The share price of liberal freedom is frankly falling. If it falls any further, we will all be flat on our faces. I think we all know by now that the problem is capitalism as we by now know it all. It is stumbling ahead, winning victory over victory mostly without putting up a hard fight. This is one of the harsh qualities it has acquired over a long time by taking the moral high ground of liberal freedom and human rights. I will not be far off the mark when I say most people have grown used to holding liberal freedom and capitalism as synonymous.
This pamphlet tries to do two things. It separates freedom and capitalism by exposing the collapse of humanity in the heartland of the free world. Evidence for this collapse is the unhappiness of free people as expressed in them voting for tyrannical cultural pessimism. People unhinged by the insecurity that is essential to capitalism are always too easily exploited by nut cases of various brands, specifically those graduating from the Harvard of sociopathy. The pamphlet further proposes three measures for a capitalist society to move on. I say move on because moving back is not only not an option, it is simply backward. As a cultural optimist I am convinced we can only move on by building on what makes us strong, not by reversing history toward a time of melancholy that never was.
The cul-de-sac of blind capitalism
Liberals promoting capitalism don’t promote freedom. The reason is simple: their view of mankind is that it needs more and more money. On this view progress is a necessary by-product of society accumulating capital in a market that, itself, is free. This is defended religiously. It’s a religious point after all. Its central tenet is that man’s original sin is laziness. In the capitalist case we can only “work it off”. If we work hard enough it will redeem generations to come. Every American Dream is just a story of redemption where an individual shows us how to atone for the evil void inside all of us. Continue reading
It is crucial, or so we are told, that we undertake things. In English, such undertaking can earn you the title of entrepreneur. It’s such a tongue-twistingly ugly word that it’s reserved for the successful few. Anybody can be an undertaker, but entrepreneurs, real entrepreneurs, are few and far between. It’s, by the way, characteristic of ugly nouns for ugly elite concepts to attract ‘real’ as adjective and contaminate it with the need for italicization. I confess I’m annoyed with the concept (which says little because I equally confess that I’m annoyed at being annoyed).
In my native Dutch language, the noun corresponding to ‘to undertake’ is not taken by the specific undertaking which is to take dead people to their underground destination. So we’re all supposed to undertake, ondernemen, and become true undertakers, ondernemers (for ‘true’, see ‘real’ above). As is adequately demonstrated by the time it takes me to come to the point, I ain’t no undertaker. Oddly enough this is also supported by the fact that the only corpse I plan to be associated with is my own whilst – in proverbial Dutch and The Apprentice – entrepreneurs have to handle corpses with the same ease as undertakers do.
Which brings me to why I’m no undertaker. Continue reading
If you’re not working in a big organization you might not know, but the rest of us are being managed by objectives. The people so managing us are convinced they are being SMART about it. The fact is that they are smarter than we are, as is clear from the fact that we have been stupid enough to put up with it for so long. They sell it to us like diet pills are sold to those addicted to sugar: as a replacement addiction. Suddenly we should feel liberated from micro-management when the only ones liberated are those managing us: liberated from caring about the actual human beings that do the actual day-by-day work.
If you are working in a big organization (and you’re a bit of an a***hole) you may find this amusing: the rest of them are being targeted as well. As politicians increasingly see themselves as entrepreneurs (mostly forgetting the adjective ‘failed’), they want in on the magic. This means they want all of the control and none of the taking-an-interest. They want to be liberal and eat our cake too. Above all they want us to feel different from the others who haven’t achieved independence. Divide …
Let me use my newly found independence to say something about managing for performance: it’s inhuman because it sets out to eliminate the specifically human uncertainties from the process. That is enough to stop doing it. More than enough to start questioning it. Forget about it not working. Forget about the appeal to intuition (diet pill ads appeal to your intuition as well). It is anti-human and we should not put up with it. Out of principle. Full stop.
I’m not the first to say this, see Geert Hofstede (1978):
In other words: the sole reason for reducing us to targets is Continue reading
I confess I put my life on hold for the last 12 months chasing a ghost. It took me more than a month just to start to remember how life was. Was it worth it? I confess I have no idea. Am I done chasing ghosts? I confess my best answer is: time will tell.
The piles of books which have amassed to the left and right of me do suggest I kept on reading though. I confess I want to boast about that.
To my left, pile n°1: Kripke, Naming & Necessity; Bolaño, Amberes, El Tercer Reich & Estrella Distante; Zweig, Schachnovelle.
Across older piles lying open on pp. 150-151 for reasons I confess I forgot entirely: Gadamar, Elogio de la teoría. Which brings me to the piles to my right featuring more Gadamer, On Education, Poetry And History as well as Wer bin Ich und wer bist Du. The latter sits on top of Fitch, Saul Kripke and Peinado, Futbolistas de izquierdas. Further down in that pile: Gass, Middle C and the almost most recent one: Piketty, Le capital au XXIe siècle.
To my left, pile n° 2: Jaeger, Paideia: los ideales de la cultura griega & Aristoteles; Grundlegung einer Geschichte seiner Entwicklung.
I confess all this name dropping leaves me feeling I really have something to confess about. I am unsure however whether it is arrogance or lack of reading quality/quantity (certainly as far as fiction goes). In order not to have to dwell on that issue I’ll just mention what I’m reading now (& only talk about that one below the fold): Steven Johnson, Everything Bad is Good for You. As you can tell from the Capital letters in the title I’m turning to vulgarized science from time to time (I blame Dawkins for that) but I’m not addicted to it, yet (I might add now I’m at it that I quit smoking if, I confess, without quitting nicotine given I just have put an “e-” before my cigarettes).
