Friday, August 18, 2006

Alvin Toffler and his wife Heidi have written a book called "Revolutionary Economy", which deals in part with the idea that our economy as normally viewed is changing, broken and in need of an enema. The old systems no longer work very well, in much the same way that our weather prediction techniques are based on old records and the way things work in climate change means the old records are out the door, honey. So the old ways we measure economy and economic health are no longer working because the economy has shifted. I've talked about value added and money as labor deferred or referred. This is part of the same thing. Funny thing is that old Alvin used as his first example the OS called Linux. He also included Gates and Microsoft as the 'old school'. See, Linux was built for free by a single man, someone who saw a way to improve things and who was such a part of the 'new economic paradigm' that he did not think to patent and conserve his new OS, nor to market it with press releases, ads and interviews. He placed it on the web with instructions on how to use it. Then around the world people came who looked at the new OS and found ways they too could improve it. The source code was right there. So now we see Linux being used by entire countries, or at least their governments.

The way this works is that everybody needs a good stable OS that can do certain things. I needed an OS that could handle graphics, as in CADD, and some for games or playing around with my digital photos. Turns out Linux handles graphics very nicely. Let's say I needed a CADD prog and couldn't find one I could afford. I might find one in a book but then I have to get the code, compile and test it, and then use it. This slows me down a bit, but let's say I know a coder who loves to play around with code. They just can't get enough of it. Maybe they drink too much coffee or something. Anyway I give the code to them and when they fix it up for me I use it to design a new addition for their house. Saves them lots of money on drafting fees and I got a free CADD prog that does everything I like, and if I want to change something I can post the source code on the web and people can fiddle around until it works even better. Now this economic scenerio does not show up in any of the government's economic records because it was all done for free. In fact, if the government found out about it they would want the two of us to pay taxes on what the government says is the value of the transactions. So we make sure they never find out. Now we have a hidden economy which has the potential to shore up or even completely support an otherwise broken economic paradigm: fierce capitalism.

Capitalism works on the principle of taking more out of a system than you put into it. The excess, the cream on the top that you as capitalist take off is value added by the workers in the form of paid labor. See, if you used slaves to get work done you could charge a hell of a lot less for your goods and undercut your competitors but the government won't let you. Now as the production leaves the country and we are left with telemarketers and car parks the economy looks increasingly empty, yet people still get by. They eat, so they obtain food. In some cases they can grow food, especially if they doubt the quality of the food they would have to buy. IN most cases they buy, but let's say they buy from a local store. The local store knows them, so they can have a credit line. Maybe they can make nice herbal soaps and the store will barter for flour and sugar. People in the country and suburbs could live a long time like this. In the city you have trouble growing food, or making soaps. Well, actually the soap is not a real problem, but the chickens might be... except that my daughter in Brooklyn says there are chickens all over the place, but they are illegal and often used for cock fights. But this economy is also off the books. People in the city barter what they have for things they need. This is the true economy except in the old economic paradigm money counts as goods and labor and as the amount of money in an economy migrates increasingly to the top it appears as if there is no labor happening, no visual economy. Bill Gates cannot possibly be seen to have worked as much as three billion people, yet his bank account says he did, since money is a record of labor accomplished. But money has become a commodity itself divorced from production. That means that for some time the very rich get by trading money back and forth without any of them actually producing anything. They forgot why we trade. We trade to eat. We trade an hour's work for a loaf of bread. We trade the chickens we work for to the man who wants to eat the chicken and he gives us a new hot water tank for our bathroom. He had several he didn't need, and he needs to knnow that his food is fresh, untainted and clean.

