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Democracy without human beings?


Will the rich soon profit without human input?

I think we can be almost grateful for the idiotic crisis in Washington, which even with its possibility of a default which may do heavy damage to the world’s economy, is giving us an ample warning of a far greater crisis looming in the foreseeable future, a crisis of democracy itself.

Reading the snippets below in the order they appear will help give you the shape of what I am talking about:

During the downturn, 78% of jobs lost were either mid-wage or high-wage jobs and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), three out of five newly created jobs are part-time, low-wage jobs. A growing number of Americans are realizing that “good jobs” aren’t coming back, and that for things to get better, they’re going to have to fight to turn their McJobs into something better. Nicole Aschoff – Dollars and Sense

W. Brian Arthur, a visiting researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center’s intelligence systems lab and a former economics professor at Stanford University, calls it the “autonomous economy.” W. Brian Arthur, a visiting researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center’s intelligence systems lab and a former economics professor at Stanford University, calls it the “autonomous economy.” It’s far more subtle than the idea of robots and automation doing human jobs, he says: it involves “digital processes talking to other digital processes and creating new processes,” enabling us to do many things with fewer people and making yet other human jobs obsolete. (…) And, he says, “digital versions of human intelligence” are increasingly replacing even those jobs once thought to require people. “It will change every profession in ways we have barely seen yet,” he warns. McAfee, associate director of the MIT Center for Digital Business at the Sloan School of Management(…) doesn’t see the recently vanished jobs coming back. The pressure on employment and the resulting inequality will only get worse, he suggests, as digital technologies—fueled with “enough computing power, data, and geeks”—continue their exponential advances over the next several decades. “I would like to be wrong,” he says, “but when all these science-fiction technologies are deployed, what will we need all the people for?” MIT Technology Review Magazine

“Insecurity of employment is a new strategy and a tactic for increasing profits by reducing as much as possible the reliance on human labor or by paying employees less. In the modern capitalist economy, the only factor whose productivity cannot be easily increased and whose costs cannot easily be reduced is human beings. There is therefore enormous pressure to eliminate them from the production process. This would be true, whether or not there were global competition. It is more the case that this is the excuse by which this process is justified today.” Eric Hobsbawm – The New Century, pg128

At the same time that Republicans want to increase the influence of the rich on our elections, they want to decrease the influence of the poor at the ballot box by passing a raft of new voter restrictions. This is a sinister, last-gasp move of gangsterism: when you’re losing the game, tilt the table. You must understand this larger plot to fully appreciate the Republicans’ current budget ploy. This is not so much about limiting government as it is about measuring power.   Charles M. Blow – New York Times

So simply put our economic system is fast reaching a point where it can run profitably with very little human input, or put more precisely, to run profitably it must reduce human input to a minimum. Logically this process will make more and more people increasingly unhappy as it unfolds. In a democracy of universal suffrage such unhappiness would naturally have far reaching consequences as it did during the Great Depression, when it led to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” which freed millions of Americans from despair and destitution.

Avoiding the possibility of such a new New Deal is the fundamental raison d’être of the radical so called “conservatives”, who go under the name, “tea party” and their “fellow travelers” in the US Supreme Court.

The simple goal of those who fund all of this is to limit or neuter universal suffrage and to effectively return things to where they were in the early 19th century when only those who owned substantial property were allowed to exercise full citizenship.

This is terrible but it could be worse. In the days of the Wiemar Republic of Germany (1919-1933) the German super-rich, to avoid any danger to their power, wealth and privilege,  funded one Adolph Hitler, who blamed all Germany’s problems on the Jews and led the country into a disastrous war, which  left Germany in smoking ruins with many millions of Germans, Jew and Gentile, soldiers and civilians, dead. However it should be noted that those super-rich German families made money before the war, during the war and even after the war and today, are still the richest people in Germany.

This goes to show that what could be a disaster for everyone else in the entire world would not necessarily be a bad outcome for the super-rich.

Cross posted from:

Photo by Diyya Thakur released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.

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David Seaton

David Seaton