Wednesday, October 28, 2020

ALICE Doesn't Work Here Anymore

What the political class and the Financial Nobility don't yet grasp is that ALICE will never go back to her insecure, low-wage job, ever.

Meet ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, at least she was employed until the pandemic presented impossible choices between taking care of her children and their education, and her aging parents, and keeping her demanding, low-wage job.

Though it doesn't fit in with the cute mythology of "capitalism" that apologists love to promote, ALICE wasn't working to get ahead--she was working to barely survive in an economy where wages have stagnated for decades and recently lost ground at an alarming rate as costs for everything from rent to childcare to utilities have soared while her hours have been cut.

This is the neofeudalism I've often described here: the modern-day equivalent of the landless (i.e. owns no capital) serf is a landless (i.e. owns no capital) debt-serf with student loans, an auto loan and credit card debt and income that is constrained by globalization, financialization and the scarcity of high-paying work that isn't reserved for insiders and the privileged few who chose their wealthy, well-educated, socially connected parents wisely.

Lacking capital and any realistic means of acquiring any, the debt-serf has only labor to sell, and in a globalized world in which everyone selling their labor is competing globally for work producing tradable goods and services, ordinary labor has lost purchasing power for the past 45 years (see charts below).

The dominance of Big Tech monopoly platforms has created new fields for the exploitation of ordinary labor in the low-paid gig economy and fulfillment centers. The traditional neofeudal fiefdoms (retail outlets, hospitality and restaurants) have been hit by the pandemic pullback in consumer spending, and the other low-wage fiefdoms (fast food and domestic service) have been in structural decline for years.

Meanwhile, the owners of the Financial Nobility's fiefdoms and Big Tech monopolies have enjoyed unprecedented gains in income and wealth (see charts below) as wages' share of the economy has declined for decades, in effect transferring trillions from labor to the Financial Nobility.

This neofeudal arrangement is about to change as Universal Basic Income (UBI) or its equivalent becomes the accepted status quo solution to neofeudalism's soaring inequality. Since there's no limit to how much currency can be created by the Federal Reserve, then why not distribute enough "free money" to the serfs to tamp down the brewing revolt?

What the political class and the Financial Nobility don't yet grasp (due to their complete disconnect from neofeudal daily life) is that ALICE will never go back to her insecure, low-wage job, ever. No matter how meager the UBI, permanent unemployment, stimulus or whatever the political class calls the distribution of "Fed free money," ALICE will find a way to escape the bonds of neofeudal serfdom.

As I've noted here many times, the cash / informal economy beckons. All sorts of labor arrangements can be made on ALICE's terms, not the Big Tech monopolies' terms. No wonder the Financial Nobility is so desperate to eliminate cash. But other currencies may fill the need if the Neofeudal Overlords try to eliminate cash dollars.

Liberty and freedom are not just lofty academic abstractions; what matters is being freed of the neofeudal chains of Big Tech monopoly platforms and the Financial Nobility's other fiefdoms.

Of related interest: Why the Pandemic Is Forcing Women Out of the Workforce (via A.P.)








My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

AxisofEasy Salon #27: Will the Network State be capable of acting in the public good? (1 hr)


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook coming soon) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Flying Blind: Clueless about Risk, We're Speeding Toward Systemic Failure

For all these reasons, the risks of systemic collapse are much higher than commonly anticipated.

There's an irony in discussing risk: since we all have an instinctive reaction to visible risk, we think we understand it. But alas, we don't, especially when the risk is invisible and systemic.

We even misjudge extremely visible risk. People routinely die rushing to save someone who foolishly waded into fast-moving water a few yards above a waterfall. The rescue is clearly suicidal and doomed but they try anyway, doubling the tragedy by losing their own life.

We're prone to ignore risks that we've taken and gotten away with before: boat's overloaded and seas are rising? Hey, we've done this a hundred times and nothing bad ever happened.

We overestimate our level of control. Don't worry, I got this... crash.

And we overestimate our risk management skills, confident that the situation won't get away from us.

Systemic risk is difficult to isolate and analyze, so we're literally blind to it. It's not that we're blithely ignoring risk--we simply do not see it. We're flying blind through jagged mountain tops we can't see through the thick fog of false confidence.

