Radical Idea: Libraries

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If the idea of a library was purposed today it simply would be laughed out of existence because a library embodies an idea that is often ignored: that people, no matter their status, should be given a chance at no cost. In fact, libraries are free for all and generate no profit. What’s more they let people use the same shared resource over and over again – anathema in a post-Napster internet. Take a moment and marvel in the fact that despite the commodification and finalization of all aspects of our life that the simple library still stands.

The majesty of library buildings is matched only by the nobility of their purpose. The public library does not make anyone money; it does not understand its patrons as mere consumers, or as a revenue base. Instead, it aspires to encounter people as minds. The public library exists to grant access to information, to facilitate curiosity, education, and inquiry for their own sake. It is a place where the people can go to pursue their aspirations and their whims, to uncover histories or investigate new scientific discoveries.

And it is available, crucially, to everyone. It costs nothing to enter, nothing to borrow – in New York, and in many other cities, the public library system has even eliminated late fees. All the knowledge and artistry of its collection is available to the public at will, and it is a privilege made available, without prejudice, to rich and poor alike.

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Strikes Work for Everybody: How We Got Maternity Leave

Presently in Ontario the Conservative governemnt has used “the nuclear option” to take away rights from workers. Not going to lie: it’s really bad, like Canadian Charter of Rights are no longer relveant bad.
The union the government is picking on is primarily made up of women and many of them aren’t even earning a living wage. The Conservatives want to pay them less and are fining them more than a month’s wage everyday they’re on strike.
Where’s the good news?
Histrorically labour actions make the working world better for everyone. Given how much damage the Conservatives have done to the averaging working person in the province we have nowhere to go but up. Just like back in 1981. One union’s strike brought the entire country of Canada maternity leave.

With negotiations going nowhere, CUPW went out on strike. Their demands were multifaceted, but maternity leave was singled out by capital, media, government, and the public.[3] In turn, maternity leave was deemed egregious, unnecessary, and even greedy. Risking it all, postal workers and their allies fought for forty-two days and won. Their victory reverberated across Canadian society. Other unions quickly followed suit and, before long, the government institutionalized and expanded maternity leave to equalize the playing field. What started out as a gain for postal workers quickly turned into a gain for all Canadian women.

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Saving Scholars From Scary Situations

Academics face persecution in parts of the world where authoritarian governments rule, which makes the exploration of knowledge very difficult and can even lead to safety concerns for the academics. Thankfully there’s an organization, Scholars at Risk, who’s sole goal is to provide a safe haven for researchers. This organization game to my attention on an academic mailing list where a Russian academic was looking for escape from the country. It’s good to know that SAR is out there helping keep people safe.

Scholars at Risk (SAR) protects scholars facing grave threats to their lives, liberty, and well-being, in part by arranging positions of sanctuary at institutions in our network for those forced to flee.

These positions, which can range from six months to two years but are usually one year in duration, are visiting scholar, researcher, or professor engagements at a higher education institution in a safe location anywhere in the world. SAR also provides advisory services for displaced scholars who are struggling to restart their lives and their careers in their new location. Since SAR’s founding in 2000, we have arranged more than 1200 positions for at-risk scholars.

If you or a scholar you know is under threat and seeks assistance, please complete SAR’s application for assistance. SAR invites higher education institutions to learn more about hosting threatened scholars.

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Therapy + Cash = Lower Crime


It’s a simple equation which may sound obvious to some and bizarre to others. Our current approach to crime focusses on punishment and repression, and that clearly doesn’t work given our current incarceration and recidivism rates. The good news is that simply providing people with a minimum amount to live on while also providing therapy is far cheaper and far better at dealing with crime. Instead of waiting for even more evidence that this approach works, let’s get it moving now.

A month after the intervention, both the therapy group and the therapy-plus-cash group were showing positive results. A year after the intervention, the positive effects on those who got therapy alone had faded a bit, but those who got therapy plus cash were still showing huge impacts: crime and violence were down about 50 percent.

But Blattman didn’t dare to hope that this impact would persist. Experts he surveyed predicted that the effects would steeply diminish over the years, as they do in many interventions.

So it was a great surprise when, 10 years later, he tracked down the original men from the study and reevaluated them. Amazingly, crime and violence were still down by about 50 percent in the therapy-plus-cash group.

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Best Tool to Fight Crime is Welfare

The best way to fight crime is to take away motivation to commit crime. It’s been proven time and time again that severe punishments don’t deter crime, so how can we creat conditions which ensure people don’t want to break the law. The solution is welfare.

Economists have proven that when people lose a social security system they turn to the easiest (most efficient) way to make up their losses: crime. Therefore we should fund welfare programs instead of thinking that funding the police will deter crime.

They found that terminating the cash welfare benefits of these young adults increased the number of criminal charges by 20% over the next two decades. The increase was concentrated in what the authors call “income-generating crimes,” like theft, burglary, fraud/forgery, and prostitution. As a result of the increase in criminal charges, the annual likelihood of incarceration increased by 60%. The effect of this income removal on criminal justice involvement persisted more than two decades later.

The researchers found that the impact of the change was heterogeneous. While some people removed from the income support program at age 18 responded by working more in the formal labor market, a much larger fraction responded by engaging in crime to replace the lost income. In response to losing benefits, youth were twice as likely to be charged with an illicit income-generating offense than they were to maintain steady employment.

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