This post is part of Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty, and is offered with a tip of the hat to Pat Dryburgh, who got me in on it. Pat, more than anyone I know in the blogosphere, exposes his heart on his blog–the good, the bad, and the ugly. His contribution today is titled The Least of These.
My contribution is a collection of readings on economics and poverty, for parents, kids, and churches. Have I missed some good ones? Of course I have. Put some stinkers on the list? Maybe. Please leave your own ideas in the comments or use the contact form to suggest books for future posts!
Some Economic Basics (& then some):
- New Ideas from Dead Economists: An Introduction to Modern Economic Thought by Todd Buchholz
- A fun-to-read basic introduction to the field, its ideas, and the people who made them.
- Ecological Economics: Principles And Applications by Herman Daly and Joshua Farley
- The grand old man and the young rock star of the field of ecological economics take a real-world look at traditional economic theory and “apply the stomach pump to the doctrines of economic growth that we have been force-fed for decades.” Absolutely essential reading if you want to know what is really going on here. You can read Herman Daly on the Credit Crisis, Financial Assets, and Real Wealth (“The current financial debacle is really not a ‘liquidity’ crisis as it is often euphemistically called. It is a crisis of overgrowth of financial assets relative to growth of real wealth–pretty much the opposite of too little liquidity…”), another Blog Action Day 2008 post on The Oil Drum, via Resilience Science.)
- The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken
- The title that informs the economic foundations of Better World Books!
“Paul argues that a true economy mimics ecology in its circular no-waste systems and healthy fecundity of niches. In a perfect world, we’d package your books in edible bamboo pouches and load them into Willie Nelson’s biodiesel bus, where he’d hand deliver them with a song. We’re not quite there, but we’ve got some things we think you’ll like.”
- The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom by Yochai Benkler
- How do the rules change in a networked information economy? This book is freely available under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Sharealike license. That means (among other things) you can get it for free, and it can serve as a freely accessible core around which to build a learning community. One such effort is the Wealth of Networks Wiki at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Kevin Lim has contributed a mind map of Benkler’s book.
- Poverty Traps by Samuel Bowles, Steven Durlauf, and Karla Hoff
- How to pockets of hard-to-escape poverty develop? How is poverty transmitted from generation to generation? And how can such dynamics keep individuals, neighborhoods, or even whole nations poor? This is the hard (and fascinating!) research on what makes poverty a hard problem.
- Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty by Muhamad Yunus
- Microcredit: making very small, unsecured loans to very poor people. So crazy it just might work! A great memoir by a man who won the Nobel Prize by listening to the needs of the poor, and making an effort to meet them. (Maybe a read-aloud?)
- Capitalism at the Crossroads: Aligning Business, Earth, and Humanity (2nd Edition) by Stuart L. Hart
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits by C.K. Prahalad
- What happens when multinational corporations doing business with the poor start adopting business principles like, “Put the last first?” (Gee, where have I heard that before?) The Base of the Pyramid Protocol advises them to do just that. These books tells how it works. You can hear a lecture & panel discussion with the author (and Josh Farley as well!) that took place at the Business, Environment, and Social Responsibility Forum in Madison, Wisconsin in November, 2007.
- The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition by Michael H. Shuman
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben
- Other visions of how a truly human and truly just economy might work, and why the local community is the key to making it happen.
- In the Long Run We are All Dead: a Macroeconomics Murder Mystery by Murray Wolfson
Murder at the Margin (A Henry Spearman Mystery) by Marshall Jevons
- ‘Cause you always knew there was something fishy with economics.
- Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do by Studs Terkel
Chutes and Ladders: Navigating the Low-Wage Labor Market by Katharine S. Newman
- The classic by a Chicago legend, and an updated look at the working poor. (The good news: 20% of them–of us–make it!)
- A Rasin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
There Goes the Neighborhood: Racial, Ethnic, and Class Tensions in Four Chicago Neighborhoods and Their Meaning for America by William Julius Wilson
- Take any issue in American society, and if you want to see it get truly complicated, add race. Here is Hansberry’s brilliant, insightful, heroic classic of a family fighting their way out of poverty (which it would be a crime not to read with your children!), and a real-life study of what happens when the neighborhood changes.
