As many communities talk about economic recovery and future development, the conversation is often framed around the question, "what's the best investment of taxpayer dollars to achieve economic growth in our area?"
The question is scaled up and down - from "what's the best investment of the U.S. federal government's taxpayer-funded resources to recover from a down economy?" all the way to (in my local case) "how should Richmond and Wayne County, Indiana spend funds captured through the EDIT tax to develop the local economy?"
For many people, the question in that form doesn't have any problematic premises. But it's at least worth noting that there are some assumptions built in:
- That the government and/or economic development corporations are the best entities to facilitate economic development
- That taxpayer dollars should be used to fund economic development activities
- That economic development as traditionally defined is a good thing
And so on. Within each of those premises you can probably break them down further, e.g. if you ask people what economic development means, for some it's primarily "job creation" and for others its "improving quality of life" and for still others its "developing infrastructure."
The reality is that there are a number of layers to the conversation about economic development, most of them never touched or examined in the mainstream. We might visualize those layers this way:
Continue reading Layers of the economic development conversation
In October I concluded my time as a member of the Palladium-Item's community editorial advisory board, which I joined about two years ago. I enjoyed the experience and while (as expected) I didn't always agree with the views published by the paper, I felt like I was able to bring a perspective and approach that helped shape the overall conversation. There have been few other places in my day-to-day life since college where people regularly gather in a room to vehemently but respectfully talk (okay, and sometimes shout) in depth and in person about current events and important issues facing the city.
I was already a fairly close reader of the viewpoints page in the Pal-Item and other publications, but being on the editorial board inspired and required even closer attention to what topics local writers were submitting letters and columns about, and how they went about presenting their views. As a result, I've put together a list of elements that I found to be present in the most effective and engaging editorials I've read:
Continue reading Elements of an effective editorial
The Indiana General Assembly is advancing the so-called "Right to Work" legislation, with the state Senate expected to vote on the proposal Wednesday that the state House approved a version of last week.
Putting aside the substance of the legislation for a moment, the whole debate has been a fascinating exercise in political framing:
Using "Right to Work" as a label is a clever and strategic way to frame what the legislation is about. If you are "for people having jobs," how could you dare be against their "right to work"? Any critic of "right to work" laws has to try to find some other meaningful label to use for themselves that isn't derived from the original name, but in doing so they lose some of the attention of voters. (From what I can tell, the phrase "right to work" was introduced when a group of business owners in the southern U.S. formed the National Right to Work Committee in the 1970s to try to work against union efforts.)
The "Big Labor" bashing that happened last year across the Midwest set the stage for the "Union" label itself to be tainted to some degree in the minds of many voters ("Wait, are those unionized teachers really just trying to squeeze out every last taxpayer dollar while they sit around in luxury doing nothing? Golly!"), and so at least in part because of this association, I don't think unions have succeeded in being the rallying point for those who oppose these proposals.
Continue reading Framing and Right to Work
I'm reading with sadness the news coming out of Norway. Apparently, 32-year old Anders Behring Breivik decided that his Christian beliefs were so threatened by cultural shifts, minorities, immigration and multiculturalism that he needed to bomb and shoot people in order to address that threat. The killings were politically motivated: the bomb was detonated at the Primer Minister's office and Breivik then stalked and shot at close range people at a political retreat.
Some will talk about the dangers of having weapons of various sorts and sizes available to individuals like Breivik and passionately implore for tighter controls and regulation of firearms or other weapon-making materials. Indeed, we should be asking hard questions about when, where and why we create weapons designed to kill other human beings, and how we allow them to be used.
Some will talk about how this is a clear cut example that acts of terrorism are an ongoing threat and need to be safeguarded against using increased governmental or military power to fight terrorists and prevent attacks. Indeed, we should be asking hard questions about whether current efforts to prevent acts of terrorism are effective, and what else could be done.
Some will speak of a lone madman who was mentally ill, and how we must find better ways to diagnose and treat mental illness of this sort before an individual's darkness can turn into violence. Indeed, we should be asking hard questions about how those among us who suffer from mental illness are treated and how they are helped.
But we must not forget that behind all of these interrelated paths to such awful acts of violence, there is a singular cause that no amount of weapons control, military might or psychological analysis can predict or prevent:
Somehow, this man was able to construct a worldview for himself in which it was permissible to murder other people because of their political views.
Continue reading A pretext for violence
In June, a delegation from Summersault attended the YAPC::NA Perl Conference in Columbus, Ohio for a few days. My second YAPC conference, it was an interesting experience full of inside jokes, engaging discussions, more inside jokes, and good food.
I was only scheduled to give one presentation ("How to talk, or not talk, to your clients about Perl") but after hearing some of the opening remarks at the conference that spent too much time and energy, IMHO, declaring that "Perl is not dead!" I signed up to give a new talk about possibilities for re-framing that sentiment.
You can view a video of the talk, or you can view my slides [PDF].
At some point this week, John McCain's presidential campaign realized that having mobs of supporters who appeared to be ignorant, blood-thirsty, and xenophobic might not be quite what they were looking for when it comes to momentum. And so, as several local bloggers have mentioned, he started trying to backpedal from some of the rhetoric that his campaign -- led by Sarah Palin -- has been putting out there in an attempt to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Barack Obama.
The problem is, McCain has done nothing to question the underlying thinking and assumptions that have fueled these fires. By passing them by he essentially reinforces the dangerous framing, and does little toward any truly just treatment of the issues that have come up.
Continue reading McCain backpedaling: peace without justice
This is my inventory of the false or misleading choices presented to us in the mainstream narrative of how we select the President of the United States. They're presented by our culture, our media, our parents, our friends. They're presented as "the way things have always been" and "get on board with this or you'll be left behind" and "don't be an idealistic fool by believing anything else" They're presented with confidence and vigor, and they're spread far and wide: Continue reading False choices in selecting the American President