44 Explicit Points on Creating a Better World
1) Ideology is key. If you like (or were horrified by) my Baseline Predictions post, understand that the next two posts on ideology were about the solution. Our decisions about what to do are virtually always ideological. You cannot think about any complex subject without ideology, without idea structures mediating. You cannot decide what to do without making judgments that are mediated through you world-view.
2) We know much of what must be done. We know we need to do it. We have not done it. That suggests this is not a “practical” problem.
3) The structure of everyday life (job work, regimented schooling for children, passive entertainment, consumer “choice” that isn’t real choice) produces our world-view, our ideology. We are left passive and accepting of social arrangement, unable to see that there are different ways to live. We accept the world as it is, and accept systematic injustice, even injustice that directly and clearly injures us.
4) The problem of collective action is one part belief: people must believe they should do things differently.
5) Any social structure, including social structures which seek to change the dominant culture, if it can be bought out, will lose.
6) Any new social structure must throw off surplus that people can live on, and that surplus must not be able to be bought up by the old system, which will seek to do so. The ban against selling out/being bought out must be irrational and ideological. Rational people sell out.
7) The forms of the old world must be gotten rid of, and must be seen as anathema. You cannot save the world and keep American style suburbia as it is now. You cannot change the world so people are happy and healthy and prosperous and keep wage labor as your primary method of distributing surplus value to the commons.
8) You cannot keep profit, aka. greed as the primary driver of social decision making. Eating is for living, living is not for eating, to paraphrase Socrates.
9) Greed as primary driver leads to sociopathic behaviour being rewarded (read Barkin’s “The Corporation”). This means you select, systematically, people who act sociopathically or pyschopathically as your leaders. You get the behavior your reward, and right now our system rewards people for doing whatever it takes to make money, no matter what the costs to other people, to the environment or the future.
10) Most profits today are extracted value, they are not actual surplus value. Instead they represent destruction of actual economic productivity. Every cent the financial sector “earned” from 2000 to 2007 was destroyed, ten times over, in the crisis and the depression after the crisis.
11) Actual value is not rewarded. A janitor or a garbageman or a teacher or a nurse or an assembly line worker or an engineer produces real value. If the CEO does not come in tomorrow, so what? If the janitor doesn’t, everyone is complaining immediately. The people we call value creators today are mostly value extractors: their job is to squeeze hard, to monetize, not to create new products which are genuinely beneficial to the world, not to create workers who are well paid and thus able to provide demand, not to create better paying work, but worse paying work.
12) If you need a job to survive, you are always at the mercy of people who provide jobs.
13) The wage you are paid is based on the tightness of the labor market and how protected you are by government. It has virtually nothing to do with your personal skillset, except to the extent that skillset is in short supply. As programmers found out, corporations and government will do everything they can to make sure any specific labor shortage is reduced as quickly as possible.
14) You have power, as an ordinary individual, only if you act as a group and in solidarity. If you can be bribed to betray other ordinary people, they will play you off against each other.
15) Jobs aren’t a good way to distribute surplus, but if that is how you do it, you will only get surplus in a tight labor market. Central banks, the rich, corporations and government today all work systematically to make sure that there is no tight labor market. If there is no tight labor market, you can and will be replaced. If you can be easily replaced, there is no reason to give you any extra money, even if you are producing more than you did in the past. It is for this reason that for over 30 years now NONE of the productivity gains have gone to ordinary workers on aggregate.
16) The economy must be completely electrified. Energy must be made, to the largest extent possible, a capital good, this is a specific instance of the next point:
17) Supply bottlenecks cannot be allowed. Ever. Whenever one starts to form, it must be broken. Failure to do so is why the post-war liberal order failed and was replaced with neo-liberalism.
18) You cannot use up sinks (like carbon storage in the atmosphere) faster than they can be regenerated. Period.
19) You cannot allow degradation of food or environment. These are major causes of the degenerative and chronic diseases which are epidemic in our society.
20) You cannot allow significant unproductive consumption to be a major part of your economy. Suburbia, for example, is essentially pure consumption. All bans on productive work, agriculture, etc… in suburbia must be removed.
21) You cannot allow public goods, like education or health care, to be rationed based on ability to pay. Paying for schools through property taxes creates an education system which wastes the human potential of millions of people in an attempt to replicate class privilege. Ironically, the middle class is failing anyway, as the economic value of education has been destroyed.
