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Pluralistic: Prison-tech company bribed jails to ban in-person visits (02 Apr 2024)

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A black-and-white photo of a late 19th century French prison; prisoners crowd against the bars in the background while a guard stands in front of the cell, holding a rifle with a fixed bayonet. The guard's has been tinted purple and head has been replaced with the glaring eye of HAL 9000 from Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey.' A mountain of jumbled, bundled US$100s crowd the bottom of the image. An ATM is superimposed on the bars.

Prison-tech company bribed jails to ban in-person visits (permalink)

Beware of geeks bearing gifts. When prison-tech companies started offering "free" tablets to America's vast army of prisoners, it set off alarm-bells for prison reform advocates – but not for the law-enforcement agencies that manage the great American carceral enterprise.

The pitch from these prison-tech companies was that they could cut the costs of locking people up while making jails and prisons safer. Hell, they'd even make life better for prisoners. And they'd do it for free!

These prison tablets would give every prisoner their own phone and their own video-conferencing terminal. They'd supply email, of course, and all the world's books, music, movies and games. Prisoners could maintain connections with the outside world, from family to continuing education. Sounds too good to be true, huh?

Here's the catch: all of these services are blisteringly expensive. Prisoners are accustomed to being gouged on phone calls – for years, prisons have done deals with private telcos that charge a fortune for prisoners' calls and split the take with prison administrators – but even by those standards, the calls you make on a tablet are still a ripoff.

Sure, there are some prisoners for whom money is no object – wealthy people who screwed up so bad they can't get bail and are stewing in a county lockup, along with the odd rich murderer or scammer serving a long bid. But most prisoners are poor. They start poor – the cops are more likely to arrest poor people than rich people, even for the same crime, and the poorer you are, the more likely you are to get convicted or be suckered into a plea bargain with a long sentence. State legislatures are easy to whip up into a froth about minimum sentences for shoplifters who steal $7 deodorant sticks, but they are wildly indifferent to the store owner's rampant wage-theft. Wage theft is by far the most costly form of property crime in America and it is almost entirely ignored:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/jun/15/wage-theft-us-workers-employees

So America's prisons are heaving with its poorest citizens, and they're certainly not getting any richer while they're inside. While many prisoners hold jobs – prisoners produce $2b/year in goods and $9b/year in services – the average prison wage is $0.52/hour:

https://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2024/0324bowman.html

(In six states, prisoners get nothing; North Carolina law bans paying prisoners more than $1/day, the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution explicitly permits slavery – forced labor without pay – for prisoners.)

Likewise, prisoners' families are poor. They start poor – being poor is a strong correlate of being an American prisoner – and then one of their breadwinners is put behind bars, taking their income with them. The family savings go to paying a lawyer.

Prison-tech is a bet that these poor people, locked up and paid $1/day or less; or their families, deprived of an earner and in debt to a lawyer; will somehow come up with cash to pay $13 for a 20-minute phone call, $3 for an MP3, or double the Kindle price for an ebook.

How do you convince a prisoner earning $0.52/hour to spend $13 on a phone-call?

Well, for Securus and Viapath (AKA Global Tellink) – a pair of private equity backed prison monopolists who have swallowed nearly all their competitors – the answer was simple: they bribed prison officials to get rid of the prison phones.

Not just the phones, either: a pair of Michigan suits brought by the Civil Rights Corps accuse sheriffs and the state Department of Corrections of ending in-person visits in exchange for kickbacks from the money that prisoners' families would pay once the only way to reach their loved ones was over the "free" tablets:

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2024/03/jails-banned-family-visits-to-make-more-money-on-video-calls-lawsuits-claim/

These two cases are just the tip of the iceberg; Civil Rights Corps says there are hundreds of jails and prisons where Securus and Viapath have struck similar corrupt bargains:

https://civilrightscorps.org/case/port-huron-michigan-right2hug/

And it's not just visits and calls. Prison-tech companies have convinced jails and prisons to eliminate mail and parcels. Letters to prisoners are scanned and delivered their tablets, at a price. Prisoners – and their loved ones – have to buy virtual "postage stamps" and pay one stamp per "page" of email. Scanned letters (say, hand-drawn birthday cards from your kids) cost several stamps:

https://pluralistic.net/2024/02/14/minnesota-nice/#shitty-technology-adoption-curve

Prisons and jails have also been convinced to eliminate their libraries and continuing education programs, and to get rid of TVs and recreational equipment. That way, prisoners will pay vastly inflated prices for streaming videos and DRM-locked music.

The icing on the cake? If the prison changes providers, all that data is wiped out – a prisoner serving decades of time will lose their music library, their kids' letters, the books they love. They can get some of that back – by working for $1/day – but the personal stuff? It's just gone.

Readers of my novels know all this. A prison-tech scam just like the one described in the Civil Rights Corps suits is at the center of my latest novel The Bezzle:

https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250865878/thebezzle

Prison-tech has haunted me for years. At first, it was just the normal horror anyone with a shred of empathy would feel for prisoners and their families, captive customers for sadistic "businesses" that have figured out how to get the poorest, most desperate people in the country to make them billions. In the novel, I call prison-tech "a machine":

a million-­armed robot whose every limb was tipped with a needle that sank itself into a different place on prisoners and their families and drew out a few more cc’s of blood.

But over time, that furious empathy gave way to dread. Prisoners are at the bottom of the shitty technology adoption curve. They endure the technological torments that haven't yet been sanded down on their bodies, normalized enough to impose them on people with a little more privilege and agency. I'm a long way up the curve from prisoners, but while the shitty technology curve may grind slow, it grinds fine:

https://pluralistic.net/2021/02/24/gwb-rumsfeld-monsters/#bossware

The future isn't here, it's just not evenly distributed. Prisoners are the ultimate early adopters of the technology that the richest, most powerful, most sadistic people in the country's corporate board-rooms would like to force us all to use.

