Econ Nerd Book Review: The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

It’s no secret that I’m interested in economic injustice. That’s why I wax grumpy and bitter about things like gentrification, fast fashion, clean water, and environmentalism. But I have a lot to learn about the kind of systemic inequality that keeps some people down while others float above.

Which is why I read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.

Alexander’s premise is simple on its surface: since its inception, the War on Drugs has targeted black and brown people at disproportionately high rates. This has led to a new racial caste system in the United States.

But of course, like anything to do with race in America, it’s far from simple. And Alexander seems to realize how far-fetched some might consider her findings because she spends, like, 20% of every chapter going “I know this sounds crazy but seriously, stick with me. Just look at this data.”

While I wasn’t completely ignorant of the racism inherent in our justice system before reading The New Jim Crow I am now completely overwhelmed with new and damning knowledge. The rules of this new and insidious Jim Crow state affect people socially and economically in disastrous, life-ruining ways, through every stage of the justice process from arrest through trial, punishment, and release.

Here’s some of what I learned.

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I used her like tissue paper and threw her in the goddamn garbage.

Econ Nerd Game Review: Darkest Dungeon

When I asked a family member why he was considering voting for Donald Trump in last year’s election, his answer was something you likely heard many times. “He is a businessman,” he said, “and the country would be better off if it were run like a successful business.”

If memory serves I took the bait and started pummeling away with evidence that Donald Trump is a remarkably unsuccessful businessman. What I should’ve done was question the entire underlying supposition of his argument.

What I should’ve done was question the entire underlying supposition of his argument.

Let’s be real. I’m a progressive soul, and nothing short of bamboo under my nails was ever going to entice me to vote for Donald Trump. But what if a democratic candidate appeared with a strong, successful business background? Would I count that as a boon if the shoe were on the other foot? Would we all be better off if the country was run more like a business?

The most amusing way possible to answer that question is to play Red Hook Studio’s Darkest Dungeon.

Oh fuck.

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Don't worry, my bruhs.

Econ Nerd Game Review: This War of Mine

Friends, I love games. I also love talking about games. Unfortunately, I am not alone. There are approximately four great video game review sites for every human being currently alive on this planet. So occasionally here I’d like to talk about a game I’m playing, but focus specifically on the game’s financial mechanics. There are lots of games of uneven quality that nevertheless come up with cool inventory systems and in-game economies.

I strongly believe that gamification is the key to engaging more young people in the unsexy art of understanding personal finance. So even if these games aren’t individually great, I want to call out the interesting ways in which they use items and currency.

Sound good? Let’s get started with This War of Mine, a 2014 war survival game published by 11 bit studios. Specifically, I’m playing the recent The Little Ones expansion, which introduces children into the game’s mechanics.

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I don't know why I've never thought about the Theory of Compounding Interest in this way before, but it's genius.

I Read a Book About Warren Buffett. Here’s What I Learned.

So I read The Snowball by Alice Schroeder. It’s an absurdly long, absurdly detailed book about one of the most famously wealthy people in the world: Warren Buffett. Notorious for his frugal ways and uncanny ability to predict the future of the stock market (no seriously), Buffett’s name has become synonymous with financial success. Which is why I read the book.

I wanted to see if the Wizard of Omaha (I know—not nearly as sexy as the Wolf of Wall Street) had anything to teach me about making lots of money.

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