The Gimmick Economy: how central banks pretend software isn't eating the world

i.e. 5-10 cents an hour? I don’t think so. Let’s get real about what third world wages really are, and what people ‘earned’ in a more egalitarian, but poorer, world.

One’s productivity is an upper-bound. Laws of supply and demand and government regulation for a lower bound. if the lower-bound exceeds the upper bound, the job ceases to exist.

Of course - it’s a prerequisite, not a guarantee. But then there have never been any guarantees.

[quote=“Shuck, post:20, topic:77079”]
The semi-skilled textile workers of pre-industrial Europe made a relatively decent wage (at least compared to the machine operators that replaced them)[/quote]

This attitude bothers me. It’s like claiming that subsistence farming is a fine existence compared to sweatshops when every time people have an opportunity for choice, we see mass migration towards those sweatshops. The chief advantage of an agrarian existence for liberals like me is that the tremendous unhappiness, suffering, and slow starvation is hidden from my view, while I actually have reports of how bad the slums are. How do I know agrarian existence is bad? Because people leave en-masse whenever their given the opportunity no matter how wretched their destination.

When you have defined standard human behaviour to be deviant or evil, you provide all the ammunition required to essentially dehumanize any group. You simply observe their behaviour and classify it as evil, and poof, instant justification for whatever you want to do to that group. Two, you prevent honest examination of your own group. If your group cannot possibly adhere to the standards you require (not hope for, require), then obviously we have to twist the facts around to somehow make it that our behaviour is okay, while the same behaviour from other groups is somehow different.

I cannot think of any honest definition of sociopath that applies to the North American 1% that doesn’t also apply to the global 1% (i.e. us reading this). That’s not to say that there aren’t sociopaths among every group, but that in the end we’re all humans, behaving like humans do in different settings and cultures.

Our job is to change those settings and cultures, not hate humans for being human.

Yes! Not people expecting other people to be decent enough so that the world is a better place, but people willing to do the work themselves.

If my limited personal experience with those sort of people is any guide, most of them had a clear-eyed view of what humanity is like. And then went and did what they thought needed to be done. The lead by example is a powerful one, and if I am any more generous than I was in my youth, it’s because of exposure to people doing right, rather than listening to people yell how all our problems are somebody else’s fault.

Also, I have to say that if you ignore the fact that trade has lifted a billion people (mostly Asian) out of wretched agrarian poverty, you’re missing perhaps the biggest positive aspect of industrialization in the last 100 years. Just because agrarian poverty isn’t on our radar doesn’t mean it isn’t terrible. If people’s actions are any guide, the day-to-day life of a billion people doing subsistence farming is literally worse than sweatshops.

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To quote Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman:

It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.

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I don;t necessarily want the world economy to look like fashion, I was providing a counterexample, and referring to the innovation part of fashion, the rest sounds hellish as you say.

I agree with everything else you say, and you said it well.

If you want to argue that agricultural laborers make first world wages, please go ahead - you have a hard row to hoe. They aren’t survivable wages thanks to minimum wage exemptions, which is why child labor is so common (thanks to child labor exemptions) - it takes a whole family working the fields to get enough money to even have a third-world quality of life in the US.

What I am claiming is that being a pre-industrial textile worker in one’s family’s village was a hell of a lot better than being forced to migrate to a city where a much poorer wage had you living in squalid conditions without any social safety net. Because that’s inarguably true. That social change and general economic growth eventually, some generations later, created better conditions meant fuck-all to the people whose lives were destroyed. They moved because their livelihoods were taken away, not because life was better in the city (well, it was better than starving to death at that point). My point being - relying on fantasy notions of how automation “made things better” in the past leaves us utterly unprepared for what’s going to happen with future/current instances of widespread automation, leading to unnecessary widespread human suffering.

Yes, but:

“We tripled innovation.”

– Carly Fiorina, as quoted in The New Yorker, “The Heart of the Deal” by Amy Davidson, 2015-10-05

(Oh, wait…)

Um, maybe if those people do the same thing over and over, just to make more people, we should stop making those people… I think we have sufficient excess human resource for the moment.

(Yeah, this one is going to haunt me…)

This is your main point, and one I mostly agree with. Except I’m not certain about the unnecessary. There’s essentially no way around it. After all, while the industrial revolution was a truly terrible time, the only thing worse than going through it was not going through it.

It’s a global world. You can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game.