There are several reasons for our innate difficulty in discerning risk. One I covered last year in Crunchtime: When Events Outrun Plan B (December 4, 2019) is recency bias: the natural assumption that the recent past is a reliable guide to the future. This leads us to underestimate the risk of non-linear financial-economic dynamics.

Linear means increasing or decreasing inputs to the system generate equivalent outputs: doubling the input doubles the output, and so on. Non-linear means modest changes in inputs generate outsized changes in outputs.

It's not easy to discern the potential for non-linear dynamics until they emerge, typically with surprising speed. This is why stock market crashes catch the vast majority of punters off-guard.

Central banks and governments have gone to extreme lengths to maintain the illusion of linearity, but these extreme measures have generated emergent properties beyond their control. This illusion of linearity implies a control of dynamics so perfect that no linear situation can ever become non-linear. This is the illusion of godlike control.

In other words, we assume the authorities (The Federal Reserve, etc.) have godlike control which limits the risk of things spiraling out of control (i.e. non-linearity)

Another reason we're blind to risk is we naively assume risks add up like a grocery bill. Take a 5% of something bad happening, add another 5% risk and a third 5% risk, and the total risk we face is only 15%--hey, that's not much.

The problem is independent-variable risks don't add up, they compound. As correspondent A.P. explained to me recently: risks are independent variables with cumulative effects that are compounded, not additive. So the three variables, each with a 5% risk factor, pose a compounded risk far higher than 15%.

In other words, we may view each risk factor as low and feel a false sense of safety because we failed to compound all the individually "low-risk" factors into a composite of risk, which could compound into a very high probability of something unexpectedly bad happening.

Then there's feedback, a dynamic I've discussed many times, most recently in How Extremes Become More Extreme, Triggering Collapse (August 28, 2020)

Somewhat counter-intuitively, when feedback arises to moderate the intensity of a trend, that's negative feedback. When feedback intensifies the trend, it's positive feedback.

Why is this counter-intuitive? If a bad trend is moderated by negative feedback, that's good (positive). If a bad trend gathers momentum due to positive feedback, that's bad (negative).

When an insect population explodes higher due to ideal conditions, birds and other predators feast on the over-supply, reducing the infestation. This negative feedback moderates the damage inflicted by the infestation.

If a rapidly expanding insect horde has few predators and its range and mobility increase with every generation, allowing it to find new food sources, this positive feedback enables a vast expansion in each generation--exactly what's we're witnessing with locusts.

Positive feedback leads to runaway systems, i.e. run to failure where the trend accelerates until the system collapses.

If the system is isolated, then the damage might be contained. But if the system is interconnected with others, then its failure could trigger the collapse of other systems, either as a direct (first-order) effect or as an indirect (second-order) effect.

In other words, in highly inter-connected systems, one failure can trigger a domino effect that can become non-linear once second-order effects manifest.

All of these dynamics are in play in America's healthcare system, which I discussed rcently in How Systems Collapse: Reaping What We've Sown and Everything We Assume Is Permanent Is Actually Fragile (October 23, 2020).

Here's an example: the CDC reported that 1 in 16 health care personnel (HCP) contract Covid and require hospitalization. If the healthcare worker is older than 60 and/or has an underlying condition, the risks are much higher. At some point, these compounding risks will influence decisions.

Hospital administrators fearing wrongful-death lawsuits from over-60 staffers who contract the virus and die from complications may fire older staffers to limit their legal liability.

Individual healthcare workers who are responsible for caring for elderly parents or children at home may conclude the risk of contracting Covid at work and suffering Long Covid debilitation outweighs the income from their job, and seek alternative employment with lower exposure to Covid patients.

The greater one's responsibility for physical care of dependents at home, the more devastating the impact of Covid hospitalization or long-term debilitation, and so at some point the risks of continuous exposure to Covid-infected patients are simply not worth it.

Given the prevalence of organ damage (heart, liver, etc.) even in asymptomatic carriers of Covid, older healthcare workers may conclude it's not worth the risks of permanent organ damage to continue exposure to Covid-infected patients, and so they may choose to retire early.

