Monday, April 07, 2014

the steadily increasing probability of death camps...,

antipope |  the success of a social system can be measured by how well it supports those at the bottom of the pile—the poor, the unlucky, the non-neurotypical—rather than by how it pampers its billionaires and aristocrats. By that rule of thumb, western capitalism did really well throughout the middle of the 20th century, especially in the hybrid social democratic form: but it's now failing, increasingly clearly, as the focus of the large capital aggregates at the top (mostly corporate hive entities rather than individuals) becomes wealth concentration rather than wealth production. And a huge part of the reason it's failing is because our social system is set up to provide validation and rewards on the basis of an extrinsic attribute (what people do) which is subject to external pressures and manipulation: and for the winners it creates incentives to perpetuate and extend this system rather than to dismantle it and replace it with something more humane.

Meanwhile, jobs: the likes of George Osborne (mentioned above), the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer, don't have "jobs". Osborne is a multi-millionaire trust-fund kid, a graduate of Eton College and Oxford, heir to a Baronetcy, and in his entire career spent a few working weeks in McJobs between university and full-time employment in politics. I'm fairly sure that George Osborne has no fucking idea what "work" means to most people, because it's glaringly obvious that he's got exactly where he wanted to be: right to the top of his nation's political culture, at an early enough age to make the most of it. Like me, he has the privilege of a job that passes test (a): it's good for him. Unlike me ... well, when SF writers get it wrong, they don't cause human misery and suffering on an epic scale; people don't starve to death or kill themselves if I emit a novel that isn't very good. 

When he prescribes full employment for the population, what he's actually asking for is that the proles get out of his hair; that one of his peers' corporations finds a use for idle hands that would otherwise be subsisting on Jobseekers Allowance but which can now be coopted, via the miracle of workfare, into producing something for very little at all. And by using the threat of workfare, real world wages can be negotiated down and down and down, until labour is cheap enough that any taskmaster who cares to crack the whip can afford as much as they need. These aren't jobs that past test (a); for the most part they don't pass test (b) either. But until we come up with a better way of allocating resources so that all may eat, or until we throw off the shackles of Orwellian Crimestop and teach ourselves to think directly about the implications of wasting a third of our waking lives on occupations that harm ourselves and others, this is what we're stuck with ...