Life without rising inequality is very much like life with socialism


Forbes. Fucking Forbes. They’re doing a great job of painting a smiley face on a dystopia. They have an article up titled Surging Wealth Inequality Is A Happy Sign That Life Is Becoming Much More Convenient. For whom, you might ask? Does it matter? It benefits the rich, so the peons don’t matter.

Crucial about all this is that the commercial seers who get the future right will grow stunningly rich for being right. The more convenient life is, the more unequal are the living. But as opposed to a sign of hardship, the happier truth is that life is truly cruel when the talented aren’t getting rich. That’s when we know that no one is devising ways to make our lives easier, cheaper, healthier, more productive, and everything else good. Life without rising inequality is very much like life with socialism.

“The talented”…who might they be? The examples he gives are a) Pizza Hut is testing self-driving delivery cars and pizza-making robots that will get your pizza to you faster, without the expense of pizza delivery drivers. Yay! No more tipping college students struggling to make ends meet! And b) Walmart is making an app a digital map to find the toy or TV they’re looking for, then make the purchase right in the aisle where they find it. Bravo, capitalism. So the “talented” are a couple of big corporations, not people.

That last line, though…he’s completely oblivious, I can tell. You mean I can have life with socialism, and life without rising inequality, at the same time? Yes, please. And you want the opposite? Well fuck you very much.

Comments

  1. mathman85 says

    Holy shit. The title alone is pure Orwellian madness. It has me picturing that cartoon dog sitting in a room that’s on fire saying “This is fine.”

  2. brucegee1962 says

    So the more unequal a society is, the better, eh? Good to know. Since most of the societies that were more unequal than ours involved slavery, I guess that means it’s time to bring back that peculiar institution, eh? That was very very “convenient” for those on top, after all. Are the Forbes editors sure that’s where they’d be in such a system, though?

  3. says

    I believe they meant to say “no one is devising ways to make our lives more complicated, the same price but cheaper for them, definitely less healthy, more productive by way of eliminating recreation from the peons, and everything else for them and not the little people.”
    Also I am definitely going to assume that if Pizza Hut has self-driving cars the tips you would normally give will instead be added to the delivery fee that they already add on unrelated to the tip.

  4. Akira MacKenzie says

    A while back I read an article on Cracked.com about how we already live in the virtually, scarcity-free, post-economic utopia dreamt of in Star Trek… that is, if you’re fortunate enough to be in the upper class.

    I sometimes imagine a not too distant future where humanity’s dozen-or-so tillionaires get to while away their pampered, sociopathic days alone (Why should they share THEIR air with anyone else?) on their own private luxury space stations. The entire economy of Earth functions only to perpetuate their lavish lifestyles while billions suffer and starve.

    Needless to say, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for my miserable species.

  5. Akira MacKenzie says

    brucegee1962:

    Since most of the societies that were more unequal than ours involved slavery, I guess that means it’s time to bring back that peculiar institution, eh?

    Don’t worry, Kanye is working hard to get rid of that pesky 13th amendment repealed.

  6. mond says

    the happier truth is that life is truly cruel when the talented aren’t getting rich

    There are billions of talented people on this planet who are in poverty so life must be truly cruel.

  7. Akira MacKenzie says

    There are billions of talented people on this planet who are in poverty so life must be truly cruel.

    Try telling that to the millions of assholes who think Ayn Rand was a “philosopher” and Horatio Alger was a real person. According to the libertarians and conservatives I seem to be surrounded by, everyone is ultimately responsible for their station in life. Well, everyone except themselves, of course. Their economic mediocrity is because of taxation, regulation, and giving welfare checks to brown people. Anyone can become a billionaire if they gumption, moxie, grit, and a whole bunch of other old-timey phrases and slash the ship of state down to a skeleton crew.

  8. says

    The biggest fallacy about Horatio Alger is that his heroes went on to become millionaires. Rather, persistence and hard work generally got them into something like a tier of the middle class.

  9. nomdeplume says

    The arguments in favour of inequality from those who inequality favours go back several thpusand years, the on;y thing the Forbes article lacks (though perhaps it doesn’t need saying) is that god has ruled that the very rich deserve their wealth and must always stay wealthy. The poor will get some sort of consolation prize (a small one) in heaven. Convenient.