Compound these decisions, add in feedback of rising hospitalizations and there's a rising risk of the illusion of linearity giving way to explosive non-linear run-to-failure. Just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it can't happen.

Lastly, the risks of drawing grandiose conclusions from limited data are largely invisible, too. This is one of the risks in the rushed vaccine trials currently underway. Please read Covid-19 Vaccine Protocols Reveal That Trials Are Designed To Succeed (Forbes.com) by William A. Haseltine before assuming the vaccine trials are accurate estimations of risks.

"One of the more immediate questions a trial needs to answer is whether a vaccine prevents infection. If someone takes this vaccine, are they far less likely to become infected with the virus? These trials all clearly focus on eliminating symptoms of Covid-19, and not infections themselves. Asymptomatic infection is listed as a secondary objective in these trials when they should be of critical importance.

It appears that all the pharmaceutical companies assume that the vaccine will never prevent infection. Their criteria for approval is the difference in symptoms between an infected control group and an infected vaccine group. They do not measure the difference between infection and noninfection as a primary motivation.

A greater concern for the millions of older people and those with preexisting conditions is whether these trials test the vaccine's ability to prevent severe illness and death. Again we find that severe illness and death are only secondary objectives in these trials. None list the prevention of death and hospitalization as a critically important barrier."


For all the reasons listed in this post, the risks of systemic collapse are much higher than commonly anticipated. Recency bias, belief in the illusion of linearity and the godlike powers of authorities, failure to properly compound risk variables and feedback, uncritical acceptance of limited data--any one of these is the equivalent of flying blind, without radar, through thick fog.

Compounding all these factors is the equivalent of flying through thick fog at 5,000 feet straight toward the Rocky Mountains.




My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

AxisofEasy Salon #27: Will the Network State be capable of acting in the public good? (1 hr)


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook coming soon) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



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Monday, October 26, 2020

How Systems Collapse: Reaping What We've Sown

Don't expect healthcare or any other hollowed-out, heavily optimized system to function as it once did.

A great many Americans will be shocked when our healthcare systems start failing because they believed the PR that "we have the finest healthcare system in the world." The ability to deliver the finest care to a few does not translate into an ability to deliver the finest care to the many, nor does it mean the system is robust enough to withstand a tsunami.

As I have endeavored to explain in recent posts, systems optimized for narrow envelopes fail when they slip outside that envelope. One analogy is an airliner that is optimized in terms of fuel efficiency to fly above 30,000 feet at around 540 miles per hour.

The optimized envelope allows for somewhat higher and lower flight paths, but if the airliner is forced to fly at 500 feet, it will no longer have the range it had at 30,000 feet.

America's healthcare system is optimized for treating a relative handful of severely ill patients. As costs (and profit margins) have soared, the system has been stripped of hospital beds, extra supplies, etc. because these hurt the all-important bottom line: why maintain redundancies and buffers when all that matters in America is "maximizing shareholder value"?

In the pathological pursuit of "maximizing shareholder value," Corporate America's healthcare complex tossed community service and employees overboard. Sure, there is endless glossy (i.e. expensive) PR glorifying the corporate simulacrum of "community service," but everyone knows it's just PR: if a hospital fails to produce the profits demanded by corporate HQ, it's closed, regardless of the negative impacts on the community.

Sorry, folks, it's just business. When the "store" is no longer sufficiently profitable, it's closed, just like Walmart closes underperforming stores.

The same sanitized, bloodless pursuit of maximizing profits (kneel before the mighty god we worship, Shareholder Value!) has stripped away the pretense that healthcare corporations care about their employees. Yes, the glossy PR about how much Corporate America cares about its communities and employees is endless, but it's all artifice: employees are treated just like factory workers in developing-world sweatshops.

Everyone is expendable, replaceable, just another cog in the machine, and woe to any employee in Corporate America's healthcare complex who runs afoul of the endless compliance and regulatory reporting.

We're about to reap what we've sown in worshipping "shareholder value" and stripmining communities and employees. The people in the sweatshop get it: we don't count, we're just here to make some rich people even richer.

