Assorted Articles VII

I have more articles on politics from my backlog of bookmarks I want to share.

In “Who Owns Tomorrow?” Chloe Watlington framed social justice in her family’s story, making visceral the fight for a world that we can thrive in.

Why should a family that experienced economic hardship, to be sure, but also so much laughter and love, have to suffer so much? That isn’t a rhetorical question. It is the foundation of my politics. I want to do whatever it takes to make it possible for everyone, around the world, to enjoy a life worth living.

[…]

It is not inevitable that we will weather this storm. We have to find each other inside the storm and fight our way out of it, somehow. An early participant in New York’s ACT UP chapter, Gregg Bordowitz, once said, “An army of the sick cannot be defeated.” In order to defeat the sicknesses that have been imposed on us, we, the sick, will have to be the ones who fight. We must go to war against our own decline. No one else will do it for us. We have to carve out the spaces of a fuller human flourishing, which the cold-hearted society of the cash nexus will never provide. Trust me when I say that the other option is much worse.

Who Owns Tomorrow?” by Chloe Watlington

Comics are full of rich heroes who seem to be blind to the harms of wealth inequality or who practically bask in it. Cory Doctorow’s piece “Occupy Gotham” from Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman takes aim at the contradictions of Batman, a capitalist who is cast as a hero.

But Bruce Wayne is only interested in fighting symptoms, not the underlying disease. Can you blame him? Bruce Wayne can look in the mirror and see a scared little boy who will never avenge his parents’ murder, but he can’t ever see a plutocrat whose comfort, influence, power and impunity is derived from his unearned privilege. It is difficult to get a superhero to understand something when his R & D lab depends on him not understanding it, after all.

Occupy Gotham” by Cory Doctorow

In “Socialism with a spine: the only 21st century alternative“, John Quiggin wrote of the need for a bolder embrace of socialism. I find his argument far too timid, but there were some points worth highlighting.

A socialist program would allocate much less economic activity to big business, and more to other forms of organisation. In deciding what kind of economic activity belongs where, a range of considerations are relevant. These include the scale of the activity, the extent to which it is possible and appropriate to charge market prices, the scope for competition and the relative importance of economic and non-economic motives.

In part this would imply reversing the neoliberal program of privatisation and marketisation. Large-scale capital intensive activities with limited scope for competition, such as the provision of infrastructure, would be returned to public ownership.

[…]

A socialist program in the 21st century needs to involve much more than a reversal of neoliberalism. The internet and the information economy have broken the link between productive activity and market returns. Information is a pure public good, which can be shared again and again with no additional costs.

So the production of information (ranging from scientific research to Instagram pictures) has potentially huge social value. On the other hand, the market value of internet activity depends, almost entirely, on the ease with which it can be packaged up with commercial advertising – meaning access is artificially constrained.

Socialism with a spine: the only 21st century alternative” by John Quiggin

I’m in for Fully Automated Luxury Communism, with a side of a lot more heart and breadth than has been brought with it so far. “The World Is a Mess. We Need Fully Automated Luxury Communism.” acts as a sampler for Aaron Bastani’s book Fully Automated Luxury Communism: A Manifesto. It lays out a compelling but incomplete argument for embracing automation, communism and lives of leisure.

Automation, robotics and machine learning will, as many august bodies, from the Bank of England to the White House, have predicted, substantially shrink the work force, creating widespread technological unemployment. But that’s only a problem if you think work — as a cashier, driver or construction worker — is something to be cherished. For many, work is drudgery. And automation could set us free from it.

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But there’s a catch. It’s called capitalism. It has created the newly emerging abundance, but it is unable to share round the fruits of technological development. A system where things are produced only for profit, capitalism seeks to ration resources to ensure returns. Just like today’s, companies of the future will form monopolies and seek rents. The result will be imposed scarcity — where there’s not enough food, health care or energy to go around.
So we have to go beyond capitalism. Many will find this suggestion unwholesome. To them, the claim that capitalism will or should end is like saying a triangle doesn’t have three sides or that the law of gravity no longer applies while an apple falls from a tree. But for a better world, where everyone has the means to a good life on a habitable planet, it is an imperative.

We can see the contours of something new, a society as distinct from our own as that of the 20th century from feudalism, or urban civilization from the life of the hunter-gatherer. It builds on technologies whose development has been accelerating for decades and that only now are set to undermine the key features of what we had previously taken for granted as the natural order of things.

To grasp it, however, will require a new politics. One where technological change serves people, not profit. Where the pursuit of tangible policies — rapid decarbonization, full automation and socialized care — are preferred to present fantasies. This politics, which is utopian in horizon and everyday in application, has a name: Fully Automated Luxury Communism.

The World Is a Mess. We Need Fully Automated Luxury Communism.” by Aaron Bastani

Photo by Andrej Lišakov

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