Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A surprising social dividend?

According to a recent press release, a new study “has found that the relationship between the economy and crime rates [in the UK] has varied over time. ... The association between unemployment and property crime – which was strong in the 1970s and 1980s – weakened after 1995 and became non-existent by 2005. These findings help to shed light on why the recorded crime rate did not rise following the 2007-2008 financial crisis.” Why has this link melted into air? The researchers have no clue: “We cannot be sure why fluctuations in economic conditions no longer predict the sorts of changes in recorded crime rates they used to. It may be due to differences between the sorts of economic shocks experienced by the UK in the 1970s and 1980s compared to today. It could be because of changes in the labour market dampening the effects of recent economic downturns -- or it could also be due to trends in crime prevention measures, such as growth in use of burglar alarms, CCTV and car immobilisers.” But what, exactly, is special about 1995 and 2005? Many things, but perhaps 1995 was the year when internet use became more widespread, and 2005 – when internet access reached a point of saturation? So, instead of savoring the thrill of petty crime, some potential young delinquents could get the dopamine flowing through “massively multiplayer online games” and other web-mediated excitement? So perhaps the internet doesn't make "us" less social in the non-virtual world, after all...

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Who cares?

Anne-Marie Slaughter has another op-ed piece complaining about the “toxic” work culture pervading American companies (“A Toxic Work World,” NYT). In her words, “the people who can compete and succeed in this culture are an ever-narrower slice of American society: largely young people who are healthy, and wealthy enough not to have to care for family members.” So what can be done to change this? “To support care just as we support competition, we will need some combination of the following: high-quality and affordable child care and elder care; paid family and medical leave for women and men; a right to request part-time or flexible work;” etc. But can care really compete against competition? How about reducing a bit the competitive pressures on companies and individuals? Or the relative rewards bestowed upon non-attached hypomanic workaholics? This, apparently, isn’t in the cards. “We” will need to wait for a “culture change: fundamental shifts in the way we think, talk and confer prestige” – so “we would not regard time out for caregiving — for your children, parents, spouse, sibling or any other member of your extended or constructed family — as a black hole on a résumé.” Who knows – with enough proselytizing, the reigning (and aspiring) 1% could even realize that the bottom line and shareholder value are overrated.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Rush to the ethical bottom?

As announced in the title of a NYT article, “VW Is Said to Cheat on Diesel Emissions; U.S. Orders Big Recall.” Of course, some people will continue to believe that capitalism rewards virtue – and the erosion of traditional values is the work of liberal intellectuals and professors, feminists and gay rights activists, etc. That the financial crisis was caused by excessive government regulation – and what not.