2019/01/19: What do I feel when I watch it?
Nothing really. Neutral. Slight positive because it lifts some issues such as bullying and sexual harassment. Slight disgust at capitalist opportunism disguised as idealism. Thinking I’ve seen all of the situations in the ad and do recognize that most men in most situations do indeed not stand up and call folks out. Still it all comes out a bit silly, as commercials generally do.
To the offended party: I think you’re all wrong, folks. And I think that your reaction says more about yourselves than about the commercial. I think you are exact equivalents of the non-constructive, bitter, bitchy kinds of feminists and anti-racists whose toes are always perpetually stepped upon by one wrong word, some naked skin, one commercial or another.
I’m calling you out, guys: you’re being over-sensitive. You’re taking part in a silly hysteria.
I am only comfortable with a postfeminist position *if* it successfully transcends and includes feminism – in particular the undeniable and empirical aspects of inequality and relations between the genders. Otherwise it isn’t real postfeminism. The proof that the folks offended by the ad weren’t true postfeminists? None of them bothered to check if the world actually *does* work according to the assumptions of this ad. Which it does. More proof? Their message is indistinguishable from that of the classical conservatives. How much is this post-anything? And how much is it simply social conservatism? Nothing wrong with it, but that’s what it is.
I want us to move towards a “neomasculist” position, one that *is* tough and manly but is still friends with feminism. One that doesn’t get “offended” at every corner, isn’t over-sensitive. One that lifts itself, by virtue of character and understanding, above the trench wars of the gender issues and identity politics at large. One that lands in a paradigm of emotional and sexual development.
Feminism and masculism need one another. They are two sides of the same equation.
2018/05/30: unlike even the most property-friendly founders Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Buchanan wanted a private governing elite of corporate power that was wholly released from public accountability.
Suppressing voting, changing legislative processes so that a normal majority could no longer prevail, sowing public distrust of government institutions— all these were tactics toward the goal. But the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.
MacLean argues that despite the rhetoric of Virginia school acolytes, shrinking big government is not really the point. The oligarchs require a government with tremendous new powers so that they can bypass the will of the people. This, as MacLean points out, requires greatly expanding police powers “to control the resultant popular anger.” The spreading use of pre-emption by GOP-controlled state legislatures to suppress local progressive victories such as living wage ordinances is another example of the right’s aggressive use of state power.
Could these right-wing capitalists allow private companies to fill prisons with helpless citizens—or, more profitable still, right-less undocumented immigrants? They could, and have. Might they engineer a retirement crisis by moving Americans to inadequate 401(k)s? Done. Take away the rights of consumers and workers to bring grievances to court by making them sign forced arbitration agreements? Check. Gut public education to the point where ordinary people have such bleak prospects that they have no energy to fight back? Getting it done.
Would they even refuse children clean water? Actually, yes.
MacLean notes that in Flint, Michigan, Americans got a taste of what the emerging oligarchy will look like — it tastes like poisoned water. There, the Koch-funded Mackinac Center pushed for legislation that would allow the governor to take control of communities facing emergency and put unelected managers in charge. In Flint, one such manager switched the city’s water supply to a polluted river, but the Mackinac Center’s lobbyists ensured that the law was fortified by protections against lawsuits that poisoned inhabitants might bring. Tens of thousands of children were exposed to lead, a substance known to cause serious health problems including brain damage.
Tyler Cowen has provided an economic justification for this kind of brutality, stating that where it is difficult to get clean water, private companies should take over and make people pay for it. “This includes giving them the right to cut off people who don’t—or can’t—pay their bills,” the economist explains.
To many this sounds grotesquely inhumane, but it is a way of thinking that has deep roots in America. In Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative (2005), Buchanan considers the charge of heartlessness made against the kind of classic liberal that he took himself to be. MacLean interprets his discussion to mean that people who “failed to foresee and save money for their future needs” are to be treated, as Buchanan put it, “as subordinate members of the species, akin to…animals who are dependent.’”
Buchanan, a 1940 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University who later attended the University of Chicago for graduate study, started out as a conventional public finance economist. But he grew frustrated by the way in which economic theorists ignored the political process.