I confess it was not my plan to write that many words before I got to this pink book by (the maybe venerable) Steven Johnson and the Flynn effect.
I have been working more and more with people whose week-end starts on Friday. They hate that the rest of the world kind of assumes that Friday is a working day. In the spirit of true multi-culturalism I have a simple proposal to make: we all add Friday and Sunday to our respective week-ends.
As simple as that.
Knowing that a great many will say this is unrealistic and will be punished by The Markets, I propose to start not having any meetings on from Friday to Sunday (both days included). People can then have a quiet day with their mails or find the inspiration that allows finding the >20% productivity gains that ultimately will more than offset the lower work volume.
Feel free to start a FaceBook group on this idea.
This is the time of the Great Paranoia. Where good and bad billionaires set up their factions of militant activism preparing a struggle that could lead to enough insecurity to justify a backlash that would provide security for billionaires – of both sides. “Otto is earnestly explaining his views on the Mother Conspiracy. It’s not often a sympathetic girl will listen. The Mothers get together once a year, in secret, at these giant conventions, and exchange information. Recipes, games, key phrases to use on their children. ‘What did yours use to say when she wanted to make you feel guilty?'” A whole generation, which is only now finding the truth behind the adjective ‘lost’ attached to my generation, set up to defend a status quo that will allow this generation to live past a 100 years old, past 200 years old, until a time when death is finally pronounced dead.
“Tits ‘n ass,” mutter the girls, “tits ‘n ass. That’s all we are around here.”
It was prophetical to use the detective story analogy. Everybody is (a) suspect now. Continue reading
It is hot here and I am conclusively ambivalent about being cool.
I hate people coming out to say they want to avoid ‘the year too many’. Once they said that 3 things invariably happen: the current year immediately proves to be the year too many, there will be at least another year which is even worse because it will be a kind of goodbye tour critically self-referencing the previous years and in so doing it will even ruin the fun you did enjoy in these previous years of innocent excellence. Yes, I’m talking about House.
I hate ‘on the one hand … on the other hand’ type of discourse. On the one hand cool is irresistible. It is of the essence of cool to be irresistibly hot. On the other hand being cool requires at least some behaving like a bastard. Behaving as if one couldn’t care less is of the essence of cool. I hate that you think that the cool/hot thing has been done before and has been done better.
I also hate any talk about win-win-strategies. It’s as if non-zero sum games are somehow the only games that are possible. Maybe this is so for the cool guys but it is certainly not so for those of us that get all heated up because they know that in the realm of the possible there’s no option in which it is possible to even have a cake, let alone eat it. Mostly this is so because other people take our cake after eating theirs too. These people are cool. Sometimes they are so fed up that they go out of their way to leave us something as well. Even the successful can’t go without friendship I guess. They don’t have to fight for it though, the fighting is left to us. I hate that you think that the cake eating thing has been done before and have been done better.
It is all a matter of success. In the end we all know that winners pick winners. The rest of us are by default whiners. Losers too but only because we see it as losing and seeing it that way is just whining and whining is for losers. I hate that you think that the winners/whiners thing has been done before and has been done better.
I hate that I have to admit that thinking in terms of success is unavoidable. The title I had in my head for this was “S*cks a*s div-zeroes me out” (and then I thought about the morons that link to The Weblog with search terms like ‘albino girls naked’ or worse, things that freak me out because even if I’m not a prude: come on, get a life!). Thinking about success does make me I feel trapped like a fly on the inside of a very clean window, trying to reach the lamp post on the other side. I am not a winner; I hope daugter is.
I leave you with something that also freaked me out when googling the title, it was in between Miami heat merchandise:
I hate modesty, certainly if it requires you to be extremely thin on the inside.
I had been told to rescue a girl, who turned out to be held captive in a back room in the Hopleaf (a bar in Chicago). I found where she was being held and then assured her I would be back to rescue her. When I did come back, she was up and about, getting ready to wait tables. I asked her about this situation — was she free to leave after her shift? She hemmed and hawed and I said I could help her sneak out while she was waiting tables, but she said, “I don’t know — in this economy, it seems better to be a prisoner.”
Over at AUFS, I posted a proposal to reform the Senate. In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding corporate involvements in campaigns, I would like to give it another try. First of all, we would need to break the connection between senate seats and particular states, creating a pool of 100 at-large seats drawn from the entire country. Then, in order to save the cost and administrative overhead of a formal election, every two years the top 100 performers in the S&P 500 (by net average value for the period) would each appoint a senator. I had initially considered the idea of having the top 100 firms be chosen on the basis of market capitalization, but a share price-based metric seems more fair, as it would allow innovative, up-and-coming firms to have their say rather than having everything determined by sheer size.
The senators themselves would of course receive stock options in addition to a modest base salary paid by the appointing corporation, to ensure that their interests lined up with those of the shareholders. Each corporation would supply the requisite staff for their senator, and the Congressional Budget Office’s responsibilities would be contracted out to the ratings agencies on a rotating basis. Along with the money saved by not having a formal election, the savings on senatorial pay and staff could be put toward deficit reduction.