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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Computers, Unemployment and Wealth Creation 948

Andy Oram writes "Anyone who writes programs or plans system deployment should start thinking, "What can I do to bring average people back into the process of wealth creation?" A few suggestions."
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Computers, Unemployment and Wealth Creation

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:47AM (#7085220)
    You need a printer with very good resolution for that.
    • Re:wealth creation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by B'Trey ( 111263 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:08PM (#7085469)
      Actually, printing money is the only way that the suggestions in the article are going to work. Given that you accept all of the premises, the suggested solutions are likely to prove counter-productive:

      Write free software for individual industries

      The increased productivity caused by computers is one of the reasons cited for rising unemployment rates. Isn't this new software likely to replace efforts now being done by hand and make the situation worse, not better?

      Create a truly public key infrastructure ... People have been trying to get corporate communications and negotiations online for years, and probably the biggest beneficiaries of such a move would be small businesses and individual contractors. After all, who finds it hardest to pay travel costs and conference room fees for expensive legal help?

      Assuming that we did manage to get corporate communications online, what happens to the current infrastructure that grew up to support widespread business travel? Airlines, hotels, etc.

      The argument is that increased productivity causes unemployment, therefore we need to increase productivity so that small businesses can function more efficiently and cut costs, thus paving the way for more small businesses. I don't think you can have it both ways. Increased productivity can't be both our bane and our salvation.
      • Re:wealth creation (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mengel ( 13619 ) <mengel.users@sourceforge@net> on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:22PM (#7085589) Homepage Journal
        Well, take for example the fact that most restaurants go out of business in the first few months. Often this isn't because the food is so bad at the restaurant, it's because the folks running the restaurant know how to cook, but not how to do accounting and run a business.

        If there was a software package that helped restaurants with inventory, ordering, advertising, etc. that helped them get the business end right, that would keep more waiters, cooks, etc. employed more of the time.

        This is probably true for lots of small businesses; if there was an open-source software solution that helped you run the business effectively, lots more people could get a business of that type up and running, and keep it running.

        • Re:wealth creation (Score:4, Insightful)

          by B'Trey ( 111263 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:41PM (#7085821)

          If there was a software package that helped restaurants with inventory, ordering, advertising, etc. that helped them get the business end right...

          There are. A great many of them. And yes, they're somewhat expensive but they aren't a significant percentage of the start-up cost of a restaurant - the real estate, the appliances and the supplies cost much more. Restaurants are high turn-over businesses. Most of them will fail, and no amount of software will change that.
        • Re:wealth creation (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cybermage ( 112274 )
          Often this isn't because the food is so bad at the restaurant, it's because the folks running the restaurant know how to cook, but not how to do accounting and run a business.

          This is true of most businesses. People start businesses because they know how to produce whatever the business produces. The reason they fail is that many of them don't know how to run a business.

          While tools could be created to help people run a business, if they don't know how, they don't know how.

          Also, keep in mind that most bus
    • Gee whiz, why can't anyone figure this out?

      Historically, industrial revolutions have reduced the average workweek by 15-20%. Damn, for the geeks here, you can model the macro-economy as two linear equations like this -

      Each person has 112 waking hours ( 16 hours x 7 days ), on average.

      That time is spent consuming (C) or producing (P) products. So C + P = 112.

      Using the 40-hour workweek as a base, we have
      40 X rateOfP = ( 112 - 40 ) X rateofC.

      Got it?
      What happens as rateofP increases?

      As productivity inc
  • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:50AM (#7085262)
    This seems like a ridiculous suggestion. This is essentially backwards capitalism, which quite simply, doesn't work. I could create plenty of jobs... I could throw out my business' computers and instead hire a few people to track inventory by hand and place orders by manually counting inventory. Sure, I'd create more jobs, but those jobs would be very short lived, ebcause I'd quickly go out of business. Efficiency, in the long run, *does* produce wealth. That's how capitalism works. We may not see "wealth" growing in the US, but in the economy (which is now a world economy), wealth is most definitely being created. Standards of living are rising exponentially around the globe, even as they slip in the US. Nothing's broken. Nothing to see here. Go back to work.
    • Know the point isn't replacing current business it is augmenting them. Wealth creation by having more processes active.
      In a global economy should there be an industrial approach for all markets.
      Is it McDonalds world wide
      or is it each local restaurant having the technology to minimise its costs to compete with the industrial produced goods. To have communication systems to purchase at best cost up to the minute. To have the accounting and in house automation to reduce its staff to lesson its cost and incr
    • It might work; it might not. Neither model--capitalism or any kind of backward capitalism--has been proven to work, but capitalism is the rules of the system we're currently in. An issue is that it *is* the survival of the fittest, and in a capitalist world those who care and are willing to sacrifice their own needs-fulfillment for the needs-fulfillment of another should lose and die. They don't deserve, by the rules of the game, to pass on their genes.

      But it's a healthy dynamic to have those who buck

      • in a capitalist world those who care and are willing to sacrifice their own needs-fulfillment for the needs-fulfillment of another should lose and die.

        What are you talking about? In capitalism the only way to get ahead is to fulfill the needs of others, by selling them goods and services. They'll do the same for you.

        Why do you think that famine is practically unheard of in capitalist countries? It's because the farmers want to make MONEY! Why do you think that in non-capitalist countries starvation is wi
        • Famine is very common in many parts of the world, including (as an example) Africa. As far as I know, every country in Africa (bar one or two small ones, I forget which) is capitalist. So your assertion that "famine is practically unheard of in capitalist countries" is patently absurd. What you meant to say was "Why do you think that famine is practically unheard of developed western countries like the USA and UK?", the answer is that they use their world influence (obtained historically by slavery and impe
          • I'm hardly an expert at this, but my understanding is that many of the African famine countries are manufactured. Its far easier to maintain a dormant populace when you control the food. If a dictatorship that hoards all the food can be called capitalist, then at the very least we should need to include the notion of a democratic capitalist society.

            The Sahara is gradually shrinking as vegitation grows. Advances in technology and just general luck of weather over climate are likely causes. If your hypotheti
          • by pangian ( 703684 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @02:29PM (#7086962)
            It's worth noting that there has never been a famine in a democracy.
            [source: Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen in Development as Freedom [amazon.com]]

            Correlation or causation? You be the judge, but Sen makes a pretty good case for the latter.
    • I also found it strange that the author was so sure that today's job market problems were entirely caused by efficiency increases:

      The gigantic combine of capitalism has always obsessively pursued efficiency, and computers make the pursuit almost child play. Capitalism has succeeded in sowing a cornucopia of innovation up and down society. But capitalism is atrocious at distributing the fruits of innovation. Each labor-saving device means the idling of thousands of people, wasting their years of experienc

    • Efficiency, in the long run, *does* produce wealth. That's how capitalism works.

