How the Weekend Was Won, by Joe Robinson, editor of Escape magazine.

I found this quote particularly interesting: "Opponents of a mandated vacation law always trot out the myth that it would hurt productivity. While the United States does rule in productivity, it's not by much compared to Germany, for instance. The difference in output per hour is almost negligible and Germans manage to do it in two months less work. Think about that one."

Lastly, here's the most official-looking website I was able to find related to Take Back Your Time Day: TimeDay.org.

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