Saturday, December 27, 2008

When economics meets sociology

There was a great post on The Economist awhile ago about an economics teacher that spent some time helping homeless single mothers improve their financial knowledge. It was a fabulous step out of normal social boundaries, the kind that is entirely too rare. Have a care to read the original.

"If there was one thing I learned from my experience, it was what a bad job the financial system does by people with low incomes."

Given the economic status implicit in pursuing an advanced degree, it is not surprising that virtually no economists have personal experience with living in the underclass. It is surprising though that more do not study this significant portion of the population.

A profession that seeks to benefit all portions of society should strive to understand all portions as well. No doubt many economists do not fully see the bubble of privilege they reside in. This lack of perspective damages the credibility of the profession and begs for unintended consequences in policy recommendations.

Perhaps it is too much for academic economists to step off campus, but they might at least get in touch with the Sociologists and Community Studies professors across the hall. This diary is a laudable example of the learning that can occur when we step into the shoes of the working poor.

Another self-improvememt stumble

Self improvement blogs can get tiring; they're usually repeating the same essential points because people keep making similar problems! However, I'm forgetful so I like to be reminded now and again.
I found this list of life advice useful and fairly comprehensive. My own comments follows:

Nice list Tom. I can hear a wealth of experience in your words. I am always grateful for the opportunity to skip hard times others have endured by listening to their stories!

I have to agree with the others that self-change is not easy at all. The real difference is that it is never impossible. If you have given away your ability to make the decisions in parts of your life it will appear difficult, perhaps insurmountable. But it’s never beyond reach.
I think the important thing is to realize that the first person you have to convince is yourself. “I can’t do anything” is a tempting thought, but if you reduce it to a trivial level it’s obviously false (you can always act at some basic point).
So if you find yourself lacking in confidence or motivation, start with your absolute smallest unconnected problem and fix it. Make a plan, gather what you need and get it done. Take a little time to appreciate your success, then move on to your new smallest problem.
By the time you reach issues that are actually difficult you will have built up some confidence and discipline in your problem-solving abilities and will feel ready to ask other to help. Just make sure not to rush ahead. Set a pace that won’t overwhelm you. Start soon and start slow.