economics

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Vore the rich.

Today’s billionaires are the real citizens of nowhere. They fantasise, like the plutocrats in Ayn Rand’s terrible novel Atlas Shrugged, about further escape. Look at the “seasteading” venture funded by Paypal’s founder Peter Thiel, that sought to build artificial islands in the middle of the ocean, whose citizens could enact a libertarian fantasy of escape from the state, its laws, regulations and taxes, and from organised labour. Scarcely a month goes by without a billionaire raising the prospect of leaving the Earth altogether, and colonising space pods or other planets.

Those whose identity is offshore seek only to travel further offshore. To them, the nation state is both facilitator and encumbrance, source of wealth and imposer of tax, pool of cheap labour and seething mass of ungrateful plebs, from whom they must flee, leaving the wretched earthlings to their well-deserved fate.

Defending ourselves from these disasters means taxing oligarchy to oblivion.

George Monbiot on oligarchy.

Hey you remember that time in the post-Depression era when the top marginal tax rates in the US and UK were in the 90% range? And how that funded the post-war economic booms that did everything from build massive of public infrastructure and (at least in the UK) funded the public health system? And how even to this day conservatives seem to spend all their time promoting the post-war era as a halcyon time of middle-class bliss while simultaneously dismantling every single public institution that helped bring it about?

Yeah. Funny, that.

2019-09-11T15:16:03+10:0013th January, 2020|Tags: economics, politics|

WoWpitalism.

There were basically two ways to make money in the [World of Warcraft] Auction House: be a supplier or be a commodities guy.

A supplier would be the person that used professions (leatherworking, blacksmithing, gathering, fishing, etc) to gather or create valuable items and would then sell them on the AH. Most people start here, and few ever do more than this. Much like workers in real life, these people create all of the economy’s value.

Commodity traders exploited that value to inflate margins and make profit.

sandrockcstm on day trading.

Capitalism and the finance industry explained… WoW-style.

2019-08-30T11:14:27+10:0024th December, 2019|Tags: economics, gaming, mmos, world of warcraft|

Having no kids in capitalism is wild.

HIM: (discussing buying an Aeron chair) They’re so expensive, though…

ME: (happy owner of said chair) To be fair, we don’t have kids. We could buy, like, twenty Aeron chairs and it still wouldn’t cost as much as a year of childcare.

HIM: (dying inside)

2019-12-18T10:31:55+11:0016th December, 2019|Tags: culture, economics|

The future, now.

Like coal, capitalism has brought many benefits. But, like coal, it now causes more harm than good. Just as we have found means of generating useful energy that are better and less damaging than coal, so we need to find means of generating human wellbeing that are better and less damaging than capitalism.

There is no going back: the alternative to capitalism is neither feudalism nor state communism. Soviet communism had more in common with capitalism than the advocates of either system would care to admit. Both systems are (or were) obsessed with generating economic growth. Both are willing to inflict astonishing levels of harm in pursuit of this and other ends. Both promised a future in which we would need to work for only a few hours a week, but instead demand endless, brutal labour. Both are dehumanising. Both are absolutist, insisting that theirs and theirs alone is the one true God.

So what does a better system look like? I don’t have a complete answer, and I don’t believe any one person does. But I think I see a rough framework emerging. […] Part of the answer lies in the notion of “private sufficiency, public luxury”. Another part arises from the creation of a new conception of justice, based on this simple principle: every generation, everywhere shall have an equal right to the enjoyment of natural wealth.

George Monbiot converts.

2019-07-17T12:05:27+10:0025th November, 2019|Tags: economics|

All boats more than others.

It does not follow from the fact that “we continue to live in a deeply racist, sexist, and homophobic society” that prior social movements have accomplished nothing. If environmentalists believed humanity “inexorably” destroyed nature, we wouldn’t be pushing for a Green New Deal. Most of this is just vicious, inaccurate cartoonish misrepresentation. I doubt you could find anyone to affirm that racism is the cause of “all problems.” Do those who say capitalist countries are ungenerous think feudal societies were more generous? Of course we don’t. Do we express nostalgia for the era of child labor and workhouses? No. Do mainstream environmentalists demand a “renunciation of technology”? Even radical anti-civilization anarcho-primitivist John Zerzan is on radio and podcasts. What Pinker calls the “demonization” of fossil fuel companies is the recognition that they engaged in practices they knew to be destructive, misleading the public to maintain profits the same way tobacco companies did. It’s important to treat this as what it is: fraud and theft, because those who are responsible for knowingly causing damage ought to pay for it. “Make polluters pay” is not immoral “punitive aggression” but an application of basic tort law principles.