(Image: Cryteria, CC BY 3.0; Flying Logos, CC BY-SA 4.0; KGBO, CC BY-SA 3.0; modified)


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#15yrsago London cops beating the shit out of peaceful G20 demonstrators https://web.archive.org/web/20090405075419/http://london.indymedia.org.uk/videos/993

#10yrsago Rob Ford excuses, uttered by a child https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63zuzSuPwH4

#10yrsago Why I don’t believe in robots https://www.theguardian.com/technology/blog/2014/apr/02/why-it-is-not-possible-to-regulate-robots

#5yrsago RIP, science fiction writer Vonda N McIntyre https://file770.com/science-fiction-author-vonda-n-mcintyre-official-obituary/

#5yrsago Microsoft announces it will shut down ebook program and confiscate its customers’ libraries https://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-removes-the-books-category-from-the-microsoft-store/

#5yrsago Bernie Sanders raises $18.2m from 525,000 small-money donors (including me) https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/02/politics/bernie-sanders-18-2-million-raised-first-quarter/index.html

#5yrsago Moderators for large platform tell all, reveal good will, frustration, marginalization https://onezero.medium.com/your-speech-their-rules-meet-the-people-who-guard-the-internet-ab58fe6b9231

#5yrsago After boasting about running his company from prison, Martin Shkreli gets solitary confinement https://www.thedailybeast.com/martin-shkreli-thrown-in-solitary-confinement-after-running-drug-company-from-prison-cellphone-report

#1yrago Commafuckers Versus The Commons https://pluralistic.net/2023/04/02/commafuckers-versus-the-commons/


Upcoming appearances (permalink)

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A screenshot of me at my desk, doing a livecast.

Recent appearances (permalink)



A grid of my books with Will Stahle covers..

Latest books (permalink)



A cardboard book box with the Macmillan logo.

Upcoming books (permalink)

  • Picks and Shovels: a sequel to "Red Team Blues," about the heroic era of the PC, Tor Books, February 2025

  • Unauthorized Bread: a graphic novel adapted from my novella about refugees, toasters and DRM, FirstSecond, 2025



Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources:

Currently writing:

  • A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

  • Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. FORTHCOMING TOR BOOKS JAN 2025

  • Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM

Latest podcast: Subprime gadgets https://craphound.com/news/2024/03/31/subprime-gadgets/


This work – excluding any serialized fiction – is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net.

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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla

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LinuxGeek
75 days ago
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Our county jail uses Securus / Viapath - to our great shame.

Public Service Announcement from AOC

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It’s that time again

Considering I just filed my taxes for free using an IRS-approved vendor (and I’m not in one of the pilot states AOC mentions), if you have not yet filed, Turbo Tax refugee, check this out.

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Of course, free filing is a crime against capitalism and must be stopped. So by all means, pay an exorbitant amount to file your taxes.

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For The Win, 5th Edition is ready for download. Request a copy of my free countywide GOTV planning guide at ForTheWin.us.

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Pluralistic: Three AI insights for hard-charging, future-oriented smartypantses (31 Jan 2024)

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A science-fiction pulp illustration of a man with a swollen, bald head that has been cut away to reveal its contents. The man's face has been cropped at the bridge of his nose, leaving just the swollen, hollow head, cheekbones, and staring eyes, the last of which have been covered with blue ovals. The hollow head has been filled with the trudging figures from Van Gogh's 'The Prisoners,' marching over a grid of vacuum tubes from an early computer. The background of the image is the wiring from an early mainframe, snarled and dense.

Three AI insights for hard-charging, future-oriented smartypantses (permalink)

Living in the age of AI hype makes demands on all of us to come up with smartypants prognostications about how AI is about to change everything forever, and wow, it's pretty amazing, huh?

AI pitchmen don't make it easy. They like to pile on the cognitive dissonance and demand that we all somehow resolve it. This is a thing cult leaders do, too – tell blatant and obvious lies to their followers. When a cult follower repeats the lie to others, they are demonstrating their loyalty, both to the leader and to themselves.

Over and over, the claims of AI pitchmen turn out to be blatant lies. This has been the case since at least the age of the Mechanical Turk, the 18th chess-playing automaton that was actually just a chess player crammed into the base of an elaborate puppet that was exhibited as an autonomous, intelligent robot.

The most prominent Mechanical Turk huckster is Elon Musk, who habitually, blatantly and repeatedly lies about AI. He's been promising "full self driving" Telsas in "one to two years" for more than a decade. Periodically, he'll "demonstrate" a car that's in full-self driving mode – which then turns out to be canned, recorded demo:

https://www.reuters.com/technology/tesla-video-promoting-self-driving-was-staged-engineer-testifies-2023-01-17/

Musk even trotted an autonomous, humanoid robot on-stage at an investor presentation, failing to mention that this mechanical marvel was just a person in a robot suit:

https://www.siliconrepublic.com/machines/elon-musk-tesla-robot-optimus-ai

Now, Musk has announced that his junk-science neural interface company, Neuralink, has made the leap to implanting neural interface chips in a human brain. As Joan Westenberg writes, the press have repeated this claim as presumptively true, despite its wild implausibility:

https://joanwestenberg.com/blog/elon-musk-lies

Neuralink, after all, is a company notorious for mutilating primates in pursuit of showy, meaningless demos:

https://www.wired.com/story/elon-musk-pcrm-neuralink-monkey-deaths/

I'm perfectly willing to believe that Musk would risk someone else's life to help him with this nonsense, because he doesn't see other people as real and deserving of compassion or empathy. But he's also profoundly lazy and is accustomed to a world that unquestioningly swallows his most outlandish pronouncements, so Occam's Razor dictates that the most likely explanation here is that he just made it up.

The odds that there's a human being beta-testing Musk's neural interface with the only brain they will ever have aren't zero. But I give it the same odds as the Raelians' claim to have cloned a human being:

https://edition.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/01/03/cf.opinion.rael/

The human-in-a-robot-suit gambit is everywhere in AI hype. Cruise, GM's disgraced "robot taxi" company, had 1.5 remote operators for every one of the cars on the road. They used AI to replace a single, low-waged driver with 1.5 high-waged, specialized technicians. Truly, it was a marvel.

