02.09.15

The sharing economy and “inclusive capitalism”

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 2:41 pm by George Smith

Many, many people fully understand the sharing economy is a racket, one in which tech industry start-ups depend upon the desperation of labor in an economy that’s stagnant.

Searching for any income, even miniscule amounts of compensation, millions take whatever can be had in service piece work jobs administered by owners who operate networks that makes work-for-hire available through apps.

Everyone is a free-lancer, all are pitted against all.

If you’ve been paying attention you’ve read the intelligence-insulting swill passed off as innovation. There’s the woman who was damaged by the Great Recession, now sub-letting her apartment out for a week or few days a month while she crashes for free on the couch of parents or friends. You’ve heard of a student, perhaps many others, renting a double bedroom apartment they can’t afford so they can sub-let half of it to someone else at a higher rental, generally either breaking the law or the terms of their lease (it would break mine), so they can make money in the sharing economy.

Critical thinkers now have plenty of examples of how the new shyster-ism works.

And you can see it in weekly stories on the sharing economy.

Most recently, very well summed up by a newspaper journalist giving a talk at a TEDx conference in Baltimore, an irony very rich indeed, the TED brand known primarily for its tech industry cheer-leading sessions called “talks.”

“The sharing economy is ‘predicated on the idea that there’s always going to be a huge pool of people who are willing to work desperate hours for no pay and no benefits,’ ” Baltimore City Paper journalist Edward Ericson told a crowd at TedxBaltimore 2015, here.

Businesses of the sharing economy, notably Uber and Lyft, “have ‘nothing to do’ with making a living.”

The man put it more bluntly in a piece last year (one which I wish I’d read much earlier):

Here is the future: nobody gets any job security. Nobody gets a fair wage while they have a job. Nobody gets a retirement fund or even any guarantee they’ll be able to eat tomorrow. And almost everyone is doing everything they can just to get by—and paying some substantial portion of their earnings to a pimp or “platform” which controls the business they are in …

[Thirty years ago] I did not yet understand then that those having or wanting just a job—just a job with decent pay—would be disparaged as “takers.”

I did not realize that, in 30 years, skilled people would be working basically for free just on the off chance they’d strike it rich in Silicon Valley.

And that, within my lifetime, those who did win that lottery would do so mainly by “innovating” a way to make all their staffers work for no pay at all …

The same week, Robert Reich, narrator and star of the Inequality for All documentary, penned a column confirming the very bad, just more gently, as the “share the scraps” economy:

This is the logical culmination of a process that began 30 years ago, when corporations began turning over full-time jobs to temporary workers, independent contractors, freelancers and consultants.

It was a way to shift risks and uncertainties onto the workers — work that might entail more hours than planned for, or was more stressful than expected.

And a way to circumvent labor laws that set minimal standards for wages, hours and working conditions. And that enabled employees to join together to bargain for better pay and benefits.

The new on-demand work shifts risks entirely onto workers, and eliminates minimal standards completely.

At Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, people “work for pennies,” he adds.

It’s actually worse than that. Robert Reich hasn’t spent enough time getting the ice cold shower on Mechanical Turk “jobs.”

There are people who work for jobs that pay zero, as I’ve chronicled in the Mechanical Turk files, because Amazon’s rating system whacks workers when “employers” choose not to pay, even one cent, because work is deemed inadequate or they can just get away with not paying.

And that once a worker’s rating drops below almost perfection because of it they are disqualified from taking many of even the most parsimonious offerings.

That, in turn, set up a market for jobs that pay zero pennies as people try to work their qualification rating back up by working for nothing.

The growth of the sharing economy is not one of great technology-enabled opportunity, Reich writes. “It only shows how bad a deal most working people have otherwise been getting.”

Which brings us to inclusive capitalism, a cloud of foul air described as new economic perfume, emanating from the camp of Hillary Clinton and her coterie of millionaire groupie economic advisers.

Reich was Secretary of Labor during the last Clinton administration. And I say last because it appears Hillary Clinton has already been proclaimed leader for the single reason that she has more money and oligarch stature than Croesus, her potential opponents being nothing more than uniformly loathsome human beings.

