Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society
May 16, 2018 3:33 AM   Subscribe

A brief(ish) review of 'Radical Markets' - "The most radical thing about their proposal to reform property rights is the notion that private ownership of property is in some way a fundamentally flawed idea, and that progress requires movement toward a new norm: that social ownership of property is more just and efficient." (via)
Similarly, the market they envision for “data labor”, in which companies bid for and direct our data-production (as opposed to just hoovering up all the random data we throw off going about our lives) is interesting enough. But the breathtaking idea in that chapter is that we are looking at the digital economy all wrong. Their work suggests that tech giants are not benevolent innovators creating AI tools for the betterment of society, but rather are in some way exploiting us. We, or the digital imprints of our actions, are the fuel for the AI revolution, and we — society — are owed a share of the financial benefits generated by this natural resource.
also btw...
  • Should Social Media Companies Pay Us For Our Data? - "GLEN WEYL: Data is something that is useful to companies in producing products that we all like. It is incredibly intimate, and it belongs powerfully to us. So all of those traits sound a lot to me like labor."
  • The rise of the information economy threatens traditional companies - "In Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data, the authors make two provocative, interrelated arguments. First, they contend that data have largely superseded price as the most effective signalling mechanism in the economy. Second, data-rich markets will increasingly render the traditional company obsolete, with massive consequences for our economies and workforces... data-rich platforms have, in some areas, invented a better ordering mechanism that can structure information and reduce ignorance. They can now match buyers and sellers taking into account multiple preferences, such as personal taste, timing and convenience, rather than just price."
  • Robots Can Price Your Bonds for You - "Whatever investment banks are actually selling, a big part of what they think they're selling—what they hold themselves out as selling, what they sell themselves as selling—is financial expertise. When companies want to interact with financial markets, they go to investment banks, because the investment bankers know the financial markets. Some of that knowledge of financial markets is subtle and intuitive and multifaceted and hard to reduce to an algorithm, or even a neural network. But a lot of it ... probably ... isn't? If computers can know the market better than the bankers do, the case for the bankers is undercut."
  • What If Product Quality Rather Than Price Had Been Economists' Chief Object of Explanation? - "So suppose that economists had formulated the theory of perfect competition differently. Suppose that, instead of assuming exogenously given and fixed goods and services (of given qualities) in order to see how competition affects the prices of goods and services, economists had assumed that the prices of different types of goods and services are exogenously given and fixed in order to see how competition affects the types and quality of goods and services made available on market."
  • Economists focus too little on what people really care about - "Welfare economics and non-market goods are really important, and really hard to study with typical econ methods. So we often end up just not thinking about them."
  • Why Marx is more relevant than ever in the age of automation - "In his preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) Marx explained social change as the result of a clash between two layers of reality created by human beings: the forces of production – technology and the expertise needed to deploy it – and the social relations of production: the economic model required to bring the technology to life. Together, said Marx, the technology and the economic model form a 'base' on which the 'superstructure' of laws, political institutions, cultures and ideologies are founded in any given system. Revolutions happen when the economic system begins to retard technological progress... In the 'Fragment on Machines', written in 1858, he imagined a time when machines do most of the work and in which knowledge becomes 'social', embodied in what he called a 'general intellect'. Since capitalism is based on profits generated by workers, it could not survive a level of technological advance that eradicated the need for work. The clash between private property and shared social knowledge, he said, would blow the foundations of capitalism 'sky high'. This prophecy, so obviously relevant to our time of robots and networked knowledge, lay in the archives, unread until the 1960s."*
  • Eduard Bernstein - "Marx was a democrat in both theory and practice, but lived at a time when that could easily get you killed. Successful establishment of democracy, up to his time, came only via violent revolution (e.g. US). But Marx saw potential for urbanization, improved transportation & communication to create a far larger political community in favor of democracy, and with the capacity (via strikes) to effectively demand it. Bernstein's argument definitely eschewed revolution, but also downplayed all extra-parliamentary action."
  • Is Capitalism a Threat to Democracy? - "The idea that authoritarianism attracts workers harmed by the free market, which emerged when the Nazis were in power, has been making a comeback."*
  • How the west should judge a rising China - "The Chinese elite is right: they are, alas. The dominant view among the rest used to be that the west was interventionist, selfish and hypocritical, but competent. After the financial crisis and the rise of populism, the ability of the west to run its economic and political systems well has come into doubt. For those who believe in democracy and the market economy as expressions of individual freedom, these failures are distressing. They can only be dealt with by reforms. Unfortunately, what the west is getting instead is unproductive rage."
  • Thoughts on the Swiss Project - "Switzerland maintains its own currency (the Swiss Franc) and monetary sovereignty with a Central Bank that it controls. Switzerland is a Federation of 26 state-like entities called Cantons with local governments within the Cantons. It is, in very simple terms, kind of like a miniature version of the USA with a federal government and 26 states that are independent but united. Unlike the USA, however, it is a true democracy in that the people can vote for policy changes with simple majorities."
  • Deindustrialisation may be complete; economic change is not - "[I]n an increasingly knowledge-based, service-producing economy, relatively little capital and labour is needed to generate huge economic value. That is likely to intensify 'winner-takes-all' characteristics for ever more economic activity, like we already see in much of the internet and entertainment sectors. We should therefore expect to see more of society's value creation reaped by fewer hands, absent policies to ensure the contrary."
  • Economic policies for tectonic change - "A broad net wealth tax offers a well-targeted way of raising or redistributing purchasing power, without discouraging highly productive economic activity... The economic changes under way suggest that two other priorities should rank higher: empowering individuals in weak bargaining positions in the labour market (such as those with irregular work), and providing a safety net against the worst outcomes (rather than smoothing incomes over time). Both considerations point in the direction of systems of benefits that are less linked to the amount of contributions put in and more towards an unconditional minimum, to ensure that people can afford to refuse bad or exploitative 'flexible' work practices and will not be knocked over by a sequence of economic disruptions."
  • How the Civil-Rights Movement Aimed to End Poverty - "In the fall of 1965, after the Voting Rights Act passed, the coalition of black, socialist, and progressive leaders who had come together to organize 1963's March on Washington joined together again to create an ambitious policy document with no less a goal than ending poverty in the United States without cost to taxpayers. First released in 1966, it proposed using strong economic growth to provide a federal jobs guarantee, universal health care, and a basic income. This executive summary of the full report, published in 1967, was endorsed by more than 100 signatories and was distributed in black neighborhoods."
  • How to Reduce the Black-White Wealth Gap - "An answer to this could be to give black children, instead of baby bonds, shares in a social wealth fund. This would be a fund, or collection of funds, run by the government and investing in a broad array of financial assets -- stocks, real estate investment trusts, etc. -- much like the sovereign wealth funds of resource-exporting nations."
  • Getting Past Capital (Labor) - "Now if we all had inherited wealth, or sufficient income from capital, an economy without labor wouldn't pose a problem. As a first approximation, we would have the same demand. But none of us would have to work and all of us could enjoy the benefits of cheaper products and services courtesy of robots and automation."
  • Getting Past Capital - "One of my fundamental claims is that capital is no longer scarce. There is enough capital in the world to meet everyone's basic needs. That means meeting the individual needs of 7 billion or more people, the collective needs of the societies they live in and the collective needs of humanity at large. Using the language introduced earlier, capital is sufficient. And because population growth is decelerating, while technological progress is accelerating (due to digital technology), capital will no longer be the binding constraint for humanity going forward."
posted by kliuless (16 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
 
