Recent Readings: “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor E. Frankl

"Man's Search for Meaning"
“Man’s Search for Meaning”

For 3 years, psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl labored in Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Not to evoke sympathy, Frankl uses his story to substantiate his understanding of what has been puzzling humans since existence: what is our purpose? He concludes the book with his school of thought, logotherapy.

Aside from selling millions upon millions of copies worldwide, this book provides wonderful insight to the human condition. Just about every paragraph has something quotable; here are my favorites.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Having a Why enables one to bear the How.”

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

“Our greatest freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude.”

“Suffering is not unlike a gas entering a chamber; it wholly and evenly engulfs the space and does not discriminate regardless of how much.”

“Life means taking responsibility to find right answers and to fulfill tasks which it constantly requires.”

“It does not matter what we expect from life, but rather what life expects from us.”

“Have the courage to face suffering so not to lose dignity and meaning.”

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”

“The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living.”

“We cannot, after all, judge a biography by its length, by the number of pages in it; we must judge by the richness of the contents…Sometimes the ‘unfinisheds’ are among the most beautiful symphonies.”

On reliving the past may forgo our opportunities to live in the present, he quoted Bismarck:

“Life is like being at the dentist. You always think the worst is yet to come, but it’s already over.”

On sacrifice, he references Spinoza:

“Emotion ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear picture of it; suffering ceases to be when it finds meaning.”

In the end, the meaning of a life is to be discovered via the world, not within our our delusions. The cause in itself may be to serve, to love someone.

Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon, 2006. Print.

Associated Press (AP) Writing Style Tips!

Here are some AP writing style tips that I have acquired. Whatever the style, consistency is key.

Number-related (Article 1)

Numbers. One through nine are spelled out, while 10 and above are written as numerals. She walked six blocks while carrying 12 books.

Percentages. Percentages are expressed as numerals and followed by the word “percent,” not “%.” Interest rates rose 3 percent.

Ages. Ages are expressed as numerals. Kevin is 29 years old.

Dollar Amounts. Dollar amounts are expressed as numerals, and the “$” sign is used. $1, $1o million.

Abbreviations

Street Addresses (Article 1). Numerals are used for numbered addresses. Street, Avenue and Boulevard are abbreviated when used with a numbered address, but otherwise are spelled out. Route and Road are never abbreviated. Our apartment is on 24 Independence Ave. We live on Independence Avenue. 

Dates  (Article 1.) Dates are expressed as numerals. The months August through February are abbreviated when used with numbered dates. March through July are never abbreviated. Months without dates are not abbreviated. “Th” is not used. The seasons – winter, spring, summer and fall – are never capitalized. Please note our meeting on Nov. 10. November is a beautiful month.

State abbreviations (Article 2). Each state has its own abbreviation: Mass. for Massachusetts; N.Y. for New York; Calif. for California; Fla. for Florida. Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Texas and Utah – are not abbreviated.

Titles

Job Titles (Article 1). Job titles are generally capitalized when they appear before a person’s name, but lowercase after the name. President Obama. Barack Obama is the president.

Film, Book & Song Titles  (Articles 1 and 2). Capitalized and placed in quotation marks (this includes TV shows, works of art, speeches, video games). Do not use quote marks with reference books or the names of newspapers or magazines. Magazine and newspaper titles are not italicized; just capitalized. I read in Politico that Congress is in session. My favorite book is “Creating a World Without Poverty.” Have you seen “Revenge?”

Grammar (Article 2)

More than, over. Use more than with numbers, and use over when referring to spatial elements. In college, I wrote more than 100 papers. The store is just over the hill.

Because, since. Because indicates a specific cause-effect relationship: I went because I was told. Since describes an event in a sequence that leads logically to the second. They went to the show, since they had been given ticketsSince the product’s 2010 launch, it has sold more than 1 million copies.

Toward/Towards. Toward never ends in an s, same for forward, backward, upward, downward, etc.

United States, U.S. United States as a noun; U.S. as an adjective. The United States is a country north of Mexico; I need all of my U.S. documents when traveling.

That, Which. Use that for essential clauses, important to the meaning of the sentence. I remember the day that we met. Use which for nonessential clauses, where the pronoun is less necessary, and use commas. The team, which won the championship last year, begins its new season next month.

Farther, further. Farther refers to physical distance. Pittsburgh is farther west than Philadelphia. Further refers to an extension of time or degree. If you have any further questions.

