"Ten years ago, it was the Japanese-style corporate model that was seen as the world's future. Today, the American economic system is the envy of the world. It remains to be seen whether our dominance will continue or fall victim to yet another turn in the road."
This passage doesn't hold much weight compared to the rest of the reading, but it really enlightened me. I always assumed that the revered American economic system would always remain as the dominant system. This passage made me realize that new and better economic models are always created that trump the previous model. It made me think if one of the sustainable or socially just models that we have examined will be the next "turn in the road".
“Another problem with capitalism is that while it rewards success, it does not protect against failure. In fact, the nature of the game is that for there to be winners, there must be losers.”
When putting it in such simple terms, it is easy to see how capitalism leads to such economical differences between "winners" and "losers". Competition drives progress, but in US capitalism one group keeps progressing and the other worsens. Nina used an excellent analogy talking about this same quote, and I completely agree. In competition, all parties involved should start at an equal level; no one should get an unfair advantage. In US capitalism, there is always an advantaged party and another who is left with a disadvantage. This predetermines who will end up a "winner" or a "loser". It plainly shows how the current system is unfair, and illustrates why we need models such as fair trade to improve on everyone's life quality.
The whole section on the 'Miracle of Loaves and Fishes' "The feeding of the 5,000, also called the miracle of the loaves and fishes, is one of only two miracles included in all four Christian gospels... They open up their knapsacks and share what they have, and it was more than enough."
I love the comparison to the gospel story. It fully demonstrates the power that generosity can create. The ideas presented become much more clear and simple when the author says, "We had to look at the loaf of bread or piece of fruit in our knapsack and override our impulse to save it for later, maybe for breakfast tomorrow. The tensions were between our own needs and the needs of others, between the present need and the future need. Inspired by the power of community, the generosity of Jesus, and the connection we felt to each other, we shared, and not only were out physical needs met, our spiritual needs were met, too." Reading this section really reassured my belief in the possibility of the ideas presented. The Economy of Communion also introduced the power of generosity among communities, and this reading just strengthened the ideologies that were presented.
"Over at Trinity, the numbers are not quite as daunting, but nevertheless, the tension persists. In January, the foundation board looked hard at two numbers. The first was our $20,000 deficit for 2010, which we needed to cover from our meager operating reserves. The second was the fact that we had given $135,000 to other organizations, $55,000 each to our Bostonians for Youth partners and $25,000 we had raised in response to the earthquake in Haiti and used to inspire a much larger citywide faith offering. So on a $1.3 million expense budget, we had both run a deficit and tithed. Best business practice? I am not sure. Faith calling? I hope so."
This passage struck a chord with me. I especially loved the last line, because the author realizes the potential of the Trinity Boston Foundation. The fact that the foundation was able to run a deficit of $20,000 and also give $135,000 to other organizations was very surprising. The author really does a great job of making the project seem highly successful and hopeful. However, I do realize it requires a lot of hard work even though the author makes it seem simple. Questioning whether it is the best business practice made me think, even though it may have been a joke. Fair trade and these other faith-driven business organizations are all working to achieve this "best business model" and I think it is only a matter of time before one of these revolutionary models breaks mainstream.
"Whether rich, poor, or in between, we are all subject to the caprice of markets. Capitalism weakens traditional bonds, so that we also feel more alone than our forebears did... Individualism reigns. I don't mean egoism, but rather that people tend to confront their needs as individuals, pursuing goals and projects for themselves and their immediate dependents."
The central problem to why we are so compelled to the idea of upward mobility is in this quote. The idea is central to American culture and the idea of the American Dream. Individualism is in the roots of American culture. Immigrants come to America in order to make it on their own and make a name for themselves. No one comes to America with the goal of helping the poor in mind, because the conditions for the poor are probably worse in the country they are coming from. This is why I do not think the idea of downward mobility will easily catch on; it directly conflicts with basic American ideologies.
"In the United States, upward mobility is the road to success, the American dream of a college education, a home in the suburbs, and a two-car garage. It means hard work and initiative but also rugged individualism, the rat race, and the devil take the hindmost with "the hindmost" turning out to be disproportionately people of color... Upward mobility can mean economic security for refugees and their children; and escaping poverty is good. But it can turn into an escape from the poor themselves."
