Thursday, February 28, 2008

Predatory Lenders Preying On The Fundies

One of my recent obsessions is information visualization. Working in IT, yes, I'm intimately familiar with the 'an ocean of water, but not a drop to drink' phenomenon - millions of dollars of big iron type servers (or the Fisher-Price Dell variants) capturing gigabytes, terabytes, petabytes of data which can not then be pulled out in any meaningful way (except for the bytes making up employees' music and movie collections). 'Write-only' systems like SAP come to mind (tho we don't use SAP). Apparently nobody cares, long as they get their emails.

Anyhow, I stumbled on this: The Surprising Correlation Between Payday Lenders and Conservative Christians. As with all data, even data rendered in a visualized, ready-for-human-consumption format, this really raises questions and starts the discussion more than it really provides a pat answer.

Does this mean:
  • Christians are taking out tons of loans because they believe the Rapture is imminent (in case of Rapture, this loan will go into default)?
  • The more extreme, blood-and-fire-and-brimstone forms of Christianity appeal to the poverty-stricken and disenfranchised, the way fundamentalist Islam appeals to the poor in undeveloped countries?
  • Fundamentalists, their minds clouded by pseudo-scientific flim-flam and hokum from Answers in Genesis, are prone to make bad financial decisions?
  • The secular corporations, working hand-in-hand with the liberal media, are oppressing Fundies and denying them the cushy, high-paying jobs?
The author of the article has his own interpretation:
here's what I suspect may be part of the story: in the 1980s and continuing perhaps even stronger in the 1990s, I think it's fair to say that the Christian right and conservative Christians came to align themselves with conservative Wall Street big-business interests, and that's been effective for pushing a variety of issues that are important to social-values conservatives, such as the abortion debate, some sorts of family questions and perhaps gun rights—those types of things. But consumer protection law and the limits on usurious moneylending have been an inconvenient sticking point in that political alliance, and I think therefore has been put to the side. As that alliance has continued to dominate politics in these areas, the laws that protected people from usurious moneylenders in those states have fallen into atrophy.
Having recently read Thomas Frank's What's The Matter With Kansas, a book exploring the suicidal voting patterns of Kansans, it does seem plausible. Sometimes voting against your own interests means voting for people who want to send your job somewhere else, other times it means voting for something the Bible condemns (usury). Islamic banking regulations prohibit usury, so this is a hypocrisy they seem to have steered clear of better than their fundamentalist Christian counterparts.

I'll talk more about my wonderful MacBook and how it blows away the pitiful Windows alternatives, including that sorry excuse for a computer company, Dell, some other time. As the rave-era bumper sticker cautioned, I need to 'wait 6 months'. Right now after buying my Mac, I am like somebody who's just starting on Ecstasy and am loving the whole world (except Microsoft). So I need to let things level out a bit, so I can be more objective.

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