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Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Basic Income Really Could End Poverty Forever, by Dylan Matthews, Vox

You can’t assume away politics, though. And when you take a look under the hood of major plans from basic income advocates, the politics begin to look daunting. The coalition between left and right evaporates, the idea’s economic inevitability looks fanciful, and the promise that the plan could end poverty forever looks more dependent on technical details than you might think.

In part that’s due to disagreement about what basic income is for. I think it’s a useful tool for eliminating or dramatically reducing poverty in both poor and rich countries. But a lot of basic income advocates embrace it for other reasons, like responding to automation’s threat to jobs, or dismantling the welfare state. These purposes are often confused and contradictory, and lead to plans that differ widely and won’t get the same kind of bipartisan buy-in that the general concept does.

Basic income is going through an adolescence. I still think it’s a vitally important, worthwhile idea — but it needs to grow up a lot to survive the transition from the faculty lounge to actual policy.

How To Build A Tech-Age Company Town, by Zach Mortice, Citylab

Two company towns established about 15 years apart—Marktown, Indiana, and Hershey, Pennsylvania—illustrate the perils of the model, and provide some context for understanding what might become of Facebook-ville in a few generations. Both started out as worker-friendly visions of enlightened Gilded Age industrialism, but their fortunes diverged dramatically. Today, Hershey is a relatively prosperous town of 14,000 that embraces its heritage as the home of a beloved candy company; Marktown, once a steel manufacturing center, is now beset by vacancy and disinvestment, hemmed in by hulking oil refineries. What happened?

How Metaphors Shape Women’s Lives, by Sophia Smith Galer, BBC

Social scientists examining gender inequality have often conjured up bizarre imagery to try and explain social phenomena in the workplace. The ‘glass ceiling’, for example, is well known, but researchers have also proposed many other metaphors to describe the barriers and experiences that women – and men, too – face in their careers.

So, what do these metaphors mean, and could these words influence the way gender inequality is or isn’t tackled?

To Understand Why We Have So Many Languages, Look Way, Way Back In Human History, by Michael Gavin, New York Magazine

Why is it that humans speak so many languages? And why are they so unevenly spread across the planet? As it turns out, we have few clear answers to these fundamental questions about how humanity communicates.

Spying On The Rich In Crazy Rich Asians And Moll Flanders, by Aaron Hanlon, Ploughshares

Kwan writes Crazy Rich Asians with compelling command of the vernacular of high-end designer brands and luxury experiences. Even if he’s bullshitting, he’s fooling me deliciously, along with, I assume, the vast majority of readers who also wouldn’t know which Patek Philippe is the most exclusive one or which Alexander McQueen dresses are in season. But Crazy Rich Asians works on a more sophisticated register than simply wowing the non-rich with designer name-dropping and things described as “sumptuous.” Hot pink cover notwithstanding, this is not the novel version of the Sex and the City film franchise (though a Crazy Rich Asians film is currently in the works).