People are constantly working to distinguish themselves from their peers in order to land that coveted position at work enabling them to purchase a greater amount of . Yet these individuals are all performing the same tasks just slightly better than one another. Why not take that motivation and apply to another aspect that would make you stand-out and benefit those far less fortunate? Many options exist but I would like to point out just one: entry level positions at a microfinance institution in a developing county.
Before I begin let me make note, you will not be handling million dollar accounts, conducting research and designing the latest technological advancement or earning large paychecks, if any for that matter. However, the work you will be conducting is equally as important, especially to those who are serving and should provide a unique work experience making your application more noticeable.
For those who are unfamiliar with microfinance institutions it is a provision of financial services providing loans, savings, insurance and training to those living in poverty. The industry was established by Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh in the 1970s. Over the years, many new enterprises have entered the market allowing clients to effectively navigate their daily needs. The primary mission of microfinance continues to focus on those with the greatest needs, those who have been displaced, those in rural areas and those who traditional institutions continue to deem un-bankable.
Before, the libertarian community dismisses this idea as an idealistic approach, understand this is a means to gain experience in a way that will distinguish yourself from your peers. However, I would not recommend applying for these positions if you have zero empathy to helping those most in need. Living in a third-world country for any amount of time will certainly make your life miserable if you are doing it solely as an application/resume booster. On the other hand, if you do find yourself seeking an alternative approach, there are three reasons this is a lucrative opportunity.
1) Travel- The most obvious reason is gaining firsthand international experience. You will gain direct experience in an emerging market allowing this opportunity to provide invaluable knowledge to your financial future.
2) Stamina/Discipline- All of as aware of the terrible working conditions research analysts and other young employees are expected to manage. Although, nothing will compare to living in a third world country free of any American amenities, working similarly long hours to your counterparts in the U.S. While I cannot attest for any employer, I would imagine they would look favorably upon this. Knowing if you can handle living in an Indian shanty town, you can probably handle anything assigned; assuming your financial knowledge is of equal merit.
3) Experience- As the majority of microfinance institutions seeking internships or entry level positions are new in overall terms, you will be given and expected to manage a greater deal of responsibility on your own. Demonstrating a level success as in within any job, will benefit you in the long run but knowing what are able to manage effectively on your own with little oversight will provide a level of self-assurance you did not have before.
Remember the size of the accounts you will be handling and/or conducting research on is far less compared to the U.S, but the services you are providing are arguably priceless, especially to the people you will be serving. While I am aware this option is not for everyone, but for those seeking something different I believe this is an option to explore. Lastly, you might find this line of work is what you have been searching for and as an additional bonus this serves to empower people, families and communities; leaving social welfare programs obsolete.
The Soviet Biological Weapons Program: A History by Milton Leitenberg and Raymond A. Zilinskas. Harvard University Press, 2012, 921 pp., $55.00*
In The Soviet Biological Weapons Program, Dr. by Milton Leitenberg of the University of Maryland and Dr. Raymond A. Zilinskas of the Monterey Institute of International Studies provide a comprehensive account on the Soviet Union’s 65 year biological weapons program. The authors reached the pinnacle of scholarly achievement documenting the Soviet’s program as the longest and largest of its kind, involving 65,000 scientists, engineers and support staff spread across a dizzying array of civilian research centers, ministries and agencies all involving a level of secrecy exclusive to the Kremlin.
The authors explored every aspect of the program to include the technical aspects, what the United States and British intelligence knew, the role of the Warsaw Pact allies and the proliferation risk. Yet, as it is stressed throughout the book, much remains unanswered and will likely remain unanswered due to the Russian Ministry of Defense’s sealed doors; especially to Western scholars. Due to the high level of secrecy, the offensive portion of the program has remained concealed resulting in the majority of the book referring to the defensive aspect of the program. Understanding the Russian façade is of the utmost importance as “both institutes [SCRAM and Vector] have vast culture collections of pathogens, equipment and supplies that could be valuable to nations or terrorist groups intent on acquiring biological weapons. Corruption that could lead to the international proliferation of biological weapons is of global concern” (p. 246).
