Monday, February 09, 2015

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Elizabeth Renzetti makes clear that we can't count on one-time crowdsourcing to perform the same function as a social safety net:
This is the problem with the wildly popular new online world of what you might call misery fundraising: It semi-solves one small problem while leaving the system in ruins. Crowdfunding someone’s personal tragedy is the equivalent of fixing a broken arm, but closing the hospital.

It used to be that crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter were wonderful places to raise money for cultural projects – movies, plays, even the occasional potato-salad recipe. When the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton was forced to close, it was able to raise enough money to reopen thanks to an online fundraising campaign. But lately, as the social safety net frays, the needy and desperate have turned to websites such as HandUp, GoFundMe and YouCaring to meet their basic needs. Needs that would have been met, even a couple of decades ago, by community or government services.

Take a look at some of the tales of woe on these sites, each one more miserable than the last: People who can’t afford rent, or shoes, or medical care. People who need bus money to get to work, or wheelchair vans, or help with tuition. Sometimes they’re looking to build memorials to lost children. These are not people looking for a week in Tahiti. And while it’s lovely to see the great generosity of donors, it’s also enraging to think that there are a vast number of people who have had to resort, in essence, to online begging. What should be the work of society is fobbed off onto goodhearted individuals with tablets.
- And Duncan Cameron writes about the social and infrastructure deficits which are being ignored in the name of austerity economics.

- Reuters reports on the Bank for International Settlements' conclusion that oil prices have far more to do with financial maneuverings than supply and demand - making it doubly dangerous to rely on oil revenue as part of a standard budgeting process. And Ralph Surette writes that any forward-thinking government should be moving toward more stable and affordable renewable options.

- Geoffrey Stevens points out Stephen Harper's attempt to erode trust in any safeguards against unfettered executive power. And Michael Harris reminds us what happens when trust breaks down between the public and the people and institutions who are supposed to pursue our interests.

- Finally, Dan Leger discusses the Cons' plan to turn the federal election into a non-stop fear campaign. And John Baglow writes that the Cons have given us plenty of reason to be afraid of fear itself.

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