Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Nicholas Kristof discusses how U.S. workers have suffered as a result of declining union strength. And Barry Critchley writes that Canada's average expected retirement age has crept over 65 - with that change coming out of necessity rather than worker choice.

- Alex Andreou rightly slams the concept of "defensive architecture" intended to eliminate the poor from sight rather than actually addressing poverty:
“When you’re designed against, you know it,” says Ocean Howell, who teaches architectural history at the University of Oregon, speaking about anti-skateboarding designs. “Other people might not see it, but you will. The message is clear: you are not a member of the public, at least not of the public that is welcome here.” The same is true of all defensive architecture. The psychological effect is devastating.
Defensive architecture is revealing on a number of levels, because it is not the product of accident or thoughtlessness, but a thought process. It is a sort of unkindness that is considered, designed, approved, funded and made real with the explicit motive to exclude and harass. It reveals how corporate hygiene has overridden human considerations, especially in retail districts. It is a symptom of the clash of private and public, of necessity and property.
This tripartite pressure of an increasingly hostile built environment, huge reduction in state budgets, and a hardening attitude to poverty can be disastrous for people sleeping rough, both physically and psychologically. Fundamental misunderstanding of destitution is designed to exonerate the rest from responsibility and insulate them from perceiving risk. All of us are encouraged to spend future earnings through credit. For the spell to be effective, it is essential to be in a sort of denial about the possibility that such future earnings could dry up. Most of us are a couple of pay packets from being insolvent. We despise homeless people for bringing us face to face with that fact.

Poverty exists as a parallel, but separate, reality. City planners work very hard to keep it outside our field of vision. It is too miserable, too dispiriting, too painful to look at someone defecating in a park or sleeping in a doorway and think of him as “someone’s son”. It is easier to see him and ask only the unfathomably self-centred question: “How does his homelessness affect me?” So we cooperate with urban design and work very hard at not seeing, because we do not want to see. We tacitly agree to this apartheid.
- David Climenhaga calls for the media to stop enabling the Fraser Institute's propaganda mill. But Tyler Cowen points to research showing that even by the warped definitions applied by the Fraser Institute and other similar corporate mouthpieces, increased tax levels tend to lead to greater economic freedom.

- Finally, Jean Chretien, Joe Clark, Paul Martin and John Turner join a group of distinguished Canadians in criticizing the Cons' terror bill - though sadly their former parties are rather less interested in the public good. And while Aaron Wherry leaves open the possibility that Parliament might be given the opportunity to meaningfully discuss whether C-51 is either needed at all or adequately tailored to its supposed purposes, Michael Harris is right to worry that a Con majority will refuse to let that happen.

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