22) The most important rule of all is this: your elites must experience the same life as ordinary people. They must go to the same shitty schools (no private schools, no enriched schools, no Ivy League). They must fly on the same planes and go through the same security (they don’t), they must use the same healthcare and stew in the same wards in the same rooms as the poorest of the citizens. They must eat the same food, rather than being able to buy high quality food the poor can’t. If they don’t experience what you experience, they will not care what is happening to you. And they don’t. Why should they when they’re the richest riches the world has ever known. The world is great, to the rich and powerful.
23) You have power to the degree you have solidarity, control your own government, and have the ability to support yourself without a job. If you cannot walk, if you have no ability to say “screw you”, then you are a slave, the only question is who you are a slave to. The people we feel worst for today are the unemployed who can’t even find a master.
24) People who actually create value must be allowed to keep enough of it. Right now they aren’t. Google takes almost all the value created by the people who actually make the web, for example. Wal-mart crushes its suppliers into the dust. A few key pipelines like App Stores, Amazon, and so on take almost all of the surplus value. Anyone who thinks 30% is a reasonable charge for an app store wants to see failure (this doesn’t mean no taxation, proper taxation takes away unneeded surplus, not needed surplus.)
25) A regular rate of return of 5% is reasonable. A world in which you have to make 15% or 30%+ to be viable is a world in which most businesses are not viable, and in which millions sit idle with nothing to do because there is nothing to do that can make those sort of returns.
26) Returns of 15% or more can only be made through fraud, exploitation or oligopolistic practices. Bad or fraudulent profits drive out real profits and real value creation.
27) The network effect is not something which should be rewarded with a 30% commission. Neither is the railroad effect “nice product you got there, son, but it doesn’t get to market if you don’t pay us our vig.”
28) We can all be prosperous, but we can’t all be rich. Having hundreds of billionaires is exactly why you haven’t had a real raise in 30 years.
29) Concentrations of wealth are used to protect that wealth and buy up the system. That is why they can’t be allowed. The first thing someone does who wins the market, is buy the market, and that means buying the government.
30) Government is either your worst enemy, or you best friend, depending on whether it is controlled by the public, by private interests or running rogue. But government is also the only major organization which can work for ordinary people. Every other organization has another purpose. As such, you must control government if you want prosperity.
31) Government, under whatever name, is needed to do things we must do together for the greater good. When it does not exist, you get Somalia. Great cell phone service, but your daughters get pulled out shacks at 2 am and raped, or you buy your safety by submitting to an oppressive set of relgous laws.
32) You cannot have large standing armies and keep liberty. Period.
33) You cannot give private entities the right to print money without extremely strict limits and not expect unreasonable concentration of money, which means power, which means the government gets bought out and you lose both your liberty and your freedom.
34) Biodiversity is wealth, it is where the great biochemical advances and products of the future will come from. Every time we kill a species, we impoverish our future.
35) We are going to require a transnational body with armed forces to enforce environmental controls.
36) Fines no longer work to control economic activity, we will require outright criminal bans and tough enforcement to stop rapacious corporate behaviour.
37) If you must have the cheapest devices, you are requiring a woman in the Congo to be raped and rivers in China to be polluted. Fixing this is not an individual action, it is a collective action problem, it can only be fixed by government and by terrible things like, oh “tariffs”.
38) Free Trade is meaningless if you don’t have full employment. It is a rounding error at best, harmful at worst.
39) Capital flows cannot be allowed to move faster than trade flows and really shouldn’t be much faster than labor flows.
40) The functionless rich cannot be allowed to keep the money they have. Use it for actual new production, or lose it.
41) Inflation is not a bad thing below about 10% or so. There is no good evidence it reduces growth, and it does break up concentrations of wealth. We are terrified of inflation because we know our wages aren’t rising faster than it is.
42) People who make a bad loan, should lose their money. There is no such thing as free money, and bondholders need to learn that. Concomittent, bankruptcy must be easy to get: economic cripples, unable to discharge debts are not in our economic interest. It is especially abhorrent that bankruptcy cannot discharge student loans.
43) An economy in which people are free to do what they love, free of fear of losing everything, is far more economically productive than one in which people are forced to do things they hate to make ends meet.
44) The right thing to do, ethically, is usually the right thing to do economically. Helping the distressed is good for the economy. Universal healthcare that doesn’t give extra money to insurance companies is good for the economy. Believe it or not, not dumping pollution into air and not poisoning food… is good for the economy. Feeding the poor is… good for the economy.
If you’re ever not sure what the right economic policy is ask yourself what the kind thing to do is. You’ll be right nine times out ten, and the remaining one time you’ll still be doing something good.