Before I paste this response into my blog, I should probably preface it by saying that this was intended to be a video response to be posted on YouTube, but my lack of computer prowess and a consistent frustration of my technological endeavors has rendered that goal exceedingly difficult. Keep in mind that this is written as though I am speaking it directly to Peter Joseph, so if you can look past the unconventional style and focus on the content, that will give you the best experience.
Transcript for 3 Questions: What Do You Propose taken from http://blog.thezeitgeistmovement.com/blog/peter-joseph/three-questions-what-do-you-propose
3 Questions: What Do You Propose
An expose by Peter Joseph
With commentary in bold by TheScientistA4
Welcome to: “3 Questions – What do you propose?” This thought exercise is intended for both the average person, concerned about global problems – along with those who are still confused about – or perhaps even in opposition to The Zeitgeist Movement.
I am going to pose three questions here, each of which involve a major societal issue, focusing on how each links directly to the very foundation of our social system – the market economy itself.
If you disagree with the answers I provide, or perhaps even the premise of the questions themselves – I encourage you to respond – with an alternative solution or counter argument. If you choose to do this, just make sure you have reviewed the sources here – and keep focus. Again – this is about the 3 questions, only.
Before I officially begin, I’ll preface my response with this little tidbit: There are many many many different angles and methods for analyzing various arguments. I’m not going to follow your rules, just as a forewarning. However, I encourage you to listen regardless, just for the offchance that you are able to glean valuable information from my response.
Now, before I begin – the term “market economy” will be used here throughout. And since people are quick to get lost semantically about what “capitalism”, or a free-market supposedly is or isn’t, I am going to define my context now, bypassing any semantic confusion.
When I use the term market economy, I am simply referring to the core attributes shared by every market system variation in the world today. And only 3, shared characteristics are needed here.
This is interesting, considering that not a single system of national governance or economy is identical; they’re all unique. Sure, they have their commonalities; but they can also have stark differences. If you’re going to throw them all together in the same lump and make generalizations, you’re going to miss what’s going on beneath the surface. Generalizations will always cloud the picture, and this is exactly what you, Mr. Peter Joseph, will proceed to do.
You make no distinction between the many different methods by which governments and economic systems function. To you, they’re all market economies because they all share 3 commonalities. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, unless of course your 3 commonalities are too ambiguous or broad to be helpful, which, as we will see, is exactly the case.
The 1st is “labor for income”. Obviously, the whole global economy is based employment, as this is how people gain money to survive and spend back into the system, keeping it going.
Ah, yes, Labor for Income. This is something that you have identified as being universal to all global economic systems. Therefore, if it’s an attribute of all global economic systems, it must be contributing to all of the injustices running rampant in the world today, right? Now, there are a few problems with this that I’ll point out right now.
Number one, there are many, many things that are universal to the many varying economic systems in the world. Another feature all economic systems have in common is economic actors: people. Another is resources and goods. You see, just because something is universal to all contemporary economic systems, does not necessarily mean that such an item or aspect is the cause of world suffering. Who’s to say that such a commonality could not just as easily be the cause of all the good in the world? Good persists throughout the world, just as evil does. Foolishness permeates the globe just the same as wisdom. Are they to be blamed for economic injustice as well?
A exists everywhere. B exists everywhere. Therefore, B is the cause of A. Logic!
To be Fred, we don’t have nearly the amount of data that would be required in order to lead us to any significant conclusions. It’s nothing more than conjecture at this point. Correlation does not equal causation, Peter. Or was that in one of those philosophy books that you threw out?
Lastly, labor for income isn’t even a creation of human economic systems. Every organism, even plants and bacteria, must work in order to gain anything. Energy must be invested if energy is to be gained or earned. This is true even down to the cellular level, where ATP must be used as a down payment (or investment) in order to acquire additional energy. This is what I would call the State of Nature; because it cannot be escaped: everything must exert energy in order to accomplish any goal. Everything everything everything must do this. Labor for income is inherent to biological systems; it is not an invention of the market. If you, Peter Joseph, have a problem with labor for income, your grievances rest not with the market system, but with the properties of the universe itself. It’s like claiming to be oppressed because unicorns do not exist. It’s like claiming to be oppressed because the sun isn’t purple.
The 2nd is that all resources, goods and services – retain property value transferred by means of monetary exchange. Obvious enough. Everything is bought and sold through the use of money, mediated by the market itself.
OK, so here you seem to be taking issue with money. But what is money? Money is market lubricant. “Why does the market need lubrication if it works so wonderfully?” Well, money isn’t an afterthought of the market; it’s an organically arising property of healthy human relationships. Now, I know that probably sounds like a load of hogwash, but hear me out.
Money reduces exchange friction. I often have a difficult time summarizing this concept, so I’ll offer you the words of Riley Sizelove instead. “The reason currency exists is because of its ability to be a medium of exchange, rather than (pure) barter; which requires that for a trade to occur, all people involved in the trade must have a commodity the other desires. However, with currency, you have the option to give someone “equal market equity”” With money/currency, the need to scour the globe in search of so many different resources or goods to trade is largely eliminated. Money allows people to engage in economic relationships more freely, allowing them more time to pursue other needs or wants. Problem solved, and both parties have saved time an energy.
Again, Peter, your chief complaint here seems to be that money is universally accepted as a medium of exchange in market economies. Since the world is going to shit, it logically follows that money is the cause because money can be found throughout the world. Again, correlation and causation.
What if, and here’s a revolutionary idea, what if money exists globally because it makes so much sense? Oh wait! Did you spot the fallacy there? Just because something exists globally does not mean that it does so because it’s good, right? How many other things can we think of that exist globally? Water… sunshine… oxygen… plants… rocks… are they also good? Are they also causing human suffering?
Quick additional note: Biological systems need fuel to sustain the chemical reaction that is life, so in order to ensure that the reaction is sustained, organisms will value the resources at their disposal that enable them to perform that operation more effectively. What this means is that, since we need various resources in order to simply sustain ourselves, those resources will be valued by us. Since they’re valued by us…, we… value them… logical, right?
Back to it…
And 3rd, the overall incentive strategy is based upon competition for demand, whether person to person or institution to institution -all oriented around the interest to (a) save money on production and (b) maximize profits upon final sales. Again, this is the most basic, gaming logic present in the market.
Well, again, to say that because something is universal it is thence, the cause of all suffering is blatantly irrational. That being said, competition isn’t even a universal commonality of global economies. Competition, in a loose sense, should be a commonality of all market economies. It isn’t. Strangely enough though, Peter, you seem to be of the opinion that competition in the marketplace is a foolish thing. Apparently, you’d rather monopolies be the norm? Well, honestly I’m confused on this end. What is your ultimate solution? It is to place ultimate control of global resources into the hands of the most intelligent people on the globe. You’d prefer that the logistics be left up to them. Right…, because monopolies have proven to be so effective at alleviating poverty and injustice. Monopolies are just what are needed to lift people out of deprivation. Fucking serious??
But back to the point, resources are scarce, and we’ll get to the definition of ‘scarce’ in a bit. But since resources are scarce, and there’s more than one organism that utilizes them, there will be some semblance of competition, especially considering that organisms often have different goals. Time is also a thing: we can’t simultaneously make two separate decisions, and we don’t have an infinite supply of personal energy. The logical conclusion in the context of life, death and evolution, is competition in some form. Things that are better at utilizing their resources and economizing their actions tend to make themselves more sustainable than those who don’t.
You also take issue with companies saving money, which confuses me, because you also claim to be against waste.
Why shouldn’t companies want to maximize profits? Why wouldn’t they want to save? Peter, you can’t be against both waste and saving. That’s just self-contradictory. Often, when a company saves money it also means that they’re reducing unnecessary spending. What is unnecessary spending? Well, it really all depends on the particulars, but more often than not, cutting unnecessary spending means reducing waste. Honest question: have you even bothered to think this shit through? -To make sure that what you’re saying actually makes logical sense? Or do you just enjoy slinging condescension around? Do you have even the remotest clue about what goes into running a business? Have you ever talked to a small business owner about the different costs and hurdles they have to overcome? And I’m not trying to be a dick here, I’m honestly curious.
That’s it. Very simple and again these characteristics are universal to all economies in the world today.
Right, so universality = bad. Got it.
Given the market economy requires consumption in order to maintain demand for human employment and further economic growth as needed, is there a structural incentive to reduce resource use, biodiversity loss, the global pollution footprint and hence assist the ever-increasing need for improved ecological sustainability in the world today?
Yeah, dude. Because businesses want to save money and maximize profits, dingbat!
But let’s examine this question. I’ll be right up front with you; this is a logical fallacy known as begging the question. See, you’ve assumed the answer right off the bat in the first 7 words. ‘Given the market economy requires… requires constant… constant consumption… what’s to prevent it from constantly consuming?’ Well, you’ve already stated that it requires constant consumption… what the fuck else is there? I can’t combat a question like this without annihilating it’s presuppositions.
If, if a market requires constant consumption, then to prevent it from consuming would render it inoperable… if. But does the market require constant consumption? Plus, what do we mean by consumption? Do we mean… destruction? Do we mean, utility in conjunction with thermodynamics? Do we mean, the food that we eat? The toilet paper we use? The movies we watch? What do we mean? Every organism consumes things, and everything eventually breaks down. Now, I realize that you’re not specifically talking about all of these things, but you’ve failed to provide the criteria that is needed in order to even begin sifting through the subtleties, much less, arrive at a definitive conclusion.
But why do you assume that the market requires constant consumption? Most likely, the belief stems from the Keynesian idea that spending money is what keeps the economy going. However, simply looking at the amount of money spent ignores many other aspects of an economy. Chiefly, how and why money is made in the first place. Our needs and wants are what drive us to produce and to consume. To look only at net spending in trying to determine the health of an economy is to begin your analysis in the middle, rather than… you know, the beginning. Desires, production, spending, consumption and happiness. Joseph Peterson, you’ve overlooked our desires completely, and have thus far only scratched the surface of the productivity spectrum. You’re examining an effect in effort to understand other effects, while completely overlooking the cause. Spending is a result of another cause.
Peter, the market is us: it is an emergent property of human desire and action. It is the amalgamation of our goals in conjunction with our interactions with one another, in much the same way that I am the amalgamation of all the operations of all the cells in my body. You can think of money in a market system in the same way that you think of nerve impulses. Signals that inform us about the world at large.
But what I really want to emphasize is the fact that the market doesn’t inherently require consumption any more than we, in our everyday individual lives ‘require’ consumption, like, to survive and improve our conditions. The ‘market’ cannot do anything independent of market actors, which in this context is us. We make the market tick; we, collectively, determine the direction of the market trajectory. Our desires; our goals. Individuals. The market is not inherently good, nor is it inherently bad. Just as a person is neither inherently good nor bad. People make decisions, and those decisions can result in benefit or harm. So, Peter, because the market is the amalgamation of human action, it is our actions that we must examine.
The most basic mechanism of the market is the movement of money. I don’t necessarily object. As I said before, money is akin to electrical nerve impulses. Money can be stored and discharged to accomplish goals. I did, however, pause for a moment on the phrase ‘most basic mechanism.’ And like the gas pedal on a car, if monetary circulation slows, it means demand and turnover slows, and the average effect is a loss of jobs, loss of income and a loss of economic growth. This belief stems, again, from the Keynesian theory of economics, wherein aggregate demand is said to be the ignition for economic growth. While this view is understandable, it’s not the entire story. When demand drops, it doesn’t necessarily imply that the economy is stagnate. It could just as easily mean that people have reached a point of… relative contentment and are now saving their money. But I think that the idea of ‘aggregate demand’ is too imprecise to be a reliable indicator of economic locus. For one, individuals – due to the particulars of their circumstances – will demand different things in different amounts and at different times. Therefore, it seems that an idea as broad as aggregate demand will inevitably overlook important nuances. Therefore, consumption is the fuel of the market system and the more we consume – the better the “health” of the overall economy.
