Turns out there’s already another Dangerous Minds episode. This one features Douglas Rushkoff and covers some familiar terroritory for readers of Rushkoff’s columns (which I link to frequently).
I agree with quite a lot of what Rushkoff has to say, and I respect him a lot. But there are a few important things he gets wrong or doesn’t account for.
There’s a contradiction in his assertion that the government/corporate complex will be too broke to enforce monopolies – but he also mentions, when questioned about US foreign debt, that we still have the strongest military. And that’s the thing. Entrenched powers aren’t going to roll over and die as long as they’ve got the bomb and the gun.
Alternative currencies are great. But governments tend squash them as soon as they start disrupting the status quo. See The New Currency War and George Monbiot’s history of alternative currency. There’s a really question of how much the “powers that be” will let “us” get away with – in terms of growing our own food, creating our own currency, and anything else that reduces their power over us.
Much of Rushkoff’s optimism stems from romanticizing a future where Americans break free from our cubicles and start actually “doing stuff.” I’ve noticed a tendency for a lot of people to think that jobs need to be more like what they think their ideal job should be like. Some people say “people need to be out doors” or “people need to work with their hands” or “people need more creative jobs.” They miss the fact that a lot of people genuinely like working with numbers, or programing computers, or doing detailing oriented office work.
Anyway, the millions of people who work in (or have recently worked in) the health care, education, restaurant, hotel, farming, gardening, manufacturing, trucking, rail road, utility, and construction industries may be surprised to hear that all the economy needs is for Americans just need to get off their fat cubicle dwelling asses and “do something.” What percentage of the population is actually employed in just pushing numbers around and managing outsourced labor?
I’m fairly confused on this point because Rushkoff also talks about how the financial industry is essentially extracting value from the rest of us. So are we producing value or not?
Rushkoff is correct in tracing the modern collusion of government and corporations back to the very beginnings of corporations, but he falls into a certain trap that libertarians tend to fall into: the idea that getting rid of the government influence would solve the problem of megacorporations (or other large institutions) would stop their meddling in the market and lead to a laissez faire utopia.
The problem is that the government is not the only way large institutions (be they for-profit corporations, religious institutions, unions, professional organizations, or non-profit organizations) manipulate the market. We could try splitting up megacorproations – but that requires government intervention and gets sticky quick (for all the reasons that libertarians warn against government intervention).
The typical libertarian assumption, as I understand it, is that without government intervention the market would quickly self-correct – all those decades of entrenched power and influence would cease to matter as real competition came to the fold. Needless to say, I don’t share this belief. And actually, I rather doubt Rushkoff does either.
I look forward to Rushkoff’s book. I suspect many of my points will at least be addressed.
Rest of the episode after the jump.