/Tag: politics

Same as it ever was.

The claim being made [by blockchain advocates] is not that we can engineer greater levels of cooperation or trust in friends, institutions, or governments, but that we might dispense with social institutions altogether in favor of an elegant technical solution.

This assumption is naïve, it’s true, but it also betrays a worrying politics—or rather a drive to replace politics (as debate and dispute and things that produce connection and difference) with economics. This is not just a problem with blockchain evangelism—it’s a core problem with the ideology of digital activism generally. The blockchain has more in common with the neoliberal governmentality that produces platform capitalists like Amazon and Uber and state-market coalitions than any radical alternative.

Rachel O’Dwyer on the stoic conservatism of blockchain.

2018-02-21T10:14:39+00:008th August, 2018|Tags: economics, politics, tech|0 Comments

Fuck your bootstraps.

The architects of that austerity have so much faith in their grand ideas to starve the poor into submission and quietly allow the disabled to die behind the scenes, that they have slunk away into the shadows with their gold plated pensions and £25,000 sheds for company. David Cameron, merrily fisted his Big Society up the arsehole of community and did a bunk in the morning without so much as a polite cup of tea. George Osborne, who declared a ‘war on welfare’ on Five Live in 2013, now editing a national newspaper, criticising an administration he was very much a part of, as though it were all a jolly jape. Iain Duncan Smith, a man who sniggered in a meeting in Parliament as a poverty-stricken single mum spoke about being famished with hunger, while I sat behind him shaking with rage at his insolence. Austerity is more than a war; it is an assault against the unarmed, against the most vulnerable children in our nation, a massacre of basic rights and dignity. And this war, live every other, is orchestrated by rich old men in suits, pushing their little pieces around the map, toying with lives and discarding them at will, puffing their chests out over their subsidised champagne. It’s been a while since I’ve been quite this angry, but my god, I’m livid.

Jack Monroe on the War on (the) Poor.

Monroe is the the creator of Cooking on a Bootstrap, a website that provides tasty recipes aimed at people living at-or-below the poverty line. Monore started her blog when she herself was living on benefits as an extremely poor single mother.

As is probably inevitable, Monroe sometimes gets used as an example of a “good poor”, i.e. a mother who’s still able to “cook well” for her child even on a very tight budgets, as opposed to the “bad poors” who rely on ready made and convenience meals. It probably goes without saying that most of the people who do this are both, a) affluent, and b) politically affiliated with organisations known to favor “austerity” and other brutal economic policies that disproportionately impact those who have the least.

Monroe’s response to the latest such incident, of which the above is a quote? Well worth a read…

2018-05-22T08:55:17+00:008th August, 2018|Tags: culture, economics, food, politics|0 Comments

Extractive coal.

On the capitalist ravaging of Appalachia.

Obviously, this is about the US, but given the debate on mining and company taxes1 going on here, it’s very much worth a read.

  1. And the carbon tax, which was basically a company tax aimed specifically at natural-resource-extracting industries. ^
2018-02-06T08:16:39+00:0023rd July, 2018|Tags: economics, politics|Comments Off on Extractive coal.

Democracy dies in light.

The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself. As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all. They look like viral or coordinated harassment campaigns, which harness the dynamics of viral outrage to impose an unbearable and disproportionate cost on the act of speaking out. They look like epidemics of disinformation, meant to undercut the credibility of valid information sources. They look like bot-fueled campaigns of trolling and distraction, or piecemeal leaks of hacked materials, meant to swamp the attention of traditional media.

These tactics usually don’t break any laws or set off any First Amendment alarm bells. But they all serve the same purpose that the old forms of censorship did: They are the best available tools to stop ideas from spreading and gaining purchase.

Zeynep Tufekci on the new censorship.

2018-02-01T07:24:28+00:0017th July, 2018|Tags: culture, media, politics|2 Comments


Throughout the presidential campaign, Clinton was criticised for exercising a degree of emotional self-control that looked cold and inauthentic, while Trump’s volatility was taken as evidence that he meant what he said and really cared. Lately, however, Democrats have been provoked to condemn the president with a passion some on the left warn is becoming “uncivil”. I’m curious to know what Clinton thinks of this.

“Oh, give me a break,” she erupts, eyes widening into indignation. “Give me a break! What is more uncivil and cruel than taking children away? It should be met with resolve and strength. And if some of that comes across as a little uncivil, well, children’s lives are at stake; their futures are at stake. That is that ridiculous concept of bothsideism.” She adopts a mockingly prim voice. “‘Well, you know, somebody made an insulting, profane remark about President Trump, and he separated 2,300 children from their families, that’s both sides, and we should stop being uncivil – oh and, by the way, he should stop separating children.’ Give me a break, really,” she growls, rolling her eyes. “I mean, this is a crisis of his making that will damage kids for no good reason at all, and I think everybody should be focused on that until the children are reunited.”

On “civility“.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s apparently been raising money ($1.5 million, in fact) to provide “lawyers, interpreters, experienced social workers, [and] psychologists” for people impacted by cruel child separation policies.1

But, y’know. Her emails.

  1. Also, did I ever mention my grandmother was kidnapped from her family and grew up held hostage in an orphanage in order to punish her father, who was considered a class enemy by the state? Because that totally happened. And you’d better believe Granny never really got over the experience, either. ^
2018-07-02T09:11:04+00:002nd July, 2018|Tags: politics|6 Comments

Digital tulips.

Government-issued currencies have value because they represent human trust and cooperation. There is no wealth and no trade without these two things, so you might as well go all-in and trust people. There are no financial instruments that will protect you from a world where we no longer trust each other.

So, Bitcoin is a protocol invented to solve a money problem that simply does not exist in the rich countries, which is where most of the money is.

Mr. Money Mustache on fiat value.

To understand the Bitcoin delusion you have to understand the fundamental delusion of the libertarian and other miscellaneous conspiracy wingnut types who advocate it. That is, that financial markets and trade exist as some kind of gravity-like natural force in the universe, rather than as a by-product of the monopolization of violence by some sort of central authority, i.e. the state.

Incidentally, I know “monopolization of violence” is not the most PR term in the world, but it basically refers to the idea that, in modern state-based societies, you’re not allowed to hit other people in order to resolve differences. Only the state is allowed to “hit” people, e.g. via policing internally or the military externally, and the conditions under which that allowance is made are part of the primary defining character of that state. For example, when a majority of citizens generally agree on the ways and circumstances in which the state is allowed to hit people, you get a democracy.1 When the state hits its citizens into “agreeing” that it’s allowed to hit them, you get a dictatorship. And so on. This isn’t a new concept; it’s been around in (Western) social sciences for over four hundred years, which is coincidentally about the time (Western) political bodies began dragging themselves out of theocratic feudal anarchy and into the secular, law-and-trade focused entities we’re used to today.

Humans have always traded with each other, but the scale of trade—particularly between unrelated groups—is basically inversely proportional to the availability of non-market-based means of acquiring resources, also known as the “I kill you and take your stuff” method of redistribution. When the state starts making murder, theft, extortion and general banditry illegal—i.e. by actively hitting (jailing) anyone who is caught trying it—people are more likely to resort to trade to get what they want from others, not just because they have to, but because they have more trust that the other party won’t try and cheat them (or will be punished if they do).

Again, this is all very Social and Political Sciences 101 stuff; it’s well-studied, understood, verified, and defined, far beyond my crappy hundred-word summary. The point is that the central delusion of libertarianism and other extreme “free market” ideologies is to reject this notion of the political model of the origins of trade. I have no idea why, but it makes trying to argue with them on any financial or economic issue basically like trying to argue about the flu with someone who doesn’t believe in the germ theory of disease. The foundational premises are all wrong. It’s also one of the main reasons libertarians think Bitcoin is clever,2 despite the fact that, as mentioned above, it “solves” a problem that is essentially made up.

Tl;dr, Bitcoin is digital tiger dust, and most certainly not a financial “investment”.

  1. Note there’s nothing about frequency here; democracies can be peace-loving hippies just as easily as they can be militant bullies. ^
  2. As I’ve mention before, the other is dogwhistle antisemitism, so… there’s that, also. ^
2018-05-22T09:01:53+00:001st July, 2018|Tags: economics, politics, tech, xp|Comments Off on Digital tulips.

Freedom from, freedom to.

There’s a reason why most prominent libertarians are straight, well-off white men: because they don’t need government to intervene on their behalf. They occupy a default position of privileged dominance that has historically infringed upon women, the poor and minorities.

They like to paint government as an oppressive force, because it has taken away some of their privilege – although they prefer to call it “freedom” for propaganda purposes […]

Libertarians don’t want to actively discriminate against any particular group, at least not officially, but they do want to dismantle government-imposed safeguards that protect those vulnerable to discrimination and make society fairer – a clear sign that people who drift towards libertarianism do so because they have likely never felt oppressed, marginalized or exploited.

Aleks Eror on demographics.

2018-01-15T07:58:48+00:0022nd June, 2018|Tags: culture, politics|5 Comments