Less consumerism, same consumption


I’ve been taking the “Transformation” EXCO class this semester. It has been a wonderful experience if for no other reason than it is, necessarily, forward looking. The transformation on our minds – and most other Mac minds, I wager, is: how do we transform our global economy? Economic collapse aside, the mandate of modern capitalism to consume, consume, consume just isn’t sustainable. 

I’m an economics major. I very much enjoy the subject and I think that modern economics – as opposed to modern capitalism (consumerism) – is still the best way to explain our economy and an important way to formulate direction for our future. 

An assumption: Economics assume that the goal of any rational actor is to maximize utility. Utility is most often defined as consumption. Hence, more consumption = more utility. (Note: many economists use utility, happiness and wellbeing interchangeably.) 

I’m not so sure about this assumption. It makes graphing and explaining and model-building really easy. And, to a large extent, it explains Western economic behavior. I’m really not sure about it.  Continue reading

Fear. Hope. Possibility.

I have been thinking about fear and hope lately. In fact, I bounced between the two feelings for quite a long while in the months leading up to the election and I am still caught between them. But maybe that is as it should be. It seems that the bipartisan politics that I watched at play this autumn came to represent, at one end of the spectrum, FEAR, and at the other, HOPE.

There wasn’t much middle ground this election season. With fear and hope, this played out on two levels. The first was within me: one agenda or set of thoughts represented the way I did NOT want the world to continue to unfold (scared me shitless) while the other represented a particular set of ideals and practices that I hoped would be engaged to get us on the right track (filling me with a great sense of hope). The second level on which the fear/hope dichotomy played out was the ways in which fear and hope were used by the two campaigns as the central emotion upon which to gain votes: one candidate ran on a platform of FEAR (we must defend against terrorism, economic insecurity, protect democracy, etc. – everything is at risk); the other candidate ran on a platform of HOPE (Yes We Can; heal this nation, create the world we need and want – everything is at a stage of potential/possibility which we can capitalize on).

HOPE won. Yes We Can.

But what does this mean?

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Strategic Planning and the Future of the IGC

I will liberally take advantage of the theme “What’s Next?” by posing some questions regarding what’s next for the IGC. As some of you know, I’m currently on the IGC Strategic Planning Committee which is a semester long(ish) council consisting of staff, faculty and students which is outlining a short-term and long-term recommendation plan for the IGC. This includes conceptual ideas, programmatic recommendations, and “how-to” sorts of things like partnership building for example. We would like this process to be open to the Macalester community for anyone who would like to make constructive recommendations. So here is your chance!! Please post to this article anything that might answer the following questions:

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What now??? Or What now…

The election fever seems to have dropped, at least in this school. As the weekend’s party is over and Obama’s rise to power is loudly and cheerfully celebrated we now face Monday. And, gosh, I really hate Mondays, but they do come around once a week. Obama, too, will have to face the responsibility of being the first man of this powerful and influential country very soon. What now? is a difficult question because it depends on how one asks it. It can be asked in a manner that in itself implies a failure, a heavy sigh and sense of helplessness or it can be asked cheerfully with an intention to roll up the sleeves and do ‘it’!

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bam. ok, now we push harder

powervotepeopleIn the climate movement, the talk is buzzing, the plans and visions for a new society based on the power of community are running like wildfire across cyberspace and through a thousand conversations. Under-the-radar victories are already popping up, accompanied by the excited buzz of weather-worn twenty-somethings activists who have spent the last five or more years preparing for the opportunities to come. Alliances are forming, ponderous organizations starting to pick up unheard-of speed, and teams of youth strategists are working to figure out how we invent the new New Deal. The answers are all right here – uniting climate and energy solutions with economic security, geopolitical stability, domestic equity and global justice – and its time to make it happen.

A friend of mine used a simple expression on his GChat profile to capture what I think the climate movement is feeling these days:

“bam. ok, now we push harder”

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I’m No Slave 4 U

APW2001090708966After a very long rally and a painful election, that many times caused a “sweet” headache that several Macalester students will miss, change happened. As we all struggle to recover from our election addiction, trying to gaze away from our CNN monitors, or Fox News for an additional dose of laughter, we all keep wondering what is going to happen next.

In my last indulging act of addictive behavior following the election I was looking at videos of Sarah Palin on Fox News. I would not go far enough to say I have been an elections junkie, but I will sure miss the comments of my beloved self-declared “conservative libertarian” Dennis Miller. More than a decade after he defined himself as such in a Playboy interview, I cannot stop wondering how out of line his comments explaining why McCain didn’t win are:

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