Saturday, 18 July 2015

oh weal, oh woe and quid pro quo, so little time, so much to know

Via the peripatetic par excellence Dangerous Minds, comes this interesting and provocative book review from the Guardian of the encroaching post-capitalist era that’s taking place almost despite of ourselves. I hope against hope that the prognosis and synthesis is correct—that it is time for us to be utopians and maybe no longer be ingrates to the comforts that we’ve inherited that past visionaries would have surely deemed realised. The capitalists system is failing us and will moreover be our downfall if not more carefully mitigated, but it seems that no lessons from the distant or recent past have made much of an impression. I fear that revolutionaries and reformers have woefully underestimated the insidiously opportunist and adaptive nature of their opponent. The wealth gap, the disparity between rich and poor, is a significant measure—but I am starting to think that it is only that, a measure.

While certainly a problem and has enabled modern day slavery and serfdom to continue and grow unabated, I wonder if computer-generated alternatives, the sharing economy won’t just be creating more capitalist-controls in different guises. The creation of markets always results in winners and losers. Something that’s very dear but dangerously under-priced I think might be the engine that keeps the old system of avarice going. Governments and corporate influence through lobbying comes cheap and it’s the working classes and environment that pay. Peddling a little influence has led to massive deregulation and a virtual defanging of those mechanism meant to protect those loser disadvantaged by emerging markets, off-shoring, outsourcing, tax avoidance (that makes the position of the scoff-laws stronger) and most importantly, in my opinion, the dismantling and privatisation of public institutions and services contracted out. The battlefield is littered with all sorts of examples that have resulted in monumental miscarriages of the public good—from mercenaries in Iraq to the horrendous response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans—but the phenomenon perhaps most disturbing and far-reaching consequences is the breakdown of the educational system with rising tuition costs, for-profit colleges, defunding public schools, and sponsored educational material. Without even addressing the hardships and degradations that teachers face, the students themselves are matriculating into a system where competition goes unquestioned (because the classes are over-priced but obviously will deliver the same riches in kind upon graduation) and critical thinking is discouraged in favour of obsequiousness and thus the system is perpetuated. What do you think? Can the Sharing Economy run rings around old-money or will computers simply put us all out of our jobs?