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Daniel Taylor writing in Red Flag, addresses some of the systemic problems with the economic system we currently have.

 

“When the system is under strain, the “democratic deficit” of capitalism becomes obvious. No matter how many elections take place, the things we want don’t happen; the things we don’t want, do happen; and the people we despise are in charge.

But the roots of the problem are deeper than the political process: the lack of democracy is built into the fundamental structures of a capitalist economy.

Democracy means “the rule of the people”. Capitalism means the rule of the market. Between those two concepts lies a gulf that can’t be bridged by any number of patriotic songs and firework displays.

A capitalist economy, based on private property, divides society into those who own and those who don’t: those who decide and those who obey. The first, most fundamental decisions that can be made in society – what to do with the tremendous wealth and technology that exists in the world – are made with no democratic oversight at all.

Will factories be used to assemble medical equipment or machine guns? Will cranes be set to work building schools and hospitals or luxury apartments for the rich? Will the printing presses make textbooks or newspapers full of racist fear-mongering?

These key decisions, which determine the shape of the society we live in, are made every day in secret, with no democratic oversight, by the tiny minority of the population that owns society’s productive wealth. They are not made in parliaments, but boardrooms. And they are made in the interests of the capitalist class, to increase its profits and strengthen its rule over society.

In capitalist “democracy”, “the people” have no say whatsoever over the most important decisions in the world: the economy is the private concern of the bosses, and we have to live with their decisions. And the state – supposedly the democratic influence on society, in which all citizens, rich and poor alike, have an equal say – merely reflects and reinforces this tyranny.”

I think it is time we give democratic socialism a fair shake.

 

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So this happened.

Then they changed it to this.

Like the climate change that comes along with carbon emissions DOESN’T hurt us. Short term thinking is our bane.  For the record – the carbon tax is a necessary feature of our society if we wish to continue to progress as a society and a nation.

 

 

    The dour feminist in me would like to point out that women are still struggling toward full autonomy in society after some 2000 years of ‘civilization’ ( :/ ), but the hot topic of self driving vehicles has crossed my desk and merits a comment or two with regards to society.

A healthy dose of skepticism is always in order when it comes to vaunted new technology promoted by the tech industry.  Because they, like other features of capitalist society, value profit over anything else, the tech industry will often jazz up, embellish, and often outright fabricate their claims to make their product seem like the next “must have” consumer item in society (consider the recent crapple failphone X – now with *twice* the screens to break).

Skepticism in place, we do need to realize that sometimes the technological advance is real and will have serious effects in society.  Consider the case of the elevator operators in the 1940’s.  It was a flourishing job opportunity, and even wielded social power as a 1945 elevator-operator strike in Manhattan severely clogged the engines of business industry.  Within a generation this profession was gone; automatic elevators had all but replaced human elevator operators and ran elevators more efficiently and cheaply ever since.

A shit deal if you happened to train for and be a Elevator Operator – with the phrase “this is progress looks like burning in your ears” you had to go out a get a different job, and most likely one that did not pay as well as being an Elevator Operator.

Fast forward to the present day – Truckers are now facing this very same conundrum as automated vehicles are entering their field of work.  Operating truck driving software and actually driving a truck are two very distinct categories; thus yet another blue collar job opportunity might very well be shut off to the people.  I’m not a Luddite when it comes to new technology in society, but the motivation behind the vehicles (and most of capitalism to be honest) has me worried.  “In Canada 1 in every 100 workers is a truck driver, some 300,000 people – it’s the second most common occupation reported by men.” (The Walrus – Overhauled by Sharon J. Riley).

Are we going to spend the money to retrain these people if the technology for self-driving vehicles actually becomes a standard?  Or do we just turn these people to the wind, like the Elevator Operators of the 40’s, “here’s your last paycheck, sorry about your luck , bu-bye now.”?  I highly doubt that the trucking industry – the prime mover in its quest for ‘automated-efficiency’-  is going to step up to the plate and sponsor job retraining for all the employees that have become redundant.  The responsibility for integrating these now jobless people back into the economic workforce will most likely fall to the government and as valiant as Canadian social services are, a three hundred thousand plus hit on our limited social resources just won’t end well.

So, the case looks like this – Business moves ‘forward’ creating more efficiency and profitability, while the social and economic damage caused by said advances is left to the government to haphazardly repair with the limited resources available to it.  This smells like a looming case of what in corporate culture is known as “externalities” or items that have a tangible economic or social cost but importantly not directly to the company itself (Pollution is a prime example of an ‘externality’).  So really, it will be the common citizen, who will be responsible for keeping society going while business plunges ahead willy-nilly chasing the most effective and profitable supply chain.

I have a problem with these technology driven calamitous ‘externalities’ that we will be facing, not just in the transportation sector but in other sectors as well.  This process is driven by greed, and greed gives no fucks for those who must perish in the process of efficiency maximization.  The argument against me would be such – but with greater efficiency and optimization more people will be better served by the industry at hand, thus society will be better and everyone wins.