Some ad-hoc rules (Article 2). Boo-boo; bull’s-eye; dot-com (not dot.com); gobbledygook, G-string; hanky-panky; Kmart (no hyphen, no space, lowercase m); hell (not capitalized); OK; OK’d; pooh-pooh; T-shirt; U-turn

Article 1) Rogers, Tony. “The Basics of Associated Press Style.” About.com Journalism. About.com, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.

Article 2) Vittorioso, Steve. “Twelve Common Mistakes of AP Style Twelve Common Mistakes of AP Style.” InkHouse.net. InkHouse, 19 Apr. 2011. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.

Recent Readings: “Creating a World Without Poverty,” Muhammad Yunus

Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism

This has to be one of my favorite books of all time. Not only an easy read, but educational, thought-provoking and, above all, inspiring. Regardless of profession or passion, I encourage you to read this book and expand your scope of thinking.

Noble Peace Prize laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus believes that there is an inherent problem with the capitalist system and profit-maximizing businesses (PMBs): “unfettered markets in their current form are not meant to solve social problems and instead may actually exacerbates poverty, disease, pollution, corruption, crime, and inequality” (5). Not to say that he does not agree with open markets, trade and globalization, but rather that these markets require “proper oversight and guidelines” (5).

Yunus explores several potential avenues for solutions:

1. Government (pages 6-9)

PROS – Governments can provide programs that private organizations cannot, including rule of law, central banks, and national health services. Governments can also enforce taxes and mobilize resources that can be redistributed among of its citizens.

CONS – Governments can only do so much and not all governments operate altruistically (especially fragile states). Also, governments can be large, bureaucratic, and sometime ineffective.

2. Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs) (pages 9-11)

PROS – Charities have an inherent need to achieve a social objective and their generous work saves tens of thousands of lives around the world.

CONS – NPOs typically require a steady influx of funds that are determined by the generosity of donations. Furthermore, poorer countries have a much more difficult time getting attention from rich donors in other countries (personal note: US donors have to abide by strict IRS giving regulations in order to receive a tax benefit). Handouts can encourage corruption, relief persons of responsibility, and creates a one-sided power relationship (115-116).

3. Multilateral Institutions (sponsored and funded by governments, including the World Bank) (pages 11-15)

PROS – Bring together several nations to achieve economic growth, which is incredibly important to reducing poverty.

CONS – Chronically underfunded, bureaucratic, and slow-moving, these institutions focus on gross domestic product (GDP) rather than local, tailored growth. Even with “pro-poor growth policies,” Yunus finds issue with the idea that those in poverty are marginalized and viewed as objects. Furthermore, “policymakers are focused on efforts to energize well-established institutions” and “donors work almost exclusively through the government machine”  (12).

4. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) (Yunus names two types: “weak CSR” (do no harm to people or the planet (unless that means sacrificing profit)) and “strong CSR” (do good for people and the plant (as long as you can do so without sacrificing profit)). 

PROS – CSR has informed millions of consumers and given legitimacy to thousands  of charities around the world.

CONS – According to Yunus, CSRs can misuse well-intended foundations and grants towards selfish endeavors. “The same company that devotes a penny to CSR  spends 99 cents on moneymaking projects that make social problems worse” (16). Profit-maximization is their “legal obligation to their shareholders unless the shareholders mandate otherwise” (17). At the end of the day, the objective of business is to maximize profit.

So, after all of the downfalls of these organizations, alliances, corporations — then what we can do to move towards the eradication of poverty? We must re-configure our idea of business. Mr. Yunus changed the playing field with his concept of a social business.

Without NPOs becoming irrelevant and insignificant, social businesses can play a very important role in eliminating poverty. Social businesses are structured just like any operational, for-profit business – innovative, efficient, and self-sustaining. Instead of pursuing profits, social businesses pursue a social objective (22). So, how is this different than a charity? Well, it takes investors, just like a business, and works to fully recover its costs (no endowments, no dissolution clauses). There are no fundraisers, donations, or grants. It operates as a fully-functional, sustainable organization. Investors will recoup their original investment. Their payments are in social objectives. There are two types of social business: companies that focus on maximizing social benefit and profit-maximizing businesses that are owned by the poor.

In the first type, the “nature of the products, services, or operating system of the business… creates the social benefit. This kind of social business might provide food, housing, health care, education… it might clean up the environment, reduce social inequalities…[essentially this type achieves] objectives like these while covering its costs through the sales of goods or services and that pays no financial dividend to its investors” (28-29).