Globalization is key to maintaining the guy-in-a-robot-suit phenomenon. Globalization gives AI pitchmen access to millions of low-waged workers who can pretend to be software programs, allowing us to pretend to have transcended the capitalism's exploitation trap. This is also a very old pattern – just a couple decades after the Mechanical Turk toured Europe, Thomas Jefferson returned from the continent with the dumbwaiter. Jefferson refined and installed these marvels, announcing to his dinner guests that they allowed him to replace his "servants" (that is, his slaves). Dumbwaiters don't replace slaves, of course – they just keep them out of sight:

https://www.stuartmcmillen.com/blog/behind-the-dumbwaiter/

So much AI turns out to be low-waged people in a call center in the Global South pretending to be robots that Indian techies have a joke about it: "AI stands for 'absent Indian'":

https://pluralistic.net/2024/01/29/pay-no-attention/#to-the-little-man-behind-the-curtain

A reader wrote to me this week. They're a multi-decade veteran of Amazon who had a fascinating tale about the launch of Amazon Go, the "fully automated" Amazon retail outlets that let you wander around, pick up goods and walk out again, while AI-enabled cameras totted up the goods in your basket and charged your card for them.

According to this reader, the AI cameras didn't work any better than Tesla's full-self driving mode, and had to be backstopped by a minimum of three camera operators in an Indian call center, "so that there could be a quorum system for deciding on a customer's activity – three autopilots good, two autopilots bad."

Amazon got a ton of press from the launch of the Amazon Go stores. A lot of it was very favorable, of course: Mister Market is insatiably horny for firing human beings and replacing them with robots, so any announcement that you've got a human-replacing robot is a surefire way to make Line Go Up. But there was also plenty of critical press about this – pieces that took Amazon to task for replacing human beings with robots.

What was missing from the criticism? Articles that said that Amazon was probably lying about its robots, that it had replaced low-waged clerks in the USA with even-lower-waged camera-jockeys in India.

Which is a shame, because that criticism would have hit Amazon where it hurts, right there in the ole Line Go Up. Amazon's stock price boost off the back of the Amazon Go announcements represented the market's bet that Amazon would evert out of cyberspace and fill all of our physical retail corridors with monopolistic robot stores, moated with IP that prevented other retailers from similarly slashing their wage bills. That unbridgeable moat would guarantee Amazon generations of monopoly rents, which it would share with any shareholders who piled into the stock at that moment.

See the difference? Criticize Amazon for its devastatingly effective automation and you help Amazon sell stock to suckers, which makes Amazon executives richer. Criticize Amazon for lying about its automation, and you clobber the personal net worth of the executives who spun up this lie, because their portfolios are full of Amazon stock:

https://sts-news.medium.com/youre-doing-it-wrong-notes-on-criticism-and-technology-hype-18b08b4307e5

Amazon Go didn't go. The hundreds of Amazon Go stores we were promised never materialized. There's an embarrassing rump of 25 of these things still around, which will doubtless be quietly shuttered in the years to come. But Amazon Go wasn't a failure. It allowed its architects to pocket massive capital gains on the way to building generational wealth and establishing a new permanent aristocracy of habitual bullshitters dressed up as high-tech wizards.

"Wizard" is the right word for it. The high-tech sector pretends to be science fiction, but it's usually fantasy. For a generation, America's largest tech firms peddled the dream of imminently establishing colonies on distant worlds or even traveling to other solar systems, something that is still so far in our future that it might well never come to pass:

https://pluralistic.net/2024/01/09/astrobezzle/#send-robots-instead

During the Space Age, we got the same kind of performative bullshit. On The Well David Gans mentioned hearing a promo on SiriusXM for a radio show with "the first AI co-host." To this, Craig L Maudlin replied, "Reminds me of fins on automobiles."

Yup, that's exactly it. An AI radio co-host is to artificial intelligence as a Cadillac Eldorado Biaritz tail-fin is to interstellar rocketry.


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#20yrsago Understanding slush, a primer on rejection http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004641.html#004641

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#15yrsago France to give free newspaper subs to 18 year olds https://archive.nytimes.com/economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/le-newspaper-bailout/

#15yrsago Principles of the American Cargo Cult — the beliefs that make bad argument https://web.archive.org/web/20090211214344/http://klausler.com/cargo.html

#15yrsago Mummified Soviet-era East German flat unearthed http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7857256.stm

#15yrsago Judges jailed for taking bribes from private juvie prisons to send kids to jail https://www.inquirer.com/philly/opinion/inquirer/20090128_Editorial__Judges_Sentenced.html

#10yrsago Army won’t answer Freedom of Information Request on its SGT STAR AI chatbot https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/01/free-sgt-star-army-ignores-foia-request-artificial-intelligence-records

#10yrsago Rob Ford Valentines https://web.archive.org/web/20140203045203/http://www.scotty2naughty.com/new-products/toronto-valentines-mayor-ford

#5yrsago More FBI follies: civil rights groups are “terrorists” and their victims are the KKK https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/feb/01/sacramento-rally-fbi-kkk-domestic-terrorism-california

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#5yrsago Local council seeks additional funds for Thatcher statue to pay for a tall anti-vandal plinth https://www.itv.com/news/2019-01-31/iron-lady-needs-10ft-plinth-to-keep-out-of-vandals-reach-police-say

#5yrsago Stock art for a new Gilded Age https://spitalfieldslife.com/2019/02/01/fat-cats-in-the-city-1824/

#1yrago Johnson and Johnson's bankruptcy gambit fails https://pluralistic.net/2023/02/01/j-and-j-jk/#risible-gambit



Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources:

Currently writing:

  • A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

  • Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. FORTHCOMING TOR BOOKS JAN 2025

  • The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FORTHCOMING TOR BOOKS FEB 2024

  • Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM

Latest podcast: What kind of bubble is AI? https://craphound.com/news/2024/01/21/what-kind-of-bubble-is-ai/
Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

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Upcoming books:

  • The Bezzle: a sequel to "Red Team Blues," about prison-tech and other grifts, Tor Books, February 2024

  • Picks and Shovels: a sequel to "Red Team Blues," about the heroic era of the PC, Tor Books, February 2025

  • Unauthorized Bread: a graphic novel adapted from my novella about refugees, toasters and DRM, FirstSecond, 2025


This work – excluding any serialized fiction – is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net.

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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla

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Pluralistic: Podcasting "Gig Work Is the Opposite of Steampunk" (20 Mar 2023)

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A woodcut of a weaver's loft, where a woman works at a hand-loom. Out of the window opposite her looms the glowing, menacing red eye of HAL 9000 from Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey.' On the wall behind her is the poster from Magpie Killjoy's 'Steampunk Magazine' that reads, 'Love the machine, hate the factory.'