Buchanan began working on a description of power that started out as a critique of how institutions functioned in the relatively liberal 1950s and ‘60s, a time when economist John Maynard Keynes’s ideas about the need for government intervention in markets to protect people from flaws so clearly demonstrated in the Great Depression held sway. Buchanan, MacLean notes, was incensed at what he saw as a move toward socialism and deeply suspicious of any form of state action that channels resources to the public. Why should the increasingly powerful federal government be able to force the wealthy to pay for goods and programs that served ordinary citizens and the poor?
In thinking about how people make political decisions and choices, Buchanan concluded that you could only understand them as individuals seeking personal advantage. In an interview cited by MacLean, the economist observed that in the 1950s Americans commonly assumed that elected officials wanted to act in the public interest. Buchanan vehemently disagreed — that was a belief he wanted, as he put it, to “tear down.” His ideas developed into a theory that came to be known as “public choice.”
Buchanan’s view of human nature was distinctly dismal. Adam Smith saw human beings as self-interested and hungry for personal power and material comfort, but he also acknowledged social instincts like compassion and fairness. Buchanan, in contrast, insisted that people were primarily driven by venal self-interest. Crediting people with altruism or a desire to serve others was “romantic” fantasy: politicians and government workers were out for themselves, and so, for that matter, were teachers, doctors, and civil rights activists. They wanted to control others and wrest away their resources: “Each person seeks mastery over a world of slaves,” he wrote in his 1975 book, The Limits of Liberty.
Does that sound like your kindergarten teacher? It did to Buchanan.
The people who needed protection were property owners, and their rights could only be secured though constitutional limits to prevent the majority of voters from encroaching on them, an idea Buchanan lays out in works like Property as a Guarantor of Liberty (1993). MacLean observes that Buchanan saw society as a cutthroat realm of makers (entrepreneurs) constantly under siege by takers (everybody else) His own language was often more stark, warning the alleged “prey” of “parasites” and “predators” out to fleece them.
2015/09/01: YouTuber Sir Mashalot has created a mix of popular country tunes that reveals just how formulaic the genre has become, confirming the suspicions of millions of urbanites who happened to turn on the radio during their rare trips outside the comforting womb of the major metropolitan area.
The mashup includes six songs, including ones by big acts like Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan, all of which performed strongly on the charts. There are indeed references aplenty to cars and beer and summertime, but what’s more striking is the nearly identical instrumentation and chord progressions. At one point, all six songs are overlaid on top of each other, and it’s a bit alarming how perfectly they fit together.
2018/10/09: In a world where so much is now controlled by so few — there are five big book publishers left, five Hollywood studios, five large health insurers, four phone providers and four cable companies — and this summer AT&T bought Time Warner — Amazon’s reach is terrifying.
Its ostensible search for the next city to house its second headquarters has become “the Olympics on steroids,” Galloway says, with state and local governments promising tax breaks that would starve funding for schools, police and fire departments. We have a new national holiday, Amazon Prime Day. Alexa and Echo, Amazon’s cloud-based voice-operated systems, sit in an estimated 40 million homes and spy on us, reporting our moods, tastes, wants, needs and fears back to HQ.
Yet we don’t fear Alexa.
Bezos has even greater ambitions.
2011/12/20: the amount of electricity that goes to HFT activity is not only not presently a problem, but it has a very long way to go before it’s cause for concern. But my point is that, unlike other types of energy use, which have natural limits and constraints, and which deliver actual goods and services as an end product, there seems to be nothing stopping HFT from becoming a problem at some future date. There is no theoretical cap on the number of participants in the stock market, and there’s no theoretical cap on the number of trades per second that those participants can generate, and, thanks to derivatives, there’s no theoretical cap on the notional amount of money that market participants can shuffle around among themselves. So, again, the amount of power that goes into HFT activity can and will grow, and nothing can stop it.
2018/10/03: It is no accident that the global reach of World’s Fairs began in the age of empire. The Great Exhibition, of Victorian London, boasted of “Works of Industry of All Nations,” whether that meant gifts from client regimes or items forcibly extracted. Often, this meant people.
One notable aspect to recent Expo shifts—not unlike that of recent Olympics—is the move from liberal democracies to more authoritarian governments. Setting aside the considerable human rights issues with these regimes, the actual processes of establishing World’s Fairs have exacted a heavy toll from parts of their societies. The Chinese government reputedly displaced 18,000 households to provide space for the Shanghai Expo, with Amnesty International highlighting the repression of female anti-eviction activists. Dubai and Kazakhstan have been similarly condemned for autocratic rule, humanitarian abuses, and corruption.