      You oversimplify quite a bit . . . capitalism by its nature requires competition, which means massive duplication of effort. Additionally, it requires both "winners" and "losers" . . . the "winners" experience the wealth creation you're tooting about, and the "losers" do not.

      Another unfortunate consequence of capitalism: since it uses "creating wealth" as a proxy for "productivity", you end up with lots and lots of people "cre

    • There is no suggestion in the article that suggests that the decision is between jobs and efficiencey. The article is suggesting that the tools necessary for efficiency be made available to those who have the ideas and abilities to create wealth but do not currently have access to the neccessary wealth to access the tools neccessary for thier business to efficiently compete in the market place.

      The current mode of our capitolism (in the US and most likely elsewhere) does not place the advantage in the hand
    • I live and work in the Middle East, where the way things work in general astonished me when I first arrived from the UK - in the West it's efficient to introduce automated procedures and use computers. In many cases here, it's actually far cheaper to use people for jobs that computers would do in the West. In many cases computers would actually do the job far better, but when a year's salary is less than the price of a computer solution, things will stay as they are! At some point it'll become more profi
  • by stomv ( 80392 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:50AM (#7085263) Homepage
    Make as much money as you can*, and then use it to do some of:

    (a) Buy stuff. Other folks are employed making it or serving it.

    (b) Invest. This results in capital for businesses to hire more people employed making or serving stuff.

    This method works. Simple, really.

    * Within ethical and/or legal standards, of course.
    • by ThosLives ( 686517 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:01PM (#7085386) Journal
      Investing doesn't really give money to companies unless you:
      a) Participate in the IPO
      b) Buy bonds directly from the company during its offering

      Trading stocks with other stockholders doesn't give any money to the company. It's like trading baseball cards. Sure there are some side effects of having stock prices go up for a company, but usually a high stock price doesn't give any financial benefit to a company (except for subsequent stock issues, which don't happen that often).

      If you really want to invest in a company, buy bonds when they are issued (don't trade bonds, because trading them just gives money to the bond holder - not the company whose bond it is!).

      That said, the best form of investing in a company is to purchase their product.

      • Sure there are some side effects of having stock prices go up for a company The cost of capital springs immediately to mind. The more value your company is perceived to have, the easier and cheaper it is to borrow money.
      • Trading stocks with other stockholders doesn't give any money to the company

        Couldn't be more wrong. The concept of a share market is based on trading in shares to allow investors to realize their investment without taking their money out of the company.

        Consider the correct alternatives.

        If I want to get out of Company X (assume I was in the IPO) I have two possible alternatives.

        I can ask the company for the money back. Of course I will want to cash out the $1.00 which is the current value, not just the

    • (a) Buy stuff. Other folks are employed making it or serving it.

      This is a very popular thing to say / do. On the same reasoning the governments are proposing "tax cuts" hoping / thinking that this money will make people go out and spend it.

      In reality? I doubt it, most people are in debt, they want to get out of debt (if they are sane) and thus they will use any tax credit they get to pay back the money they owe (one might hope at least).

      This method works. Simple, really.

      Maybe, but I am just going the
  • ...as it is in its distribution.

    Techies ought to focus on how to take money from the wealthy and decrease the world's dependency on corporations, or even private companies (that later become corporations), by building cooperatives and collectives.
    • Techies ought to focus on how to take money from the wealthy and decrease the world's dependency on corporations

      Hacking bank accounts comes to mind

    • by goldspider ( 445116 ) <.ardrake79. .at. .gmail.com.> on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:13PM (#7085503) Homepage
      Not surprised to see this one modded up, given the prevailing sentiments here...

      How sad is it when people are encouraged to take other people's wealth instead of create their own?

      Why beat around the bush and just come out and suggest that everyone forks their paycheck over to the government so that they can give everyone an equal share (minus whatever government believes it is entitled to)? That's really what you're advocating, so why not come out and say it?

      • by Marc2k ( 221814 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:59PM (#7086032) Homepage Journal
        "How sad is it when people are encouraged to take other people's wealth instead of create their own?"

        How do you suggest that we 'create' money? Hmm? Press our own? Make gold from lead? The invention of money and through it capitalism rests in the laws of scarcity, as someone said. There are inherent problems with any economic system, but in any one of them, it comes down to the idea of ownership (even the disallowing of ownership acknowledges the concept fo ownership). In the case of US capitalism, each dollar is owned by someone, the simple act of wealth creation dictates in and of itself that the source be from another individual or group capable of ownership.

        Granted the original poster might have been zealous in his defamation of corporations, but when you have large groups capable of ownership, the capacity is there for them to hoard scarce resources (scarce as in limited), thus removing them from the total amount of recources available to the populace. That's bad enough, but if efficiency enables a corporation (or similarly large group) to simultaneously accumulate more resources and displace workers, you've just exacerbated the problem by increasing the pool of those in need, and decreased the pool of available resources. That can be reduced to simple algebra.

        Cry all you might that corporations will not exploit that, but look back into history, it happens all the time. Company A might hold their moral ground, but if Company B does it, their pool of resources will grow beyond Company A's, and they will eventually surpass them, if not crushing them along the way. Note that I'm not an advocate of socialism, but I am quite fed up both with the opportunism of corporate policy and with those who defend it under flimsy or false pretenses.
    • Yeah, we can invent a new economic system. We'll call it "socialism." Maybe we can try it in the old Soviet Union. Their old system collapsed and they need something different.
  • Very true (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Blaine Hilton ( 626259 ) * on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:51AM (#7085280) Homepage
    I believe this article is extremely relevant today. People need to understand that you can't just expect a job to come falling into your lap, you have to get up and find it. If there is no job, create the job you want yourself. Don't just wait and say how bad the economy is, do something about it.
  • Easy.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    education. It used to be that a four year diploma got you a good steady job for the rest of your life. Look what it gives you now: a chance to hop between jobs every two years, and a chance to compete with people who will work without airconditioning and shit in an outhouse. You gotta stay one step ahead of the competition, so I'd say education is one of them.
  • Basic economics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) * on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:53AM (#7085301)
    As the wealth of nations increases, those who have lost jobs or had to accept menial ones over the past three years are left with only a wealth of culprits to blame: financial scandals, wars, tax cuts, stagnation, etc.

    For a start, a 3-year sample isn't big enough to draw any meaningful conclusions. We're just in the down phase of the economic cycle, that's all. Smart people salted away some of the high salaries and bonuses that were easy to come by in the recent boom years, when shortness of staff drove up the price of labour. Now, some people look for blame - but it's hard to see how some of these can be blamed. Wars and conflict drive up employment in the engineering and aerospace sectors. Tax cuts can't increase unemployment except amongst government workers, and there have been no reports of government layoffs - if anything, the government is busily hiring.

    Let me make this clear: wealth is not created by governments. It's created by risk-taking entrepreneurs. Right now, the markets need to recover from excessive risk-taking in the late 90s. This is perfectly natural. When sufficient capital has become amassed, the cycle will begin again and there will be another boom.