Podcasting "Gig Work Is the Opposite of Steampunk" (permalink)

This week on my podcast, I read my recent Medium column, "Gig Work Is the Opposite of Steampunk," about the worst-of-all-worlds created by bossware, where an app is your boss, and you live at work because your home and/or car is a branch office of the factory:

https://doctorow.medium.com/gig-work-is-the-opposite-of-steampunk-463e2730ef0d

As with so much of my work these days, the column opens with a reference to the Luddites, and to Brian Merchant's superb, forthcoming history of the Luddite uprisings, "Blood in the Machine":

https://www.littlebrown.com/titles/brian-merchant/blood-in-the-machine/9780316487740/

As Merchant explains, the Luddites were anything but technophobes: they were skilled high-tech workers whose seven-year apprenticeships were the equivalent to getting a Master's in Engineering from MIT. Their objection to powered textile machines had nothing to do with fear of the machines: rather, it was motivated by a clear-eyed understanding of how factory owners wanted to use the machines.

The point of powered textile machines wasn't to increase the productivity of skilled textile workers – rather, it was to smash the guilds that represented these skilled workers and ensured that they shared in the profits from their labor. The factory owners wanted machines so simple a child could use them – because they were picking over England's orphanages and recruiting small children through trickery to a ten-year indenture in the factories.

The "dark, Satanic mills" of the industrial revolution were awash in the blood and tears of children. These child-slaves were beaten and starved, working long hours on little sleep for endless years, moving among machines that could snatch off a limb, a scalp, even your head, after a moment's lapse in attention.

(Fun fact: in 1832, Robert Blincoe, one of children who survived the factories, published "A Memoir of Robert Blincoe, an Orphan Boy" a bestseller recounting the horrors he endured; that book inspired Charles Dickens to write Oliver Twist):

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/59127/59127-h/59127-h.htm

It wasn't just that weavers who belonged to guilds made more money – they also enjoyed more dignity in their workplaces, because those workplaces were their homes. Textiles were the original "cottage industries," in that it was done in cottages, by families who set their own pace, enjoying amiable conversation or companionable silence.

These weavers could go to the bathroom when they wanted, eat when they wanted, take a break and walk around outside when the weather was fine.

This is in stark contrast to life in the dark, Satanic mills, where foremen watched over every movement, engaging in a kind of meanspirited choreography that treated the worker as an inferior adjunct to the machine, to be fit to its workings and worked to its tireless schedule.

The Luddites had some technical critiques of the machines – they argued, correctly, that those early machines turned out inferior products that fit poorly and degraded quickly. But even if the machines had produced textiles to match the hand-looms, the Luddites' real anger wasn't over what the machines did – it was over who the machines did it to and who they did it for.

I've written that "Science Fiction is a Luddite literature" – it's a narrative form that can go beyond describing what a machine does, to demanding that we rethink who it does it for and who it does it to. Not all sf does this, but at its best, this is secret sauce that makes sf such a radical form, one that insists that while the machines' functioning may be deterministic, their social arrangements are up to us:

https://locusmag.com/2022/01/cory-doctorow-science-fiction-is-a-luddite-literature/

That's what happens when you mix Luddism with SF – but what happens when you mix it with fantasy? I think you get steampunk.

Steampunk has many different valences, but central to the project is an imaginary world where people engaged in craft labor (lone mad scientists, say) are able to produce high-tech goods that are more associated with factories. I think it's no coincidence that steampunk took root during the first surge of "peer-based commons production" – when craft workers were producing whole operating systems and encyclopedias from their "cottages":

https://makezine.com/article/maker-news/make-free-love-the-machine-hate-the-factory/

These modern craft workers were living the steampunk fantasy, so beautifully summed up in the motto for Magpie Killjoy's Steampunk Magazine: "Love the Machine, Hate the Factory."

https://firestorm.coop/products/2624-steampunk-magazine.html

But then came the second decade of the 21st century, and now the third, and with it, the rise of something very much like the opposite of that steampunk fantasy: a new form of craft labor where the factory is inside the cottage – where an app is your boss, and "work from home" becomes "live at work."

As with all forms of technological oppression, this movement followed the "Shitty Technology Adoption Curve," starting with people with little social clout and working its way up the privilege gradient to entangle a widening proportion of workers.

Among the first people to experience this was the predominantly Black, predominantly female employees of Arise, a work-from-home call center business that pretends that its employees are small businesses themselves, and so charges them to get trained for each new client, then fines them if they want to quit:

https://pluralistic.net/2020/10/02/chickenized-by-arise/#arise

In Amazon warehouses and delivery vans, we saw the rise of "chickenized reverse-centaurs" – these are workers who must pay for their own work equipment (as with poultry farmers captured by processing monopolists, hence "chickenized"). They are also paired with digital technology (something automation theorists call a "centaur") but the technology bosses them around, rather than supporting them. The machine is the centaur's head and the worker is its body (thus, "reverse-centaur"):

https://pluralistic.net/2021/03/19/the-shakedown/#weird-flex

The pandemic lockdowns saw an explosion in the use of bossware, technology that monitors your every keystroke, every click, every URL, every file, even the video and audio from the cameras and mics on your devices, whether or not you pay for those devices.

This is the second coming of Taylorism, the fine-grained, high-handed "scientific" micromanagement of factory workers, transposed to the home, and integrated with sensors that track you down to your eyeballs:

https://pluralistic.net/2022/08/21/great-taylors-ghost/#solidarity-or-bust

Truly, this is the worst of all worlds. We increasingly work for large, distributed factories, and unlike the big companies of the post-New Deal era, we don't have unions and progressive regulators who can force these big businesses to share the wealth in the form of the "large firm wage premium."

Instead, we have craft labor at sweatshop wages, under factory conditions, in our own homes and cars. This needn't be: digital technologies are powerful labor-organizing tools (potentially), but that's not how we've decided to use them:

https://pluralistic.net/2022/12/02/not-what-it-does/#who-it-does-it-to

As the radical message of sf tells us, that's a choice, not an inevitability. We aren't prisoners of technology. We can seize the means of computation. It starts by being less concerned with what the machine does, and homing in on who it does it for and who it does it to.

