Radio silence

Family, work, and summer weather have taken their toll this month.

Not that I haven’t been busy elsewhere. I’ve done some commenting on other people’s sites and blogs, and rather more conversing in person. The future of newspapers has been a recurring subject, along with health care reform, the ongoing revelations about American torture (this, for example), municipal elections here in Birmingham, and what not.

I’ve been guiding a visitor from India around our fair city. I’ve also been using a pipe wrench more often than normal. So as an unlicensed plumber, I guess I’m well qualified to shoot off my mouth about national affairs. (OK, that quip is half a year past its sell-by date, I admit it.)

My other big project, besides getting a Ph.D. in history, is to try setting up an Islamic-style lending institution (i.e., one that charges no interest) in Birmingham. I have some notes to type up and distribute on the subject. Seems that a key to the success of this kind of institution is to convince people with large surplus incomes to invest some of it where they do not expect to reap a personal profit or tax advantage of any kind. Muslims call it “purification of wealth” through benevolent spending. What a radical idea!

There are quite a number of innovative ideas that have been proposed to transform, from the ground up, this crony-capitalist bubble bath that we call an advanced economy into a system of exchange that actually promotes the security and prosperity of households and neighborhoods. The Islamic system has an advantage over most of these alternatives: It has actually been practiced for centuries, in a wide range of historical contexts. What I find exciting about this subject is the prospect of an economy that is guided by simple ethical principles, that is adaptable and not centrally managed, and that encourages creative economic behavior — what we call “entrepreneurship.” So why settle for mere capitalism or socialism?

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