This quote puzzled me. I do not disagree with the idea and reasoning behind "downward mobility" but I feel like I (along with many other people) do not see it as an option. Both of my parents came to America in the pursuit of the American dream. They worked extremely hard and were able to achieve their goals and have provided my brother and I with good lives. If I lead my life un-doing what they worked for in a way, I feel like I would be disrespecting my parents and all of the work they put in to provide me with the opportunities I have. I feel like I must continue the trend of upward mobility so I can take advantage of the opportunities my parents gave to me in order to create even better ones for my children. Perhaps downward mobility isn't for everyone at once; maybe it should start from the top, from the people who can't go any higher.
Text 1: “The US has 5% of worlds population but we are using 35% of natural resources and creating more than 30% of the worlds waste. If everyone consumed like the US did we would need 3-5 planets."
Response 1: This statistic did not surprise me, rather it just put a number to a fact I already knew. The US does consume too many resources. As the speaker suggested, I believe we should begin working on new methods of going green and recycling in order to cut down the number of limited resources we use. This seems completely unfair to the rest of the world, but as everyday consumers we hardly notice the amount of resources we use to create products that are disposed of in a few months. We need to become more conscious and aware of what we are doing as consumers. I do not think it is very likely that our consumer-crazed economic style is going to change, but we can change the parts within it.
Text 2: The video in general
Response 2: I felt that the speaker was speaking in a cynical tone throughout the video. I understand that she was pointing out the harmful flaws in the American production/consumption system and that this entails a sense of cynicism. However, it seemed to me that she was implying that certain manufacturers purposefully put harmful chemicals in their products. I also had a sense that some of the statistics provided were skewed. For example, she said that 99% of things we buy end up in dump in 6 months, but what percentage of these items are disposable and meant to be thrown away? I enjoyed the topics that the video was trying to bring to the public eye, but I just didn't enjoy the overlying tone of the video.
Text 1: "All of our projects are totally self-sustainable and replicable and generate good operating margins. Many private sector investors are motivated by these revenues. Our projects have proven to drastically cut Medicare and Medicaid costs. We have used these results to convince state and federal governments and legislators to properly fund community care and in the end effect policy change at the federal level."
Response 1: It was surprising to read about such a revolutionary and innovative approach to senior housing, and to not have heard about it previously. It's amazing to see that someone has come up with a self-sufficient business model for senior housing and can be easily replicable. I also like how Conchy uses the available government resources available to make his idea a success. It leaves me wondering why the government or anyone else has not seen the potential advantages of the resources provided. Conchy mentioned all of the awards and accolades Mia has received (rightfully so) which shows that the public is conscious of the changes he is bringing. I hope to hear more about Mia and its expansion in the near future.
Text 2: Living in an orphanage taught me to identify with those less fortunate, with their plight and needs. Ever since, I have not been able to face injustice and remain uninvolved.... And I said to myself, "The world must not know about this, and I must be here for a reason. I think that I am the right person to change this. I need to tell everybody what is going on.”
Response 2: The story of Conchy Bretos' background and history was very touching and motivating. He had to learn how to be responsible and independent at an early age. he faced many injustices himself which led to his yearning to help those who face similar situations. Seeing social injustice first hand, fuels his efforts in helping and making a difference. This is a trait that I am very found of and hope that I can develop. Most people become disheartened when they see groups being marginalized and they focus on the negatives. People like Conchy Bretos and Oscar Romero gain motivation and a type of inner-fire when they either witness or experience these injustices firs hand. It is people with this type of characteristic that are going to make major social changes and impacts in the future.
Text 1: "Those who receive help are not considered 'assisted' or 'beneficiaries.' Rather they are regarded as active participants in the project, all part of the same community, whol also live the culture of giving. The emphasis is not on philanthropy, but on sharing, in that each person gives and receives with equal dignity."
Response 1: I like this idea that this project is not charity work. The poor are treated as equal participants within the project. It allows them to gain a sense of dignity and not feel as if they are helpless and need to rely on outside help. It reminded of one of the stories in the pamphlet on fair trade we read earlier, where the artisans were able to give their prophets to Hurricane Katrina victims. It allowed them to switch roles from being the ones receiving help to becoming the ones helping. Each party has something different to offer, the privileged have material things to share while the poor have intangible things to offer, such as love. The quote, "It is moving to see how many share the help they receive with others whose needs is greater, gestures which often set off a chain of solidarity," reminded me of the movie 'Pay It Forward' where a child started a good-will movement in which he helps three individuals and in turn each of those people help three others, and so on. I hope that this project is able to create a similar lasting effect.
