Under present conditions, people are preoccupied with consumer goods not because they are brainwashed but because buying is the one pleasurable activity not only permitted but actively encouraged by our rulers. The pleasure of eating an ice cream cone may be minor compared to the pleasure of meaningful, autonomous work, but the former is easily available and the latter is not. A poor family would undoubtedly rather have a decent apartment than a new TV, but since they are unlikely to get the apartment, what is to be gained by not getting the TV?
Ellen Willis, “Women and the Myth of Consumerism”, Ramparts
The United States is the Darwinist capital of the capitalist world. A head afraid is a head haunted. A head haunted is a head hunted. Run for your life. Run from the guillotine to a head hunter who saves your head and raises your salary—so you’ll be caught in the red of the fishmarket buying gadgets to distract your fragile imagination that is cut in the red market of blood—running and escaping—running again—changing your resume to update the fear you feel of being unemployed tomorrow—in the streets—and from there to welfare—and from there to begging.
–Giannina Braschi, “United States of Banana,” AmazonCrossing, 2011. Courtesy of Wikiquotes
I was reading this post on Megan McArdle’s blog at The Atlantic online yesterday. It’s one of several places of late where I’ve heard what seems to be the current mantra for dealing with stubbornly intractable unemployment rates: entrepreneurship. The idea is that jobs that are well-defined and routine–those that have traditionally been stable, well-paying jobs that, while not exciting, could make for long-term employment and careers–are either being automated or outsourced. Thus, the solution to this problem is said to be an increase in and encouragement of entrepreneurship, freelancing, and flexibility in the workforce. McArdle quotes Arnold Kling, at the Library of Economics and Liberty site:
The paradox is this. A job seeker is looking for something for a well-defined job. But the trend seems to be that if a job can be defined, it can be automated or outsourced. The marginal product of people who need well-defined jobs is declining. The marginal product of people who can thrive in less structured environments is increasing. That was what I was trying to say in my jobs speech.
The money quote from the end of the article, by McArdle herself, is ” I don’t think it’s unfortunate that progress is being made, and a lot of fairly boring jobs are being eliminated. I do think it’s unfortunate that people don’t like it.”
This is food for thought. Read the rest of this entry →
Therefore everyone has the right to possess a sufficient amount of the earth’s goods for themselves and their family. This has been the opinion of the Fathers and Doctors of the church, who taught that people are bound to come to the aid of the poor and to do so not merely out of their superfluous goods. Persons in extreme necessity are entitled to take what they need from the riches of others.
Faced with a world today where so many people are suffering from want, the council asks individuals and governments to remember the saying of the Fathers: “Feed the people dying of hunger, because if you do not feed them you are killing them,” and it urges them according to their ability to share and dispose of their goods to help others, above all by giving them aid which will enable them to help and develop themselves.
–Gaudium et Spes #69
Minor technical point–I decided that “Quote for the Week” is less cumbersome and more flexible that “Quote to Begin the Week”, especially if I miss Monday.
From the late, great George Carlin–near the tail end of his career when he was more bitter than funny, but still telling it like it is (hat tip to Glenn Greenwald).