In the second type, like Grameen Bank, “goods or services produced might or might not create a social benefit. The social benefit created by this kind of company comes from ownership. Because the ownership of shares of the business belongs to the poor or disadvantaged (as defined by specific criteria)… any financial benefit generated by the company’s operations will go to help those in need” (29).

“Social businesses will take their place along with profit-maximizing businesses as basic fixtures in the world of business. Social businesses will operate in the same market spaces as PMBs, competing with them and with one another for market share. Consumers will become accustomed to choosing between social businesses and PMBs when buying goods and services. In many cases, they will choose based on traditional criteria – price, quality, availability, brand appeal.” (174)

“Social businesses will either bring ownership to poor people, or keep the profit within poor countries, since taking dividends will not be [the] objective.” (246)

Example of profit-maximizing business that is owned by the poor:

“Social investors can raise the money with the explicit understanding that, once the investment money has been recovered from initial profits, the investors will sell the company at a negotiated price to a trust… The trust will be owned by poor people, at least 50 percent of them women.” (126)

“Shadow shares of this company will be sold by the trust to the poor people… Of the total sold, at least fifty percent will go to women. [This] share will not give any legal ownership of the company to the shareholder, but it will create an entitlement to a dividend of the company as determined by the board.”  (127)

Another example of a successful venture was Grameen Danone. This social business provides healthful yogurt to children in rural Bangladesh. From the construction of the production facilities to local suppliers to the distribution, every aspect of the model was built around employing local, poverty-stricken individuals. Even the factory is owned by the people. Despite large innovation costs, the program is successful because there is no need for expensive marketing or fancy packaging — the reality is that the products could be made cheaply by the local communities. After all, the “goal is not only financial efficiency, but also maximum social benefit” (139).

So, who will invest in social businesses? Well, to those that give your money away to charities every day, week or year, this is an ideal project because you get your money back!

Favorite quotes:

“If the poor are to get a chance to lift themselves out of poverty, it’s up to us to remove the institutional barriers we’ve created around them.” (49)

“Effective anti-poverty programs must start with a clear operational definition of poverty. In order to recognize those whom the program is designed to help, they must be defined by clear decision rules that will exclude the non-poor and keep them from siphoning off resources that the poor desperately need.” (110)

“There will not be sustainable economic value creation if there is no personal development and human value creation at the same time.” (Antoine Riboud, 170)

“A new breed of business people, empowered for the first time to express humanistic values through the companies they found, will demand new institutional structures to support the new kinds of ventures that will emerge.” (174)

Yunus’ has issues with the idea of ‘social responsibility:’ “the lack of any recognized system for evaluating, testing, or enforcing claims of socially responsible products…how can a consumer know for sure that the chicken she buys has been produced using methods that are humane and enviormentally sound?” (175)

“Poverty exists because we’ve built our philosophical framework on assumptions that underestimate human capacities. We’ve designed concepts that are too narrow – our concept of business, our concept of credit-worthiness, our concept of entrepreneurship, and our concept of employment. And we’ve developed institutions that are half-complete at best – like our banking and economic systems, which ignore half the world. Poverty exists because of these intellectual failures rather than because of any lack of capability on the part of people.” (232)

Yunus, Muhammad, and Karl Weber. Creating a World without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism. New York: PublicAffairs, 2007. Print.

Mental Floss’ Article on Comma Usage (Hint: Consider Clarity & Economy)

logo_mental_floss

The Best Shots Fired in the Oxford Comma Wars

According to the article  the Oxford comma, “the comma before the conjunction at the end of a list,” is predominately used to enhance the clarity of a given passage. While I agree with this style, Oxford University Press style, because I believe that  clarity is paramount, others prefer economy (keep it simple and allow the reader to move on). Whatever the style, just don’t let it get in the way of your message!

Pro: “She took a photograph of her parents, the president, and the vice president.”

This example from the Chicago Manual of Style shows how the comma is necessary for clarity. Without it, she is taking a picture of two people, her mother and father, who are the president and vice president. With it, she is taking a picture of four people.

Con: “Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Jones.”

This example from the 1934 style book of the New York Herald Tribune shows how a comma before “and” can result in a lack of clarity. With the comma, it reads as if Mr. Smith was the donor of the cup, which he was not.