Nathan J. Robinson on relativity.

As someone who was a fan of Better Angels on reading it—despite niggling doubts about certain chapters that, in retrospect, should’ve been glaring alarm bells—I’m always here for a takedown of Steven Pinker.

Also, the cartoon in this article is pretty gold.

2019-07-11T08:57:16+10:0017th November, 2019|Tags: culture, economics|

Lies the rich tell us.

Let’s flesh this out with some real-world figures. In 1990, it would have cost 10.5% of world GDP to lift everyone above the poverty line. In 2013, it would have cost only 3.3%. Our capacity to end poverty has improved by a factor of 3.18. Meanwhile, the poverty rate has improved only by a factor of 1.23. This means that the moral egregiousness of poverty is 2.58 times worse than it was in 1990.

[Philosopher Thomas] Pogge is right: by [his] metric, poverty is worse now than ever before. Our world is replete with unprecedented riches, and yet we cannot ensure that everyone has a decent basic share of it. Morally, we have regressed as a civilization.

Jason Hickel on uneven distribution.

2019-07-10T10:59:43+10:0015th November, 2019|Tags: culture, economics|

Market of the free.

For many people today, it’s hard to imagine government doing much of anything right, let alone breaking up a company like Facebook. This isn’t by coincidence.

Starting in the 1970s, a small but dedicated group of economists, lawyers and policymakers sowed the seeds of our cynicism. Over the next 40 years, they financed a network of think tanks, journals, social clubs, academic centers and media outlets to teach an emerging generation that private interests should take precedence over public ones. Their gospel was simple: “Free” markets are dynamic and productive, while government is bureaucratic and ineffective. By the mid-1980s, they had largely managed to relegate energetic antitrust enforcement to the history books.

This shift, combined with business-friendly tax and regulatory policy, ushered in a period of mergers and acquisitions that created megacorporations. In the past 20 years, more than 75 percent of American industries, from airlines to pharmaceuticals, have experienced increased concentration, and the average size of public companies has tripled. The results are a decline in entrepreneurship, stalled productivity growth, and higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

Chris Hughes on megacorporations.

2019-07-08T11:56:38+10:004th November, 2019|Tags: culture, economics, politics|

Reality (re)Bytes.

The neoliberal economic conditions that gave rise to the influencer—and all those side hustles and personal brands—simultaneously have made it harder to attain a normal middle class existence. Even if your goals are of the modest, slacker variety—an hourly wage job, a roof over your head, junk food to eat, and TV to watch—that’s all a hell of a lot harder to come by these days.

[…]

But perhaps that realization will lead some to divest from the belief that hard work and self-optimization will lead us to some capitalist promised land. The neoliberal ideal has reached its peak and, well, it’s not as though we’ve solved income inequality with all our hard work. Quite the opposite. As [Will] Storr writes of our culture’s failed promise: “It wants us to buy the fiction that the self is open, free, nothing but pure, bright possibility … This seduces us into accepting the cultural lie that says we can do anything we set our minds to … This false idea is of immense value to our neoliberal economy.”

Rosie Spinks on the return of the slacker.

2019-07-01T09:19:42+10:0027th October, 2019|Tags: culture, economics|

88 million short.

[I]nternet investors don’t want a modest return on their investment. They want an obscene profit right away, or a brutal loss, which they can write off their taxes. Making them a hundred million for the ten million they lent you is good. Losing their ten million is also good—they pay a lower tax bill that way, or they use the loss to fold a company, or they make a profit on the furniture while writing off the business as a loss…whatever rich people can legally do under our tax system, which is quite a lot.

What these folks don’t want is to lend you ten million dollars and get twelve million back.

You and I might go, “Wow! I just made two million dollars just for being privileged enough to have money to lend somebody else.” And that’s why you and I will never have ten million dollars to lend anybody.

Jeffrey Zeldman on VC.

2019-06-04T15:00:05+10:0016th October, 2019|Tags: economics, tech|