Radical Homemaking, Radical Enrichment

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

I first heard about Shannon Hayes work through Laura McKenna’s blog nearly two years ago. I was already disposed to like the sorts of localist, agrarian, and traditional causes that Hayes urges us to consider when I first read about her (after all, Melissa and I vaguely aspire to that sort of lifestyle ourselves), but it was Laura’s concluding line–“There is absolutely no reason that feminism should mean a devotion to capitalism”–that really pulled me in. When I finally got a copy of Hayes’s book, Radical Homemakers, I confess it wasn’t what I expected–rather than a serious, theoretically grounded critique of consumer culture, family life, and the structural obstacles that often stand in the way of adopting a simpler, more communal lifestyle, I found an often sloppily researched but nonetheless impassioned instruction manual-cum-rallying cry. A cry and a manual for what? Very simply, for rejecting the economic demands which insist of dual-income households (p. 17), for relearning how to grow and preserve your own food (pp. 78-83), and for refusing the economically and environmentally devastating materialism of modern American life (pp. 93-94). And I thought to myself: now, wouldn’t this make for a great Relief Society lesson?

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Tuesday Afternoon Poetry

Harbor Hills Ward: Newport Beach

You emerge from your car, laughing.
“I forgot to tie my dress,” you say,
turning your back to me, and I do it for you.
And I think I understand how Cinderella felt
once, that early afternoon,
when the ball was still imaginary:

Standing there,
in her wrinkled black polyester,
grasping Drusilla’s sash,
her callused fingertips
not fathoming the silk,
it’s that fine, bluer than
Gatsby’s shirts, softer,
wealth slipping through her fingers,
fluttering, catching on a hangnail–
Cinderella hopes she doesn’t smell of onions
as she ties a lopsided bow
on her sister.

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Does the charitable deduction make sense for Mormons?

This year, Mormons will likely be disproportionate beneficiaries of the charitable deduction as they deduct money paid for tithing. The issue is whether allowing Mormons this deduction makes economic sense. [Read more…]

Comparative Advantage, or, Get Your Hands Off My Former Bishop

Many people assume that Father Adam was the author of the theory of comparative advantage, but this is incorrect; Smith was the driving force behind its predecessor–absolute advantage. It would be another 40 years or so before Torrens and Ricardo would demonstrate that, while Adam was a prophet, he was not infallible.
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Roosts and Nests

I have twice been mistaken for a homeless person. Once was funny, the other devastating. Both happened in college. The first time, I was wandering from my dormitory to the Student Union for breakfast, when a pleasant middle-aged woman started chatting with me about the Boston area. After several minutes of gentle circumlocution that left me uncertain what she wanted, she revealed that she needed advice on where best to solicit donations (“panhandle”). I was so delighted that she had thought I was homeless and been such a pleasant companion on my walk, that I tried to take her out to breakfast (she was embarrassed despite my reassurances, so I brought her breakfast outside the Union).

The second experience was devastating. [Read more…]

Ill-Gotten Gains & Illegal Immigration

I hope that Kevin Barney will forgive me for slicing the lunch meat deli-thin by using his post on tithing practices as a springboard for this related post. In my defense, I’ve been meaning to write something like this for months, but just haven’t gotten around to it until I saw a comment from reader Martin in Kevin’s thread and feared my window was closing quickly.

According to Scott Trotter, a spokesman for the Church, the LDS Church has “a long-standing policy of not profiting from alleged ill-gotten gains.” In general, this means that the Church does not knowingly accept tithing or other donations which come through unclean hands. What exactly “unclean hands” means in this context is a subject we could probably spend days talking about, but there is (likely) at least some level of common agreement about what would constitute ill-gotten gains among Latter-day Saints. For example, I doubt that many would dispute the ill-gotten nature of funds received through a bank robbery or street-mugging, and most of us would certainly be uncomfortable with the idea of building a temple, distributing welfare care, or sending humanitarian aid to disaster areas with funds that were obtained through such channels. However, those examples aren’t particularly useful to the average Mormon in the pews, since most of us are a) not bank robbers/thugs and b) most of us don’t really even know anyone who is. Thus, our chances for glaring judgmentally and wagging our fingers in disapproval at our neighbors are horribly diminished unless we expand our definition of ill-gotten gains. [Read more…]

Can a Good Mormon Make Over $100,000 a Year?

