Profit and Mechanism: Tipping the Field of Play

One of the things that makes the economic system special–of the vast array of forces and mechanisms at play in any given situation and any given location in space-time–is how universally it undergirds the social structure and individual incentives.

Commodification and the value-form, commodity fetishism, capitalist realism, and the “profit motive” broadly permeate everyday life and decision-making in all quarters, from the deeply personal, to grand organisations, states and corporations, and everything in between.

Before I dig further into the details, it is important to emphasise the myriad of other mechanisms that could influence a decision: from Thaler-style failed optimisation or the possibility, satisficing and animal spirits of Herbert Simon, J.M. Keynes and G.L.S. Shackle.

From a vast array of socialisations from perceptual differences, moral objections or power differentials inter- and intra-community, through to the mixed social-physicalities of sex, gender and ability, and even individual genius and eccentricity. (sidenote: if you want to see an example of someone using their own insane brainpower to break free of structural explanations, google Admiral Yi of the Joseon Navy).

Such forces, for a given moment in history may well, and indeed do frequently in the real world, relegate “vulgar” material incentives and economic structure to the role of “countervailing forces.” Despite this they remain ever present.

Assuming we aim to curtail the unreserved destructiveness of unmonitored capitalism, there are many options to choose from, but very few to choose from if our aim is to maintain this regulation.

This, not coincidentally, is a fundamental sticking point between liberal idealist pluralism and materialist leftism.

For whatever barriers there are to the mechanisms of capitalism operating unconstrained, the fundamental capitalist mechanisms remain ever-present.

In every market transaction. In every social movement trying to become or remain relevant and every centre of status quo resisting these changes. Not to mention individuals within all areas aiming to expand their access to the means of fulfilling human wants, be that through income, job security, corruption and cronyism whether they be academics, NGO workers, garbage collectors, top politicians, industry execs…

In all these cases what is optimised is not what is good but what is profitable. There is a market for medicine, good books and groceries, and all these can be corrupted in their own ways. More worryingly, there is a market for slavery, for rape, for guns, child porn.

There is a market for undermining free market dynamics in favour of oligopoly and oligopsony and a market for the systematic exclusion of externalities from economic consideration. There is a market for doctoring state policy. There is a market for avoiding the consequences of bad actions, a market for prisoners, a market for feel-good public speakers. There is a market for democracy and for dictators

All of which is to say, capitalism does not give a shit about what you hold dear. Those with the ability and the will to seize wealth and productive forces will do so, and use those resources both intentionally and unintentionally to support their positions materially and culturally.

The vast domain of liars, frauds, genocidal maniacs and people who think The Big Bang Theory is a good show will not be burnt away by the invisible hand, nor the visible one. Any attempt to do so is continuously undermined in every sector of society- big business, small business, the arts, academia, the media, government and public service, social movements (including most “””mainstream””” forms of communist ideology), and so on.

The logic of capitalism invades direct decision-making, culture, and individual thought processes.

Aiming to reform capitalism through countervailing mechanisms is akin to releasing a continuous stream on a steep slope and hoping for a majority of it to flow uphill, or at least to stop as it is.

If you’re lucky a some might get dammed in a root system, a little might flow over a particularly serendipitously placed rock and bounce back upwards a way. Even this analogy is too generous, for the slope remains and the water is continuously flowing, eroding the impediments to motion for as long as it is present.

Any shrubs growing to resist the downward flow will be waterlogged, wilting things clinging to rocks. Perhaps an outside force will somehow invigorate them for a time, but if that fades, there is nothing remaining to stem the flow.

This picture i have painted is grim, and there are occasional times which substantially stem the tide of the fundamental nature of capitalism (though i would hasten to add that these moments are rare, and these laurels tend to then be rested on for decades thus leaving the newly-minted institutions to be eroded). The fundamental problem is the fact that the forces of capitalism are operating continuously at all levels is society. Wherever there is a chink in the armour (and there will be chinks in the armour, often even purposefully introduced) capitalism will find and reward that behaviour which works to it’s benefit.

