Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


DIE
March 18, 2009 12:10 PM   Subscribe

LET IT DIE: Douglas Rushkoff on the Economy.
posted by homunculus (163 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm sure there's really smart things to be said about the inherent dangers of an economic system predicated on infinite growth. This doesn't seem to include any of them, however.

Still, the irony of being told to buy a book on Amazon.Com that will tell me how essentially evil it is to participate in the corporate world of profit making has its enjoyable side.
posted by yoink at 12:26 PM on March 18, 2009 [21 favorites]


Back in the good ol’ days—I mean as far back as the late middle ages—people just did business with each other.
The "Serf, gather my grain and I won't kill you" business was particularly vibrant in this period.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:26 PM on March 18, 2009 [44 favorites]


I'm completely down with the downfall of the leisure class, just as long as I can keep on eating food and staying warm in the winter. I see people in Maine driving campers built on the same chassis as a Greyhound bus with Texas plates, or BMW sport-utility vehicles with plates from Hawaii. I catered as a barista at a wedding down in Northeast Harbor, which cost $1,500,000 to throw- the band alone was six figures. The concentration of wealth we've sen over the past two hundred years is completely unacceptable. Fuck the rich.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:27 PM on March 18, 2009 [11 favorites]


These centralized currencies worked the opposite way. They were not earned into existence, they were lent into existence by a central bank. This meant any money issued to a person or business had to be paid back to the central bank, with interest.

What does that do to an economy? It bankrupts it. Think of it this way: A business borrows 1000 dollars from the bank to get started. In ten years, say, it is supposed to pay back 2000 to the bank. Where does the other 1000 come from? Some other business that has borrowed 1000 from the bank. For one business to pay back what it owes, another must go bankrupt. That, or borrow yet another 1000, and so on.


Uh ... that's not how it works. Economics is not a zero-sum game. That $1000 can be generated through labor. And if what he's talking about were reality, then the money supply would remain constant.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:30 PM on March 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


Rushkoff needs to shut his dumb mouth. The solution to the problem is not to destroy the entire system in which the problem occurred.

A much more interesting economic topic is the Fed's stunning announcement a little while ago that the Fed is going to buy $300 billion worth of long-term Treasuries and up to $750 billion in mortgage backed securities.

I'll pause while you read that again.

This is significant for two reasons. One, the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States is going to buy Treasury bonds. It will own up to 15% of the mortgage-backed security market. In other words, the Federal Reserve is going to print money to lend it to the government. And it will be such a dominant buyer in the debt market that it will be able to influence rates. If there is a way that this does not end in a trashed dollar and massive inflation, I would really like to hear the honest straightforward mathematical explanation. Because, I honestly don't get it. I realize the market loves this, but I think we are sowing the seeds of ugliness 3-5 years down the road. Remember that after rebounding from the the 1929 crash, the market decayed until it crashed again in 1934.

Second, this demonstrates that the Fed is now completely and totally in charge of the US economy. The government and Treasury have abdicated whatever status it had. For better or worse, Bernanke controls the system, and he's changing the rules as we speak.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:30 PM on March 18, 2009 [21 favorites]


The concentration of wealth we've sen over the past two hundred years is completely unacceptable.
You need to read some history books. What egalitarian utopia are you hearkening back to?
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:32 PM on March 18, 2009 [14 favorites]


The problem, of course, is that the system is so centralized that these guys can basically hold our livelihoods hostage. We don't even know how to make our own food or clothing anymore, and the small town I grew up in which used to have a school, post office, hardware and grocery store, gas station, hair salon, cheese factory and cannery within half a mile of my house now has none of these. Now you've got to drive fifteen miles in a car (if you can afford to keep it stickered) to the chain supermarket, chain drug store, and chain hardware store. Five corporations pretty much have it all strapped down.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:33 PM on March 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


::cackles as he sharpens the blade on his guillotine::

How's the knitting coming along, Mrs. DeFarge?
posted by briank at 12:34 PM on March 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Fuck the rich.

I did, once or twice. It was...meh. Those boarding schools only teach you so much.
posted by jonmc at 12:37 PM on March 18, 2009 [48 favorites]


And while it may be temporarily uncomfortable for the rich, and even temporarily devastating for the poor, it may be the fastest and least violent way to dismantle a system set in place for the benefit of 14th Century monarchs who have long since left this earth.

"Temporarily devastating"? Starvation, malnutrition, dying of exposure, hopelessness, ignorance, violence are distilled down to a small phrase.

Christ, what an asshole. And I mean that entirely.
posted by zabuni at 12:37 PM on March 18, 2009 [12 favorites]


Fuck the rich

I love this. You really think there's any chance the rich will be fucked while others live happily ever after? I know a lot of elderly people who live very cheaply. In no world are they rich. Because of age or sickness they can no longer work. Let the markets die and they lose the roof over their head.

I'm betting the rich still stay dry though.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 12:37 PM on March 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


The great cathedrals of Europe were not paid for with money from the Vatican; they were local investments, made by small towns looking for ways to share their prosperity with future generations by creating tourist attractions.

Tourism? I thought they built cathedrals to worship in. I don' think tourism wasn't really seen as a large economic force until well after most of these structures were created. One of the greatest tourist attractions in the world, Neuschwanstein was built to sate the king's ego, nothing more. People just aren't that prescient.
posted by jester69 at 12:40 PM on March 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Let the markets die and they lose the roof over their head.

But we'll be taking down the system, man. Don't you get it? This is what, like, has to happen in order for humanity to survive!
posted by incessant at 12:41 PM on March 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm tired of people telling me I can't sell my cotton, dagnabbit!
posted by snofoam at 12:43 PM on March 18, 2009


dennis murphy: Did you read my second comment? That's the problem.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:43 PM on March 18, 2009


If you built a nice cathedral, people would come from far around to see it. They are amazing now - imagine how incredible they were then. While people were visiting your town's cathedral, they would need to eat and sleep somewhere. They also might be interested in buying things in your town to bring back home. Building a cathedral created a huge boost to the local economy.
posted by dosterm at 12:44 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, compared to most of the world, I am rich. How about fuck the REALLY rich? 'Cause that would be fine with me.
posted by snofoam at 12:44 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've also seen way too many pieces that amount to "why the current economic downturn means I'm right". I'm reminded of the old Adequacy.org piece:

Of course the World Trade Center bombings are a uniquely tragic event, and it is vital that we never lose sight of the human tragedy involved. However, we must also consider if this is not also a lesson to us all; a lesson that my political views are correct. Although what is done can never be undone, the fact remains that if the world were organised according to my political views, this tragedy would never have happened.

Many people will use this terrible tragedy as an excuse to put through a political agenda other than my own. This tawdry abuse of human suffering for political gain sickens me to the core of my being. Those people who have different political views from me ought to be ashamed of themselves for thinking of cheap partisan point-scoring at a time like this. In any case, what this tragedy really shows us is that, so far from putting into practice political views other than my own, it is precisely my political agenda which ought to be advanced.


Compare and contrast:

Alas, I’m not being sarcastic. If you had spent the last decade, as I have, reviewing the way a centralized economic plan ravaged the real world over the past 500 years, you would appreciate the current financial meltdown for what it is: a comeuppance. This is the sound of the other shoe dropping; it’s what happens when the chickens come home to roost; it’s justice, equilibrium reasserting itself, and ultimately a good thing.

I started writing a book three years ago through which I hoped to help people see the artificial and ultimately dehumanizing landscape of corporatism on which we conduct so much of our lives. It’s not just that I saw the downturn coming—it’s that I feared it wouldn’t come quickly or clearly enough to help us wake up from the self-destructive fantasy of an eternally expanding economic frontier.

posted by zabuni at 12:46 PM on March 18, 2009 [15 favorites]


There was so much extra money looking for productive investment, that people built cathedrals. The great cathedrals of Europe were not paid for with money from the Vatican; they were local investments, made by small towns looking for ways to share their prosperity with future generations by creating tourist attractions.

I don't know that this is strictly true but it sure is an interesting idea. The rest of the article just sounds like rabble-rousing. Sure, fractional banking is abstract and dissociated from concrete economy by a degree or two of remove, but to say that it is thus just plain bad is reductive.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:46 PM on March 18, 2009


Fuck the rich.

I did, once or twice. It was...meh. Those boarding schools only teach you so much.


You were clearly fucking the wrong schools.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:49 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, compared to most of the world, I am rich. How about fuck the REALLY rich? 'Cause that would be fine with me.
Just as long as poor people don't have to starve as a consequence, but I'm pretty sure they'd rather see the rest of us screwed before they give up their luxury.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:51 PM on March 18, 2009


All goofing aside, I recently watch a documentary called Born Rich about the children of the super-rich and here's my conclusions:

A few of them actually seemed like nice people born into weird circumstances and taking their money away might be the best thing you could do for them in terms of helping them develop and I don't mean that in a cruel way. Others seemed like little shits, but they'd probably been little shits if they were born poor too, they'd just have gotten away with it less.
posted by jonmc at 12:52 PM on March 18, 2009


You were clearly fucking the wrong schools.

So true, The Brearley School seal is three beavers and an oil lamp, for cryin' out loud.
posted by snofoam at 12:52 PM on March 18, 2009


In short, the less we are able to depend on business-as-usual to provide for our basic needs, the more we will be forced to provide them for ourselves and one another. Sometimes we’ll do this for free, because we like each other, or live in the same community. Sometimes we’ll exchange services or favors. Sometimes we’ll use one of the alternative, local currencies coming into use across the country as Central bank-issued currencies become too hard to get without a corporate job.

Give me a fucking break. Douglas Rushkoff, do you know why you had all the time to write "ten best-selling books on new media and popular culture?" Because you weren't spending 15 hours a day providing for your basic needs. Do you know how those books became best sellers? Because the people who bought them weren't working 15 hours a day providing for their basic needs. You know how you were able to have "written and hosted two award-winning Frontline documentaries?" That's right: because you weren't spending 15 hours a day providing for your basic needs. Oh, and the media technology that you have the leisure time to write about and disseminate your wisdom upon? You got it: developed because a lot of people weren't spending 15 hours a day providing for their basic needs.