Furthermore, the author’s provide an ongoing analysis as to why the Soviet Union committed to a biological weapons program even though the United States proclaimed in 1969 to have ended their program. The most promising explanation dates back to the Russian Civil War (1917 – 1922) in which the Russians learned the power of disease as it reached pandemic proportions; more were killed by disease than in combat. Fighting disease became a priority that easily transitioned into weapons research. Moreover, Soviet politics were able to convince graduating PhD students in the fields of biology, chemistry and genetics through lucrative incentives that weapons research was crucial to Soviet security. The program has remained active to this day even through many political missteps to include the 1979 anthrax epidemic in the city of Sverdlovsk that was blamed on contaminated meat and in 1999 when General Yevstigneev accused the United States of using Colorado beetles to destroy crops as a military tactic.
All things considered, The Soviet Biological Weapons Program is relevant and worthwhile for the Libertarian community. However, at 712 pages of text with another 209 pages dedicated to five appendixes which include acronyms and Russian terms, glossary, official historical documents, notes and an index, reading the entirety of this work is exhausting. Though for the individual or organization aspiring to gain an undiluted perception of the Soviet Union’s obsession with biological weapons this is an invaluable source. Lastly, as the Chemical and Biological Weapons Non-proliferation Program remains an issue among foreign policy analysts it was chillingly declared by the authors that the Russian Ministry of Defense preserves the “residual ability to protect and maintain, to an unknown extent, the offensive BW program,” (p.711), which forces the reader to then think about their own government.
* Note – Review was submitted to Air Space and Power Journal with minor alterations.
Recently I have been told that it takes only endurance, not any disenable talent to be considered a runner or an investment banker. This forced me to think about how the simplest concepts are often in fact highly complex. First, let me state that I am not an investment banker, I am a runner. Most runners barely envision themselves going beyond three miles, the few that do train for half or full marathon, believing this is the pinnacle of running. Do not get me wrong, reaching these distances requires an immense amount of training and discipline. However, for those of us who have been cursed to never be satisfied with the status quo there are ultra-marathons; races covering distances from 50km to 100 mile and further, taking place on single track trails through mountainous terrain.
Attempting to complete these distances on difficult terrain requires a different strategy. Prior to these events my runs would consist of the distances my body felt like covering on relatively flat pavement. Now I had to not only ensure I was covering enough distance per week but that I was incorporating terrain similar to the course. Believing you are too good to train in either of these needed areas will certainly bring you back to awkward reality while on the course. Remember your joints, bones and muscles are being trained to withstand a minimum six hour race on an uneven environment covering 5,000 feet in overall evaluation gain.
Speaking of evaluation gains brings up the important ratio of energy consumed to time gained while conquering certain hills. At specific degrees of incline and length it makes more sense to walk up, as you are not losing any time yet are conversing tremendous amounts of energy, which is needed at later miles. Now as with anything that goes up it must come down, the same applies while on the trail. Endlessly climbing hill after steep hill will begin to wear down your endurance. The downhill portion punishes your muscles and joints far more than anything and you should take head to remember the veteran’s advice that an ice bath will aid in recovery. If your ego wins, you will be laying on the shower floor in agony. Furthermore, after eight hours on a course, your knees will begin buckle and the simple thought of running down another hill will bring you to pleading with your surrounding environment.
Moving on from the simple aspect of just running the course requires you to continuously refuel your body. Even though these races provide support, (volunteers provide food and drinks in the middle of nowhere) you must carry a certain amount of supplies if you wish to finish. Nothing is more humbling than having both legs cramp due to lack of fluids and nutrition then falling over on the trail in the fetal position while two women in their 50s run by laughing at your demise. Properly knowing how many, what type and when to consume your calories will save any runner from such embarrassment.
Even if you have checked off every box in your training, nothing will teach you more about yourself than spending eight hours running in the mountains by yourself. Sure, in the beginning of the race you are surrounded by everyone, energy is high and nothing can go wrong. Within 30 minutes you and everyone else have found their rhythm, meaning you are now alone for the remainder of the race. Exerting your body to its limit is difficult enough, to then add being alone for extended periods of time transports your psyche through every emotion known to mankind. As a grown man it is hard to picture yourself reaching your breaking point during the simple task of running; you have been doing it since you were a child it is not complicated. Yet, when you are standing in the middle of nowhere on a trail yelling at the grass to be gone, there is no other option but to continue. There are no roads, the next person is unknowingly how far behind and the shame that comes with being carted off is even more unbearable. It is at this point you either shrug this off as something to laugh at in the future or leave yourself on the course knowing you do have limit.
