Ian Welsh on the way of thinking we need


Ian Welsh

Ian Welsh, whose blog link is on my Blogs I Like page, wrote four excellent posts this week on the current economic and political situation and how we should think about it.

They are all worth reading in their entirety, along with the comment threads, but here are some highlights, with links.

The preferred business model today is to make it so that no one owns anything: everything is unbundled, instead of owning it, you lease or rent it and the moment you can’t pay it all goes away.  This is what “cloud” computing is about: a revenue stream. Lose your revenue, lose everything.  Ownership of DNA sequences, ownership of seeds, effective ownership of your intellectual property because it appears in someone else’s pipe (like Google using people’s endorsements without compensating them), you will own nothing, and all surplus value you produce in excess of what you need to (barely) survive will be taken from you.

To put it another way, the current business model is value stripping.

via Baseline Predictions for the next Sixty Odd Years.

We’re going to hit the wall.  We’re going to have fight a dystopic panopticon police state in which ordinary people are not allowed to own anything of real value, let alone keep any of the real value they create.  We’re going to do this while the environment comes apart, while we get battered by “extreme weather events”, droughts, water shortages and hunger.

That’s the baseline scenario.  That’s what we have to be ready to deal with, to change as much as we can, to radically mitigate to save hundreds of millions or billions of lives, and to make billions of lives good, instead of meaningless existential hells.

via Baseline Predictions for the next Sixty Odd Years.

There are, ultimately, two dominant strategies: cooperate or compete. If you want widespread prosperity, the dominant strategy in your ideology must be cooperation, though competition has its place.  And ultimately the difference between the right and the left is this: the right thinks you get more out of people by treating them badly, the left thinks you get more out of people by treating them well.

An ideology that believes treating people well is the better way to do things is a lot better to live under.  And as a bonus, happy people are a lot more fun to be around.  And societies with that ideology, all other things being equal, will tend to out-compete those who believe that fear, misery and the whip are the best way to motivate people.

Finally, an ideology that succeeds is always universalist.  It asserts, for example, that all people have certain rights and does not admit to exceptions.

via A New Ideology.

Yukon raven by gavatronWithin an ideology are prescriptions for internal vs. external power relations.  So a society must be able to win its fights with outside societies running different ideologies, but it also includes prescriptions for how power is divided internally.  In the European Middle Ages most of Europe was ruled by rapacious nobles, but the Swiss cantons had male suffrage. This was based on the fact that Swiss pikemen could beat the pants off feudal noble cavalry.  But the requirement for Swiss pikemen was economically prosperous men who could and would fight, not starved peasants.  And men who could fight, and had to fight together, insisted on having power. … … 

via How to Create a Viable Ideology.

We think of irrationality as bad, but rational decision making leads to betrayal.  If someone’s going to offer me more than I can otherwise earn to betray the rest of my people, a lot of folks are going to take that deal unless they have the irrational belief that it’s wrong, and a rational belief that if they do it, those who have an irrational belief in the system will hurt them, or even kill them.

This is ideology.  Any ideological system that doesn’t produce people willing to die and kill for it, will lose to an ideology that does.

via How to Create a Viable Ideology.

9)  Greed as primary driver leads to sociopathic behavior being rewarded … … . This means you select, systematically, people who act sociopathically or pyschopathically as your leaders.  You get the behavior you reward, and right now our system rewards people for doing whatever it takes to make money, no matter what the costs to other people, to the environment or the future.

10)  Most profits today are extracted value, they are not actual surplus value. Instead they represent destruction of actual economic productivity.  Every cent the financial sector “earned” from 2000 to 2007 was destroyed, ten times over, in the crisis and the depression after the crisis.

11)  Actual value is not rewarded.  A janitor or a garbageman or a teacher or a nurse or an assembly line worker or an engineer produces real value.  If the CEO does not come in tomorrow, so what?  If the janitor doesn’t, everyone is complaining immediately.  The people we call value creators today are mostly value extractors: their job is to squeeze hard, to monetize, not to create new products which are genuinely beneficial to the world … …

via 44 Explict Points on Creating a Better World.

44) The right thing to do, ethically, is usually the right thing to do economically. Helping the distressed is good for the economy.  Universal healthcare that doesn’t give extra money to insurance companies is good for the economy. Believe it or not, not dumping pollution into air and not poisoning food – is good for the economy. Feeding the poor is – good for the economy.

If you’re ever not sure what the right economic policy is ask yourself what the kind thing to do is.  You’ll be right nine times out ten, and the remaining one time you’ll still be doing something good.

via 44 Explict Points on Creating a Better World.

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