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14 September 2006

Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

Contrary Brin

Contrary Brin

Administrative post, please disregard

The present link
is supposed to enable Technorati to find the present blog.

Yet again, nationalism rears its ugly head.

12-Sep-2006 1733Z

The more NPG position papers I read, the more inclined I am
to assert that the 'N' in 'NPG' stands for nativism, or even
(gasp) nationalism. Let me try counting the ways:

1. The extent to, and consistency with, which minimization of US population is prioritized
above human population concerns.

2. The degree with which the papers are willing to go along with generally rightist assumptions about the
degree to which USians are likely to broaden their lifestyle palatability frontiers
for the sake of treading lightly.

3. The degree to which the NPG contributors are willing to assume that
America is always and forever destined to be an immigration magnet.

4. The degree to which the contributors are willing to go along with the
assumption that emigration from the US is an inherently self-interest-suboptimal
life strategy, and is destined forever to remain so.
This is redol-, er, reminiscent of the cornerstone doctrine of American nationalism:
"manifest destiny."

I have only read a few of the essays, so there is always the possibility
that a paper from someone critiquing (better yet IMHO attacking) growthism from a globalist,
internationalist, liberal, left-libertarian or cosmopolitanist angle managed to weasel by
the editor but that particular chapter hasn't yet caught my attention.
I have access to the book for another week, so perhaps I shall find out.

Please be patient while I address my four objections to the Grantist (or nationalist?) faction of the anti-growth
movement individually:

1. National population policy at the possible expense of world population policy

While America has consistently had positive population growth,
the fact remains that America has also consistently had population growth
numbers that are below the international average. For this reason,
American contributions to reduction in population growth rate
will (all other things being equal) will offer less-than-average
bang for the buck. Preferring decreased immigration over decreased
family size here in America further lessens the impact of US-population shrinkage
on world population shrinkage.

2. Empirical evidence of Americans' impressive level of austerity acceptance.

In America, the period of (approximately) 1980-2006(+?) has been a generations-long imposition
of economic austerity onto backs of the American working class by the synergistic combination of
an increasingly non-union workplace
combined with a narrowing opinion spectrum (or electorally viable opinion spectrum, anyway)
which now ranges all the way from far right to muddled middle.

The most painful quality-of-life setbacks that Americans of all ages have taken on the
chin largely without complaint are those pertaining to job security. Among young adult
participants in the labor market (in present-day America, generations X thru Z and almost certainly beyond)
the willingness to put up and shut up about (and importantly, not make a political issue out of)
underemployment and dead-end employment
has also been legendary. I myself don't reject the entire set of premises
of the NPG essay collection. I think the NPG'ers are spot-on about the first world's
(and especially America's) 'wasted generations' and 'wasted youth.' But this
in no way changes the fact that institutionalized economic hypercompetition has wasted
the talents of developing-world youth to a degree that is more austere by orders
of magnitude. I think all working class first worlders deserve a more generous,
more secure and less competitive range of opportunities for status as contributing
members of society, but I myself would only feel good about accepting such an
enhancement of economic prognosis to the extent that payment is exacted from the
first world's own bloated and arrogant managerial and ownership classes, not the more vulnerable (and far more deserving
of the opportunities) populations of places where employment expectations are held (thumb-on-the-scale)
by global economic elites (not the invisible hand, you free-market fundamentalists out there) at an
even lower level, which is to say a lot lower.

3. Empirical evidence that significant subsets of America's population at most weakly
equate quality of life with standard of living/consumption.

Recently (I'm a vagrant netizen so I won't go look up volume/number/page for you)
Time magazine devoted a whole issue to the subject of happiness.
The back cover (I'm pretty sure) had a few one-paragraph snippets and factoids from
the wonderful world of attempted empirical framing of the happiness question.
It mentioned a questionnaire-based study that established that respondents feel they would be
happier with incomes (in general) above $15,000 than those below that level.
Also, the investigators found little support for the idea that a respondent would be happier (in general) in any job,
than in any lower paying job.
In general, people don't report being (hypothetically?) happier at $2,000,000 income than $1,000,000.
Granted, the study was conducted in Europe, where prices and wages both run
a little lower (on average) and perhaps in much of Europe $15,000 is considered 'middle income'
rather than 'low income,' as it is here in America.
Some may object that apartment dweller lifestyles, smaller family lifestyles
and mass transit lifestyles are more palatable to Europeans than to Americans
for reasons inherent in supposed static characteristics of American culture.
My own opinion is that these assertions are pure BS. The amount of tax incentives,
tax and economic disincentives, public transportation disinvestment and outright social engineering that the American System devotes
to molding its citizens into homeowners and licensed drivers is explicit enough
and financially leveraged enough to beg the question of how much is consumer
preference as evidenced by buying preference, and how much is literally the workings of a
planned economy, if not a command economy.