And then there is this example, which could have been resolved by the use of the semicolon.
“By train, plane and sedan chair, Peter Ustinov retraces a journey made by Mark Twain a century ago. The highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.”

Languagehat dug this gem out of a comment thread on the serial comma. It’s from a TV listing in The Times. It supports the use of the Oxford comma, but only because it keeps Mandela from being a dildo collector. However, even the Oxford comma can’t keep him from being an 800-year-old demigod. There’s only so much a comma can do.

Okrent, Arika. “The Best Shots Fired in the Oxford Comma Wars.” Mental Floss, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 23 Dec. 2014.

Economic Development Organizations – exempt status requirements

G. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATIONS: Charity Through the Back Door (1992 EO CPE Text)

IRS Publication by Robert Louthian and Marvin Friedlander

– Charitable purposes: “Charitable” includes the relief of the poor and distressed, lessening the burdens of government, and the promotion of social welfare by organizations designed to lessen neighborhood tensions, eliminate prejudice and discrimination or combat community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.) (IRS Regs. 1.501(c)(3)-1(d)(2))

– Economic development corporations: Economic development corporations “generally are established to assist existing and new businesses located in a particular geographic area through a variety of activities including grants, loans, provision of information and expertise, or creation of industrial parks.” (Louthian and Friedlander, 2) While they are established to stimulate economic activity in depressed areas,  economic development organizations are for-profit entities and thus not exempt under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 501(c)(3).

In order for economic development organizations to be become exempt under 501(c)(3), the organization must demonstrate that it is both organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes. We must ask ourselves, “are these activities likely to accomplish exempt purposes?”

In all, the ultimate good received by the general public must outweigh the private benefit afforded to the direct beneficiaries. THE ACTIVITIES MUST SERVE A PUBLIC RATHER THAN A PRIVATE INTEREST. Per Louthian and Friedlander’s article, “the organization should demonstrate its specific criteria in eligibility and show how said criteria furthers public [not private] interests.”

The following factors are necessary to conclude that an economic development corporation is primarily accomplishing charitable purposes:

(1) Assistance is targeted

(a) to aid an economically depressed or blighted area;

(b) to benefit a disadvantaged group, such as minorities, the unemployed or underemployed; and

(c) to aid businesses that have actually experienced difficulty in obtaining conventional financing

i. because of the deteriorated nature of the area in which they were or would be located or

ii. because of their minority composition,

(2) Assistance is targeted to aid businesses that would locate or remain in the economically depressed or blighted area and provide jobs/training to the unemployed or underemployed from such area only if the economic development corporation’s assistance was available.

The following organization were granted exemption under IRC 501(c)(3) because their activities were accomplishing the following exempt purposes: relieving poverty and lessening neighborhood tensions caused by the lack of jobs in the area; combating community deterioration by establishing new businesses, rehabilitating existing ones, and eliminating conditions of blight; and lessening prejudice and discrimination against minorities.

1. Rev. Rul. 74-587, 1974-2 C.B. 162: The organization

a. devoted its resources to programs to stimulate economic development in economically depressed, high-density, urban areas, inhabited mainly by low-income minority or other disadvantaged groups, qualified for exemption under IRC 501(c)(3);

b. made loans and purchased equity interests in businesses unable to obtain funds from conventional sources because of financial risks associated with their location and/or because of being owned by members of a minority or other disadvantaged group;

c. established that its investments were not undertaken for profit or gain, but to advance its charitable goals;

d. funds for its program were obtained from foundation grants and public contributions.

2. Rev. Rul. 76-419, 1976-2 C.B. 146: The nonprofit organization

a. purchased blighted land in an economically depressed community and converted the land into an industrial park;

b. induced industrial enterprises to locate new facilities in the park through favorable lease terms that required employment and training opportunities for unemployed and underemployed residents of the area.

Some organizations were NOT granted exemption because “their overall thrust was to promote business as an end in itself rather than to accomplish exclusively exempt purposes.” (Louthian and Friedlander, 4) Operating in  an economically depressed area is not sufficient to receive exempt status.

3. Rev. Rul. 77-111, 1977-1 C.B. 144: One organization wanted to attract customers in an economically depressed area that is mainly minority groups. The organization used various marketing and advertising tools to attract potential shoppers. Another organizations wanted to revived retail sales in an area in economic decline. This organization constructed a retail center via private developer that is required (by the city) to employ minorities for the construction and operation of the project. The organizations:

a. did not limit their assistance to businesses located in a deteriorated area that could not obtain conventional financing;

b. did not limit its aid to businesses that are owned by members of a minority group or to businesses that would only locate within the area because of the existence of the center;

c. did not target benefits for businesses that were actually disadvantaged because of their minority-owned composition or location;

d. did not target benefits for businesses that would only locate or remain in an economically depressed or blighted area and provide jobs to unemployed area residents on account of the organization’s activities.

