Thursday, January 26, 2012

The rise of the machines, or the return of the Luddites

[The Luddites were a group at the dawn of mechanization that believed that replacing men with machines was bad. At least that's the official history.]

There were 377,000 new unemployment claims last week, this is still below the “new normal” of 400,000. These numbers should indicate a brisk pace in the creation of new jobs. In reality, it may only mean that that corporate America has slacked off from firing people to replace them with lower wage novice workers. Even so this would be good news. If you go with the unadjusted data instead, (that is, no allowance for the post Christmas season) we are still way better off than a year ago today.

There is a lot of talk about the rise in robotics in manufacturing; this is to counter the talk about falling wages and unemployment, as if more machines really changed the mathematics of it all. Traditionally it has been the reality that more mechanization actually creates more jobs. More machines meant more people were needed to build and service the machines than the machines actually replaced. More goods were produced in total, and overall employment increased along with the standard of living from the increased productivity and more distribution and service jobs were created. This was before the one percent decided that all productivity belonged to them, and they alone.

Today the corporate media is circulating pictures of one robotic arm repairing another robotic arm as if this signaled a dynamic shift. Where is Sarah Conner when we need her? The whole point of the shift to robotics instead of simple mechanization was that robots could use more than one tool to do an operation without moving the product down the assembly line. This concept allowed for more products to be made by machines doing smaller volume manufacturing without hand labor. Again more products are produced which increases the standard of living.

Historically, the whole point of mechanization was to improve the standard of living of society as a whole. This has always been a point of contention between workers and capitalists. Capitalists have always believed they alone should get the benefits of improvements in productivity; and workers (who do the actual work) think that the rewards should go to them.

Today the capitalists are winning this contest; don’t confuse capitalists with the people who invent the machines or create anything that makes efficient production tools possible. Capitalists only control the capital, they are more than happy to steal from those who invent and create (there‘s real money robbing those people); just as they are willing to steal from those who toil with sweat and skill to squeeze the last dime.

President Obama is talking around the edges of doing something about this; and it’s driving the Republicans nuts. The Mitt Romney’s of the world live with absolute certainty that they are entitled to their ill gotten gains, but they always live with the fear it could come to an end with a mob of villagers advancing on the castle with torches and pitchforks. Mrs Mittens actually said in public that it was “unfortunate that they had to reveal [their real income through] their tax returns”.

The rightwing, on behalf of the 1/10 of one percent, will use any tactic to throw the common people off the scent. Depending on the day of they week, it’s the black people, or the brown people, the unions, or the immigrants, not long ago it was the Muslims, and now it‘s the rise of the machines. Just don’t notice that they are using capital and the manipulation of government to capture the means of production. They then shift all production to support their lifestyle of complete avarice, and still they want more. I guess that “insatiable” is the definition of “avarice”. Worse still, they carve out their wants from the muscle of the economy and now they need to dig ever deeper into the bone to maintain their status.

We can change this if enough people understand the economics of it all. It’s a joke that nearly everyone should work for little food and substandard housing just to avoid even worse poverty in order to keep the 1/10 of one percent living in the luxury of kings. That is it would really be a big “ha-ha” if we all knew better. Instead, so few people get the joke, that it’s as serious as a heart attack, and nobody knows seems to know CPR.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Name a Prison for him

Capitalism shouldn’t be confused with business or anything else that’s good for you.

Simply put, capitalism is the buying and selling of someone else’s business. Whether it’s the looting of companies by the Leveraged Buyout Specialists at Bain Capital, or the monopolization of a particular commodity by the likes of Enron. A capitalist by definition does not create, does not produce, and does not contribute to anything but their own bottom line. Capitalism is about the use of capital to one’s own advantage in the taking of what other people have produced, and nothing else. It’s not about workers vs. employers except that capitalism demands the exploitation of workers, but only because there’s profit to be had there. Just as there can be profit in war or any natural disaster, if capitalists are allowed to take advantage of the situation.

Capitalism shouldn’t be confused with investing, this is where a person owns some part of an ongoing business. Investing in turn should not be confused with “playing the market”. Remember when it used to be called that, instead of your “retirement security“? The stock market doesn’t produce anything either, with the exception of  a few winners and lots of losers, just like playing at any other mafia run casino. The Wall Street mafia does well for itself but serves no public good, any exception to this rule could be better done by someone else.

Lets review: a business that actually produces something of value is by definition not capitalism, and their investors are not capitalists. The exception is that some businesses in an unregulated economy do behave as capitalists by preying upon their weaker competitors, or prey upon the public in general while operating a legitimate front business.

Americans all think they are capitalists; having had it drilled into them for generations that capitalism is the polar opposite of communism, and no “good” American is a communist. All the while fewer and fewer Americans own anything themselves. They don’t realize they are charging full speed toward living in the exact image of a communist state where the individual owns nothing, just without veneer of socialism.

Mitt Romney has found out just how little regard Americans actually have for capitalists. Republican voters have now switched to Newt Gingrich after he pointed out just how despicable capitalists are. In SC, Mitt only won the demographic of those with an income over $200,000.

Historically, communism as it has been practiced was really indistinguishable from capitalism. The Red Chinese were able to “convert” to capitalism without changing much of anything, they‘re about to announce a new five year plan that will make them the dominant capitalist power in the world. The Soviet elite converted to capitalism by simply doing away with their social safety nets and becoming capitalist oligarchs.

American capitalism is moving the country as fast as it can to become a hybrid of the Soviet, Russian Oligarch, and Chinese models. From the Soviet system: the total domination of business by gigantic centrally planned corporations (Welcome to Walmart, I am comrade greeter). From the modern Russian Oligarchic model: the total elimination of social safety nets of any kind, and from the Red Chinese model we get a national security state.

The Republican base hasn’t caught on that Newt is more than happy to wield the axe for people like Mitt, as long as Newt gets to wear the crown in public. If Americans in general catch on that the Occupy movement is on to something thanks to the revelations of Newt Gingrich we should build him a statue, or name a prison after him.