The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Lords of Hell (and Their Slaves)

Most people spend their entire childhoods and adult lives until they are really too old to work, doing shit they don’t want to do and would never do absent coercion.

This is the ur-fact about capitalism. You cannot leave. If you do not submit to slavery, you will wind up homeless and eventually dead, and suffer a lot along the way.

This is built into the system: The “whip of hunger” is used to make people work. The threat of homelessness.

Homelessness, despair, and so on are required; without them people would not bother working at bad jobs. Indeed, without them many people would not work any more than required to feed and house themselves.

Now, understand clearly, rip a hole in your skull, and put this in: There is more food than needed and way more homes than homeless people in all of the developed countries and more food than needed to feed everyone in the world. We could easily feed and house everyone in the world. It is almost a trivial problem. We simply have to do it.

Industrialization, plus modern agriculture, produces easily more than we need. Automation should mean that less and less hours need working. We should be living in a paradise of free-time and choice.

We do not because a small minority has captured power and enslaved the rest of us.

These people are monsters on every possible level, including in their depraved indifference to what will happen to their children and grandchildren under environmental collapse and climate change.

We have a surplus, but it is generated in the stupidest ways possible — with planned obsolesence, soil degradation, and pollution causing environmental collapse.

If we had built everything without planned obsolesence, we wouldn’t be where we are. If we had not degraded the soil and dumped so much pollution into the air we would not be where we are. We made a bunch of choices to do things the fast, “profitable” way that actually led to people being sicker (all that pollution and soil degradation means you are undernourished and full of unhealthy chemicals) and having to work longer.

We had the knowledge to have a manageable, sustainable cornucopia by just looking at the effects on people, animals, and plants, and the environment in general and correcting. We did not.

School, if you will put aside your prejudices for a couple minutes and look at it coldly, is a process whereby you are made to sit still, talk only when teacher allows, piss only when teacher allows, stand only when teacher allows, and do all sorts of things you don’t want in the way that pleases teacher or you get bad grades, and if you get enough bad grades, you will almost certainly never have a good job or any power in society.

You were trained to be a slave by school then you went to work and acted like a good slave. Some few proved themselves psychopathic enough to ascend to the elites (though the few open routes are rapidly closing down), though most elites come from the already-elite (check out who Bill Gates father was).

Since creating a utopia in which people don’t have to obey their masters is no fun for psychopaths or functional psychopaths and narcissists (our ruling class), keeping the majority of the population firmly in a form of slavery they could tell themselves was freedom, “I get to CHOOSE MY MASTER who tells me what to do! I am free!” is what our master-class has done.

We run around on treadmills, working for them to get what we need, and the various drugs (including entertainment) we use to ease ourselves and pretend it’s all worth it. The internet, which looked like it might increase freedom, has simply set up more hedonic treadmills, optimized for us to tell our masters everything about ourselves, so they can sell us our next drug, and continue their removal from us of all real assets. (Private equity is now buying up single family homes, the middle class’s last real asset.)

If you work at a normal job, you are a slave. If you have ascended to the ranks of high executive, CEO, or board member, you are Lord of Hell. There are some other seats, rather nice places: the independent best-selling author or musician, for example. The high paid consultant, the big Twitch streamer and so on. They are rare, and like becoming a pro-sports player, they exist for the majority of the population more as a way to blame themselves for not “making it” than as a real possibility.

This is our society: A society which had the technology to create a near utopia without destroying the world (yes, some people will argue this was always impossible; let us say that we never even tried) and which chooses instead to run a master/slave society which is so advanced it convinces most of the slaves they are free.

You WISH you had “Brave New World” because at least then you’d think you were happy.

It is odd, and sad, that this world will end because the masters, abetted by their slaves (who, remember, have not revolted in any meaningful way and have chosen the master-class through voting), have mismanaged the environment so badly.

When that happens, the powerful are betting they will become even more powerful, so that they can use their resources to be masters in an even greater hell.

Let me suggest, that as you or your children are scrabbling for survival in the world to come, you take the time to ensure that the masters don’t “win” by destroying the environment.

The hell they will create in a collapsing environment will make the present hell look wonderful by comparison, and they will never stop creating hells unless it is made clear to them that their perpetual hell creation will soon become unprofitable for them as well; even if it has to be with their lives.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 13, 2021


It Is True: There Is No Moral Equivalency Between Hamas and Israel or the US


  1. Dan Lynch

    Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it. ~ John Lennon

  2. Z

    If the financialization of the economy is not broken there is no hope to address any of the issues mentioned because control of the economy will remain with people who have been driven insane by their own greed and they’ll run this world off a cliff and kill us all just to maintain their power over us.

