Douglas Rushkoff on Richard Metzger’s Dangerous Minds

Douglas Rushkoff on Richard Metzger’s Dangerous Minds

April 30, 2009 4:52 pm 3 comments

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.

3 Comments

  • “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.”

    Jct: This is international computer time-based barter. It can’t be stopped, it’s simply internet accounting of our time.

    Best of all, when the local currency is pegged to the Time Standard of Money (how many dollars/hour child labor) Hours earned locally can be intertraded with other timebanks globally!
    In 1999, I paid for 39/40 nights in Europe with an IOU for a night back in Canada worth 5 Hours.
    U.N. Millennium Declaration UNILETS Resolution C6 to governments is for a time-based currency to restructure the global financial architecture.
    See my banking systems engineering analysis at http://youtube.com/kingofthepaupers

    What are they going to do? Erase my online IOUs for the nights I owe in Canada for the nights I got in Europe valued at 5 Hours per night?
    Once everyone has an internet personal timebank account, how can they stop the traffic in IOUs?
    Game over. A new world is coming.

  • Klint Finley

    How are you going to pay taxes with your IOUs? It wasn’t exactly hard for people in colonial America to create an currency and circulate it. You don’t need the Internet to do that. But when the man comes knocking, asking for the money you owe in taxes, you’ve got a problem.

    And yes, they may well erase all your online IOUs if they decide to bust the web site operator for say, tax evasion or money laundering (the latter is what happened to E-Gold) and shut down/seize the servers. I know people are working on various distributed models to try to keep this from happening, but the problem of taxes remains.

  • archie_legend

    hi, klint, just wanted to add that i think you misread doug’s article and interview, somewhat, and because of that I think you missed the larger point he was trying to make.
    (for the let it die article)
    a) he did not assert that people made more money than any other time in history, he asserted that people made more for less work.

    more importantly
    b) he does not assert that all trade can and should be local, if anything rushkoff would assert that all trade that can be local should be.

    (everything else)
    c) “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.”

    This observation is unfounded as it relates to Doug’s views. He’s not some rose-colored wishful thinker, he’s not people have to be doing more stuff with their hands (not a bad idea), but that people on a whole need to create value and find ways to nurture a culture thats consciously based on creating value, not habitually based on extracting value.

    not to patronize you or anything, but you seem like a sharp guy so I’d hate for you to miss out on the big picture here, cause I can tell you’ve got a real sweet piece of it already, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that while gen-x-er doug may be old (relatively), he hasn’t lost his edge, first of all I wouldn’t think of him has edgy, rather I would simply think of him as, “on it.”

    d)I should also point out that Doug is not a libertarian, and does not believe that government intervention is what will “save us” even if it were possible to do so. Interestingly though, the first episode of Dangerous Minds which I just caught today, mentions Richard and Charles Hugh Smith talking about markets or as you put them “Private Industries” left unchecked tend to turn into monopolies that get out of control.

    “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.”

    He’s not suggesting we do any of that. In fact the episode above suggests that fascism/corporatism was born in the renaissance as a way of preserving the aristocracy, controlling the merchant class and having control over local economies by creating the modern or at least pretext to the modern basis for hierarchically controlled economy and while it has been an integral/central part of our technological/cultural development, it has undoubtedly had some serious fall-out, which we are currently experiencing, basically the consequences of generations long gone’s decisions finally starting to be felt on the global stage or at least in a way that has never been experienced be it through media or in the real world. (not to sound like a corporatism apologist, far from it)

    For a better look, and you’re so damn smart or “on it” yourself, you probably already caught this, but just in case you didn’t, if you can get the damn thing to load, definitely check out “Open Source Democracy” on youtube, it’s an hour-long sort of seminar/q&a about this stuff that he’s talked about with metzger, and on arthur magazine, in about as great a depth as you’re likely to experience when he’s not in the room or you’re not reading the book.

    Thanks. Keep it up.

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