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

This post is, in a sense, a sequel to two older posts: “Can a Good Mormon be a Meritocrat?” and “Can a Good Mormon be a Socialist?” In case you can’t be bothered to read until the end, the answers to the three questions are: “Probably not,” “Yes,” and “Sometimes, maybe, but seriously, why would you want to take that risk anyway?” [Read more…]

Hooray! The Recession is Over! Hooray!

According to several recent news reports, the recession the American economy has been wallowing in for the past several quarters is over. Estimates of the annual growth rate for the US economy during the third quarter of 2009 are about 3.5 percent. Credit is being given to various government stimulus measures, such as Cash for Clunkers, tax credits for home buyers, and Audacious HopeTM.


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The Social Science of Mormonism Q&A, Part I

This post is brought to BCC by Mike McBride is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California, Irvine.

When the folks at BCC offered me the chance to do a blog post, the idea of a Q&A panel on the social science of Mormonism sounded like a great topic. Though the social scientific studies on Mormonism are not as large in number or as well known among the LDS population as are the historical studies of Mormonism, there are many such studies. There is even a dedicated professional association–the Mormon Social Science Association (MSSA).

In this two-post series, I asked four MSSA members a series of questions about the social scientific research on Mormonism. Our four panelists are, in alphabetical order: Ryan Cragun (RC), Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Tampa; Armand Mauss (AM), Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, Washington State University; Michael Nielson (MN), Professor, Department of Psychology, Georgia Southern University; and Rick Phillips (RP), Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of North Florida.

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Male Recession

In a couple of short articles that combine two major themes of recent BCC posts, employment for women and unemployment due to the current economic climate, the Financial Times is reporting that our economies are experiencing a “very male recession”. [Read more…]

An Incoherent Analysis of Ward Activities

Scott B is an economist in Southern California. He writes about economics and Mormonism (and Ikea merit badges) at his blog Dead Seriously. He’ll be joining us for the next week. Welcome, Scott B.

Several years ago, my DW and I were called to be the Activities Committee Chairpersons in our ward. I will always remember that to be the moment I realized that the Lord loves irony. [Read more…]

The Dead Thing in My Can of Tuna

Guest Blogger, Steven Peck is an associate professor and evolutionary ecologist at BYU who blogs on issues of science and faith at the Mormon Organon. He is currently doing a year sabbatical with the United Nations in Vienna, Austria working on African tsetse fly population ecology.

After class one day, I guiltily grabbed one of those over-packaged lunches so indispensable for those in a hurry to gulp down something quickly. This one was canned tuna salad and crackers. I felt guilty at the amount of unnecessary material piling up as I squirreled through the packaging to find my meal. [Read more…]

Church Finances

A few observations:

  • Another lawyer on another vendetta is pressing to know just how much the church is worth, as various recent articles have chronicled.
  • I have dear friends skeptical about the use of tithing for BYU or political campaigns like the gay marriage movement who have elected to pay their 10% to other charitable organizations.
  • Americans since the early 1830s have distrusted Mormonism, labeling it a scam to enrich a few at the expense of the many. These critics have also labeled Mormonism as secretive to a dangerous extent.
  • Many LDS feel that requiring reporting of church assets demonstrates a lack of faith in church leadership.
  • Americans love to talk about money and wealth. Several books have been written hoping to look inside the church’s coffers. One reporter seems to have made it his specialty.

Before thinking this through again in light of the Oregon case, I think I probably could have been persuaded either way. Since pondering the issue, I find that I have one major reservation about disclosing the financial statements of the church.
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Change the World: A Call to Action

Warner Woodworth is a social entrepreneur and Professor of Organizational Leadership and Strategy at BYU’s Marriott School of Business. He has contributed a kind of New Year’s essay on how Mormon individuals can change the world by helping to end poverty.

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Collective Action

Why aren’t we active enough in helping the poor to eliminate poverty in at least those countries which are reasonably democratic and lacking in corruption? It is clear that we have a gospel obligation to do so, and that there are programs available that work, at least to some extent. Why, then, are the poor still with us?

One factor in the explanation is almost certainly the problem known to social scientists as the “collective action dilemma.” This problem, most famously expounded by the economist Mancur Olson in 1965, involves a special set of difficulties that arise in persuading large groups of people to work together for the common good. The idea is a bit complex, but it is also quite directly relevant to problems of poverty — and the gospel of Jesus Christ provides a radical and breathtaking solution to it. Hence, I hope you will bear with a bit of explanation. [Read more…]


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