If we all have to go back to providing for our daily needs it is precisely people like you - the pundits who have the leisure time to nostalgically pine for a carefree time of existentially meaningful but physically undemanding subsistence living that never actually existed - who will be the first to recognize that they have no actual skills with which to support themselves or barter for food with. The corporatism that you love to complain about is what allows you (and me, for what its worth) to make your living off of talents that are miles removed from the stuff of everyday life.
posted by googly at 12:58 PM on March 18, 2009 [41 favorites]


Unfortunately, just like when a shoddily-constructed building collapses, the people who made the building are nowhere to be found, and the innocent people who live around the building are under the rubble, for no reason other than they were out walking their dogs.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:58 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


So true, The Brearley School seal is three beavers and an oil lamp, for cryin' out loud.

Potential sequel to two girls one cup?
posted by mannequito at 1:00 PM on March 18, 2009


Also, related to my seeming derail above, if you are thinking of getting a mortgage or doing a refi, start paying attention. The Fed appears determined to achieve a mortgage market with 4% 30-yr fixed mortgages.

Also, traditionally in times of inflation, you'd want to buy real assets like real estate. So if you think about it, the Fed is constructing a market with a limited-time window in which both housing prices will be low AND rates will be low BEFORE inflation sets in. (I seriously don't see how we avoid inflation in 2010 and beyond, but that's another matter). So if you want to make a move in real estate, you really need to start your due diligence now because the planets are lining up for the last time in probably a long while.

But that's my opinion, and I could be and have been wrong.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:01 PM on March 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


I thought cathedrals were meant to awe the peasants, showing them the glory of God as an imposing structure of stone and glass. Who was the tourist class of the middle ages? Traveling merchants? Then they're not really touring the countryside, but trying to sell their wares to non-local markets (which is bad for communities, or humanity, right?).

Where does the Industrial Revolution fall into all of this? Is that part of the downfall of society? Mechanical means eliminate the need for so much physical work.

I think he also forgot about where all people live, and how people live where they do. Because the scope of possible human habitation in large numbers is greatly decreased when you're relying ONLY on local economies and storing food through the winter. For instance, growing seasons in Alaska really limit what you can produce locally. Oh, and medication. Because local remedies are only so good at prolonging life.

Now that reverting society to local agrarian communities has been discussed, who's up for some cute animal pictures?
posted by filthy light thief at 1:01 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I feel like some day I would like to be a small-scale organic farmer. A simple, wholesome life, working in tandem with nature. The sun, the rain, the seasons. Heirloom plants and perennial forest gardens. Some of you know what I'm talking about.

Farming because otherwise I would starve is in no way a part of this fantasy.
posted by snofoam at 1:03 PM on March 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


Unfortunately, just like when a shoddily-constructed building collapses, the people who made the building are nowhere to be found, and the innocent people who live around the building are under the rubble, for no reason other than they were out walking their dogs.

Then Douglas Rushkoff happens along with a can of gasoline and book of matches, and cackles gleefully as he "sticks it to the man."
posted by malocchio at 1:05 PM on March 18, 2009


Our house is a very very very very fine house....
posted by jonmc at 1:05 PM on March 18, 2009


An all-out collapse of the economy would mean lots of deaths. People wishing for it should reconsider.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:07 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I see people in Maine driving campers built on the same chassis as a Greyhound bus with Texas plates, or BMW sport-utility vehicles with plates from Hawaii. I catered as a barista at a wedding down in Northeast Harbor, which cost $1,500,000 to throw- the band alone was six figures.

Those are rich people. Theyre going to be the last to topple in any sudden change in the economy. People like you or me will be one of the first. Getting rid of the rich is like cutting off your head to lose weight. Dont let envy cloud your judgment.

I'm pretty sure they'd rather see the rest of us screwed before they give up their luxury.

Their intentions dont really matter, the laws of economics dont care about your class struggle.

I really dislike this "back to the past" mentality. What these ideologues dont tell you is that making shit is hard. Living off the land is even harder. Thats why every developing society mechanizes its argriculture and uses factories for mass production. There's really no way to have this naturalist/DIY/ideallized_past spirit when there are 6 billion mouths to feed.

We may not like working 8+ hours and seeing wealth flaunted in front of our eyes, but that sure beats working 16 hours, no weekends, and barely getting by. And by getting by I mean barely getting enough calories to work, let alone watch Tivo and posting on message boards. Thanks but no thanks, Id rather keep this little system we have.

Rushkoff can go back to predicting the internet's next viral video and chat us up about Web 3.0. If anyone here is spoiled by our system its peope like him with dream gigs, fame, and publisher paid for expense accounts. Fuck you Doug. Real people are losing jobs. Youre out of your league.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:09 PM on March 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


I checked out Rushkoff's blog to see if he's really as much of a douchebag as he comes across in this essay.
I just accepted a post at the New School University, teaching in the Media Studies Department. This should be a good thing for everyone. [link]
Yep, he's really that much of a douchebag.
posted by dersins at 1:12 PM on March 18, 2009


Speaking as someone who grew up on a small farm, I never want to do it again.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:12 PM on March 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm sympathetic to "the system is totally wrong, corporatist, and fucked up" but I am not sympathetic to "let's give terrible human suffering in the present and immediate future a pass because we imagine it will make things better for everyone in the farther future."
posted by edheil at 1:15 PM on March 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


"(I seriously don't see how we avoid inflation in 2010 and beyond, but that's another matter)."

We are still at great risk of deflation. Inflation isn't really in the cards. The amount of money we've pumped into the system doesn't even come close to matching the amount that's evaporated.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:16 PM on March 18, 2009


I don't think the problem is the economic system.

The problem is civilization and it's toxic relationship to our landbases.

Yes, I agree with Derrick Jensen, and yes, I think you should too.

Go blow up a dam.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:17 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tourism? I thought they built cathedrals to worship in. I don' think tourism wasn't really seen as a large economic force until well after most of these structures were created.

In large part, you're actually incorrect. One of the major driving forces to build cathedrals in the middle ages was in fact a sort of tourism - many were built to attract pilgrims journeying to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. In a way, this was altruistic, in that the cathedrals were built more to house the pilgrims than to gain any economic benefit from them (although there probably was some benefit from them buying holy trinkets along the way). So, from that point of view, the builders would be seeking holy approval through their activities, but the end goal was still for the benefit of "tourists."
posted by LionIndex at 1:19 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


damn dirty ape - I've also heard that the upper-middle class are often the best off for the long-term. Instead of spending money on that fancy car and weekends jetting around as they please (often living from very large paycheck to very large paycheck), the upper-middle class is saving. This view from a friend who tried to get donations from university alumni, who found the upper-middle class donated more reliably than any other group. Then again, the upper class might be selfish pricks through-and-through, even when they save for the future.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:20 PM on March 18, 2009


lazaruslong: don't watch the Flinstones on acid. Thanks.
posted by jonmc at 1:21 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


jon - no problem



what did ya drink last night?
posted by lazaruslong at 1:23 PM on March 18, 2009


Sure, fractional banking is abstract and dissociated from concrete economy by a degree or two of remove, but to say that it is thus just plain bad is reductive.

This is touched upon a little bit in this recent TED talk: Why We Think It's Okay To Cheat and Steal (Sometimes). Dan Ariely mentions an experiment where study participants were given the opportunity to cheat the researchers out of cash and another where participants were given the opportunity to cheat them out of tokens which would then be exchanged for cash. Cash cheating was within the normal range while token cheating increased.
posted by effwerd at 1:25 PM on March 18, 2009


I don't think the problem is the economic system.

The problem is civilization and it's toxic relationship to our landbases.

Yes, I agree with Derrick Jensen, and yes, I think you should too.

Go blow up a dam.


Um, what's below that dam? And I'm guessing this isn't the same dam that provides electricity and water to your house, right? Even burning down a posh mountain resort does little except upset the would-be skiiers, because insurance money will build it back (and maybe make it bigger). Setting fire to the world is great for letting off anger, but you're not producing anything beyond ashes, and those ashes won't last.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:25 PM on March 18, 2009


The great cathedrals of Europe were not paid for with money from the Vatican; they were local investments, made by small towns looking for ways to share their prosperity with future generations by creating tourist attractions.

This, by the way, is just completely invented. A great deal of money was indeed wrung out of local populations for the construction of cathedrals, often by the selling of indulgences and coerced "donations" to local parish churches, but the money-raising project was entirely in the hands of the church hierarchy. Very large sums were raised in direct levies on the incomes of Bishops and other church notables. The idea that some village got together and said "gee, we're so rich we don't know what to do with all our money? Why don't we build a cathedral to share some of our wealth with future ages" is pure fiction.

Several people have argued, in fact, that the massive scale of the financial side of medieval cathedral construction was one of the major springboards for the development of European capitalism.
posted by yoink at 1:26 PM on March 18, 2009 [10 favorites]


Listen, Doug - I can call you Doug, right?

Here's a copy of 'Oryx and Crake'. I think this is the kind of world you're interested in.

Have a good one and stop trying to think of a new apocalypse form, OK?
posted by mephron at 1:26 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


some Guinness and Jameson, thanks. It was delicious. Civilization has it's priviliges. Now, kindly take the Gilligan's Island somewhere else.
posted by jonmc at 1:27 PM on March 18, 2009



Um, what's below that dam? And I'm guessing this isn't the same dam that provides electricity and water to your house, right? Even burning down a posh mountain resort does little except upset the would-be skiiers, because insurance money will build it back (and maybe make it bigger). Setting fire to the world is great for letting off anger, but you're not producing anything beyond ashes, and those ashes won't last.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:25 PM on March 18 [+] [!]


No it's not that same dam, mostly because I don't have the tools or the desire to go to jail.

There are hopefully others without those compunctions that would take the risk. I on the other hand will stick to my strengths and skills.

And please don't misunderstand me. I care about saving salmon and trees, not hurting people.