    But capitalism is atrocious at distributing the fruits of innovation

    I was in a store the other day, I saw a 3-megapixel digital camera for GBP 99, a DVD players for GBP 49. 5 years ago, these products cost hundreds of pounds. That's what capitalism delivers: more and better for everyone. The "poor" in a capitalist society are far better off than the "poor" in any other system - and capitalism generates the surpluses that fund the entire welfare system.

    Each labor-saving device means the idling of thousands of people, wasting their years of experience, rigorous training, and practical insights.

    Yawn, they said exactly the same things when the car started to replace the horse drawn carriage, when mechanical looms replaced hand-operated looms, when automation was introduced to farming, in fact whenever any technology has revolutionized an industry. Getting laid off is always a little disconcerting (yes, it has happened to me so I know what I'm talking about) but unemployment is what you make of it.

    And meanwhile governments, businesses, venture capitalists (what are you doing with all that money your pets in Congress and the White House brought you, tails all awagging?),

    Ah, now we see the author's real agenda - I should have realized when I saw the words "tax cuts". I will merely point out that the dotcom bubble economy was created under a Democrat president and began declining in mid 2000 - there is nothing Bush or Greenspan could have done to prevent it bursting.
    • Re:Basic economics (Score:2, Interesting)

      by CowBovNeal ( 672450 )
      This was a reply to the article(http://www.oreillynet.com/cs/user/view/cs _ msg/24782)

      "the vast majority of those folks that lost their jobs over the past three years shouldn't have had a job doing what they were doing in the first place and the (lack of) success of the companies that they worked for and the "products" they produced showed that.

      The amount of fly-by-night IT "professionals" that were born in the dot-com days was retarded. And now that companies are no longer hiring just to fill slots so th
    • You are my hero.
    • Re:Basic economics (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Cyphertube ( 62291 )

      Granted, though, Greenspan played a hand in creating the bubble in the first place. When you see high purchase levels of stock with P/E ratios of 200+, it's time to bump UP the interest rate.

      Tax cuts now will not solve the problem, except to create a larger debt burden. This country, both government and populace, is debt-strapped. Also tax-cuts at the federal level often affect more directly porrer states, since federal aid tends to drop and either services drop, local taxes go up, or both. Look at how wel

  • by Ikeya ( 7401 ) <dave&kuck,net> on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:53AM (#7085303) Homepage
    I tried creating wealth with my scanner and ink-jet printer once, but the government didn't like that very much.
  • Or.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crumbz ( 41803 ) <<remove_spam>jus ... am>gmail DOT com> on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:53AM (#7085308) Homepage
    How about reducing the population? The Economist magazine had an apropo cover story a few months ago entitles, "Can the World Afford 500 Million Americans?" The article went on to explain that by 2060, the U.S. population would exceed 500 million and given current consumption trends, what that would mean for the rest of the world. Not to bash Americans, but what is the optimal population (or carrying capacity) for the Earth? A rhetorical question, sure, but one that needs more serious study than the oft neglected WHO reports.
    • Re:Or.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Doom Ihl' Varia ( 315338 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:19PM (#7085550)
      The carrying capacity of the Earth changes with technology. However, I remeber a few years back reading that based on the technology then the world could support 25 billion people. Anybody who says we are going to run out of room in the US needs to leave the city for a weekend and go for a long drive.
    • Re:Or.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Xerithane ( 13482 ) <xerithane@n e r d f a r m . o rg> on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:28PM (#7085642) Homepage Journal
      Not to bash Americans, but what is the optimal population (or carrying capacity) for the Earth? A rhetorical question, sure, but one that needs more serious study than the oft neglected WHO reports.

      You could fit 6 billion people into Texas, and it would be less densly packed than Tokyo, Japan.
      • Re:Or.... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Alric ( 58756 )
        I don't want to be melodramatic, but how happy do you think those six billion people would be.

        Take NYC, an environment more familiar to most slashdotters than Tokyo, and apply that landscape to the entire state of Texas. Maybe I'm just not a city boy, but that scenario sounds miserably depressing to me. I like being in incredibly urban environments, but only if I can get when I need to. As the urban sprawl spreads, those places of sancutary will only become more exclusive, affordable only to those with abu
  • Complete rubbish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:53AM (#7085309)
    It is just me, or is that article rubbish?

    It is not my goal to place restrictions on investment or innovation; it is only to present a new way of thinking that some people may find stimulating.

    Here's looking forward to some creative new thinking...

    Write free software for individual industries

    What the f***? How is that supposed to help reverse falling unemployment?

    Slashdot - if you're going to post links to economics related subjects, can you please make sure it is written by someone with a clue about economics?

    • What the f***? How is that supposed to help reverse falling unemployment?

      Most businesses are small businesses that can't afford (until very recently) SAP and similar software, so creating free systems that target their needs is a way of lowering the bar to increased effiency and productivity, therefore helping them grow.

      Or it could be bollocks. I don't know, I'm just a clueless programmer.

  • Good grief... (Score:5, Informative)

    by CommieLib ( 468883 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:53AM (#7085310) Homepage
    Yet another cry out that changes in technology are going to "historically" destroy jobs.

    I'm too bored with this line of thinking to even trot out the buggy whip analogy. Please save me the effort and just read this:

    Creative Destruction, again [libertyhaven.com]

    This has happened a thousand times before, but somehow, this time is different. Whatever.
    • Re:Good grief... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pdbogen ( 596723 )
      Yeah, and I forgot; Just because it's always been this way means its the best way.
      • Just because it's always been this way means its the best way.

        Absolutely correct. Things that work outlast things that don't. That's true in technology, it's true in economics and it's true in evolution. That principle is baked into our very DNA. If something better comes along, you won't have to worry about whether it will supplant that which presently exists. It inevitably will.

        Capitalism is a powerful economic system precisely because this concept of competition is harnessed. Economic systems that att
  • by I8TheWorm ( 645702 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:54AM (#7085315) Journal
    Seriously, I'm not sure imnproving efficiency will help the unemployment rate, at least not in the short term. Generally, improved efficiency means fewer jobs. Of course, the idea is that the company makes more money, and there is more wealth to spread around.

    Corporations, though, don't spend in the short term on warm bodies. They are cautious about economy fluctuations. They do love to take advantage of cost cutting benefits though. It just seems to the pencil pushers that cutting costs starts with eliminating workforce.
  • Wrong (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Quasar1999 ( 520073 )
    The question is what can I do to increase MY wealth... That's how all the rich, successfull people in life think... and I wouldn't know, as I'm a poor sap sitting at work, trying to come up with a whitty comment so I can be a karma whore, only to realize that my boss is going to fire me for not working enough, and posting too much on slashdot... dammit.
  • by Mrs. Grundy ( 680212 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:58AM (#7085355) Homepage
    which systems will save the most money. I find this battle increasingly tiresome. I'm more interested in finding the systems that will put more people to work.