No, consumption is not the fuel of the economy. Consumption is an aspect of the economy. The ‘fuel’ of the economy, if there can be said to be just one, would, again, be our desires. What is the fuel of our actions? Remember, the market is the amalgamation of human desires and their subsequent actions. Therefore!- Our desire to improve our lives could be said to be the ignition switch of market systems. …Our desires…
This is an extremely important point to remember, so I’ll elaborate a little further than I already have in order to ensure that the idea is being sufficiently communicated.
The belief that consumption is the fuel of economic growth brings up a subject that Austrian economists refer to as the Broken Window Fallacy. The idea being challenged by the Austrian school states that the destruction of wealth is actually healthy for the economy, as it helps to stimulate demand; the demand for the goods, services and resources needed to fix whatever has been broken. Destruction therefore leads to consumption, which is thought by the Keynesian… school to be the driver of economic activity. Therein lies the fallacy; destruction does not drive economic growth any more than the destruction of the Death Star drove growth for the Galactic Empire. When stuff gets destroyed, it loses utility. WWII, for example, did not bring the US out of the Great Depression because it didn’t give us the things that improve our lives, the things we utilize for various purposes. Sure, WWII brought us into full time production, but to what end? The tanks and planes we built had singular purpose: to destroy the enemy. Factories were not churning out cars to take people where they wanted to go, they were churning out war machines. Machines that are only useful in a time of war. If destruction is so good for the economy, why do we (generally) seek to avoid it? Destruction is wasteful, and making things specifically for that purpose is wasteful as well… unless you’re making them with the intention of intimidating populations into submission to your will… which as it turns out, is also wasteful because it stifles organic human productivity.
Using Keynesian logic, cutting myself is good for me because it gives my body something to heal! Ooh, hooray! Why don’t we just spray Ebola all over the place to stimulate demand? The medical industry would flourish, and that can only be a good thing, right? Fuck off.
Yet, this necessity for constant, cyclical consumption – is in complete contradiction to what is needed for basic, long-term species sustainability… as we are seeing the need for, all across the world today. Wouldn’t it seem reasonable to conclude that a goal of any viable economy is not only to meet the needs of the population, but to do so in the most strategic, efficient and conservative manner possible. Yet, the market incentivizes the exact opposite behavior, due to this need for constant turnover.
The ‘goal’ of the market isn’t to reduce waste, no. But the price mechanism, which is an element of the market, is what pressures people into conservation. A true free market does not incentivize waste; it incentivizes savings! Isn’t that what you said earlier? That businesses want to save money and maximize profits? What about people? Do they just want to spend indiscriminately, or burn all their possessions? No.
Now, I’ll give you some leeway on one point: corporations.
Today, governments cushion their corporate business buddies from many negative consequences of bad investments and waste. Subsidies! Free money! Why bother spending all the extra energy streamlining production and eliminating waste when you’re gifted millions of dollars in taxpayer money from Uncle Sam? Subsidies reduce the incentive for corporations to limit waste and redundancy. They don’t take a proportional hit for shitty investments, the taxpayers do. They are shielded, both from the demands of the people and from the consequences of malinvestment. As a result, large subsidized corporations are encouraged to throw money and resources into projects that have an insignificant chance of bearing any real fruit. There’s your waste.
“Free” money tends not to be spent nearly as carefully as money that has been earned steadily through hard work over a period of time. To provide some perspective, if you can only count on a weekly paycheck of $200, you’re going to try your damndest to ensure that your money is spent in ways that help further your goals.
Again, a true free market pressures people into conservation. This is because individuals must invest their own energy into their various pursuits. The ‘profit motive’ that you so despise is the very thing that channels us into self-sustaining behavior. We want our investments to yield returns. A true free market does not incentivize waste because individuals, you and me, don’t want to waste their energy. I want my life to get better, not worse. That is my profit motive. I don’t want to spend my money (the result of my labor) on things that don’t improve my circumstances, or at least, don’t improve them with relative efficiency. Therefore, if I have any sense about me, I’m not going to throw money at things that I don’t want or need. How the FUCK is that promoting waste?
Now, to give you a little credit, companies DO want us to consume their products. They do sometimes engage in less than benevolent tactics to encourage us to relinquish our earned wealth to them. However, the decision – the act of purchasing or refraining from purchasing their products – is up to us as individuals. Do I really need another pair of shoes? Or should I be ‘selfish’ and save my money? Hmm, maybe I should be more giving and selfless and give all my money to people who run corporations. Right? After all, if profit and self-interest are bad, then why not? You want to know why? Because it’s wasteful. That’s right, it’s ultimately our ‘selfish’ nature that pressures us to conserve.
In fact, the entire basis of market economics, can be summarized by one paradox: “The market justifies its existence by the recognition of scarcity – but, due to its structural mechanics – actually promotes and rewards – infinite consumption.”
Can you please try to explain the nuances of these structural mechanics? I’d love to have a conversation with you about it. Seriously, I really would. There aren’t enough people in the world who actually take an interest in discussing these things and that makes me sad.
If this confuses you, it might be because this contradiction remained rather hidden in the past as far as effects.
200 years ago, our technical means were primitive and the idea of being able to produce as rapidly as we do now, accessing major resources virtually at will – was a pipe dream. We simply didn’t have the technological efficiency back then.
For example, 300 years ago a shoe-maker could produce maybe a few pairs of high quality shoes a day. Today a common, automated shoe factory can produce a pair every 30 seconds or over 4000 a day.
I’m not sure exactly how “infinite consumption” ties into this. All I see is increased capacity for productivity. What I believe you’re trying to get at here, Petey, is that our ability to mass produce goods is going to eventually result in the complete destruction of our natural resources. It’s easy to understand how you’ve come to see it this way. It seems that a logical extrapolation of exponential productivity would indeed lead to the exponential consumption of natural resources, thence leading to their complete and utter elimination. However, this is assuming that productivity is entirely disconnected from feedback loops. Feedback loops serve as a regulating factor. The price mechanism is perhaps the most effective part of market feedback loops.
As resources become more scarce, the price of those resources and the goods that require them will increase, thereby dis-incentivising their consumption. This is a huge reason why money and cost are beneficial tools. The price mechanism alerts us as economic actors to the availability of various goods, services and resources. Did the price of beef go up? Well, that means that, for some reason, beef has either become scarcer or otherwise more costly to distribute… for any number of possible reasons.
But will an increasing capacity for production inevitably lead to increased resource depletion? In our current system, perhaps there is a danger. But remember, the current system is not truly a market system. Stop laughing and pay the fuck attention! Currently, corporations are shielded from popular demand by government cronies. Ideally, the price mechanism would effect them as well, and in ways it does; however, freebies from Uncle Sam (along with Federal Reserve sorcery) allow them to, again, circumvent our demands. Instead, corporations are responding to government houndouts, like a puppy licking its Master’s fingers.
Not only that, but through the government’s favoring of certain businesses over others, there has emerged a sort of semi-monopolistic class of corporations that maintains an unnatural, inorganically strong grip over certain resources, and who operate with an insignificant amount of accountability to those whom they were originally established to serve, us; you and me: your average everyday individual. Re-emphasizing the point that businesses that are shielded from consumer demand have little incentive to respond to that demand. And again, not all businesses are provided this shield. Most of the time, it is the corporations that have aligned themselves with government interests that are guilty. But even then, the government often gives businesses an ultimatum; join us, or we’ll audit you to no end, which is, if I recall correctly, what happened with Microsoft.
Unfortunately, people end up blaming ‘business’ as a whole, rather than examining particular cases. Many are up in arms claiming that government needs to reign in businesses to keep them from exploiting everybody. The logic that many in these cases seem to employ is as follows: The Dutch East India Extortion Company massacred the inhabitants of the spice islands, therefore, all businesses will inevitably commit maniacal genocide.
So, the level of production efficiency has increased so dramatically, that we no longer have a problem overcoming any ‘scarcity of means’ — the problem now is keeping people consuming.
And btw, if you are wondering why, in the wake of this great productivity, there are still billions of people who lack the most basic goods – that is the result of a different market mechanism, which will touched upon in question 3- the inevitability of market generated poverty and inequity.
I’ve heard this a few times before, and I can’t wait to get to question 3 to address it at length. The market does appear to generate poverty and accelerate inequality, but it is an illusion. Stay tuned for more on this developing story.
So, back on point, the modern economy is no longer scarcity-based on this level. Incorrect. Scarcity simply means ‘not infinite.’ When resources are not infinite, there must be a mechanism that is able to ration them efficiently: and to those who are adept at utilizing them most effectively. This results in a, gasp!: Limiting of waste. It is consumption based- as it needs high level of turnover to keep people employed and growth going. Nope. And obvious side effect today is ever-accelerating resource depletion, biodiversity loss and destabilizing pollution.
There are now countless corroborating studies that confirm how the world is increasing in its deficiency to meet the needs of future populations. Some estimates find that humanity will need 27 more earths by 2050 to meet demand    
I’ve never heard this before, so I’m a bit unsure how to tackle it. I think, for one, it assumes a continued trend in exponential population growth, which is hasty to say the least. I touched on a related topic a short while ago, when I mentioned the price mechanism and feedback loops. Honestly, the only way I can imagine that we’d actually run out of resources is by abolishing the price mechanism. Now Peter, your ultimate plan is to make everything, for all practical purposes, free. Honestly, there is no better way to guarantee that we use way more than we can truly afford. I’ll continue this line of thought after a quick message from your local communist.
The rampant, severe biodiversity loss is not only disrupting basic biosphere functions, it is now a fact that virtually all life support systems are in decline, with 50% of all wildlife having been destroyed in the past 40 years alone.
As far as pollution, these issue are nothing but accelerating –in the both air, water and atmosphere – creating tremendous destabilization and ongoing environmental damage and negative public health outcomes.
As I was saying, abolishing the price mechanism will eliminate a massive incentive to conserve and sustain. When people are paying out of pocket for their endeavors, they’re going to try their best to eliminate unnecessary spending and consumption. That’s part of being a self-regulating organism. And yes, we do self-regulate: it’s what learning is all about. It’s why you don’t touch the hot stove again. It’s why we don’t eat moldy dog shit. Do I really need to expound on it? Free money from government (or from theft) nearly completely eliminates the incentive to save. Like numbing yourself to the burn. You’re still going to damage the skin tissue, you just won’t feel the pain right away. But once it start’s hurting, watch out!
To summarize the point, if you eliminate the price mechanism, you’re eliminating the signals that inform us of the availability of resources. Just as you can’t regulate your behavior if you’re numb to all sensory perceptions, you can’t regulate your resource consumption if you’re numb to the economic costs. Prices provide the signals; prices are those signals.
Regardless, I’m more than fairly certain that the provided figures are exaggerated. As far as I’m aware, much of the habitat loss, resource depletion and pollution of the past hundred years or so has been curbed in the past decade or two. That being said, the resource depletion that is ongoing, say for example, in the Amazon has multiple causes. Cronyism being the most significant. Brazil is notorious for a sort of ‘implexal-corruption’ between the Brazilian government and the companies it does business with. Fundamentally, it all comes down to nepotism. Nepotism is hardwired into us through evolution. Politics is all about nepotism. Enforced nepotism is the way of governments, as it has been since before we were human. Those on the edges of empowered nepotism have always suffered through the worst social conditions, whether it meant they got last place at the feast after a hunt, like an omega wolf; or whether it means they get shit on by ultra-wealthy politicians and corporate executives.
Anyway, I’m the government, and if my friends want to deforest the Amazon, then I support their decision. Also, nobody else is allowed to do it, because that could detract from my friend’s profits and cut into my subsequent benefits.
