Posts Tagged ‘PostCapitalism’

End of Capitalism and future of work

November 9, 2017

The State could provide everything.

In Ancient Mesopotamia, the Temple Complex had gardens, farms, workshops, foundries.

In Classical Greece, the State controlled the gold and silver mines, minted the coinage. The coinage used to pay the military who used to pay for provisions. The traders and merchants and farmers used the coinage to pay taxes to the State.

In Medieval Europe the State created and regulated markets through the issue of Charters.

Post-2008, we are now post-capitalism.

We see capitalism has failed, the signs are everywhere, offshore tax havens, food banks, skewed wealth distribution, beggars on the street, wages have flat-lined workers have not shared in the growing economy, pollution, loss of natural habitat, global warming, break up of EU, increasing risk of wars for raw resources, all kept afloat on a sea of debt through quantitative easing.

The market has failed to function.

The market self-regulates and yet it failed to regulate the banks, the banks had to be bailed out by the State.

Price is a signal in the market. If marginal cost of information goods tends to zero, the market cannot function.

Robots can replace most jobs. The only reason they have not so far is because wages have been driven so low.

Classic example is the automated car wash replaced by a bunch of immigrants with dirty rags and a bucket of dirty water.

Worse still, as Paul Mason describes, workers being turned into human robots.

A month ago I met somebody who organizes trade unions at a warehouse. She was getting the minimum wage and worked on a zero-hour contract. The company could call her at any time on a very short notice, or not call her at all. One time they called her by accident. She arrived and they paid her for the exact amount of time it took to get there and then go home. She quit but not because of that, but because they asked her to wear a Go-Pro camera and a GPS unit on her arm to better manage her movements. This use of automation is crazy and it seems obvious that this warehouse could be entirely automated. People don’t need to do this work. They do because wage levels and trade union rights are so minimal in this country it is cheaper to employ a person rather than a machine.

Post-capitalism we could go one of two ways.

A world of Uber, Deliveroo, soul-destroying, temporary, zero-hours McShit jobs.

Or we could have open coops, collaborative commons, a sharing economy.

Companies like Uber and Deliveroo can easily be put out of business. Create properly regulated open coop platforms. If these are developed as open source, they can be replicated, adopted, adapted across other cities.

There is for example a black cab app for London. If open source, other cities can use, if an open coop platform, the taxi drivers have a say in how it is used, share the wealth it produces, if an open coop, those who hail the taxi have a say and share the wealth created, as does the community in which it is embedded.

Collaborative commons should not be restricted to the provision of goods and services, it has to be extended to social and political space. Ordinary citizens have to seize control of Town Halls, open up to public participation, network with other citizen-controlled Town Halls.

Falling price of information goods

January 2, 2017

Information, if allowed, flows freely.

Classic Marxist theory, cost consists of capital, land and labour.

We now have a fourth factor, information.

Karl Marx wrote of machines whose cost was zero, that never wear out.

Information does not wear out, costs nothing to reproduce.

Feel free to listen to The Way of the Bow, share with your friends, download.

Digital music costs nothing to reproduce, e-books cost nothing to reproduce. If I listen to digital music, it does not wear out when I listen, I can share with my friends. An e-book does not wear out when I read, I can share with my friends.

I can of course share a book with my friends, but were I to, I cannot read it, it costs something to cut down the trees, make the paper, print, to distribute,  to shelve, to retail. If I share it, for example pass on through BookCrossing, the more often shared and read the more dogeared it will become. One reason why I prefer to give books away rather than share.

The price of information goods tends to zero. If you are being charged more than a pound a dollar or a euro for an e-book, you are being ripped off.

The only thing that maintains the price of a song on iTunes is the near monopoly Apple exerts.

We see this with the price of iPhones, the price maintained by near monopoly and Draconian intellectual property rights, thus Apple maintains a high profit margin, even when its share of the market falls. Helped of course by tax dodging, low wage workers at Foxconn in China and the massive subsidies from the Chinese government.

Compare the cost of an iPhone with a  phone from One Plus, eg One Plus One, One Plus Two, One Plus Three, One Plus 3T.