oh and fwiw...
Anthropic Capitalism And The New Gimmick Economy - "So long as public goods make up a minority of a market economy, taxes on non-public goods can be used to pay for the exception where price and value gap. But in the modern era, things made of atoms (e.g. vinyl albums) are being replaced by things made of bits (e.g. MP3 files)... Hence, the previous edge case of market failure should be expected to claim an increasingly dominant share of the pie. Assuming that a suite of such anthropic arguments can be made rigorous, what will this mean?"
posted by kliuless at 5:55 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


excellent
posted by eustatic at 6:21 AM on May 16


"The most radical thing about their proposal to reform property rights is the notion that private ownership of property is in some way a fundamentally flawed idea, and that progress requires movement toward a new norm: that social ownership of property is more just and efficient."

So the context of this quote is musing from the author based on the book reviewed, an idea that doesn't seem to come from the original book.

The problem with the social ownership of property is that humans are weird about things they care about. The transactional nature of ownership in our society obscures how people actually think about ownership, as an emotional investment. I would be happy to communally own a lawnmower. I don't care about a lawnmower outside of its ability to make grass presentable. I'd love to loan you a book, because while it's my book, I'd also like to gift you an appealing story or some intriguing ideas, and if you keep it, I'll hope it's because it means a lot to you. However, my computer is mine, I built it myself, it's an important tool to me and a host to a lot of happy memories. You can specify, when you send a Roomba off for repairs, whether you want your Roomba back, or an identical, refurbished one.

My parents have told me stories of people they knew who went in for communal ownership, and how it worked well when they were all poor and together they were richer than separately. Once they started to have children, though, they suddenly they had something they desperately cared about, and they unwittingly started to divide up the property based on who was most likely to cause a Problem.
posted by Merus at 6:38 AM on May 16 [10 favorites]


Their work suggests that tech giants are not benevolent innovators creating AI tools for the betterment of society, but rather are in some way exploiting us.