    Unfortunately, these people hide behind a curtain of their bought-and-paid politicians and most people don’t realize who they are and/or have access to them to make them pay for their crimes against all life on this planet.

    The working class tactic most likely to upend the current economic system is a General Strike.


  3. Willy

    After Sidney Powell’s legal team came up with a ‘Fox News defense’ for her, that everything the lawyer says is just opinionated free speech, she doubled down on her “But I’m telling the truth!” Kraken nonsense. Most people would define that as obvious insanity and think nothing of her disappearing into a little white van, straitjacketed.

    Yet for others, this seems beyond their abilities. Who are these people? Why are these people? So loud and proud about storming the capitol, despite studies showing that they were mostly middle aged whites who’d be considered reasonably comfortable in most societies. Wouldn’t their time have been better spent researching the facts? How did they get misdirected in such a ridiculously grotesque way? Or maybe, they know full well how they got where they are and want to retain their bully system.

    In my little world, our target should be the sociopathic con artist grifter class in power at most of our corporations who spends most of their time cultivating insatiable consumption to the point of cultural, economic, and ecological insanity.

    If the polls I’m seeing are correct, over 70% of us are still reasonably safe and sane. Yet we let the bullies and their enablers own us. I get that most people are afraid. Back in grade school, you didn’t want to be the guy who got beat up by the bully while the other kids stood by and watched. Or worse, the one who stood up for the bullied and got twice the punishment just for doing so. In adulthood, you don’t want to be the guy who gets helicoptered by Pinochet henchmen, only to have those people leave office and other leftists like the ones he’d persecuted carry on and themselves, get elected. Personally, I’d start with clearly quantifying how a better society is possible, ready for the taking. Not to persuade the bully idiots, but to galvanize the 70%-ers.

  4. js

    Maybe it’s less not knowing than accepting the things one cannot change.

    And certainly any individual can not change it. But one should join groups and organize? Even the best groups don’t aim at that type of change. Most would be overjoyed and it’s beyond imagining to implement European style social democracy. That is not the abolition of capitalism, that’s just more human capitalism which is actually a whole lot, but not enough to save the planet. Take explicit socialists like the DSA, they aim much of the time for getting a few decent people elected, which seldom seems enough people at any level, and then the people once elected often at least partly betray the constituency that got them there. Sometimes they support unionization which might be a better track. It’s the good fight. But it’s a fight one may never personally win, planting trees in whose shade one will never sit, and so on, hoping for a positive tipping point, a critical mass. And it’s not even AIMING AT utopia, but the only groups that would just sit around in meetings doing nothing but having long conversations about utopia. Most people at some point in their lives really have no time left for that.

  5. Dave Dell

    I liken it to the video of the hamster running on the wheel. Max speed. Wants to stop. Tries to stop and gets thrown off. Hard land a couple of times (or more) and your willingness to make the effort to stop vanishes.

    Essentially, we have a world economy built around “growth”. No one knows anything else from the top to the bottom of virtually every society extant.

    Growth for growths sake has now hit max speed and the throwing off (starting with Reagan) is increasing exponentially.

  6. gnokgnoh

    David Dell, perpetual growth in any ecosystem is unsustainable. Most systems are built around this principle, growth until no more resources, then die-off, adjustment, migration. The most basic example is bacteria in a petri dish or deer in the Wissahickon. Our civilization mimics most localized systems except we are even more complex, even global. Capitalism is predatory and based on perpetual growth because of access to cheap, easy energy, first whale oil, then coal, then fossil fuels. This, too, shall diminish rapidly.

    Growth is fun and energizing, don’t knock it. We use metaphors, both literal and abstract to describe it – springtime, reproduction, flowering, increasing energy, mating season. It’s when youth flourish and grow and consume everything with abandon (teenagers).

  7. gnokgnoh

    I am much more sanguine than Ian about the intentional venality of our overlords. The script has been written, the die cast, this is our system. Schools exist as institutions to teach that system. Capitalism, by extension, exists to increase the power of the wealthy, unless human governance intervenes. Democracy is an attempt to separate human governance from explicit power and wealth. It does not work, most of the time.

    We decry austerity as a policy imposed by the powerful on the poor and weak, both countries and people. Living only for minimal food and shelter is austerity. We will never choose universal austerity as public policy, until it is imposed on us. If not by our overlords, then by the earth.

    Monarchies and aristocracies were in some respects even more powerful than our current overlords, or at least overtly more so. Divine right of kings. Previously, it was religion and our songs and our lack of choice that taught us our proper place in a feudal system. If we were lucky, then like now, our father was a blacksmith with a thriving business that passed to his son(s), usually. Unlike then, we do not parade our overlords in the streets, we put them on our magazine covers. We can even throw stuff at our overlords, and we will likely not get our heads chopped off.

