Posts Tagged ‘Social Europe’

From Wealth of Nations to Wealth of Data

September 2, 2019

Our Declaration of Independence is not the only hallmark document of the year 1776.

There was another one: Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which Wikipedia refers to as a magnum opus.

Magnum opus means pretty doggone important idea, as the multilectic development of our dialectical ideas shape  history.

Smith’s groundbreaking insights propelled our modernizing world into the age of Economics, a new time when the effects of money and industrial productivity began to channel human culture in ways that outweighed traditional institutions.

The Church, the Royals, such ancient paths of power were, in the long run of history, outmoded by the power of the buck.

Freedom to gather wealth was being distributed widely among new, rising enterprisers in society, instead of being controlled by the purse of the Popes or the money of the Monarchs.

Now the tide is turning again, in a major way.

But it’s turning back the other way.

Oh, not back to the Church or the King, but back to another select group—the data mining Social Media.

Now Wealth of Nations morphs to Wealth of Data.

And it seems it happened in the blinking of an eye, so to speak.

All our data that we generate through ubiquitous universal social media gets scooped up and recycled as fodder to generate future wealth, for somebody.

For Whom? Who is gathering the new Wealth of Nations through our electronic and wifi conduits of the Wealth of Data?

Robber barons, monopolists, capitalists, opportunists, daytraders, speculators, hedgefunders, algorithmists, hackers, gamblers, midnight ramblers?

Future wealth, for somebody. . . for whomever is using the data as a field for harvest —to skim new wealth, through  their privileged knowledge of out trendy, predictable human habits. . . our fashions, fetishes, foibles and infamous freedoms.

Freedom to spend, mostly. Especially with all the cardswiping that you see in every spending venue these days.

It’s so easy to spend money nowadays.

Even if you don’t have any!

Using the data streams to  anticipate where the “markets” are headed, where the money’s going . . .those watchful, AI-wielding movers and shakers behind the scenes can know exactly when and where to lower their clickbait nets, and scoop up a big mess of digital debits or financial fish.

“Markets” being the main concentrations of consumer and business wealth that are being spent every day as we live and breathe and spend.

A lot of people are starting to figure this out, about now.

Some have been noticing the profit potentialities for awhile. Others have known from the beginning. They are the ones who have been establishing data-mining as the latest phase of capitalism.

I learned something about this, this morning, when I read Karin Petersson’s report about it on the Social Europe site.

   https://www.socialeurope.eu/politics-in-the-age-of-data

Karin’s opening statement got my attention in a big way.

“It’s impossible to change the world if you don’t understand the forces shaping it.”

That is so true, Karin.

I went on to read her concise treatise, which consisted of an insightful cautionary statement about the three main problems of this data-mining development. I will list those three here, while recommending that you read her article in order to get her thoughts from her article—not mine.

Karin’s list of the three problems:

~~Rage machine

~~Winner takes all

~~Survival of Democracy?

She is calling into question the survivability of democracy in these new social media conditions that have overtaken our way of life.

You should read it.  https://www.socialeurope.eu/politics-in-the-age-of-data

Now I do have something to say about her opening statement:

“It’s impossible to change the world if you don’t understand the forces shaping it.”

So true.

But I confess that my free-thinking mind dropped the KM bomb on me. That is. . . Karl Marx.

. . . not that Karin is a Marxist or anything like that.

My point is that even if you DO understand the forces shaping the world . . . odds are you still can’t change it!

Oh yes, maybe you can make some beneficial contributions, maybe some helpful new ideas, but convincing yourself that you can change the world based on what you know or understand about it . . . that is a dream that will never come true.

Take the Karl himself, and his idea: The factories and businesses of industrial production are owned by a few rich people.  If the regular working people—the proletariat— could take over that means of production and do a fairer job of running it— then society could distribute the wealth in an equitable way. Everybody would have a piece of the pie and we could all live then in an egalitarian commune.

Happily ever after, as they say.

Certainly I am oversimplifying this scenario, but I do it for the sake of simply making this point: You can’t change the world, even if youdo  understand the forces that are shaping it.

My layman’s reading, for instance, of Marx/Engels Communist Manifesto led me to the conclusion that their analysis of capitalism as it was developing in the mid-19th century was, for the most part, accurate!

They predicted, for instance, the alienation that would indeed later take hold of many workers as a result of having to perfoem repetitive production tasks.

So Marx, Engels and others later went on to prescribe a fix for the problem: dictatorship of the proletariat.

When Lenin, Trotsky and others got a hold of this concept they acted on it.

But look what happened. Things got bloody. By the time Stalin got hold of the new development, the formerly fresh thrust of worldwide communism turned into prison gulag.

And it did not recover until the time of Gorbachev, Yeltsin, etc.

That’s one small idea for a man . . . and one giant, very hard lesson learned for mankind.

You can’t change the world, even if you do understand the forces that are changing it.

In the present context of data mining, this principle would perhaps translate to: find a way to regulate the data-miners, but don’t try to take the whole damned machine away from them. This is merely capitalism in its emerging 21st-century form.

DataMining

Neither the technocrats in Brussels, nor the bureaucrats in Washington can stem the tides of history. You just have to regulate those who control the Wealth of Data, insofar as it is Constitutionally  possible, and leave the rest to each individual citizen’s free will and judgement.

The same principle applies, btw, for Climate Change.

Education, for whosoever is willing to learn, is the remedy. Not control. We all need to be convinced to to the right thing.

Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness must be assured for all, in spite of all the data-miners  who lurk behind our keypads, sucking the hot air out of our collective social media balloon.

Glass half-Full

What about this Post-capitalism?

March 3, 2019

There are a many constructive ideas floating around in the world today.