WHAT STOP THE PRESSES
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:35 AM on May 16 [5 favorites]


The Economist newspaper's review (mentioned in the Medium article) calls Radical Markets it "an arresting if eccentric manifesto for rebooting liberalism"
posted by chavenet at 8:17 AM on May 16


The problem with the social ownership of property is that humans are weird about things they care about.

I think communally-oriented people have realized for a while that shared ownership of all property isn't a good idea. But something like a computer specifically is an interesting case, because it's a productive tool that a few decades ago almost certainly would have been thought of as something that makes sense to share - but now is literally a repository of your personal life.
posted by atoxyl at 8:48 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Just curious re ownership of computers, but how common is it for people to set up separate accounts on their PCs for different people? Everyone in my family has their own account on "my" computer. I take this practice for granted, but is it a thing that most people do?
posted by Jpfed at 9:24 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]




Huh. Sure didn't take long to get to the "commies want everyone to share toothbrushes" argument.
posted by mondo dentro at 11:05 AM on May 16 [14 favorites]


Just curious re ownership of computers, but how common is it for people to set up separate accounts on their PCs for different people? Everyone in my family has their own account on "my" computer. I take this practice for granted, but is it a thing that most people do?

I've only really seen (or done) that when everyone didn't have their own computer to use. I don't really see the need if the only time someone else is using my computer is when they're borrowing it for a bit.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:30 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


In political/economic theory, notably socialist, Marxist, and most anarchist philosophies, the distinction between private and personal property is extremely important. Which items of property constitute which is open to debate. In some philosophies, such as capitalism, private and personal property are considered to be exactly equivalent.

yes, this is what I mean - what I'm commenting on is the interesting way the logical category for certain technological items has changed as they have developed
posted by atoxyl at 12:14 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


The problem with the social ownership of property is that humans are weird about things they care about.

One of the saddest, most twisted things about the current social/economic situation in the developed world is that the comfort and preferences of people with access to resources are prioritized over the literal survival needs of people with less access. How many houses and bedrooms are sitting empty while people sleep on the streets and under bridges?

Another very twisted thing is the way that we confuse how people feel and behave now with some kind of intrinsic human nature, as if our psyches aren't highly shaped by capitalist social structures, norms, inherited emotional patterns, and relentless propaganda. I mean, as recently as a hundred years ago, it was common practice for people to share a bed with family members, colleagues, and even strangers.
posted by overglow at 1:28 PM on May 16 [7 favorites]


For those who believe in democracy and the market economy as expressions of individual freedom, these failures are distressing. They can only be dealt with by reforms. Unfortunately, what the west is getting instead is unproductive rage."

Might I suggest that unproductive rage is the necessary precursor to reform, because only the threat of destruction it represents can motivate those capable of reform to prioritize the long-term survival of society over their own immediate interests.
posted by Naberius at 2:19 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


more, &c.
  • "a huge portion of the startup economy is ultra-convenient lifestyles of urban professionals being subsidized by the uber-rich (through investment) and the working class (through lower wages, reduced benefits, and general precarity)"
  • "This is what I've been calling Gosplan risk for years. Aka the illusion that superior info, tech and planning can make otherwise prohibitively expensive services accessible to everyone. In reality, it's just soviet style unsustainable subsidization"
posted by kliuless at 7:21 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]



Huh. Sure didn't take long to get to the "commies want everyone to share toothbrushes" argument.


What do you expect with such a MF bait-y pull quote?

One of the saddest, most twisted things about the current social/economic situation in the developed world is that the comfort and preferences of people with access to resources are prioritized over the literal survival needs of people with less access. How many houses and bedrooms are sitting empty while people sleep on the streets and under bridges?

Sad and twisted if you wish, but it hardly seems puzzling why people with access to resources are prioritized over the literal survival of people with less access. In a way, you could say that access to resources defines priority. The question is whom do you want to point the finger at? I'd point at other people, of course. People with more access than myself. What about you?

Another very twisted thing is the way that we confuse how people feel and behave now with some kind of intrinsic human nature, as if our psyches aren't highly shaped by capitalist social structures, norms, inherited emotional patterns, and relentless propaganda. I mean, as recently as a hundred years ago, it was common practice for people to share a bed with family members, colleagues, and even strangers.

Is there any reason to believe capitalist social structures, norms, inherited emotional patterns, and relentless propaganda are not the result of human nature?
posted by 2N2222 at 9:06 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


What do you expect with such a MF bait-y pull quote?

There's a reason I framed my response as addressing the pullquote, not any of the underlying points.
posted by Merus at 2:52 AM on May 17


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