Posts tagged capital
“There was no revolution too be had on the internet. None at all. The idea that there ever was is false. A big fat lie.
Sure, we thought we saw revolutions start on here. We saw people come together to fight governments, stand up to bullies, bring attention to brutality, to show how corporations are stupid and greedy (we did quite a bit of that last one ourselves, if you remember, dear friends). We watched people fight for justice and against political correctness. We watched huge battles rage. And we thought they were exciting and important.
But we were wrong, we slowly realised. We realised those battles were just a spectacle, a distraction from what was really going on. Because those battles were taking place on a battlefield that didn’t matter. On a battlefield that had no way of making a difference. Because that’s a battlefield we don’t own, and never could. New battlefields built just to keep us occupied.
We used to think we could own it, that we were fighting to build communities for ourselves. That it was ours for the taking. To stake a claim for a place we could control and belong, a fight to make ‘safe spaces’ for ourselves. It was a noble thing to think, that we were fighting for our own spaces, but we were kidding ourselves. We never owned these spaces, we never could. They were never ours to own, never ours to control. Instead we watched our battles turn in to spectator sports, our revolutions turn in to infighting. We watched our new communities dissolve into civil wars. We watched our political activists and community leaders become celebrity brands, our tech-utopian visionaries bow to capital and shareholders.
Without knowing - although somehow always expecting it - we let ourselves become nothing more than the content between adverts. Our battles, our beliefs, our loves - nothing more than the filler before the next ad break. We fought battles that we didn’t need to fight - battles that ripped our solidarity apart and distracted us from the we causes we once believed in - just to create clicks and blinks and eyeballs for the advertising networks. We were nothing more than squatters in a space we wanted to believe we owned, paying our rent by giving ourselves away in the name of capital. Our revolution was a sideshow.
Well, not anymore friends. This has to stop. And it will.”
(via https://pastebin.com/1bHQssPs )
The fact is that capitalist societies already dedicate a large portion of their economic outputs to paying out money to people who have not worked for it. The UBI does not invent passive income. It merely doles it out evenly to everyone in society, rather than in very concentrated amounts to the richest people in society. The idea of capturing the 30% of national income that flows passively to capital every year and handing it out to everyone in society in equal chunks has been around since at least Oskar Lange wrote about it in the early parts of the last century. This is, to me, the best way to do a UBI, both practically and ideologically. Don’t tax labor to give money out to UBI loafers. Instead, snag society’s capital income, which is already paid out to people without regard to whether they work, and pay it out to everyone.
So how should society be compensated? Taxation is the wrong answer. Corporations pay taxes in exchange for services the state provides them, not for capital injections that must yield dividends. There is thus a strong case that the commons have a right to a share of the capital stock, and associated dividends, reflecting society’s investment in corporations’ capital. And, because it is impossible to calculate the size of state and social capital crystalized in any firm, we can decide how much of its capital stock the public should own only by means of a political mechanism. A simple policy would be to enact legislation requiring that a percentage of capital stock (shares) from every initial public offering (IPO) be channeled into a Commons Capital Depository, with the associated dividends funding a universal basic dividend (UBD). This UBD should, and can be, entirely independent of welfare payments, unemployment insurance, and so forth, thus ameliorating the concern that it would replace the welfare state, which embodies the concept of reciprocity between waged workers and the unemployed. Fear of machines that can liberate us from drudgery is a symptom of a timid and divided society. The Luddites are among the most misunderstood historical actors. Their vandalism of machinery was a protest not against automation, but against social arrangements that deprived them of life prospects in the face of technological innovation. Our societies must embrace the rise of the machines, but ensure that they contribute to shared prosperity by granting every citizen property rights over them, yielding a UBD.
As far as style goes, the AirPods resemble the EarPods from the Season 2 episode of Doctor Who in which a megalomaniac billionaire has convinced the populace to purchase the wireless devices as a means to conduct communication and receive all their information, only to turn around and deploy them as a weapon that hacked into their brains and turned them into soulless, emotionless, homicidal metal automatons.
Subsidies for fossil fuels amount to $1,000 (£640) a year for every citizen living in the G20 group of the world’s leading economies, despite the group’s pledge in 2009 to phase out support for coal, oil and gas. New figures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) show that the US, which hosted the G20 summit in 2009, gives $700bn a year in fossil fuel subsidies, equivalent to $2,180 for every American. President Barack Obama backed the phase out but has since overseen a steep rise in federal fossil fuel subsidies.