United States. Internal Revenue Service. G. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATIONS. By Robert Louthian and Marvin Friedlander. Internal Revenue Service, 1992. Web. 8 Jan. 2014. <http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/eotopicg92.pdf&gt;

Recent Readings: “More Than Good Intentions,” Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel

More Than Good Intentions
“More Than Good Intentions: Improving the Ways the World’s Poor Borrow, Save, Farm, Learn, and Stay Healthy”

Dean Karlan is also the Founder and President of Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and co-founder of stickK.com.

This book, which Karlan and Appel serve up in an incredibly approachable and readable manner, is all about the innovation and evaluation of global poverty alleviation strategies. How can we creatively, yet methodically, reduce global poverty? The answer is one randomized control trial at a time.

When looking at successful and unsuccessful poverty alleviation strategies, we must constantly adapt to local context. What works in one country may not work in another. Therefore, “it is important to know when and where the different solutions work so that we can apply them when the conditions are right” (252). There are several factors to consider: Why is this solution is effective over another? How does local behavior behavior play a role? What are the intangible qualities that we must consider? These questions help to guide and structure a comprehensive program that may one day be replicated in another community. While it may seem tedious, frustrating or slow, changing behavior and adapting to local context is incredibly important.

Karlan and Appel conclude the book with seven programs that may help to alleviate poverty. For each of the solution, the authors urge donors and development workers to consider the root cause of poverty when attempting to mitigate or eradicate an issue.

– Microsavings
– Reminders to Save
– Prepaid Fertilizer Savings
– Deworming
– Remedial Education in Small Groups
– Chlorine Dispensers for Clean Water
– Commitment Devices (SEED commitment savings)

I found the solution of deworming particularly intriguing because it is a great example of how attacking the root of the issue will have profound benefits across the board. Parasites are an ostensible health issue and deworming will break the chain of transmission (the more protected, the less likely the carriers, and less likely a rampant disease). But, not only does it mitigate health concerns and reduce the need for costly medicine, it also increases school attendance, the ability to save, and allows families to be in an over-all better situation.

To the point above, that programs must be adapted to local context, Karlan and Appel referenced a program that pays patients to see doctors. Two similar programs with radically different results. The program in India did not work because there was a larger issue with corruption; however, paying instructors in Mexico to show up to class did work. Why? The Mexican program managers hired a policymaker unrelated and therefore incapable of foul-play

 

Karlan, Dean S., and Jacob Appel. More than Good Intentions: Improving the Ways the World’s Poor Borrow, Save, Farm, Learn, and Stay Healthy. New York: Plume, 2012. Print.

Recent Readings: “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracy Kidder

“Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World”
“Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World”

An easy yet thought-provoking read for all those interested in seeing the world through a different lens. As told by Tracy Kidder, Dr. Paul Farmer incessantly travels around the world treating patients in all forms in order to create Options for the Poor (“O for the P”). This book will make you think differently about not only doctor-patient relationships or general health care, but about the unwavering spirit of a group of people trying to enhance lives of the poor. For more information, look into his nonprofit Partners In Health (PIH).

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“We are talking about wealth that we’ve never seen before. And the only time that I hear talk of shrinking resources among people like us, among academics, is when we talk about things that have to do with poor people ” (Jim Kim as quoted in Tracy Kidder 164).

“Margaret Mead once said, Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world… Indeed they are the only ones who have” (Kim as quoted in Kidder .

“The goal was to improve the lives of others, not oneself… ‘Paul is a model of what should be done. He’s not a model for how it has to be done'” (Kidder 244).

“All too often international aid organizations weaken the societies they are supposed to help. Often they rely almost entirely on professionals from the world’s wealthy countries, and they fail to make their projects indigenous. This all but guarantees that their projects will neither grow nor last. PIH is different. The organization now has on the order of 6,500 employees. The overwhelming majority come from the impoverished countries where PIH is working. Fewer than one hundred of the employees come from the United States” (Kidder 07).

 

Kidder, Tracy, and Michael French. Mountains beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. New York: Delacorte, 2013. Print.