And this brings up black markets; another reason for resource destruction. To illustrate this point!-: grave robbing of ancient sites is a big problem in Peru and Bolivia and, probably, most everywhere there is wealth to be plundered from ancient sites. Why did this become such a big problem? Primarily, because it’s illegal. And if this doesn’t seem to make sense at first, that’s understandable. I’ll explain. There is a demand for the ancient artifacts that come out of various sites around South America. People are willing to pay top dollar for some of the trinkets of the Inka and other “ancient” South American civilizations. Making it illegal to acquire these goods does not eliminate people’s desire to have them. All it does is make acquiring them significantly more dangerous. While this fact may indeed deter many people, more risk also means that the rewards will be higher, because if I’m going to risk my freedom to get you a treasure, I’m going to want a hefty reimbursement. And I can demand that, since you can’t exactly get these items by many other means. More reward means more incentive to plunder the sites. So people, because of the dangling carrot, are pressured – encouraged – into robbing sites.
Another effect: making it illegal means that most everybody with ‘pure’ intentions will be deterred from engaging in the acquisition, distribution and/or preservation of the artifacts. Instead, small groups of relatively ill-equipped individuals sneak out and make a complete mess of the site. This happens because there is no structure in place by which people can sufficiently organize and create a model through which to responsibly acquire, catalogue, preserve and distribute the artifacts to collectors, historians and other interested parties. Making the whole process legal would allow people to do just that and the sites could then be properly overseen by the people who are skilled and knowledgeable enough to do so.
Keep in mind the concept of demand. Most people want the sites as a whole to be preserved, and so there would be money (value) in doing just that. It would become a business and it would be much more sustainable than the current situation where artifacts are undocumented and sites are damaged. Oh the horror! Commodifying history! Oh no, what ever will we do? Um… newsflash: commodities are valued. We don’t want things that we value to lose their value. “Oh, but what if they’re sold off to private collectors? We can’t have that!” Right, because there could never be such a thing as private museums, because, after all, nobody values ancient, rare and wondrous items… fuckin dipshit. If they’re being sold off to private collectors (which they already are) it means that PEOPLE FUCKING VALUE THEM! If people value them, there is a market for turning a private collection into a museum and sharing with the world.
And you’re not going to fix the situation by giving exclusive, monopolistic excavation/distribution rights to one group. All that does is turn it into a monopoly. It would limit the ability of everyday people to view and appreciate the skills and contributions of an ancient civilization, further limiting people from developing a curiosity and furthered appreciation for them. It would also increase “inequality” by disallowing others from benefiting as a result of open participation in the process of acquisition/distribution – from being on the Dig Team, or whathaveyou. Or do we like monopolies? Add to that, the fact that granting exclusivity prevents other people who may have genuine desire, knowledge and skill from participating in the process. It also increases the chances of gross mismanagement due to the lack of pressure from other competing groups to perform adequately.
So back to the Amazon… making it illegal for people to log trees does not eliminate the demand for rare and beautiful hardwoods. It only serves to make that process more dangerous; more destructive and more unsustainable. If it’s illegal, nobody is going to create a sustainable and safe method because nobody can properly invest in it. Nobody except for those who might be granted exclusive privileges. And those that are granted exclusivity are almost always in league with their respective government. So often, in fact, that I hesitate to include the word “almost” in that sentence. Also, exclusivity drives up the prices of the rare lumber and increases the incentive to do it “illegally.”
But are you beginning to see the problem here? Passing laws doesn’t eliminate human desire, it merely illigitimizes a particular market and wreaks havoc, at first on that which is directly tied to it, and then rippling outward to effect other areas of society. It creates criminals out of people who, most of the time, are simply trying to survive and flourish in the world; serving only to hurt the very segment of society that these idiot politicians and bleeding heart numbskulls often claim to want to help.
Whew! All this from trying to point out why certain resources are being depleted. Back to the show!
And keep in mind, as explained at length in TZM’s materials, these problem are not immutable – they can be fixed – if an economic and industrial reorientation away from market economics was achieved. In reality, it’s the complete opposite, if you hadn’t noticed by now. …I hope you’re still here, by the way. However, those specifics are not the subject of this essay. For more – please read our free online book: The Zeitgeist Movement Defined.
Perhaps I’ll analyze that next… or after I analyze ‘Forget Shorter Showers.’ Now, as a final point of evidence, a cursory review of all recent historical attempts to stop overconsumption, slow biodiversity loss and reduce pollution, have been virtually stonewalled by the business community. There is no mystery to this phenomenon – because the fact is: acting in a conservative, truly efficient and sustainable manner is literally the opposite of what the market requires to function in the long term, keeping the profit machine going.
Alright, before I get too far I have to point something out, or at least clarify it. Remember how I was saying that the profit motive is inherent to biological systems? You know, because every organism wants to at least feel as though it is improving it’s conditions or advancing its goals…? Just so we’re clear here, government employees are not immune from these same pressures. They are not granted an exception by the universe because they’re in the government. It seems that many people speak of government as though it were an angelic, benign sort of maternal figure that only exists to pander to its children, whom it loves unconditionally.
This view of government is utterly ridiculous, especially considering the history of government. Look at history: governments have always been out for their own gain; their own interests; their own benefit just the same as every other living organism. It’s no different today.
So to assume that the government doesn’t have its own goals at heart when it levies rules and regulations down on industry is naive, to say the least. To create this dichotomy between private and public, as if one is inherently selfish and the other is devoid of selfishness, harms your ability to accurately understand the potential motivations of both parties.
Now of course, this doesn’t mean that “pure” intentions don’t exist. It simply means that both private and public sectors face, for all practical purposes, the same pressures to serve their own interests. It’s just much easier for government to serve its interests because it has the perceived authority to do so and the physical power to back itself up.
So, Peter, with that last statement you’ve peddled the narrative that the government is trying to make the world a better place; to limit pollution and reduce waste, and that the money-grubbing, evil greedy capitalists simply don’t want to stop peeing in the river. Not only is this narrative grossly oversimplified, it’s also completely dead wrong.
For example, America’s “Environmental Protection Agency” has constantly been attacked by interests worried about a loss of income and growth. Just last month the Wall St Journal ran the headline “The EPA’s Latest Threat to Economic Growth” attacking the EPA for its interest to improve air quality standards.
And they are right. If the EPA does push forward, many jobs and billions of dollars will be lost. That is simply what happens when waste-reducing technical efficiency and conservation is applied.
Right, so tough shit, business! It doesn’t matter how much time and energy you’ve invested in your company. If you can’t afford to comply with this crippling new regulation – even if you’ve been submissive and compliant with all others we’ve levied – then you don’t deserve to be in business! To be honest, this subject aggravates me. And to be clear, I’m not against environmental responsibility. Not at all! I grew up taking walks in the woods and playing in creeks, so don’t you even begin to tell me that I “just don’t care about nature.” I was a student of Ranger Rick for god’s sake! I just came to recognize that the vast majority of environmental destruction stems from the governments’ forceful severance and steamrolling of natural feedback loops.
So, Peter, you’re against waste, but you have no problem wasting people’s time for “the greater good.” You have no problem with forcing people into adherence to your standards. I don’t know, I just feel like I’ve heard this story before… several times. People being made to comply with the ‘superior’ standards of another.
Anyway, the government has already subsidized the shit out of various solar and wind power companies, such as Solyndra, that went belly up. How many resources were saved during the process? None! It was nothing more than an enormous waste! Solyndra lasted a whopping 6 years and got close to $700 million in subsidies. Or is that what you would call ‘good waste?’ because it was wasted in an attempt to do something that you value? Fuck!
Peter, do you have any fucking clue how many regulations there already are? Do you realize that, no matter how many regulations you make, it will never be enough? You will always be able to identify something you don’t like; something that stains the symmetry, and as long as you can do that, you’re not going to be content with any of the regulations currently in place; you’re going to demand more, especially if you’re already convinced that the government has the power to rescue us all and fix all our woes. …Gently beating us into submission…
Regulations serve to increase the costs of staying in business. Businesses serve us (unless they’ve been hijacked by bureaucratic interests). So making it more expensive for other people – our friends and neighbors – to serve us, or sometimes even driving those people out of the market entirely, will… somehow ultimately be good for us? How!? Because all decreasing market plurality does is screw us over. Monopolies are not good!! Stringent regulations force people out of business and tend to raise prices. Rising prices and strengthened monopolist powers! Hooray! -Regulations are a huge source of “inequality” because they often prevent honest, well-intentioned people from participating in the market.
Regulations are an especially effective authoritarian tool. Just look at how eager people are to cripple businesses – businesses that serve them – with regulations in the name of progress. It’s much easier to advance the power of an aspiring authoritarian regime when the majority of the population is begging for it.
But let’s be clear: progress doesn’t come from regulations; progress comes from innovation and productivity. Levied regulations make it more difficult for companies and even individuals to maintain productivity and invest money toward innovations. They have also been used in the past to prevent certain audiences from participating in certain markets. They induce exclusivity, rather than plurality. Regulations are only good for those who are already firmly established. For everyone else, well, tough shit. Can’t afford to comply? Well too fuckin’ bad!.
Oh, and if “the business community” as a whole fights against regulations, then why is it that so often the most successful corporations are the ones pushing for the regulations? Because they know that it ultimately works in their favor because it pressures their upcoming competitors who can’t afford the costs of compliance out of the market. Explain this shit!
Oh, and something else I just thought of. If the “business community” is oh-so-powerful, and they’re all fighting against regulations, then how have they come to be regulated?
If you need a more visceral example, look at what the developing nations are doing – as they struggling to gain economic growth and raise their standard of living. It is all being done at the long term expense of the environment.
Dude, give me a fucking break! See, you’re entire premise here is that, since certain segments of society can “afford” green technology, that those individuals should then provide that infrastructure to every developing region. So many problems with this. For one, that last paragraph seems to be suggesting that you, Mr. Joseph, don’t really give a shit about the people within those regions. Those dirtier energy technologies are cheaper than current green technologies. Much cheaper. Right now, many developing regions simply need to get on their feet. Cheaper energy, while admittedly ‘dirtier,’ is the only real viable option for them. The way you seem to want it done simply isn’t feasible. “Well, that’s because of money and greed and blah blah blah.” FUCK YOU! Start over from the beginning! You’d rather they wait around for green technology to become viable and affordable before they should be allowed to try and improve their quality of life? Meanwhile they’re rummaging through trash piles trying to find enough to survive the night.
Actively preventing the people in poorer regions from finding ways to provide for themselves… is supposed to help us all out? …because, hey, if they’re hopelessly impoverished then they won’t be polluting the environment. Guess what underdeveloped cultures use for heat and fuel when there’s no coal or oil? Can you guess? That’s right, they use wood. Lots and lots of wood. But hey, perhaps deforestation is better than developing coal and oil power. But, in reality, Peter, you’d prefer they skip right over the coal and oil part and jump right into solar panels, wind farms (which require tree-free land to maximize effectiveness) and hydro-electric dams. Well wouldn’t that be nice? But, integrating these technologies would require specialists, considering how technologically intensive they are. Forcing such technologies on these developing regions will most likely serve to increase inorganic economic inequality. These technologies are complex and expensive for us here in the US. So how the crap are we going to be able to provide them to all of the impoverished regions all across the globe? Who’s going to maintain them? Who’s going to foot the bill? And yes, it would cost money because it would cost a tremendous amount of effort and resources. And that’s what money represents.
Preventing cultures from developing the means to effectively accomplish their goals will not create sustainability. It will simply deny those people the ability to organically become more efficient with their time and resources. But hey, it’s ok if their lives are kept shitty because at least it won’t make my air quality any worse.
Unfortunately, the current predicament is that the governments of the developing regions have the ultimate say. It doesn’t necessarily matter what steps are taken by the inhabitants to improve their circumstances, if those in charge fight against it, it’s unlikely to happen. And, quite honestly, most third world nations are third world nations because of the way their government’s behave. Because either their government confiscates their productivity, or competing pre-governments like the LRA do. Most likely, these governments and pre-governments (gangs) are not going to allow the inhabitants to coalesce organically to surmount the problems they face. As has been the case throughout history, many of these governments will jerk the average citizen around to no end, shaking out any extra motivation or productivity and collecting it for themselves. The perks of being in charge, ya know?