    Putting more people to work means paying more people which means lower profits unless those people are able to increase efficiency or sell more product. How can you expect any business to strive to spend more money if there is an alternative? It may work for the government, but if businesses go out to their way to use more workers and pay more people they won't be around very long. There needs to be an economic reason (aka an incentive) for businesses to hire people. They are not going to, and can't, do it out of the kindness of their heart.

  • by malakai ( 136531 ) * on Monday September 29, 2003 @11:58AM (#7085361) Journal
    This article scares me...

    It's a plea to socialize the software industry. Don't work on what you want to work on, work on what society NEEDS you to work on. But do it for SOCIETY, that is, do it for FREE. This will allegedly help a struggling 'cutting-edge' business grow. Give them free software, and all will work out.

    This is hogwash. And the article goes all over the place. It starts off with blaming "financial scandals, wars, tax cuts, stagnation" on why people have lost jobs "or had to accept menial ones". But then concludes "there is little doubt that a large contributor to rising unemployment is rising productivity". We see this every new age. This guy is bordering on a Luddite. He's also overly dramatic which makes me dislike him even more "I can no longer avert my eyes from the consequences of the field I have chosen" so noble. "... and no one else who programs, administers, or promotes the use of computers can morally avert their eyes either" oh jeez.

    It gets worse, "The gigantic combine of capitalism has always obsessively pursued effiencey..." yeah, that's the point. That's why it works.
    "Capitalism has succeeded in sowing a cornucopia of innovation up and down society. But capitalism is atrocious at
    distributing the fruits of innovation"
    No, Capitalism is atrocious at GIVING AWAY the fruits of innovation. It doesn't reward people who don't partake in it. That is why it's so efficient. Add _YOUR_ efficiency to the overall efficiency and you will be paid for its value.

    This really frightens me:
    "People who work with computers remain fixated on efficiency. Every week I hear the debates over whether businesses should use Linux or Windows, the commentators always wrangling over which systems will save the most money. I find this battle increasingly tiresome. I'm more interested in finding the systems that will put more people to work."
    Great, lets all make inefficient processes and software to run those processes so that costs will skyrockets, and we'll be beat by someone with a more efficient process. You can't do that in a free market. It's the whole point of the free market. The market balances between efficiency, cost, and quality. If you artificially try to create more jobs by making it take 5x as many more people to assemble a car, you will collapse that business.

    "I have a sinking feeling that we can't wait for the next upturn in the employment cycle, as optimists would have us do"
    gut instinct huh? Thanks for sharing that. I'm sure we can all base decisions on your gut instincts.

    So his solution boils down to three ideas:
    1. Write free software for individual industries (ie, give custom built small business software away for free). His thinking is this will help the small business get started and they will in turn hire more people. But damn the person who wrote the software, he's SOL. But it was for the 'good' of the 'people'.
    2. "Make devices more responsive and easy to customize", he request: "I would like a computer to plan ahead for me, track things that are too much trouble for me to remember, and combine inputs to suggest efficient courses of action" OK so he wants smart agents. What this has to do with this article is beyond me. I think he just threw it in there because he wanted to.
    3. "Create a truly public key infrastructure" I don't understand why he feels the need for a 'truly PKI is so important. It seems to go along with his socialist viewpoint. I guess it would make on line filing of unemployment that much easier when he plans leads to the failing of a nations economy.

    He ends it with more FUD: "We don't have all the time in the world. And meanwhile governments, businesses, venture capitalists (what are you doing with all that money your pets in Congress and the White House brought you, tails all awagging?), universities, and NGOs seem paralyzed in the face of this economic disaster"

  • That would certainly create a lot of wealth according to Darling Darl et al.

  • Overtime (Score:3, Informative)

    by Councilor Hart ( 673770 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:00PM (#7085372)
    Want to give more people a job. Then stop forcing them to work overtime. That way, more people will have jobs and more time can be spend with the family, or doing a hobby.
  • by GeneralEmergency ( 240687 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:01PM (#7085389) Journal
    "People who work with computers remain fixated on efficiency. Every week I hear the debates over whether businesses should use Linux or Windows, the commentators always wrangling over which systems will save the most money. I find this battle increasingly tiresome. I'm more interested in finding the systems that will put more people to work." ...more people just muck things up!

    Seriously, if competition is the engine of capitalism, then surely efficiency is the fuel.

    Editor Mod -1(Off Planet)

  • by teutonic_leech ( 596265 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:02PM (#7085402)
    .... it's all about 'people using computers' to increase productivity and shift their daily tasks from repetitive grunt work to intelligent information management. Also, let's factor in that in this brave new world of computers how much time is actually being spent on battling viruses, appying patches, re-installing new operating systems, learning applications, etc.. We are in some ways more productive, but we also pay a certain price for being able to instantly communicate with someone on the other side of the planet. One can debate this issue to death, but I personally feel that I'm a lot more powerful in my capabilities and my creativity than I was just 10 years ago. Some of that can be attributed to my own growth, but a lot of it is based on me being able to write a Java servlet for a form, open an illustration in Illustrator, work with my spreadsheet on some business projections, download movies with Kazaa (oooops ;-) - anyway, you get the drift. The current cycle is exactly just that: a cycle - and it will swing back up again in its due time (when, if I just knew I would live on my own island and charge a lot of money for that info). Of course the world has changed and the new EC, NAFTA, terrorist attacks, corporate greed and corruption, Microsoft, George Bush, Bill Gates, you picks it, all have an hand in the current economic situation. So do you and I - who knows any one of us might come up with this amazing new idea that gives IT a renewed boost and changes things to some extend.
    I personally don't focus my attention on 'computers' or any other tool I work with. It's all about creativity and good ideas - getting the job done. Has the computer changed my way of doing things? Yes, and so did the invention of the gun powder - we use what we can - but in the end wealth creation depends on people not tools.
  • That's why I encourage open source and hiring a maintenance developer over proprietary and perpetual service contracts in every case in my current position. Simply put, we'll pay less (and be more secure) if somebody WE trust is auditing our code and making bugfixes/enhancements.

    Proprietary is great if you're doing something where you'll never need to customize anything, or do anything slightly outside the norm (or you just don't care if it works.) BUT, if you're like most businesses, you probably have som
  • It seems like the problem was quite clearly stated and then simply dismissed as unadressable --capitalism is not a just system of distribution.
    Why is the answer to that problem to "make work?" That's a rhetorical question because obviously the reason is the author is unwilling to consider an alternative to winner-take-all as the only way for society to operate.
    The answer to inequality in the face of hyper efficiency is to distribute wealth in an equitable manner? Abundance is only a problem
  • Rubbish (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DOsinga ( 134115 ) <douwe.webfeedbac ... inus threevowels> on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:08PM (#7085467) Homepage Journal

    The article is typical example of the lump of labour fallacy, which usually goes something like this: we produce all this stuff to make society run. Now, if we find a way to make the same amount of stuff with less people (using computers), we'll end up with less employment.