People are cool. "Civilized people" are toxically destructive of our planet.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:29 PM on March 18, 2009


The great cathedrals of Europe were not paid for with money from the Vatican; they were local investments, made by small towns looking for ways to share their prosperity with future generations by creating tourist attractions.



::deep inhale::


BWAHAHAHHAHAHHAHH


no really.


"When the coin in coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs"
posted by lazaruslong at 1:31 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Our house is a very very very very fine house....

I think you're being a bit too optimistic.

By about one 'very.'
posted by NationalKato at 1:32 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


*passes lazarus a bagel with lox*

I assume that you are posting your comments here with a computer powered by a little stegasaurus on a treadmill, right?
posted by jonmc at 1:33 PM on March 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Civilized people" are toxically destructive of our planet.

Translation: I don't see videos on YouTube of all the needless suffering that was the average person's lot in prehistorical times or of the extraordinary devastation human beings wreaked upon their environments long before the Industrial Revolution and I can't be effed to actually read any history or anthropology: I am therefore free to imagine that once upon a time humankind lived in an edenic harmony with the natural world and to encourage mass murder in the speculative hope that it might help bring that mythical state about in the future. After all, what are billions of dead humans compared to a really cool idea that I think I half understand.
posted by yoink at 1:36 PM on March 18, 2009 [19 favorites]


Go blow up a dam.

I don't want to blow anything up just yet. I simply need to learn to participate less in feeding the whole horrorshow. For me, that means giving up some of my addictions. For someone else, that may mean something even worse.

I have canned goods cheap, if you don't mind 'pork and beans.' Some are bent, none are bloated - I just found my new slogan.

I need a beer.
posted by metagnathous at 1:40 PM on March 18, 2009


So we can all live round Douglas Rushkoff's house then?
posted by Artw at 1:41 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


*passes lazarus a bagel with lox*

I assume that you are posting your comments here with a computer powered by a little stegasaurus on a treadmill, right?
posted by jonmc at 4:33 PM on March 18 [+] [!]


It's funny to make jabs, or ask why someone isn't doing more. But that kind of reductionism isn't actually useful at all.

I am doing as much as I can in my time to help reverse the effects of civilization on our planet while still fulfilling my responsibilities to the people I love. That's life.

And funny lox joke! You got about 10 years before it isn't funny anymore.

An international group of ecologists and economists warned yesterday that the world will run out of seafood by 2048 if steep declines in marine species continue at current rates, based on a four-year study of catch data and the effects of fisheries collapses.

The paper, published in the journal Science, concludes that overfishing, pollution and other environmental factors are wiping out important species around the globe, hampering the ocean's ability to produce seafood, filter nutrients and resist the spread of disease.

"We really see the end of the line now," said lead author Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Canada's Dalhousie University. "It's within our lifetime. Our children will see a world without seafood if we don't change things."


one two three four
posted by lazaruslong at 1:41 PM on March 18, 2009


Translation: I don't see videos on YouTube of all the needless suffering that was the average person's lot in prehistorical times or of the extraordinary devastation human beings wreaked upon their environments long before the Industrial Revolution and I can't be effed to actually read any history or anthropology: I am therefore free to imagine that once upon a time humankind lived in an edenic harmony with the natural world and to encourage mass murder in the speculative hope that it might help bring that mythical state about in the future. After all, what are billions of dead humans compared to a really cool idea that I think I half understand.
posted by yoink at 4:36 PM on March 18 [+] [!]



That's a whole lot of crazy for one post, mate.

I never postulated some sort of edenic time when everyone was happy.

I merely state that civilized people are toxically destructive of our landbase, and uncivilized people were not.

I am educated and enjoy reading quite a bit, so there is no need to be insulting.

I did not intend to make this thread about me, however, so go ahead and have your fun, I am backing out now.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:43 PM on March 18, 2009


It's funny to make jabs,

Hilarious, actually.
posted by jonmc at 1:44 PM on March 18, 2009


Cormac McCarthy's The Road: Let it happen.
posted by Artw at 1:45 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's a whole lot of crazy for one post, mate.

mate? You're in asheville, poser.
posted by jonmc at 1:47 PM on March 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Cormac McCarthy's The Road: Let it happen.

Can I have the drumstick?
posted by metagnathous at 1:47 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I merely state that civilized people are toxically destructive of our landbase, and uncivilized people were not.

I'll bet you anything you care to name that you can't define "toxically destructive" and "uncivilized" in such a way that they are A) recognizable as normal usage and B) don't render this claim disprovable by historical example.

Will Rousseau's Noble Savage myth never frickin' die?
posted by yoink at 1:52 PM on March 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


Unless the one making the jabs is Larry Holmes. That's like getting hit in the face with a piston, mate! It's only funny when it happens to someone else, guv!
posted by Mister_A at 1:53 PM on March 18, 2009


Cormac McCarthy's The Road: Let it happen.

Can I have the drumstick?


I hate calling it the leg.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:55 PM on March 18, 2009


"I merely state that civilized people are toxically destructive of our landbase, and uncivilized people were not."

What is the definition of "civilized?" For some people, this means when we started farming, so to those people we have to go back to being nomadic tribes living as hunters and gatherers. I think you'll find when you get to that point, or long before, people will stop worrying about these issues and do whatever it takes to survive as long as possible. Inevitably, this means returning to agrarian-based society, and there we are again.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:57 PM on March 18, 2009


I read the essay. I would have loved it when I was 16. Now I just find that the ironies suck all the oxygen from the argument.
posted by ob at 1:59 PM on March 18, 2009


I'll listen to TED talk, I'll keep an open mind, but I'm pretty sure I'm right...

didja see, didja get it? didja see what I did there?... thanks for the link...
posted by From Bklyn at 1:59 PM on March 18, 2009


Dont let envy cloud your judgment.

I totally agree that this essay is a load of cack. Also a load of cack are statements like this.

Nobody over the age of six really believes that if someone criticizes you it's because they're jealous. Quit using this childish argument.
posted by Legomancer at 2:00 PM on March 18, 2009


A lot of this discussion about returning to a purportedly better time before civilization reminds me a lot of the Bible creation myth in Eden. Only once Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of knowledge did their troubles start. This sounded appealing to me back when I was in my 20s, at least the environmental version of this myth. But I've come to discover that's far too simplistic and naive. There are benefits to rediscovering more sustainable farming methods, for instance, but if you tear everything down, you really can't count on people rebuilding things the way you want. That requires some central authority, and probably the dreaded civilization. Anarchy isn't a static condition.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:04 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like Doug Rushkoff. But apparently I have a better understanding of the economy - and I have my head up my ass.
Instead of another Black Death to balance the tables (which is what helped give rise to that Franklin class among a few revolts and other things), howzabout some laws that protect labor? Just a thought. Might be better than myriad rotting corpses in the streets, food riots and mob vigilante action.
And banking isn't new. The templars were big on banking. Usury - that's new. 'Wealth' in the form of production has vastly expanded. Joe Clerical can do 20 times the work his 1950s counterpart could do. But he's not making much more money. He might even be making less when leveled for inflation and what not. Certainly he's living a bit better in some ways. But some of those ways are unnecessary and illusionary, creatively fostered 'needs.'
So yeah, he's way off base, but I do like the idea of folks who don't really do anything that creates value having to learn to do something productive and y'know, plug in.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:10 PM on March 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Late Middle Ages workers were paid more for less work time than at any point in history.

Err... that's because there was thing called the Black Death. You might have heard of it. Reduced the workforce somewhat, therefore pushing up wages.

Rushkoff is such an idiot
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:17 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even burning down a posh mountain resort does little except upset the would-be skiiers, because insurance money will build it back (and maybe make it bigger)

Shooting tourists on St. Croix golf courses put a real hurt on tourism.

If you thermite enough ski lift or high tension power line towers or blow up enough dams, it will become increasingly expensive to insure them & without insurance, you won't be able to borrow capital to (re-) build them.
posted by morganw at 2:20 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Suicide is a very effective answer to all of these conundrums, yet somehow the would-be "stickers-to-the-Man" and similar members of the chattering classes (because that is what they are, barista job notwithstanding) fail to recognize it and seize upon the obvious utility.

Remember kids, suicide is painless!

It's cool too!
posted by aramaic at 2:21 PM on March 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I assume that you are posting your comments here with a computer powered by a little stegasaurus on a treadmill, right?

*Braaak* It's a living!
posted by sourwookie at 2:24 PM on March 18, 2009 [11 favorites]


Too tired to comment more than such: think he's oversimplifying, think he's being an anarcho-primitivist moron, think conservatives are idiots and at the same time this person's suggestion is nearly as bad.

I'm suffering from outrage fatigue and repeating Hanlon's razor to myself.


Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence
Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence
Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence
Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence
Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence
Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence
Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence
Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence
WHARRGARBL
posted by kldickson at 2:30 PM on March 18, 2009


Shit, 'WHARRGARBL' was the wrong sound - it's associated with people who actually are saying something inane, such as creotards or other fundies or flat-earthers or 9-11 conspiracy theorists or tinfoil hats. I should have said something on the order of '@#$%^#@$%@#'.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled outrage.
posted by kldickson at 2:33 PM on March 18, 2009


I'm sure destroying a dam and releasing millions of gallons of water downstream will have no effect whatsoever on our little salmon pals, or any other part of the environment. Dams are evil and totally unnatural (except for beaver dams, those are a-okay).
posted by runcibleshaw at 2:33 PM on March 18, 2009


When I read the article yesterday I was under the impression that it was written by an 18-year-old undergrad on a "mom and dad" scholarship and who had just learned about Marxism.

I just looked up the guy's bio, and it's amazing how far one can go in life and still develop absolutely no sense whatsoever of economics.
posted by clevershark at 2:35 PM on March 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


So yeah, he's way off base, but I do like the idea of folks who don't really do anything that creates value having to learn to do something productive and y'know, plug in.

If value isn't recognized it isn't value at all, how do you measure value in a culture such as this? The people who have held some of the most menial jobs in the land are often the most reviled, even if they do create value through nothing other than cleaning up after others who are perceived to create some more exalted form of value.