China’s push for massive industrialization and growth has been enabled by keeping low environmental standards – and now it has 16 of the world’s most polluted cities.
And again – if you look closely, all developing nations are doing the same. They simply can’t afford, more “green” industrial methods.
Oh yes, China is the perfect example of how market economies lead to pollution. Here is a perfect example of why your criteria, Peter, your criteria for determining what constitutes a market economy is totally bogus. You know, it must be awfully convenient for you to lump all the different economies in the world together, because all you have to do to prove how they fall short is find any abhorrent conditions anywhere in the world, and poof!- you have your examples for why the market fails. But this is what happens when you use such overgeneralized, all-encompassing criteria. All the economies in the entire world fit this criteria, and so you can point to virtually anything as an example of why markets shouldn’t exist. But as I’ve (hopefully) shown, the logic is flawed beyond all reason. Fubar!
Oh, and developing nations can’t afford green technology, so they should be forced to have it anyway, even though most of it still doesn’t work all that well and will probably have to be replaced in 5 years.
As far as resource overshoot and biodiversity loss, perhaps the most clear description of this clash was made in the 2010 Convention of Biological Diversity report. In 2002, 192 countries got together can agreed to work to slow biodiversity loss…only to come back 8 years later – completely defeated – stating:
“None of the twenty-one sub-targets accompanying the overall target of significantly reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 can be said definitively to have been achieved globally…Actions to promote…biodiversity receive a tiny fraction of ‘funding’ compared to…infrastructure and industrial developments… Moreover, biodiversity considerations are often ignored when such developments are designed…Most future scenarios project continuing high levels of extinctions and loss of habitats throughout this century.”
To me, this is a great example of just how ineffective government entities are at getting things done. A big reason for this is because lawmakers are often ignorant of ecology and don’t have any comprehension of the real world physics of cause and effect. The vast majority of the time, government attempts to ‘fix’ problems only serve to exacerbate them.
And, of course, why would any of this be a surprise? Our economy literally has no structural incentive to adjust – there is no direct market reward – to preserve resources, habitats or reduce consumption in general. All it knows is that people need to keep buying stuff and the more they buy, the better everything should be.
Demand. It’s a thing. In a free market, devoid of economic fuckery from empowered assholes, business is a slave to individual demands (as well as amalgamated individual demands, or what we might call ‘collective’ demands). No other way to make money. Demand responsibility and refuse to support the companies that you deem to be irresponsible. Tell your friends to do the same and explain why you believe it to be so. That’s progress the organic way.
So I ask again:
Given the market economy requires consumption in order to maintain demand for human employment and further economic growth as needed, is there a structural incentive to reduce resource use, biodiversity loss, the global pollution footprint and hence assist the ever-increasing need for improved ecological sustainability in the world today?
The answer is no. There is only the external incentive – meaning the frustrated outcry of concerned citizens, demanding this or that change – which, in truth, simply wont do anything in the long run – Why? because it goes against the most basic premise of the market functionality itself.
Now… you’re saying that demand doesn’t effect anything. I’m saying that it does, but that popular demand never reaches the pockets of a lot of businessmen because the government acts as a buffer and rewards companies for things that the customers wouldn’t. So, like Pavlov’s dogs, they respond to the group that brings them the goods. Make sense?
The only true solution is to overcome the structural flaw – not by fighting it with legislation – but by changing the system. To do that, we must replace the current economic model with one that structurally incentivizes and rewards conservation, true technical efficiency and overall sustainability.
As I have been pointing out, the market, if permitted to function, will accomplish these goals. If you’re still confused as to how, simply start this analysis over from the beginning and take notes.
And as a final note, right now it is safe to project that due to this habitat destruction, diversity loss, resource over-shoot and CO2 pollution – we very well could be entering the period of the Sixth Great Extinction on earth – and unless thing change rapidly, the next generation will be one of great suffering and disorder.
Yes. If things continue down the path that they seem to be on now, then there very well could be great suffering and resource shortages, etc. etc.. But, again, this would be because empowered politicians are allowed to warp our behavioral patterns by incentivizing and disincentivizing specific actions. This serves to concentrate and dilute evolutionary cultural selective pressures. Pressure to avoid going to jail! Pressure to not go awol! Pressure to please the rulers, gaining favor and reward for obeying high commands! Pressure to not let my DNA perish for simple disobedience to Caesar.
Unfortunately, within the current system it can be very difficult to detail all the problems. This is because our contextual understanding of social physics has been nearly irreparably warped by a long history of social command structures (AKA, governments) that ceaselessly alter the rules of survival, essentially telling our brains that the physical environment has changed, all because you can now be harmed and/or killed simply for displeasing the ruling… ruler. If you think that hundreds of thousands of years of shifting rules of survival due to the whimsical, ignorant dictates of different governing bodies has not had an effect on our cognitive capacities, think again. Our minds are tangled so severely that our evolutionary trajectory has likely been permanently warped. No matter where we go from here on out, millions of years down the road, our minds may always carry the scars of this period of intellectual darkness and blind obedience to “authority.” Rant over!
Hey! We’re finally at question two!
In an economic system where companies seek to limit their production costs (“cost efficiency”) in order to maximize profits and remain competitive against other producers, what structural incentive exists to keep human beings employed, in the wake of an emerging technological condition where the majority of jobs can now be done more cheaply and effectively by machine automation?
Sigh. This feels to me like another fallacy… though if I had to be honest, I’m not sure what kind this would be. It feels like a variant of begging the question, because, Peter, you’ve phrased the question in such a way that it channels every possible response toward a specific predetermined conclusion. In effect, you’re forcing the response that you want to hear. That’s called being intellectually dishonest – though I’m sure it was an honest mistake.
But the result is another non-question. You’re making a statement, rather than asking a question, which is mldly disingenuous. You seem as though you’re not honestly seeking answers; but rather are seeking to hook unsuspecting passersby into supporting your narrative. But I can understand the motivations, so no worries.
Let’s examine the question further:
“In an economic system where companies seek to limit their production costs (“cost efficiency”) in order to maximize profits and remain competitive against other producers…,” Preserving resources while lowering prices for the consumer, overall… “…what structural incentive exists to keep human beings employed…,” The incentive to keep people employed comes from the people themselves, dippus. Do you want to employ people for a specific task? Then go ahead! Do you want to work in a specific field or on a specific hobby? What’s stopping you? Time, physics, evolution; these things do not give a fuck about your feelings. The market isn’t ‘deciding’ whether or not to be merciful on us. The cumulative results of our various actions and behaviors played out over time. So forgive me if I’m not really sure how to address this ‘structural incentive’ comment. “…in the wake of an emerging technological condition where the majority of jobs can now be done more cheaply and effectively by machine automation?” See? It’s a non-question meant solely to sell a narrative! “When people don’t need to be employed by specific industries anymore, what are they ever going to do to survive?” Holy shit! How the what the why the fucking hell man!
The long standing defense of those who claim there is no problem with machines replacing human jobs – is that overall technological innovation will simply balance everything out by eventually creating new human occupations, absorbing anyone who is displaced.
Yeah, because that’s what’s happened every time so far, and as far as I can tell, there’s no viable reason to stop believing that people will always be able to find things to do that other people will value. There will always be ways to serve one another. As long as there is still music to make, art to create, puzzles to solve and planets to explore, there will be something for you to do; someplace for you to belong. In the common tongue, we call these places ‘niches.’
And while this perspective may have seemed viable during early periods of slow technological change, the ever-exponential advancement of automation potential is now far outpacing the creation of new, human-exclusive labor roles. And, as trends show, it is simply a matter of time before it becomes more cost effective, reliable and productive, in all major economic fields.
So we’ll shift away from labor intensive roles and into other fields! Art! Science! Medicine! Engineering! Something that hasn’t been invented yet! That’s what evolution and real progress (not this progressivism bullshit) are all about! We keep moving forward and we solve new problems, make new discoveries and climb to new heights, and in the process, create more problems to solve and hurdles to overcome – None of which will come without difficulties.
First, let’s consider the potential. Today, there are numerous corroborating studies showing the capacity of automation, including the conclusion that right now – over half of the world’s jobs can be mechanized. 
OK, cool. So what would this actually mean? Granted, if all the jobs in the world that are possible to mechanize were to suddenly, instantaneously and simultaneously become mechanized… it would probably have some moderately destabilizing effects. Like what? Well… that’s tough to say. To be honest, I don’t know the entire gamut of jobs that can be mechanized, so it’s hard to say what exactly would be impacted the most. But… in general (which, you know what I say about generalizing) many individuals would find themselves out of work. However, overall productivity has not decreased, and in fact, many companies would be saving (or at least, investing in future savings); saving money, time, labor, etc.. and so would be better equipped to provide less costly products to more people. So yes, there would be less people working at first, but productivity has, in all likelihood, increased! Thereby making society as a whole, richer.
But what about those people who are out of work? What ever will they do? In our current societal… arrangement, perhaps this scenario would be a tad bit… a tidbit more dramatic. But in a free market (free market free market free market) there would be no minimum wage, so you would be able to pick a field of interest to you and start out sweeping floors for almost a volunteer wage if that’s what it takes to get in the door. There was a point where I would have washed studio floors for 2 dollars an hour because that’s how much I wanted to get into the film industry.
Also, in a free market, unions would have much less influence. Why? Because they’re entirely inefficient… and people want to work. Here you are talking about how mechanization will create mass unemployment and then you can’t figure out why unions are an inhibitive economic factor. Uh, because they stifle employee workplace competition; they remove jobs as an option for a lot of people. You can’t hire a 15 year old kid to come in and wash tables in the breakroom for 5 dollars an hour 10 hours a week because some union shmuck is already doing it for $25 an hour. And we wonder why it’s so difficult for people to find jobs while at the same time wondering, “why, oh why are companies outsourcing??” It’s smacking you in the fucking face! So many people… coagulating in these economic veins. Be like water! Unions are rattlesnake venom to to the lifeblood of economic progress. (Molyneuism)
Somebody else being able to perform your job for cheaper than you’re willing to do it isn’t oppression. It isn’t a business taking advantage of you. “Oh. I’m all inept and scared and I need guaranteed protection against other people being better at things and threatening my financial status!” If somebody else can do your job and they are willing to do it for less compensation, it is good! True, another person taking over your job for less pay would be bad… for you. But it could be a dream come true for that other person. And it would lower overhead costs for the company! Woohoo! Who’s being greedy now, jackass?
See how everything is connected? See how difficult it is to isolate economic concepts? Each concept extends its fingers into all other concepts. There are no islands in economy-land. We started out talking about mechanization and end up talking about unions.
Second, we need to consider (a) the trends of employment shifts by industry sector, (b) the staggering rise in productivity related – and (c) how automation costs are undercutting human labor costs.
Let’s go back a million years to the very first… entrepreneur. This fucking guy, he has the audacity to pick up a stick and use it to smack a lion in the face. What a jackass! Didn’t he understand that he was undercutting human labor costs? I mean where is his common decency? Where is his respect for his fellow man? So, all of the sudden, you have a massive spike in productivity related to stick usage. What a fucking travesty!
What am I saying? Simple! All new technology is designed for the very specific purpose of undercutting human labor costs. Ever since the ape picked up that stick; ever since he threw a rock. That is the exact purpose of tools and technology. Technology increases the purchasing power of our personal energy. That’s the entire point! Path of least resistance! I’m honestly having a difficult time figuring out exactly what your problem is here. Mass mechanization is going to eliminate manufacturing jobs? Is that it? So fucking what!? So we pursue science and engineering and technology and art and space exploration and music! The horror! STOP BEING SCARED OF THE WORLD! STOP BEING AFRAID OF LIFE! I know you want to build yourself a nice little fortified comfort zone, but please, I don’t want anything to do with it.