On leanpub and bandcamp, artists set a minimum price, sometimes zero. Those who choose to pay for a download, can pay more. Often they pay much more than the asking price.

Most jobs could be replaced by robots, were it not for the creation of what David Graeber calls bullshit jobs. The car wash replaced by half a dozen migrants with dirty rags and a bucket of water.

Below a series of charts and a video that illustrate price of information goods falling.

Paul Mason discussing PostCapitalism

December 20, 2016

Что будет после капитализма?  — Paul Mason

What will come after capitalism? — Paul Mason

The ideal machine is one that costs nothing and lasts forever. — Karl Marx

Capitalism is an adaptive system, 50 year cycles, technological innovation commencing the next cycle.

How can we today, have technological innovation and no growth? Due to the unique behaviour of information and information goods.

With information goods, we should have abundance, instead we have artificial scarcity.

Since late 1970s, wages in US have flat-lined. Post-WWII, productivity and wages increased in step. Post-1980s they have diverged, productivity has increased, wages have not. A transfer of wealth from wage earners to owners of capital.

Who is to buy the output of increased productivity? If wages do not rise, it is financed by growing debt.

$57 trillion added to global debt since collapse of Lehman Brothers.

When the dotcom com bubble burst in 2001 global debt was 200% of GDP. Debt is now 300% of GDP.

If there is an over supply of something, its price falls. Cost of money has fallen. Interest rates have fallen. 12 trillion dollars of money worldwide now attracts negative interest rate.

When we speak of free money, we mean the money is free, ie no interest paid.

Classic Marxism, cost is the sum of land, money and labour. We now have  a fourth factor, information.

Information freely flows, information products can be reproduced infinitely at near zero cost, information does not wear out.

Information cost nothing to reproduce, does not wear out. A digital book does not wear out when I read it, I can run off copies for my friends. The same applies to digital music. It does not wear out no matter how many times I listen, I can run off many copies to my friends, I can share via the internet.

Feel free to listen to The Way of the Bow, share with your friends, download.

Information naturally flows, all that stops it flowing is Draconian intellectual property legalisation. This is not a freely functioning market, this is near monopolies using the law to control the market.

As we saw with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Draconian control ultimately fails.

Free flow of information encourages innovation.

With information products, the price tends to zero.

99p a song on iTunes. On Spotify a pittance.

Would have to sell 1500 songs on iTunes to earn minimum wage. On Spotify 1.2 million plays.

How then do we reward the creator?

On leanpub and bandcamp, artists set a minimum price. Those who choose to pay for a download, can pay more.

It is not only information goods where the price is falling to zero, also physical goods with a  high information contents. Or it would if we had a functioning market.

It is only monopolies or near monopolies, bought and paid for naked political power, that maintains the price.

Contrast the price of high performance smart phones, One Plus One, One Plus Two, One Plus Three, One Plus 3T, with equivalent phones from Samsung or Apple.

Nearly half of all jobs will be replaced by robots and automation. Many of the remaining jobs, low paid, temporary, zero hours.

We have the creation of what David Graeber calls bullshit jobs. Half a dozen immigants with dirty rags and a bucket of water replace an automatic car wash.

Peter Thiel represents all that is wrong with Silicon Valley. Serfs working for apps, transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.  No surprise he backs Donald Trump and is on his advisory panel.

Donald Trump has well documented links with the gangster capitalism Vladimir Putin heads.

When government shrinks, social spending cut, what rises is spending on surveillance, from which Silicon Valley will benefit.

Peter Thiel is reminiscent of the German industrialists who backed Adolf Hitler.

Capitalism ended in 2008. It has lost its ability to adapt.

A banking crisis led to an economic crisis, to a social crisis and now a global geo-political crisis.

TTIP is dead, CETA and TPP in final death throws.

The Soviet Union collapsed overnight. In 2017 we are likely to see the collapse of the EU. Brexit is now a side show. Italy is poised to hold a referendum on leaving the EU.

In Greece it was thought there may be a coup by the military. Democracy was destroyed by the EU.

Across the world there is now a grass roots reaction to neo-liberalism, which has led to a fall in living standards, transfer of wealth from poor to the rich, environmental destruction, global warming.

It is on the fringes we see collapse of Empire.