For reading with the kids:
- Bikes for Rent! by Isaac Olayleye
- The story of Lateef, and how he comes to learn the bicycle business in his home village of Erin in Western Nigeria. (Ages 4-8)
- The Golden Mountain Chronicles by Laurence Yep
(The Serpent’s Children, Mountain Light, Dragon’s Gate, Dragonwings, and more!)
- Farming, banking, human trafficking, racism, immigration, globalization–all that is here in the story of a Chinese family’s journey over several generations to the new world, from 1849 to the present day. Dragonwings is the most famous of these books, having been a Newberry Honor Book, but they all have much to teach about responsibility, family, poverty, struggle, and faithfulness to the dream of a better life in a better society. This is our current read-aloud series with our kids, who eat up Yep’s fantasy novels as well. (Ages 7+)
- Maggie L. Walker: Pioneering Banker and Community Leader by Candice Ransom
- In 1903, Maggie Lena Walker, daughter of a former slave and a white abolitionist, used funding from the Order of St. Luke, an African American Benevolent Society formed after the Civil War, to establish a bank to serve the needs of African American customers. She was the first woman ever to charter a bank in the United States. She became the first President of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, which survived the Great Depression and all the rest of the 20th Century. The bank still exists today as Consolidated Bank & Trust. This is her story. (Ages 9+)
- The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade by Pietra Rivoli
- What can you learn about the ways of the world from the shirt on your back? When Pietra Rivoli traces the story of cotton and clothing around the world, she learns some surprising lessons about the market for this basic human need. (Ages 10+)
For reading with the church:
- Walking With the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development by Bryant L. Myers.
- Recommended on the World Vision Social Justice Booklist and written by a VP of the organization, this is the place to start if your congregation is beginning to think about responding to poverty. A deep understanding of poverty set in a firm Biblical foundation, with practical guides for group study and action.
- The New Friars: The Emerging Movement Serving the World’s Poor by Scott Bessenecker.
- Your children are doing amazing things in these days. Scott is teaching them how. Here is part of his post for Blog Day 2008, Set Apart:
I try to imagine my eleven year old daughter stuck in the place in which Adjo is trapped. Adjo was abandoned. She does not have a Dad who will become outraged for her plight and fight for her. She doesn’t have a big brother or sister to advocate for her. She does have a woman she calls “mama,” but she’s the person bringing Adjo customers (beating her if she doesn’t bring in enough money). This life is normal for Adjo, and to rescue her into some other kind of existence will take fighting off her customers, fighting off her “mama,” fighting off the desperate poverty she lives in, probably engaging in intense spiritual warfare, and even fighting with Adjo herself who has learned not to trust adults. In a way you could say that Adjo is set apart – insulated from any real help. She is mired in circumstances that will rob her of childhood, enslave her to the passions of those more powerful than her, and destroy any healthy sense of God, self, or community…
We are able to mobilize and train untold numbers of dedicated young people to set themselves apart and risk their lives for war. Can we not call and equip a few who would be willing to set themselves apart to fight for Adjo?
- Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st Century: The Classic That Woke Up the Church by Walter Rauschenbusch
- Is the Good News a message of personal, individual salvation from the world, or a revolution-revelation of God’s Kingdom breaking in to destroy the works of the devil in this world? Where does the spiritual meet the social, and what is the Church’s prophetic role? A century ago, Walter Rauschenbusch struggled with these questions, and changed the course of church history. In this anniversary volume, the leaders of today’s Church respond and reflect on his words.
For these times:
Obama’s time as a community organizer is analogous to John McCain’s time as a prisoner of war. Obviously, they’re very different situations–but it’s not immediately clear what one does in either situation that would qualify one to be President. Yet both shaped the character and reveal the values of the candidate. In both cases, what the candidate did is less important than what the candidate learned. Nobody asks McCain what he accomplished as a POW. Nobody asks who he led or what he learned about foreign policy during this time. If they did, they would be missing the point. In refusing a chance to go home out of order, McCain proved his willingness to put principle before himself. Obama did the same when he chose community organizing over more lucrative opportunities. McCain understands the sacrifices demanded of soldiers sent to war. Obama understands the complexities of urban poverty. Both are important things for a President to know.
…But so far, we have not seen a government program we think has a real chance at actually reducing poverty because most of our leaders don’t understand poverty. They may understand the pressures facing the middle class, but they are unaware of anything below that. So while I would happily support an effective program, if the money is just going to waste, I can find a better use for it. You cannot reduce poverty if you don’t know what poverty is.