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The Rational Argumentator’s Seventeenth Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Seventeenth Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
Gennady Stolyarov II
September 3, 2019
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The seventeenth year of The Rational Argumentator’s existence has been kind to us in terms of visitation. TRA attained 1,452,542 page views between September 1, 2018, and August 31, 2019, a count exceeded only by the 1,501,473 page views from the preceding year. Altogether, cumulative lifetime visitation to The Rational Argumentator’s pages has reached 13,933,800 and will surpass 14 million soon.  During its seventeenth year, TRA published 37 features; our rate of publication has slowed once again due to the whirlwind of activity within the United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP), which is undergoing a turbulent primary election year and whose website published 123 features during the same time. However, our typical features during the past year have been in-depth and allow a thorough exploration of their subject matters.

We are pleased, furthermore, to have additional assistance and resources at our disposal. The work of TRA’s new Assistant Editor, Bobby Ridge, has enabled us to increase the pace of publication once again in recent months. Moreover, many of the highlights of the USTP’s efforts have been featured on TRA as well, allowing our readers to glimpse the many valuable activist initiatives that advocate technological progress and rational philosophy. My role as Chairman of the USTP, in which I am nearing the completion of my third year, has given me unprecedented opportunities to discuss technology, philosophy, and their impacts on politics to a worldwide audience. It is due to these activities that I was able to interview Ray Kurzweil on stage in September 2018 and co-host the Cyborg and Transhumanist Forum at the Nevada State Legislature in May 2019 – the first-ever official transhumanist event within a State legislature, which enabled a successful amendment to Nevada’s Assembly Bill 226 to remove the bill sponsor’s previously proposed prohibition against voluntary microchip implants. TRA has also featured two major academic papers that I was immensely pleased to get published: “The United States Transhumanist Party and the Politics of Abundance” (The Transhumanism Handbook, Springer Nature, July 2019) and “Empowering Human Musical Creation through Machines, Algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence” (INSAM Journal, Issue 2, July 2019). Furthermore, this has been a year of many constructive interviews, lively discussions and debates, and a successful visit to the Wellness and Longevity Seminar in Burbank, California, where I delivered my presentation, “Progress in the Politics of Abundance” and also hosted a U.S. Transhumanist Party discussion panel.

The U.S. Transhumanist Party has, in recent months, been applying lessons and models of creation which were refined within the pages of The Rational Argumentator for years. The USTP’s recent call for the development of free transhumanist symbols was a case in point. The non-monetary model of publication which TRA has employed since its founding has been readily scaled up to an entire non-monetary political organization, the USTP, whose projects are based on the skills and dedication of its volunteer Officers and members. By setting our sights high, guided by Reason and the desire for constructive improvement of the human condition, we can all work for a brighter future with greater enthusiasm and productivity – knowing that the results of our efforts will be directly available to others, indefinitely reproducible, and able to make concrete impacts upon the world. At times an extensive philosophical foundation, reinforced by continual study and deliberation, is needed to arrive at simple but powerful insights which, if applied, alter the dynamics of human behavior and set forth a new system of incentives where the desire to do good is itself prized.

The above explication of the value of non-monetary approaches is not intended, of course, to criticize monetary or capitalist systems in any way – but rather to highlight the importance of parallel and complementary systems of intellectual creation that do not rely on the kinds of rationing that scarcity of physical goods necessitates. Indeed, as more human creation has become possible in the digital realm, and as automation has made many physical processes far swifter and less expensive than previously, we are rapidly nearing a time when abundance, rather than scarcity, becomes the prevailing condition in terms of the availability of goods and concepts. The barrier to progress in those situations is the mindset that continues to cling to an assumption of pervasive scarcity when, in fact, positive-sum solutions exist which allow everyone to achieve their desired objectives and more besides.

While there remain major areas of scarcity to overcome – particularly the scarcity of time which limits us all and to transcend which it is imperative to achieve indefinite life extension – in many instances in today’s world scarcity is either artificially imposed (as in, for instance, monopolies on software or medical patents or exorbitant prices charged for access to some academic journal articles) or imagined (as in the numerous protectionist fallacies that pervade mainstream political discourse today). While it is difficult for humans to transcend the evolved mindsets which served our ancestors more effectively during epochs when scarcity was indeed ubiquitous and relegated most humans to the barest edges of survival, nonetheless the effort must be made to adapt our thinking to the material realities and technological possibilities of our time. We are not yet at the technological stage where the evolutionary baggage of fallacious thinking might be genetically engineered out of us, so, in the meantime, our best recourse is to exert a conscious effort to resist the traps and ruts of evolved conditioning and replace them with thorough, rational, intentional consideration of the evidence around us. The opportunities have never been greater to access a plethora of thought-provoking content that both trains and inspires the mind to pursue the rational approach instead of the evolved one. Will and time are the remaining ingredients needed for the rational approach to take root and flourish within the individual mind. However much time our readers are willing to spend on The Rational Argumentator’s pages, I am hopeful that all such time will incrementally cultivate elevated ways of thinking that will translate into world-improving action.

While there remain plentiful challenges to overcome in the contemporary culture of lowest-common-denominator discourse, there is also much to look forward to in the transformations that both technology and rational advocacy can bring about. Amidst all the difficulties, transhumanism and techno-optimism are rising in influence, and I have experienced this first-hand. I am confident that if the majority of the current problems facing humankind can be overcome in the next several decades, then any future problems that arise will be significantly less severe than the familiar predicaments of our world today. The Rational Argumentator will remain a freely available, frequently updated resource for those who seek intellectual sustenance and inspiration to fuel the attainment of the next, greatest-yet era of our civilization.