Here's this week's podcast episode:

https://craphound.com/news/2023/03/19/gig-work-is-the-opposite-of-steampunk/

And here's a direct link to download the MP3 (hosting courtesy of the Internet Archive; they'll host your media for free, forever):

https://archive.org/download/Cory_Doctorow_Podcast_440/Cory_Doctorow_Podcast_440_-_Gig_Work_Is_the_Opposite_of_Steampunk.mp3

Here's the direct feed to subscribe to my podcast:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/doctorow_podcast

And here's the original "Gig Work Is the Opposite of Steampunk" article on Medium:

https://doctorow.medium.com/gig-work-is-the-opposite-of-steampunk-463e2730ef0d

(Image: Cryteria, CC BY 3.0, modified)


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This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Revolution is Not an AOL Keyword https://web.archive.org/web/20030322155720/http://journalism.berkeley.edu/projects/biplog/archive/000748.html

#20yrsago United Way will provide cheap WiFi and PCs to poor people in Philly https://web.archive.org/web/20050316131603/www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=7404562

#20yrsago Indigineous prior-art database to fight bio-piracy https://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/2858253.stm

#20yrsago Disney parks are no-fly zones https://www.cnn.com/2003/TRAVEL/03/18/airspace.restrictions/

#20yrsago MIT Press takes gutsy fair use stand https://web.archive.org/web/20030313230051/https://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/lessig/blog/archives/2003_03.shtml

#15yrsago Every issue of Elfquest free — oldest independent comic goes online https://web.archive.org/web/20080319195133/https://elfquest.com/gallery/OnlineComics3.html

#15ysago Permanent Vacation: two PCs endlessly bouncing vacation autoresponders to each other https://web.archive.org/web/20080324013042/http://www.vvork.com/?p=6382

#15yrsago How mortgage-derviatives tanked the economy https://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/19/business/19leonhardt.html

#15yrsago State Department employees canned for snooping in Obama’s passport records https://web.archive.org/web/20080322110151/http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23736254/

#15yrsago CEO of subprime mortgage broker fined $29,000 for dropping 73 f-bombs during deposition https://web.archive.org/web/20080322102326/https://consumerist.com/370052/htfc-mortgage-company-ceo-has-a-potty-mouth

#10yrsago Canadian government trying to launder secret copyright treaties into law https://web.archive.org/web/20130323151506/http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/6812/125

#10yrsago Is it worth spending half your profits “fighting piracy”? https://www.techdirt.com/2013/03/19/indie-film-distributor-spends-half-her-profits-sending-dmca-takedowns-is-it-worth-it/

#10yrsago Ray Bradbury’s fan letter to Robert A Heinlein https://www.flavorwire.com/377707/10-illuminating-fan-letters-from-famous-authors-to-famous-authors

#10yrsago HTML5’s overseer says DRM’s true purpose is to prevent legal forms of innovation https://memex.craphound.com/2013/03/20/html5s-overseer-says-drms-true-purpose-is-to-prevent-legal-forms-of-innovation/

#10yrsago Heinlein on Kirtsaeng https://memex.craphound.com/2013/03/19/heinlein-on-kirtsaeng/

#10yrsago My talk on copyright, ebooks and libraries for the Library of Congress https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZFg-uq5zBA

#10yrsago Supreme Court to Wiley publishers: your bananas theory of copyright is wrong https://yro.slashdot.org/story/13/03/19/154223/supreme-court-upholds-first-sale-doctrine

#10yrsago More on the impact of UK press regulation on blogs, websites, tweeters, and social media https://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/mar/19/bloggers-libel-fines-press-regulation

#10yrsago Brian Krebs talks to hacker who may have SWATted him and attacked Wired’s Mat Honan https://krebsonsecurity.com/2013/03/the-obscurest-epoch-is-today/

#10yrsago In-depth explanation of EFF’s courtroom victory over the FBI’s “National Security Letters” https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/03/depth-judge-illstons-remarkable-order-striking-down-nsl-statute

#10yrsago Tavi “Style Rookie” Gevison on strong female characters and being a young feminist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6osiBvQ-RRg

#10yrsago Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom read-aloud part 01 https://ia903200.us.archive.org/8/items/Cory_Doctorow_Podcast_242/Cory_Doctorow_Podcast_242_Down_and_Out_in_the_Magic_Kingdom_01.mp3

#10yrsago Casino cheats used house CCTVs to score $32M https://web.archive.org/web/20130409190838/https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/crown-casino-hi-tech-scam-nets-32-million/story-fnat79vb-1226597666337

#10yrsago Minimalist Parenting: Getting Things Done meets childrearing https://memex.craphound.com/2013/03/19/minimalist-parenting-getting-things-done-meets-childrearing/

#10yrsago Oklahoma Republicans are tearing themselves apart as they confront the economic wreckage of their policies https://apnews.com/article/us-news-ap-top-news-elections-oklahoma-politics-f058811fa1fb4bf68a34e3c243a14a6f

#5yrsago People are stashing irrevocable child porn links, dox, copyright infringement, and leaked state secrets in the blockchain https://fc18.ifca.ai/preproceedings/6.pdf

#5yrsago GPS routing increases city throughput by shifting traffic jams onto residential streets https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7795614

#5yrsago Machine learning has a reproducibility crisis https://petewarden.com/2018/03/19/the-machine-learning-reproducibility-crisis/

#5yrsago More than a decade’s worth of Facebook catastrophes https://techcrunch.com/2018/03/18/move-fast-and-fake-things/

#5yrsago For Goldman Sachs execs, momentarily working for the government means hundreds of millions in tax savings https://nypost.com/2018/03/18/why-goldman-sachs-alums-go-into-government/

#5yrsago Now that public companies must publish the CEO-median worker wage ratio, cities and states can tax the most unequal firms https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/mar/18/america-ceo-worker-pay-gap-new-data-what-can-we-do

#5yrsago Marx’s birthplace celebrates his bicentennial with Communist traffic-lights https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43470315

#5yrsago Chinese surveillance/tech giant Alibaba joins ALEC, will start co-authoring US legislation https://theintercept.com/2018/03/20/alibaba-chinese-corporation-alibaba-joins-group-ghostwriting-american-laws/

#5yrsago The future legal shenanigans that will shift liability for pedestrian fatalities involving self-driving Ubers https://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2018/03/test-case.html

#5yrsago Alabama Sheriff legally appropriated $750K from prison meal budgets to build himself a beach house, locked up his whistleblowing gardener https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/03/14/593204274/alabama-sheriff-legally-took-750-000-meant-to-feed-inmates-bought-beach-house