Generally speaking, the simplest of tasks are often the most complex. Running, investment banking or creating a single piece of sushi, all appear to require zero talent to those looking from the outside but it is only when we observe them being done by those who truly practice their craft that they appear simple. Regardless of the task, there is humility to be found. Anything worth having, requires hard work and anything worth doing, is worth doing to perfection. The greatest compliment you can receive is being told anyone can do that, while knowing otherwise.
Finding happiness in our lives is a state of mind we all seek, yet we often uncover that it is difficult to truly achieve this mental state. Culture has dictated that to truly be happy with must first be financially secure. This is true to a certain extent however what is the proper amount we need to be financially secure? Determining the correct amount is obviously a personal choice but understanding what brings you happiness will allow a more accurate number that is actually attainable.
However, the first obstacle we confront is establishing the moments in life that made us truly happy. Studies have shown that family, travel (experiences) and philanthropy create lasting happiness. These are quite simple to understand and accept however many of us still seek to earn more money thinking it will make us happier even though family, travel and philanthropy can occur on a decent income e.g., $45,000. The question then remains,what drives us to work longer hours in order to earn a larger paycheck?
Part of the problem I believe is our cultural need to acquire an unnecessary amount of needless items as a status symbol of success. Nothing could be further from the truth. Couples who are married have been shown to lead happier lives; those who are married for the correct reasons. However, those aspiring to work jobs that require 100 hour work weeks will never have the time to actually meet someone or they never will be able to spend quality time with their significant other, negating the purpose of marriage, solidifying the statement, married to their jobs.
On the other hand it is understandable that some people do not want to get married, but people do find lasting happiness through their memories in which they have traveled, gone into the world and experienced it firsthand. Once again American culture has dictated that taking a significant amount of time off and away from your career is a sign of unreliability, non-career driven. Though the people I have met while traveling have been doing so for three to twelve months and were the happiest, most interesting people I have ever met. Confirming the idea that travel is more than ten days spent away from the office, but a way of life in which we continue to explore not only the world but ourselves in the process.
Furthermore, in our busy lives most people do not want to spend their free time doing volunteer work. Moreover, philanthropic work is usually reserved for the super-wealthy but volunteering at a local organization during your spare time is technically philanthropic work and equally as rewarding. Giving back under your own freewill fulfills your life with meaning that cannot be found in the office. Spending more time in the office has never brought anyone a greater sense of satisfaction. Devoting a few hours a month to a cause in which you believe in will provide your life with a non-monetary purpose, which cannot be quantified.
Overall, family, travel and philanthropy can be done together. Working holidays (outside of your company) is an idea that is foreign to most Americans. Yet, many developing nations have organizations seeking volunteers to devote as much time as they are willing to give. Flying to Uganda with your spouse for a month working with children who were once soldiers will create lasting memories, a true sense of happiness and realign your moral compass. Nevertheless, most of will continue to work long hours in our office jobs in search of the all mighty dollar but the question remains, why do we continue down this path knowing happiness is found elsewhere?
Two years ago to the date I took a trip from Seattle, WA to Reykjavik, Iceland as the airfare was next to nothing in order to promote tourism following the collapse of their banking system. After a long flight, bus ride and walk to the hotel it was time for a shower. Usually when traveling through Europe I have learned expect a subpar shower experience compared to American standards, this time was vastly different. I was greeted with an stunning shower and scolding hot water; had to wait a minute for the water to cool down before I could step in. My second thought after the relief of facing another European shower, was the compelling interest to learn about the cost of heating water to these extreme temperatures.
The next day I took an all day tour of the region with a small group of 15 people. Our first stop to my surprise was one of five geothermal plants on the island. This particular plant provided electricity, heat and hot water to the city Reykjavik at enormously low cost. Most unexpected though is the fact that the government, specifically the National Energy Authority, have been successfully running these facilities while providing effective research and development since the 1940s. Aside from higher taxes in Iceland why is America failing in the renewable energy department?
Americans are well aware of the recent fiasco with Solyndra, a designer, manufacturer and seller of solar photovoltaic systems. A sound entrepreneurial idea in the sunny state of California which the company was based out of. However, the business was unable to provide these services successfully and required a $535 million loan guarantee from the United States Energy Department. Keeping away from political discussion and strictly economical, how is that Solyndra was unable to run their company as a profitable organization? Potential state regulations could be the problem as California is ranked the worst ran state in the union.