    If this was true, almost everybody would have been out of work by now. 2000 years ago the work of almost everybody was needed just to grow enough food for everybody. The truth is, that there is no limit to the amount of possible work. What matters is total production of society and how we divide it. Computes will raise total production of society, so it could make us all richer. If we succeed in distributing the wealth in any kind of just way, employment could rise. Or we could choose for a society where the rich have a lot and the poor are unemployed. But that choice does not have anything to do with the amount of efficiency improving computers do.

    - - - - towards a lawyer free interent [douweosinga.com]
  • Wealth creation? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:09PM (#7085477) Homepage Journal
    The only person I'm interested in creating wealth for is yours truly. If others get wealthy in the process, good for them.

    Over 50% of my income goes to taxes of one form or another. I'd say that's subsidy enough for the other guy.

    Commie bastards. 1/2:)

    • Over 50% of my income goes to taxes of one form or another.

      Are you counting the upstream burden that's built into the price of the consumer goods you purchase? (e.g. the portion of the cost of that loaf of bread that the farmer had to charge to pay the sales taxes on his tractor and the property tax paid on the factory where the bread was baked, and the payroll, social security, and medicaid taxes of the guy who delivered the bread to the store)

      Just curious, because it's probably more than 50% - didn't w
  • by Artful Codger ( 245847 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:10PM (#7085480)
    wealth does not equal jobs, and good jobs is what the world lacks.

    There's alot of wealth, but at present the western system is optimised to cause wealth to drift up and get locked-up in the economic upper-crust.

    There's tons of work that needs to be done! Examples - teaching arts and music, daycare, senior care, cleaning and renovating neighbourhoods, rehabilitation of ecological damage... but the powers refuse to see these as priorities or raise the minimum wage so that a person can actually make a living at one of these jobs.

    The author first slams us for being clever and writing efficient stuff, then tells us the answer is to just run out and program more/ charge less. Oh, and let's run everything on scripting languages too. That'll help...
    • by smack.addict ( 116174 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:58PM (#7086021)
      Your assessment is ignorant. Capitalism is the most efficient economic system for creating new wealth. You should think of capitalism like an accelerating train. As the train accelerates, the front car becomes increasingly distant from the back car. Nevertheless, the entire train manages to move forward.

      In other words, under capitalism, the rich get richer faster than the poor get less poor. But it does enable the poor to escape poverty much quicker than any other economic system. Thus, your choices are to: a) Be really poor just like everyone else b) Be not so poor bu significantly disadvantaged compared to some others.

      As a poor person, I would certainly pick B. As a rich person, of course, I would most definitely pick B.

  • I saw the phrase "wealth creation" and nearly parsed it as weath building [google.com], which is used in way too many "Make Money Fast" schemes and spams.

    Interesting idea, BAD choice of words. :-(

  • The article asserts that increased productivity costs jobs, so logically we should use inefficient and bloated software that crashes periodically, contains numerous security holes which cost time and money to fix, and is riddled with user interface inefficiencies which make it frustrating and hard to use. That way, productivity drops, and more people are required to do the same job.

    I never thought I'd say this, but it sounds like Microsoft has been doing the economy a favor all this time...
  • The more you learn about creating wealth, the more you realize that the tax code is designed to enslave the middle and lower classes. Become a good conservative and fight the liberals who put big government over freedom.
    • by Un pobre guey ( 593801 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:41PM (#7085818) Homepage
      Become a good conservative and fight the liberals who put big government over freedom.

      Under the tutelage of presumably "good conservatives," we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars subsidizing the "defense" industry and using it to conquer a major Third World petroleum producer. The latter not only also a multi-hundred billion dollar subsidy for the energy trading industry, but also one of blood. Nearly 200 American soldiers dead, and over 1500 wounded, to say nothing of the thousands of dead Iraqis and tens of thousands of wounded. How you see this as being against big government eludes me completely.

      ...the more you realize that the tax code is designed to enslave the middle and lower classes

      You are right, but for the wrong reasons. You, like most, have fallen into the trap. It is not about liberals or conservatives, Republicans vs. Democrats, Hawks vs. Doves, Right to Life vs. Freedom of Choice, etc. It is about the actual day to day mechanisms of political action. Who do politicians pay attention to? To whom are they beholden? What segment of society drives political action in our country? Do they represent your interests, or do they consider you an expendable "Human Resource"? Is your employment status of any significance to them, or is it at best figured into some large-scale economic indicator? Wake up, my friend, we are all in the same boat.

      Today's stolen sig:
      The first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging.

  • From the article, three ways to bring wealth creation back to the average person:

    1. Write free software for individual industries

    2. Make devices more responsive and easy to customize

    3. Create a truly public key infrastructure

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but I don't see those three things leading to "wealth for the common person." Certainly there are some businesses out there that would love to have free software, or not have to pay for basic encryption for POS systems. However, providing them with
  • The easiest way to create a job and create wealth for other people is by quiting your own job so someone else can do it.
    • Nope... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Newer Guy ( 520108 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:32PM (#7085698)
      Problem is, they don't replace you. Instead, they give your job to someone else who now has two jobs to do. I saw the prefect example this weekend. A friend of mine works as an engineer for Clear Channel. Three months ago, his assistant quit. He was forbidden to replace him, even though he's already doing two jobs (He's doing his regular job and being project engineer for a big build out). Now he has three jobs to do. Last weekend he visited a transmitter site for the first time in a month and found some equipment badly damaged. The pattern of the AM radio station was far out of FCC tolerances. Problem is, his logging system broke last month and he hasn't had the time to fix it yet. He doesn't even know how long ago this happened. He planned to hire a contractor to help, but his bookkeeper told him NO CONTRACTORS. So, he struggles to do three jobs, none of them well. At the same time, his bosses get HUGE bonuses for cutting expenses so well. THIS is the rebublican economy at work! It ain't 'trickle down' it's TINKLE DOWN...and we all know what they're tinkling...all over us!
  • Word of advice... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 16K Ram Pack ( 690082 ) <[tim.almond] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:29PM (#7085652) Homepage
    I once got very worried about this too, when I built a system for a financial institution that reduced headcount of a team from 60 to 15.

    A manager sat me down and explained that the company had had software for 20 years, and throughout that time the headcount had grown, because extra technology across the market had meant that companies launched more and more different and diverse products, and more people had been needed to support them.

    If the world stood still, this would be a problem. Instead, people are needed for the new jobs and a myriad of support jobs. Think of mobile phones - how many people are involved in support, development, sales and marketing of phones and the infrastructure of phones, the legislating of phone companies, the sales of pointless clipons.

