Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Les classes dangereuses"

Back in the early to mid-nineteenth century Paris, the bourgeoisie considered the lower classes to be most associated with criminals. Poverty and crime go hand in hand, so the thought went, and all those of the lower orders were considered, through this piece of logic, to be considered the Dangerous Classes.

Dangerous to whom?

In the agrarian ages, the dangerous classes were the peasantry, the landless laborers, the tenant farmers. In the early era of manufacture, the dangerous classes became the vagabond mechanics and displaced cottage artisans forced into the cities. In the heavy industrial age, the laborers in the factories became dangerous. Now, in the information age, the middle class, thrown into a precarious state, dispossessed of stable careers, is dangerous. And in the post-information age? In an era of intelligent (or at least highly skilled) robots and computers, will the upper middle class, the professionals, the degreed, the certified, the accredited,  join the ranks of the dangerous?

Are you seeing a commonality here? Marx would have called it "human capital". The danger element is that the people who actually do all the fucking work, when deprived of this activity, can get into all sorts of mischief.

The dangerous ones are the indispensable ones. Not individually indispensable, mind you, but as a class (unless and until you get the robots up and running) the ones who, surprise!, don't need any supervision to do their fucking job. And in the triumphalist Cold War victory message, that central planning doesn't work, that distributed, egalitarian, collective wisdom seems to work just fine all on its own without a planner, without a manager, without a director, without a chief executive officer, what are we to take from that?

The only reason to have a financier, a venture capitalist, an entrepreneur, is not for their vision, not for their directives, not for their goals, or priorities, or agendas, but quite simply, for their monies?

"Give us your monies, shut the fuck up, stand aside out of the way and from underfoot, and we will make you some more monies, motherfucker".

That's dangerous. That's a genie not following orders. That's a Titan unbound. That's a team of wild horses. That's a rogue monster, unchained, unleashed, unpredictable.

We are told, by the greasy advertisers and slick-as-spit public relations dweebs, that the natural order is for the rich to be self-servingly enlightened, and by doing so, create jobs for the rest of us. We, the idled layabouts, who, left to our own devices, would no doubt drown face down in the mud for lack of effort or thought to turn ourselves upright. These wonderful job creators provide all and everything that allow the dangerous to be productive and good and worthy as members of society.Wow, the only logical response to that is...

Fuck you.

Funny thing is, it's all about rules in the game, isn't it? As Duncan Watts argues in "Everything is Obvious Once You Know the Answer":

"...arguments about the so-called redistribution of wealth are mistaken in assuming that the existing distribution is somehow the natural state of things, from which any deviation is unnatural, and hence morally undesirable. In reality, every distribution of wealth reflects a particular set of choices that a society has made: to value some skills over others, to tax and prohibit some activities while subsidizing or encouraging other activities; and to enforce some rules while allowing other rules to sit on the books, or to be violated in spirit. All these choices can have considerable ramifications for who gets rich and who doesn't... but there is nothing "natural" about any of these choices, which are every bit a product of historical accident, political expediency, and corporate lobbying as they are of economic rationality or social desirability."
One thing that should be taken from all this is that solutions are dynamic. All targets are moving targets.

And those defenders of the status quo and the ruling class, by remaining inflexible, unbending in their support and beliefs, by standing still in the way of events, are, if history is any guide, sure to come to ruin.

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