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WWL: Life in the Inner City
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
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If a man doesn't have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness


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49:00 minutes (23.52 MB)
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If a man doesn't have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility of the pursuit of happiness. He simply exists. - MLK

Fifteen year old Fausto Rivera made it to tenth grade without the ability to read or write in either English or Spanish. That was nearly 20 years ago.

University of Hartford Sociologist Timothy Black wondered how it could be that no one – not his parents, teachers, friends or social workers in Springfield, Massachusetts had taught the young man these key skills.

And, he wondered why anyone was surprised when young men like this fell into a life of prison and drugs. Questions like this led to a long relationship between Black and young men in Springfield’s Puerto Rican community. Black’s new book, When a Heart Turns Rock Solid, spans 18 years as he follows Fausto and his brothers through faltering education, prison, and social support systems. In the years spent with the boys – Black realized “they needed more than just an advocate or a mentor, they needed a social movement”. Coming up, we’ll talk to the author about his research, how he hopes it can change public policy, and the reality of life in the city.

*This program originally aired on October 1, 2009.


Related Content:

nibbling at the edges, or radical reform dealing with the root?

Most of what was discussed in this hour seems to me to be the effects of a single set of problems.  We are moved by those effects, and seek to mitigate them, or we blame the people who are affected.

When are we going to get radical, and seek the ROOT of the problem?  Nibbling at the leaves of it, rather than hacking at the root, guarantees that the next generation will be dealing with the next set of leaves, instead of living in a more just, logical, efficient society.

The best place I know to discover the roots of the problem is in a 130 year old book called "Progress and Poverty," the book which some say started the Progressive movement.  Henry George (b. 1839, Philadelphia; d, 1897, NYC) tackles the question of why, despite the awesome increases in tecnnological progress during the first 100 years of our history, we still had poverty, despite huge increases in wealth.

He examined the problem closely, enlightened by the insights of the classical economists, and found its root.  

His analysis holds today.  Indeed, things have proceeded as he would have predicted. 

I commend Progress and Poverty to your attention.  It is available in a modern abridgment by Bob Drake, at  http://www.progressandpoverty.org/, or in hardcopy from schalkenbach.org or amazon.  The original is widely available on ebay (it sold something like 6 million copies before about 1900, so you'll still find early editions).  Other versions are linked from the bottom of http://www.wealthandwant.com/ (the URL comes from the subtitle to P&P: An inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth ... The Remedy

Or start with some of George's speeches, linked from near the top of the same page.  You'll be on the way to understanding why wealth concentrates, why so many people's wages don't meet the cost of living, why so many problems just aren't responding to the things we attempt to ease them.  And you'll know what it will take to transform our society.  Most people will be surprised by the "Remedy."  I came around to these ideas slowly and grudgingly, after the deaths of my grandparents, who had seen their wisdom and justice 60 years earlier.

George dedicated P&P: "to those who, seeing the vice and misery that spring from the unequal distribution of wealth and privilege, feel the possibility of a higher social state and would strive for its attainment."  I assume that the guests on this program fit that category, and hope the listeners do, too.

The MLK quote is very relevant; he knew HG's ideas and embraced at least some of them.

Listener Email from Steve

You almost touched on the answer here.  It is about time to spend as much time and money on Prison reform as we are in Health coverage reform…

How do we get this onto Obama’s list?