Where fairs were genuinely prescient was in the rise of consumerism, mass communication, and electronics—the aforementioned New York World’s Fair of 1964 had, for example, a Saarinen and Eames’ designed IBM Pavilion, with its giant “ovoid theater” egg, while General Motors resurrected their Futurama from 1939. Multinationals were gradually eclipsing states, just as nostalgic and profitable retrofutures were gradually eclipsing utopian visions of progress.
It could be said that the biennales, design capitals, conferences, and conventions seen today in a multitude of fields are descendants and usurpers of the World’s Fair. The communications, computing, and media technologies which Expos first showcased to the world, from the Babbage Analytical Engine to the projector, would gradually overshadow them.
Perhaps it is time to host World’s Fairs, not with noble platitudes in sparkling metropolises, but in the places facing impending catastrophe. There are potential host cities like Jakarta and Bangkok that are sinking and flooding. Cities like Lagos, Dar es Salaam, and Kinshasa that face population explosions and infrastructure implosions. There are cities where the water is running out like Cape Town, São Paulo, and Bangalore. World’s Fairs could take place in any of the nine Indian cities that dominate the top 10 worst for global air pollution. Or they could be hosted in the Siberian cities at risk from melting permafrost like Salekhard, Norilsk, and Anadyr.
The narrative that government is inefficient and its optimum role should be "limited" to avoid disrupting the market has proven extremely powerful. But this prevailing view of government is wrong; it is more the product of ideological bias than anything else.
2018/09/10: is society incapable of tackling income inequality peacefully?
Walter Scheidel: No, but history shows that there are limits. There is a big difference between maintaining existing arrangements that successfully check inequality (Scandinavia is a good example) and significantly reducing it. The latter requires real change and that is always much harder to do: think of America or Britain, not to mention Brazil, China or India. The modern welfare state does a reasonably good job of compensating for inequality before taxes and transfers. However for more substantial levelling to occur, the established order needs to be shaken up: the greater the shock to the system, the easier it becomes to reduce privilege at the top.
Are we really living in an unfathomable period of wealth inequality, or was the relatively equal society that followed the second world war the real aberration?
Walter Scheidel: When we view history over the long run we can see that this experience was certainly a novelty. We now know that modernisation as such does not reliably reduce inequality. Many things had to come together to make this happen, such as very high income and estate taxes, strong labour unions, and intrusive regulations and controls. Since the 1980s, liberalisation and globalisation have allowed inequality to rise again. Even so, wealth concentration in Europe is nowhere near as high as it was a century ago. America, meanwhile, is getting there, which shows that it all depends on where you look.
measures that worked well in the past may have done so because they were taken in the unique context of massive violent shocks and threats: the world wars and communism. This requires us to be more creative in dealing with inequality. Above all we must think harder about feasibility. It is not enough for economists to come up with recipes to reduce inequality, we also need to figure out how to implement them in an environment that is politically polarised and economically globalised. Both factors limit our scope for intervention.
in practice there will always be losers, and even basic-income schemes can take us only so far. At the end of the day, someone owns the robots. As long as the capitalist world system is in place, it is hard to see how even huge productivity gains from greater automation would benefit society evenly instead of funnelling even more income and wealth to those who are in the best position to pocket these gains.
2018/09/14: I am beginning to think that these things cannot coexist. Technology - of this kind, unregulated, unmonitored, left to its own ends - and civilization.
two factors behind a growing global epidemic of mental breakdown: technology and imploding capitalism
we are building a world where they choice to believe all the foolish things that they want.
No, it is not really your "right" to believe any foolish thing you want. Beliefs, too, exist only within boundaries.
The decivilized have begun to believe in delusions. Delusions are fantasies.
social media lets us dehumanize people costlessly, frictionlessly, with ease
And it seems to me as if in America, we are taught to see personal violence — but remain blind to structural and institutional violence. The American always bears on their own shoulders the risk of being left for dead, abandoned, neglected, forced into having to make terrible choices like “my mortgage or my cancer.” But the job of modern, democratic institutions and structures is precisely to prevent all that, and bear that risk — not to enforce it.
