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The new precariat

Here’s a book review:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/apr/09/precariat-charter-denizens-citizens-review

The book suggests that there are now 5 classes:

1. Plutocrats (those with capital)
2. Salariat (those which have some permanent decent salary)
3. Free-ranging ‘Proficians’ (a few who can get work by having very in-demand skills, and get paid above average)
4. Old Working Classes (a few left over)
5. Precariat: People who bounce in and out of benefits (welfare) schemes.

And it doesn’t mention in the guardian write-up, but also there are structurally unemployed; people who are on benefits permanently, so these should be 6.

But what’s so sad about the precariat, is that it’s the creation of the new system which parcels up jobs into pieces, and makes it very difficult to get a permanent job (i.e., to become part of the salariat) in any field, whether teaching, lawyering, doctoring, professoring, librarianing, officeing, all of the jobs that used to be normal middle-class jobs, have been broken up (by managers who saw that this saved costs – benefits aren’t necessary, or can be lower, and salaries can be lower: if you get 3 people to do the work of one former full-time person, the full-time person would have merited a higher salary after some years, than 3 part-time people whose wages never increase and/or who aren’t ever around long enough for this to happen).

The precariat has happened to us, while we have allowed managers everywhere to adopt the new strategy, based on supply-side logic. That’s what too much supply-side gets you. What about demand side? People have to have money to spend in the economy? So far the logic is, that as long as a few plutocrats and salariatarians(?) have it to spend, this will be good enough; I suggest that indeed we need to think about demand side, or else we’ll never fully recover from 2007; but that is another story.

Continue Reading »

Oh dear.  So now we know where the new star trek writers are coming from.  They are arrogant Ayn Randianists, who think that because they have somehow worked their way through a particular power channel in hollywood, that they are better than the rest of us mere mortals.

http://www.salon.com/2013/09/07/star_trek_writer_abuses_fans_tells_them_to_fck_off_partner/

Robert (Bob) Orci, a screenwriter who also co-penned the terrible vileness that was ‘transformers,’ was picked to do the Star Treks, by JJ Abrams.  The first movie killed vulcan (the iealism, the philosphy of Star Trek, which is why the platonist is a trekkie), as we have written about in an earlier review.

Then, the fan base, quite reasonably pens the following article, saying how to fix the new franchise (after it began ok (say some… not me)… and now, has gotten far worse (say all).

http://trekmovie.com/2013/09/01/star-trek-is-broken-here-are-ideas-on-how-to-fix-it/

To this, Bob Orci, with his millions of dollars, simply can’t handle the criticism.

1)  He says he is a George W Bush fan.

2)  He says ‘he is the decider.’  and “That’s why I get to write the movies,” because I’m better than you.

(a commenter pointed out that, in fact, he gets to write movies precisely because Hollywood wants bland pablum, and he can deliver, because he is lacking true insight, intelligence, wisdom, or most importantly, idealism.)

3)  The main trait he shares with George W, is that he absolutely is incapable of handling criticism from his “lessers,” because he knows, at heart, that he is a fraud.

4)  JJ Abrams has said that he didn’t like the original star trek because he thought it was ‘too philosophical.’  I.e., too idealistic.

5)  Star Trek and Star Wars both have huge fan bases, because they are idealistic.

6)  JJ, and his corporate masters, are right now, engaged in cutting the heart out of both Star Trek, and Star Wars.

7)  We must rebel:  we will not be cowed by a few rich assholes with connections.  Idealism will out:  our mythologies will not be ruined by corporate takeovers.

8)  Just like D&D did with Pathfinder, we will find ways around the corporate, cynical, arrogant, juvenile, puerile, Ayn Randian: I am better than you because I am rich, attitude which now characterizes so much of the American ruling elite.

9)  The arrogant will fall.

