Reconceptualizing Work

By Mike Koetting                   September 8, 2017      

This post addresses the third of my top three priorities for humanity—rethinking work.  Today’s post lays out some general thoughts and will be followed by posts elaborating some of the assertions made here.  Of all my posts so far, this has been the most difficult to write and the one where I feel most uncertain about what I have to say.  I think it’s important, but I am not sure I have gotten exactly where I want to go.  Why don’t any of you who might be inclined send me some thoughts?


The main problem with our conception of work, particularly in America, is that it is seen entirely through the old lenses of capitalism, which are too blurred for our current reality.  I think we need progressive lenses. Continue reading “Reconceptualizing Work”

Consumption, GDP and the Environment

By Mike Koetting         August 22, 2017

This is the third post on the environment.  While it does follow from the first two, I also need to acknowledge that I was nudged into this post by a very thoughtful note from Jim Kent, a long-time friend and policy guru.  I have freely incorporated some of his ideas in the below.  I hope he doesn’t mind.


Almost everyone, everywhere wants stuff to consume.  But the U.S. seems to be particularly vulnerable.  Consumption in the U.S. measures about 50 percent higher than in the European Union.  Americans consume more even than countries having higher per-capita GDPs.  American houses are bigger, they have more appliances in these houses, they drive more cars more miles, and they consume more food. Continue reading “Consumption, GDP and the Environment”

The Environment: Saving Ourselves Will Not Be Easy

By Mike Koetting                August 13, 2017

This is the second post of what I now realize is three posts on the environment. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the entire future of humanity is at least somewhat complicated. Environmental issues are one of what I believe are the three biggest issues facing society, inequality and the meaning of work being the other two.
My last post argued that even if you don’t believe the case for imminent environmental disaster is absolutely watertight, there can really be no argument that the risks are increasing at a more than linear rate and that any responses will take time to have material impact. Given the magnitude of the consequences of guessing wrong on the dangers, the only sensible course of action is to change course now instead of waiting for absolute proof of looming disaster, by which time it may well be too late. Continue reading “The Environment: Saving Ourselves Will Not Be Easy”

Environmental Risk—Squaring the Globe

By Mike Koetting         July 30, 2017 

Today’s post is on the environment, the middle of my trinity of critical issues—inequality, the environment, and the meaning of work.  This is the first of two on this topic.


My thoughts about the environment are not to convince you that environmental degradation poses a serious threat to humanity.  It assumes you believe that.  If you don’t, you might as well stop reading here.

What I do want to convince you is:

  • Current policy is exponentially more foolish than you already believe
  • This interacts with issues around inequality in a bunch of messy ways

Today’s post concentrates on the first one.  I’ll address the second in the next post. Continue reading “Environmental Risk—Squaring the Globe”

Global Inequality

By Mike Koetting        July 21, 2017

This is the last of four posts on inequality, one of what I see as the top three problems facing society. In subsequent posts, I’ll turn to the issues of the environment and the meaning of work, my other two priority problems.
Several months ago, I saw the movie Lion, the story of a very poor Indian five-year old who gets separated from his older brother in a busy train station. He cannot find his way home, winds up in an orphanage and eventually is adopted by an Australian family. The movie ends when he is finally reunited with his birth family in his old village. It’s based on a true story and is a good movie on its own merits. But I was profoundly distracted trying to get my head my head around the scope and depth of the poverty. And the huge numbers of people involved. All I could ask myself was: “Is there any realistic posture beyond benignly ignoring the issue?” Continue reading “Global Inequality”

Race and Inequality in America

By Mike Koetting            July 12,2017

Today’s post continues a series of posts on inequality, the environment, and the nature of work—my list of the most serious problems facing society.  This post looks at the issue of race and inequality in America.  It is most explicitly about economic inequality, but, of course, economic impacts radiate more broadly.


It is very difficult to write about race in America without someone getting upset.  It is truly a between hell and high water issue.  But no survey of inequality in America would be complete without addressing this element.  It is a specific factor that influences all the other dynamics.  Whatever inequality there is in the country, it is hard to find a dimension on which African Americans, as a group, don’t do worse.  Continue reading “Race and Inequality in America”

Top-Down Inequality

By Mike Koetting            July 5, 2017

This is the second post in a series focusing on what I see as the top three issues facing society—inequality, the environment and the meaning of work.  Last week’s post addressed the fact that changes in the labor market are generating inequality—to some degree regardless of politics.  This post addresses the fact that some inequality is being caused, deliberately or accidentally, by the people on the fat side of inequality.  The next post will address the specific issue of race and inequality.


Top-down Inequality is what happens when people with more assets use those assets to improve their positions at the expense of the rest of society.  Continue reading “Top-Down Inequality”

Inequality and the Changing Labor Market

By Mike Koetting                 June 28, 2017

This is the first of a series of posts on what I consider the three most pressing issues of our time—inequality, the environment, and the nature of work.  As I will argue, these are linked.  Today’s post looks at inequality through the lens of labor market changes.


By now even Inspector Clouseau has figured out that there is an inequality problem.  Perhaps, however, the conversation could be helped by making a few distinctions about the nature of inequality.  Policy-making requires clear understanding of the sources of the problem.  There seems to be some blurring of issues in the current conversation.

I want to suggest there are two dynamics of inequality, labor market changes and top down inequality.  They are related, but, at the same time, they are distinct dynamics.   Continue reading “Inequality and the Changing Labor Market”

Muddying the Health Care Debate

By Mike Koetting                    June 21, 2017

Every once in a while, I run across an article that stuns me.  The below post is an extended comment on an article on the Forbes website that advocates for a market-oriented health care system.  While a number of the specifics in the article are interesting and worthy of consideration, what really struck me was that the article illustrates how we have made the political conversation on health care incredibly difficult. Continue reading “Muddying the Health Care Debate”

The Health of Truth

By Mike Koetting      June 14, 2017

Earlier this month in various cities around the country, there were protests against Trump under the banner of March for Truth. That got me thinking about some observations I wanted to make about the role of “truth” in a democracy, a role currently under obvious fire.


A recent Time Magazine cover starkly asked “Is Truth Dead?” paralleling their “Is God Dead?” cover from 50 years ago. That story, however, focused only on Donald Trump’s troubled relationship with truth. Fair enough. It’s a big problem. But, it seems to me, the problem of the impending death of truth in our democracy goes much deeper than whether or not (really, the extent to which) Donald Trump is a liar.  Problems with truth seem to extend to almost all of our political discourse. Continue reading “The Health of Truth”