What really chaps my nips about things like this is that you don’t have to be remotely correct or smart for that matter in order to have your ideas forced onto the entire population…. And that’s the problem.
I’ll be using United States statistics as a proxy here, for if it applies to the US, given its advanced technological state, then it applies to the rest of the world in the context of trends and potential.
Sectors Shifts. How so? There are three core economic sectors.
Agriculture, Industrial and Service.
In 1870, about 75% of Americans worked in agriculture, while today it is around 2%.
Why? Well, there certainly hasn’t been a loss of agricultural demand. And while food imports in the US have grown to about 17%, that obviously doesn’t balance the near 98% drop in its related employment sector since 1870, and neither do increases in textile fiber imports. This drop is almost entirely a result of machine automation.
Where did the jobs go? The Industrial sector and the Service sector.
US Industrial labor reached its peak around 1950, dropping from almost 40% to about 20%. Why? Well, the common assumption is that globalization and labor outsourcing in manufacturing is the cause. And while that may have a short term and regional relevance — On the global scale; in the long term – it is completely irrelevant… As virtually all nations, especially the developed nations, are witnessing the same trends.
The reason is the same, as with agriculture -technological application displacing human labor.
As far as the service sector, Today over 80% of jobs exist here. It has been the safe zone, given this kind of work is less physical and more it about mental focus and thought. Just a sidenote here, but the jobs that I’ve held in the service sector haven’t exactly required much thought. In fact, I find that thoughtlessness is much more prevalent. “Just follow procedure and shut the fuck up, minion!” Just my opinion. And up until the late 20th century the idea of “thinking machines” and advanced machine that could replace such variant labor, was often deemed science fiction.
Yet, this sector is now quickly being threatened due to the exponential advancement in programmable intelligence and robotics.  Bank machines, automated phone systems, point of sale kiosks, processing programs, restaurant automation, automated transport…If you can think of it, someone is working to automate it.
And just like the agricultural and industrial sectors, this use of automation is also ensuring (a) higher productivity and (b) lower costs for the business. Trend statistics prove this without a doubt.
Lower costs for business usually translates into lower costs for customers. Not all the time, of course. Sometimes businesses like to invest in new projects… you know, like innovations and the sorts of things that help constitute advancement.
(a) As far as productivity, human employment is now actually inverse to productivity in most cases – meaning in all instances of automation, it not only removes jobs, it increases output efficiency. Here is a classic charted example from manufacturing. The blue line is the increase in production and the red line is human employment.
Yeah, this graph is essentially meaningless, so you don’t really need to see it. But before you get your panties in a bunch I’ll provide a link in the description… if you’re curious. Basically, it’s showing, supposedly, that automation/mechanization is leading to unemployment. But there are many many compounding factors that have caused various amounts of unemployment. Minimum wage laws and unions, as previously mentioned, for example.
(b)As far as cost reduction, what needs to be understood is that all technological innovation is now becoming what’s called “information-based”. Whether it is literally the digital programming, such as a program running a machine, or the very process of creation of a physical machine itself
See? Mechanization and automation are creating programming, designing and engineering jobs! Who woulda thought?
And what is the developmental trend of information-based technology in the 21st century? Exponential. More programming jobs! Hooray! And this not only relates to the advancement of the technology itself, making things smaller, stronger and more powerful, it also reduces resource needs… and the cost of emerging technology inevitably becomes cheaper.
Weren’t you droning on about waste before? Yet here you’re admitting that continued innovation is reducing resource needs… I anxiously await your verdict!
As a classical example, this is why the chip in a common cell phone is thousands of times more powerful and less expensive – than the super computer of the 1970s.
And, hence, it is simply a matter of time before a great many of currently out of reach automation tools, such as thinking, cybernated robotics that can perform virtually any basic human role – become so affordable, to not automate becomes a detrimental business decision.
Perhaps, as a net result. But I would hesitate before saying that this will be the case across the board and forevermore. What if people in the future decide that they prefer to buy from companies that choose not to automate? Well, see, what would happen to those companies is that the products they sell will be more expensive, which will make people say “Oh no! They’re raising the prices because they’re greedy bastards!” You should talk to business owners. Find out just how many things people like to complain about. Choose not to automate? Well then you’re charging too much and you’re just trying to rip people off. Choose to automate? Well then you’re selfish for cutting back on labor costs. See? See how virtually every decision will piss some people off? And then business as a whole gets blamed!
Now, let’s suppose that mechanization and automation will increase exponentially… I don’t see how this factor alone would be especially detrimental. The prices of goods produced would likely lower significantly, allowing more people access to the things they want or need. It would open up new occupational niches, such as programming, design, engineering, science and math.
But just for fun, let’s suppose that automation and mechanization, by some miracle would cause mass “destabilization”: would it then follow that a massively automated, mechanized resource distribution network – such as the one you, sir Joseph, wish to implement – would solve the perceived problem of increasing unemployment? It seems to me that your solution would create 100% unemployment. So you’re arguing against mechanization/automation because it supposedly creates unemployment, and yet your solution is to mechanize and automate everything. …What!?
If a business chooses to fully automate, it’s contributing to unemployment and increasing global destabilization. If Peter Joseph chooses the automate the entire fucking planet, it’s just freeing up opportunities for people to create art and music and is a good thing. I know that you know what cognitive dissonance is….
And BTW- if you are one of those techno-capitalist apologists that says this price decrease in cost will simply make consumer goods that much cheaper as well, and therefore compensate for the loss of income generated by the use of automation, you are overlooking one critical function of the market economy: The market needs scarcity to function.
Peter, listen: the market doesn’t ‘need’ scarcity to function. Scarcity is a fact of nature. “We live on a finite planet” as the common commie argument goes, usually as a way of pointing out that infinite consumption is bad. On that end, I agree, but the market doesn’t inherently “promote” consumption. The market promotes responsible resource management by connecting us to each other and to our planet. We live on a finite planet, therefore, scarcity. ‘Post-scarcity’ does not and will never exist, because, again, scarcity doesn’t mean ‘rare;’ it means ‘not-infinite.’
Abundance has no role in market mechanics. Supply and demand. Maybe you should read those economics books instead of throwing them in the bonfire. And the profit structure itself does not view reducing costs as means to simply increase affordability of the end product in and or itself – it does it, first and foremost, to increase profits. The only reason you see the price reductions is because of the competition occurring in the industry, as each company works to one up each other’s cost-efficiency basis, via similar methods.
Yeah… so you’re saying that price reduction is an effect of markets? Hooray! You’re finally beginning to understand!
I want to ensure that I emphasize one thing though; Nobody (at least that I know of) is claiming that individuals/businesspersons/capitalists are running their affairs with the intention of benefiting others. They’re not; and that’s the whole point. The fact of the matter is that you can’t help other people if you’re not in a position to help them. You put the oxygen mask on yourself before you place it on your child. Why? Is it because you’re selfish? No! It’s because if you don’t help yourself first, you will pass out and then be unable to help those who can’t help themselves. The same concept applies to our everyday experiences. I can’t let my buddy crash on the couch for a week after he lost his apartment if I don’t already have an apartment or house of my own. I can’t feed the hungry if I don’t have any food. You have to help yourself first before you can help others.
But it’s not even directly that, either: Benefits for me are a side effect of somebody else benefiting themselves. Elon Musk isn’t working specifically to benefit other people: he’s working to help himself, first and foremost. He’s following his goals; his passions. And during the process, the technology that arises as a result of his pursuit of his dream, will diffuse down into the rest of society because we all at least have brains. It’s what happened with computers and cell phones and virtually every other common technology. They start off as luxuries for those that can afford them and then they steadily become more and more accessible to those of lesser and lesser income.
Point being: regardless of how cheap things become – at some point the consumption deficiency resulting, by the number of people unemployed by automation (and reemployed by programming, or coding, or engineering, or design, or math, or science, or exploration, or whatever we happen to want to do with ourselves as a thriving species), will override – whatever degree of affordability is being generated by the lower cost products created. It is inevitable.
If it were truly inevitable, and I want you to really think about what this means, if it were truly inevitable… why does any employment still exist today? If technological progress means inevitable job destruction, and ‘job-non-creation’, then why the fuck are there any jobs at all? With all the technology that exists in the world, you’d think that we would have at least destroyed half the jobs, right? I mean, does anybody even do any of the jobs that existed before evolution upgraded our hardware with the addition of opposable thumbs? And yet, here we are, still finding things of value to do for one another!
Come to think of it, evolution works in a very similar fashion to technological progress. Bodily upgrades, like opposable thumbs, are a result of evolutionary mechanisms that also seek to undercut labor costs. Evil! Evolution is eviil!!
And keep in mind, all it takes is a 20-30% rate of human unemployment to destabilized society into disorder and outrage. That’s it. So, the question isn’t will we automate everything – the real question – is at what point will the cost efficiency of applied automation, produce just ‘enough’ unemployment, to cause social destabilization – and a debilitating loss of economic growth.
Another, better question to ask: Why would a freshly unemployed person not be able to find a way to make a living? What is preventing him from being productive?
Maybe he’s not allowed to negotiate for a wage? Perhaps there are all kinds of barriers on market entry? You know, the barriers set up by that elite class you seem to know exists, but seem to think that it somehow consists of every rich person that you don’t like? Specifically, those in the “business community.”
Yes, there is a predatory elite class within the business industry, but you can’t blame the entire industry. Find out who it is that’s preying on others and find out how they’re doing it. You want to know what you’re gonna find if you do this? You’ll find, in virtually every case, that there are ties to politics. A predatory elite class does exist, and they are out there to keep the poor down. You know one of the best ways to keep poor people poor and discouraged? Keep them out of the market. You do this by creating laws and regulations on industry in the name of safety and fairness. It’s easy because people beg for it; people beg to be protected from big scary monsters. So, by creating regulations and restrictions on ‘predatory’ businessmen, the government can play the part of the champion of the people – all while establishing the very same laws that keep the poor people down.
I don’t say that poor people are poor because they’re lazy. I know what it’s like to work hard and not get anywhere. I know that, as a poor person, the majority of your weekly paycheck is spoken for before it’s even issued. Poor people are kept poor by politicians who, as it happens, are more than willing to twist the rules of survival in favor their buddies. It’s the same story. This has been happening with startling regularity throughout history. Check it!
SO I ask again:
In an economic system where companies seek to limit their production costs (cost efficiency) in order to both maximize profits and remain competitive against other producers, what structural incentive exists to keep human beings employed, in the wake of an emerging technological condition where the majority of jobs can now be done more cheaply and effectively by machine automation?
The answer – is that there isn’t such an incentive – at least not structurally. Some kind of general incentive may exist given the common sense awareness that people do need jobs for the market economy to function – but that recognition implies that employers should bypass such cost saving, efficiency and safety increasing technology just so people have jobs.
By the way, ’employers’ aren’t a different subset of human. Everyday people can become business-owners, employers, entrepreneurs, ‘capitalists.’ The reality is that people should be responsible for themselves. You know, that’s kind of the entire point of going through childhood; so that you can grow up and learn how to take care of yourself in a big scary world. Nobody owes you shit.
The reality is that if a business has the choice between a human and machine, and that machine is more productive and affordable – they will choose the machine, as per market logic, every time. It they didn’t, they would lose a competitive edge – as one of their more ruthless competitors certainly will make that move.
You know, part of being an organism in the universe involves navigating obstacles and pressures and adapting to changing conditions. If, as a human, I lose utility within a market, I need to find a way to make myself valuable again. I have to adapt, the same as my ancestors before me adapted to changes in their environments, some of which must have seemed extremely unfair. Rather than whining and complaining about them (which they may have done to some extent), they rose up and overcame. They adapted, they made themselves useful to their environment; their social environment.
The world is going to change around you. It is, and it does everyday. Yet somehow, we carry on. We overcome challenges. That’s what evolution, and life really, are all about. Yes; we use technology to adapt the environment to us; however, if we can’t do that, we must adapt to the environment, physically and socially. Make yourself useful, find a way to prove your utility. Don’t ask the world to give you a booster seat; make one yourself if you must have one.