2017/04/24: Economists are very worried about the decline in labor’s share of U.S. national income. One reason they’re concerned is because when less of an economy’s wealth flows to workers, it exacerbates inequality and increases the risk of social instability. But another reason is that this trend throws a wrench in economists’ models. For decades, macroeconomic models assumed that labor and capital took home roughly constant portions of output -- labor got just a bit less than two-thirds of the pie, capital slightly more than one-third. Nowadays it’s more like 60-40.
There are four main theories, each of which falls apart under scrutiny.
2017/03/17: No one stated their intention to create a social welfare program for white people, specifically white men, but they didn’t need to. By handing control to employers at a time when virtually every good paying job was reserved for white men the program silently accomplished that goal.
When Democrats respond to job losses with an offer to expand the public safety net, blue collar voters cringe and rebel. They are not remotely interested in sharing the public social safety net experienced by minority groups and the poorest white families. Meanwhile well-employed and affluent voters, ensconced in their system of white socialism, leverage all the power at their disposal to block any dilution of their expensive public welfare benefits. Something has to break.
We may one day recognize that we are all “in it together” and find ways to build a more stable, sensible welfare system. That will not happen unless we acknowledge the painful and sometimes embarrassing legacy that brought us to this place. Absent that reckoning, unspoken realities will continue to warp our political calculations, frustrating our best hopes and stunting our potential.
Rifkin is persuaded that this paradigm is the key to greening and decarbonating our societies: "The IoT infrastructure offers a realistic hope of quickly replacing fossil fuel energies with renewable energies and slowing climate change."rnThe dead-end of consumerismrnrnWhile Rifkin's predictions seem to follow the course of history, Pitron soberly and methodically tempers them: "Digital technology requires considerable amounts of metals: every year, the electronics industry consumes 320 tonnes of gold and 7,500 tonnes of silver; it accounts for 22% of the world's consumption of mercury (some 514 tonnes) and up to 2.5% of lead. The manufacture of computers and mobile phones alone gobbles up 19% of global output of rare metals like palladium and 23% of cobalt production". Yet, "at current rates of production, the recoverable reserves of 15 or so base and rare metals will run out in less than 50 years; for five other metals (including iron, which is abundant), this will occur before the end of the century."rnrnPitron points out that "the manufacture of a two-gram chip creates two kilograms of waste material, in other words a 1 to 1000 ratio of material produced to waste generated."rnrnLike Rifkin, those who see the digital revolution as the key to ecological transition are victims of a collective blindness that is leading humanity into a dead end: "They don't want to know because a connected world is preferable to a clean planet." Indeed, the book pours scorn on an energy transition that does not call into question our energy needs. "The manufacture of a single solar panel, due in large part to its silicon content, generates more than 70 kilograms of CO2. With PV [photovoltaic] capacity estimated to increase by 23% annually in the coming years, solar power will produce an additional 10 gigawatts of electricity a year. This means 2.7 billion tonnes of carbon released into the atmosphere, equivalent to the annual emissions of 600,000 cars." The examples keep coming. Overall, "sustaining the change in our energy model will require a doubling in rare-metal production roughly every 15 years, and extracting more minerals in the next 30 years than humanity has extracted in the preceding 70 000 years."rnrn legislation will have to change, as will individual and collective behaviour to conserve and recycle the resources currently on our continent.rnrnPitron does not hesitate to raise the question of inequality when it comes to ecological transition. Although the fight against climate change is frequently the subject of public debate, out of ignorance, its potentially redistributive aspects are never discussed. Yet "the energy and digital transition is a transition for the well-off: it cleans up well-to-do city centres to make up for its very real impacts in areas that are poorest and furthest from view." Globally, "hiding away the dubious origin of metals in China has enabled green and digital technologies to enjoy a good reputation. It's undoubtedly the most incredible greenwashing operation in history."rnrnIn short, and this is pretty discouraging, Pitron's work corroborates the results of models created almost 50 years ago. But these were widely ignored when new models were devised which are still used today by economists and governments to justify the productivist and consumerist policies on which our development model is based.
CCCB, 7 October 2016: The idea of postcapitalism consists of two hypotheses, about the unique effects of information technology. First, that information technology is preventing the normal adaptation
Why there is joy behind a system of hierarchies and formalised rules
Silicon Valley's culture is hurting our economy.