Text 2: Glimpses of the Market as a Place of Communion
Response 2: This section was a bold statement to current economic practices. Most people who want to bring the 'role of love' within economics mostly must do so by functioning outside of traditional business. They form non-profits, charities, or foundations. However, the Economy of Communion is able to function within the normal economy market while still implementing the role of love. It is able to take control of the market and change it for the better, rather than having the market take control of a business with the potential of corrupting it. Instead of competition, they promote the idea of cooperation. It proves that the market is not rigid and fixed, but molded to fit different ideas and movements. This opened my eyes to the potential that the Economy of Communion, Fair Trade, and other good-will movements posses.
Text 1: In the documentary, it was mentioned that the rich were used to having power over the church.
Response 1: When I heard this mentioned in the movie I was very shocked. It showed how the Church can be corrupted by the powerful and wealthy. It made me wonder about the relationship between the Church and the poor before the arrival Monsenor Oscar Romero. Did the Church turn their back to the social injustices? I was also surprised at how much the support of the Church meant to the people, and how the rich felt threatened when Monsenor began to side with the poor.
Text 2: The scene where they discussed how Father Grande introduced the Gospel in a new way to the people.
Response 2: This scene reminded me how just a little knowledge can empower a whole group of people. I forgot that the bible used to be only read in Latin and that most people could not understand the readings. I really liked how Father Grande read the bible to the peasants in their native language and how he applied the teachings to their actual lives. I really enjoyed how he compared the story of Exodus to what they were going through and how they were essentially slaves to the rich. It also opened their eyes to the reasons of why the injustices were taking place; it wasn't because God was punishing them it was because of the corrupt government. This just further showed how the Church was corrupt and was blinding the people from the truth, that is until people like Father Grande and Monsenor Romero took action.
Response 1: The idea of economizing love, as introduced by Sandel, struck me the most out of all of the sections in the reading. The idea that love is a scarce resource is very strange to me. I cannot imagine something intangible to be limited, because it is impossible for us to see those limits. I agree with Sandel's point of view that love, altruism, generosity, etc. are not commodities that can be depleted, but rather "they are more like muscles that develop and grow stronger with exercise." After reading this section, I began to question if this economist view point is one of the problems with today's society. Are people afraid to love to their full capacity in fear that their ability to love will diminish? How can one even measure love, or the amount of love one has left? I personally believe that one's ability to love can be infinite, but it is these types of social attitudes that bind the full potential of love. It is actually scary that some people live their lives thinking that their affection is limited and must be used economically. We all know that money can't buy love, but this type of mentality is treating love as if it were money.
Text 2: Crowding Out/ The Commercialization Effect
Response 2: The notion of 'crowding-out' really interested me. I think it relates well to the idea of economizing love, in that sometimes normal market mechanisms cannot be applied to social or political spheres. It proves that putting a monetary value on something can actually affect its value as perceived by people. When reading through these sections, I assumed that external motivation (money) would have more of an affect than intrinsic motivation. I was surprised to learn that the opposite was true; offering money as motivation depreciates one's moral interest. It was intriguing that the idea of crowding-out goes against "the most fundamental economic 'law,' that raising monetary incentives increases supply. If the crowding-out effect holds, raising monetary incentives reduces, rather than increases, supply." Overall, I found these sections to be uplifting; that a majority of people value their intrinsic motivation and moral guidance over money, and that there are more things money cannot buy than I originally thought.