On the other hand, the top ranked state North Dakota has been considered the Silicon Valley of the Midwest due to the successful oil boom in which zero government guaranteed loans have been issued. Moreover, small western towns in the state have dramatically changed for the better and worst over the last ten years. “It has confounded kids running lemonade stands: 50 cents a cup but your customer has only hundreds in his payday wallet, (Chip Brown, NY Times, 31 Jan 13). Looking at the success seen in North Dakota one can wonder if innovative entrepreneurship is the difference here. Fracking was implemented to make the majority oil in the state economically feasible to produce. Even with these developments, oil must stay over $60 barrel or their profits will turn into a losses; forecasts do not predict oil to drop back down to these levels.
Overall, these are three separate cases which have left us without any real answers. Icelandic government agencies have utilized their natural resources effectively to provide a lasting renewable energy source. California companies have been supplied with an abundant amount of sunshine yet have failed to turn a profit and cost the taxpayer through guaranteed loans. Lastly, North Dakota has proved to America once again that oil king in terms of profitable energy. Two questions remain: 1) Would privatized geothermal energy been as successful in Iceland? 2) How does America move towards profitable renewable energy?
Economic discussion normally does not entail the government control over our food, yet this is exactly what is happening. The United States government has a subsidizes agriculture production in theory to provide a greater supply enabling lower costs. Granted processed food is extremely cheap, but whole foods, especially produce are very expensive in terms of dollar per calorie. Americans are unable to afford whole foods causing them to eat more processed foods, potentially leading to higher health care costs in the long term. The question that must be answered though is: how does a developing nation such as Turkey provide genetically modify free whole foods at extremely low cost?
Farmer’s Markets in the United States are known to be a gathering place for hippies, tree huggers and wealthier members of society. Yet, in Turkey for $22 one can purchase 6 lbs of potatoes, 4 lbs of onions, 4 lbs of carrots, 4 lbs of cucumbers, 2 lbs of oranges, 2 lbs of tomatoes, 1 lb of broccoli, 4 lbs of chicken and 15 organic eggs. All spices are $0.50 for one ounce bags, if you prefer fresh herbs they cost $0.50 for three bunches. This is unheard of in America! These markets are filled with everyday people purchasing their weekly meat, produce and other kitchen staples such as honey, rice and tea. What is going on in America that citizens are unable to purchase food directly from farmers such as in Turkey?
Economically this is feasible as local communities would grow the seasonal produce native to that region and import from other states as needed; this is economics 101 as described by Adam Smith. However, the problem in America is politics. Companies gaining a monopoly share on the sale of genetically modified seeds is destroying agriculture. For centuries farmers planted their seeds in the spring then gathered the seeds from the harvest in the fall to replant again next spring. Monsanto with its ingenious plan, decided to develop a seed that resists its own herbicide, Roundup. None of this would matter in a free market enterprise, except Monsanto has deep political ties as stated in the beginning, government control.
The U.S Secretary of Agriculture, Anne Veneman, was on the board of Directors of Monsanto’s Calgene Corporation. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was on the Board of Directors of Monsanto’s Searle pharmaceuticals. Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas was Monsanto’s lawyer and the list continues from the Obama administration to George Bush Sr. What makes this company so dangerous are the tactics it has used against farmers. Each day $2 million are spent by Monsanto to seek out farmers who they believe are infringing on their patent. Farmers do not have the money to battle such a large company and are losing their livelihoods.
This problem runs deeper when we look at the 58% market control on corn seed by Monsanto and DuPont. Corn production is at all time high and the majority of it is not used for human consumption but for feed. Even scarier animals such as cows which cannot process corn are being fed this ingredient to fatten them up faster to sell. Moreover, if everything we eat either has been fed corn or has corn in it, what are we becoming? Over time corn has lost its original nutritional properties and is nothing more than a filler. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief high fructose corn syrup is not the same as sugar; one is a pure substance the other is made through a chemical process. How can America move towards an agriculture industry such as the one described in Turkey?
This entry does not begin to address all of the problems associated with food. How do we begin to regain control of our food supply? By economic choices, we must stop buying items containing a derivative of corn, come from Monsanto’s seeds and begin to support local farmers who are open about their practices. This will require consumer knowledge and foresight. These measures indicate to the market that the consumer demands quality whole foods at a low cost. Is the American agricultural problem more than what is mentioned above; cultural eating habits, the convenience of cheap food or the lack of time in a nation so concerned about career progression that they aren’t worried about what they put into their bodies?