    The more serious problem is that (in the UK) there are areas of deprivation where there is now generational unemployment - children grow up without working parents and see no opportunity. Where areas of central Wales are like deserts - because companies won't move in there.

  • Cut taxes on labor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by urbazewski ( 554143 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:30PM (#7085661) Homepage Journal
    To encourage more employment in the US we should cut our extremely high payroll taxes (taxes that employers pay when they hire/pay someone) and replace them with taxes on resource use, for example, petroleum and other raw materials. This would not only help correct the "negative externality" of pollution, it would encourage the development and use of labor intensive rather than capital intensive technologies.
  • by crazyphilman ( 609923 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:38PM (#7085781) Journal
    Step 1: Wealthy techies start using deep-sea robots purchased with their stock-options money to cut the trans-pacific and trans-atlantic data cables at random times and random locations, approximately once a week. This in turn prevents the offshoring/outsourcing industry from communicating with their sweatshops overseas, resulting in the hiring of thousands of local programmers to pick up the slack. The economy sees a slight rebound. Some companies continue to offshore using satellite technology. So...

    2. Even wealthier techies finish designing a space plane which can cheaply get up into orbit and back down to earth. They build a fleet of twenty, hide them in widely-spaced mountain retreats staffed with Linux geeks, stock them with thousands of pounds of ramen noodles, coffee, videogames, and porno, and start sending missions up into orbit to de-orbit satellites used by offshoring companies. Bored teenagers pilot the space planes, marvelling that "Man, it's even better than Descent -- Freespace!" The economy rebounds a little more. But, then -- damnnit! -- the offshoring companies start using sneakernet and mules to courier work back and forth. So...

    3. The two groups of techies, determined to save the economy, begin to resort to black-bag techniques to foil the mule's attempts. Some switch bags on the couriers, replacing the suitcases full of cd-roms with suitcases full of scat-fetish pr0n. Others simply mug the couriers, dragging them into the airport restrooms for a quick beating and a swirly. Some, truly getting carried away, have a Quake III flashback and detonate the couriers. This, unfortunately, is misinterpereted by the Office of Homeland Security and all hell breaks loose. America declares war on France. By the time it is revealed that the Quake III fanatic was actually Belgian, it is too late... Paris is in ruins, its people reduced to eating air-dropped big macs. Millions commit suicide. So then...

    Despondent at having caused the big-mac-induced suicides of millions of people and wishing for some good to come out of it, the belgian Quake III fanatic issues a statement that he did it all for the MPAA/RIAA. The remaining French declare war on those two organizations and send the French Foreign legion to the U.S. to retaliate. They infiltrate coffee shops throughout L.A. It becomes impossible for record-company execs to get a decent cup of coffee without a heaping helping of attitude. Unable to understand why the waitstaff isn't nice to them anymore, the entire recording industry commits suicide en mass. LA is briefly caught in a panic, but when they realize just what has happened, ten million people shrug and go about their business.

    End result: things are kinda cool again! Hooray!

    So get busy, techie geeks! We're counting on you!

  • Constructive Ideas (Score:4, Insightful)

    by avdi ( 66548 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:42PM (#7085824) Homepage
    Having pointed out that Oram's economics are faulty, let me make a suggestion for fighting the REAL problem, which is not the loss of jobs, but the movement of jobs into new sectors.

    If you want to help people cope with the fact that advances in technology have rendered them redundant, either supply or support education. If you have a valuable technical skill, look into opportunities for teaching it to others. If you're not the teacher type, find ways to support local technical education programs, especially those that target people who might not have the means to pay for a college education. The goal here is not to maintain the number jobs in any given field, but to make the transition from an old field to a new field as easy as possible.
  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) * <charleshixsn@nOSpAm.earthlink.net> on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:44PM (#7085860)
    Currently wealth that is produced tends to be concentrated into a very few hands. Given this it almost doesn't matter how much is produced, since those who do the actual production only get dribbles.

    Does it really seem fair to you that a PHB should be paid twice what you are paid? If so, then ignore what I say. My position is basically an anti-monopolist position, with the term "monopoly" significantly generalized. And it's not on an all or nothing basis.

    The way in which wealth is distributed is basically determined by power politics. Fairness doesn't have very much to do with it. But even given this system, NOBODY should be able to earn over, say, 1,000 time what a minimum wage job earns. The 1,000 is an arbitrary number, and I know of no decent way to assign it a value. But the larger the value, the less democratic the society will be. When wealth is centralized, then power will be centralized with it. And the power will be used to ensure that the wealth remains where it is. Similarly when power is centralized, then wealth will be centralized. It's a simple feed back loop operating off of self-interest.

    In Athens slightly before the time of Xerxes the factor of difference in income between the wealthiest citizen and the poorest was about 50. This is probably somewhat related to population size, so a significantly larger civilization should probably expect a larger difference in income. But the relation should be less than linear, as what we are dealing with here can be modeled as the ability of a hierarchical pyramid to structure the relative importance of people at various levels. The narrower the angle at the top, the more weight each individual at the bottom must support. (I.e., the greater the proportional difference in income.)
  • future utopia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kisrael ( 134664 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:47PM (#7085889) Homepage
    Ah, all those dreamers who saw a future with robots freeing us to a life of leisure and intellectual pursuits...guess that all depends a bit too much on the welfare state.

    Frankly, I think it's health care that stops that vision from becoming reality. It seems like the best health care will always be expensive...I could almost see robots building me a humble paradise, but knowing by accepting a lowerbudget lifestyle I was denying myself the best in life preserving and extending technologies would be a fly in that ointment.
  • by Rahga ( 13479 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:48PM (#7085901) Journal
    Says the article: "I can no longer avert my eyes from the consequences of the field I have chosen, and no one else who programs, administers, or promotes the use of computers can morally avert their eyes either."

    Sorry, folks, but I will avert my eyes. Histroy doesn't shed too many tears for those who lost transcription jobs after the invention of the printing press, nor the buggywhip manufactures during the dawn of the automodible. This equation gets it all wrong.... From the view of the recently unemployed, they lost a job where their role was easily and reliably replaced by technology. Looking at the big picture and the history of innovation, the world loses little when this happens, because the population as a whole can better utilize human resources whenever there is a surplus of unutilized people.

    A simple example.... Without modern advances in farming, all of the great technologies and techniques that came about over the last 2 centuries, I think it is reasonable to say that billions of people would spend their lives working framland rather and that advances in education, medicine, and technology would not have been remotely as great as they are today.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:49PM (#7085909) Homepage
    I'm on record [downside.com] as having predicted the dot-com collapse and named which companies were going to tank and when. It was blindingly obvious if you knew any economic history.

    We're still in very bad shape.