Blockadia represents the front line, often resembling a  war zone.

What are we do to do as capitalism collapses?

A  neo-Feudal system, oligarchs, politicians like Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the rest of society reduced to serfs?

Or a cooperative system, contribution to the sharing and collaborative commons?

Paul Mason discussing Postcapitalism at De Balie

October 27, 2016
Paul Mason Postcapitalism discussion at De Balie

Paul Mason Postcapitalism discussion at De Balie

Capitalism ended in 2008. We are now in a post-capitalist world, a period of transition.

We have to decide what do we want.

Do we want a world of serfs working for apps, Uber, task rabbit, Deliveroo, atomised workers bidding against each other to drive wages below the minimum wage, of zero hours, bullshit jobs, of workers standing in the market place, the literal job market, hoping to be offered a job.

When a  worker offers his labour,  it is a perishable good, if not sold today, it cannot be sold tomorrow.

Or we can have a world of open source, peer-to-peer. sharing, collaborative commons, open coops.

The people who produce the wealth, are not sharing that wealth. In the US, wages have flat-lined since the 1970s. The wealth generated by a steady increase in productivity is flowing upwards to the one percent.

Capitalism is an adaptive system, that is how it has mange to survive.

Technological innovation, the railways, the steam engine, computers, the jet engine, lead to new periods of growth, 50 year Kondratieff cycles.

Since 2008, we have seen no new technological innovation, no growth.

In the past what spurred technological innovation and investment, was the high cost of wages. Now that wages are being kept low, there is no impetus to innovate. Robots could do many of the bullshit jobs, the only reason they do not, is because the cost of labour is so low.

Information flows freely, the price of information goods tends to zero. To counter this capitalism has monopolies, Draconian copyright and intellectual property legislation.

It is a natural human condition to wish to cooperate, to share. Could you pass me the hammer please? We do not demand a price. We show someone the way in the street. We do not expect anything in return, either now or in the future.

If you impose an artificial structure on how people relate to each other, it will eventually collapse.

Neoliberalism and globalisation are not writ in stone.

With Brexit, we are seeing the breakup of the European Union.

Wallonia, a small region in Belgium, said no to Ceta. Although it looks like they have now buckled under pressure from the EU dictatorship.

Quantitative Easing has failed. It lined the pockets of the rich, inflated stocks and shares and the bonuses of bankers and led to a property bubble.

Why are we buying the debt of VW, why are we bailing out the banks?

Use the money to buy up every student debt across Europe, invest in Green Infrastructure, but not in HS2, Hinckley Point C and airport expansion.

EU has turned southern Europe into a wasteland. Youth unemployment is running at 50%, in Greece 60%, poverty levels are rising.

We need to promote open source business models, the sharing economy, collaborative commons, a basic income, open coops. If this sector grows, people have less requirement to work for a living.

Education could be free. If it is free to the age of 16, why not beyond?

We have to seize control of local Town Halls, implement participatory democracy, but this does not go far enough,we have to have to have participation in all areas of the city, the transport system run as an open coop, then network these cities across Europe.

Look to Barcelona and Catalonia.

If we can design an iPhone, why can we not design a better society?

Innovation does not mean an iPhone without a headphone socket. Innovation is The Hive in Dalston, putting an empty building to community use, giving people a function in their community.

Yes, we can introduce touchscreens in McDonald’s, eliminate bullshit jobs, but is it not better to eliminate McDonald’s?

Radically Beneficial World

January 9, 2016

Capitalism is an adaptive system. But like all adaptive systems there is a limit to that adaptation, it then breaks down.

Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, did not expect Capitalism to last.

Karl Marx saw it breaking down. The internal contradictions, abundance amidst scarcity.

What Marx did not comprehend, was the existence of Kondratieff Waves, fifty year long cycles. Technical innovation leads to investment, then overcapacity, surplus of capital, financialisation, then a down turn.

Kondratieff using the limited data he had access to, showed the existence of these waves. Joseph Stalin was delighted, it showed the superiority of the Soviet system, Capitalism was collapsing. Until he learnt the downturn would be followed by an upturn. He then had Kondratieff executed.

Mercantile Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism.