It’s just that everyone doesn’t win.  The people put out of work by technological advances and their families are going to lose and lose big because they will have no income to afford the goods being delivered so efficiently and profitably to the stores.  Our profit driven corporate/business sectors almost always seems to ignore that fact that their profitability hinges on condition that people exist in the market that have the capacity to buy their widgets.   You may have the best widgets out there, but with no demand, nothing happens.  Of course you can keep profits going up through dubious accounting methods and the churn and burn of the stockmarket magic – but that is an illusion as you are just moving money around an not creating actual value in society; plus that financial shell game periodically crashes hurting everyone in society (see 1929, 2008 et cetra).

The way forward is clear, at least to me.  Technological advancement needs to examined and fined tuned through the lens of what society as a whole needs, and not just the business sector because the business sector is necessary too short sighted to see beyond the bottom line and what is good for them at the time.

 

Related reading and some of my paraphrase fodder – Overhauled – By Sharon J. Riley found in the Walrus Magazine December 2017.

 

    The first rule of focus groups or research groups is quite simply this.  If you say yes to one, then you shall forever be on the call list of every research company that has ever existed.  And they do call quite often.  Extrapolating from the frequency that I receive offers, people who are willing to participate in studies and opinion groups are few and far between.

The call I received was from a company doing research on for the federal government of Canada.  I thought to myself, woo-whee, the Feds want to know my opinion?  How could I say no to that (well that and the included honourarium)?   We were not told the details of what the discussion was going to be about beforehand.  It turned out to be a rather mundane discussion on the tax system in Canada and what our opinions and thoughts were on it, along with other issues such as debt, sources of debt, and how well off we defined ourselves vis a vis other generations.

Fascinating (ish) stuff.  What tweaked my interest was my fellow attendee’s lack of knowledge about Canadian fiscal and tax policy.  Like the fact that Canada’s corporate tax rate is miserly 15%, among the lowest, if not the lowest in the G7.  People seemed genuinely surprised when I suggested that we should be raising that tax rate significantly and that in the past the tax rate had been significantly higher (around 40% in the 60’s) .

Similar experiences when mentioning terms like neo-liberal (a la Nafta and the TPP) economic policy and trickle-down economics.  None of the other people in my research cohort used terminology and concepts that named the economic features we were talking about.  There was a good deal of, “oh I agree with what he said,” but none articulated the theoretical features or aspects of the features we were talking about.

The notion of ‘progressive taxation’ seemed to throw a few of my peers for a slight loop, even thought the Canadian tax system is nominally progressive in nature.   I boggled inwardly at that, but we all got on the same page eventually when it came to nailing down the concept.

I’m worried though, I am by stretch of the imagination an economist or policy-wonk, but the amount of time spent getting people up to speed on basic economic features and concepts made me take pause.  I get the feeling that many people just don’t have the time or the inclination to get the basic facts necessary to have an informed opinion on key features of our tax system and economics in general.  Taxes affect everyone in society and not having a base level of knowledge about them and how government policy can change the way taxes work, seems like a glaring oversight in one’s life education.

Ignorance aside, 7 out of the 8 of us present agreed with the legalization of marijuana in Canada so the Feds will at least have positive affirmation that making pot legal makes most of us happy (representative samply-speaking).

Sinfest by Tatsuya Ishida:

The plan at the base of Trumerica is this.  Blame all woes on the other and then feed the 1% and military industrial complex money to solve problems they have no business trying to solve.

Menon summarizes the current administration quite succinctly:

“Trump also seems determined to stay the course on America’s forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Neither he nor his generals show any sign of abandoning the Obama-era strategy of whack-a-mole drone strikes and raids by Special Operations forces against terrorist redoubts around the world (as witness a recent failed special ops raid in Yemen and 24 drone strikes — half of the maximum number that the United States launched against that country in any preceding year). Trump has already deployed 400 Marines as well as Army Rangers to fight ISIS in Raqqa, Syria, and another thousand troops may soon be heading that way.  And General John Nicholson, commander of the US-led military coalition in Afghanistan, has called for “a few thousand” additional troops for that country.

So expect President Trump to dwell obsessively on threats that have a low probability of harming Americans, while offering no effective solutions for the quotidian hardships that actually do make so many citizens feel insecure. Expect, as well, that the more he proves unable to deliver on his economic promises to the working class, the more he’ll harp on the standard threats and engage in sabre rattling, hoping that a continual atmosphere of emergency and vulnerability will disarm critics and divert attention from his failures.  

In the end, count on one thing: voters who were drawn to Trump because they believed he would rein in interventionism abroad and deal with festering problems at home are in for a disappointment.”

Looks like good times ahead, let us hope the American people can keep their eyes on what is actually important as opposed to the crazed side show this administration is putting on tap.

 

[Source:Tom’s Dispatch]

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