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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Being frugal is neither a death sentence for your social life nor a monastic vow to sit in silence and think about all the fun you're not having.

7 Totally Reasonable Ways to Save Money on Entertainment

There’s this assumption when talking about frugality that it means a lifestyle of no fun, ever. “But if I live like a pauper, how will I ever take my cherished babies to Disney World?” we wail, assuming that a) Disney World is fun, and b) it’s impossible to afford fun on a frugal budget.

I am here to dispel this ridiculous notion, dear readers. We’ve been writing a lot about the big picture of personal finance recently, and I wanted to give you (and me) a break with some practical, small-scale advice. Being frugal and smart about your money is neither a death sentence for your social life nor a monastic vow to sit quietly and think about all the fun you’re not having. Movies, concerts, video games, sports—all are well within your grasp as a professional penny-pincher. In fact, you can enjoy a whole weekend full of cheap shenanigans while still maintaining your badass, frugal ways.

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Go to the goddamn library, you fool.

The Library Is a Magical Place and You Should Fucking Go There

Back when I lived in a hippie commune with approximately nine humans and 37 dogs, I would bike to the library on a regular basis to keep myself in reading material without spending all of my meager paycheck on books. As I was leaving one day, I asked one of my roommates if she wanted me to pick up anything at the library for her. Her response: “Is it free?”

Is it free? Is it free?

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