Rambly Technology Explanation: Why Arch Linux breaks if you leave it too long

Packages have dependencies and potential conflicts with other packages. If you jump a whole bunch of versions really quickly, you risk incompatibilities and skipping required steps between versions.

So for example say you’ve not updated for a couple of months. If you’re updating package X from version 3.5 to version 4, and it requires package Y of a certain version to do that, you can be screwed, because you may have access only to package Y (too old version) or package Y (too new version). Or if you’re jumping more versions, the creators have only built it anticipating for 3.5>4>5, not 3.5>5, which can break in the intermediate step for the same reasons.

Like… have you ever seen youtube videos where someone updates a computer from windows 3.1 to windows 10 or w/e? they go through each version individually until they reach the end. Imagine trying to install windows 10 directly on a 3,1 system using windows 3.1 software.

And because Arch updates everything, including system critical stuff on a rolling release model with all the other packages, you can break not only some random program but your entire installation.

Mainstream Economics and Political Economy

So I, being a smart and thoroughly non-masochistic person, decided to read a reddit thread about mainstream economics and its relationship with Marx. It and the linked previous “good discussion” threads can be summarised as “political economy is dead, economics is a hard science, all hail mathematics,” interspersed with grossly misinformed understandings of even the most basic Marxist takes.

Continue reading Mainstream Economics and Political Economy

A brief (and somewhat uninformed) summary of complex systems and their implications for human societies

I need to research more before finalising/formalising a lot of points but here’s the general gist.

Every complex adaptive system is a system that basically generates knowledge from incorporated information, in order to extract more energy from the environment in a feedback loop.

Each level of this system is a holon- both a whole and a part unto itself. This is cool enough by itself but it has a lot of implications for human society.

Continue reading A brief (and somewhat uninformed) summary of complex systems and their implications for human societies

A disambiguation about the “100 companies produce 71% of the world’s pollution” figure

I see the rhetoric that 100 companies produce 71% of world emissions thrown around a lot by people here. This statement is true, but somewhat misleading and I believe leads us to a somewhat incorrect attitude in terms of what’s actually happening.

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Viscolourchanger and How it Works

So I finally wrote a piece of code =w=

Wellll I mean it’s just bash, but still! I’m pretty proud of this one. So, viscolourchanger is a program that takes colourschemes generated by pywal, automatically adds them to a cli-visualiser (herein referred to as ‘vis’) colour config file, and reloads vis.

That’s pretty much it. It’s pretty simple, but it works really well when added to a wrapper for wal:

the program in action

click here to check it out or poke around!

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The Curious Case of Mr Bean

So I’m on emuparadise right, looking at the ratings for various games.

Even games that really aren’t that fantastic tend to have pretty high ratings, because the people who look for them are people who remember them fondly.

Anywho, I’m looking through the list of platformers, and I come across a game simply titled “Mr. Bean.” I think this is funny, and I’m looking for more platformers on the PS2 so I open the page to remember it.

It’s then that I notice something

Rating: 1.12/5, 2171 Votes
Continue reading The Curious Case of Mr Bean

A rant about people, idealism and assuming that everything will be ok if we just follow your ten-step program.

The federal election in my country Australia got me thinking quite a bit. Not that I love them by any means, but credit where due the labor party’s plan was the most expansive and forward-looking in a quarter of a century.

And that plan got absolutely curb-stomped by the status-quo and fears/hatred of minorities.

There was a time not too long ago when liberal democracy and universal suffrage were the utopian future. When they were implemented, people thought that people would agree, debate logically and implement rational policy based on the best people and ideas naturally rising to the top.

Continue reading A rant about people, idealism and assuming that everything will be ok if we just follow your ten-step program.

Rediscovering and modding my PS2

The Playstation 2 is, to me, still the greatest console of all time. The Switch is a strong rival, but for me the nostalgia value, the great, non-gimmicky controller and the ginormous backlog of awesome games.

Nevertheless, it’s been about 5 years since I last touched my PS2, but when Lynne and I moved out we brought it with us, and we’ve set it up and had a great time. Lynne being Lynne however, suggested that we mod the console to allow us to play rare, expensive and unavailable titles, which is what we’ve done 0u0

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