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    The thing is, I don’t grudge the convenience that increased automation provides. Automated pizza delivery? Cool. Being able to purchase items without wasting time in a checkout line? Neat. These advances make life easier AND frees humans from drudgery…

    The trouble is that the former pizza delivery driver and big-box-store cashier aren’t going to see a nickel of the profits those advances make. In fact, in a ever shrinking labor market, they’re going to find it harder to earn the income they need to buy those pizzas or department store items.

    So what’s the answer? Universal basic income? (Can we afford that?) Or do we hold back technical progress just to create boring busy work for humanity?

  11. Akira MacKenzie says

    We all know what the libertarian/conservative answer is: “Let ’em starve to death!”

  12. Akira MacKenzie says

    How about creating busy work that’s not boring?

    Non-boring work? There’s a contradiction in terms.

  13. mathymathymathy says

    I haven’t seen any solution that would be better than a Universal Basic Income (ideally, at least equivalent to a living wage). However, in order to afford UBI, you would need to tax the rich business owners who would otherwise be the ones profiting from the shrinkage of the labour market, and unfortunately there’s no chance of that happening in the USA’s current administration.

  14. Rob Grigjanis says

    Some light reading about income inequality.

    One study, for example, suggested that the loss of life from income inequality in the US in 1990 was the equivalent of the combined loss of life due to lung cancer, diabetes, motor-vehicle accidents, HIV-related causes, suicide and homicide (Lynch, et al., 1998).

    mathymathymathy @19: Studies I’ve seen indicate very little shrinkage of the labour market under UBI. And it could well be that removing all the bureaucracy around welfare, etc would actually save money.

  15. Sean Boyd says

    @20 Rob Grigjanis,

    I thought I had read (and can’t find now!) a study indicating that it might be more cost-effective to provide housing, food, etc., directly, rather than money via a UBI or some such. That I can’t find the reference makes me wonder if I’m even remembering properly or not. I wish that were the conversation we were having, though, how to reduce income inequality, instead of what really is discussed: whether we should reduce income inequality.

    At any rate, thank you for the linked light reading.

  16. cartomancer says

    I weep at the poverty of imagination implicit in such statements. The only reward they can imagine is being in control of more resources than other people, and the only reward-worthy thing they can imagine is devising ways to increase the portion of society’s resources one is in control of.

    Plenty of talented people go entirely unrewarded in this system. There are talented nurses in their millions, talented musicians, talented artists and metalworkers and hairdressers and charity workers who see little reward but the joy in the faces of those they have helped. Contrawise, plenty of utterly talentless people get vast rewards. It is difficult to think of a less talented individual than the current incumbent of the US Presidency, yet he enjoys wealth undreamed of by almost anyone else in his society.

    Though, to be honest, I am not a fan of the idea that society’s resources be distributed as a reward for “talent”, with talent defined in any kind of arbitrary way. I have my opinions on what is impressive and valuable and important for our culture, just as our esteemed author does, but we cannot get away from the fact that reality has burdened us all with certain needs, which must be met from society’s resources. The means of life should not be apportioned as a carrot and stick reward system according to anyone’s idea of what is valuable. They should be apportioned according to need. Rewarding people with additional resources for the ability to accumulate money is like rewarding them for talent at nose-picking or reciting Latin poetry – irrational and unfounded.

    Perhaps when we have eliminated poverty, want, and all the ills of deprivation in society, when everyone’s life is as good and as secure as we can make it, then we can play with what resources are left over and assign them to particular individuals as “rewards” according to some arbitrary system of fabricated values. But until we reach the point beyond which additional material resources could make no great difference to anyone’s life, it seems to me an utter dereliction of morality to use them in such a way.

  17. Rob Grigjanis says

    Sean Boyd @22: There was (still is?) an experimental program run in a US city which provided apartments (and maybe food) for the homeless. The indications were that this was more cost-effective than leaving people on the street, and having to deal with the inevitable health costs. Wish I remembered more about it…

    Of course, the conservative mindset would say this is an “entitlement” for the “undeserving”. Never mind that it actually helps people, and bloody well costs less money. Not just nasty little creeps. Stupid nasty little creeps.