4. Why I think mass emigration from America can be a global win-win.

It may be a win for Americans like me who are frustrated and burned out to
the point of almost having a death wish, by head-on global competition with people
whose lifestyle and economic security expectations have been systematically
held underwater for generations. It may not be, of course, since virtually none of the
meager knowledge I possess about the world-outside-the-US is 'first person.'
Since Europe is becoming less immigration-permissive, countries (if any) willing
to take immigrants from America are most likely sweatshop republics, compared to
which Generation X workplace austerity may as well be tenured faculty status
(or even membership in the socio-economic upper crust).
But there are also Americans who have above average work ethics, but are nevertheless
frustrated by the extent to which America's de-facto economic system reserves the right to
crank up the treadmill by turning what are naturally luxuries (extravagancies, really)
to literal necessities, or even pre-requisites for job hunting, such as nice
haircuts, nice clothes, a phone number in one's own name, non-homelessness,
non-carlessness[!] etc.
Also, it seems evident that the Americans most alienated by a set of 'family-friendly'
and unabashedly growthist cultural norms and economic
incentives are often (though not always) precisely those American adults who prefer to head child-free or
one-child households. These Americans, as expatriates or permanent migrants, might make the perfect replacement for emigrants from
overcrowded countries who may be social conservatives seeking 'battlegrounds of the bedroom' in more prosperous
(which is to say less economically crowded) countries;
at least for those countries willing to lighten up on (seemingly ubiquitous) discrimination in favor of those visa
applicants who are fecund, of childbearing-age, and/or married.
Emigration of Americans may be a winning trend for those countries,
and a political and economic lifestyle enhancement for their citizens,
including hopefully their new citizens.

I believe it may be in all humans' best interest that both migration and population dynamics operate at homeostasis,
rather than by statist economics and social engineering in service to mostly nationalist, growthist,
consumerist and homogenist norms. I don't think dropping growthism from the list would make for
much of an improvement on the population front or any other dystopia-avoidance front.
State controls over essentially economic
phenomena such as migration are destined to be equilibrated, usually by black markets,
which in the case of migrant labor means human trafficking, the confiscation of people's passports by private sector
operatives, and de-facto slavery.
Failed attempts to protect the first world from competition for yet another generation can
only forestall the inevitable, which itself can only further amplify the economic shock to be felt in America
when the inevitable finally happens and economic (let alone human-bioregional) equilibrium
finally asserts itself in the form of a 'market correction.'

I believe that the triumph of human homeostasis over non-global
population control, and the osmotic pressure inherent in such attempts at localizing or nationalizing control, is possible, but
only if certain things go right in the next few decades.

1. The pro-globalization movement must
be forced by forceful global popular (public opinion) demand to force economic liberalization
to wait in line behind political liberalization (i.e. basic international human rights STANDARDS, WITH TEETH)...

2. ...and also to force
enhanced mobility of capital to wait in line behind enhanced mobility of labor.

3. A third condition, I believe, also must be met, namely that
all nations and NGO's in the world must encourage the adotion of of a small family
(and better yet, an adopted family!)
as a cultural norm; not being shy about aggressively competing against spiritual authority
when called for. I hold that this is the one thing the clique that refers to itself
as the NPG movement has right.
My own opinion of Grant and the other self-identified NPG-ers would of course be higher
if they were more aggressively critical of the Vatican
and more open-minded toward migration liberals such as myself.

In my own opinion, all three of the above conditions must be met in order to avoid global dystopia.
To the extent that globalization is allowed to become a global 'social contract,'
it must be implemented as a moral contract, which is to say an actual written, binding contract
that is negotiated, by representatives of all social classes,
and on an equal footing with competing interests.
A boilerplate ('take-it-or-leave-it'; although the even more imperious 'take-it' seems to be the WTO model)
'social contract' drafted as WTO is, as
a manifesto of doctrinaire social darwinism and unapologetic economic elitism
is not a politically or morally legitimate instrument.
If activist and leftist interests continue to be locked out of alphabet soup summits,
our species in the XXI century is destined to see things get dramatically worse
(I don't think 'hell on earth' would be an exaggeration)
before they get any better.
God help us if nationalism wins out over liberalism,
and also if egalitarianism can't (or won't) compete with
liberalism on an equal footing!

Capitalism as moral ideology

Capitalism is that moral ideology which
grades on effort,
but defines effort in terms of ergonomic inefficiency.
It grades on creativity,
but defines creativity as effective salescrittership,
but mercifully has been known on occasion to reward the especially efficient and respectable with jobs in fields other than sales.
It grades on character,
but defines character as ability to look respectably middle-class.

< br / >

Did you know that, prior to the invention of the letter 'j,'
the glyphic molecules 'WWID' and 'WWJD' were indistinguishable?

Also, prior to the invention of the question mark,
'WWJD' would have been indistinguishable from 'WWJD?'