Every economy has to answer two questions: how much to produce and how to distribute that production. Technological advances ensure that each year we can make more stuff with less labor and capital than the year before. This has not changed. What has changed is how we allocate the benefits of progress. Back in the day, workers got the money; today, owners of assets do. Stagnant wages and higher stock prices are two sides of the same coin.
Accelerationism is, for me, worth studying briefly, as it seems to me to be a response to pervasive capitalism brought on by the mental illnesses that capitalism has induced in people. (Schizophrenia is talked about, a lot, e.g. “in Nietzsche’s ‘schizo’ delirium he announced ‘I am all the names of history’”) Noys himself calls them “the fetishists of capital” at one point, but I have a feeling, and Noys often implies, that it’s a deeper malaise. Capitalism is lately cast as that Lovecraftian force that some people should not look directly at for fear of going completely mad and being banged up in the Arkham Sanitarium. Maybe meditating upon it as some Dark God From Beyond Space that is crushing the world into new shapes just leads some people to rub their mouths on it and plead for it to go faster. And never stop. (Also: accelerationism, like speculative realism and its surrounding notions, kind of strikes me as Science Fiction Condition philosophical enterprise. its roots may indeed go back to the 19th Century, but the modern conception is something else.)
Over the past week or so, one of the most prominent credit agencies, Standard & Poor’s, has, in a series of reports, attempted to quantify the financial impact of climate change. The company looked at the impact of changing weather patterns on various industries, including utilities and insurance.
According to Keynes, the nineteenth century had unleashed such a torrent of technological innovation—“electricity, petrol, steel, rubber, cotton, the chemical industries, automatic machinery and the methods of mass production”—that further growth was inevitable. The size of the global economy, he forecast, would increase sevenfold in the following century, and this, in concert with ever greater “technical improvements,” would usher in the fifteen-hour week. To Keynes, the coming age of abundance, while welcome, would pose a new and in some ways even bigger challenge. With so little need for labor, people would have to figure out what to do with themselves: “For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won.” The example offered by the idle rich was, he observed, “very depressing”
According to the World Bank, corruption in the form of bribery and theft by government officials, the main target of the UN Convention, costs developing countries between $20bn and $40bn each year. That’s a lot of money. But it’s an extremely small proportion - only about 3 percent - of the total illicit flows that leak out of public coffers. Tax avoidance, on the other hand, accounts for more than $900bn each year, money that multinational corporations steal from developing countries through practices such as trade mispricing. This enormous outflow of wealth is facilitated by a shadowy financial system that includes tax havens, paper companies, anonymous accounts, and fake foundations, with the City of London at the very heart of it. Over 30 percent of global foreign direct investment is booked through tax havens, which now collectively hide one-sixth of the world’s total private wealth. This is a massive - indeed, fundamental - cause of poverty in the developing world, yet it does not register in the mainstream definition of corruption, absent from the UN Convention, and rarely, if ever, appears on the agenda of international development organisations.
There is simply no squaring the moral ambition of the “Don’t Be Evil” motto of Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin with funding for a group that promotes “The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2.” ALEC is exactly who Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was talking about when he said at a recent Google symposium: “You can lie about the effects of climate change, but eventually you’ll be seen as a liar.”
The shift to the distorporation comes at the expense of the “C” corporation, the formal name for the familiar limited-liability joint-stock structure that emerged a century ago (see chart 1). The newer structures still protect investors from liability. But the requirement for partnerships to pass through their money blocks the accumulation of earnings. In C corporations retained earnings can be used to fund investment and growth, assuring persistence. Without them, pass-through businesses have to be far more intertwined with investors. Staying alive means routinely inhaling capital, as well as exhaling.
If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.
It wasn’t the rise of digitization that killed the middle class. It was the insufficiency of protests among U.S. brain power, including publicly-funded academics, failing to advocate for labor and home-grown innovation; their ignorance about the nature of blue collar jobs and the creative output they help realize compounded the problem. Manufacturing has increasingly reduced man hours in tandem with productivity-increasing technological improvements. It wasn’t the internet that killed these jobs, though technology reduced some of them. The inability to plan for the necessary shift of jobs to other fields revealed the lack of comprehensive, forward-thinking manufacturing and labor policies.