What is valued has always been the problem. I've experienced it first hand and have witnessed its influence on others as well. How much sweaping of floors does it take to achieve the social status of a Wall Street trader?

All these economic pundits just talk around the issue. None of them would be in any position to do that if not for a stable of nobodies keeping the whole thing afloat with very real physical effort.
posted by metagnathous at 2:36 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sweeping, that is.
posted by metagnathous at 2:47 PM on March 18, 2009


I believe Rushkoff used to post here on metafilter...I keep hoping he'll show up to defend himself. ::lights up giant anti-nike-symbol signal and shines it at the clouds above metafilter:: While I agree there are many problems with his essay--most notably, the understated negative effects of letting the US economy just "die"--I agree with what I read as the overall gist: we need to use this as an opportunity to completely overhaul the 'system' in order to do away with 'systemic' problems.
posted by whatgorilla at 2:48 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I assume that you are posting your comments here with a computer powered by a little stegasaurus on a treadmill, right?

If the Internet could stop doing one thing for my birthday, it would be this.

You know what's even lazier than calling for the downfall of civilization by using electricity? Pointing out that someone else is using electricity.

Imagine, during the (American) civil rights movement, saying sarcastically to an activist calling for the right to use public drinking fountains, "Oh, and I assume you moistened your throat from a public drinking fountain before giving your little speech, right? What? No? Hypocrite."

In my experience, the people who make these ridiculous tu quoque arguments against anyone suggesting that our overconsumptive technocracy has gone a bit too far are usually quite happy with our current system. And fair enough-- but that includes an atomized social order in which the only way left to really reach anyone outside your immediate friends and family is electronic media.

Maybe you're cool with that, but declaring, "Say that to me without that computer and then I'll listen," is, in other words, declaring, "Say that to me in such a way that I'll never hear you and then I'll listen." Go try and make a difference using methods that won't work? Awesome, thanks for that advice. We're all better for your having dropped by.

Those jabs aren't just disingenuous, they're barely parsable as logical speech, somewhere in between "STFU noob" and "If you don't like this country, move" on the scale of overall relevance.

You're not being clever, and you're not adding anything useful to the discussion. If you disagree with an idea, engage with it. But if it's beneath your contempt, then why are you going to the (relative) trouble of being contemptuous? There's already too much noise on the internet-- at least some of it is interesting or novel. Your comment isn't.
posted by achromata cantata automata at 3:03 PM on March 18, 2009 [16 favorites]


If you thermite enough ski lift or high tension power line towers or blow up enough dams, it will become increasingly expensive to insure them & without insurance, you won't be able to borrow capital to (re-) build them.

Stop reading the Monkey Wrench Gang and help actually solve the problem.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 3:15 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nobody here seems interested in the main topic: the role of corporations. We all live in ways that are defined largely by corporations. Isn't that something worth commenting on?
posted by No Robots at 3:17 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I agree with No Robots. Rushkoff's essay started of on an interesting idea - that corporations are not necessary for (and are in fact harmful to) modern life. I'm not sure I agree - it seems like corporations are basically just groups of people trying to sell something together. However, I've wondered whether the "limited liability" idea is a central part of the problem. Perhaps I'm being naive, but isn't the idea that the leaders of a corporation and its stockholders are not responsible for its corporations' debt an invitation for this sort of crisis? Suppose the CEOs and stockholders of AIG were responsible for the debt which represented several times the net worth of AIG? Wouldn't there have been enormous pressure to act responsibly? Of course, I invite people to improve my limited knowledge of LLCs.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:24 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know what's even lazier than calling for the downfall of civilization by using electricity? Pointing out that someone else is using electricity.

He says, using his stegosaurus-powered computer....
posted by happyroach at 3:29 PM on March 18, 2009


"Nobody here seems interested in the main topic: the role of corporations. We all live in ways that are defined largely by corporations. Isn't that something worth commenting on?"

Rushkoff's main theme is this: "The thing that is dying—the corporatized model of commerce—has not, nor has it ever been, supportive of the real economy." But his understanding of economics is lacking, to the point where he doesn't support his own thesis very well. I'm not sure what he means by "the real economy." It's not a great premise to begin with, so it's a bit difficult to argue from what he offers.

The role of corporations is something worth discussing, but he doesn't offer much in the way to discuss because of how he frames his theme.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:29 PM on March 18, 2009


just as long as I can keep on eating food

EAT THE RICH!!!
posted by Catblack at 3:37 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


But if it's beneath your contempt, then why are you going to the (relative) trouble of being contemptuous?

Trouble? Thanks to modern technology, expressing my contempt requires very little effort at all.

Imagine, during the (American) civil rights movement, saying sarcastically to an activist calling for the right to use public drinking fountains, "Oh, and I assume you moistened your throat from a public drinking fountain before giving your little speech, right? What? No? Hypocrite."

Please. Not every movement is the civil rights movement. Especially when the original commenter used noble savage stereotypes that amount to unconscious racism, IMHO, and are really pompously stated besides.
posted by jonmc at 3:42 PM on March 18, 2009


although paying $5 just to make a pompous statement is even lamer.
posted by jonmc at 3:46 PM on March 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


You know what's even lazier than calling for the downfall of civilization by using electricity? Pointing out that someone else is using electricity.

Imagine, during the (American) civil rights movement, saying sarcastically to an activist calling for the right to use public drinking fountains, "Oh, and I assume you moistened your throat from a public drinking fountain before giving your little speech, right? What? No? Hypocrite."


Wait--wouldn't the equivalent be if some activist was saying "Public water fountains should be abolished!" And in that case, wouldn't it actually be a pretty reasonable dig to point out that the person had availed themselves of a public water fountain to wet their whistle before making that speech?

lazaruslong was arguing for the end of civilization. I think it's pretty reasonable to point out that that includes such things as Metafilter--or indeed the ability to communicate ideas rapidly to large numbers of people.
posted by yoink at 3:48 PM on March 18, 2009


I agree that there is a germ of a good idea in the essay - namely, that a great deal of modern finance is devoted to transactions that are far removed from everyday commerce; and that one end result is a lot of wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few people who take huge risks with other peoples' money without generating much of lasting value.

What I object to is Rushkoff's slide from identifying specific flaws in the current financial system to a generalized denigration of "the economy" (or "corporations") as a whole, and a call for tearing the whole thing down in favor of some imagined subsistence-and-barter society. That is intellectually lazy, because its easier to call for a revolution that will never happen, to destroy something you only vaguely understand, than to propose specific reforms that will actually help people in the short and long terms. His conclusion - "The current financial crisis is the best opportunity we have had in a very long time for a bloodless revolution against the faceless fascism under which we have been living, unaware, for much too long. Let us seize the day" - is a crowd-pleasing little tagline that will appeal to those who already agree with him. But he doesn't entertain the notion that the current economic system may be the way that it is because it provides benefits as well as constraints; nor does he give us any idea of what will replace that faceless fascism beyond some vague, mythologized primitive society.

Rushkoff himself is an excellent example of the fact that some of the same tools that have led to this crisis - corporate structure, extreme division of labor, commerce in intangible symbolic products - can be beneficial rather than harmful. I, for one, loved his Frontline documentaries on advertising and branding. But they would never have been made or disseminated if corporations didn't exist, if the division of labor hadn't freed up people to develop and disseminate modern media technology, and if it weren't possible for him to make a living off of producing things (in this case, ideas and images) that are not basic essential goods. So its baffling - and, yes, just a tad hypocritical - for him to call for the destruction of the whole damn system.
posted by googly at 3:59 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


A much more interesting economic topic is the Fed's stunning announcement a little while ago

Yeah, I came by half-expecting an fpp about that to have happened by now. Instead, this.

Then on the local news they devoted 4 whole minutes to that AIG nonsense, and about 20 seconds to the Fed going nuclear. Ah well. I guess today's monetary authorities are just trying in their primitive way to replicate the attractive qualities of the grain-based currencies Rushkoff seems fond of: money that loses value every year, encouraging people to spend rather than save, and giving us the incentive to invest in big useless stone monuments to the greatness of capitalism, which will one day serve as tourist attractions and reminders of just how weird things were when they were built.
posted by sfenders at 4:01 PM on March 18, 2009


Of course, in the post-apocalypse neo-economy there will be an assured role for professional commentators on late 90s cyber-culture.
posted by Artw at 4:02 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


provided the stegasauruses stay healthy.
posted by jonmc at 4:03 PM on March 18, 2009


I read Rushkoff's book, Cyberia, a while back... makes it hard to take other stuff he wrote since then very seriously, but pretty entertaining.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 4:07 PM on March 18, 2009


there is nothing wrong with taking the devil's money to tell the devil's minions that he's fucked up.

people take money from twisted sources regularly to fund their own agendas. if you haven't noticed that go spend time with more activists. hell, go hang with some reverends while you're at it.

and as far all this talk about people suffering and die and endless misery coming if we do collapse this beast of a system so we better not i just want to point out that it is already here. motherfuckers in india having to drink sewage poisoned water because there's nothing else to drink. people going completely into debt and the poor house to cover inflated medical costs if they can get medical care at all.

dude, the apocalypse is here. what the hell are we arguing about?
posted by artof.mulata at 4:07 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


motherfuckers in india having to drink sewage poisoned water

Ah yes--the way to make sure no one drinks sewage-poisoned water is obviously to start blowing up water-related infrastructure. Such as dams.

If you're talking about creating a world with a population small enough that no one need have any anxiety about "sewage polluted water" despite the lack of any large-scale public-works programs (you know that yucky "civilization stuff" that harshes your mellow so horribly) then you're talking about reducing the world's human population by multiple billions. Care to tell us whose on your death list? Any of those Indian peasants you care so deeply about going to survive at all in your glorious new world?

dude, the apocalypse is here. what the hell are we arguing about?

