Michael B. 

I was trying to explain Marx's outlook. In any situation where everything is available in abundance because most tasks are automated (and we ignore raw materials constraints) then one can have whatever one wants. The "state" doesn't have to get involved at all. Thus, we can now read any article we like on wikipedia, or any book that has ever been scanned into the Internet, etc. No state has dictated what these choices are nor limits them. Similarly, except for state interference (i.e. enforcing "intellectual property laws") we can now watch virtually any movie because it has been uploaded to the Internet. No need for DVDs at all. Marx envisioned abundance. You apparently can't envision that. Why not?

We currently live in a society where what you can buy and thus impress others is very prominent in determining choice. But with more moderate expectations and no need to keep up with the Joneses,  average wants might well be within resource limitations. It's true that in principle everyone might wish to vacation at exactly the same spot, but then "first come first served" could work without payment. Thus campsites in Yosemite are reserved on that basis, as opposed to being sold to the highest bidder. 

The average family size in Western Europe has fallen below the amount to keep the population stable, without or even in opposition to state pressure. There's no reason to suppose that the desire for things cannot be stabilized or diminished similarly, entirely through free choice among an effective abundance. Neither state policies nor payment modes would then be necessary. 



On Aug 16, 2011, at 12:44 AM, Michael Balter wrote:

Michael G., are you sure that "true" socialism would not require money? Even under socialism people must be (and would want to be) free to make certain decisions about priorities in their lives, and also would have to live under some limits to what those choices could be. Eg, whether to take a vacation or buy new stereo equipment instead (I am not saying to buy a new car, because under socialism one can easily imagine banning private ownership of automobiles, with everyone borrowing or renting one only as they need it; that's already happening with cars and bicycles in some cities. Paul Goodman seriously advocated banning all private cars in Manhattan, and I wrote a piece along similar lines for the Los Angeles Times a few years ago.)

Unless the state is going to ordain the exact nature of each person's vacation, or the kind of stereo equipment they buy or the number of DVD's they watch or whether or not they remodel their houses and kitchens etc etc, there has to be some mechanism of payment that allows both individual choice and allows a society to limit expenditures and live within its productive capacity. If not money, how else would this be done?

I'm all ears and happy to be proven wrong on this, but I don't see anything offhand on the P2P site that addresses this issue. Perhaps Michael G. can point us in the right direction.


On Tue, Aug 16, 2011 at 5:46 AM, Michael H Goldhaber <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Very good comments. As to your question about Marx, I think the short answer is that everything that can be abundantly produced by machines ought to be free to everyone, much as books published a hundred years ago and Wikipedia are now free to everyone with Internet access. Money is a commodity,but commodity society is fundamentally capitalistic, so true socialism would not require money. How is that tobe brought about? Certainly only with difficulty, but see the work of Michel Bauwens and his p2pfoundation.net.


On Aug 14, 2011, at 11:50 AM, Claudia Hemphill Pine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I don't get why Tom Friedman, a smart man, continues to write such stupid recommendations.  How can everybody become "above average"?  Doesn't he know how tests - like the IQ test - are normed? There's no such thing as everyone on the planet becoming IQ 140, or SAT 800.  People are people. We haven't evolved into super-hard-working, super-smart, super-humans, and we're not going to anytime soon.

Second, in his desire to have a globalized planet in which everybody has a PhD, everybody is a scientist AND an entrepreneur, everybody lives like he does -- on a million or more a year, that is, in the kind of utter luxury that requires vast resource consumption AND POLLUTION to maintain -- Friedman becomes a kind of Marie Antoinette to the indolent aristocrats of corporate capitalism and their captive governments.  Instead of analyzing the problem of a few humans taking most of everything from the other 6 billion, and a single species taking most of everything from the planet -- and its, and our own future -- he says, HEY, LET THEM GET GRADUATE DEGREES! 