Some are commendable, others not so much. If people propose plans for making the world a better place, then let’s hear them. Let’s consider those plans.

In our present big picture, the hot-button point of contention seems to revolve around the fate of free-market capitalism, in an age of diminishing planetary tolerance.  Is capitalism as we know it an appropriate framework for just and equitable economic development in our present, allegedly climate-changing world?

Are free-market institutions still appropriate for our collective life in the postmodern 21st-century?

Can free-market capitalism even be retained in our planetary future? Or will it be overpowered by some new 21st-century tamed-down socialism?

Generating from some academic and technocratic quarters, we find revisions of the old Marxian ideology, along with assurances that the world has certainly learned hard lessons through the disastrous failure of 20th-century communist experiments.

At  https://www.socialeurope.eu/postcaptalism-unbearable-unrealism , Paul Mason writes:

    Moving to postcapitalism does not entail eradicating market forces overnight or accepting the command-planning methods of Soviet economics. The aim is to design a controlled transition in which market forces cease to operate as the primary allocator of goods and services on the planet, in which the state shrinks and the debt mountains are dismantled.”

and

   “In the past 15 years we have built a highly dysfunctional system, which is unsustainable on all traditional assumptions. It is a system of permanent single monopolies, with massive rent-seeking and financial exploitation, the creation of low-wage, low-skilled jobs designed to keep people inside the system of credit and data extraction, and massive asymmetries of power and information between corporations and consumers.”

Now, as a centrist conservative American, I read those above words and they somehow ring true. There is a sense in which I feel there is maybe some realistic MainStreet experience  missing there, but I see that Mr. Mason raises valid points, which are worthy of our consideration.

On the other side of the debate, Jordan B. Peterson has a different take on our world problems and how to solve, or at least address, them.

At  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXgZAdaMtS8&t=35s,      he says:

     “If you’re tilting toward the left, and you’re temperamentally inclined that way—and half the population is—then you have an ethical problem on your hands, which is . . . how do you segregate yourself from the radical policies of the 20th century? “

and

“. . . two things exist in a very uneasy (leftist) coalition in the West—there’s care for the poor, and hatred for the successful.  Those two things are not the same at all . . . and it looks to me that one of the things that really happened when the communist doctrines were brought into play , and also by the way we did the multi-national experiment.  It doesn’t matter where you put these policies into play . . . the same bloody outcome occurred. Didn’t matter whether it was Russia, or China, Cambodia or Vietnam—pick a random African country—or Cuba or Venezuela, for that matter. . . it was an unmitigated catastrophe. That has to be dealt with.  The intellectual left in the West has been absolutely appalling in their silence on the communist catastrophe.”           

Dr. Peterson, the speaker of these words just above, is a Canadian professor of Psychology at University of Toronto.

Down here Stateside, we have a sizable number of Americans who agree with his assessment. That supportive group includes the this blogger.

Back in 1989, freedom-cultivating citizens, such as I, thought we heard the ringing resonance of a Liberty bell when the Soviet Union fell apart and the Berlin Wall came down. We were patting ourselves on the back after those historic events, especially because Kennedy had gone to Berlin in 1963 and spoke:

    “There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. . . Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in . . .”

And then later, Reagan went over there and said:

    “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Well, the Germans did tear down that damn wall, and the subjects of Soviet domination throughout that terrible empire wasted no time in tearing down—not only a wall— but much more. . . the Soviet Union itself.

Like Humpty-Dumpty it was.

So the question remained: Would they, could they, tear down all that Marxist communist ideology that had built that wall under threat of gulag imprisonment? Could they expose and dismantle the Statist oppression that had built all the gulag walls? and the Stalin statues, and the tanks and the nukes, etcetera etcetera.

That would take a long time, and it has taken a long time. But in some ways, that early 20th-century tide of Marxist oppresso-utopian wishful thinking is seeping back as a kind of theoretical, kinder, gentler socialism.

So the question becomes: is there any part of the Dr. Jekyll Marxian collectivist ideology that is workable and fair? and, as for the Mr. Hyde alter ego: Is there any part of that disgraced Soviet that would creep back as fierce totalitarian servitude?

Cmnism

On the other side of 21st-century civilization, at the same time, and as long as we’re at relative peace in a cooperative globalist attitude, another question arises: What parts of FreeMarket Capitalism are still workable?

Tiananmen talk

Advocates of our free-market democratic republic must admit, for instance, that yes, Virginia, Freedom and free-market capitalism does have its problems. It always has, although those troubles do not necessarily disqualify the free market as a model for economic well-being.

The weak spot in our capitalist framework was exposed in 2008-9, when our financially engineered wall street perpetual profit, speculative machine flew apart, and sent all of us free-marketeers high-tailing it for the exits.

Statistics reveal that since that disruptive correction in the fall of ’08, a stubborn stagnation has taken hold of our economy. Even though the Fed cranks out statistics to reinforce the notion that we have recovered . . .we have not recovered.

You call this a recovery?

No way!. I grew up in the ’50’s; I know what a real recovery looks like, and I worked my way through the ’90’s.I know what a truly busy, productive economy feels like.  And whatever we got now—this ain’t no real recovery.

  This is stagnation.

The Feds got all their numbers trying to convince us that all is well, but the truth is: So many folks are not making enough money to prosper. They’re just gettin’ by. Meanwhile so many speak of a widening inequality gap, and although I don’t really see the world in those “class warfare” terms, I suppose that, in some sense, yes Virginia, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

But then, hey, hasn’t that always been true? We shall see. At any rate, let’s not get all commie-bent out of shape about it. Just keep busy. Find something helpful to do. As Jordan says, responsibility gives life meaning. You can start by cleaning your room, and thereby making the world a little bit better place.

Glass half-Full