About whether it's a good idea or a bad idea to kill most of the human beings on the planet--hilariously enough.
posted by yoink at 4:14 PM on March 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


yoink, you are missing your own point.

i am talking about how this decision of who lives and who dies is not being made by us in the theoretical merry go round of metafilter, but is taking place around us already.

and please pay attention to who posts what; i never talked about an active reduction of the globe's populace to solve anything. i actually believe this mothership can support all of us if we just quit shitting where other people eat.

as for who is or isn't on my deathlist, i wonder if any of those Indian peasants are going to survive in this hell that we are working so hard to create together.

oh yeah, silly literalists: that dam-blow-up comment from earlier was supposed to be hyperbole in the service of making a point become clear. duh. lol, here's hoping your head falls off.
posted by artof.mulata at 4:24 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


oh yeah, silly literalists: that dam-blow-up comment from earlier was supposed to be hyperbole in the service of making a point become clear. duh. lol, here's hoping your head falls off.

Really?

No it's not that same dam, mostly because I don't have the tools or the desire to go to jail.

There are hopefully others without those compunctions that would take the risk. I on the other hand will stick to my strengths and skills.

posted by yoink at 4:29 PM on March 18, 2009


You know what else we can let die? Rushkoff's career.

I used to love the guy, and I've still got a bit of a soft spot for him, but in his ten books, there's a total of about four ideas. 'Drugs are fun,' which I already knew, 'marketing sucks,' which I also already knew, 'Judaism is somehow open-source,' which doesn't really interest me, and 'the Internet is going to change things,' which, you guessed it, I already knew.

Dude needs a new idea worse than DJ Spooky.
posted by box at 4:31 PM on March 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


well golly yoink i sure got that one wrong about the ol' dam builder didn't i?
thank god it's just another comment from an armchair adventurer.

but i am not taking back anything else i said. and actually, i kind of have the feeling that it started off as hyperbole (of the baudrillardian variety) and what with alll the vitriole that started flying around became some nonsensical posturing.

posture, posture dearest mefites.
posted by artof.mulata at 4:36 PM on March 18, 2009


We didn't start the fire, It was always burning since the world's been turning...
posted by Artw at 4:45 PM on March 18, 2009


We are all so complicit in the unfair distribution of wealth it's sort of disingenuous to cheerlead for the collapse of the system. The people that work for me are great, but I don't give them part of my bonus or salary. Whoever made my toothbrush may work harder than me, but I don't make any effort to share any more of my wealth with them than the current system requires (i.e., me paying for said toothbrush). I think it's easy to say, oh, I would live a simpler life if it meant a fairer system, especially since that is not on the table. The mean annual income worldwide is something like $5,000. Would you do that tomorrow, given the choice? As much as I think there are major assholes raking in money in ethically-deprived ways, I'm the same, it's just a difference of degree.
posted by snofoam at 4:59 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


People are cool. "Civilized people" are toxically destructive of our planet.

I know you left the thread lazaruslong, but in case you come back, I just want to point out that our planet is probably going to keep spinning long after there are no more people. We can't really do anything to destroy our planet. Granted, there are a lot of things we're doing to destroy wildlife, but the "planet" is impartial to what we're doing to it. The wildlife is probably also impartial beyond an instinctual desire to survive. I don't intend for that to be a case for heedlessly ravaging the environment, but blowing up dams isn't going to protect Earth from the sun from dying out in 2 billion years either.
posted by Demogorgon at 5:03 PM on March 18, 2009


Our house is a very very very very fine house....

Our house, was our castle and our keep
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, that was where we used to sleep
Our house, in the middle of our street
posted by homunculus at 5:10 PM on March 18, 2009


"We didn't start the fire, It was always burning since the world's been turning..."

Ah, yes, the greatest of our modern philosophers, W.M. Joel.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:12 PM on March 18, 2009


how 'bout that goatse?
posted by artof.mulata at 5:19 PM on March 18, 2009


goddammit it's stegosaurus you backward lowlanders
posted by Baby_Balrog at 5:27 PM on March 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm completely down with the downfall of the leisure class, just as long as I can keep on eating food and staying warm in the winter. I see people in Maine driving campers built on the same chassis as a Greyhound bus with Texas plates, or BMW sport-utility vehicles with plates from Hawaii. I catered as a barista at a wedding down in Northeast Harbor, which cost $1,500,000 to throw- the band alone was six figures. The concentration of wealth we've sen over the past two hundred years is completely unacceptable. Fuck the rich.

Yeah. If that wedding would have cost say $2500 THEY WOULDN'T HAVE HIRED YOU. Or the band.

And you would starve and freeze your ass off.

There are plenty of things wrong with the wealth disparity and over-consumption in the world. But purely the existence of wealthy people is NOT one of these things.

What the fuck do people visualize? This futuristic soft grey Star Trek equality where we all live in 900 SQ. Foot apartments, have the same brand of 48" flat screen, and get an equal monthly allotment of yummy food and free weed from the coop. And some how the world will just turn under this magic spell of equality?

Douglas Rushkoff is not only an idiot and hypocrite but dangerously deluded.

There are some good things that might shake out of the economy melting down. Waking people up to consumption and debt. Encouraging people to conserve, save and be part of communities. And mostly getting these fucking thieves in corporate America regulated.

But wishing that the world economy would crash and burn? Which it may yet do. You know what? Hundreds of millions of people would starve to death if the the world economy collapses. And it WON'T be guys like Berni Madoff. No. It will be the worlds poorest most helpless people. The old. The children. Then it will be us.

What is wrong with these dipshits when they write essays like this? Do they not see what happens when societies collapse?

Most people on this planet only want a fair shake and want to form peaceful communities. The problem is it only takes a small cabal of assholes to fuck this egalitarian tendency all to hell.

See. There are certain types of people, a small segment of humanity, who are highly driven and highly competitive. The Alphas. The Alpha Class is who a majority of wealthy people belong, sans the lucky and those who are the living heirs of Alphas. Some alphas are good some are bad. We in the west are the heirs of successful Alphas. From Alexander and Napoleon to the Robber Barons. They are the ones who raped the planet blind and built the infrastructure we now enjoy.

These people do not disappear just because the present economic system collapses. No. What happens in the vacuum of the rule of law and the chaos of collapse is the absolute WORST of them, the most abusive, the most sociopathic and violent will rise to the top. You can see it in failed states and tribes all over the world.

If civilization fails this is what will happen initially until populations can get it together. The most inscrutable and evil mother fuckers on the planet will get control of little is left.

Wishing collapse is wishing for a return to brutal feudalism on a vicious scale never before seen. Because with seven billion people on the planet human labor is not worth anything. It's in surplus already. And with no wealth flowing — no economic engine people understand to move wealth— there will be a surplus of desperate people. And the people in charge will not care if 4 billion of these people starve. There will STILL be plenty labor left to exploit.

People are cool. "Civilized people" are toxically destructive of our planet.


I'm not sure if you realize but these are the same people. There is no genetic difference between these wonderful Uncivilized People and these evil "Civilized People." THEY ARE THE FRIGG'N SAME.

You know what happens when you remove the civilized part? You get about 5 billion Slowly Starving Miserable Uncivilized People. Some fucking utopia you got there.

Remove civilization and you in no way remove the human desire to form hierarchies with chiefs and kings and exploiters.

The key is reducing world population to susstaibale levels. Which is doable with OUT this sick James Bond Villain "Destroy Civilization" Bullshit. We could do it over a century or two slowly with present technology. We could then easily implement green technologies globally. Our planet would be doing just fine if it had 2 billion Civilized People on it. We could sustain that AND the planet until the sun goes nova.

You know there are other names for this "Let It Die So We Can Rebuild It" Civilization Is Bad philosophy. Neo tribalism. Neo Conservatism. The Final Solution. Call it what ever you like. It's still gonna end up in war, famine, and death.
posted by tkchrist at 5:27 PM on March 18, 2009 [15 favorites]


If you're talking about creating a world with a population small enough that no one need have any anxiety about "sewage polluted water" despite the lack of any large-scale public-works programs (you know that yucky "civilization stuff" that harshes your mellow so horribly) then you're talking about reducing the world's human population by multiple billions. Care to tell us whose on your death list? Any of those Indian peasants you care so deeply about going to survive at all in your glorious new world?

Once again. World populations can be reduced without KILLING anybody. We will have to be patient. It CAN be done. We will simply have to get over this sentimental and irrational religious bullshit about being able to have as many babies as we want.

There is a happy doable medium between killing civilization or setting up death camps and simply implementing birth control and family planning on a global scale.
posted by tkchrist at 5:36 PM on March 18, 2009


Our planet would be doing just fine if it had 2 billion Civilized People on it. We could sustain that AND the planet until the sun goes nova.

This is why those of us who limit ourselves to one offspring deserve a hefty stipend. And those who limit themselves to none deserve a double stipend!
posted by marble at 5:39 PM on March 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


but death camps generate more "buzz"
posted by snofoam at 5:40 PM on March 18, 2009


Once again. World populations can be reduced without KILLING anybody. We will have to be patient. It CAN be done. We will simply have to get over this sentimental and irrational religious bullshit about being able to have as many babies as we want.

There is a happy doable medium between killing civilization or setting up death camps and simply implementing birth control and family planning on a global scale.


Oh sure. This thread is about people who want it all to go BOOM so that we can start afresh, though. Not about working over generations via incremental political change towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
posted by yoink at 5:45 PM on March 18, 2009


@krinklyfig
"Uh ... that's not how it works. Economics is not a zero-sum game. That $1000 can be generated through labor. And if what he's talking about were reality, then the money supply would remain constant."
Maybe. Then we would have constant inflation. But Economics is not a zero-sum game AND we don't keep the money supply constant. Hence every credit is paid off with a new, higher credit. And you get: Money IS credit. The whole system will collapsing as soon as nobody is either willing or able to take more credit. This is what we see now. The US consumer is maxed out. There is not much in English about this "Money is Credit"-View but try to google
"Debitism"
posted by yoyo_nyc at 5:45 PM on March 18, 2009


I merely state that civilized people are toxically destructive of our landbase, and uncivilized people were not.

I am educated


From zero to self-contradictory in two line breaks.
posted by oaf at 5:48 PM on March 18, 2009


The whole system will collapsing as soon as nobody is either willing or able to take more credit. This is what we see now.

