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A criminal's best asset is his lie ability.

With the successful completion of our annual blood sacrifice to our benevolent omnipresent corporate gods, I was sitting there chatting about the T.S.A. with my friend the ghost of Ernest Hemingway and a thought struck me. Why is it we suffer fools so easily? Why do we sit idly by as irrationality runs amok as all functional aspect of our systems are shifted into a convoluted Idiocracy? Well, the economy is dependent on it.

There are unfortunate illogical ramifications that arise from primate social psychology. This is beautifully illustrated by the aptly named "cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys" G.R. Stephenson 1967. Don't worry, here's a video to explain:

Unfortunately with all of our advanced linguistic capabilities we are every bit as subject to the same power of groupthink. This is why every large bureaucracy becomes crippled by inefficiency, why all religious zealots are idiotic, and why I can't for the life of me get a cooked piece of KFC in high altitude ('it's all set by head office' they say as I hold up my pink and bleeding soggy hunk of shit.) When we start applying it to complex macro social systems, it gets really painful. To explain, the function of the economy in any social system is to manage and distribute resources (materials, labour, energy, end goods) for the maintenance and advancement of the society and peoples within. In anthropology we tend to arrange people in order not in terms of arbitrary social hierarchy, but in terms of importance within society in regard to the actual creation of required goods. In simpler terms, the most important people in any society are the farmers, artists and tradesmen that create the wealth of the society. The least significant groups are the lawyers, bankers and priests, who do not actually contribute anything, exist purely at the expense of the group as a whole, but provide convenience services that help complex societies function smoothly. When we start applying this notion to the advanced economy of the United States things get weird. So, sure, in the U.S there are about one million farmers (people whose sole direct occupation is farming) there are about 1.5 million lawyers and around 7.5 million bankers, those numbers don't really mean much in and of themselves. Though the pay differences of socially worthless position compared to valuable ones is quite striking. Just think about how much less those listed socially constructive workers are paid compared to managers, lawyers and computer technicians (Uh, yeah, so my six week online certification seminar only taught me to jiggle the cable and reinstall Windows, so you had better just buy a new computer... that'll be $300.) What we need to ask is, what are the sources of actual wealth in the nation? That would seem to be corporations. However, what do they do?

Lets say you have company X that makes radios. There are a lot of steps required in making a radio, it is a mind bogglingly involved process. It only makes sense to distribute roles to specialized players that can optimize themselves for a particular task. So as company X we won't involve ourselves with material resources, that's too involved and they are used to make all manner of things, so for efficiency we leave that to more specialized companies. That's fine, especially since we don't need to take possession of those materials anyway as the actual manufacturing is going to be done by another company cheaper overseas. We can do the exact same thing for the shipping, distributing, engineering, design, marketing, billing, payroll, sales, customer support... When you strip away everything you're left with the realization that corporations don't produce wealth, as they don't produce anything. It gets truly frightening when you step back and see that this is the entire economy. We have managed to create a world where business is wholly irrelevant to business. Financial, intellectual and human capital in turn is not directed into business, but into back into finance where profits are greater. The financial sector has far surpassed its role within society and now dominates the economy. Instead of creating and managing wealth, the economy is a self satisfying credit/interest machine turning money into ever more money.

The real problem with it all is revealed when you look at money itself. Having created the pristine new church of the all holy dollar, we have lost sight of the source of monetary value. Money in itself, holds no value of any sort. It is an abstract representation of the collective value of the economy that supports it. The disturbingly small wad of little slips of paper in your wallet have no actual value beyond little slips of paper, it is the collective agreement of exchange that is valuable. Money is not real! So if money is not representative of physical wealth, precious metals, raw materials, or goods and services... what does it represent? From whence does it derive its value? The short answer is, that it doesn't. It holds no value. The entire developed economy of the western world has been fetishised to the point of abstraction where it deals almost exclusively with the rearrangement of abstract bits of information. These abstract bits of information are not representative of anything of physical value and are therefore fundamentally worthless. Ergo, the entire economy is fundamentally worthless. The only thing keeping the whole system working is that its so inconceivably complex and convoluted that its hard to figure out what all is actually happening. The reason there is so much stupidity, is that its the only available resource left, and the only thing holding it all together. I need a drink.

Here's a great article from the New Yorker about the social value of bankers.

For all of the rest of us not enjoying the luxurious lifestyle of utter systemic fraud... enjoy the Adventures of Unemployed Man! ... though I'm not sure how exactly to afford the comic book.

I don't mean to harp on about politics and economics too much, however with the running war on terror, the war on science, the war on history and the war on consciousness, it is difficult to ignore. I would like to clarify that I am not as pessimistic as that last spout of mumbling might imply, frankly I've become sick of the bemoaning and thinly stretched comparisons of the state of the American republic to the Weimar Republic or other ill conceived disasters. If anything, I would compare the current perils facing the developed world economies, and the international macro economic problems to the Athenian debt crisis in the seventh century/early sixth century BCE. Where unreasonable debt and lending practices essentially destroyed the lower classes and threatened to take down the sate. Economic reforms (stopping practices such as defaulting oneself to slavery if you missed your rent) coupled with sweeping defaultation of debt under the autocratic direction of Solon helped not only the underclasses, but the entire state, bringing about the golden age of the Athenian Republic and inadvertently, the development of democracy. If only oligarchy didn't taste so very sweet, it'd be easy.

posted by davethecat @ 03 Dec 2010 07:43 pm  -  0 Comments

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