Unemployment, Artificial Scarcity and Radical Abundance

February 28th, 2014 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized

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We are in the midst of massive economic disruption and growing structural unemployment caused by the automation of increasingly large segments of the economy. These days very few people are actually needed to provide the basic necessities of an affluent society. This is what Buckminster Fuller called ephermalization, the ability to do more and more with less and less. But rather than an increase in leisure time one would expect from such gains, we have record levels of poverty and wealth disparity. Despite an economy that continues to grow in per capita terms, the gains of that economy flow into ever fewer hands.

A lot of people blame the “free” market, but the situation is anything but. The source of the problem is built-in structural theft facilitated by the state to benefit an increasingly small, politically connected, economic elite. Those gains in wealth have been enclosed as a source of rent through government enforcement of artificial scarcity using intellectual property laws and regulatory barriers to prevent genuine competition, and the radical distribution of wealth it would generate.

You can see how this theft works in the current wireless services market. The technology exists now for everyone in the world to have high-bandwidth communications (data and voice) with anyone else in the world for free, without any company or middle man whatsoever, using super cheap devices that cost less than $20. When something is free, it’s one less thing you have to buy, and one less thing you have to work for. As far as radical abundance is concerned there is no functional difference between making everyone richer and making everything cheaper.  So what kind of technology enables the creation of a free worldwide communications network? It’s called software defined radio, and it’s been around for more than a decade. It completely solves the spectrum scarcity problem by finding, negotiating, and determining moment-by-moment, on the fly, the most efficient frequency for any given communication. This happens at the device level, so it renders the need for centrally controlling towers, and their bandwidth bottlenecks, completely obsolete. By bypassing these lower bandwidth cell towers, this decentralized, p2p, spectrum allocation protocol increases available bandwidth over traditional cell networks by three orders of magnitude. The result is profound – by ditching wireless service companies we gain a one thousand fold increase in wireless bandwidth! The only problem with this plan is it’s illegal.

What we get instead are companies like Artemis Network’s licensing this technology (PCell) so that you’ll have to keep paying your wireless bill to use it. Say again? You’ll have to keep paying your old company every month for something they no longer provide. Imagine a scenario in which up until now you’ve always paid Peter to fetch your daily water because he had the specialized tools to do so. Then one day you figured out how to do it yourself easier and cheaper. But because of some law on the books you still have to pay Peter for the water you’re getting yourself. This is outrageous, but it is exactly the kind of situation we now have with PCell within the existing regulatory landscape. A middle man, a thief, or in this case your wireless service provider, is forcing you to pay the same “service” fee you’ve been paying for a service you no longer use, and they no longer provide. Artemis Networks is calling this new technology “personal cellular”, but it is anything but. It’s completely owned and licensed by your wireless service provider. This obscene state of affairs is enabled through enforcement of obsolete spectrum scarcity laws on a resource that is no longer scarce. I repeat – the only reason we don’t have super fast, super cheap worldwide communications is because of artificial scarcity imposed by government regulation and coercion. 

The same holds true for virtually every sector of the economy. Luckily for us the trend is shifting both on the ground and in the halls of government. At the state level we’re seeing a loosening of restrictions on home based businesses. For example, California just passed a Homemade Food Cottage Business bill that makes it easier for home based business to sell food directly to the public. Meanwhile the tools of abundance are multiplying faster than they can be expropriated, because the means of finance (cryptocurrencies, crowdfunding, peer lending, etc) manufacturing and production (3d printing, permaculture, etc.) and energy (solar, microhydro) are decentralizing outside of the control of regulators. Laws are only as good as they can be enforced. We’ve already seen this battle lost by the music industry. Other parts of the economy are next. 3d printing is going to disintermediate the manufacturing business the same way Napster and Bittorent disintermediated the music business. At some point, open-source software radios are going to hit the streets, regardless of the laws in place, and once that genie is out of the bottle, there is no putting it back in.

But until these technologies of abundance break out we’re going to see state-sponsored capitalism, and it’s artificial scarcities and sources of rent, continue to expropriate as much of this abundance and wealth for itself and its crony benefactors as possible. What they don’t realize is by depriving us access to the tools of abundance they are actually undermining the same system it so desperately depends on. You can’t bleed a bled horse, and the sources of capital the state relies on to pay for this theft are drying up under a mountain of unsustainable debt. Debt incurred for the most part by a massive and out of control national security state apparatus and the corporate giants that depend on it. It’s bankrupting itself through anti-competitive business practices that can only be maintained by bleeding dry the very customer base they depend on, both for taxes to finance it, and dollars to buy the crap these state-backed corporations are selling. It’s an incestuous and codependent relationship of corporation and state (not to mention Ponzi scheme), caught in a death spiral it cannot escape. Death of the old system is inevitable. The only question is when.

The best we can hope for is an inflection point high enough on the graph, where the tools of abundance pick us up as the old system collapses.

In the meantime, innovations like decentralized autonomous organizations are opening up possibilities for creating wealth dividends for everyone in a decentralized and distributed manner.