If money is only credit then they HAVE to take it. And it could go on forever.

The real problem is money isn't just credit.

It represents real resources, chief among them time, that are not represented well or fairly by the money system we currently employ. We call time "labor" but it's not very descriptive of it's actual value. You sell your most valuable asset - time - for money. And you never get more time. It's never worth it.

Also money represents poorly natural resources of value that function above what we humans utilize. Like wood. Ortherwise known as forests. Or fish. Otherwise known as the lynchpin of the ocean ecosystem.

We could still use money systems susstainably if we could get resources to actually be valued what they are really worth.
posted by tkchrist at 6:00 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]



Oh sure. This thread is about people who want it all to go BOOM so that we can start afresh, though. Not about working over generations via incremental political change towards a more sustainable lifestyle.


Those are the people we call "idiots" where I'm from. They are no different than the crazy apocalyptic Rapture morons. Keeping them marginalized is best.
posted by tkchrist at 6:05 PM on March 18, 2009


Now, I'm an anarchist, but I disagree with everyone in this thread that says that 'civilization' is the problem and should be eliminated. I also disagree with all the conservatives arguing that 'civilization' is just fine and all the nay-sayers are nuts.

I say that humans are not at all civilized at all right now. What humanity needs now more than ever is to become a civilization. Honestly, I don't see that happening before all us humans are all wiped out by our own stupidity and hubris.
posted by fuq at 6:30 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


That $1000 can be generated through labor.

No, something which may hopefully be exchanged for $1000 can be generated through labor. Generating $1000 through labor, unless you're the Fed, will get you sent to jail for a long time.

But yeah, among the mistakes in his essay is this one. The extra $1000 that you gave back to the bank doesn't disappear, does it? Some of it goes to the bank employees and the rest becomes bank profits. Either way it gets spent and returned to the economy, so there's no deflationary Ponzi scheme going on; this system ends up growing the money supply, not shrinking it.

On the other hand, that doesn't seem to invalidate his central "rich get richer" point. The money supply grows when a select group of people who were allowed to print and loan $L*(1+r) then get to outright spend $L*r? Take away the "print" part of that and it might be fair - you worked hard to amass $L, you're risking losing it if someone else can't pay you back, and you both agree that some extra interest payments are worth the loan and the risk. But the "time value of money" just doesn't have the same ring to it when the money is hot off the presses.
posted by roystgnr at 6:44 PM on March 18, 2009


110 comments in, I really have nothing to add here other than that dude's understanding of history is pretty weak. That, and his use of his weak misinterpretation of history to prop up his faulty thesis results in a pretty poorly constructed essay, to say the least.

I want those fuckers at AIG and CITI & Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, (and hell, we can go all the way back to Enron or the savings and loan fiasco of the 80's if you really want to dig) & cetera to get what's coming to them as much as the next guy, but dismantling civilization as we know it is not the best means we have of sticking it to "them."

Exerting the authority of "We the People" as outlined in the constitution might be as good a place to start as any. By that, I mean regulation, oversight & punishment for criminal acts, on a par with, or superseding the kinds of punishments we as a society have no problem meting out to lesser criminals. You know, gathering together for the common good through representative democracy and direct action, passing laws, enforcing them, and stuff like that. Crazy thinking, I know.

I don't want to be singing "Nothing but Flowers" while tending my 1/4 acre of corn any time soon. It's a pretty good walk from here to naturally occurring potable water, presently.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:55 PM on March 18, 2009


And you never get more time. It's never worth it.

Well, you get a bit more time, in those countries where top-quality food and top-quality healthcare aren't free. Certainly not as much time as you trade for money over the course of your life, I admit!

However, this is hardly a problem with the money system. This is a problem with the existence of property, which means that nearly all of us are born without inheriting enough resources to lead a life of total leisure. And it's a problem with scarcity of resources (and the high population of humanity, and the limitations of robotics), which means that it's currently impossible to redistribute the world's resources in such a way as to give us all lives of total leisure.

Given that final fundamental problem, I kind of like having property and money, warts and all. I've spent time growing food, and I've traded time for money for food, and while the former can be just as fun, the latter is way more efficient.
posted by roystgnr at 7:00 PM on March 18, 2009


but death camps generate more "buzz"

See, this is exactly why I'm so big on Brutal Antarctic Smelting Facilities. Really. Just think about one for a moment. Visualize it.

...what do you see? High-pressure sodium lamps. Six months of darkness. Massive industrial operations. The gleam of steelwork contrasting with filthy slavegangs. Prisoners shivering while they drag enormous ore-carts across the frozen soil. Razor wire draped with ice. Terrifying machines sweeping detector beams across the ice-strewn peaks. Incomprehensible warnings blasting from gigantic PA horns while everyone in view cowers in terror.

Death camps? Piffle. We'll need some seriously photogenic operations if we're going to pull this one off.
posted by aramaic at 7:13 PM on March 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Actually if Rushkoff wants to see what happens when capitalism and "civilization" are eliminated he doesn't have to look that far back -- China went through that process with the "Great Leap Forward" and the Cultural Revolution, and Cambodia also did when the Khmer Rouge came to power.

In the case of China it led to tens of millions of people starving to death ("Great Leap Forward") and to the persecution and death of millions who were educated, were teachers, or simply had books and artwork around their house and were therefore bourgeois (Cultural Revolution). And to what end? Chinese society is now, in economic terms, more capitalistic than the West. If you think you will be eligible for Medicare some day you're enjoying more socialism than the average Chinese person.
posted by clevershark at 7:28 PM on March 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


The sun will not go nova, it will go big and giant and then tiny and white and made of carbon.
posted by dirty lies at 7:38 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


aramaic, I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:23 PM on March 18, 2009


This guy is not just stupid. He's a coddled little twat.

I got into it with him several years ago, when this leisure-class best-selling author was lecturing people struggling to pay rent about how they shouldn't have advertising on their blogs, because it insulted his delicate sensibilities.

Eat a bag of dicks, Rushkoff, and choke.
posted by kenlayne at 8:55 PM on March 18, 2009


or somalia or, or... aren't we in a 'primitive' state now? (like relative to the future, man ;) um, so having favourably quoted rushkoff before -- "we can agree that there are self-perpetuating cycles of greed and generosity" (esp re: oxytocin!) -- i've been thinking more about gov't run theme parks* and how 'it's just a ride' and perhaps (sub)consciously alluding to such in recent comments and posts?

like when you think about it people want to be a part of a society that they would want to live in, right? like it's almost a tautology, duh. and being a member of some group or community -- unless a pscyho/socio-path or say a kaczynski-like misanthrope -- even marginally attached or virtual, society is still, of course, collectively of our own making with (individually perceived) agency of greater or lesser degree(s), cf.

so like if that bit of 'artifice' can be acknowledged then we can go about trying to create the type of society we would, presumably, all want and like to live in surrounded by self-selecting 'cohorts' that we'd love and cherish share similar interests and ideals we wouldn't mind hanging around are tolerable... uh, point being isn't that cliche ahead -- 'being the change we want to be' -- is always behind its promise (what do we want again? really?) just simple recognition that it doesn't have to be this way opens up other possibilities :P

that is all,
cheers!

---
*like how, analogising, all we're trying to do is design/make a 'theme park' that, you know, you'd actually want to go to (in no way a novel idea)
posted by kliuless at 9:06 PM on March 18, 2009


"Who was the tourist class of the middle ages?"

Pilgrims, people on religious pilgrimage. Like Muslims making hajj today, or the folks in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. To shrines, and yes, Cathedrals.
posted by orthogonality at 9:20 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Change the system for the better, don't hope for it to be cast down and the world along with it. As put forward by several people earlier along in this post, we have gotten to where we are only by coming together for better or worse and building such detailed and always eventually ungainly systems.
posted by jellywerker at 9:44 PM on March 18, 2009


"No, something which may hopefully be exchanged for $1000 can be generated through labor. Generating $1000 through labor, unless you're the Fed, will get you sent to jail for a long time."

Yes, well, that was implicit in what I said. I didn't think I needed to explain that I wasn't talking about people running money printing machines.

Rushkoff seems to think that the only way for one company to pay another is to borrow money, which isn't true, if, say, you do something productive with a business and generate revenue. I think he's conflating the way fractional banking works with ordinary business transactions.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:00 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Every time one of these discussions comes up I think of an essay that I read a couple of years ago, and that slapped me out of my own occasional bouts of post-apocalyptic fantasy. I'll quote a bit of it because I can't find any way to say it better:
[R]real apocalypses are sordid, banal, insane. If things do come unraveled, they present not a golden opportunity for lone wolves and well-armed geeks, but a reality of babies with diarrhea, of bugs and weird weather and dust everywhere, of never enough to eat, of famine and starving, hollow-eyed people, of drunken soldiers full of boredom and self-hate, of random murder and rape and wars which accomplish nothing, of many fine things lost for no reason and nothing of any value gained. And survivalists, if they actually manage to avoid becoming the prey of larger groups, sitting bitter and cold and hungry and paranoid, watching their supplies run low and wishing they had a clean bed and some friends. Of all the lies we tell ourselves, this is the biggest: that there is any world worth living in that involves the breakdown of society.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:03 PM on March 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


"Money IS credit. The whole system will collapsing as soon as nobody is either willing or able to take more credit. This is what we see now. The US consumer is maxed out."

Yeah, I get it, I understand fractional reserve banking. But the fractional reserve banking system is not loose credit for consumer loans. And loose credit for consumer loans came about because of a lax regulatory environment coupled with a fraudulent securitization process and over-leveraged financial institutions, not because of the way the fed works. Credit is tight because the banks don't trust each other, and they are hoarding cash in case of some calamity. Nobody wants to be leveraged right now, because there might not be the assets to back it up, and there is still unwinding of leverage going on. Yes, the fed works on a system of credit. What we're dealing with right now is a failure of regulation. But we've been here before, even before the fed came into existence. The symptoms are different, but the problem is the same, and it's not the fed.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:12 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I merely state that civilized people are toxically destructive of our landbase, and uncivilized people were not.

