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The useful idiocy of "New Millennial Libertarianism" - Elf M. Sternberg
The useful idiocy of "New Millennial Libertarianism"
Andrew Sullivan had a thread over the weekend, "Letters from Millenial voters", (see here, here, and here for examples), and the one thing that's been coming through in all of these is an annoying self-congratulatory "We've seen through all of the lies of both parties. A pox on both your parties. We are more libertarian than ever. We want to let gays marry. We want to end the war on drugs. We also don't want to be paying for stuff we can't afford."

This new libertarianism will last just long enough for those people to realize what my generation realized too late, what the generation before me realized too late, and what the generation before that realized too late: that the ongoing industrialization and automation of our civilization means more and more people will be out on the streets, unable to find work. The cyberization of even intellectual work now means the menial but discerning work of law clerks can now be outsourced to search engines, and China's burgeoning economy is about to get a very nasty shock as half a million fine-work assembly line workers are about to find themselves replaced with automated assembly machines that never complain, never strike, and never commit an embarassing suicide.

At which point they will realize that "the new libertarianism" was conveniently ignored by the people in power because it allowed what it has always allowed: the consolidation of wealth, the construction of power systems designed to permanentize that consolidation. The pretty debates between the "dark satanic mill" libertarians and the "bleeding heart" libertarians will be irrelevant. The world will revolve around power: the strong will do what they can, and the weak will endure what they must.

And so it goes.

Current Mood: annoyed annoyed

3 comments or Leave a comment
shockwave77598 From: shockwave77598 Date: December 10th, 2012 06:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
And if eeeeeveryone all over the world has been removed from the economy by the machines, just who is going to buy these wonderful things?
happilymyself From: happilymyself Date: December 10th, 2012 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Capitalism is defeated by its own success. When food enough for 1000 people can be made by one person, and all our other needs and wants are met just as easily, the ability to produce for profit will be in more demand that the ability to consume.

Eventually, capitalism will produce wealth so efficiently that there will not be enough producers to consume all the product. At some point, it must morph into something else. What that is, I'm not sure, but it has the potential to be awesome. For the time being, that extra wealth is, to some extent, spent on socialist programs, which is a really nice luxury to use it on.

If everyone could enjoy a life of leisure on the overabundance of wealth produced by centuries of capitalism, those driven by creativity will continue to create, even in absence of mass profit. It was so 500 years ago, when the only creators (poets, scientists, and inventors) were already wealthy nobles. Capitalism made that playing field more equal, and its successor (whatever it is) has the potential to equalize it further.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone could enjoy the same privilege to pursue creative pursuits, if they chose?

Technology itself will make that possible, and the drivers of capitalism may very well cease to function all on their own.
ideaphile From: ideaphile Date: December 10th, 2012 09:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

So now you're a Luddite?

The truth is that industrialization doesn't put people out of work. This is an empirical truth, and it's also logically obvious.

The basic mistake you're making is assuming that the economy is a zero-sum game, that there is finite demand for goods and services.

Making workers more productive doesn't reduce the need for workers. Instead, it allows workers to generate more demand for what other workers make and do.

Consider what has happened to the US economy over the last 100 years. The vast majority of the jobs in the US of 1912 no longer exist. The number of jobs in farming, food distribution, textile manufacturing, bookkeeping, and many other fields has declined dramatically in this time (even if you count foreign outsourcing).

Yet the size of our workforce is around four times larger in 2012 than it was in 1912 and the nation is much wealthier. Starvation was a real problem in the US in 1912, but no more. Electrical and telephone service was extraordinarily rare in rural areas in 1912; today they are ubiquitous. Obviously we could go on and on with such illustrations.

In fact, a higher fraction of the population is nominally employed today-- about 45% (139M out of 308M in 2010) vs. 41% (37.5M out of 92.2M in 1910).

On the other hand, in 1910, most of the population that wasn't officially employed was still working-- right down to the children, as we know. Today, parents don't need their children to help with chores around the farm or the family store, much less to work in the nearest textile mill.

What does this tell us about what has actually happened in the US economy over this time? Fewer people NEED to work, yet our standards of living continue to improve. Exactly the opposite of what you're saying here.

You may assert that the last 100 years of history is misleading; that things really are getting worse today after improving so steadily for so long. But your burden of proof for THAT claim would be very high; "shrill" statements won't cut it.

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3 comments or Leave a comment