But in human history, a blink of an eye. Capitalism is not set in stone, it is not inevitable. Capitalism did not build the pyramids. Feudalism lasted far longer than Capitalism.

Workers driving up wages drove innovation.

We are twenty years on from end of last wave. No sign of an upturn. Workers are not driving up wages.

We have precarious workers, low wages, de-skilled, temporary, zero hours, McJobs.

We have atomised workers, serfs working for death star apps, engaged in reverse auctions, bidding against each other to drive down wages, working and environmental conditions.

The cost of stuff is the labour, materials and capital. More recently knowledge. Sell higher than cost, and make a profit. Cut costs and make more profit or have a competitive advantage.

Can cut costs by driving down wages or increasing productivity.

From 1973, US wages have flat-lined. We see a similar pattern in the UK.

Henry Ford made the point, he paid his workers high wages, they could afford to buy what they made.

First half of cycle, make money by investing in making stuff, second half through money.

Workers used to have money in their pockets. No longer true, or what they have, is expensive money, pay day loans.The result is town centres turning into ghost towns.

Compared with France, productivity in UK is 20% lower, wages in France are higher. When wages are higher, employ better quality workers. When wages are low, does not matter quality of workers and if need to increase output, simply employ more workers.

That was how the Soviet Union worked. If they need to increase output open a second factory.

The 1973 oil criss with OPEC holding the world to ransom, saw a big increase in fuel efficiency. With falling oil prices, no incentive to improve fuel efficiency (not unless raise fuel taxes).

COP21 in Paris excluded aviation and shipping.

We need to keep 80% of known carbon reserves in the ground, if we are to keep global temperature rises below 2C.

In UK, the government is pushing fracking.

This winter has seen widespread flooding (as was seen two winter’s ago). We have known for at least a decade, that global warming will mean more frequent storms, more intense storms, warm air holds more moisture, the more energy in the system, the more violent the storms.

The floods were preventable, had the water been retained upstream the flow downstream slowed, re-afforest, rewild, reintroduce beavers, wolves and lynx.

China is an offshore manufacturing site for the West. Moving to low carbon economy grants them a competitive advantage over the West.

China  is the low-carbon superpower. Eight of the world’s largest solar companies are Chinese.  The second biggest wind company is Chinese.

China invested $90 billion in renewables  last year. It installed more solar in the first quarter than currently existed in France.

China installed 23 GW of wind power in 2014.

We are seeing the same curve as with computers, price halving every 18 months, the power doubling.

Contrast with oil and coal, where costs are rising, and that is before we even account for the externalised costs.

The marginal costs of renewables is tending to zero. Wind and sun are free.

The average world cost of solar in 2010 was $400 per MW-h.  It fell to $130 in 2014. It is now below $60 in the best locations.

Wind is cheaper than oil or coal. Last year, price of wind generated electricity in Texas went negative, ie users were being paid to take the electricity.

Capitalism relies on the market self-correcting. It failed to self-correct during the 2008 banking crisis.

The market relies on price as a signal in the market. If prices fall to zero, the market cannot function.

Trillions of dollars of confected money bailed out the criminal banks. Quantitative Easing handed money to the rich and helped inflate bonuses for bankers, pumped up share price and property.

The rich do not voluntarily hand money to the poor. It has to be syphoned off through taxation and taken by violence.  If you wish money to go to the poor, then give it directly to the poor.

Low taxation policy of George Osborne means corporations are sitting on a £750 billion cash mountain. They do not invest.  It should be put to productive use.

Anyone worth more than a billion dollars, should be stripped of their surplus billions, a billion should more than suffice.

As Charles Eisenstein discusses in Sacred Economics, we have work that needs doing and idle hands. Money has the magical power to connect the two.

It has been suggested an alternative currency for Greece.

Cheap labour will be replaced by robots.

If drive down wages and/or employ robots, who is to buy the output?

If increase productivity for same number of workers, who is to buy the stuff they produce? If reduce the workers and produce the same amount of stuff, who is to buy the stuff when laid off workers have no money in their pockets?

A crypto-currency could pay a Basic Income, it could pay for what communities agree is work that needs doing. But it begs the question, how is it created, who decides? Implies a central authority which goes against the philosophy of crypto-currencies.