I think you have a very idealized view of subsistence farming and associated industries. This was the Malthusian era. Population wasn’t growing, but people were still having 8-10 children, and the death rate in childhood wasn’t 80%. Starvation was ever present. You didn’t need industries destroyed to have a vast population of people desperate for work when you had hundreds of thousands or even millions without any land or any assets and only a few meals from starvation.

So yes, if you were a land-owner of more than a postage stamp, the city was worse. But for everyone who wasn’t the oldest son of a land-owner, the hell-hole of the industrial revolution was more likely a step sideways than down.

As it is, I think we’ll hit the great equalization before robots make us all obsolete. And that equalization is already hurting, as we in the developed world find that we turn out not to have an intrinsic right to be the global 1%-ers and we move down as the rest of the world goes up. I suspect we meet in the middle with a ~ $10K median salary.

In a global sense, I feel sorry for the rest of the world. At least we in the developed world had generations in the sun before the collapse. Can you imagine what it must be like to finally break the $10K barrier and then a handful of years later have it all taken away forever?

Feel sorry for my kids, but then I’ve always been rotten at predicting the future, so let’s hope my streak continues.

That sentiment, echoed through all of his books, is why Terry Pratchett will always be one of my favourite authors. His abiding affection for humanity even as we’re being awful is something I continually aspire to.

It’s funny how tech-bothering people (as opposed to tech- and history/econ savvy peopl) think that vague ideas of automation and plenty… always end up at wage deflation (internal devaluation) and… profit? If you don’t understand macro… don’t stop talking, just pause talking, take some macroeconomics and economic history, and come back with an ideology that isn’t cribbed from an ignorant Silly Valley billionaire’s TED talk.

I’m not certain which part of my comment you are referring to. If you are referencing my “great equalization”, then I’d claim that wages are going up for the vast majority of the world. Unfortunately as we move to a more mobile labour market, wages equalize, which is bad news for me and my ilk. Certainly after being outsourced twice, my earnings are down about a third.

Even so, I’m making about 4 times what my colleagues in India and the Philippines are earning, and I’m not certain I’m four times more productive, so I’ve likely got a ways to fall, even as they rise.

If we’re talking about robots, we’re blue skying the ultimate - something that does everything that a human does, but at an amortized cost of less than a subsistence wage. At that point, you’re kind of flipping the table of economics, as labour essentially becomes free.

And given that robots have no demand, that gives you an economic apocalypse, does it not? Have capital? You’re gold. Don’t? Oh well, thanks for playing.

Do I really see that coming in the next 50 years? No, not really. But if it does, then I’m not sure what happens, but it wasn’t good for horses.

Economic growth is not zero sum, regardless of the resource constraints (real and imaginary) you think we’re working with. Just on that front, the waste of neoliberealism is only self-fullfilling.

The results would arguably have been much better in fact.

I know far better how to spend money than a bank does, and spending money is what powers the economy.

Really all that was accomplished by paying the banks billions of dollars for their misdeeds was devaluing the money I already had, and make it harder to get credit to boot.

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“Money directly to the people” is what the Labor government of Australia did in response to the GFC (along with some other things).

As a result, the Great Downturn never happened in Australia. Our economy thrived while America cratered.

$700 to everyone, plus another $700 for selected groups. I used my $1,400 to replace my old, polluting and unreliable vehicle with a more modern one.


I mean, seriously, the great equalization only implies wage deflation for the West if markets rely on monopoly/oligopoly and using third world labor to beak unions and the welfare state.

If patent IP weren’t exclusive, the developing world could develop and the developed world could continue to make its own shit more and more sustainably. Trade in ideas would not be funneled through corporate gatekeepers.

Democracy could enforce local labor standards, communication could spread the contagion of the safety net, and this weird shit we have now would evaporate [along] with the Thielites yammering about shit that doesn’t make sense.

This is mainstream econ. It’s even libertarian econ except that no retardians would ever admit it.

Patent IP is not exclusive forever, and the developing world is developing at an incredible rate (see China). Perhaps you assume that I’m claiming wages remain at whatever the equalized rate is. Nothing of the sort. I would expect (resource limits possibly throwing a wrench in things), that we see substantial growth, and basically a recreation of Western development.

But first they need to get wages up to a level that can afford unions and labour standards, which is happening even now. Still, there’s another billion people to add to the labour market before we see a complete floor on wages.

However, I do think we’re likely to see a rough set of circumstances for my children’s generation. My (theoretical) grandchildren might see a very optimistic world of heavy growth.

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