Around the horn: Laboring on Labor Day edition

  • WOW, that was fast. Mere days after announcing a $20 million cut in funding that impinged on previously made commitments and, in some cases, money that had already been spent, the government of British Columbia, Canada not only restored the funding that had been cut but threw another $12 million on top for good measure. The Vancouver Sun reports that the government faced a “furious public reaction” to the cuts, motivating the restoration. Imagine if we had that kind of clout here! (By the way, in case you’re wondering, the total provincial government support for arts groups in British Columbia, population 4.4 million, is about the same as the federal government support for arts groups in the United States, population 307 million.) [Update: sorry, I was reading the figures for all nonprofits getting money from the gambling fund, not just arts groups. And as Aaron Talbot points out in the comments, it looks like there have been some further developments since the Vancouver Sun story that have BC arts funding still very much in the woods.]
  • Scott Walters has an Open Letter to Rocco Landesman explaining his reaction to Landesman’s views on geodiversity in more detail.
  • It’s tough times for independent music and bookstores, but the ones that have survived are “playing up their roles as community centers that serve as unique cultural spaces rather than just a place to buy a quick CD or magazine,” according to The Wrap.
  • A year and a half after I took the plunge and tentatively wrote out my intuitive objections to my first economics class for what has become one of the most popular Createquity posts ever (I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the Calvin and Hobbes toon that accompanies the piece…hey, whatever works), I have to admit that I feel a certain grim satisfaction that mainstream economics finds itself so deeply under attack from more mainstream corners these days. The latest takedown comes from no less than Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman in a gargantuan op-ed for New York Times Magazine. Krugman concludes,
    So here’s what I think economists have to do. First, they have to face up to the inconvenient reality that financial markets fall far short of perfection, that they are subject to extraordinary delusions and the madness of crowds. Second, they have to admit — and this will be very hard for the people who giggled and whispered over Keynes — that Keynesian economics remains the best framework we have for making sense of recessions and depressions. Third, they’ll have to do their best to incorporate the realities of finance into macroeconomics.

    Meanwhile, I find myself drawn more and more to the cornucopia of radically alternative ways of conceptualizing markets. In the Createquity post linked above, I suggested that

    There is an alternative way of looking at the above, which is that there is no such thing as something that’s not a free market. After all, the government systems we do have in place for human services, infrastructure, price regulation, and so on, are essentially the result of consumer action. They voted people into office to institute these reforms, a power no consumer had on his or her own. One could argue that these policies are the result of the “market” deciding, in aggregate, that prohibitions against certain industries might be a good thing. That environmental protection was worth setting limits on what large companies could put into the air or water. This view requires a broader conception of market activity that goes beyond merely buying and selling. It essentially says that whatever happens is part of the larger organism of humanity, that the actions companies and consumers take to affect the market are as much a symptom of the market as a driver of it. It says that markets will always be free so long as human beings are creating and living them.

    It seems the author of The Origin of Wealth, Eric Beinhocker, is way ahead of me on this (h/t Creative Class Exchange). Beinhocker and colleagues have defined a field called complexity economics that merges micro and macro into one discipline and takes its cues from biology rather than physics. There’s much more to read and contemplate, but so far color me intrigued.

  • The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports on a new collaboration that seeks to standardize social impact measurements, the Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) initiative. It’s a collaboration between the Rockefeller Foundation, B Lab, Deloitte, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and others.
  • Gene Takagi of Nonprofit Law Blog tries to read Sean Stannard-Stockton’s mind in determining why Tactical Philanthropy Advisors has been formed as a for-profit B Corporation (a kind of cousin to the L3c) rather than as a nonprofit. Phil Cubeta thinks he has a simpler answer. Meanwhile, B Lab (originators of the B Corporation concept) is urging the Obama administration to give tax benefits to their constituency, and the NonProfit Times reports on a war of words developing between L3C founders and the IRS.
  • Thinking about forming a nonprofit yourself? Be advised that the IRS is raising its rates for new applications effective January. Lest you think that this is aimed at stemming the tide of new nonprofit formations, however, fear/hope not: the IRS is in the process of developing a web-based “Cyber Assistant” to make applications easier for applicant and agency alike. Once it’s introduced, fees will drop up to 76% for those who use the new system.
  • Before we get on the “too many [small] nonprofits” horse again, though, let’s take a moment to consider Albert Ruesga’s admonition that
    There’s a tendency in nonprofit work to be a little too uncritical of the concepts we import from the business world. We sometimes get fetishistic about matters of “scale” and “replicability.” But there’s a k
    ind of nonprofit beauty that doesn’t scale well. And there are people whose extraordinary vision and passion we’ll never be able to replicate.

    You can read a seemingly endless (but great) interview with Ruesga, who is President and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Community Foundation, here.

  • A couple of months ago, I was asked to speak on a panel for the Arts & Business Council of New York in connection with an internship program that ABC/NY runs for college students. At one point during the discussion, I gave a bearish assessment of the job prospects faced by new graduates that apparently took some attendees by surprise. But sure enough, the statistics are out, and recent college graduates are getting absolutely killed by this recession. 31% uninsured. One-third living with their parents. 24% don’t make enough to pay their monthly bills. Ugly, ugly numbers. No wonder more and more of them are turning to post-graduate internships.
  • Very cool: the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, based in England, has gone back and digitized a report the foundation published in 1959. Mark Robinson has the details.
  • Is this the future of product development?
  • If you don’t follow Lisa Hoang on Twitter (@lisa_hoang), you are seriously missing out. Lisa trolls for arts stories all over the web and comes up with lots of stuff that even ArtsJournal misses. Here are two of her recent finds: Uganda is mapping its cultural industries with the help of UNESCO and Chicago is designating a new creative industries district.
  • Mmm….deep fried butter.
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4 Comments

  1. Allen
    Posted September 8th, 2009 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    I appreciate the labor you have put in developing this blog. Nice and informative.

  2. Aaron Talbot
    Posted September 8th, 2009 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Hi Ian;
    While the BC government did restore some funding to arts groups like you mentioned above, that funding was monies already promised and budgeted for from last year.

    As it stands, BC's arts funding is still set to be cut by 90% in two years.

    Check it out.

  3. Ian David Moss
    Posted September 8th, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks for the clarification, Aaron. I've updated the post accordingly.

  4. Will
    Posted September 8th, 2009 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Ian,
    Thanks for the link to the article on Complexity Economics. I found it very interesting, as it addresses critiques I've carried around in my head re: traditional economic theory for years, and it does so using a tool that has slowly built a following against just such resistance in the mathematical field: Complexity theory. But now that Complexity has been increasingly applied to scientific disciplines as diverse as biology and cybernetics, anthropology and physics, it seems it's ready to take on yet another of the calcified academic fields, economics. The results may not be in for another decade or more, but it's good to see that there's a breath of fresh air blowing in through the windows.

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