PostCapitalism: Envisaging a Shared Future

November 3, 2015
St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral

Paul Mason signing PostCapitalism

Paul Mason signing PostCapitalism

Paul Mason discussing PostCapitalism, the conclusions of a shared economy not the analysis, at St Paul’s in the City of London, under the auspices of St Paul’s Institute.

St Paul’s within the heart of the City of London. Does capitalism have a heart?

A couple of years ago, Occupy were camped outside offering a different narrative.

Capitalism is a complex system. Every complex system adapts to its environment, and in doing so, modifies its environment. There comes though a point when it can no longer adapt, it breaks downs, flips to another state, dies and its niche occupied by another complex system.

Below St Paul’s, lies a Roman Temple dedicated to Diana. St Paul’s is built on the site of a medieval cathedral.

The Roman Temple was built by military occupiers, probably using slave labour. The medieval cathedral by a feudal system. Wren’s St Paul’s built by mercantile capital.

Capitalism is not set in stone, though the City of London would have us believe so. Mercantile capitalism was followed by industrial capitalism, now we have financial capitalism.

Capital used to finance innovation, invest in productive systems, this generated wealth, from which we all benefited. Now we have financial capitalism, money is invested to create money, silly money chases silly projects like Uber and AirBnB.

Post-WWII we had growth through the 1950s and 1960s. It came to an abrupt end in 1973.

We are seeing boom and bust, bubbles, but no real growth. Crisis follows crisis. We are not seeing innovation.

Marxist Theory of Value, land, capital and labour, determines price. We now have a fourth factor, knowledge, intellectual property.

We have global monopolies, the like of which we have never seen. Companies like Apple. It costs 99 cents to download a track, because that is what Apple says it will cost. It is not determined by the market. Same applies to an iPhone. Apple uses its monopoly position to determine the price.

But this is not sustainable. Knowledge is free, it can be freely reproduced.

Check out FairPhone, or One Plus One or One Plus Two. Contrast with the latest offering from Apple or Samsung.

The price of stuff is tending to zero. Price is a signal on which the market functions. If the price is zero, the market can not function.

We need to move to open co-ops, a sharing, collaborative, gift economy, where we all contribute to the global commons, and draw upon the global commons.

Linux was created by collaborative effort, as was Apache. The internet runs on Linux and Apache, on Open Source Software, the world’s supercomputers run on Linux.

We can achieve more through collaboration, sharing, cooperating. Hierarchical systems are not efficient cannot easily adapt, networked systems are efficient, can rapidly adapt.

The share of wages of the global economy is declining. It is being driven by credit, confected money. If workers lack money in their pocket to spend, we are heading to crunch time.

Many jobs are robotic in nature can and should be replaced by robots. Freeing people to pursue more productive lives. This would necessitate a Basic Wage, sufficient to live on.

Agora is a bar in a quiet plaza in Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife. It is difficult to sit on ones own, people draw one into their conservations. These are externalities, which makes Agora an interesting place to be. Agora benefits because sells more drinks. Contrast this with facebook, we all contribute, we are the product, we produce the content,  facebook then profits, it captures and privatises the externalities.

Ann Pettifor gave a synopsis of PostCapitalism, but in her criticism, showed she had read but not understood. She confused Uber and AirBnB with the sharing economy. A common mistake.

Uber is a cowboy, unregulated taxi operation which offers unfair competition to legitimate taxi operators. The drivers take all the risks, Uber creams off the profits, and pays no tax.

Uber is often used as an example for what is referred to as the sharing economy, but in reality, and and there are many other examples, we have surfs working for apps.

Ann Pettifor is correct to raise her grave concern at this rapidly growing sector of the economy, but should not confuse it with the sharing gift economy, collaborative commons.

Phillip Blond seemed to have completely lost the plot. He talked of morality, bringing justice and fair play into the world. He did not understand the concept of artificial scarcity, monopoly, which forces up the price of what should be freely available. He talked of expensive art. His point though that all could be producers, was relevant. In the sharing, collaborative commons, we all have the opportunity to become producers and consumers, often making our own unique contribution.

