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Activism and the End of Slavery

In the United States, a common argument surrounding the Civil War is that it was unnecessary because slavery was dying out on its own. Economically unviable in the face of industrialization, it would have gone extinct on its own. But is this true? In short: no. The notion that slavery would have eventually vanished without government intervention due to fundamental economic concerns originates from both misunderstandings and deliberate distortions of history.

Satire is Dead

An obituary for a genre whose time has finally gone. Born over 2000 years ago and popularized in the Roman Empire, satire has endured as a genre of humor through the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms, through revolutions, plagues and famines, crusades and pogroms, noblemen of good breeding and, on the other hand, British monarchs. Often misunderstood, sometimes confused with its siblings irony, sarcasm, parody, and farce, satire has remained a reliable tool in the hands of comedy writers for generations.

The Power of Disintermediation

“Disintermediation” is a simple idea: it’s a reduction in middlemen between producer and consumer. When it comes to media and information, it can give us access to raw, unfiltered news–or fill our heads (and social media feeds) with rank garbage. Society today could not be what it is without the flows of information that influence and shape it. Before the printing press and widespread literacy, for most people there was only word-of-mouth.

Drug Addiction as a Public Health Issue

After decades of failed policy, we may finally be seeing drug addiction as the complex health issue it really is, rather than treating it as a law enforcement problem. The height of the War on Drugs is well past at this point. The ‘80s and ‘90s remain the high water mark of that particular joint federal-state effort. Countless lives have been lost or destroyed in the meantime, civil rights violated on a large scale, and for what?

Diversity in the Tech Industry

Don’t believe the hype: the tech industry isn’t suffering a “pipeline problem.” It’s a culture problem. Facebook released theirannual diversity report last week. In it are some positive changes over last year, but they aren’t much to write home about: women are now 27% of leadership positions (23% last year), and 5% of non-tech employees are now black (vs. 3% last year). Is this good news? Yes, in the sense that it represents forward progress.

New Orleans: America's City

I just spent some time in New Orleans. I want to talk about it. By no means have I seen all of America’s great cities. I’ve seen but a handful. One thing I have noticed about them, though, is that they all have some iconic section for which they are famous–where the action is. New York City has Times Square. Baltimore has the Inner Harbor. New Orleans is famous for its French Quarter.

Police Can't Do Everything

Policing in the US–specifically, police abuses and a resulting lack of accountability–has been a frequent topic of discussion over the past few years, with the Black Lives Matter movement at the forefront. The problems endemic to our policing institutions are myriad and will likely be difficult to correct. Start with the basics: what are police for? Most people would say the purpose of police is law enforcement–that is, to take the laws duly enacted by legislative bodies and carry out their execution.

Are We Too Specialized?

Today’s economy is based on ever narrower specialization–people who know their specific domains inside and out, even if they don’t know much else. But this might be leading to greater problems in the future. Specialization only became possible as technology advanced, requiring workers with special knowledge in order to do their jobs. In the past, certain trades were also specialized, and such knowledge was kept within that profession. Apprentices learned from experienced tradesmen, and so it was in many kinds of work for hundreds of years.

Private Prisons, Organization, and Accountability

Mother Jones recently featureda lengthy investigative story into a private prison administered by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). It was almost surprising in how dramatically _un_surprising it was. I fully recommend reading the entire piece. It’s quite long–over 30,000 words–but well worth your time. There’s a lot of information packed within. I’m not here to rehash or summarize, but rather to draw attention to aspects I found particularly salient. One is that Winn Correctional Center, which is the prison the author investigated by working there for four months, comes across as an unusually poorly run prison.

Are We Too Hard on Bill Clinton?

Given that Hillary Clinton is running for President this year, and she and her husband have worked as a team throughout their careers, the Bill Clinton Presidency of the ‘90s is now being revisited, with particularly harsh critiques by today’s progressives. New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait–yes, that Jon Chait–says we’re being too hard on ol’ Bill. Kids today simply fail to understand just how tough it was to be a Democrat in the 1990s.