The healthcare sweatshop workers will repay the absence of employer loyalty in kind: you had no loyalty to us, we have no loyalty to you.

When the tsunami wave hits, do you sacrifice yourself to save someone else, or do you conclude the better strategy is save yourself first? As I noted in This Is How It Ends: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (September 10, 2020): The most competent will realise the impossibility of keeping it glued together and so they will exit first. The most noble will try to keep it going but they will burn out and drop away, leaving the incompetent to oversee the final collapse.

System after system has been optimized to only function in a narrow envelope. Once it slips outside that envelope, it unravels very quickly and then collapses. Those outside the system are bamboozled by the hype and PR and recency bias ("but it worked fine last year"), insiders know better.

Many will try to keep it all glued together for the sake of the patients, but the tsunami will be so relentless that saving themselves will eventually take priority. After all, the "shareholder value / compliance is all that matters" system never cared about you; why should you sacrifice yourself so the executives can keep their multi-million dollar bonuses?

All you cared about were profits--well go right ahead and keep all the profits. We're gone.

Don't expect healthcare or any other hollowed-out, heavily optimized system to function as it once did. The fuel tanks are almost empty and we're still 1,000 miles from land.

COVID-19: Associated Hospitalizations Among Health Care Personnel (CDC)




My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

AxisofEasy Salon #27: Will the Network State be capable of acting in the public good? (1 hr)


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook coming soon) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Next Up: Global Depression

The belief that central banks printing currency can "buy/fix" everything that's broken, lost or scarce is the ultimate in denial, fantasy and magical thinking.

Let's revisit the pandemic projection chart I prepared on February 2, 2020, nine days after authorities publicly acknowledged the Covid virus outbreak in China. Wave 2 shown on the chart is now underway with a vengeance and next up is Global Depression.



This projection was based on two well-known dynamics:

1. History offers a basic template for viral pandemics in which the initial wave dies back in summer and then re-ignites in a second larger Wave 2 in autumn and winter.

2. Humanity's default responses to novel crises: denial, fantasy, magical thinking and manipulating data to support a simplistic, emotionally satisfying ideological position.

Each of these predictable dynamics has manifested in all their perverse glory.

A number of cognitive/logical errors are manifesting as well.

False binaries i.e. false perceptions of the situation being either/or. For example: you get the virus and either recover or die. We only count those two options. This false binary conveniently ignores:

A. the third category--you get the virus and become a long-hauler (a.k.a. Long Covid) who is debilitated for months by exhaustion and other post-viral conditions; (Long COVID slide presentation)

B. the fourth category--you get the virus and recover quickly but suffer major organ damage that isn't immediately visible/symptomatic;

C. the fifth category--you get the virus, recover, assume you're immune forever and then contract the virus again some months later--only this time the consequences are far more severe.

And so on. The same holds true for ideological false binaries. Those holding binary ideological positions--you are either With Me or With The Wrong Side--spend their time and energy cherry-picking and manipulating data so it supports their pre-selected ideological world view.

Those of us who simply want unmolested data so we can decide for ourselves have no recourse, as the ideologically motivated have poisoned the data (don't test don't tell, under-reporting, over-reporting, ignoring lag times in reporting, suppressing data, requiring data be reported to privately owned corporations rather than government agencies, discounting good data in favor of bogus data that reaches the "right" conclusion, and so on) in an endless profusion of manipulation for political purposes.

As with China's Communist leadership, if data that can't be gamed or manipulated enters the public domain, it's immediately suppressed. Skeptics of China's permanently miraculous "growth" statistics discovered electrical consumption figures did not reflect the miraculous "growth" in the officially sanctioned statistics, and so China moved to suppress this inconveniently factual data so it would not longer be available.

We're seeing the same politicization of data in the U.S. We're now down to public-health data collection that hasn't yet been suppressed or manipulated: hospital admissions and death certificates. Authorities suppressing Covid-related deaths can report any cause of death they want, but the peak of deaths far above the statistical norm tells us an important fact despite the suppression/obfuscation.

