economics

/Tag: economics

Everything is lemons.

[Amazon sells] junk that would never, ever be sold at a Wal-Mart store. That’s because in order to get into a store, a buyer, a human being with a reputation, has to allocate shelf space. The easiest way to lose your job as a buyer is to put brand-destroying lousy products on a valuable shelf.

Amazon, on the other hand, has infinite shelves. And no buyers. As a result, they’re relying on an algorithm that rewards low prices and high ratings. But the best way to lower prices is to make junk. And the best way to high ratings is to fake them.

Seth Godin on Amazon.

This is what’s known, incidentally, as a “market for lemons“, and people have been accusing Amazon of fostering it in publishing for years. I guess now they’re just branching out…

2019-01-23T13:37:41+10:0025th June, 2019|Tags: amazon, economics|

Scripsville.

What’s more, [Facebook] targeting people in developing nations [for its digital scrip, Libra] sounds noble and could be genuinely useful, but it also smacks of neocolonialism. What happens if this currency fails to gain adequate traction? What happens if it succeeds in gaining traction, and now small, local economies in developing nations are dependent on venture capital firms and credit card companies in the United States for their functional base of trade?

I get the eagerness to disrupt something as big as the global financial system. But you don’t have to trust the system to worry about a small consortium of mostly-American companies inventing a private and poorly regulated psuedo-currency.

Nick Heer on company worlds.

So in my Space Demons book (that I’ll totally get around to posting soon I swear), one of the little bits of side-fluff is that every galactic megacorp has its own “in-game currency”, i.e. a digital token that’s used on its worlds, and… well.

(Also, for those of you paying historic attention, what Facebook is proposing is essentially just a digital version of a company script, which is nothing new…)

2019-06-19T08:43:43+10:0019th June, 2019|Tags: economics, tech|

Generation Revolt.

Maybe it’s not because Millennials have rejected the American dream, but rather because the economy has not only blocked their path to attaining it but punished them for trying to.

Millennials are the most educated generation in U.S. history to date. They bought into a social contract that said: Everything will work out, if first you go to college. But as the cost of college increased, millions of young people took on student loans to complete their degree. Graduates under 35 are almost 50 percent more likely than members of Gen X to have student loans, and their median balance is about 40 percent higher than that of the previous generation.

And what has all that debt gotten them? “Lower earnings, fewer assets, and less wealth,” according to the Federal Reserve paper’s conclusion. Student debt has made it harder for millions of young people to buy a home, since “holding debt is associated with a lower rate of homeownership, irrespective of degree type,” as Fed economists wrote in a previous study. In other words, young people took on debt to pursue a college degree, only to discover that the cost of college would push the American dream further from their grasp.

Is it any wonder that Millennials are eager to overthrow a system that has duped them into a story of permanent progress, thrown them into debt, depressed their wages, separated them from the trappings of adulthood, and then, for good measure, blamed them for ruining canned tuna?

Derek Thompson on killing Millennials.

2019-01-07T08:28:58+10:0018th May, 2019|Tags: culture, economics, politics|

And the rich for free.

Uber’s business plan, like that of so many other digital unicorns, is based on extracting all the value from the markets it enters. This ultimately means squeezing employees, customers, and suppliers alike in the name of continued growth. When people eventually become too poor to continue working as drivers or paying for rides, UBI supplies the required cash infusion for the business to keep operating.

When it’s looked at the way a software developer would, it’s clear that UBI is really little more than a patch to a program that’s fundamentally flawed.

The real purpose of digital capitalism is to extract value from the economy and deliver it to those at the top. If consumers find a way to retain some of that value for themselves, the thinking goes, you’re doing something wrong or “leaving money on the table.”

Douglas Rushkoff on the UBI gig economy.

Like, to be clear: I still support UBI. But, uh. Not as the only policy. And the gig economy is still a cyberpunk dystopian garbage heap so… there’s that.

2018-11-29T08:31:43+10:0021st April, 2019|Tags: economics, politics, tech|

It’s the economy, stupid.

Americans have been taught — indoctrinated, perhaps — to think of the economy as capitalism. Quite literally: if capital returns are high […] then Americans suppose the economy is booming. But capital returns — profits, dividends, stock markets, GDP (or their opposites, deficits) — are not the economy at all. They are just the success of capitalists, at increasing their capital. Hence, the average American — who isn’t a capitalist, since the true capitalists, Bezos, Brin, Buffett, are tiny in number — is cheering on capitalists increasing their capital, but not his own income, savings, living standards, health, longevity, or happiness. […]

Americans think the economy is a set of abstractions about capitalism — more exactly, capitalists increasing their capital. But they have been systematically warned against thinking of the economy as them: the simple and daily realities of their very own lives — whether or not they can afford food, shelter, medicine, education, save, retire, create, dream, build, grow. Comrades — the victory of capitalism is the victory of us all!

umair haque on economies.

2019-04-29T12:06:50+10:0020th March, 2019|Tags: economics, politics, usa|

Unchallenging action.

I said to [Bill Clinton], “Mr. President, this seems as clear a case to me as any could be of a place where government is a legitimate actor. I’m not sure why you need to work with the soft drink companies to make smaller cans. You have products that have no redeeming nutritional value for children. […] You have children who cannot vote and cannot easily organize to thwart the power of these products, which have addictive qualities. This seems as clear a case for using political action and collective action.”

He said, “No, that doesn’t really work because you gotta make sure the companies have a business model. If you don’t help them continue making money after you fix this, it’s not gonna work.” I just thought that was such an astonishing moment. A man who had actually run the most powerful machinery of state in human history saying, “No, we can’t use that machinery of state to protect children from harmful products. We have to make sure the companies have a business model on the other side.” Part of what I’m trying to interrogate in the book is: When did many of us start to believe that social change must be congenial to those profiting from the status quo?

Anand Giridharadas on the status quo.

2018-09-06T08:44:51+10:0019th February, 2019|Tags: culture, economics, politics|

The second industrious revolution.

I am neither for nor against temping (or consulting, or freelancing). If this emergent flexible economy were all bad or all good, there would be no need to make a choice about it. For some, the rise of the gig economy represents liberation from the stifled world of corporate America.

But for the vast majority of workers, the “freedom” of the gig economy is just the freedom to be afraid. It is the severing of obligations between businesses and employees. It is the collapse of the protections that the people of the United States, in our laws and our customs, once fought hard to enshrine.

We can’t turn back the clock, but neither is job insecurity inevitable.

Louis Hyman on jobs.

2018-08-28T10:55:02+10:006th February, 2019|Tags: business, economics|