Dear all:

One has got to make a living, and I am trying to do this in the spirit of The Platonist, by maximizing wonder, idealism, and thoughtful discussion, with appreciation of nature and historical places thrown in to boot.  So I will do a rare self-promotion.  I have been privileged to have a friend who is opening a tour business of the British Isles, and he has allowed me to design and lead two tours:

1.  Roman Britain

2. Medieval England

Which take advantage of my expertise and enthusiasm for the visible reminders of these periods that have been so wonderfully protected and cared for in England (much better than most other countries of the world with long histories).  The Roman Britain tour is the best of its kind on offer, and the Medieval tour is unique because it offers a copious selection of Dark Ages and Viking-era sites.

The tour is designed for college students (some of my students will be going), and for the historically curious.   So if you have some vacation money laid aside, I can guarantee you a very insightful and inspiring week visiting some of England’s best-kept secrets, and most beautiful and evocative places, that you wouldn’t have found yourself.  But you don’t just get the places, you get the insights: ; connecting all of the places and artefacts together into a ‘trivium-inspired’ view of the world.  What better way to discuss the insights into history, culture, and philosophy which interest you the most, in a series of some of the more magical and evocative settings on the planet?  It will be unforgettable.

You can check out our site, and click on the Roman and Medieval tours for an itinerary.

http://www.auldcountrytours.com/

Cheerio!

-tr.

Dear Readers,

Indeed trivium has been mute for a while, only stopping by to approve comments (which are always welcome), and to post a few links here and there.

This is because he has been entirely whorled up in the process of securing tenure, or something like it.  This has been good for his academic writing, but his extracurricular writing has been on hiatus… since those energies have generally been taking up by teaching, and by learning yet another language.  I realize that I started this blog during a hiatus in my teaching, and that indeed teaching has taken up some of those same energies that gets me fired up to write here on the Platonist.  I think that much good work has been done, and indeed the readership here is growing significantly every month it seems, so I want to keep the site up, and current, and let everyone know that we’re still here, and planning on maintaining and furthering the ideals set out here.

That being said, I think that the social movement that is and probably will for the forseeable future remain closest to my heart is the notion of founding the Institute for Consumer Focused Economics.  I like the fact that the title sounds corporate, and financial.  The point is to get the attention of those who work in those worlds, to let them know that we can speak the same language, and use the same equations, and yet begin and end with a radically different ‘product,’ i.e., an economics which is about the enrichment of the average individual, rather than an economics which is about the enrichment of the nation, the corporation, or the wealthy few (who are so often in conservative think-tanks equated with the best, the most energetic, the most innovative, the hardest working, etc., even though most of them began with signficiantly greater access to wealth, education, and/or intellectual gifts than most of us.

I have been talking about something like the ICFE for a long time.  I am not even sure what form it will take.  I would like to apply for funds to open a center.  I would love to organize the publication of a newsletter, and perhaps turn the Platonist into a hub for the ICFE, or create a new website.  This will require some time and energy on my part which right now is hardly able to be forthcoming:  society has made it so difficult for us to obtain secure jobs, compared with a generation ago, that we have less and less time to pursue those interests which might actually change the world for the better… of course, the powers that be don’t tend to mind this state of affairs, really, either.

So:  let’s call this a foundation.  It is founded.  As of right now, it exists.  The ICFE.  The Institute for Consumer Focused Economics.  What are our goals?

Continue Reading »

Dear Reader.  As you may know, trivium makes a living as an economic historian, that is, someone who attempts to understand why and how material wealth has been created over the course of history:  why some are rich, and others are poor, in other words.  The idea, for trivium, is to understand this, so that we can focus our efforts on maximizing the wealth of the many, rather than (as is now, and has historically been the case), maximizing the wealth of the few who are already rich.   

So spread the word:  I have an idea which if adopted by economists, would focus the efforts of economists and politicians on increasing the wealth of the household, rather than on the wealth of the self-serving ‘me‘ (ala Alan Greenspan, Ron Paul, and Ayn Rand), or the wealth of nations (ala Adam Smith, and classic economic theory).  If you create an economy which maximizes the wealth of the ‘rational individual’ (read:  the one with billions to invest), you end up creating an economy in which massive inequality of wealth seems natural and logical.

