Double Sided: Our Planned Obsolescence Economy

20161210_1433221If you have had the pleasure of recently shopping for a mattress you don’t need me to tell you how overwhelming the experience is. Mattresses are difficult to test sufficiently prior to purchase and all the guarantees and warranties are confusing. But it is the shear number of options that is staggering. Do you want firm or plush? Foam or coil? Organic? Low chemical content? Well it is what is missing in this world of choices that hints at a disturbing truth embedded in our economic system. I’m excited to share with you today a post that has been percolating in the back of my brain for a few years now; a story that I simply walked into when I innocently walked into a mattress store. Continue reading

Treasuring Places of Character

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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

Local Land Ownership and the American Dream

imageThree years ago Paula and I became first time homeowners and landlords when we purchased our central Austin duplex. Despite all the paperwork (I never knew I could sign my name so many times), it was all pretty thrilling. But looking back at it now, I can see more clearly than ever that this process, more than anything else we have done so far, helped us better secure our financial footing by giving us the ability to make payments as if we were renting, but build equity in the process. And of course, it gave us a sense of ownership and control over our own little piece of the American Dream. 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

Small Town Decline: 1920s & the Rise of Chain Stores

Money MultiplierOne of the things I enjoy most about this blog is being able to test my own ideas and assumptions on the wider world. Any feedback I get, whether harsh criticism, enthusiastic agreement, or fraternal correction, presents an opportunity for deeper investigation and growth. The publication of my recent post, 1940s America – The Start of Small Town Decline, gave me just such an opportunity, as a number of readers wrote to me expressing their belief that the start of small town decline predated the war mobilization efforts of World War II. I agree that while war mobilization may well be one piece of the puzzle it is far from the whole story.  So what are some of the other culprits? To get a more comprehensive view of what happened to the small town, I took another look into our economic past. Continue reading

A Place Worth Coming Home To

imageIn my last post I made the argument that in order to build a legacy, LeBron James needed to root himself deeply in community, to become as closely associated with Cleveland as Michael Jordan was with Chicago. Cleveland is LeBron’s home, and I think most of us were thrilled to hear that he will be returning this coming year. He explained his decision by reflecting on his deep ties to Northeast Ohio – ties so strong that four successful years with the Miami Heat weren’t enough to make him forget. LeBron is coming home.

LeBron’s story is a great example of the kind of migration that hometowns across the nation are experiencing. 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

Economic Participation

Hats off to Chana Joffe-Walt for this amazing piece of investigative journalism on economic participation and our current disability safety net. So how do we build an economy that works for all our brothers and sisters so that “happiness on earth ain’t just for high achievers”?  For this, our blog journeys on…

 

What Economics Can Learn From The World of Sports

imageTwo economic indicators are broadly used to measure the health of our economy: GDP to measure wealth and performance, and the unemployment rate to measure participation. Unfortunately, with these two metrics guiding our economic policy, an economy of alarming wealth concentration has been the unintended consequence. The President has called income inequality and upward mobility the “defining challenge of our times”. The political right seems to be in agreement, but is nervous as to how it can be addressed without increased political centralization and the stifling of personal freedom. To this political debate I offer the following thought; that the economic model we seek balancing performance, competition, freedom, participation, local and global forces is already modeled for us by the world of sports. Continue reading