Therefore, the only true, logical and responsible solution in this scenario – is to remove the labor for income system itself – hence removing the market – and evolving to a new kind of economic interaction.
And exactly what-the-fuck kind of system would that be, huh? Removing labor for income? We have to feed ourselves. Why don’t you take it up with whoever made it so that we need to refuel ourselves. “Damn you, universe, you oppressive whore!”
In an economic system which inherently generates class stratification and overall inequity, how can the effects of “Structural Violence” – a phenomenon noted by public health researchers to kill well over 18 million a year, generating a vast range of systemic detriments such as behavioral, emotional and physical disorders – be minimized or even removed as an effect?
Let’s simplify this question, as we have done with the other two. What is he actually asking? “In an economic system which inherently generates class stratification and overall inequity” Oh, god, Peter! Haven’t you been paying attention? You have yet to demonstrate that the market actually does generate inequality. You’ve just assumed it at the gate. “In a system that makes people super poor, how can we eliminate the effects inherent to poverty?” You’re begging the question again! You can’t just state that the market does something and then use that statement as your evidence that the market does what you say it does. Science doesn’t work that way.
Many today talk about the horror of unnecessary death and suffering. From dramatic accidents – to psychopathic behavioral violence – to historical genocides…wars…and other atrocities. In this, we might notice a kind of moral relativism in what society prioritizes as most condemnable… most often highlighting visceral, human vs. human behavioral violence, rather than taking a more objective view – of the relevant and preventable threats to our lives and well being.
Statistically, if we really wish to be comprehensive in locating the most prominent, ubiquitous, and unnecessary causes of death and suffering in the world, we would discover one main catalyst:
Class inequality and low socioeconomic status. Class inequality and low socioeconomic status trump every other form of violence and public threat – hands down. The leading cause of death on the planet earth is relative and absolute poverty. Period.
Uh… wait a minute… How does “poverty” necessarily trump “living” as a cause of death in this regard? I mean, why ‘poverty?’ Why not, ‘anything else that happens to correlate to an arbitrary group of people whom have higher than average death rates?’
However, I understand the idea. And poverty does predispose one to a stressful life and therefore increases your likelihood of having an early death due to a heart problem, or a lung problem brought on by a smoking habit due to other social and ‘quote-unquote’ “class” related issues. But does that mean that ‘poverty’ is the underlying… cause?
So what causes poverty? What prevents people from satisfying their needs and wants? Why can’t you find work?
But really, I almost feel as though all of this is ignoring one main issue. Does the market even generate “class warfare” and exponential inequality? I’ve yet to hear a convincing case that it does.
Every single year, the near equivalent of 2 holocausts – nearly 20 million people  – are killed by the inefficiency inherent to the market economy and its mathematical inevitability to create large class divisions and resulting human deprivation…
SO you claim that the market is responsible for the deaths of nearly 20 million people. Holy shit… where do I even start? For one, remember how you’re including every single economic system in the world as part of the market system? Remember also, how you say that heart disease and other stress related health issues are also a direct result of the market system? Well that’s probably where you’re getting all the numbers from. If the entire world somehow counts as the market system, and if the most prevalent health problems on the planet can ultimately be said to be caused by poverty (which is based on some shaky logic at best), and further, if you suppose that the market inherently generates poverty…, then perhaps you’d be right to claim that the market is “directly” responsible for all that death.
But the entire world is not a ‘market’ system. Those health issues are caused by any number of different factors, Peter, that you’re apparently all-too eager to bypass in favor of a more reductionist narrative. But, hey! Generalizations will solve all of our woes. We won’t miss any potential important subtleties by throwing everything into an enormous box, right? That could never happen! Especially not to the prestigious Peter Joseph! He’s the only one allowed to make generalizations this fucking gargantuan and not lose any credibility. But… how much was really there to begin with?
In this, there are two types of deprivation to note: Absolute and Relative. Absolute deprivation is what the billion people currently not getting their basic nutritional needs, are experiencing. This kind of deprivation is about basic physical needs not being met and hence the manifestation of sickness and premature mortality due to a lack of resources and options.
OK, so why don’t we call it ‘physical deprivation?’ Look, I understand the appeal of coining new phrases and terms. I have a bunch of my own that are sitting on the backburner of my mind waiting to find validation. But, in this case, I think you fucked up.
Relative Deprivation – has to do with the mental, emotional and physical disorders that result, from the stress of simply existing in the lower tiers of a wealth imbalanced society.
Mental deprivation would work too, wouldn’t it? I mean, physical deprivation, mental deprivation… makes sense to me. I’m actually a bit confused why you would have chosen the word ‘relative’ to describe mental/emotional deprivation. When I think of ‘relatively’ deprived, I think of different degrees of deprivation. You know, I’m deprived… relative to George Lopez and George Lopez is deprived relative to George Clooney and George Clooney is deprived relative to George W and third-world Jim is deprived relative to me. That’s what relativity means. It’s a term relating to points of reference; it doesn’t describe differences between physical and immaterial objects or ideas. I almost feel as though I’m misunderstanding something here because of this whole ‘relative’ thing.
But what if these terms, ‘absolute’ and ‘relative’ deprivation aren’t original to you? Well, then I apologize to you and project my laughter at whomever is responsible!
For example, numerous studies that compare public health outcomes from one country to another, based on the level of inequality in that country, have found that those with the least amount of behavior violence, the least amount of general crime, infant deaths, drug addictions, heart disease, many cancers, obesity, high blood pressure, low life expectancy, depression, general mental illness and many other – reduced problems – also have lower wealth inequality by comparison.
Could you maybe elaborate on this a bit? I tried to check your source, but it honestly wasn’t a very helpful way to try and figure out what figures you’re referring to, or how the studies were conducted. I’ll bet you that it was based on government statistics. As you must know, governments have all the incentive in the world to be totally honest and open about the state of their citizens.
On the other hand, I’ll grant you that there may be more statistical inequality in countries with more open markets, but there is a reason for this as well and it has to do with wealth redistribution.
I’ve decided to cap this whole analysis off with a sort of secondary essay. During which, I’ll explore the concept of market generated wealth inequality, as well as touching on a couple other points.
Carry on now, my wayward grasshopper.
Put together, these two forms of deprivation – constitute what is called “Structural Violence” – which is a systemic form of violence, that is typically not what many think of when we consider the idea of “violence” in general.
I’ll put it this way:
If I put a gun to your head and kill you, we would all agree it is a direct act of mortality producing violence.
If I run a company that decides to save money by covertly dumping toxic waste into your town’s water supply – and then three years later a group of you in town get cancer and die from that pollution – I think we would all agree, that it is also an act of mortality producing violence, but more indirect and less obvious in intent.
Peter, if you put a gun to my head and pull the trigger, how do I know that that act wasn’t itself the result of ‘structural violence?’ Maybe you didn’t have a choice because you were pushed to that point by the violence within the system? What if people start blaming structural violence for their own personal violent behavior?
There is violence embedded within the system, yes. In fact, in some ways you might say that the system is founded on violence. But how? If we are going to say that there is violence within the system, and we are going to set out to fix it, we should be able to diagnose where the problems rest. Why might a business – which consists of people who make decisions – decide that it is OK to dump toxic waste or sewage in a river? There isn’t some sort of mathematical inevitability that forces business to pollute the environment, alright? In the end, it’s people that make these sorts of decisions. Why is it, Peter, that a business must inevitably exploit people and destroy the environment? What pressures are being applied to “business” that are not also applied to other individuals, groups and in general, organisms that causes them to act in such a, apparently, unique manner? The profit motive? Because, I’ve been saying and providing logical evidence for the idea that a profit incentive is embedded within the entirety of biological systems. So, again, why must a business inevitably pollute and exploit, and why does the incentive to pollute and exploit not also apply to all other organisms?
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that evolutionary and cultural selection pressures (which are also evolutionary, but more focused) apply uniformly to all organisms across the board. I don’t at all believe that to be the case. I do believe that there are different pressures that apply to different systems, and that those different pressures will induce different systems (individual or groups) to behave differently. But Peter, you seem to believe that business is inherently different than other systems. My question is, ‘why?’ What pressures does a business inherently face that other organisms and groups do not?
Keep in mind that I’m planning on capping this whole thing off with an exploration of the origins of politics, government and commerce. When I do, I’ll delve into this topic and try to flesh it out and connect it back in with this. It will be important.
Likewise, it is now well established that people with low socioeconomic status are much more likely to die of heart disease those in upper classes  . It is a known fact that the toxic condition of simply being poor, due to both absolute and relative influences (physical and mental/emotional), manifests this disease, amongst many others.
This is generally true. Being poor can be and often is highly stressful. I’m quite familiar with the crippling stress and anxiety that can often come with being unable to find financial stability. To me, however, it’s less about making money and more about finding my niche. Being poor is stressful. Constantly having my efforts frustrated by a complete inability to integrate myself into the market and find validation for my skills, knowledge, experience and goals? Absolutely gut-wrenching.
Do you have any idea how many barriers that the government has erected to block market entry? Do you know how many licenses and fees and hurdles and hoops and applications there are? For a lot of industries, you won’t even be considered for a position unless you’ve taken all the appropriate classes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a prodigy; it doesn’t matter whether you have unlimited aptitude – if you haven’t spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of your life sitting through lectures and enduring a diet of pop-tarts and Ramen noodles for months on end in desperate pursuit of accreditation, you’re not good enough and that’s that.
Add on top of that, minimum wage. Which further blocks off unskilled labor from entering the market, honing skills and learning new ones.
Poor socioeconomic status sucks. I definitely know that. But there is a secret about being poor that the aristocracy doesn’t want you to know. Poverty breeds economic discipline.
I’ll preface this portion with the statement that I don’t by any means support intentionally keeping people impoverished. For some reason that’s what people think when I talk about this.
But, yes: poverty breeds economic discipline. It has everything to do with evolution and the selection pressures present within the immediate environment. Poor people face pressure to conserve what little resources they have and extend them. They must also come up with ways to earn money, often familiarizing themselves with manual labor, which furthers their understanding of what goes into whatever type of work they’re performing. Shocking, right? They refine skills and make themselves useful TO their environment; their social environment. They learn how to understand the demands of people, primarily, by serving people. Their question is “how can I make myself of use to the people around me?”
Growing up poor, I had to get used to conservative behavior. We turned off the lights that weren’t in use. We insulated our house from the cold winter weather. We scraped the bottom of the food containers. We grew our own garden and my father developed a skilled craft. My parents were broke when they got married and relied on a lot of help from friends and family in those first few years. But my grandfather and father both knew that relying on handouts was not how to gain independence and achieve life goals. Other people couldn’t afford to subsidize my parents forever, so they knew that they had to figure something out. So out of necessity, pressurized necessity, my parents developed the skills that would allow them to find (relative) independent success in society; providing product and service to people around them.
Often in history, you’ll find that the groups that consistently faced the most difficult economic conditions were the quickest to find relatively large amounts of economic success once their opportunities broadened. Groups that are consistently faced with the same types of pressures will learn to adapt to – or otherwise accommodate – those pressures.
In short, it’s the physics of biological systems that possess inherent adaptability to their environments. It’s the physics of a self-replicating chemical reaction cascading over an environment. It will behave like water and conform to changes if it is permitted to do so. If it does not (or cannot, like, if is is prevented from doing so by exterior cultural forces), it does not endure.
And yet, when people do die as such, rarely does someone bring up the idea of indirect violence or, more accurately – “structure violence”.
Why? -because the outcome can only be measures by statistics across a population – and not deduced from any singular case. So, it is counterintuitive to our education.