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One Response

  • fsaf says:

    Many in the libertarian, laissez-faire, Austrian school, Chicago school and other neoclassical offshoots constantly tend to talk about how “state interference” is the problem today, such as with having protectionist import/export polices or the favoring of certain industries by the state. It is assumed that somehow the market can be “free” to operate without the manifestation of monopoly or the “corruptions” inherent to what has been deemed today “crony capitalism”, even though the entire basis of strategy is competitive or, in more direct terms, “warring”. Again, to assume the State would not be used as a tool for differential advantage – a tool for business – is absurd.

    The state, in its historical form, is an extension of the capitalist system itself. The government did not create this system. The system created the government or more accurately – they evolved as one apparatus. All socioeconomic systems root themselves in the basis of industrial unfolding and basic survival. Just as feudalism, being based on an agrarian society, oriented its class structure in relationships to the livelihood-producing land, so do the so-called “democracies” in the world today. Therefore, the very idea the state government is detached or without the influence of capitalism is a purely abstract theory with no truth in reality. Capitalism essentially molded the governmental apparatus’s nature and unfolding – not the other way around.

    So, when people argue that government regulation of the market is the root of the problem and that the market should be “free” without structural or legal inhibition, they are confused in their associative understanding. The entire legal system, which is the central tool of government, will always be “infiltrated” and used to assist in competitive tactics by business to maintain and increase advantage since that is the very nature of the game. To expect anything else is to assume that there are actually “moral” limits to the act of competition. Yet, this is completely subjective. Such moral and ethical assumptions have no empirical basis, especially when the very nature of the socioeconomic system is oriented around power, exploitation and competition – all considered to be, in fact, ideal virtues of the “good businessman”, as noted before.

    If a profit seeking institution can gain power in the government (which is the exact intent of “corporate lobbying”) and manipulate the governmental apparatus to favor their business or industry to gain advantage, then that is simply good business. It is only when the competitive attacks reach peak levels of unfairness that action is taken to preserve the illusion of “balance”. We see this with anti-trust laws and the like. These laws are, in reality, not to protect “free-trade” or the like – but to settle extreme acts of competitive intent inherent in the market place, with all sides jockeying for advantage by whatever means possible.

    Even the very constituents of all governments in the world today are invariably of the corporate-business class. Hence, deep business values are clearly inherent in the mindsets of those in power.

    So, to argue that the “free market” is not “free” due to intervention is to misunderstand what the nature of “free” really means with respect to the system. The “freedom” is not the freedom of everyone to be able to “fairly” participate in the open-market and all the utopian rhetoric we hear about today by apologists of the capitalist system – the real freedom is actually the freedom to dominate, suppress and beat other businesses by whatever competitive means possible. In this, no “level playing field” is possible. In fact, if the government did not “interfere” by way of monopoly/anti-trust laws or the “bailing out” of banks and the like – the entire market complex would have self-destructed a long time ago.

    The truth of the matter is that this polarizing, false duality between the “state” and the “market” is blind to the true root cause of what is actually causing problems, not realizing that the dyad of state and market synergy is, in reality, a single power system in play, at once.

    Irrespective of the merit of any specific argument as to the favoring of the “free market” vs. the favoring of “state regulation”, all business dealings have historically required some level of legal mediation. This is because all transactions are a form of competition and all competition invites the possibility of fraud or abuse, given the natural pressure of external circumstances and the nature of survival itself, within the bounds of the scarcity-based market. The fact is, any form of commerce that exists in this scarcity-reinforced worldview, will manifest so-called “corrupt” or dishonest behavior constantly. It is firmly incentivized. The degree of corruption itself even becomes a matter of opinion, in fact. The line between accepted business acumen and blatant dishonest persuasion is not an easy distinction to make today in the broad view.

    Therefore, some type of overriding decision-making power has always been granted to some group body to mediate conflicts and this is the seed of governmental power, as we know it. Yet, the punch line of the whole circumstance is that in a world where everything is powered by money; in a world where, in truth, everything is for sale, the rapid “corruption” of any such regulation or power establishment is also essentially guaranteed over time, to one degree or another.

    Put another way, there will always be a need for legal regulation of transactions in the market by some publicly sanctioned institution, and the market ethic will always corrupt such regulation to some extent with the influence of money because money and business are actually what make the world move. This is simply what is to be expected when the entire psychological foundation of existence is based on survival through acts of competitive self-interest, oriented by the universal assumption of empirical scarcity, with no real structural safeguards given to members of society for some reassurance in survival. To think any regulatory agency would not be susceptible to such corruption; to think state policy and hence coercion could not be ‘purchased’ like any other commodity is to deny the basic philosophical foundation inherent to the market’s notion of “freedom” itself.

    Therefore, complaining about state regulation or lack thereof is ultimately a moot issue in the broad scheme of long-term societal change. True social change will not come about by the illusive preference of one of these over the other. It will only come about by installing a completely different system which eliminates both the market and the state as we know it, elevating the entire framework out of the narrow, competitive focus of managing scarcity in the current “earn a living or suffer” system, to a focus on facilitating a sustainable abundance and the meeting of human needs directly.

    “We can quantify the deaths caused by both communism and fascism, but we will never know how many deaths have been the result of capitalism; of nothing more noble than a rich man wanting to be even richer, and sacrificing the health and lives of millions of workers to achieve this. Don’t even try to count how many people capitalism has killed, because not only will you not know where to begin, but also it will never end.”
    — Julie Burchill



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