    I’m not trying to diminish the seriousness of Ian’s admonitions. He is right, totally. I’m the blacksmith’s son enjoying my ale at the local pub and making light of my situation, cracking jokes about the overlords, which, if you live in the U.S. or most Western countries, we are, too. We are the overlords.

  8. different clue

    As I read this post I wonder if I am being invited to see our Slavery Life under monetized market capitalism as a strictly binary all-or-nothing reality, or as life along a gradient between totally Slave and totally Free.

    If we are living somewhere along a Freedom-to-Slavery gradient, does any little thing we do to support ourself or eachother outside the monetized market economy system amount to just that little bit of Freedom? For example, if I find and eat some persimmons in the woods ( which I have in fact done) without paying anybody any money for them, was I just that little bit Free during that little span of time? If I was, that means that I and perhaps some others can move themselves and eachother closer to the Freedom end of the Freedom-to-Slavery gradient.

    But if having to work for money to buy anything at all that one has ever needed but could not produce or barter-for outside the market moneyconomy system means that one is a Pure Slave on the Pure Freedom or Pure Slavery binary choice set, then the chance of Freedom is hopeless and we might as well eat, drink and be merry-as-possible till we die.

    And our only hope of escape would be for us majority masses to increase our consumption of even more everything so fast and hard that we can crash and destroy every civilization and economy at once before the crashing economy and civilization is quite strong enough to crash life on earth with it. If that is how I should interpret this post, then our only rebellion is to all go out and buy or lease Hummers and drive them around and around and around with every leisure time minute we have in order to create a civilization killing shortage or breakdown of this and that as fast as we can . . . . while life on earth still has a chance of escaping the civilization crash burndown.

    So which is it: a Freedon-to-Slavery gradient, or a Freedom vs. Slavery binary choice?

  9. different clue

    ( Now . . . . if we are to believe that Freedom-to-Slavery is a gradient and we can excercise some kind of freedom to move ourselves more toward the Freedom end of the gradient . . . . or find the Slavery end of the gradient less fulfilling and profitable for the Lords of Hell based on some action or other which we are actually free to take, then here are two articles which might offer practical working inspiration.)

    What if millions of home-having parents of millions of no-job or low-job Millenials decide to sympathise with the Millenial distaste for McShit jobs at McShit wages? What if all these millions of parents decided to let their Millenial children live at home without working until the McShit job sector either made its jobs Okay jobs at Okay pay or just went extinct for lack of McWilling McShit McWorkers?

  10. gnokgnoh

    DC, I really like your freedom to slavery gradient. I try to push that every day.

  11. different clue


    Thank you for the kind words. I wish to believe that Freedom-to-Slavery is a gradient. But I am just a pollyanaform optimist, and I could be wrong. People who believe it is a off/on, zero/1, yes or no , one or the other Binary Choice should certainly feel free to act on that belief. Who is to say for sure who is right?

    But if I am right, there are things we can do here and there, around the edges, etc. We can ask ourselves . . . . ” what if I were one more mole or gopher among the ten tons of moles and gophers who could topple the system if they dig enough soil and subsoil out from under one side of it? What could I do to dig my tiny little part of all that soil and subsoil out from under one side of the system?”

    Uncivil obedience. Passive obstruction. ” I obey but I do not comply.”

    Someone should write a new song to the tune of that Civil Rights classic We Shall Overcome.
    Call that new song by the new title We Shall Undermine. And write a chorus and some verses in that spirit. Here’s a possible chorus. I have tried to give a hint of the cadence.

    We shall un der mine. We shall un der mi-i-ine. We shall un der mine each day-ay-ay-ay-ay.
    (Dum dee dahh dum dee dummm, dee dum dee dee), we shall unn derr miiine eaaach dayyy.
    Someone else could supply better words than Dum dee etc.

    If the Overclass has handed us the parts of the sheep to perform in the Great Play, do we have to be good little sheep? Perhaps we can be bad little sheep. Perhaps we can refuse to grow virgin wool. Perhaps we can grow dirty rusty used brillo.

  12. Synoptocon

    Uh, most people spend their lives doing things they wouldn’t do absent coercion *because* of the automation underwriting greater productivity…

  13. Ian Welsh

    If only that was true. If only. Most jobs are not related to increasing automation to increase productivity.

  14. John

    “I am his Majesty’s dog at Kew,
    Pray tell me sir,
    Whose dog are you?
    Alexander Pope, 18th Century
    And then there was Diogenes asking
    Alexander to stand out of the sunshine.
    Been a problem for a long time, will probably last until the end

  15. Eric Anderson

    “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

    –Edward Abbey

  16. Synoptocon

    If memory serves, the most common jobs for women and men are retail clerk and transport driver respectively. Both are firmly embedded in supply chains that are much more automated than they were a couple of decades ago and the factors that have reduced the relative quality of those jobs (e.g., pay, agency, freedom of scheduling, etc.) compared to past norms are fundamentally driven by that greater automation.