Elizabeth Oldfield chaired the meeting. One of her rare interjections was to ask Ann Pettifor the meaning of rentier economy. Earning money from money, not from hard graft, getting your hands dirty, not from labour or the land.

Why is your book not free?

A good question. When we create, we draw upon what went before. Working for the Channel 4 and before that the BBC, public money has paid for the work.

We could also ask, why Penguin, why a big corporate publisher? Why not Zed Books, a small publisher, a co-operative, is that not more in keeping with the ideals of PostCapitalism? The Global Minotour is published by Zed Books, as is Change Everything. Or why not publish Unbound Books, which crowd funds books? It could be argued exposure, Penguin gets books on the shelves. But does not a book like PostCapitalism spread by word of mouth?

A hardback, a real book, real costs, paper, trees, shipping, warehousing, shelving, booksellers. With an e-book, the costs are zero. The costs of the servers written off years ago. Robots convert to appropriate download formats. Any publisher that charges more than a pound is blatantly ripping people off.

hardback

  • Foyles — £16-99
  • Guardian Live — £15-00
  • Penguin — £14-00
  • Amazon — £11-89

e-book

  • Kindle — £9-99
  • Kobo — £9-99
  • Google Play — £9-99

A couple of years ago, Paulo Coelho offered his entire back catalogue at 99 cents an e-book, a book for the price of a song. Downloads shot up by several thousand percent.

Jeremy Rifkin received a lot of stick for the high price for the e-book of The Zero Marginal Cost Society, a book the entire thesis the collaborative economy and the cost of stuff tending to zero.

Contrast with Sacred Economics, available for free download, pay what you wish, accept it as a gift from the author. What will you gift in return?

Or Europe after the Minotaur, an update of The Global Minotaur, available as a free download.

Phillip Blond spoke of friendship.

In the sharing economy, everything has a story, a social interaction involved. Not an anonymous purchase in exchange for cash.

I gave a friend a special 25th anniversary limited edition of The Alchemist. I have never before seen someone jump for joy. She did, when she looked inside and saw it was signed, not only signed but signed to her. She could not contain her joy, she ran across the road to tell her mother.

Would she have had the same joy had she bought a copy for cash? Yes, she would have had the pleasure of reading but one copy would be no different to another, replaceable if you have the cash.

If I go away, I do not load a Kobo Reader (far better than Kindle), I take real books. When I have read, I give them away.

I have bought four copies of PostCapitalism. I gave my orignal copy away to my friend. Ten days ago, on my way to Yanis Varoufakis in conversation with Paul Mason, I bought a copy of PostCapitalism to replace the one I had given away. At the venue I bought a copy, then a second copy, of The Global Minotaur. Sadly I did not get them signed. This evening, I brought along my copy of PostCapitalism, and bought two more. One signed for me, two to be given away as gifts.

Having bought four copies, should I not be entitled to free e-books?

Every book should have a unique code, use it to download the e-book. You have already paid for the book, the only difference is the format within which you read the book.

If I give my work away free, should others profit from my work?

Michel Bauwens, founder of P2P Foundation and leading advocate of the sharing economy, has suggested a new type of  licencing agreement. Contribute to the commons, from which all can freely draw, but if for-profit draw then they pay a contribution.

Those not familiar with the sharing, collaborative economy, are dismissive, think it will not work, they often give music as an example, people will not pay they will abuse the system.

Bandcamp shows they are wrong. Musicians will release their work, often at low price with people opting to pay what they think it is worth. Fans will willingly pay more than the asking price.

Sita Sings the Blues was released without the usual copyright restrictions. People can show, they are trusted to pay the producer.

In the spirit of the gift economy, tickets were free. Less than one hundred tickets still available the day before. On the night, not a single ticket left, 2,500 people. What will be their contribution to the gift economy, having accepted a gift? Mine, you have just read.

An ideal follow up meeting would be Paul Mason in conversation with Michel Bauwens discussing the sharing, collaborative economy.

Paul Mason is author of PostCapitalism and economics editor of Channel 4 news.

Paul Mason discussing PostCapitalism at RSA

October 23, 2015

Channel 4 editor Paul Mason at RSA discussing PostCapitalism.