Yeah right.  In short, his analysis, so far as I can see, continues to ignore (a) declining ecological health and productivity (so far as most non-human environmental resources and species go), (b) unchecked increasing human population, and (c) the fact that capitalism is a ponzi scheme, a means of transferring wealth upward in exchange for promises that the poor will get theirs as soon as we either conquer another country, enslave another people, exterminate another species, or tap another new resource.  What happens when all the resources are drained dry? All the species are exterminated or only a few in zoos? (See: Siege of Sarajevo.)  Most of the humans are down to the lowest level of bare existence, the lowest wage, or no wage? (See: Internships. See: Adjunct teaching jobs, post-docs, see: college-educated taxi drivers. And bloggers.)

In one word, the problem is sustainability.  You cannot grow humans forever, along with their economic takings from the planet, while simultaneously trying to have all of them live like the few who through luck, gender, race, and aggression have taken most of the surplus.  Friedman keeps trying to rearrange those deck chairs...

I saw one comment that seems to see past all the false assumptions that Friedman and most of his well-off, pro-capitalist, anti-environmentalist are making in their hegemonic desire to deny reality, keep their luxury, yet somehow promise improvement for the rest. 
I'm pasting it in below.

What do you think?  I agree with the commenter that media and advertising - not to mention politicians and the rich - who continuously flaunt the lifestyles available (or as Friedman calls it, "accessible") only to a few is fueling the anger of many.  But is Marx the best lens for analysis?  What DID Marx think all the people freed from wage-labor tyranny by technology were going to live on, buy their food with, etc.??  (I am always confused when I try to apply Marx's general theory to the pragmatic details!)

Media, PA
August 14th, 2011  7:04 am

There is another wide-angle perspective on this.

Capitalism, according to young Karl Marx, held out the promise of perfecting industrial processes to such a powerful degree that human beings would no longer be subject to soul-killing and body-crushing labor. Instead, people would be liberated to pursue their happiness as human beings and not as machine-tenders and servants to profits.

William Morris' "News from Nowhere" is the best evocation of this lovely notion, but John Ruskin and other forward (and backward) looking 19th century visionaries agreed. The "Small is Beautiful" movement of the 1960s and 1970s followed this path of a human economics.

Instead, we have post-industrial productivity that requires fewer hands, minds, and nervous systems to serve it. Those who cannot make the ultimate sacrifice of their imaginations and their freedom, who cannot sit from hours on end in front of a brilliant screen of data, who cannot give away their compassionate natures, their hearts, to the beast, who cannot embrace Mammon, have no place in our economies.

The problem is accentuated when the goods of the economy are dangled before the angry eyes of those left behind. Perhaps we need advertising channels that only the employed can view.

Who would have thought that an economy that has no interest in human values would have produced such anger and resentment, such helpless madness in the face of history turned against increasingly large segments of the population?

Mr. Friedman urges that applicants need to shape themselves more emphatically to fit the mold currently required by the production process. Applicants need to be available at all hours, be perfect in their math scores, be serviceable to the needs of their corporation, pray to the God of economy with all their hearts and souls, and never stray from the productive path.

Is that what you wanted, Mr. Friedman? Is that what you want for your children and grandchildren?

On Sun, Aug 14, 2011 at 8:58 AM, S E Anderson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

A Theory of Everything (Sort of)

Published: August 13, 2011
  • LONDON burns. The Arab Spring triggers popular rebellions against autocrats across the Arab world. The Israeli Summer brings 250,000 Israelis into the streets, protesting the lack of affordable housing and the way their country is now dominated by an oligopoly of crony capitalists. From Athens to Barcelona, European town squares are being taken over by young people railing against unemployment and the injustice of yawning income gaps, while the angry Tea Party emerges from nowhere and sets American politics on its head.
<Uprisings AfricaMidEastEurope.jpg>Thomas Fuchs

<<Why now? It starts with the fact that globalization and the information technology revolution have gone to a whole new level. Thanks to cloud computing, robotics, 3G wireless connectivity, Skype, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, the iPad, and cheap Internet-enabled smartphones, the world has gone from connected to hyper-connected.