    I see the same story everywhere in the economy. Even the hot jobs du jour – supposedly high quality – are predominantly about serving the tooling. As an example, data engineers (far more numerous than data scientists) spend the bulk of their time cleaning and munging data so the algo can chew on it.

    Extend it out to second order effects like why so much bullshit legislation exists to provide employment for herds of accountants and lawyers engaged in trivialities. Fundamentally because automation leverages reach such that legislators think they can get their arms around vast fields of endeavour, policy advisors think they can find data to support decision making and lobbyists can easily blizzard the system with proposals at a cost that interested parties (funded by automation enabled profit capture) can easily pay for.

  17. Ian Welsh

    A simple tax code would produce better results. A vast amount of AI algo creation is done for micro-targeting ads and the surveillance required for that.

    The automation that does the actual production of goods and services requires almost none of these people. 95% of people working in health insurance and hospital billing departments in the US could go away with no problem under a sane system, too.

    Graeber found, iirc, that about 40% of jobs were bullshit, as rated by the people who did them: jobs that either contribute nothing, or are actively harmful.

    Virtually every person working on Wall Street is doing damage to the world and other people: they are playing a negative sum game, badly; they can almost all go: they allocate funds worse than chance would for human welfare.

    If all those people weren’t working, or were working less (25 hours a week) most of the restaurant jobs serving people in office areas could go. You can make your own cup of coffee, etc…

    There would be less driving, and less jobs required all around that complex. Etc…

  18. Philip Kaminski

    “Growth for the sake of growth, that’s the philosophy of a cancer cell” Edward Abbey

  19. Philip Kaminski

    looks like some of us are old enough to remember a good philosopher and ethicist! Hayduke lives!

  20. Synoptocon

    And my point would be that Graeber’s bullshit jobs fundamentally depend on automation. Absent low cost, low friction data storage and manipulation, absent low cost transport, they become too expensive to justify their existence.

  21. Krystyn Podgajski

    Ian, I am afraid none of the commenters expressed and understanding of the rage and truth you have expressed here.

    When people tell me, proudly, of their latest job promotion, it makes me wince, and all I can do to be polite is to fake my sympathetic joy. And these are the same people boasting about a larger piece of property they own, or a second house, and telling me this while they know I am mentally ill and homeless. To them it all makes sense, this cruelty is so normalized, and the sociopathy of people like Musk et all have the traits we to mimic in each of our pathetic attempts to be the Lord of Hell.

    I have suffered so much, but most people have suffered so little, and this is the problem. People are so afraid of suffering they will sell their souls to the capitalist antichrist.

  22. Alfred

    Participation is the key to the continuity of this Hell World. I and plenty of others I know refuse to participate in as many things that keep Hell World spinning as we can, at the loss of friends, family, livelihood, homes. There is no way everyone will wake up at once. Being driven by fear, the Lords of Hell are far more entrenched in the human psyche than enlightened sages. We wake up one at a time, are discouraged from getting together, any movements are co-opted and corrupted. How does lack of participation in Hell World reach a tipping point to freedom from fear of annihilation? I have been asking myself this for many years.

  23. anon y'mouse


    if true, target points for “cost” increase seem to be transport and comms, no?

    sabotage of these areas without bringing Hellworld down upon oneself is possible how?

  24. Pelham

    I’m not so certain that our masters, despite the evil that they do, are themselves evil. At least not all of them, or probably even a majority. After all, they’ve been indoctrinated and even educated in a system that attaches all sorts of rewards to their practices. Moreover, enough ordinary schlubs buy into the inherent worth of their BS jobs and the standard capitalist narrative to support the system and their masters. So count me as a political pessimist.

    However, I maintain just a thin thread of optimism that technology might one day give us not only the means to prevent even more catastrophic climate change, and even reverse it, but also the means to escape our dreary jobs. This would come about only through a fit of inattention on the part of developers. And I fully grant that every indication so far is that technology is further enslaving and immiserating us in most ways. But that could quickly change.

  25. Richard H Caldwell

    Hear, hear, all too well put!

  26. Barry

    It’s a special form of slavery, where when you are cut loose from a master you keep working on your slavish qualities in hopes of selling yourself to a new master.

  27. Barry

    Markets only make sense in situations where there is contention about what to do with scarce resources. Therefore people who want to organize the world around markets must contrive scarcities everywhere.

    This includes a scarcity of adequate jobs. Our immiseration serves to dissuade us from displeasing the ‘job creators’.

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