The old reactionary economy works after the fact. You get paid after you work. With barter you get paid as you barter and the work can be accomplished when the people need it. Work deferred is money, and in this exchange the chit is memory, not paper or metal. You can't tax that which you cannot find. But governments need money to work and in the current American model it gets it's deferred labor by extortion. If you do not turn over 1/3 of your wealth to the government you will be attacked by the government and harmed in some way. So you pay your taxes. In exchange you get promises that this is the only way, or at least the best way to handle things like life and death. So a third of your life is spent being a slave to a system you may or may not benefit from. Oh, they say we are protected by the government from harm, but look how many people get raped, murdered and in the case of the WTC, blown up and burned alive. How safe are we? What about the schools? We pay for them and we find that as the economy has been changing our schools still teach in much the same way they did 150 years ago, except now we teach even less towards the future as adults and more and more teach to get high marks in an SAT exam. We do not teach people how to use ebay, paypal, google and so forth, yet those systems are clearly the new economy, or at least systems like that wherein people can post online what they need and how much they can trade or pay for it and people around the world can respond. As long as a means is found of collecting the material being traded people get by. If the economy is evolving into something that does not easily work with fierce capitalism and we are not teaching those skills to our children with our schools then how will they learn? By using the new economy! Face it, ebay and paypal are pretty darn easy to understand. You don't need a double entry spread sheeted accountant to understand that the old do-dah you have and don't want just flew out the door to some guy in Detroit and in exchange for which you have a certain credit noted on paypal.

If schools continue to promote such activities as football and basketball as part of the educational system, based on principles laid out in the 1800's, we can expect taxes to go up and quality of education to go down. Why? Because in fierce capitalism the price of commodities always goes up with demand. That means that a good football team, being in demand, will cost more and more as schools feel the need for stadiums, lights, sound systems and nice uniforms, nice chering squad, high profile coaches.... not one iota of which goes towards the stated product of that school: education to prepare a young person for the economy they will be participating in. Notice how more and more jobs require college degrees? And not just degrees, but Master's and even PhD's! For instance, I only have a high school education, but all my life I have studied art and art history, yet I am not permitted to teach those subjects at any level of our educational system because I have no college degree. It's against the law, not just a pattern set up by social needs. We need teachers. We need eager teachers with lots of experience and good communication skills. You'd think if education was important people like me would have a way to give their skilled labor to society and teach. But in fierce capitalism I have not 'paid my dues'. I did not buy a college degree and so I cannot give away my knowlege in such a way as to benefit the people who want it, ie with credit towards that college degree we all need to get a job. Isn't that odd?

Yet for all that I can set up a web site with lessons in sculpture and lectures and videos and even links to PDF files to take the place of books. I could do all that and have a better art history class, for instance, than the most expensive school there is. The people who learned from me would have not one credit to their name based on their educational experience with my web site. Our educational system does not credit knowlege, it only acknowleges credit. Let's say there is a man out there who can understand the way a star works. He can work out in his head equations which connect gravity, magnetism and electricity. Now he wants to tell the world because with this knowlege one could create cold fusion and each home could have a small fusion generator which would free new homes from the electrical grid, which is anyway failing from overuse. But this guy can barely speak, he's in a wheelchair and he's dying of a congenital fault in his personal system. What a loss for the world if he dies before he can communicate his information. The thing is, the people with the talking computers need money and he doesn't have much. He was a math teacher before being striken by this disease, he had little money to save from his meager salary. He needs a complex set of machines and computers to give the world this information and he can't do it under fierce capitalism because the people who have the goods want credit, not a stake in the future of the world. But let's say a geek in Iowa happens to be working on a wheelchair with a computer embedded and a speaking system based on puffing into a plastic straw. He's like that Finn who invented Linux. This guy lives in the country and wants to get his house off the grid, but doesn't want to have to cobb some parts for wind plants or biodiesel generators. He decides he wants fusion. Before the web these two guys would never meet but since the web they are seconds apart. The government wants a piece of the action. They want the cripple to pay sales tax on the chair based on their estimate of it's value and they won't even let the other guy hook up the cold fusion generator because he lives inside the Town of Wilton and the Town Engineer demands a stamped set of plans with references to the building codes and various state and local restrictions. The old government prevents transactions which benefit the individual (and the general public as well), not because there is a problem of public safety, but because it has gotten into the habit of only saying YES to something if it first gets it's cut. I know a church which was not allowed to move into their new building because it was made from a geodesic dome and the town engineer did not know how to read the stress load printout on a geodesic shape. It wasn't a safety issue, it was an issue of ignorance holding power over the needs of the people. Our current government, as exemplified by George W. Bush, is completely ignorant of the direction the world economy is going, and since we are a part of that economy we will have to figure out a way to work around the government until such time as that government simply fails to get in the way by virtue of it's being irrelevant.

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