The fact that the period of hystery (which is to say history in the hysterectomist sense,
with reference to all the pro-life characterization of both de jure and de factro
abortionists as amoral godless npg antihippocratical fanatics)
that eventually came to be known in 'modern' Christendom as the Dark Ages
ran on codes of constructed using the already-deadish Latin tongue coded in the italic
latin glyphs of the more artistic (italic or hammeresque (in the floydian sense) gothic) and less information transparent (classic) variety,
under conditions of forced illiteracy for layfolk,
and the forced triad of poverty, chastity and obedience for churchfolk.
The illiteracy condition on lay status is enforced in a don't ask don't tell.
We won't ask why the informational leverage you exact over your neighbors
(since the wonderfully calvinist automobile hasn't been invented yet)
if you promise not to come out of the closet as a literate person.
Centuries later, technologies have been invented, and
varieties of engineered austerity of virtually(?) universal
sufferage have been lifted due to political liberation.
Unfortunately, since said liberation came from LIBERAL sources,
the economically-unnecessary-even-by-bronze-age-moral-standards-oppressions
imposed on humynity have merely been replaced by other poisons
for us to pick that are socially enlightened,
technologically empowered, and financed on the wealth of nations
(in the most literal sense) invested by owners of said wealth

Then (drum roll) came the age of information, which the paleoliberals (which is to say the neoliberals) said would liberate us from
all this literal (in both the mock Arthurian Pythonian and mock Orwellian Ehrenreichian senses)
SHIT, and the conservatives (mainly through the medium of 'local tv news') taught us
to fear it as if it were BABYLON!
Being browbeat even by non-workplace types into at least public submission to the idea that TwoPartyDemocracy is
not an oxymoron, like the bunch of paleoliberal (in defacto terms, 'New Dealers')
FOOLS we have allowed ourselves to become, we buy their SHIT.
Meanwhile the neoconservatives literally implement TAIWAN.
Not the country, of course, but the acronym:

The trouble with Tracfone®

When I first purchased my Tracfone®,
adding 'units' to my Tracfone® was as simple
as going to a 'land-line phone'
(in my case a pay phone, but since it's a toll-free
call I can do so at no ADDITIONAL cost at selected pay phones.
Once dialed in, it is a simple matter of navigating a
voice mail menu, punching in my Tracfone® serial
number when so instructed, and punching in my
'airtime PIN.' All this could typically be accomplished
in about 5 minutes. They also, back then, offered the
convenience, at minimal cost to privacy, assuming Tracfone®'s
privacy policy is as advertised, anyway, of registering
date of birth and phone number so as not to have to power down
and open up the Tracfone® during units redemption.
An online redemption option was also offered, but that's
of little consolation to the vagrant netizen.

A few months later, Tracfone® improves its level
of customer service to unimaginable convenience, creating
a feature that allows redemption of airtime units from
the Tracfone® itself, not requiring access to a
land line phone or to the Internet.

Now the self-contained Tracfone® redemption procedure
has been discontinued. To add insult to injury, the
land-line redemption procedure has been changed in at least
three ways which make it also less convenient than before.
For one thing, it is no longer possible to redeem units
simply by pressing buttons. Now I have to TALK TO A PERSON.
Some people see talking to a person as a higher level
of customer service than navigating voice mail hell.
I can see their point, but to me, subjectively,
the new procedure FEELS more like asking Tracfone®
for permission to actually use the units that I have
paid for. The use of mnemonic birthdays and phone
numbers as opposed to antimnemonic serial numbers
is also a definite disimprovement in level of convenience.
If this isn't bad
enough, the redemption facility (no doubt staffed
by third worlders at literally starvation wages) also keeps

When the clock finally stikes nine, I will go to
the public library and (hopefully) succeed at getting
my 30 minutes added. I will also blog the present essay,
so if you are reading this, I will have succeeded.

Tracfone®'s response to my emails so far has been
typically corporate in a Bushian 'we don't owe you information'
kind of way. In situations such as this, Brealey and Myers'
'a project isn't a black box' doctrine doesn't apply,
as that only applies when it's your project.
One can only speculate as to why Tracfone®'s
product has become next to worthless.

Tracfone® appears to be trying to make
the Tracfone® product less attractive to
people who don't have Internet access. This
isn't shocking. Apologists for marketist
ideology parrot that the customer is always
right, but in the real world this is simply
not true. In capitalist PRACTICE, CERTAIN
customer demographics are often identified
(in the aggregate, of course)
as low-profit customers, net liabilities,
or more trouble than they're worth.
It's no loss to the company if these
customers walk away in an angry huff.

During the trip to the library that I'll
have to make later today, I'll download the
'agreements' (or try to) to the competing 'contract-free'
dispose-a-phone products, assuming their
business models are even transparent
enough to allow for 'ask before you buy.'
This will verify whether I'm dealing
with a scumbag company or a whole scumbag

If it turns out that Tracfone® is
nickel and diming its customers to pay
legal bills due to our Staussian government's
insistence that use of prepaid wireless
somehow makes someone somehow suspicious,
then I will take back anything mean I ever said
about the company behind the Tracfone®
and NET-10® brands. But absent such
revelations, I can in good conscience only recommend
AGAINST purchasing their products
or services.

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