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Sunday Reading

Written By: - Date published: 10:31 am, July 1st, 2012 - 1 comment
Categories: capitalism, interweb - Tags: ,

I’m going to try and put up a piece each Sunday of interesting, longer, deeper stories I found during the week. It’s also a chance for you to share what you found this week too. Those stimulating links you wanted to share, but just didn’t fit in anywhere (no linkwhoring).  This week: Feminism, capitalism & resource depletion.

This week there’s been big online discussions across the world about feminism, with the root largely being Anne Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic.  It’s long but it covers a lot of the issues women face in the workplace, and particularly with rising to the top.  As women at the top of Obama’s administration have found themselves unprepared to make the family sacrifices required, they’ve been replaced by men – all the women able to juggle things to get that far had already been appointed to the cabinet.  They were Rhodes Scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners or top of their class at Harvard to make it that far: not a sensible standard for those who wanted to believe that women could have it all.

So she calls for a look beyond the wage gap to a well-being gap:

Millions of other working women face much more difficult life circumstances. Some are single mothers; many struggle to find any job; others support husbands who cannot find jobs. Many cope with a work life in which good day care is either unavailable or very expensive; school schedules do not match work schedules; and schools themselves are failing to educate their children. Many of these women are worrying not about having it all, but rather about holding on to what they do have. And although women as a group have made substantial gains in wages, educational attainment, and prestige over the past three decades, the economists Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson have shown that women are less happy today than their predecessors were in 1972, both in absolute terms and relative to men.

And thinks that that must be driven by closing the leadership gap.

“Women are not making it to the top. A hundred and ninety heads of state; nine are women. Of all the people in parliament in the world, 13 percent are women. In the corporate sector, [the share of] women at the top—C-level jobs, board seats—tops out at 15, 16 percent.” [much less in NZ boardrooms]

Many of the changes that are required for a better society (distribution of work, more than lip-service to the importance of family etc) might well follow if those in power suffered the same problems.

That can (and should) be extended a lot further says Gail Dines.  Where Anne Marie Slaughter writes from the point of view of one at the very top of the professional class, but the problems are very different for most women:

“Having it all” looks very different to the airport cleaners I encountered, as well as to millions of others in similar jobs who lack access to safe housing, decent schools and affordable healthcare. These women face exhausting daily drudgery and vulnerability to illness, violence and depression.

These disparities are exacerbated if you are not white. While the average annual pay for the very few women CEOs of the largest companies in the US is now $14m (even higher than for men, according to Bloomberg News), the median wealth of single women of colour aged 36 to 49 in the country is just $5, compared to $42,600 for single white women (according to a 2010 report from the Insight Centre for Community Economic Development).

Elsewhere in feminism this week, others were fighting the battle of the bodyhair.

The BBC had an interesting article on the history of capitalism this week, as one reporter went to find the world’s oldest clove tree, Afo.

If the Dutch had had their way, Afo would not have survived at all.

The Netherlands United East India Company, or Voc, was the world’s first multinational corporation. And just as corporations today seek to monopolise plant genes in the developing world, the Voc set about seizing total control of spice production.

In 1652, after displacing the Portuguese and Spanish, the Dutch introduced a policy known as extirpatie: extirpation. All clove trees not controlled by the Voc were uprooted and burned. Anyone caught growing, stealing or possessing clove plants without authorisation faced the death penalty.

On the Banda Islands, to the south – the world’s only source of nutmeg – the Dutch used Japanese mercenaries to slaughter almost the entire male population.

Luckily modern multinationals are much more civilised: with news later in the week that Barclays Bank in Britain was fined $US450 million as it was found to have systematically adjusted vital pieces of market information – the Libor and Euribor – for its own gain and to make the bank appear more secure during the GFC than it was.

In a great show of accountability their chief executive is refusing to resign saying he knew nothing of it, even though is happened for a number of years.  Other banks  HSBC, RBS, Citigroup and UBS were also under investigation, and criminal charges may follow.

There was interesting news on the Barclays brothers too – they have been using their economic power to try and cow the 600 other residents of the UK crown dependency of Sark – sacking large numbers of islanders when their candidates didn’t get elected to the island’s parliament.

Also in the Guardian, and with a hat-tip to Anthony, economist Dambisa Moyo talks about the future, predicting many wars as we head into an era of resource depletion:

[the world’s population] is projected to hit 10 billion by 2050. With almost all the population growth occurring in the emerging economies, by 2030 some 2 billion people will have joined the global middle classes. […] Naturally, they will want mobile phones, fridges, cars and washing machines; 2,000 new cars already join Beijing’s streets every day. In 2010 China had 40 cities with populations of more than a million; by 2020 it plans to have added another 225. The implications for the world’s commodity resources are stark and sobering: global demand for food and water is expected to increase by 50% and 30% respectively by 2030, the pressure on copper, lead, zinc and corn is already becoming unsustainable, and no one has a clue where the energy we’ll need is going to come from.

[…] . Already, since 1990 at least 18 violent conflicts worldwide have been triggered by competition for resources. If nothing is done now, warns Moyo, commodity wars on a terrifying scale are all but inevitable.

And for something completely different: using 3D printing to create kidneys for transplants.

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