So What Happens If the Delivery Trucks Don’t Come?

20171017_065436This past Labor Day, Paula and I did what so many Americans do over a sunny three-day weekend – we took a road trip. We had a wedding to attend in Austin and we thought we would make the most of it by dropping our kids off with the grandparents in San Antonio first. We had heard a few rumors floating around about a gas shortage following the devastation of Houston by Hurricane Harvey, but we noticed nothing unusual as we filled up the tank here in College Station and hit the road Friday evening for San Antonio. Now kid-free, we started out for Austin the following morning with half a tank of gas. We were surprised to see that the two gas stations on the corner were indeed out of gas but figured we would just stop further along the way instead. But the next station was out of gas too. And so was the next. And the next! After about an hour of this we started feeling a little panicky. If this continued on would we even be able to make it to the wedding? And what about the kids? Continue reading

The Birth of the Modern Shark Tank Economy

imagePaula and I are both readers. Except in the case of a movie night or some other exceptions the TV doesn’t get a lot of play time in the Golbabai house. One of those exceptions however is our favorite Friday night tradition: putting the kids to bed and watching Shark Tank over a bowl of ice cream. As an economics blogger, I find the show fascinating because in just a few short minutes it is a perfect microcosm of how our modern economy thinks and rewards. Continue reading

More Than Employees: What Killed Our Local Economic Independence?

P1000702Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been following with a kind of morbid fascination our American presidential race. Of particular interest to me is not so much where our two parties disagree, however, but where they in fact agree. Both parties openly acknowledge that the economy is not working as it should for everyone, and both parties have the same prescription: jobs – i.e. better employment options.  On the surface, this sounds great for those of us trying to climb our own respective career ladders or for those trying to get on a career ladder in the first place. And this of course must be a winning theme, because it seems to be the primary domestic issue in every presidential election I can remember. But honestly, this mindset just doesn’t sit right with me, and not just because of the influences of Wendell Berry and Planet Money, but because of our past. Looking back at American history, the concept of economic success as our ability to be employed by others is a fairly recent phenomenon. We were once a nation of small business owners, each of us creating a unique American Dream of our own with self-employment as the cornerstone. Today we’re a nation of employees looking for jobs that provide upward mobility. So what happened? Continue reading

The Local and the Global: Lessons from Detroit

imageIn The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle articulates three types of friendship: friendship based on utility, friendship based on pleasure, and perfect friendship based on goodness. When it comes to the relationship between multi-national corporations and local places within the context of the global economy, I cannot help but think Aristotle’s description of friendship based on utility hits it on the head. Continue reading

Treasuring Places of Character

image

One of my greatest joys over the last two plus years has been watching my son grow up. On the cusp of moving from toddler to little boy, I increasingly see the all-important role Paula and I have in shaping his character (enter, “timeout”). But environment has an impact too, and one of the best places for him to exercise his character is on the playground. Here, there are opportunities to take on new challenges such as scaling the ladder and trying out the big slide, to utilize his creativity in the sandbox, to learn how to interact with both the bigger and smaller kids alike. But as we explore playgrounds around Austin, we notice they’re not all equal. Continue reading

Building a Local Economy: Where to Start?

P1000350Quite a lot has happened in the Golbabai house since I lased posted. After months of studying, I passed my American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification exam so I can now write this blog as a certified planner! A few days later, Paula and I welcomed the newest addition to our family, our beautiful baby daughter. Both Mom and baby are doing well and we’re all adjusting to this new reality of life as a family of four!

Over the past few weeks I’ve been really struck by my two children. Looking at our newborn daughter, I’m amazed at just how completely dependent we are on others when we come into the world. Continue reading

The Economic Case for Local Currency

In Small Town Decline: 1920s & the Rise of Chain Stores, I wrote about how locally owned shops keep on average 3.7 times more money in the local economy than their chain store counterparts, an important benefit to be encouraged and supported. But as compelling as this number is, our family finds that on a practical level backing up our localist principles with our wallets is not always easy. Why? Well, as with most families, the Golbabais operate within a fairly strict budget. From groceries, to clothes, to books and entertainment – the very reason chains, and now the Internet, have been so successful is that they are able to, in reality or simply in perception, offer cheaper prices than the local competition. Yet patronizing these chains in lieu of local stores in the long term leads to poorer, clone towns. Continue reading

Store Brands to Cover Bands: The Lost Art of Local Imitation

imageI blame Michael Pollan. Not too long ago my wife and I both read his excellent book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and our food consumption hasn’t been the same since. We started thinking more about what we were eating and shopped for foods with simpler ingredients, less processing, and fewer artificial sweeteners and preservatives. One of our favorite new finds was an incredibly delicious loaf of bread with the simplest of ingredients – wheat, yeast, honey, water, and salt – that’s it! It was so good in fact that we initially ignored the $6 price tag as the price of shopping with our values.  As we kept eating and our grocery bill kept growing, however, we started thinking of alternatives. Continue reading

Presentation in Austin / Building Strong Towns

For those in the Austin area, this coming Friday (June 6th) I’ll be presenting to Austin Community Living on the “Economics of Community” thanks to my friend Rigel Thurnston. More information and RSVP information can be found at the events’ Meetup and Facebook sites. Looking forward to meeting and talking to you there!

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you an insightful talk I had the privilege of seeing in person at the 2014 Public Health and the Built Environment Conference in San Antonio. Continue reading