    • Personal bankruptcies are up, way up. More people will go bankrupt this year than will graduate from college.
    • The stock market is still far overpriced, by a factor of 2 to 3, based on historical price/earnings ratios. There isn't going to be a stock market recovery. Look at Japan. The bubble there peaked in 1989 and still hasn't recovered. It was at 39,000 then; it's around 10,000 now, fourteen years later.
    • Manufacturing is only 12% of US employment. That number was 16% a decade ago, and around 35-40% half a century ago. Most of the high-paying jobs for low-skill people are in manufacturing. That's where the good working-class jobs went. Any job that involves large numbers of people doing the same thing repeatedly under direct supervision in a fixed location is a prime candidate for automation. Most of those jobs have already been automated. Technology continues to push manufacturing employment down.
    • Median income per hour worked in the US peaked in 1973. Yes. 1973. Best year ever for the working class. For thirty years, things have been getting worse. Slowly enough that there haven't been riots.
    • 30 years ago, housing ate up about a quarter of income. Now, it eats up about half. And not because the housing is better.
    • Schooling is far more expensive than it used to be. The decline in the public school system means that people go to great lengths to move to areas with better schools, or put their kids in private schools. This is part of the driver behind housing costs. Higher education is also far more expensive, and less subsidized.
    • The "race for the bottom" effect dominates public policy. Jurisdictions compete to offer lower taxes, and even lower wages.
    • From a pure economic perspective, workers should be paid just enough to keep them alive and working. That's where we were around 1850 or so, and that's where we're going today. Most of the world lives just above the survival level. The Western world avoided that for much of a century, but now it's coming back.
    • Technology won't help. This is a fundamental result of unrestrained capitalism. Increased productivity does not inherently increase wages. In a free market, wages will decline as productivity improves, because the labor pool will become bigger as more people are unemployed. Total buying power doesn't increase unless wages do, so there isn't inherently a market for more stuff. An economy with a big pool of permanently unemployed or underemployed people dragging wages down is economically stable. Most of the third world is stuck in that mode. THe US is headed there.
  • by AkkarAnadyr ( 164341 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @12:54PM (#7085980) Homepage

    Why shouldn't we put everyone out of work? We need neither the vindictiveness of mercantilist gouging under cover of the label 'capitalist', or the lazy poverty of diggers masquerading as 'socialist'. Both these factions are merely taking out their S&M neuroses on the rest of us. Like moths to the flame, both assume that the wealth they see is all that exists, and the game is thus zero-sum - what feeds the capitalist barracuda must bleed the poor children (won't someone please think .. never mind), and that what feeds the munching masses must bleed those who apply themselves and produce.

    There's enough nuclear energy blasting down over time to support 100 billion spacefaring Earthlings (or to fry them all), and enough information in the planetary DNA library (5G years of research into no-holds-barred competition/collaboration) to keep us in Phd papers and lobster-flavored luaus indefinitely.

    Halliburton /Brown & Root can drop a functioning military CCC outpost anywhere in the world in 5 containers and 24 hours. What if that horrid poison pill contained indefinite sustenance for 30 people instead? Most of the strife involved in our rich/poor dichotomy involves centralization that the Net has shown us we no longer need. Let's bag scarcity [agalmics.nu] and concentrate on getting the robots to serve us properly, and stop creating piles of resources we don't know how to mine ("landfills" and "atmospheric CO2"). The greed and testosterone poisoning which suckers us into blood sports is a dead end; far better we raise a world of curious hackers who value the richness in material complexity that we call wealth (and eschew the gadgets of bullying that one might call "illth").

    It all depends on what we want. Employment? What would a world of geeks do with the galaxy of hi-tech toys it would take to support the above, besides improve it all day for free, especially if it produced paradise in the process?

    This post brought to you by some old hippies, Timothy Leary, and several thousand doses.

  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @01:19PM (#7086226)
    In the short-term, software creates two types of productivities. Good short-term productivity empowers people do something that they could not do before. Bad short-term productivity lets you do the same job with less labor. The problem is that most software does both -- desktop publishing software lets authors directly control page layout and throws a bunch of manual paste-up workers on the street.

    The long-term impact of software is less clear. Software has the unqiue ability to replace human mental labor. All that ERP, supply chain, and workflow software means companies need a bunch fewer workers to crunch the numbers, keep all the customer orders straight, etc. Rather than hire or train a bunch of experienced people, you put in a software system that uses Ph.D level logistics algorithms to run your company. I'm not saying that the software is perfect, but then neither is the average middle manager.

    The point is that software is helping to engineer humanity right out of its claim to fame -- the ability to perform mental labor. Nobody was too upset when horses replaced people for carrying stuff nor when motorized drills replaced hand drills. The automation of physical labor seems uplifting to all but a few die-hard communists. By contrast, the automation of mental labor has more sinister potential.

    It all comes back to the two types of productivities. In the long-term does a particular bit of software enable people to really do something qualitatively better or different than they did before. Or does it merely help them do the same stuff, but with fewer people.

    I'm not saying that companies should eschew software that lets the do the same job with fewer people. Companies that free up resources in one area (by firing workers) can apply the savings to other innovations or forms of competative advantage. But if all that software can do is provide efficiency, then I fear that this could lead to the further stratification of society.

    If you really want to create software that makes a positive difference, then create software that helps people do something that they never could do before. Mere efficiency or cost improvements (i.e., free versions of existing software) are not going to lift people out of poverty -- giving them a new way to create new forms of value will.
  • Fascinating (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Monday September 29, 2003 @02:08PM (#7086754) Homepage Journal
    Reading Andy's article was a great surprise, for the following simple reason: I have never, in my life, seen anyone who used the term 'wealth creation' AND was seeing the real world.

    I'm impressed. I'm not surprised that he doesn't have a bunch of pat answers- they don't exist within that context. But I'm impressed that he's asking the right questions, even if there aren't convenient answers.

    There's no such thing as 'feed the world' under capitalism, or any social benefit from efficiency or technology: if you could generate a world-day of foodstuffs for 29 cents with a wonderful machine, capitalism is about seeing who gets to hoard as much money as possible from that situation, and politics is about controlling as many people as possible by exerting power over that cornucopia. The bounty won't feed anyone if you don't let them have it. If you have enough power to withhold that bounty, you can control the people you're depriving. That gives you more power, and you win.

    This is not really very complicated or mysterious.

    I guess it IS pretty cynical, but open your eyes.

    The whole concept of making people better competers by giving them free software or whatever is within the context of raw capitalism- the idea is that they are then to beat up on the others who don't take advantage of these things. That's fine for the vicious and the tough and scrappy, but they would have won anyway with or without the tools- in capitalism it's not about the tools or even about the standard of living and least of all about 'wealth', it's about WHO you are as a personality. It's a structure decreeing certain social behavior. The idea is that it's less prone to being abused than a more nurturing social structure, because people will take advantage of anything nurturing. That may be true. People seem to take advantage of capitalism too, though. Pick your poison.