#5yrsago 1.7 million viewers tuned into Bernie Sanders’ Inequality Town Hall webcast https://www.huffpost.com/entry/bernie-sanders-economic-inequality-town-hall-million-viewers_n_5ab08fb6e4b0e862383ab6b4

#5yrsago Billionaire Cartier boss returns from fishing holiday gripped with terror that the poors are going to start building guillotines https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-08/billionaire-cartier-owner-sees-wealth-gap-fueling-social-unrest

#5yrsago Why no one has made a tool to turn off Facebook oversharing https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/why-we-didnt-make-fix-my-facebook-privacy-settings-tool

#5yrsago Just because Cambridge Analytica tells its customers it can sway elections, it doesn’t follow that they’re any good at it https://www.wired.com/story/the-noisy-fallacies-of-psychographic-targeting/

#5yrsago RIP Anna Campbell, a British woman who joined an all-woman Kurdish Protection Unit in Syria https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/19/briton-anna-campbell-killed-fighting-kurdisharmed-unit-syria/

#5yrsago A recipe for the deliberately obscured task of changing your Facebook settings to opt out of “platform” sharing https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/how-change-your-facebook-settings-opt-out-platform-api-sharing

#5yrsago Sara Varon’s New Shoes: a kids’ buddy story about the jungles of Guyana and redemption https://memex.craphound.com/2018/03/20/sara-varons-new-shoes-a-kids-buddy-story-about-the-jungles-of-guyana-and-redemption/

#1yrago Kathe Koja's Dark Factory: Taking Bohemia seriously https://pluralistic.net/2022/03/20/a-walk-in-the-park/#all-night-party-people



Colophon (permalink)

Currently writing:

  • Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. Yesterday's progress: 528 words (114876 words total)

  • The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW

  • A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

  • Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. ON SUBMISSION

  • Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. ON SUBMISSION

Latest podcast: Gig Work is the Opposite of Steampunk https://craphound.com/news/2023/03/19/gig-work-is-the-opposite-of-steampunk/

Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

Latest books:

Upcoming books:

  • Red Team Blues: "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books, April 2023

  • The Internet Con: A nonfiction book about interoperability and Big Tech, Verso, September 2023

  • The Lost Cause: a post-Green New Deal eco-topian novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias, Tor Books, November 2023


This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net.

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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla

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For most of last year, I worked on and promoted my New York Times bestselling (I’m gonna keep leaning into that until it gets super obnoxious, and then keep going to a little bit) memoir, Still Just A Geek. A huge part of my story is my survival of child abuse and exploitation, living with CPTSD and the depression and anxiety that accompany it.

So it follows that for most of last year, I was picking at a barely-healed wound. When the promotion cycle wrapped up, I gave myself permission to just withdraw from public life as much as I wanted and needed to, so I could rest and regain my hit points. While I was resting, that wound I’d been picking at got infected and made me … not extremely sick, but sicker than I’ve felt in a long long time. So I did what you do when you’re sick: I went to the doctor, and I’ve been doing the work every day to get better.

We got the infection cleaned up, but the wound is still there. It’ll probably be there for the rest of my life, so I’m doing the work to heal it, let the scab do its thing, and eventually become a scar that I can’t feel. I can look at it and know that it represents all the work I’ve done to heal myself.

I haven’t wanted to talk about this at all because all those months of being vulnerable in public, revisiting the most painful and traumatic moments of my life, was a lot. I needed and deserve quiet, private time for myself to recover.

All of that is to give some context to what I’m about to share with you.

Last night, Anne and I went to the fancy premiere of Star Trek Picard’s final season at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Before the screening began, after we were all settled into our seats, Terry Matalas and Alex Kurtzman introduced the show, thanked the cast and crew, and turned the spotlight over to Patrick. He spoke lovingly and beautifully about the entire experience, in that Patrick Stewart way we all love.

As he was wrapping up his remarks, he said, “I would like to ask the cast who are here to please stand up,” so they could also be celebrated.

I remembered how humiliating it was, how much it hurt, those times Rick Berman deliberately left me seated while everyone else was standing up, those times Rick Berman made me feel exactly the way my father made me feel: unwelcome, unworthy, invisible. Not a great feeling.

But last night wasn’t about me. Yes, I have a wonderful cameo in season two, but I’m not in season three. And last night was about season three. It was about celebrating my family, who all came together for what is likely their final mission together. So I was happy to stay in my seat while they started to stand up. I clapped so hard my hands are still vibrating this morning. I applauded not just their work on this season, but everything they’ve given to Star Trek for over thirty years. I celebrated the absolute hell out of my family. And while I was doing this, I looked across the aisle at Frakes and clapped at/for him.

We made eye contact, and he gave me this incredulous look. “Why are you sitting down? Stand up, W!” He said.

So I did, and he applauded me, and I may have wept just a little bit. Or maybe a lot. I can’t remember. I was so grateful to be included in the moment by the man who I wish was my father, who loves me and sees me like my own parents never did.

My dad never made an effort to get to know me. It’s a choice he made, not some personality quirk, because he put a lot of effort into knowing and loving my brother and sister. My mom has gaslighted me about his abuse and bullying my whole life, forcing me to apologize to him when he hurt me. For a long time, I believed her lies and even tried hating myself as much as he hates me, hoping maybe then he would see and love and care about me. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.)

A significant part of the pain I feel and the healing I continue to work on, is that awful black hole in my life where my father’s love should be. I’ve spent so much time there, I know more about it than anyone, certainly more than my manipulative, selfish, drunk of a mother who insists it doesn’t exist. I absolutely know my memories and my feelings and everything my dad chose to withhold from me are real, because I never once in my 50 years on this planet felt loved and accepted by my dad the way I felt and feel loved and accepted by Frakes. He’s always been there for me. He’s always made sure that I know I am part of a family, something my birth parents never bothered to do.

Later, at the after party, as I was saying goodnight, he said, “What were you doing, sitting down?”

“This whole thing tonight isn’t about me. It’s about you guys,” I said.

“No,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder, “this is about us.”

I felt so seen, so loved … and had to take a deep breath to force the tears back, and I said, “Thank you for including me, Johnny. You are the best dad I never got to have.”