Confusing categories, correlations, causes and conclusions. It's widely held that the Covid pandemic is fundamentally a power-grab by elites. Fair enough; crises have long been the excuse given for "temporary emergency measures" that become permanent power-grabs.

But to accept that the pandemic is the cover for a power-grab by elites does not mean the Covid virus is a harmless chimera. The virus can be dangerous in ways that aren't measured by counting deaths and the pandemic can still be the excuse for "emergency powers" becoming permanent, i.e. a power grab. One conclusion (a power-grab) does not require a second completely different conclusion (the virus is not dangerous to anyone under the age of 70 and therefore it's no big deal).

The assumption that there's a correlation between an ideological position and wearing a mask (or other behavior) is ungrounded. An individual can reach conclusions outside rigid ideological boundaries. Personally, I found this study of which passengers caught the virus on a bus in China useful in my own decision-making: Coronavirus can travel twice as far as official 'safe distance' and stay in air for 30 minutes.

The most consequential falsity in my view is the belief that the global economy was robust before the pandemic and it will revert to that robustness once we: get a vaccine, end the lockdowns, seek herd immunity, etc. etc.

The global economy was teetering on the edge of recession and financial implosion long before the pandemic appeared. Ending the pandemic cannot restore an illusion of "growth" that masked a hollowed out, fragile, brittle global economy.

The Global Depression was baked in long before the pandemic. All the pandemic did was kick out the last rotten 2X4s holding up the fading facade of "growth."

As the global tsunami of Wave 2 sweeps away the sandcastles of denial, fantasy and magical thinking, it's worth recalling that the Covid-19 virus has four features that make it difficult to control:

1. It is highly contagious.
2. Carriers with no symptoms can infect others.
3. A significant percentage of older / compromised patients develop severe symptoms that require hospitalization.
4. Once the healthcare system is overwhelmed, the system cannot provide care to everyone who needs it. As a result, the death rate rises the moment the healthcare system is overwhelmed / breaks down.

We've drawn a gravely false conclusion from central bank money-printing and technology: we now assume that central banks can print up as much money as we need to buy whatever we need in whatever quantity we need. The magic of technology essentially guarantees that there will always be a substitute, "cure" or "solution" available whenever we need one.

Unfortunately, central banks can't "print" experienced doctors or nurses. When the front line of healthcare workers is depleted by illness and burnout, there are no substitutes or Big Tech robots-to-the-rescue. The healthcare system we've optimized for "creating shareholder value" (i.e. unlimited greed pathologically pursued by any means available) will break down and that will be that.

Central banks can't "print" creditworthy borrowers, solvent companies, real-world collateral, risk-free "investing," oil, jobs, trust in failed institutions, social cohesion or anything else of importance that is now scarce.

The belief that central banks printing currency can "buy/fix" everything that's broken, lost or scarce is the ultimate in denial, fantasy and magical thinking. All that was unsustainably fragile, corrupt and brittle is unraveling, and thinking that ending the lockdowns, approving a vaccine, etc. will stave off causality is the supreme indulgence in denial, fantasy and magical thinking.


My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

AxisofEasy Salon #27: Will the Network State be capable of acting in the public good? (1 hr)


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook coming soon) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.




NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Martin C. ($10/month), for your outrageously generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.   Thank you, Marco J. ($5/month), for your magnificently generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

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Friday, October 23, 2020

Everything We Assume Is Permanent Is Actually Fragile

Masking the rot and fragility is not the same thing as strength or permanence.

The great irony of the past 75 years of expanding consumption is the belief that all these decades of success prove the system is rock-solid and future success is thus guaranteed. The irony lies in the systemic fragility that's built into the large-scale industrial production that generates endless surpluses of energy, food, fresh water, etc. and the global financial system that delivers endless surpluses of capital and credit to be distributed by public authorities and private owners of capital.

The key driver of increasing efficiencies has been scaling up production by concentrating ownership and capacity into a few quasi-monopolies/cartels. In industry after industry, where there were once dozens of companies, there are now only a handful of behemoths with outsized market and political power which they wield to retain their dominance.

For example, where there were dozens of large regional banks in the U.S. not that long ago, relentless consolidation has led to a handful of supergiant too big to fail banks which can take extraordinary risks (and undertake criminal skims) knowing that the federal government will always bail them out and leave the banks' corporate criminals untouched.