Right. I agree with the concept of being unfamiliar with something that isn’t directly tied to our everyday experiences. We only become familiarized with things that our experience encompasses. Since most people tend not to live much more than… 100 years, to be generous, they will not be privy to the patterns that resound at a much lower frequency, like, say, the rise and fall of civilizations: the phases that each one seems to go through. And it’s also true that we can’t see the entire planet at once; with all it’s intertwining stories and interrelated mechanisms, and so such things can catch us by surprise.
But yet, there is no principled difference between being killed by a gun shot to the head; being poisoned by a companies pollution…or dying of heart disease because of the causal chain reaction set in motion by the economic system – A system that artificially generates economic inequality and poverty – inevitably forcing some people to exist in the toxic condition of low socio economic status.
Keep in mind, Peter, that you believe the planet to be bound by the exact same set of “market” principles. Labor for income (inherent to biology), the fact that the things we use have value to us (also inherent to biology), and competition (once again, inherent to biology). So somehow, this terrible market system has infected the entire globe uniformly, even though it is unnatural, and relies on mechanics that pre-exist in evolutionary biological systems. This is problematic, for reasons that should be logically apparent.
If the violence within our current system is truly unnatural, as you suggest it is, and if the three “market principles” that you put forward as inherent to market functions are inherent to biology (or natural), as I believe I have shown with relative conclusiveness that they are, then you’re left right back where you started: knowing something is wrong, but not knowing where the problem rests. If you have not yet determined where the problem rests, Peter, how can you be confident that your solution won’t compound the problems?
Peter, as you know, our history is absolutely rife with examples of people with genuine good intentions who, in an attempt to make the world better, steamrolled right overtop of the goals and desires of other people, creating bitter enemies in the process. People who think – genuinely believe, in fact – that they’re changing the world for the better. But they’re not. Why? Because they have the power to change the world and recreate it in their image, yet they do not understand the world as it is – the physics of energy in motion.
Our primary disagreement here, once we peel back the layers, is where these problems originate. I say that they originate with the human desire to mold the world according to our imagination and the desire to make others act in a manner that is determined by us or our friends or associates. Most everybody has this desire to a degree, but most of us aren’t ever placed in a position where we have the power to force people to do what we want them to. Tell me, Petey, can you find such strongly centralized authority anywhere in nature?
And you will notice I said “Artificial” – because this poverty is not inevitable or some immutable natural law of the human society – just as shooting you with a gun is not inevitable – and just as polluting your water supply is not inevitable. The class system we endure today is a product of the market system and it CAN be removed, along with the 2 holocausts occurring every year because of it. This may not have been true in the past – but it is true today, given modern technological capacity to create an abundance.
Create an abundance!?!? I thought the market wanted scarcity, bro!
So the poverty inherent to the market is not inevitable, huh? Well, first of all, we haven’t even close to firmly established that the market is inherently impoverishing. In fact, it’s my hope that we’re beginning to stray away from that narrative. If all it takes to create a market system are those three elements that already exist as part of physics and biology, labor, useable resources (that require labor to benefit from), and competition for those non-infinite resources… (because, you know, more than one organism needs them…) and yet, the market inherently generates poverty, and yet, poverty is not inevitable… than it appears we are missing some vital information. Unless of course, you’re just dead fucking wrong. I’m willing to bet that the cause of poverty and vast human suffering still remains a mystery to you. I hope I can help out with that. I genuinely do.
The fact is, low socio economic status is the leading cause of death on planet earth.
Sigh. Poverty is too goddamned ambiguous to be considered a direct cause of death. Does it play a role? It certainly does; but then again, so does virtually everything else we can possibly do.
Wealth is a cause of death too, you see, because people die in plane crashes and race car crashes and sky-diving accidents. Ya hearin’ me? It’s too damned ambiguous. It doesn’t actually provide us with any valuable, utilizable information about the world.
And what does that mean by extension? – if economic inequality and the inevitable poverty inherent is actually technically unnecessary and merely a structural outcome of the market economy itself… then it means the market system – is the leading cause of unnecessary death on the planet today.
But we still haven’t established that the market will inevitably lead to poverty and exponential inequality among individuals. You’re jumping the gun. You’ve made several extremely broad generalizations over the course of this lecture, but have thus far failed to back up your claims with anything more than presumption. But I know it sounds edgy and hip to go around talking about how the market is the leading cause of death. Very intellectual.
So back to the question:
In an economic system which inherently generates class stratification and overall inequity, how can the effects of “Structural Violence” – a phenomenon noted by public health researchers to kill well over 18 million a year, generating a vast range of systemic detriments such as behavioral, emotional and physical disorders – be minimized or even removed as an effect?
The answer, of course, is it can’t be removed. It’s built in and as long as we have the market, the 2 holocausts occurring a year will likely only turn into 3 – 4 and so on, as population increases, along with the rise in extreme economic inequality we are seeking every year, which shows no sign of slowing.
As far as it being minimized, as many in the world today are trying to assist, this could occur with wealth reallocation – say though taxation or the like…but even if this was done, its effect would be minimal as it still does nothing to address the true, structural source of the problem. It would be a mere patch.
Oh, god! Peter! What counts as wealth reallocation to you? Huh? OK, we’ll try this: How much wealth reallocation is there in the world today? How much has there been throughout history? You propose wealth reallocation as a ‘patch,’ but wealth reallocation is the problem! Those who have the power to take without asking and to force other people to do what they want them to, just as it seems you, yourself, wish to do. Sonofabitch! What are the most impoverished countries? What do their governments decree? Look at political history, real political and economic history. Look at the policies that were implemented! Look at the way’s that various countries throughout history conducted their activities and look at what happened as a result. The power to take things by force, the power to tax and whimsically reallocate wealth, the power to get away with murder! Who possesses that power? Who is the most likely to get away with murder? Who can wage wars and decimate entire populations with impunity? Businesses? Or governments?
Look, giving MORE power to the people that have already demonstrated an incredible amount of irresponsibility with said power WILL. NOT. FIX. ANYTHING. That kind of power is the problem. Why? It has to do with physics, evolution and the path of least resistance.
Remember how I said that organisms want to improve their circumstances? All organisms? Well when you lift one group above another and give them power, it becomes easier for the empowered group to improve their own conditions at the expense of others. What a fucking revelation, right?! So what happens is that there becomes less organic resistance to their power-grab because they now have the “authority” to do things that ‘normal’ people can’t. They have privileges that others don’t. It’s simple physics. It’s social physics.
Not to mention, that the odds of this occurring at all is deeply improbable. As any such direct action would inherently be working against the very nature of free-market theory, which assumes market action itself is self-regulating…and any legal or state imposition is considered wrong.
Well, that’s because when the state steps in, negotiations are essentially over. They can steal things with impunity, remember? And the “state” is run by people. What an extraordinary concept!
And the market is self-regulating, Peter: because humans are self-regulating. Unfortunately, the state has the sway to suspend and ignore self-regulating pressures and feedback loops. Remember how the state has always been involved? And not just involved, no; at times the state has been able to control practically every aspect of a person’s life. The state decided whether you were fit to survive or unfit. The state, some form of ruler or government has virtually always plundered, murdered and in general molested the lowly peasants. Oh, but that’s not the problem, is it Peter? No, the problem, in the eyes of Mr Joseph here, occurs when the lowly peasants begin to trade eggs for wheat. Because that’s selfish! Heavens forbid that individuals should be allowed to freely exchange things that they’ve worked for! Heavens forbid that individuals be allowed to discover how to get along with each other peacefully without being jerked around by high-horsed authorities with shiny armor and ICBM’s.
And btw, if you are one of those people who says we don’t have a free-market today – that we have state coercion and crony capitalism – please watch my lecture “Origins and Adaptations Part II” from the University of Toronto from 2014, along with my Berlin Lecture “Economic Calculation in a NLRBE at the– as I counter the nonsense that what we have today is anything but a pure free-market – in the most exact sense of those terms – meaning the freedom to restrict the freedom of others.
Dude, fuck you! Don’t be juvenile. Are you trying to understand things? Or are you only trying to preach?
Who has the “freedom to restrict the freedoms of others” right now anyway? Can you guess? Oh that’s right, it’s the state. The state. This is one of the most simplistic and idiotic counterarguments to the free market. It is based on a childish, naive misunderstanding of the ideology. ‘Free market’ means that I don’t have the authority to make you do what I want you too. A free market emphasizes mutual respect for people. The pressure you feel to act in a certain way when you’re out with your friends, to treat them with dignity and respect.
“Oh, here I go, out to restrict the freedoms of others.” Oh, nice. How do you expect that to go? “Oh, well I expect that everybody is going to love me for being a bossy busybody bully! They certainly won’t tell me to go away. They won’t stand on their porch with a baseball bat when they see me strolling up their walkway. People love it when I encroach upon their space and use their toilet while they’re asleep in bed.”
You know, what I find so ironic about this whole thing is that the concept of communism is based entirely on encroaching upon personal freedoms. In a true communism, are you allowed to prevent another person from walking into your house, using your toilet and raiding your refrigerator? Can you go to a music festival and take a nap in any tent you happen to stumble upon? Do you have a right to use the walking stick you carved or do you have to give it away to somebody else as soon as it’s done? Why do they get it? Fuck it.
No, you do not have the ‘freedom to restrict the freedom of others.’ That logic is self-defeating. It’s like saying that you have the freedom to involuntary servitude. It doesn’t make sense. Once you restrict the freedoms of others, they’re not fucking free anymore and you’re back to square one.
The ability of others to defend themselves as well as my desire to be sociable and make friends are pressure on me to refrain from encroaching on others…. Which I do in order to better my overall appreciation for life. See? My desire to improve my own life leads me to get along with other people. Wow, what a concept! Feedback loops, gingerqueef!
As far as your lecture ‘Origins and Adaptations II’ is concerned, please listen to the addendum at the end of this analysis… which will be very very soon.
Now, I am going to stop here.
These three questions are my challenge to you.
Each question poses a challenge to the very basis of the market system itself and if any of you out there can answer these questions and explain long term resolutions – without the removal of the market economy – I certainly want to hear it. Simply make a video response, post it, and send it to the link below.
And please, everyone – share this video everywhere. These are the questions every news show and socially conscious media outlet, activist personality or the like should be addressing. Again, If you support TZM, please take time to post via social networks, forums, blogs, email lists -whatever. I especially would like to hear from the anti-zeitgeist movement community as well. “What do you propose?”
One way or another, until these questions are answered and the problems resolved – the world is on pace to increasing disorder and breakdown.
Thank you for your time.
Now Peter, during your presentation you spoke a lot about the inherent inevitability of the market to “generate poverty.” I want to address this claim specifically, as well as hopefully delving into the origins of government and commerce. Unfortunately, I think this topic is entirely too massive, requiring examinations into many compounding factors and issues, so I doubt that I’ll be able to present anything Earth-shattering here. However, it is my hope that I will be able to raise enough tough questions that it might, perhaps, induce you into thinking about the issue in a slightly different way. Basically, I’m just presenting a few things for you to consider. Remember, we’re both trying to help diagnose the economic and societal problems that are facing us today. We both recognize the current system as destructive and unsustainable, but we have different perceptions of where the problems originate. And, to be honest, I’m still not exactly sure what you believe to be the underlying problem. Many of the things that you point to as being problematic and in need of eradication I view as being inherent to physics and evolution.
Now, what do I believe to be the underlying problem? In oversimplified terms; incessant bullying. Bullying is what underpins nearly every social issue in the world today. Bullying assisted the arrival of the state and bullying is the motivation of wars. Now that’s not to say that bullying needs to be completely eradicated either. I realize that that’s likely impossible, and in reality, if we were to completely 100% eliminate bullying, I believe it would be harmful for the simple fact that bullying can lead the bullied to toughen up and not be so sensitive. I was picked on fairly regularly throughout my teenage life and into my 20’s. As a result, I learned not to take things so seriously and I realized that often, my bullies were just having what they thought of as harmless fun. However, should my bullies have had the power and resources to force or encourage others to bully me as well, and to prevent me from escaping, their simple bullying would have turned into something akin to a government. (What’s a run-on sentence?)