And we hugged each other, and he told me that he loves me, and I told him that I love him back.

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cjhubbs
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So beautiful.
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leiter420
492 days ago
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This is beautiful

Pluralistic: Why the Fed wants to crush workers (19 Jan 2023)

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A vintage postcard illustration of the Federal Reserve building in Washington, DC. The building is spattered with blood. In the foreground is a medieval woodcut of a physician bleeding a woman into a bowl while another woman holds a bowl to catch the blood. The physician's head has been replaced with that of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

Why the Fed wants to crush workers (permalink)

The US Federal Reserve has two imperatives: keeping employment high and inflation low. But when these come into conflict – when unemployment falls to near-zero – the Fed forgets all about full employment and cranks up interest rates to "cool the economy" (that is, "to destroy jobs and increase unemployment").

An economy "cools down" when workers have less money, which means that the prices offered for goods and services go down, as fewer workers have less money to spend. As with every macroeconomic policy, raising interest rates has "distributional effects," which is economist-speak for "winners and losers."

Predicting who wins and who loses when interest rates go up requires that we understand the economic relations between different kinds of rich people, as well as relations between rich people and working people. Writing today for The American Prospect's superb Great Inflation Myths series, Gerald Epstein and Aaron Medlin break it down:

https://prospect.org/economy/2023-01-19-inflation-federal-reserve-protects-one-percent/

Recall that the Fed has two priorities: full employment and low interest rates. But when it weighs these priorities, it does so through "finance colored" glasses: as an institution, the Fed requires help from banks to carry out its policies, while Fed employees rely on those banks for cushy, high-paid jobs when they rotate out of public service.

Inflation is bad for banks, whose fortunes rise and fall based on the value of the interest payments they collect from debtors. When the value of the dollar declines, lenders lose and borrowers win. Think of it this way: say you borrow $10,000 to buy a car, at a moment when $10k is two months' wages for the average US worker. Then inflation hits: prices go up, workers demand higher pay to keep pace, and a couple years later, $10k is one month's wages.

If your wages kept pace with inflation, you're now getting twice as many dollars as you were when you took out the loan. Don't get too excited: these dollars buy the same quantity of goods as your pre-inflation salary. However, the share of your income that's eaten by that monthly car-loan payment has been cut in half. You just got a real-terms 50% discount on your car loan!

Inflation is great news for borrowers, bad news for lenders, and any given financial institution is more likely to be a lender than a borrower. The finance sector is the creditor sector, and the Fed is institutionally and personally loyal to the finance sector. When creditors and debtors have opposing interests, the Fed helps creditors win.

The US is a debtor nation. Not the national debt – federal debt and deficits are just scorekeeping. The US government spends money into existence and taxes it out of existence, every single day. If the USG has a deficit, that means it spent more than than it taxed, which is another way of saying that it left more dollars in the economy this year than it took out of it. If the US runs a "balanced budget," then every dollar that was created this year was matched by another dollar that was annihilated. If the US runs a "surplus," then there are fewer dollars left for us to use than there were at the start of the year.

The US debt that matters isn't the federal debt, it's the private sector's debt. Your debt and mine. We are a debtor nation. Half of Americans have less than $400 in the bank.

https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/personal-finance/articles/49-of-americans-couldnt-cover-a-400-emergency-expense-today-up-from-32-in-november/

Most Americans have little to no retirement savings. Decades of wage stagnation has left Americans with less buying power, and the economy has been running on consumer debt for a generation. Meanwhile, working Americans have been burdened with forms of inflation the Fed doesn't give a shit about, like skyrocketing costs for housing and higher education.

When politicians jawbone about "inflation," they're talking about the inflation that matters to creditors. Debtors – the bottom 90% – have been burdened with three decades' worth of steadily mounting inflation that no one talks about. Yesterday, the Prospect ran Nancy Folbre's outstanding piece on "care inflation" – the skyrocketing costs of day-care, nursing homes, eldercare, etc:

https://prospect.org/economy/2023-01-18-inflation-unfair-costs-of-care/

As Folbre wrote, these costs are doubly burdensome, because they fall on family members (almost entirely women), who have to sacrifice their own earning potential to care for children, or aging people, or disabled family members. The cost of care has increased every year since 1997:

https://pluralistic.net/2023/01/18/wages-for-housework/#low-wage-workers-vs-poor-consumers

So while politicians and economists talk about rescuing "savers" from having their nest-eggs whittled away by inflation, these savers represent a minuscule and dwindling proportion of the public. The real beneficiaries of interest rate hikes isn't savers, it's lenders.

Full employment is bad for the wealthy. When everyone has a job, wages go up, because bosses can't threaten workers with "exile to the reserve army of the unemployed." If workers are afraid of ending up jobless and homeless, then executives seeking to increase their own firms' profits can shift money from workers to shareholders without their workers quitting (and if the workers do quit, there are plenty more desperate for their jobs).

What's more, those same executives own huge portfolios of "financialized" assets – that is, they own claims on the interest payments that borrowers in the economy pay to creditors.

The purpose of raising interest rates is to "cool the economy," a euphemism for increasing unemployment and reducing wages. Fighting inflation helps creditors and hurts debtors. The same people who benefit from increased unemployment also benefit from low inflation.

Thus: "the current Fed policy of rapidly raising interest rates to fight inflation by throwing people out of work serves as a wealth protection device for the top one percent."

Now, it's also true that high interest rates tend to tank the stock market, and rich people also own a lot of stock. This is where it's important to draw distinctions within the capital class: the merely rich do things for a living (and thus care about companies' productive capacity), while the super-rich own things for a living, and care about debt service.

Epstein and Medlin are economists at UMass Amherst, and they built a model that looks at the distributional outcomes (that is, the winners and losers) from interest rate hikes, using data from 40 years' worth of Fed rate hikes:

https://peri.umass.edu/images/Medlin_Epstein_PERI_inflation_conf_WP.pdf

They concluded that "The net impact of the Fed’s restrictive monetary policy on the wealth of the top one percent depends on the timing and balance of [lower inflation and higher interest]. It turns out that in recent decades the outcome has, on balance, worked out quite well for the wealthy."

How well? "Without intervention by the Fed, a 6 percent acceleration of inflation would erode their wealth by around 30 percent in real terms after three years…when the Fed intervenes with an aggressive tightening, the 1%'s wealth only declines about 16 percent after three years. That is a 14 percent net gain in real terms."

