Explaining Southern California's economy

Silicon Valley philanthropy: Give it away while you're young

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Manish Swarup/AP

A street child looks out from his classroom during studies conducted by the Salaam Baalak Trust at the New Delhi railway station in September 2004. Salaam Baalak Trust is an Indian charity for homeless children.

Silicon Valley naturally believes that it can change the world. This is at times a pathetic delusion, but also equally a chance for tech startup country to show off what it's got. Consider the case of Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, wife of Mark Andreesen, who co-founded Netscape and is now a venture capitalist. This is from the New York Times Bits blog:

Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen is on a mission.

[She] thinks tech titans should be more philanthropic. And she is encouraging the youngest billionaires to give away their money now, not wait until after they retire or die.

But her mission extends beyond the tech world. She wants to expand the definition of the philanthropist, to include people who give time or expertise, not just money. She also argues that philanthropy should be more professional, by borrowing strategies like research and evaluation from Silicon Valley’s for-profit businesses. These strategies include using technology to make things more efficient, inventing new ways to do business and financing nimble upstarts.


California dining: The economics of veganism

“I’ll have the alfalfa sprouts and plate of mashed yeast.” In 1977, that was a punchline grudgingly delivered by Woody Allen in Annie Hall. It was aimed squarely at the exasperatingly health-trendy world of Southern California cuisine. But maybe back in those pre-Reagan, economically challenged times, SoCal was on to something. 

A vegan diet -- like the one adopted by former burger-junkie Bill Clinton -- renounces all animal products. There are health arguments for eating this way, but there’s also an economic argument. Which the Princeton ethicist Peter Singer, author of the seminal text of animal rights, Animal Liberation in 1975, provided on Marketplace in 2008:

[M]ost corn isn't eaten by humans; it's eaten by animals and that's the biggest part of the problem. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 756 million tons of grain plus most of the world's soybean crop are fed to animals and that amount has increased sharply in recent years as Asian nations have become more prosperous and their populations have started eating more meat.

When we use animals to convert grain and soy into food we can eat, they use most of the feed to keep warm and develop bones and other parts we can't eat. So we're wasting most of the food value of the crops we feed them. In the case of cattle, at least nine-tenths of the grain they eat is squandered.

Economic change in hard times at the level of eating? It could come, if more people eat like Californians did -- and Woody Allen didn't -- in 1977.

Photo: Flickr/Rusvaplauke