Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Further Reading

Below are a few interesting posts I've come across that present a few issues from untraditional viewpoints, but with which I agree with for the most part:
  • When I was in high school and college and was following the events leading toward the construction of the European Union, I was hopeful that old continent would regain its stature as a premier economic powerhouse on par with the U.S. I was naturally rooting for the Euro as a means of reviving my country of birth, France, as a dynamic place to do business. Since those days, beginning with the ratification of the Maastricht treaty of 1993 followed by my own experiences as a student in Germany and France, I've grown a lot more cynical about Europe's prospects. In the back of my mind I was always hoping that a unified European economy would embrace greater deregulation and fiscal flexibility, along with the elimination of punitive taxation. Alas, those reforms never materialized while a common currency was pushed into use anyway, earning considerable resentment among everyday Europeans. And strangely, the imposition of the Euro gave economic liberalization in a bad reputation even as its implementation and the present reality of European economies are nothing of the sort. For someone such as I who tried to hold his faith in the virtues of a European economic union, this article posits that the Euro may have been one of the worse things to have happened to Europe in a long time. The article's description of the reality in Eastern Europe are fascinating, as I lived in one part of it not long after German reunification. Hattip: Instapundit
  • Most architects will tell you that they do not do their jobs for its monetary rewards, since they are traditionally quite meager. It was therefore tough for me following through on my decision to pursue architecture as a career precisely at a time when it seemed everybody else was making lots of money on what seemed to me the shakiest foundations. I was in the middle of my graduate studies in architecture when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was hitting new highs, the term "dotcom" was thrown around ubiquitously, and the concept of the "New Economy" was taking hold in a lot of amateur economic reportage I was reading at the time. There were many times I would ask myself: Why should I forfit the considerable earning potential available in these new internet-based industries for a career notorious for its long hours, low pay and high burnout rate? I was envious of those making out like bandits during those heady times, but in the end I wanted to master a 'trade' of sorts, which was how to conceive and prepared graphic instructions for any kind of building. How old-fashioned, but somehow I couldn't quite make the complete jump into the virtual world of web-design, mass-marketing, and computer generated graphics. I don't regret my decision at all nowadays, but I do wonder whether the mild recession during 2001 put the idea of a New Economy to rest. What's becoming increasingly clear to me is that the mechanisms underlying our national economy are changing rapidly, and a new set of winners and losers are emerging from this new reality. This discussion about the nature of our current econonic reality is explored in detail here, here and here.
  • Having gone to American public schools all my life before going to college as well as belonging to family that briefly received food stamps, I had the chance to get to know people who would be classified as poor. The older I get, the more convinced I am of the view that poverty is character problem that besets people who can't hold on to money. Most of one's monetary donations serves as temporary salve that promises little long-term reform of the impoverished person. The character traits that have typified the poor have always persisted throughout human history. Yet I tend to believe that for much of it, the poor could rely on a stronger social net of family relationships as well as religiously based associations. These social instutions served as a bedrock for character formation, and allowed for the massive rise in wealth for all groups of people who were provided the freedom to thrive. With the breakdown of the traditional family structures, a character vaccum results, often condemning subsequent generations to unbrocken cycles of poverty. This post in Clive Davis's blog describes the phenomena of the contemporary poor so succinctly and yet so true. One of the major privileges in being born in the middle class or above is the comfort in knowing that one can make many bad choices in life and yet still recognize the qualities necessary to achieve one's goals and lead a prosperous life. Such valuable knowledge is tragically lacking among most born into poverty. Sadly, I don't expect things to improve since institutions that function to relieve the poor fail to demand from their recipients any commitment to living with honor and strong character.
  • For a good anecdotal account depicting the moral and spiritual poverty of young kids who are likely to be among the lowest class of Americans in the future, I recommend this post from a young teacher-in-training who I happen to know very well.

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