This is why you see a split between the one-percenters and the ten-percenters in whether the Fed should continue to jack interest rates up. For the 1%, inflation hikes produce massive, long term gains. For the 10%, those gains are smaller and take longer to materialize.

Meanwhile, when there is mass unemployment, both groups benefit from lower wages and are happy to keep interest rates at zero, a rate that (in the absence of a wealth tax) creates massive asset bubbles that drive up the value of houses, stocks and other things that rich people own lots more of than everyone else.

This explains a lot about the current enthusiasm for high interest rates, despite high interest rates' ability to cause inflation, as Joseph Stiglitz and Ira Regmi wrote in their recent Roosevelt Institute paper:

https://rooseveltinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/RI_CausesofandResponsestoTodaysInflation_Report_202212.pdf

The two esteemed economists compared interest rate hikes to medieval bloodletting, where "doctors" did "more of the same when their therapy failed until the patient either had a miraculous recovery (for which the bloodletters took credit) or died (which was more likely)."

As they document, workers today aren't recreating the dread "wage-price spiral" of the 1970s: despite low levels of unemployment, workers wages still aren't keeping up with inflation. Inflation itself is falling, for the fairly obvious reason that covid supply-chain shocks are dwindling and substitutes for Russian gas are coming online.

Economic activity is "largely below trend," and with healthy levels of sales in "non-traded goods" (imports), meaning that the stuff that American workers are consuming isn't coming out of America's pool of resources or manufactured goods, and that spending is leaving the US economy, rather than contributing to an American firm's buying power.

Despite this, the Fed has a substantial cheering section for continued interest rates, composed of the ultra-rich and their lickspittle Renfields. While the specifics are quite modern, the underlying dynamic is as old as civilization itself.

Historian Michael Hudson specializes in the role that debt and credit played in different societies. As he's written, ancient civilizations long ago discovered that without periodic debt cancellation, an ever larger share of a societies' productive capacity gets diverted to the whims of a small elite of lenders, until civilization itself collapses:

https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2022/07/michael-hudson-from-junk-economics-to-a-false-view-of-history-where-western-civilization-took-a-wrong-turn.html

Here's how that dynamic goes: to produce things, you need inputs. Farmers need seed, fertilizer, and farm-hands to produce crops. Crucially, you need to acquire these inputs before the crops come in – which means you need to be able to buy inputs before you sell the crops. You have to borrow.

In good years, this works out fine. You borrow money, buy your inputs, produce and sell your goods, and repay the debt. But even the best-prepared producer can get a bad beat: floods, droughts, blights, pandemics…Play the game long enough and eventually you'll find yourself unable to repay the debt.

In the next round, you go into things owing more money than you can cover, even if you have a bumper crop. You sell your crop, pay as much of the debt as you can, and go into the next season having to borrow more on top of the overhang from the last crisis. This continues over time, until you get another crisis, which you have no reserves to cover because they've all been eaten up paying off the last crisis. You go further into debt.

Over the long run, this dynamic produces a society of creditors whose wealth increases every year, who can make coercive claims on the productive labor of everyone else, who not only owes them money, but will owe even more as a result of doing the work that is demanded of them.

Successful ancient civilizations fought this with Jubilee: periodic festivals of debt-forgiveness, which were announced when new monarchs assumed their thrones, or after successful wars, or just whenever the creditor class was getting too powerful and threatened the crown.

Of course, creditors hated this and fought it bitterly, just as our modern one-percenters do. When rulers managed to hold them at bay, their nations prospered. But when creditors captured the state and abolished Jubilee, as happened in ancient Rome, the state collapsed:

https://pluralistic.net/2022/07/08/jubilant/#construire-des-passerelles

Are we speedrunning the collapse of Rome? It's not for me to say, but I strongly recommend reading Margaret Coker's in-depth Propublica investigation on how title lenders (loansharks that hit desperate, low-income borrowers with triple-digit interest loans) fired any employee who explained to a borrower that they needed to make more than the minimum payment, or they'd never pay off their debts:

https://www.propublica.org/article/inside-sales-practices-of-biggest-title-lender-in-us


Hey look at this (permalink)



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This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Robbie Williams: “‘Piracy’ is great” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/2673983.stm

#15yrsago Florida school board approves McDonald’s report-cards and school-bus audio ads https://web.archive.org/web/20080121065543/https://consumerist.com/346745/bus-radio-advertises-to-school+bound-kids

#15yrsago World of Warcraft limits your wealth to 2^31 copper https://web.archive.org/web/20080117214357/http://www.wowinsider.com/2008/01/16/apparently-you-can-have-too-much-gold/

#10yrsago How the vile Daily Mail handles Creative Commons licenses https://memex.craphound.com/2013/01/19/how-the-vile-daily-mail-handles-creative-commons-licenses/

#5yrsago Trump’s “consumer protection bureau” will let the $50B payday lending industry gouge the poorest Americans with triple-digit interest rates https://www.latimes.com/business/lazarus/la-fi-lazarus-cfpb-payday-lenders-20180119-story.html

#5yrsago The Republican candidate for Pennsylvania’s 18th District is a torture advocate who worked at Abu Ghraib https://theintercept.com/2018/01/19/gop-candidate-for-pennsylvania-special-election-is-a-former-abu-ghraib-interrogation-consultant/

#5yrsago It’s Poe’s birthday, so here’s Neil Gaiman reading The Raven https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jSHKPp-66w

#5yrsago America’s large hospital chains will start manufacturing generic drugs in order to beat shkrelic price-gouging https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/01/peeved-by-price-gouging-and-shortages-hospitals-will-now-make-their-own-drugs/



Colophon (permalink)

Currently writing:

  • Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. Yesterday's progress: 523 words (96026 words total)

  • The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW

  • A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

  • The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. REVISIONS COMPLETE – AWAITING COPYEDIT

  • Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. ON SUBMISSION

  • Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. ON SUBMISSION

  • A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED

  • A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: Daddy-Daughter Podcast, 2022 Edition https://craphound.com/podcast/2022/12/12/daddy-daughter-podcast-2022-edition/

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Upcoming books:

  • Red Team Blues: "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books, April 2023

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cjheinz
514 days ago
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Jubilee!
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