04 July 2014

Anything but water

It's Independence Day in the US, but individual freedom is under threat.

Read these articles to understand the problem and consider solutions (for the US and everywhere):
  1. A fascinating interview with the author of "Bullshit Jobs:"
    I think the spotlight on the financial sector did make apparent just how bizarrely skewed our economy is in terms of who gets rewarded and for what. There was this pall of mystification cast over everything pertaining to that sector—we were told, this is all so very complicated, you couldn’t possibly understand, it’s really very advanced science, you know, they are coming up with trading programs so complicated only astro-physicists can understand them, that sort of thing. We just had to take their word that, somehow, this was creating value in ways our simple little heads couldn’t possibly get around. Then after the crash we realized a lot of this stuff was not just scams, but pretty simple-minded scams, like taking bets you couldn’t possibly pay if you lost and just figuring the government would bail you out if you did. These guys weren’t creating value of any kind. They were making the world worse and getting paid insane amounts of money for it.

    Suddenly it became possible to see that if there’s a rule, it’s that the more obviously your work benefits others, the less you’re paid for it. CEOs and financial consultants that are actually making other people’s lives worse were paid millions, useless paper-pushers got handsomely compensated, people fulfilling obviously useful functions like taking care of the sick or teaching children or repairing broken heating systems or picking vegetables were the least rewarded.

    But another curious thing that happened after the crash is that people came to see these arrangements as basically justified... in many companies, there’s now an assumption that if there’s work that anyone might want to do for any reason other than the money, any work that is seen as having intrinsic merit in itself, they assume they shouldn’t have to pay for it.
    Related: An over-reliance on disruption (especially in financial "innovation") may cause more harm than good (Stiglitz makes the same point). Scott Adams on the "pivot" process of innovating by trial and error and a great rebuttal to techno-capitalists who will OWN our robot overlords, i.e., fix economic inequality if you want progress without backlash from the 99 percent)

  2. America struggles to translate economic power into political power when politicians battle over petty nothings (how Putin is taking advantage of that to destabilize Europe).

  3. More disruption communication improves healthcare outcomes

  4. Arnold Kling has a nice post on the difference between "Anglo-Saxon independence" and "clan-based interdependence" that reminds me a lot of how life works (for better or worse) in the US and Saudi Arabia, respectively (the Netherlands combines the both of both worlds -- individual choice but strong social bonds). Related (or not): punks and anarchists delivered good governance in Iceland

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