A Modest Proposal to Reduce the Likelihood of Unjustified Shootings by Police

At this point, it is becoming evident that there is something about the way police officers are trained in this country, or about the culture that seems to pervade police departments, that needs to change. We can speculate about why this is so (or argue whether it is so). Greg Howard at Deadspin has smart things to say about the militarization of police forces (when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail). I have a lot of ideas about the general stratification of society along race and class lines, and how that plays out in policymaking, law enforcement, and perceptions of poor, minority neighborhoods. But whatever the causes, it is safe to say that black men dying unnecessarily at the hands of police is a problem, and one society cannot quickly fix. So perhaps we should consider some sort of temporary solution.

Raising Kids to Trust People but Distrust Corporations

My children are seven and 10 years old, and in teaching them to navigate the world, I find myself swimming against a great tide of distrust in the world. Despite data to the contrary, the prevailing notion among the middle class parents I meet through my kids’ suburban school is that children today simply cannot do the things that we did as children because there are too many lurking perils, principally in the form of bad people who will do bad things if given half a chance. I try to counter this notion, urging my boys to go outside, to explore the blocks surrounding our building, to make the world their own. Of course they know not to get into a stranger’s car, but I think they also know that most strangers are just people like us, people with kids of their own and jobs and places to go. Even when we talk about the people I represent in court (children charged with crimes and adults accused of abusing their children), I try to put bad deeds in the context of complex circumstances: “People are generally good,” I always tell them.

But then this: the 10-year-old is playing some seemingly innocuous game on the iPad when he asks, “Dad, what’s your email address?”

I start to tell him, then hesitate. “Why?”

“It says that if I sign up to get some emails, I can get free points in this game and…”

“Forget it,” I say. “It’s a scam.”

“What do you mean, a scam? They just want to send emails! And it’s the only way to advance to the next level!”

Of course. He thinks people are generally good. What could be the harm in sharing my email address with the folks who already proved how thoughtful they were by providing us with a FREE IPAD GAME?

So that is the dilemma: In everyday interactions, most people are good and kind. But when they organize themselves into corporations, most people are trying to get over EVERY TIME.

We Need a New Kind of Financial Advice

The vast majority of us, try as we might, are not going to be the Rich Dad, living off passive income while some hapless schlubs labor for our cigar-smoking benefit. We are going to be the schlubs. We need financial literature that recognizes this. We don’t need advice on how to be rich and idle. We need concrete tips for effectively treading water.

Debating the Value of a Public Service Career

B. is a graduate student at a major American university studying humanitarian organizations in the Middle East. (She remains anonymous because she is considering leaving academia, but doesn’t want to tell the whole world yet.) In considering a possible change in professional direction, she wrote to me to ask about my work as a public defender, and a conversation about career choices in the realm of social justice ensued. We thought it might be interesting for other people considering the (never lucrative, sometimes rewarding) world of public interest work, so we are sharing it, lightly edited for clarity, with you:

In Praise of Non-coworkers

Coworkers are the protagonists of our workplace sitcoms and soap operas—they are the fully realized characters who make the long hours from punch-in to punch-out as tolerable or intolerable as they are. But have we ever stopped to consider that wonderful class of bit players who fill in the interstices, upon whom we can project whatever back story suits us? I'm referring, of course, to the employees of other workplaces that share some physical space with our own, the people we basically don't know, but see enough to offer a nod and some small talk on This Weather We've Been Having—let's call them Non-Coworkers. I love this class of people, and the non-relationship I have with them. Let me sing their praises.

Tips For Hustling

The New Financial Advice is shaping up to be a real bummer: if we know anything, it is that we should expect to earn and achieve less, to be unemployed more, to carry debt always, and not to live where we want, but where we can. But beyond accommodating ourselves mentally to straitened circumstances, what shall we do? The answer, it seems, is that we shall hustle.

What Can We Do About Subconscious Racism?

Ester Bloom has joined Ta-Nehisi Coates in urging us to have a frank conversation about how to fix the massive racial injustices that inhere in our country. Coates proposes monetary reparations as an institutional remedy for the crushing toll of slavery, Jim Crow terrorism, and subsequent racist public policy. But what about the deeply ingrained attitudes, especially among white people, that perpetuate racial injustice? I don’t mean the cartoon plutocrat racism of Donald Sterling, which is ultimately a distracting anomaly. I mean the subtle favoritism that crops up in the choices we make when dating, hiring, and choosing where to live—the implicit racism we never consider. What’s the reparations for that, and are we willing to pay the price?

Josh Michtom’s First Job: Helping Teach Argentinians English

The joy of a given job often comes down not to the salary but the intangibles: coworkers, setting, commute, and the like. This is doubly so in our teenage years.

Be Less Ambitious

Emily Layden’s excellent exploration of when a person can call herself a writer (or a painter, or a musician), given that many writers must also call themselves waiters, teachers, or lawyers, raises an interesting question about job satisfaction and how we measure success.

A Conversation With Anna Sale About ‘Death, Sex & Money’

Death, Sex & Money is a new podcast by WNYC’s Anna Sale and you should probably be listening to it. As the name suggests, its raison d’etre is discussing those taboo topics that are frequently on our minds but seldom in our conversations (just like The Billfold!). The first three episodes address topics often addressed here, like realizing you can no longer afford to live in New York, pursuing a creative career despite financial hardships and long odds, and, of course, having a former Republican Senator intervene in your love life. (That last one was featured on This American Life.) Anna was good enough to take some time to talk with me about the podcast, taboos, shame, and the challenges of adulthood.