This is the single most important trend in the world today. And it is a critical reason why, to get into the middle class now, you have to study harder, work smarter and adapt quicker than ever before. All this technology and globalization are eliminating more and more “routine” work — the sort of work that once sustained a lot of middle-class lifestyles.>>

What’s going on here?

There are multiple and different reasons for these explosions, but to the extent they might have a common denominator I think it can be found in one of the slogans of Israel’s middle-class uprising: “We are fighting for an accessible future.” Across the world, a lot of middle- and lower-middle-class people now feel that the “future” is out of their grasp, and they are letting their leaders know it.

Why now? It starts with the fact that globalization and the information technology revolution have gone to a whole new level. Thanks to cloud computing, robotics, 3G wireless connectivity, Skype, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, the iPad, and cheap Internet-enabled smartphones, the world has gone from connected to hyper-connected.

This is the single most important trend in the world today. And it is a critical reason why, to get into the middle class now, you have to study harder, work smarter and adapt quicker than ever before. All this technology and globalization are eliminating more and more “routine” work — the sort of work that once sustained a lot of middle-class lifestyles.

The merger of globalization and I.T. is driving huge productivity gains, especially in recessionary times, where employers are finding it easier, cheaper and more necessary than ever to replace labor with machines, computers, robots and talented foreign workers. It used to be that only cheap foreign manual labor was easily available; now cheap foreign genius is easily available. This explains why corporations are getting richer and middle-skilled workers poorer. Good jobs do exist, but they require more education or technical skills. Unemployment today still remains relatively low for people with college degrees. But to get one of those degrees and to leverage it for a good job requires everyone to raise their game. It’s hard.

Think of what The Times reported last February: At little Grinnell College in rural Iowa, with 1,600 students, “nearly one of every 10 applicants being considered for the class of 2015 is from China.” The article noted that dozens of other American colleges and universities are seeing a similar surge as well. And the article added this fact: Half the “applicants from China this year have perfect scores of 800 on the math portion of the SAT.”

Not only does it take more skill to get a good job, but for those who are unable to raise their games, governments no longer can afford generous welfare support or cheap credit to be used to buy a home for nothing down — which created a lot of manual labor in construction and retail. Alas, for the 50 years after World War II, to be a president, mayor, governor or university president meant, more often than not, giving things away to people. Today, it means taking things away from people.

All of this is happening at a time when this same globalization/I.T. revolution enables the globalization of anger, with all of these demonstrations now inspiring each other. Some Israeli protestors carried a sign: “Walk Like an Egyptian.” While these social protests — and their flash-mob, criminal mutations like those in London — are not caused by new technologies per se, they are fueled by them.

This globalization/I.T. revolution is also “super-empowering” individuals, enabling them to challenge hierarchies and traditional authority figures — from business to science to government. It is also enabling the creation of powerful minorities and making governing harder and minority rule easier than ever. See dictionary for: “Tea Party.”

Surely one of the iconic images of this time is the picture of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak — for three decades a modern pharaoh — being hauled into court, held in a cage with his two sons and tried for attempting to crush his people’s peaceful demonstrations. Every leader and C.E.O. should reflect on that photo. “The power pyramid is being turned upside down," said Yaron Ezrahi, an Israeli political theorist.

So let’s review: We are increasingly taking easy credit, routine work and government jobs and entitlements away from the middle class — at a time when it takes more skill to get and hold a decent job, at a time when citizens have more access to media to organize, protest and challenge authority and at a time when this same merger of globalization and I.T. is creating huge wages for people with global skills (or for those who learn to game the system and get access to money, monopolies or government contracts by being close to those in power) — thus widening income gaps and fueling resentments even more.

Put it all together and you have today’s front-page news.        

The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.  -- Paul Cezanne

Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]
Web:    michaelbalter.com
NYU:    journalism.nyu.edu/faculty/michael-balter/

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
                                                  --John Kenneth Galbraith