This is demonstrably false. Human-created desertification is as old as human agriculture. Unless by 'uncivilized' you mean pre-agricultural (not defining your terms makes your arguments unconvincing at best and worthless at worst), in which case: rolleyes.

Overpopulation, urbanization, economic growth-fetishism, greed and poor stewardship of resources are things that 'toxify the landbase', not 'civilization'.

The noble savage idea was played out centuries ago.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:01 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


PastaBagel- please do not feed my Federal Reserve conspiracy theories. It makes too much sense.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 2:31 AM on March 19, 2009


What does a cathedral do? Why would you build it? It gives +50% to culture per turn, noobs! Why would you not build one?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:07 AM on March 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


If we want to critique the more eschatological brands of anarchism (i.e. anarcho-primitivism) we might do better to go to the source than to harp on the bilious mouthnoises of a Rushkoff, or place the burden of defending it on the offhand comments made by mefites such as lazaruslong.

As lazarus mentioned, Derek Jensen is one of the more prominent proponents of this kind of thinking in his Endgame monographs. His own comments above directly reflect Jensen's ideas:

Having long laid waste our own sanity, and having long forgotten what it feels like to be free, most of us too have no idea what it’s like to live in the real world. Seeing four salmon spawn causes me to burst into tears. I have never seen a river full of fish. I have never seen a sky darkened for days by a single flock of birds. (I have, however, seen skies perpetually darkened by smog.) As with freedom, so too the extraordinary beauty and fecundity of the world itself:
It’s hard to love something you’ve never known. It’s hard to convince yourself to fight for
something you may not believe has ever existed.

-- Endgame, vol I


Here are the excerpts available on the web, the titles of which alone are revealing:
The Premises of Endgame
Apocalypse
Civilization
Catasrophe: parts 1 & 2
Star Wars
Abuse: parts 1 , 2 , 3 , 4
Hatred: parts 1 & 2
Carrying Capacity: parts 1 , 2 , 3
Love Does Not Imply Pacifism
Their Insanity was Permanent
It's Time to Get Out: parts 1 & 2
Violence: parts 1 , 2 , 3
Abusers: parts 1 & 2
Pacifism I: parts 1, 2 , 3
Too Much to Lose (Short Term Loss, Long Term Gain)
Romantic Nihilism

Personally I think this guy is so nuts that he makes tinfoil hats look like sensible precautions, and so blind that he makes Helen Keller look like Annie Oakley. Yet, he seems to be gaining a great deal of acceptance in conventional academia, at least for someone as far out as he is.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:28 AM on March 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Great posts, and terrific passion.
I thought I'd make a few of the most basic factual corrections.

1. The New School. I am teaching there because it costs less for students to take classes. That's what I meant for "good for everybody." At NYU, they had to be enrolled in a 40k school. At New School, people can just sign up. I will still be an adjunct, and paid less by the hour for my one course. (And don't worry - I don't get health insurance or lots of money for what I do.)

2. Black Death. The Black Death started AFTER the renaissance began, after the establishment of centralized currencies and after local currencies were made illegal.

3. Cathedrals. The point is that they were paid for out of the abundance of wealth of small communities. The "tourism" I was referring to were the pilgrims. It is not cynical - it's just smart investing.

The best way to verify (or find out about) these kinds of things is reading primary sources from the period. The easiest scholarly summary of all this would be
Braudel, Fernand. The Wheels of Commerce, Civilization and Capitalism, Vol. 2. Univ. of California Press, Los Angeles. 1992.

Cipolla, Carlo M. Before the Industrial Revolution, European Society and Economy, 1000-1700, 3rd edition. WW Norton & Company, New York. 1994

Meanwhile, Bernard Laetier, one of the economists responsible for helping engineer the Euro, writes terrifically about all of these phenomena - both historical and present-day. His free book is at http://www.transaction.net/money/book/
posted by rushkoff at 8:41 AM on March 19, 2009 [20 favorites]


Ha! Hiya, Douglas.
posted by cortex at 9:05 AM on March 19, 2009


2. Black Death. The Black Death started AFTER the renaissance began, after the establishment of centralized currencies and after local currencies were made illegal.

So when you praise the "late middle ages" what period are you talking about? If you are dating it prior to the 14th century, then you have a truly idiosyncratic approach to history. Or are the good aspects of the 14th century "medieval" and the bad aspects "renaissance"?

3. Cathedrals. The point is that they were paid for out of the abundance of wealth of small communities. The "tourism" I was referring to were the pilgrims. It is not cynical - it's just smart investing.

To say they were paid for out of the "abundance of wealth of small communities" is either trivial or incorrect. There were no very large communities in medieval Europe, so there was no other source of wealth than "small communities"--in that sense the claim is trivial. The implication that this was some kind of "bottom up" process ("Hey, Jean, look at all the excess wealth we've got sitting around here; we should build a cathedral!") is simply wrong. Cathedral building was a massive undertaking that could not have been done without the centralized bureaucracy of the Church organizing the finances. The Church compelled, coerced and cajoled funds from myriad "small communities" for the construction and maintenance of cathedrals.
posted by yoink at 9:18 AM on March 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


awk-ward!

Thanks for posting the above. The Lietaer book looks interesting, from scrolling through some of it.

This might be unfair (it's an old book, people have better things to do than argue on the Internet) but are we to assume that the position taken in the article under discussion is in a part a silent disownment of the earlier enchantment and with and overall optimism about technosocial progress displayed in Cyberia?

From the 1994 edition's updated preface:

The people in this book, and thousands of others like them around the world, understand the implications of our technologies on our culture, thought systems, spiritual beliefs, and even our biological evolution. They still stand as the most optimistic and forward-thinking appraisers of our civilization’s fate. As we draw ever nearer to the consensually hallucinatory reality for which these cyberians drew the blueprints, their impressions of life on the edge become even more relevant for the rest of us. And they make more sense.


If so, having a window into the hows and whys (including assessment of the proper scale at which the current disturbance should be viewed in an overall view of progress vs. spoilation) could be useful given the un-addressed anxieties in that area that underlie a lot of these kinds of discussions, discussions which have been multiplied and intensified in the wake of the financial crisis.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:28 AM on March 19, 2009


It's been bugging me and bugging me and finally I figured it out, why all this talk about the 'middle ages' has been striking me as wrong, it's because they DIDN'T EXIST ( warning, PDF)
posted by From Bklyn at 9:29 AM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just to drive the point home, from the end of Cyberia:

But maybe this is the real Cyberia. It's not tackling complex computer problems, absorbing new psychedelic substances, or living through designer shamanic journeys. It's not learning the terminology of media viruses, chaos math, or house music. It's figuring out how two people can sell smart drugs in the same town without driving each other crazy. It's learning how to match the intentions of Silicon Valley's most prosperous corporations with the values of the psychedelics users who've made them that way. It's turning a nightclub into the modern equivalent of a Mayan temple without getting busted by the police. It's checking your bank statement to see if your ATM has been cracked, and figuring out how to punish the kid who did it without turning him into a hardened criminal. It's not getting too annoyed by the agendas of people who say they have none, or the inane, empty platitudes of those who say they do. It's learning to package the truth about our culture into media-friendly, bite-size pieces, and then finding an editor willing to put them in print because they strike him as amusing.

Coping in Cyberia means using our currently limited human language, bodies, emotions, and social realities to usher in something that's supposed to be free of those limitations. Things like virtual reality, Smart Bars, hypertext, the WELL, role-playing games, DMT, Ecstasy, house, fractals, sampling, anti-Muzak, technoshamanism, ecoterrorism, morphogenesis, video cyborgs, Toon Town, and Mondo 2000 are what slowly pull our society--even our world--past the event horizon of the great attractor at the end of time. But just like these, the next earth-shattering meme to hit the newsstands or computer nets may be the result of a failed relationship, a drug bust, an abortion on acid, or even a piss over the side of the porch.

Cyberia is frightening to everyone. Not just to technophobes, rich businessmen, midwestern farmers and suburban housewives, but, most of all, to the boys and girls hoping to ride the crest of the informational wave.

Surf's up.


Is the dream dead? Time to let it all burn, and live in A Canticle for Leibowitz?
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:47 AM on March 19, 2009


Not a disownment as much as reassessment in light of the marketplace. Back in 1991, I had no idea how powerfully market forces were, or how easily they could overwhelm what appeared to be a social development.

Then again, the story isn't over yet. My talk at Web 2.0 (no, they don't pay and they don't sell books!) is going to be about how the Internet is contributing to the collapse of centralized value creation.

I think it's also important for people to realize that letting stock valuations drop down to ratios consistent with a sustainable economy does not mean apocalypse or utopia. It's really not that big a deal. I believe the impact of bailing out the banks and insurance companies will be bigger and worser than the impact of letting banks fail.

I think commerce is good, not bad. Nor I believe we have to return to the hunter-gather stage in order to restore scaled value creation. But I do think we need to reassess the myth that monopoly central banking and the growth requirement are preconditions of any healthy economy. They do work in periods of colonial expansion, at least for the nations doing the colonizing. But they reach a point of diminishing returns. That is now.
posted by rushkoff at 9:51 AM on March 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


Thanks for the response. I think this points up a central locus of uncertainty for a lot of us:


I think it's also important for people to realize that letting stock valuations drop down to ratios consistent with a sustainable economy does not mean apocalypse or utopia. It's really not that big a deal. I believe the impact of bailing out the banks and insurance companies will be bigger and worser than the impact of letting banks fail.


If that's so, then the 'let it fail' scenario becomes more attractive. However, a lot of sources I trust are saying that a systemic failure would be exactly such an apocalyptic scenario.

Yesterday's episode
of Planet Money tried to get that point across with an interview with Ian Bremmer.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:55 AM on March 19, 2009


Someday, I hope to drop into a 140-some-odd comments thread about something I've done.
posted by incessant at 9:57 AM on March 19, 2009


If that's so, then the 'let it fail' scenario becomes more attractive. However, a lot of sources I trust are saying that a systemic failure would be exactly such an apocalyptic scenario.