"Even within the Fair Trade world, there are various labels, accreditations, terms and criteria identifying how some product, or some organization, advances social justice and environmental sustainability. Unlike with organics, Fair Trade is not regulated by any government institution or single authority. So, conscious consumers now need to use precious time to discern the significant differences between various Fair Trade accreditations... the level of trust consumers have in any accreditation is at risk if businesses using that accreditation act irresponsibly in other ways." (pg. 28)
It sickens me to think that businesses use false Fair Trade labels to accredit themselves with being socially just, when in reality they are only making attempts to improve their brand image. They are taking advantage of conscious consumers who want to make a difference, and ultimately giving the consumers a false sense of social responsibility. I believe that the government should create an institution in which this can be regulated. I do not see any difference in a company falsely stating that their product is organic or falsely stating that their product Fair Trade. Not only would such an institution benefit conscious consumers, but it would also benefit companies that do support fair trade by redirecting the consumers to legitimate Fair Trade businesses. Hopefully in the near future, some of the prominent international Fair Trade organizations can work with some governments to create ways of regulating this issue.
"Those who favor changing the system from within say that encouraging mainstream businesses to carry a few lines of Fair Trade items introduces the concept to vastly more consumers, benefiting far more producer families and communities. A differing view holds that developing alternative business models that capture significant market share will inspire higher standards in mainstream business... Many alternative-model advocates welcome the trend toward mainstreaming, but call on those businesses to move beyond a token investment in Fair Trade and pursue greater social responsibility in all their dealings." (pg. 26)
I found this discussion between reforming or replacing conventional trade with Fair Trade to be interesting. It introduced the idea that Fair Trade could vastly gain more popularity if a Fair Trade business could gain a large market share and influence other mainstream businesses. I see this as a possibility that could happen in the near future. The booklet discussed how coffee is the most popular Fair Trade product at the moment, and that Starbucks generated the most sales of Fair Trade products than any other retailer, but sold only 4% of its coffee as Fair Trade. Starbucks is already a mainstream company and holds a large share in the coffee market, if it only increased the amount of Fair Trade coffee it sold it could easily be one of the first trail blazers in introducing Fair Trade to mass consumers and influencing competitors. I believe Fair Trade advocates should focus on introducing alternative business models to the coffee market because it would be the most successful in comparison to other markets and it is an excellent starting point to begin informing mass consumers about Fair Trade.
Disposable People: -"It is this illegal labor that usually goes unnoticed once the popular crustacean enters the global market making it nearly impossible to track down." -"When you thaw shrimp to put on your barbecue, it’s likely that the last person who handled that shrimp was a slave." -"There are 27 million slaves in the world today." -"It is possible to end slavery in 25 years."
Using Our Purchasing Power: -"We know what it is like to be victims. We see the pictures on television and we can't send money, but it gives us joy to be able to help our brothers and sisters in the USA through the sale of our products. Never in my life did I think that would be able to give money to help an American." Response:
Slavery is a serious topic discussed in classrooms in America due to its grim history. However, when we are taught about slavery it is taught to us as if it is a thing of the passed. This promotes ignorance of the subject, which is as much of a concern (maybe even more of a concern) now than it was over the past few centuries. I knew slavery still existed in some parts of the world, such as in Sierra Leone to mine for diamonds, but I did not realize the number of slaves was so large: 27 million! It's scary to think that a lot of the products we deal with on a daily basis may have involved slave labor. What frightens me even more, is that we cannot ever really know which products use illegal labor and which do not. However, it is reassuring to hear that we can put an end to slavery within the next couple decades if we all work together. Even though it is possible to end slavery, the fact that the use of slave labor is unknown when buying products makes me question if conscious consumers really are helping put an end to the problem, or just continuing it.
I was extremely inspired by the quote I posted from the text after I read it for the first time. It made me realize that there is hope in solving humanities issues. The artisans know what it is like to be the victim from living in poverty all of their lives, so they did what they could to help the victims from Hurricane Katrina. This struck me because we don't often think of how the less fortunate can help us, but how we can help the less fortunate. The artisans have a different view; they view the world as a family, referring to us as their "brothers and sisters." This made me realize how important creating a global relationship is. It creates an environment of harmony and selflessness, in which the goal is the common good of the people and not the individual. American culture strongly supports individualism which often causes us to overlook global problems and focus more on what is happening at home. The artisans do not value individualism as strongly as Americans, which is why even though they are in poverty they still want to help those who are also struggling to support their global family. I was also inspired by the empowering feeling the artisans received by helping the Katrina victims. Even though they still rely on our help to make sure they receive fair wages a difference, they were able to feel like they too made a difference by donating their profits. It's that type of feeling that gives us the spiritual nourishment Emily spoke to us about in class.