/Tag: economics

¿Por qué no los dos?

Digital companies work the same way as their extractive forebears. When a big box store moves to a new neighborhood, it undercuts local businesses and eventually becomes the sole retailer and employer in the region. With its local monopoly, it can then raise prices while lowering wages, reduce labor to part-time status, and externalize the costs of healthcare and food stamps to the government.

The net effect of the business on the community is extractive. The town becomes poorer, not richer. The corporation takes money out of the economy—out of the land and labor—and delivers it to its shareholders.

A digital business does the same thing, only faster. It picks an inefficiently run industry, like taxis or book publishing, and optimizes the system by cutting out most of the people who used to participate. So a taxi service platform charges drivers and passengers for a ride while externalizing the cost of the car, the roads, and the traffic to others. The bookselling website doesn’t care if authors or publishers make a sustainable income; it uses its sole buyer or “monopsony” power to force both sides to accept less money for their labor. The initial monopoly can then expand to other industries, like retail, movies, or cloud services.

Such businesses end up destroying the marketplaces on which they initially depend.

Douglas Rushkoff blames capitalism.

2019-03-25T10:56:53+10:0014th September, 2019|Tags: economics, tech|

Capitalism killed the flying car.

David Graeber on how capitalism (specifically, the boom of neoliberal capitalism in the ’80s and ’90s) has, contra popular opinion, ground “big idea” style technological innovation to a halt.

Also nice to see Graeber still using this essay as an excuse to bang his favorite drum, i.e. how much he hates doing academic administrative work (which is also something he covered extensively in his book), although to his credit he does link it into a broader criticism of how university adoption of neoliberal ideas like branding, competition, and marketing have ruined academic research.

2019-03-22T09:18:36+10:009th September, 2019|Tags: culture, economics, pop culture|

Monetize me!

We live in the era of the hustle. Of following our dreams until the end, and then pushing ourselves more. And every time we feel beholden to capitalize on the rare places where our skills and our joy intersect, we underline the idea that financial gain is the ultimate pursuit. If we’re good at it, we should sell it. If we’re good at it and we love it, we should definitely sell it.


That’s not to say there isn’t joy to be found in turning something you love into your life’s work — it’s just to say that it’s okay to love a hobby the same way you’d love a pet; for its ability to enrich your life without any expectation that it will help you pay the rent. What would it look like if monetizing a hobby was downgraded from the ultimate path to one path? What if we allowed ourselves to devote our time and attention to something just because it makes us happy? Or, better yet, because it enables us to truly recharge instead of carving our time into smaller and smaller pieces for someone else’s benefit?

Molly Conway on hobbies.

Hahaha publishing hahahaha.

[something something gig economy is making people poor and platform capitalists incredibly rich something something]

2019-02-27T14:13:50+10:0025th August, 2019|Tags: culture, economics|

Big money.

So… how do you actually, physically pay for something worth millions, or even billions, of dollars?

2019-02-27T08:42:04+10:0019th August, 2019|Tags: economics|


Imagine, for a moment, a world in which Uber and Lyft hadn’t been able to raise billions of dollars in a winner-takes-all race to dominate the online ride-hailing market. How might that market have developed differently?

Uber and Lyft have developed powerful services that delight their users and are transforming urban transportation. But if they hadn’t been given virtually unlimited capital to offer rides at subsidized prices taxicabs couldn’t match in order to grow their user base at blitzscaling speed, would they be offering their service for less than it actually costs to deliver? […]

We’ll never know, because investors, awash in cheap capital, anointed the winners rather than letting the market decide who should succeed and who should fail.

Tim O.Reilly on blitzscaling.

Related: I always kind of fascinating that the pop perception of capitalism is one of competition on an equitable playing field—to the point where the word “competition” itself is often used as a synecdoche—when in reality like, no major “capitalist” institution works like that at all

2019-02-18T09:04:55+10:009th August, 2019|Tags: economics, tech|


As [Jason] Hickel also points out about the earlier parts of the graph, and as I have pointed out previously, most of “people are making more money” comes from “people were forced off their subsistence farms so that they had to use money to buy what they got from their own labor before.”


People miss the essential point: it’s not how much money you have. It’s whether or not you have enough food, shelter, clothes and so on. It’s whether you have what you need and some of what you want.

Ian Welsh on money.

2019-02-08T09:01:28+10:0028th July, 2019|Tags: economics, politics|

Whose poverty?

Prior to colonisation, most people lived in subsistence economies where they enjoyed access to abundant commons – land, water, forests, livestock and robust systems of sharing and reciprocity. They had little if any money, but then they didn’t need it in order to live well – so it makes little sense to claim that they were poor. This way of life was violently destroyed by colonisers who forced people off the land and into European-owned mines, factories and plantations, where they were paid paltry wages for work they never wanted to do in the first place.

In other words, [Max] Roser’s graph [purporting to show that “poverty has declined from 94% in 1820 to only 10% today”] illustrates a story of coerced proletarianisation. It is not at all clear that this represents an improvement in people’s lives, as in most cases we know that the new income people earned from wages didn’t come anywhere close to compensating for their loss of land and resources, which were of course gobbled up by colonisers. [Bill] Gates’s favourite infographic takes the violence of colonisation and repackages it as a happy story of progress.

Jason Hickel on poverty.

For next time you hear people claiming poverty has declined since the 19th century. (Hickel also goes on to point out that the “$1.90 a day” figure usually used to denote the poverty line is, in reality, almost certainly far too low by any humane measure.)

2019-04-29T12:06:40+10:0026th July, 2019|Tags: economics|