The thing is it's not a hypothetical scenario, in the great depression we did let the banks fail and it turned out things were a lot worse. Matthew Yglesias lays out the details here.

What I'm terrified about right now is that there might be a large difference between what is fair, tar and feathering the assholes that got us in this situation, and what is best for the economy, giving those same assholes lots of money so they don't bring down the rest of us with them. That's not a stable political situation.
posted by afu at 10:07 AM on March 19, 2009


The thing is it's not a hypothetical scenario, in the great depression we did let the banks fail and it turned out things were a lot worse.

Not to be pedantic, but whether or not permitting failure in this situation would result in an equivalent result as it did then is precisely the hypothetical being evaluated. The Great Depression only has a 1:1 correspondence with........the Great Depression. At least, without the benefit of hindsight.

I am myself generally in agreement with that evaluation, and oppose allowing systemic failure, but I'm open to being wrong. Everyone agrees that the situation is supremely delicate and dangerous, and that means that none of us have the luxury of dogmatic thinking.

Paddy Hirsch's (mystifyingly under-watched) Marketplace videos on YouTube have been doing a good job of providing even handed (if elementary) accounts of some of the features of the financial system and the crisis that prompt one to see both sides. Consider his discussions of quantitative easing, leveraging vs. leveraging and the fallout metaphor.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:16 AM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


grr, sorry, leveraging vs. deleveraging.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:18 AM on March 19, 2009


The thing is it's not a hypothetical scenario, in the great depression we did let the banks fail and it turned out things were a lot worse

Surely we've leaned enough since that time, and because of that time, that we don't have to make the same mistakes?
posted by fullerine at 10:37 AM on March 19, 2009


The failure of the far left is that it doesn't understand that to change the world for the better, you need to understand what already works and why.
posted by storybored at 10:37 AM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Surely we've leaned enough since that time, and because of that time, that we don't have to make the same mistakes?

Learned things like what? That home values always increase? Please don't misunderestimate our capacity to not learn anything from the Great Depression.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:29 AM on March 19, 2009


Thanks for dropping in, Douglas. I'd totally forgotten you had a membership here.

I wonder if the hail of abuse upthread would have been less vicious if the thread had led off with the canonical 'Metafilter's own Douglas Rushkoff'. Probably not.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:30 PM on March 19, 2009


Matt Taibbi: The global economic crisis isn't about money - it's about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution
posted by homunculus at 5:50 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the hail of abuse upthread would have been less vicious if the thread had led off with the canonical 'Metafilter's own Douglas Rushkoff'.

Nah, then people would have just bitched about that too.
posted by homunculus at 5:59 PM on March 19, 2009


I wonder if the hail of abuse upthread would have been less vicious if the thread had led off with the canonical 'Metafilter's own Douglas Rushkoff'. Probably not.

Because no one ever criticizes people's comments on Metafilter.
posted by yoink at 6:10 PM on March 19, 2009


Whut?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:32 PM on March 19, 2009


Y'know, in threads like these, I get subtly confused; I keep reading the words, and it only hits me about five minutes in that I have no idea what the hell anyone is talking about. It's kind of like when I try and watch Ghost In The Shell, and they get into these extended dialogue sequences. Once again, five minutes into it I realize I have no idea what was just said or what's being said now.

It's a strange feeling.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 12:14 AM on March 20, 2009


Personally I think this guy is so nuts that he makes tinfoil hats look like sensible precautions, and so blind that he makes Helen Keller look like Annie Oakley. Yet, he seems to be gaining a great deal of acceptance in conventional academia, at least for someone as far out as he is.

The bulk of his followers love him for being so far out, and the bulk of his critics dislike him for the exact same reason. Of course, "far out"-ness doesn't correlate with being right or wrong. This is why I hate the "mainstream media", particularly the American press. Because it assumes that "far out" = wrong/impossible/stupid, and their audience gets trapped in that paradigm by extension. I don't dislike Rush Limbaugh because he's "far out", I dislike him because he's an ideologue that panders to people who believe in a certain definition of "American" and he has no qualms about manipulating that audience into believing some weak-sauce arguments or even outright lies. These are things Jensen does not do*. He's very open to criticism, and he's said before that he wants people to prove him wrong.

I agree with Jensen on a lot of stuff (that prehistoric/primitive life wasn't as bad as most people think, that nature is not "red in tooth and claw", that ideogically driven pacifism is harmful, that current human activities are ruining the planet, and that the root cause of this is industrialization) but I disagree with him on the issue (his main issue) of whether we (as a culture) will voluntarily come to live sustainably in the long term. He says NO, without a lot to back it up. I think we can make it, despite all my doubts. In fact, we must, or the problems we face will be resolved by forces beyond our control and it won't be pretty.

* - Although he could challenge his audience more than he does, because so many of them make horrible assumptions about his message that he rarely takes the time to discount.
posted by symbollocks at 12:21 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Too big to fail.
posted by homunculus at 8:57 PM on March 20, 2009


Regarding the Lietaer book:

Meanwhile, Bernard Laetier, one of the economists responsible for helping engineer the Euro, writes terrifically about all of these phenomena - both historical and present-day. His free book is at http://www.transaction.net/money/book/

So far as I can tell, this book is out of print and very much not free--used copies are about $140. The website only offers a few excerpts and the ToC. A few hours investigation into alternative outlets wasn't fruitful.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:17 AM on March 21, 2009


fractional reserve banking with interest (and maturity transformation), writ large, i think does create something of a treadmill (that inevitably* blows up), so i wouldn't totally write it off as a conspiracy theory :P like taleb sez...
My rosy scenario is that a better economic environment will develop, a low-debt, robust growth world, in which whatever is fragile will be allowed to break early and not late.

My nightmare scenario is that the government saves Citibank once again, as well as the other banks, and business resumes as usual. Then, the next time the system breaks, it breaks much, much bigger.
re: money as credit

it doesn't have to be, cf. transfers! as steve randy waldman sez, "financial markets are ultimately information systems," and there are better and worse ways of keeping score (and rationing/allocating 'tickets'**)

as for 'decentralised value creation' (while definitely a cheerleader :) i'm not so sure it's ready to supplant, much less complement, current control systems without them breaking under the weight of their own inherent, and bureaucratic, contradictions...

which leads to the present reflationary exercise among the world's central banks; an "excellent animated explanation" of quantitative/credit easing:
I believe achieving a modest rate of inflation (my number is 3%) should be job 1 for the Fed. The goal of fiscal stimulus is to increase aggregate nominal demand. The notion is that there is sufficient slack in the economy that we could increase nominal GDP without causing nominal prices to increase, and thus generate an increase in real incomes. Once we get to the point where that stimulus starts to produce inflation, we know we've done all we can with the policy of demand stimulus.
and a critique:
The more the Fed takes on its balance sheet, the more the long-run independence of the central bank is damaged. Monetizing so much government debt is what Third World nations do.*** Draining the new money from the system will someday be a problem. It may introduce a round of "beggar-thy-neighbor," central bank-engineered currency depreciations.
and we know how that story ends... selfish punishment, a transfer to our kids and a restoration of trust :P

re: too big to fail - "Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!"

oh and snuffleupagus it looks like he's trying to make it available here (he should consult keith hart ;) -- in the meantime, kuro5hin had a pretty solid overview, i thought -- but hasn't had much luck, it looks like, with websites the last few years...

cheers!

---
*people being people - "The only reason this rate is now viewed as ‘risk-free’ is that the Fed takes away the risk," viz.

**"These are no ordinary tickets," the good people at the Blue Unicorn Travel Company had explained to me earlier. "There are no vehicles to be boarded. You simply eat the tickets, and be transported."

***recall - "Thanks to the cleverness of our banking system, we have a very great many lenders, both domestic and foreign, who've invested in trash but who demand to be made whole at threat of social and political upheaval..." and now some very creative tunneling with "a fine point - if AIG had really tanked none of the CDS would be collectible as the entire CDS market would have likely imploded... Thus demonstrating the need for a zombie bank system: not totally dead (systemic collapse) but barely alive to pocket a nice little CDS annuity from daily cash collateral posts as it leaks wider (and taxpayers foot the bill)."
posted by kliuless at 11:46 AM on March 21, 2009


oh hey, fwiw, so poking around on lietaer's site a bit, this paper -- Quantifying sustainability: Resilience, efficiency and the return of information theory -- looked pretty interesting!
Contemporary science is preoccupied with that which exists; it rarely accounts for what is missing. But often the key to a system’s persistence lies with information concerning lacunae.

Information theory (IT), predicated as it is on the indeterminacies of existence, constitutes a natural tool for quantifying the beneficial reserves that lacunae can afford a system in its response to disturbance. In the format of IT, unutilized reserve capacity is complementary to the effective performance of the system, and too little of either attribute can render a system unsustainable. The fundamental calculus of IT provides a uniform way to quantify both essential attributes – effective performance and reserve capacity – and results in a single metric that gauges system sustainability (robustness) in terms of the tradeoff allotment of each.

Furthermore, the same mathematics allows one to identify the domain of robust balance as delimited to a ‘‘window of vitality’’ that circumscribes sustainable behavior in ecosystems. Sensitivity analysis on this robustness function with respect to each individual component process quantifies the value of that link ‘‘at the margin’’, i.e., how much each unit of that process contributes to moving the system towards its most sustainable configuration.

The analysis provides heretofore missing theoretical justification for efforts to preserve biodiversity whenever systems have become too stream-lined and efficient. Similar considerations should apply as well to economic systems, where fostering diversity among economic processes and currencies appears warranted in the face of over-development.
i think this would be kinda like the plus-minus statistic in hockey -- "goal differential when a specific player is on" (like trying to reveal/identify/measure incremental opportunity cost "risk units") -- and also reminded me of 'selfish punishment', group competition and network formation :P
posted by kliuless at 7:42 AM on March 24, 2009


WFMU's The Media Squat with Douglas Rushkoff radio show
posted by homunculus at 10:21 AM on March 24, 2009


« Older Fantasy Meets Reality....  |  The Cat Wig, The Inflatable Da... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments