The Living Thing / Notebooks :

Capitalism’s end game

What money wants

Grim meathook future (src y_nakajima_)

Are human beings relevant for the engines of global capital? If so, is this relevance necessary or contingent? Do we need their agency? Do we need their labour? Do we need equality? Do we need democracy? Practically speaking, it seems that most citizens would kinda like the state to invest in maintaining a society that was not a crumbling pit of poverty awash in disease and toxic waste and ruled over by corporate robber barons.

However, given that they don’t trust the state to get anything right, same citizens would generally rather keep their tax money to spend on a nice plasma screen TV to brighten the crumbling pit of poverty, awash in disease and toxic waste, ruled over by corporate robber barons, that they seem doomed shortly to inhabit.

How to understand the successes and failures of market-democratic governance.

Participatory budgeting, participatory resource management, lack thereof, Habermas, manufacturing consent, the curiously named sharing economy. Probably want to mention Piketty apropos economic inequality.

Here’s a hypothesis: Representative democracy is what’s happening. Unfortunately, democracy is broken. There’s a hidden failure mode, we’ve landed in it, and we probably won’t be able to vote ourselves out of it.

Overall, the nature of the problem seems to be that our representative democratic institutions have been captured by meta-institutions that implement the iron law of oligarchy by systematically reducing the risk of change. They have done so by converging on a common set of policies that do not serve the public interest, but minimize the risk of the parties losing the corporate funding they require in order to achieve re-election. And in so doing, they have broken the “peaceful succession when enough people get pissed off” mechanism that prevents revolutions. If we’re lucky, emergent radical parties will break the gridlock (here in the UK that would be the SNP in Scotland, possibly UKIP in England: in the USA it might be the new party that emerges if the rupture between the Republican realists like Karl Rove and the Tea Party radicals finally goes nuclear), but within a political generation (two election terms) it’ll be back to oligarchy as usual.

Malice – revenge for waking him up – sharpens Manfred’s voice. “The president of agalmic.holdings.root.184.97.AB5 is agalmic.holdings.root.184.97.201. The secretary is agalmic.holdings.root.184.D5, and the chair is agalmic.holdings.root.184.E8.FF. All the shares are owned by those companies in equal measure, and I can tell you that their regulations are written in Python. Have a nice day, now!” He thumps the bedside phone control and sits up, yawning, then pushes the do-not-disturb button before it can interrupt again. After a moment he stands up and stretches, then heads to the bathroom to brush his teeth, comb his hair, and figure out where the lawsuit originated and how a human being managed to get far enough through his web of robot companies to bug him.

(via Nate Torkington)

Globalization, financialization, and rapid technological change is not delivering the improvements it promised — at least, not to anyone but the technorati. The rest of America is being left behind.

The left behinds are the supermajority of Americans getting creamed by the hollowing out of America.

Americans who lose more good good jobs, benefits, and status with each passing year. Americans who went deep into debt for college (in order to ascend to a slot in the technorati) but are perpetually underemployed. Americans who work all day but can only make enough to buy food with the money they earn…

He has some interesting perspectives, but his habit of putting things in blog-sized, unreferenced repetitive and sweepingly generalized posts is irritating; possibly this is how you write to feed the Internet Content Machine, but it reduces these ideas to a kind of prepper mind-candy when I want numbers.

The Balkanization that began in the late 20th century with the fracturing of post-colonial Africa and post-USSR Eastern Europe will continue through the 21st century. The city-state will become the organizing unit of global society.

Much like the Catholic Church today, Nation-States will continue to play a meaningful, but secondary role.[…]

Instead of a paycheck, The Blockchain Man’s income will be a large number of micropayments from past projects. The tokens from different projects will appreciate or depreciate based on the success of the project (and perhaps pay dividends).[…]

Where the Organization Man’s world was defined by The Organization, The Blockchain Man’s world will be defined by markets.

Even something as simple as commuting will be market driven.

What happens when you mash blockchains, Uber and Self-driving cars together? The self-owning car.

A car that pays for its lease, its insurance, and its gas, by giving people rides. A car that is not owned by a corporation. It is a corporation. The car exists as an autonomous financial entity, potentially with no human ownership.

Faced by migratory pressure, any political community that is democratic, redistributive and where citizenship rests on nationality is bound to adopt ugly anti-immigrant policies eventually.

The good news? We can solve the problem by removing, at least, one.

He reckons that democracies organised into non-nationalist structures like empires are the trick.

Maybe capital has our backs if, e.g. burning down California is securities fraud. Right? Right?

Everything is securities fraud!

On November 16, 2018, an Edison shareholder filed a securities class action lawsuit in the Central District of California against both Edison and SCE, as well as certain officer and directors of both companies. … Specifically, the complaint alleges that the defendants made false and misleading statements or failed to disclose that: “(i) the Company failed to maintain electricity transmission and distribution networks in compliance with safety requirements and regulations promulgated under state law; (ii) consequently the Company was in violation of state law and regulations; (iii) the Company’s noncompliant electricity networks created a significant heightened risk of wildfires in California; and (iv) as a result, the Company’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times.”

Edison International is a holding company that owns utilities including Southern California Edison Co., and California regulators are investigating whether SCE’s equipment might have been involved in starting two of the recent California wildfires. […]

One obvious point here is that if a utility’s senior management knew that their equipment was going to start huge wildfires, the thing to do with that information would be to not start the fires, not to write more accurate disclosures for shareholders. As always, the problem of treating everything as securities fraud is that it leaves you sort of confused about who the real victims are?

To read

Yes, a lot of this is (social-) science fiction. Given the speculative nature of this question, I think that is an appropriate degree of certainty to pretend to.