Yesterday's Wall Street Journal carried two very frightening articles. This isn't unusual. The problem is that usually they don't realize just how scary the things they print are, e.g., how money is created, ownership of the means of production are concentrated, how people like Walter Bagehot and J. P. Morgan were actually saviors of the world instead of the architects and engineers of a global financial system with a built-in self-destruct timer.
No, what was different about these two articles was that the danger in what is happening is evident even to non-Binary Economists. "Is Your Job an Endangered Species" (Andy Kessler, WSJ, 02/17/11, A19) and "When Computers Beat Humans on Jeopardy" (Ray Kurzweil, WSJ, 02/17/11, A19) painted a grim picture of the future in an economy — and a world — in which people are turning increasingly to the State to "create jobs" to do things (or nothing) that machines can do better, faster, and cheaper. Frankly, I found "Watson" more personable than Ken Jennings, who always struck me as a trifle more supercilious than his position as a Jeopardy demigod justified. (This gave me a great deal of satisfaction when I was able to provide an answer that none of the contestants, man or machine, could — "Phillip II of Spain," if you want to know. And I knew that Toronto is not a U.S. city.)
Anyway, jobs are disappearing, and the reverse John Henry spectacle of a machine beating men at their own game only highlighted the problem — and removed most of the entertainment value of being able to answer the questions sooner or better than the actual contestants. The only jobs left are, to use an outdated term, boondoggling, meaning make-work that serves only to get income (depersonalized as "effective demand") into the hands of people who will use it on consumption without first necessarily producing anything. In fact, in the Keynesian universe, it's actually better if nothing is produced, because then you don't have to worry about goods and services for which no market demand exists.
The irony is that the articles were only able to point out the problem and spread a little despair when the solution has been staring them in the face for hundreds of years. The Luddites, for example, weren't against technology. Most of them were hand weavers and used some very sophisticated technology themselves. What they tried to destroy was technology that took their jobs. Yet, even to someone as obviously in sympathy with the "small is beautiful" movement as Hilaire Belloc might be thought to be saw the problem. It wasn't technology, but technology that the Luddites didn't own, and which therefore took away not their jobs so much as their income. As Belloc pointed out in The Servile State (1912), had financing techniques been available to the Luddites, they, not the new capitalist class, would have purchased the new machinery, and grown prosperous.
The answer is still staring us in the face. In the August 14, 1964 issue of Life magazine, the lead editorial declared, "If the Machine Wants Our Jobs Let's Buy It." After painting a dreary picture of men replaced by machines for virtually every conceivable job, the editorial pointed out that someone had developed a solution, Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler in The New Capitalists (1961), and had outlined a practical means by which every man, woman, and child in the world could become an owner of a capital stake sufficient to generate a living income.
Applied in CESJ's Capital Homesteading proposal, the dangers of which Kessler and Kurzweil (and the editors of Life magazine) warn can easily be turned into a great benefit for humanity — if we get busy and pass a Capital Homestead Act by 2012. To move toward this goal, here's what we've been doing this past week:
• Norman Kurland may again be a guest on Russell Williams new radio show, "The Challenge." By all reports, last week's show went very well, and Russell got comments from as far away as Tennessee. We did discover, however, that if you have a Mac instead of a PC you might have trouble tuning in over the internet. The short term solution is to find a friend with a PC. The long-term . . . well, we're working on it. In the meantime, we'll just recopy the station's press release: "Saturday February 12th 2011 marks the debut of THE CHALLENGE with Russell Williams, an innovative weekend talk show focusing and bringing emphasis to economic justice and empowerment. Tune in every Saturday morning at 9 AM Eastern on WKND 1480 AM Windsor-Hartford, CT and online at www.goisradio.com/wknd. Call in and let your voice be heard at 860-218-2173 or 860-218-2174."
• February 17, 2011 (yesterday) marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Louis Kelso, who, with all due respect to Mortimer Adler for his valuable contributions, was the brains behind the expanded ownership revolution, and thus the Just Third Way. While what Kelso advocated seems obvious in retrospect, that is itself the mark of true genius, to see what is so obvious that no one else seems to see it.
• Pollant Mpofu in London is working hard to arrange high-level meetings with government officials in the U.K. for Norman Kurland and Michael Greaney. Pollant believes he may be able to get something nailed down as early as March.
• Norman Kurland will be traveling to Georgia next week to meet with some key people in the Harris Neck initiative. The meetings will be followed by a retreat, during which the board can get to know Norm and learn more about how Capital Homesteading might be used to finance the sustainable development of Harris Neck once the land is returned to its rightful owners.
• Earlier this week we were contacted by an award-winning Japanese journalist in New York who writes a column for The Wall Street Journal Japan, and contributes articles to a great many publications, including Newsweek Japan and The Weekly Economist, the largest business journal in Japan. The contact was initiated through an internet service that allows journalists and others to post questions and requests for assistance. The journalist reacted very favorably, and the article may cite CESJ sources, and appear in The Weekly Economist in March. The journal is read by leading Japanese businessmen and Bank of Japan officials.
• The same service that put us in touch with the Japanese journalist also helped us arrange for Norman Kurland to be interviewed tomorrow on "Unlock Your Wealth" with host Heather Wagenhals which bills itself as the largest internet radio show on personal finance. The "button" to push to hear the show is right above Norm's photo on their homepage. The interview is at 12:30 pm, Saturday, February 19, 2011.
• As of this morning, we have had visitors from 52 different countries and 43 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past two months. Most visitors are from the United States, the Philippines, the UK, Canada, and Germany. People in Indonesia, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Canada, and the United States spent the most average time on the blog. The most popular posting this past week has been "Thomas Hobbes on Private Property," followed by "The 'New' Slavery, Part V: Debt Slavery," "Seeing the Nose on Your Face," "The 'New' Slavery, Part III: Wage and Welfare Slavery," and "Aristotle on Private Property."
Those are the happenings for this week, at least that we know about. If you have an accomplishment that you think should be listed, send us a note about it at mgreaney [at] cesj [dot] org, and we'll see that it gets into the next "issue." If you have a short (250-400 word) comment on a specific posting, please enter your comments in the blog — do not send them to us to post for you. All comments are moderated anyway, so we'll see it before it goes up.