Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Progress and Poverty Part 2

In his novella entitled The Machine Stops, E.M. Forster asks the fundamental question: Where is scientific and technological "progress" taking humanity? That was in 1909. Today, Jeremy Naydler observes:

"We are now witnessing the transformation of both our urban and our natural environments from a condition of technological innocence to one in which they are electronically despoiled as they are tied into the ever more sophisticated 'information ecosystem'. A rapidly increasing number of digital devices are being embedded in the world of physical things, with Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) detecting and measuring diverse physical conditions in order to give us greater control of our environments; and the deployment of technologies for endowing more and more things with electronic identities. One crucial component for accomplishing the latter is what is known as Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technology, which ranges from simple barcodes to more complex facial recognition technology. The ubiquitous RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip or tag falls under this category. ... With more and more things and creatures (no doubt eventually including human beings) equipped with these miniscule identifying devices, from cows in the field to leather boots in the shops, from buildings and automobile parts on the assembly line to the pet cat or dog injected with an RFID chip, less and less will escape the electronic information net that is being cast over the world. Equipped with wearable computing devices, and armed with the appropriate dedicated software programmes, those who wear them will be able to lay claim to information about objects, creatures and perhaps other people in their immediate environment, otherwise inaccessible to those who are not so equipped. This is not because they will have developed a personal relationship to them, or a greater insight into them, or love or understanding of them, but because their wearable computer will have given them the power to access relevant information held on an electronic database. Here, then, we see the way in which the electronic information ecosystem can revolutionize human interaction with the earth and all living creatures, as well as inevitably altering the social and political climate in which we live." (Naydler 2020, page 56-7. See YEA Booklist.)

The present world social order evolved from the political-economic thought of the final decades of the 19th century and the early 20th century. The rapid growth of industry based on the division of labour, and the rise of banking and financial institutions, brought in their wake far reaching changes in working and living conditions for the vast majority of humanity. These changes in the institutions of the social order came about as humanity finally abandoned traditional, land-based economic practice.

In traditional societies roles and rules are clearly set out, as on a chessboard. The Pawns know their place in the overall scheme of things, whilst the King and Queen Mother are identifiable individuals. When things go well, the leaders are showered with good things: when things go wrong they pay the price and are replaced. All have rights and obligations assigned to them. In such circumstances nobody is left outside to starve to death, or to seek charity in the Poorhouse. The community as a whole may suffer deprivation, but families do not live in poverty amidst plenty. Enclosure changed all that. As land became property owned by private individuals, the landless labourer, his wife and their children, were driven by fear of starvation into waged slavery on terms dictated by the propertied class. Where fear dictates the social order, you might, quite literally, be as well hung for a sheep as for a lamb.

For over three decades, from 1879 to the onset of World War I, a lively public debate took place on the subject of the social order. Close study of the literature of the period reveals the extent to which ordinary men and women from all walks of life read books and articles on politics, economics, science and issues of social justice. Key texts available for popular study and debate included the works of Henry George, John Ruskin, William Cobbett, Karl Marx, Charles Dickens, Thorstein Veblen and many others.

Henry George's single tax proposals are, perhaps the most intriguing. Through taxing land values, society could make land common property and so recover the value of its common inheritance, raise wages, foster socially and ecologically sound land use, and eliminate the need for taxes on ethically sound productive activity. (See (Y)EA material on Monopoly and Triopoly)

This was no single-issue movement, providing simple cut and dried solutions to individual social problems that resulted from a fundamentally corrupt system. On the contrary, it covered a wide variety of issues. Foremost amongst topics for discussion are issues of war and peace, justice and human dignity, exploitation of the earth's resources and its people for private gain, community provision of the basic economic infrastructures, the operations of fiscal and taxation policies, money creation, banking and national deficit reform, basic income, copyrights, patents and the common cultural heritage. A topic that now must be added to this list is the ‘Internet of Things’.

The vast world-wide network of objects - the 'Internet of Things' relies on a vast army of waged and salaried slaves who have no choice but to serve it from fear of starvation.

For more on this theme (including the Booklist) see ESSAYS\YEA Page of https://www.douglassocialcredit.com/


No comments:

Post a Comment