Saturday, June 02, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- CBC talks to Robert Frank about the role of luck and privilege in generating concentrated wealth. And Kate Bahn highlights the reality that collective action is needed to help level a playing field currently tilted to benefit those who already have the most.

- Samantha Eyler-Driscoll interviews Gabriel Zucman about the dangers of inequality (and the financial secrecy which enables it). And Richard Brooks offers a warning that big accounting firms are too close to the corporations they're supposed to be monitoring, while Matthew Yglesias writes that the Republicans are setting up another financial crisis by letting the financial sector run amok.

- Peter Goodman discusses Stockton, California's plans for a basic income experiment. And Johann Hari notes that a secure income can have massive mental health benefits - while financial precarity can instead feed into depression and other illnesses:
For several decades now, we have been taught to see our deepest forms of pain—our depression, our anxiety—as primarily problems with our internal brain chemistry: some missing serotonin here, some missing dopamine there. This is how I was told to think about my depression by my doctor. But the UN’s leading medical figures have warned that this view is “biased and selective use of research outcomes” that “cause more harm than good” and “must be abandoned.” There is, they claim, a different way of looking at this problem—one that offers meaningful solutions.
...If depression is primarily—as we have been led to believe by pharmaceutical company marketing campaigns—a problem with our brain chemistry, this makes no sense. The brains of the people of Dauphin did not suddenly evolve in those three years. But the World Health Organization, the leading medical body in the world, has explained: “Mental health is produced socially. The presence or absence of mental health is above all a social indicator and requires social as well as individual solutions.” In reality, depression and anxiety are produced by a broad range of factors. Some are biological—but many are social and psychological.

This requires us to think differently about how we respond to depression and anxiety. Dr Forget told me, after she interviewed many of the people who had been on the guaranteed income program, that it “works as an antidepressant.” Severe financial anxiety is one of several factors which has been proven to cause depression. Reducing that cause reduces the amount of depression. All over the world, I hunted for alternative antidepressants that should be offered alongside chemical antidepressants—and I kept seeing this key insight that had been discovered in Canada in the 1970s: the most effective strategies for dealing with depression are the ones that deal with the reasons why we are in such pain in the first place.
- But Stephanie Nebehay reports on a UN human rights investigation showing how the Trump administration is going out of its way to further impoverish the U.S.' lower classes, while Ed Pilkington notes that core Trump supporters in rural areas are likely suffering some of the worst effects.

- Finally, Jessica McCrory Calarco notes that the "marshmallow test" referred to regularly in behavioural economics likely has more to do with socioeconomic status than any inherent self-discipline.

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