Clinton as President is a prospect that could destroy much of the weak enthusiasm for voting left in this country. Or at least create a great wish for a national barbiturates and alcohol citizen’s ration.

In a review for Inequality for All, I wrote Reich turned glum by the end of the movie, admitting he couldn’t get much done during the Clinton administration when all the factors he identified as causes for the worsening gap between the rich and everyone else began to accelerate.

The Clinton administration, Reich said, had a slogan: “Putting People First.” But that’s all it was and they paid him no mind. Eventually he went away.

So Hillary Clinton’s inclusive capitalism is likely the same meaningless eyewash. Worse, maybe, because it doesn’t even have the word “people” in it.

As a phrase it’s enough to make the eyes glaze over and head droop. Nobody wants to be in an inclusive capitalism. They just want to make a better living.

In its development as a branding buzz term, inclusive capitalism is as shitty as sharing economy.

From the New York Times:

With advice from more than 200 policy experts, Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying to answer what has emerged as a central question of her early presidential campaign strategy: how to address the anger about income inequality without overly vilifying the wealthy [who are her major benefactors] …

Behind many of these proposals is a philosophy, endorsed by Mrs. Clinton’s closest economic advisers and often referred to as inclusive capitalism, that contends that a majority of Americans do not want to punish the rich; they just want to feel that they, too, have a chance to succeed. It also calls for corporations to put less emphasis on short-term profits that increase shareholder value and to invest more in employees, the environment and communities.

Details remain vague.

Inclusive capitalism — something very wealthy people interested in maintaining the status quo will say to gull the stupid and/or get others to leave the subject alone.

More, from the New York Times, a few days earlier:

The concept of inclusive capitalism has expanded over the past 13 years to apply to those at the bottom and middle of the ladder in developed nations, including the United States. The fundamental “inclusive capitalism” argument is that business enterprises lose profit-making opportunities when consumers have little money to spend. Inadequate purchasing power among the many threatens corporations and poses a direct danger to the top 1 percent, and, indeed, to capitalism itself …

The Summers-Balls report – “The Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity” – is the most comprehensive summary. This report, which uses the phrase “inclusive capitalism” more than a dozen times, was published by the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank founded by John Podesta – Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff who in February will join Hillary Clinton’s exploratory presidential campaign.

And in those thirteen years, great things happened.

Technically, you could call the sharing economy inclusive capitalism. Everyone is included if they wish to be.

And from last year, in July, we learn inclusive capitalism was the name of a conference in the financial heart of London, one where important men of finance (and Bill Clinton) convened to discuss what was to be done about the remote possibility of pitchforks:

A stirring through the hall, a focusing of gazes — Carney has the attention of the chief executives, bankers and investors gathered here for a conference on “Inclusive Capitalism.” His bluntness reflects the fact that, six years after the crisis, the core problem has not gone away: The deep unease and anger in developed countries about the ways globalization and technology magnify returns for the super-rich, operating in a world of low taxation and lax regulation where short-term gain becomes a guiding principle, even as societies become more unequal, offering diminished opportunities to the young, less community and a growing sense of unfairness …

In other words, human beings matter. An age that has seen emergence from poverty on a massive scale in the developing world has been accompanied by the spread of a new poverty (of life and of expectations) in much of the developed world. Global convergence has occurred alongside internal divergence. Interdependence is a reality, but the way it works is skewed. [Keynote speaker Bill Clinton] noted that ants, bees, termites and humans have all survived through an unusual shared characteristic: They are cooperative forms of life. But it is precisely the loss at all levels of community, of social capital, that most threatens the world’s stability and future prosperity.

There is a kind of poetry to it. Global convergence has occurred alongside internal divergence. Ants, bees, termites and humans. Either like something from Being There or a child’s fortune-telling toy.

1 Comment

  1. Iman Lababedi said,

    February 9, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    geez, that was absolutely horrible… I’m glad I’m not young any more, really…