Two of these too big to fail banks recently paid fines in the billions of dollars, yet no one went to prison or even faced criminal charges. This highlights the systemic problem with concentrating capital and power in the hands of the few: too big to fail means corporate wrongdoers have a permanent get out of jail free card while the small-fry white-collar criminal will get a fiver (five-year prison sentence) for skimming a tiny fraction of the billions routinely pillaged by the too big to fail banks.

The net result is a two-tier judicial / law enforcement system: the too big to fail "essential" companies get a free hand and the citizenry get whatever "justice" they can afford, i.e. very little.

This concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few corporations is of course state-cartel socialism in which the public good has become subservient to the profits of corporate owners and insiders, and the skims paid to the state's insiders. The state enables and enforces this concentration of private wealth and power in a number of ways: regulatory capture, the polite bribery of lobbying, the revolving door between government and private industry, and so on.

The public good would best be served by competition and transparent markets and regulations, but these are precisely what's been eliminated by relentless consolidation and the paring down of the economic ecosystem to a handful of too big to fail nodes which work tirelessly to eliminate competition, transparency and meaningful public oversight.

This ruthless pursuit of efficiencies and profits has stripped the economy of redundancies and buffers. Production supply chains have been engineered to function in a narrow envelope of quality, quantity and time. Any disruption quickly leads to shortages, something that became visible when meatpacking plants were closed in the pandemic.

Supply chains are long and fragile, but this fragility is not visible as long as everything stays within the narrow envelope that's been optimized. Once the envelope is broken, the supply chain breaks down. Since redundancies and buffers have been stripped away, there are no alternatives available. Shortages mount and the entire system starts breaking down.

Quality has been stripped out as well. When markets become captive to cartels and monopolies, customers have to take what's available: if it's poor quality goods and services, tough luck, pal, there are no alternatives. There are only one or two service providers, healthcare insurers, etc., and they all provide the same minimal level of quality and service.

The moral rot in our social, political and economic orders is another source of hidden fragility. I'm constantly told by readers that corruption has been around forever, so therefore nothing has changed, but these readers are indulging in magical nostalgia: things have changed profoundly, and for the worse, as the moral rot has seeped into every nook and cranny of American life, from the top down.

There is no "public good," there is only a rapacious, obsessive self-interest that claims the mantle of "public good" as a key mechanism of the con.

As I discussed in Everything is Staged, everyone and everything in America is now nothing more than a means to a self-interested end, and so the the entirety of American life is nothing but 100% marketing of various cons designed to enrich the few at the expense of the many.

That America was a better place without endless marketing of Big Pharma meds and colleges hyping their insanely costly "product" (a worthless diploma) has been largely forgotten by those indulging in magical nostalgia.

What few seem to realize is all the supposedly rock-solid permanent foundations of life are nothing more than fragile social constructs based on trust and legitimacy. Once trust and legitimacy have been lost, these constructs melt into the sands of time.

A great many things we take for granted are fragile constructs that could unravel with surprising speed: law enforcement, the courts, elections, the value of our currency-- these are all social constructs. Once legitimacy is lost, people abandon these constructs and they melt away.

It's clear to anyone who isn't indulging in magical nostalgia that trust in institutions is in a steep decline as the legitimacy of these institutions, public and private, have been eroded by incompetence, corruption, dysfunction and the rapacious self-interest of insiders.

What we've gotten very good at is masking the rot and fragility. Masking the rot and fragility is not the same thing as strength or permanence. The nation is about to discover the difference in the years ahead.



My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Podcasts:

AxisofEasy Salon #27: Will the Network State be capable of acting in the public good? (1 hr)

FRA Roundtable: Richard and I discuss Inflation (37 min)

Obsoleted Engineered Economic Relapse (with Chuck Ochelli, 1 hr)

What Could Go Wrong? (43 minutes, with Gordon Long)


My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook coming soon) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.




NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Mike T. ($50), for your marvelously generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.   Thank you, Matthew D. ($5/month), for your magnificently generous subscription to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

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