    My own experience speaks to this whole situation. So you should make software to empower people? Andy, I've been doing that, in my field. I write CD mastering software- in some areas it is genuinely cutting-edge. I have a revolutionary approach to wordlength reduction and the redistribution of quantization error. I have various tone shaping adjustments that don't appear anywhere else. I've been GPLing this stuff for years now, for just the motivations you describe.

    I'm starving and poor and have started dating a woman I cherish who has a 3-year-old kid and you know what, I'm sick of flushing my work. I'm sick of trying to be benevolent and being taken as useless because of my lack of greed. Nothing is going to make me a hardcore capitalist, but as far as this audio-domain program, I'm less and less motivated to help people have it for nothing. I'm not spending my own money to port it to more recent architectures, I'm not spending time and effort setting it up with a help system- by now I'm of a mind to still put it out, GPLed, make no fuss about that, but use this tool for ME and try to, basically, compete against anyone who might have picked it up but doesn't have the expertise with it. That, or not put it out at all- or put out only the source, maybe?

    Capitalism means even I get beat down to the point where I can't stand trying to be benevolent or altruistic anymore. I'm unusually capable of being that, but it seems to be not even helping. The last time I talked with a GPLed audio project, they didn't even know what dither was or how it worked. We're sitting around trying to make tractors out of cabbage. It gets old.

    I think as long as the context is free-market capitalism, society will be hopeless. There's no answer within the system. I'd prefer to ditch the raw capitalism. Something more like partly-cooked capitalism would suit me. Somehow manage some system where somebody does a reasonably okay job of finding people and projects that do benefit society and quality of life, and bankroll the buggers.

    What's so wrong with that? That's just what happens right now, except it's Ken Lay of Enron who gets bankrolled and rew

  • The REAL Problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dr. Transparent ( 77005 ) * on Monday September 29, 2003 @02:47PM (#7087099) Homepage Journal

    I think I know what the real problem is. But before we get to that let's talk about what the problem is not.

    The problem is not captialism, not Western Culture, not HMOs, not PPOs, not private health care, not the military, not global warming, and not Microsoft.

    The problem is that slashdot readers in general watch too much Star Trek

    Do you remember the episode where the people from the past (20th century) show up on the Enterprise? (I think they were dethawed or something, but I don't remember exactly. It doesn't matter for this discussion anyway). Remember the cowboy-ish guy, who wants to know where his land is, where his money is, who works for him, etc. And Picard gives him the lecture about how "we're past all that now" and "it's about bettering yourself, etc.", essentially saying, "Stop being a greedy bastard."

    The problem is that people really believe that can happen. You'd think after 10,000 years of recorded history people would figure it out, but then you would underestimate hope (that attribute the Architect aptly described as simultaneously the source of greatest strength and greatest weakness, but I digress).

    Systems such as socialism/liberalism/etc. are all predicated on the belief that people will generally lookout for the good of the common man. And the proponents of these systems constantly tell everyone else that the reason they're poo-pooing these systems is because everyone is a bunch a greedy bastards. Well, I have news for you, YOUR ALL GREEDY BASTARDS YOURSELVES.

    Face it, humans seek after their own interests first. You do it every day. Sure you go into work and bitch and moan about how Bush is screwing over the world and the captialist bastards are ruining your life and you're being held down by The Man, etc, etc. Then you drive home and you cut off the person you're pissed at on the Freeway. You gossip about your co-worker who's doing a better job than you, you keep the $20 bill you found in the bathroom at the movies, you steal towels from the hotel, you eat a dozen grapes at the grocery store you never pay for. Tomorrow you'll lie to your boss about why the report isn't done. You'll spend an hour surfing instead of writing code. And then you'll go home and bitch about how braces cost $3000 and how you can't afford it, all while sitting on your couch watching Monday Night Football on your big screen TV. I know you're selfish. And I am too.

    Socialism puts all the power into the hands of a few good liars who are able to convince the masses that they will look out for their good. Simply bull. They'll be the same selfish, greedy, bastards you will be, but now they have permission to screw over more people.

    Free-market captialism is the only system that can handle the selfishness of humanity in a way that gives the most people the most opportunity. Sure, capitalism will make a few people very rich this year. But you know what? Those people may be the very poor next year. And the very poor this year might be the very rich next year. Every day is a new opportunity. You're held back only by your own ambition (or lack thereof).

    Do some people need an extra hand in life? Sure. And that's what charities are all about. Groups who get together specifically because they care about the interests of others. So give to charities. Or start one. But face it, at the end of the day, we're all selfish greedy bastards looking out for ourselves. No one owes you anything. Now get out of your holodeck and readjust your worldview.

    • Okay I'm stupid.

      What I meant to say was, YOU'RE ALL GREEDY BASTARDS YOURSELVES.

      The rest of this post is just extra text to get around the lameness filter encountered because of the all caps text. Please ignore.

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Monday September 29, 2003 @03:28PM (#7087538)
    One guy says war is the only way to fix things.
    Thats utter rubbish. War is the only way to fix things *in this current system*, which isn't capitalisim, but more a pseudo capitalisim. If this system were to work right, we'd need a stronger degrading of moneyvalue than inflation offers.
    The way it is now, all goods if not sold lose value, only money increases in amount more than it loses by inflation. That's what has to be _corrected_. Not changed or overthrown completely, but corrected.

    Then further on:
    Productivity has something like quadrupled in the last 100 years. Actually my very job is to increase productivity by an average of 20% in the information shifting business - I do lot's of data migration automation and stuff. While my job is just to find methods to cope with the plain pointless information overload (lucky me it's there) there is one thing that has to be done to cope with massively increased productivity:
    Robot taxes. That's right: Robots paying taxes.
    The other one is a society problem: We need to grasp the value of services and custom craftsmanship again. Which actually *does* have a real value. Actually OSS is all about moving Software development away from a 'childs game' to engineering to real solid traditional craftmanship. Just like the plumber that fixes your pipes when they've rotted after 20 years of use. You could do it yourself, but you pay the expierienced guy 'cause he does it faster and you've got less fuss. And Pipes and Putty are the least you pay for. Usually.

    World Problem Solution (TM), Bottom Line:
    1.) Turbine Tax and improved Money Rot for money just lying at the bank and not fed back into he money cycle. Yes folks, we've got to much of it and to few are getting more and more just by leaving the most universal good on the shelf. That is *NOT* the concept of capitalisim. Trust me.

    2.) Robot Taxes. Robots paying taxes. It's really that simple. Make that Microtaxes, if that makes you feel better. BTW: Count computers doing automated tasks (and not acting as books or TVs or stuff) as robots.

    3.) Society shifting to a 98% service orientation. And a 98% self-employed society, where required tasks can be dealt with in a flexible manner.
    At least Germany still has a long way to go in both of these.

    As I said: My 2 Eurocents.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351