AOC feints towards fully automated luxury communism

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/03/10/star-trek-democrats.html

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Sheesh, what a dreamer.

Which is just one more reason I freakin love this woman!

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Star Trek Democrats? Let’s just let it go one step further and call them Culture Democrats. Artificial Intelligences are voters too! And yes, I think the Culture is something we should strive for.

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Indeed, automation strengthing the income divide as more people are made irrelevant and hastening the “inevitable decline” of capitalism is exactly what Marx predicted. But in the postwar period, the fruits of productivity improvements were shared with the workers that remained. And they were in turn able to buy enough and keep demand high enough that displaced workers were able to find alternate employment. It was THAT period that shows that the decline of capitalism is not inevitable, but that capitalism has to be restrained. Unions, labor laws, minimum wages, those are what will SAVE capitalism from itself, not steps towards its destruction.

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But the reason we’re not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem."

She really knows how to cut to the real issue in a clear and succinct way.

Cue the crabbing from conservatives and Libertarians about the Protestant Work Ethic, personal responsibility, the moral depravity of moochers, etc. All to cover up for the fact that they know they have to face their own shortcomings if they can’t compare their MoneyScore with the MoneyScores of others.

I always wonder how Libertarian and conservative Star Trek fans can reconcile themselves to the Federation’s economic model.

I completely agree, but do think that there were a number of external conditions that made that period of American prosperity an anomaly and allowed for restraints on capitalism to be put in place (I’d also add Eisenhower’s tax brackets to your list).

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She said these great words yesterday too. Keep those billionaires in the crosshairs!

“We should be working the least amount we’ve ever worked, if we were actually paid based on how much wealth we were producing,” she said. “But we’re not. We’re paid on how little we’re desperate enough to accept. And then the rest is skimmed off and given to a billionaire.”

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There were plenty of external factors making the US a successful economy in the post war period. Eg: rebuilding Europe and Japan, the export of American culture etc. But I’m not sure how much they had to do with how the gains from a successful economy were distributed between labor and capital. And yeah, tax rates were also important.

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AOC - Contact agent? If so, certain members of Congress had better look out for any drones or knife missiles.

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I love AOC (& the entire new cohort of young Dem women in Congress), but when I saw this comment the first thing that popped into my mind was the scene in Scorsese’s Gangs of New York where the two rich guys are watching a draft riot from the upstairs window of their very posh club, & the one rich guy worries that someday poor people might rise up & take power & the other rich guy says something like “not really a problem–we’ll always be able to pay one half of them to kill the other half.” If AOC & her allies can actually start a movement that finally persuades lower- & middle-class white Americans that lower- & middle-class brown & black Americans (& immigrants) are not their enemies, the country as a whole would be much better off, & the concept of a universal minimum income might actually get some traction. In the meantime, making people feel better about automation feels like it’s beside the point.

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As you note, outside of North America the rest of the world was either developed nation-states taking decades to recover from the war, or emerging nations struggling to develop. When things started equalising internationally in the late 1960s and early 1970s, America’s greedheads started taking back their version of unrestrained capitalism, followed by the “free” market fundies working to make neoliberalism the “default” that it has been for the past 35 years. The timing of this chart, which reflects Ocasio-Cortez’s statement quoted by @milliefink, is no co-incidence.

My point is that the postwar economic anomaly in America allowed a lot of breathing room to experiment with restraints on capitalism and more equitable distribution of gains between labour and capital (here’s another example: the GI Bill. Today’s flag-waving conservatives spend more time cutting veterans’ benefits than giving them an economic leg up). That a Republican president like Ike would feel politically comfortable imposing a 90% top tax bracket is a reflection of that.

We, along with AOC, fundamentally agree that putting these measures in place is ultimately a matter of political will. Late-stage capitalism is pushing inequality into dangerous and unsustainable territory, and there’s the looming threat of climate change as well: if prosperity won’t allow for fetters to be placed on out-of-control capitalism, then these perils may force the issue.

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One of my favorite books is Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut which imagines exactly this world, but it’s not a utopia. People have homes, food, cars and nothing to do all day and it causes a revolution.

Not opposing the idea, just saying that back in 1950 it was already being discussed.

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Orwell talks about the idea of “permanent retirement” in his awesome essay on Dickens.

Hey, here it is!

Dickens is one of those writers who are well worth stealing. Even the burial of his body in Westminster Abbey was a species of theft, if you come to think of it.

I think the fantasy is that we can all, like Dickens’ heros, aspire to a level of education where retirement just means release to cultivate our minds (my father has just completed his second decade of vigorous retirement).

But think we also underestimate people: even the most prolly prole can find propose in making and doing for their own satisfaction, and failing that, there’s always weed and Xbox.

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Uh, oh… here comes that tiny Latina…
… oh, sorry, it’s nap time.

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I’m trying to parse this last statement:

but if we figured out how to automate toilet cleaning, there would be even less justice and glory in discarding the people who’ve been cleaning toilets all along

We should forget about automated-cleaning toilets to preserve the toilet cleaning jobs? Is that what is being said?

I read it as: conservatives already discard the value of people because they clean toilets; if such a job didn’t exist, they’d be discarding those same people’s value on no basis whatsoever.

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I believe that the idea is that we should structure the economy so that those displaced by the toilet cleaning robots can find other ways to support themselves. Rather than just shrugging and saying “Oh well, free markets,”

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OK, fair enough. I was worried it was some sort of call for a socialist class system – “don’t deprive people of toilet cleaning jobs (as long as I don’t have to be the one to do it).”

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I imagine the same way leftist LoTR fans (me!) reconcile themselves with the fundamentally reactionary political milieu of Middle Earth—enjoy it as fiction and move on.

Mind, if you try to imagine someone holding the opposite political viewpoints from you without being a moral monster (an enlightening exercise, though not one I’m only indifferently successful at) you could just as easily imagine that they’d be stoked for a Federation future or, better yet, a Culture future but think one is impossible without the sort of technological miracle-working both of these societies have as a matter of course. After all, to pick an example both of us might be able to relate to more, in a society where the technology to completely neutralize bullets exists and is universal (say a Culture Mind simply displaces any projectile threatening anyone or anything out into the Sun) there’d be no reason whatsoever for gun control of any sort. By all means, take a MG-42 to a kindergarten, why not.

But there isn’t such a technology and so there is a need for stopping people from taking machine guns to kindergartens.

I imagine they might feel the same way?

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I am fond of her fire. But please don’t burn down the whole house for one representative.

The publications from (I hesitate to call them this) The Right are calling her out for her calling herself the boss while at the same time espousing socialism.

She has alienated many people in her party, and the Democrats are actively trying to stymie Congresswoman AOC.

That is not a platform that will last.

Well, in 1950 inviting people to kill time sipping espresso had yet to become a multi-billion-dollar industry with international chain stores, and nobody imagined you could become a rock star by streaming yourself playing video games on Twitch. Maybe people will just figure it out.

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