But, just as humans began by continually fighting, and by organizing themselves into hierarchies, and by having all sorts of brutal religious and political rituals, and by creating states based on exploitation and violence, but have slowly, in some places, created democratic states in which more people have more access to peace, equality, freedom from fear, freedom from oppression, etc., and have even begun to see this as a fundamental human right…

…so we can now begin to see freedom from economic oppression as a fundamental human right.

This means, that we need to turn our attention towards understanding how economics can serve the needs of the many, not merely the needs of the few, or the elite, or ‘the country’ in general (which de facto means the economic and political elite, since, a) these are usually interrelated, and b) the few hold the lion’s share of the capital in any given country).

My crucial insight on this plain has been the fact that the household is the basic unit, which in a given country, has its income set by the powers that be (employers), so that the household will be able to buy what are considered the ‘necessiites of life.’  In turn, the average household income tends to determine the prices of things:  the average household’s expense sheet will of necessity look like this:  Continue Reading »

I think it was.  Having lived extensively in Europe, the U.S. and Canada, hopping back and forth since the early 90s, I can say that U.S. suburbia really smokes the competition.  Canada was not far behind, perhaps Australia wasn’t so bad either, but it always strikes me as being pretty far from everywhere and thus essentially a bit duller.

Let’s look at the possible competitors for ‘happiest place in history.’  Basically, it’s obvious that there is no competition between pre-WWII and post-WWII societies, since before the war in most societies the vast majority of people were miserably poor.  Even if it was happy to be a rich, or middle class, person in this or that country prior to WWII, postwar developments in medicine, (dare I say it) technology, and just general wealth and happiness have made rich and middle-class peoples’ lives much better since then.

So we can indeed restrict ourselves to post WWII, and to the post WWII west, since almost everywhere else was poor, miserable, communist, or some combo.  Japan was ok materially after the 1950s, but doesn’t strike one as being a super happy society.  Too much stricture, too much crowding, not enough space, too much patriarchy, relations between the sexes are strained, women are restricted, men are forced to play tough guy serious roles to prove machismo, not to mention workaholism.  So Japan is out too.  Which leaves us basically post-1945 U.S., Canada, western Europe, and we’re writing out Aus as a probable runner up. Continue Reading »

Last night I Watched DS9 episode “Far Beyond the Stars,” and was impressed by its grappling with the politics of being a black writer in early 1950s New York.  In the end, Sisko, as Bennie the black science fiction writer, has a breakdown, after seeing a black friend killed by the police for breaking into a car, and then being beaten himself to within an inch of his life, for daring to express outrage at the police brutality.  Later, he is fired from his job for daring to write a science fiction story about a black space captain in the future, and so this all comes together to provoke his mental breakdown, during which he repats:  “I am a human being!”  The implication that his ideas deserve just as much recognition as anyone else’s:  his story was good, so who cares if it is about black men in positions of authority?  Why do whites need to fear this, or suppress the idea?

The episode was filmed in the late 90s, and since that time the arrival of Obama has made the issues feel much less ‘present-day’ poignant, though of course anyone with humanity can still sympathize in the historical context.  While in the late 90s, the notion of a black man in charge was still a futuristic dream, less so than in the 50s of course by  a longshot, but it was still unfulfilled… today, that sort of poignancy can never be as acute, thanks to Obama.  One of the epic healing salves of the entire American and indeed western culture was his election.  And yet it is striking, one of course has to sympathize with the notion of being discriminated against, being fired, being beaten up, having your friends die, simply b/c you are not the same color as the in-group.  In a paroxyism of rage, anger, and helplessness, which was still mitigated against by his stories which dared to dream of a better future, Bennie collapses on the office floor, and is carried out in an ambulance.

It struck me, that since this was filmed in about 1998, the race issue has been more healed than perhaps ever before, but that the economic issues underlying the episode have if anything gotten much worse.   Management and administration has everywhere not only gotten stronger, but implemented a policy of systematically squeezing, downsizing, piling on work, reducing salaries, reducing benefits, making every job part-time and short-duration which used to be stable and full time and long term.

And it struck me, that all of us are Sisko/Bennie.

We are all daily subject to indignities, to discrimination, to hierarchical control, dehumanization, prejudice, and institutionalized brutality.  And it is called your job. Continue Reading »

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