Sunday, June 10, 2007

Labor savings...

Will Shetterly has a new posting on his blog about the disparity in wages between CEOs and workers that I think is interesting, although he leaves out the shareholder problem. I came up with a different take on it earlier when I was gathering wool - see what you think.

Remember when we were kids, and all the SF novels (well, not all, but it was one of the popular memes) talked about these utopian futures where automation had created such efficiency that there was enough for everyone, and so everyone had enough?

We are in that future. We just don't realize it. The intellectual work of the generations that came before ours has created a world where we produce food, clothing, housing, and other goods with stunning efficiency. And what do we do with this newfound efficiency? Do we have shorter work hours? More leisure? Universal health care? A society in which people can freely create beauty?

No. We have higher executive pay, and a booming stock market that concentrates wealth in the hands of a few. So a lot of people are a lot richer, but there are still plenty of poor people. And a lot of them work hard for a living; indeed, I would say that the poorer you are, most likely, the harder you are working.

I'm not proposing a solution here. But I'm just pointing this out. I think a lot of us wonder why we never got to that utopia. Now you know why. That utopia isn't possible in a market-driven economy. A market-driven economy does certain important things very well, but promoting the common good is not one of those things. Unfortunately, a planned economy just fucks it up even worse, as we've seen. What to do? What to do?

I think a generosity-based economy is the only way it can work. Dunno how to get there from here, but there are inklings that this sort of economy is happening in places, like the open source software community. And indeed, if you consider most of the really good things that happen in the world, they're based on generosity, not the market. Like, most of that cherished intellectual property the big corporations are fighting over was actually created by people who didn't get paid very much for it, and who did it for love.

So yeah, something's broken. If you want to fix it, consider tipping your waiter or waitress nicely next time you eat out, even if they're having a bad day and don't take good care of you. And do your best to support your favorite artists, who are probably getting paid for shit and don't have decent health care, if any, and are doing their best to make the world a nicer place in which for you to live.

The fact is that geeks made much of the value in the world today. It's made value, not value being made. It's because of the ideas we geeks have come up with and put into practice that we have so much wealth to hoard right now. So when somebody tells you that the wealth belongs to them because they earned it, think about whether or not they earned it with something that belonged to them, and whether the efforts of those geeks gone past who were trying to make the world a better place are being honored, or not.

Oh, and when someone talks to you about how universal health care is a bad idea because it's unfair, and not that good, and creates a moral hazard, feed them their words with a little habaƱero sauce.


Blogger Will Shetterly said...

I think my only problem with leaving things to generosity is, well, the idea is at least as old as Zoroastrianism, and if I knew more about the earliest translated writings, it's probably as old as they are.

And it doesn't seem to work so good. I mean, it's nice for the rich to give a token amount of their wealth in order to feel good about themselves, but it doesn't really change things.

United peaceful action can, I believe.

Thursday, June 14, 2007 3:02:00 AM  

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