Now to say that ‘all problems come down to simple bullying’ might be a bit hasty, and there are other factors often at play, such as fear, incompatible human goals, and sometimes indifference. The indifference that politicians feel when they send soldiers to massacre a village or whatever. But bullying… incessant, socially approved bullying in the sense that it is constant and inescapable, is largely responsible for the “structural violence” that you point out. Bullying underpins the groundwork of government power. (does that make sense?)
But wait! We still haven’t explored the origins of government! Now, you claim that the market, which you define as involving labor for income, trade of goods and resources, and competition among participants is what gives rise to government.
Labor for income, as I already explained, is inherent to biology. Everything must exert energy in order to gain anything at all. It’s an inescapable reality of the universe we inhabit. As for the trade of goods and resources, I’m pretty sure that every organism values different resources in some way and to some degree. Bees value flowers, beavers value solid lumber and conveyer belts, moles value worms and blah blah blah I could go on. Because we have certain goals and values, the materials within our world that help us to achieve those goals will also have value to us. Again, it is an inescapable certainty of living within the universe that we do. Competition is also inherent to the biological realm for the simple reason that more than one organism utilizes the same kinds of resources. Also, a quick note: to assume that unbridled competition will create exponential hostility is hasty. People have different goals, yes, but we can also and do often in fact have similar goals. Because our goals can often be similar, cooperation is an inevitable certainty of a free market. In this sense, cooperation can mean that different companies who supply completely different things, and who might also be on different sides of the planet, can cooperate to achieve goals.
I keep getting distracted, which is why I’m having such a difficult time making this thing eloquent and succinct. Anyway, Petey, as far as class stratification goes; you say that it arises as a result of market mechanics? Well, I can point to a whole slew of animal groups that are socially stratified despite not having a free market. Gorillas, Wolves, Hippos, Horses, Chickens, etc. etc.. They’re not trading goods on a market, although they are indeed still trading ideas, workloads, and the like. Freeloading is practically absent from the animal kingdom. Every organism – every group member – plays a part. Every individual performs a task or service that in some way helps the group as a whole. So despite there not being a trade of goods or an exchange of money, there are other types of exchanges occurring on a regular basis. But please, pay especially close attention to the fact that every individual organism in the animal kingdom in some way serves other group members. But hey, that’s the totalitarianism of the free market, right? You can do anything; you can get rewarded for anything, as long as it is valued by other group members. That’s the market! See, to me, and I might be unique in this regard, I’m not sure yet, but to me, the market is all-encompassing. I, personally, would coin three different terms for the market. One to describe the currently accepted mechanics, one to describe the relationships that bees have with flowers and that wolves have with moose, and a final one to describe the conservation of energy. Market principles are at work everywhere in the universe, Peter. They’re inescapable, just like labor for income. When a Gamma ray strikes an electron, I view that as a market transaction. But again, I said that I would need a new term in order to avoid the inevitable confusion that it would otherwise elicit.
But are you understanding what I’m saying? Basically, the market system that you so despise is an inseparable component of the universe itself. The conservation of energy logically necessitates labor for income, at least in regards to biological systems.
OK, now that I’ve got you completely confused, it’s the perfect time to strike! What is politics? Answer? Politics is our relationships; our friendships and our preferences; the way we glean value and appreciation for and from others. Consequently, I have no problem with simple politics. However, once you factor bullying into the equation, simple politics begins to look more like government. Once the relatively more powerful group starts using it’s superior power, whether physical or psychological, to bully individuals into submitting to it’s will, it’s started on the path to statehood.
Notice here, however, that government is not needed in order for bullying to persist? Notice how this can happen within a group of three 8-year old kids? But what might be the motivation for bullying each other in the first place? Jockeying for social niches, perhaps?
To begin to answer this, I present you with a wolf pack. At the head of the pack is the alpha pair. The alpha male isn’t always the strongest, but he will be the most respected. Strength, however, while not necessary to attain leadership, is certainly helpful toward that end. The alpha will be more adept at performing a vital task that supports the longevity of the group than most other group members. The alpha female will also generally be adept at performing a similarly vital role.
The beta wolves make up the vast majority of any pack, which is generally a family unit of sorts and is very nepotistic. Sound familiar? Like a fucking monarchy. At the very bottom of the social hierarchy is the omega, or the omegas competing for beta-ship. The omega is generally the smallest, or weakest, or in some way less adept at performing vital group roles than the rest of the pack. So what can we deduce about the origins of politics from examining the stratified social structure of wolves? Any guesses? If you said that it’s all contingent upon their ability to perform vital group functions, you’d be correct! Dingdingdingding!
For millions upon millions of years, our ancestors struggled to survive in an extremely inhospitable wilderness, unforgiving and calloused. Food was scarce. Safety was elusive. Thus, the group members that proved adept at serving in those vital roles would have been valued, highly, by the group members. Conversely, those that were less capable of performing valuable roles – fulfilling vital niches – earned less favor from the group. This is the origin of politics, and simultaneously, the origin of bullying. Though it would be irresponsible of me if, at this point, I neglected to point out that this wasn’t something that occurred overnight. It was built piece-by-piece over the course of millions of years. Thus, to use the word ‘origin’ in this sense is not entirely accurate.
But it seems apparent to me that class stratification is the result of the inherent abilities of individuals to provide valuable services and roles to their society, increasing it’s potential for longevity: it’s inertia. Today, those who receive the most social emulation and value are performing roles that we as a society value. Musicians, athletes, etc..
But does this mean that class stratification is ultimately good? No, not inherently. Although, in a world largely devoid of technology and the flexibility that it brings, there are certain skills and aptitudes that would, perhaps, not serve a vital role. For example, if you’re group is struggling to simply feed themselves and stay protected from other groups, it would be a waste if one of the group members decided to pursue philosophy. Now, obviously, I don’t believe philosophy to be worthless; however, I can acknowledge the fact that philosophy in such a setting would be of little-to-no immediate value. The ground is not yet fertile enough for philosophical thought. A philosopher in such a setting would almost certainly find himself struggling on the bottom of the social hierarchy, not because philosophy is not valuable, but again, because in that setting, it does not help further the immediate survival goals of the group.
Today, the world is a lot different. The undercutting of human labor costs as a result of technological development is the very reason that we are even capable of pursuing philosophy and the “higher sciences.” Look, people in the stone age weren’t dipshits. They knew their environment very well, and they knew what their most immediate needs were far better than we do. It’s easy to sit here from our comfortable technologically advanced armchair society and cast judgment on our ancestors for not being more civilized, but we forget that they didn’t have the same opportunities. You’re not going to sit around all day contemplating the meaning of life when you’re too busy worrying about being eaten by a fucking tiger, or trying to find your next food source. E=MC2 would have been utterly useless knowledge in a stone-age setting. You have to build your society up to the point where such knowledge can find fertile ground.
It makes me think of a bin we have here at my school. It says “Donate books for Africa.” While it certainly is a noble cause, I wonder how effective it actually is. I mean, in our society a textbook on sociology might be of considerable interest to us. However, that might not be the case in Africa and it would have nothing to do with an ability or lack of ability to comprehend the material. It would be due, instead, to the fact that their focus should be elsewhere, like on the most pressing issues. Learning quantum physics does you no good when you’re drowning. Once you’re no longer at risk of drowning, you can pursue the art of mathematics.
So what am I trying to say? I’m trying to say that all of these pressures come together and make things a lot more complicated and intertwined than we like to think. While making somebody do something that they don’t want to do is frowned upon now, way back in the day it may have been necessary. What makes it unnecessary today is the fact that our technology has given us the flexibility to branch out and discover other ways to make ourselves useful in our social environment. Instead of the main occupational niches being hunting and fending off other hostile groups, our undercutting of human labor costs with technology has opened up new, applicable niches. So the survival mechanism that helped us survive and eventually escape the jungle is what caused social stratification, and technology has allowed us to get away from that necessity and still survive, and in fact, flourish… relatively speaking.
But I still wonder what other self-regulating mechanisms were at work in those dark jungle-esque days. Why would a validated “leader” become occupied barking commands and keeping members in line? Wouldn’t that be a waste of time and energy? Wouldn’t it be much better if members just knew what they were supposed to do and did it? Like ants? Like bone marrow cells? Why would they have any desire to pursue things that didn’t help the overall longevity and sustainability of the group? Why would a group leader or ruler be compelled to go out of his way to castigate other members? It seems a very inefficient utilization of aggregate energy.
So, I begin to ponder the dynamics of mixing groups, whether through warfare or trade, or an anomalous crossover of the two. I feel like government as we know it, requiring bullying and threats to keep people in line, may have arisen as a result of pre-stone-age imperialism, rather than having singular causal roots in the dynamics of ingroup relationships. What if ‘government’ is the result of our natural ingroup dynamics colliding with the natural ingroup dynamics of an outgroup? I think I may be onto something here!
Now, perhaps this gives you some food for thought on the origin of government, as well as some fertilizer for considering the causes of exponential social stratification. But there is something else I want to inject into this consideration, if you have the leftover patience.
You claim that the market generates increasing wealth inequality. I want to make this as quick as possible, so I’ll just say that the market appears to generate inequality because of the parasitic command structures that sit atop of every economy. Governments tax and reallocate the wealth that is produced by the people. When a market is more pluralistic and inclusive, more people participate and wealth creation is exponential…ish. So what does this mean? Well, let’s see… Governments tax their people. Check. Markets create wealth. Check. Increasing market plurality increases generated wealth. Check. So, the more pluralistic and inclusive a market becomes, the more wealth it will generate. The more wealth it generates, the more wealth government can scrape off the top. Also, the more wealth a market generates, the more tempting it will be for the command structure to hijack more wealth. Take imperial England for example. The glorious revolution opened up the market in England as it had never been opened before and as a result, productivity skyrocketed. Because productivity in England skyrocketed, the English crown also became more wealthy, because, you know, more wealth existed to be reallocated. This enabled the English government to finance their massive imperialist military. It’s the same with the US today. Open markets generate a lot of wealth. Government’s inherently hijack wealth. Therefore, the government presiding over an inclusive, open market will, what-do-you-know, be able to hijack a lot of wealth. This will allow them to use that wealth for their own purposes throughout the globe, especially in comparison to countries that have less open markets. Why? Because countries with closed markets can’t hijack wealth that isn’t created.
In short, it’s not the markets and it’s not the technology. It’s the bullies who turn the wealth generated by the market against the people who make up the market.
The only way for us to run out of resources is to maintain or increase our current disconnect with the market and nature. That ‘totalitarianism’ of the market that I keep hearing about is, in reality, the totalitarianism of life itself. The need to feed ourselves; the fact that we still bleed if we’re cut, these serve to remind us that we’re not separate from nature. The price mechanism – when the price of something goes up, you scream about companies being greedy. In reality, you should understand that the price increase is a signal about the world. Market signals, especially the price mechanism, connect us to our world in the same way that nerves connect my consciousness with my environment. When I start to feel a hurt, or an increase in prices, it’s a signal to alter my behavior. And it’s not totalitarianism! It’s the reality of a changing environment; of a universe in motion!
Please, please keep in mind that I’m not defending oligarchical imperialism when I defend the market. Without the incessant bullying of government and empowered asshats, I fully believe that most largescale institutional problems would vanish. Now, there will always be molehills to overcome, and within an uncaring universe in constant motion, problems will arise. We will be faced with new pressures and adversity to navigate, but that’s good, all things considered. I consider a little adversity to be like a workout. An exorbitant, society-wide case of incessant bullying at every turn can be backbreaking, but a small amount of localized bullying can be surmounted. And indeed, that’s what evolution is all about: overcoming challenges, learning and growing. Becoming something more than you were yesterday.
The root of your ‘structural violence’ rests with government’s perceived right to push people around.
That’s it for me. I sincerely hope that you’ve stayed and listened to the whole thing, because if you didn’t, I’ll be butthurt. Peace out!