  18. Sean Boyd says

    @24 Rob Grigjanis,

    Berkeley, California comes to mind, but even throwing that into my search isn’t bringing up what I thought I remembered.

    On the heels of Amazon getting its sweetheart $1.5 billion deal in NY/NJ, I want to vomit when I hear about “entitlements” for the “undeserving”. Stupid, nasty little creeps indeed.

  19. Artor says

    “However, in order to afford UBI, you would need to tax the rich business owners…”

    Or simply cut back on the massive billions spent on corporate welfare and excessive military spending. A fraction of that would put most of America solidly into the middle class.

  20. jrkrideau says

    @ 24 Rob Grigjanis
    Has not somewhere in Saskatchewan (Regina perhaps?) done the same thing and shown that once someone has a place to live, it is easier to help them get them back on their feet?

  21. unclefrogy says

    Of course, the conservative mindset would say this is an “entitlement” for the “undeserving”. Never mind that it actually helps people, and bloody well costs less money. Not just nasty little creeps. Stupid nasty little creeps.

    has not the appellation alt-right as well as conservative become an identifier for mean stupid nasty little creeps almost a euphemism
    uncle frogy

  22. canadiansteve says

    If it were true that talent is the main component of earning wealth then there would be high class mobility because talented people in lower economic classes would move up, and people without talent in higher economic status would drop. In reality, what is happening is that economic mobility has been decreasing for years now.
    Also, if talent were the real way of getting rich, then they should support a 100% inheritance tax and extremely restrictive rules about allowing other forms of generational transfer of wealth, since the talented would still be rich and don’t need their rich families, since, after all, it is the talent being rewarded, not birth status. I’m sure the supporters of Forbes are working on this idea already!

  23. lumipuna says

    The examples he gives are a) Pizza Hut is testing self-driving delivery cars and pizza-making robots that will get your pizza to you faster, without the expense of pizza delivery drivers. Yay! No more tipping college students struggling to make ends meet! And b) Walmart is making an app “a digital map to find the toy or TV they’re looking for, then make the purchase right in the aisle where they find it.” Bravo, capitalism. So the “talented” are a couple of big corporations, not people.

    Are these supposed to be examples of some great innovation making lots of money – or examples of some great money maker benefiting humanity?

  24. lumipuna says

    BTW, I recently noticed my local public library has a copy of Forbes. I guess it’s for the temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

  25. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Yeah, sounds like the same Forbes that recently published an op ed about how cyclists’ conviction that traffic laws, the rules and norms of the road, basic logic, and common courtesy don’t apply to them is actually a good thing.

  26. Akira MacKenzie says

    Back in my Bad Old Days as a conservative, the argument that defenders of all things free market was that without the possibility of acquiring massive amounts of wealth, there was no “incentive” for entrepreneurs to produce goods and services. It’s not sufficient to make enough money to live a modestly comfortable life. Oh no! You needed the sports car, the Mc-Mansion in the Hills or the Island, the yacht, the overpriced Swiss wristwatch… Oh, sorry! I mean, “time piece”… and all the other luxuries that having obscene wealth can buy.

    That’s what that line “Life without rising inequality is very much like life with socialism” is all about. They don’t want to live like everyone else and the fact that upward social mobility is becoming harder is ensures that. The fact that not everyone could afford these things is not a bug, it’s the ultimate feature. Luxury items are not just supposed to make the lives of the rich easier, they’re supposed to separate you from the teaming-multitudes of mediocre-or-worse riff-raff. After all, if you weren’t better than them, you wouldn’t have all this money, wouldn’t you?

  27. pocketnerd says

    This seems like a backhanded admission of what advocates of progressive economics have been saying for decades: Here in the US, at least, the wealthy aren’t content with merely amassing capital and luxury; they must have more than others, and most especially they must have a permanent economic underclass, righteously despised, who must not be allowed to sample any of the comforts they labor to produce. In other words, it’s not enough for them to be multibillionaires; YOU must suffer, just to remind them how good they have it.

    Some people would rather be the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind than permit everybody to have two perfectly good eyes.

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