Gennady Stolyarov II,
Editor-in-Chief, The Rational Argumentator

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

Gennady Stolyarov II and Johannon Ben Zion Discuss a Transhumanist Vision for U.S. Policy

Gennady Stolyarov II and Johannon Ben Zion Discuss a Transhumanist Vision for U.S. Policy

Gennady Stolyarov II
Johannon Ben Zion


Johannon Ben Zion of the Futurist New Deal Podcast interviews U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II regarding the U.S. Transhumanist Party’s recent efforts, visions for the future of American politics, technological progress and technological Singularities, the importance of life-extension advocacy, open-source approaches to innovation, and overcoming challenges such as information overload and overly slow and cumbersome approval processes for innovative medical treatments. Mr. Stolyarov and Mr. Ben Zion also discussed in general terms the upcoming USTP Presidential Primary Election, for which voting will open on September 22, 2019.

This interview was filmed in Burbank, California, on August 24, 2019, following the Wellness and Longevity Seminar that was hosted there to mark the publication of The Transhumanism Handbook.

References

– “Progress in the Politics of Abundance” – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II
– U.S. Transhumanist Party Discussion Panel – Burbank, California – August 24, 2019
– The Transhumanism Handbook
– “The United States Transhumanist Party and the Politics of Abundance” – Mr. Stolyarov’s chapter in “The Transhumanism Handbook” – available for free download
– Free Transhumanist Symbols
– Futurist New Deal Podcast videos
– Johannon Ben Zion – Candidate in the 2019 U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party Presidential Primary

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Those who join by September 22, 2019, will be eligible to vote in the Presidential Primary.

Progress in the Politics of Abundance – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II

Progress in the Politics of Abundance – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II

Gennady Stolyarov II


Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the United States Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party (USTP), delivered this presentation, entitled “Progress in the Politics of Abundance“, during the August 24, 2019, Wellness and Longevity Seminar in Burbank, California, to commemorate the publication of The Transhumanism Handbook. Mr. Stolyarov spoke to update the audience on recent USTP activities in 2019 since the writing of his chapter, entitled “The United States Transhumanist Party and the Politics of Abundance” which is available for free download.

Some of the subjects addressed in Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation are the necessity and challenges of overcoming the evolved mindset of scarcity – the zero-sum mentality – in politics, the USTP’s #IAmTranshuman campaign, its successful effort to amend Nevada Assembly Bill 226 to remove the prohibition against voluntary microchip implantation, and its Transhumanist Symbols project, of which the products are freely available here.

The presentation slides are not fully visible in the video but can be accessed and downloaded here.

Find out more about The Transhumanism Handbook.

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Those who join by September 22, 2019, will be eligible to vote in the upcoming USTP Presidential Primary.

The United States Transhumanist Party and the Politics of Abundance – Essay by Gennady Stolyarov II in “The Transhumanism Handbook”

The United States Transhumanist Party and the Politics of Abundance – Essay by Gennady Stolyarov II in “The Transhumanism Handbook”

Gennady Stolyarov II


U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II’s essay “The United States Transhumanist Party and the Politics of Abundance” is available in the newly published master compilation, The Transhumanism Handbook, edited by Newton Lee, the California Transhumanist Party Chairman and U.S. Transhumanist Party Education and Media Advisor, and published by Springer Nature. This book is a milestone publication in transhumanist thought, and the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party encourages everyone to purchase it and read it in full. Fortunately, Mr. Stolyarov is able to share his own chapter – 60 pages within the book – for free download here: http://www.rationalargumentator.com/index/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Stolyarov_USTP_Politics_of_Abundance.pdf.

Read “The United States Transhumanist Party and the Politics of Abundance” for a detailed explanation of the premises behind transhumanist politics and what the U.S. Transhumanist Party stands for. This essay is current through year-end 2018, and various other significant developments have occurred since then. However, this essay should give readers a strong impression of the USTP’s values, operating procedures, areas of focus, and aspirations for the future.

Abstract: “The depredations of contemporary politics and the majority of our era’s societal problems stem from the scarcity of material resources and time. However, numerous emerging technologies on the horizon promise to dramatically lift the present-day constraints of scarcity. The United States Transhumanist Party, in advocating the accelerated development of these technologies and seeking to influence public opinion to embrace them, is forging a new political paradigm rooted in abundance, rather than scarcity. This new approach is simultaneously more ambitious and more civil than the status quo. Here I illustrate the distinguishing features of the Transhumanist Party’s mode of operation, achievements, and plans for the future.”

Purchase the Transhumanism Handbook on Amazon here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party for free, no matter where you reside. Click here.

Click on the image of the first page above to read the essay in full. 

The Great Transhumanist Game – How to Win; How to Play and Not to Play – Videos by Gennady Stolyarov II

The Great Transhumanist Game – How to Win; How to Play and Not to Play – Videos by Gennady Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II

August 19, 2017


This two-part video series was created by Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, to serve as pieces in the Great Transhumanist Game orchestrated by Professor Angel Marchev, Sr., Ph.D., of the University of National and World Economy in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The Great Transhumanist Game – Part 1 – How to Win

What would it mean to win in the Great Transhumanist Game? Mr. Stolyarov answers that winning would be inaugurating the next great era of human civilization, and living to see it.

The Great Transhumanist Game – Part 2 – How to Play and Not to Play

Now that we know what it would mean to win the Great Transhumanist Game, how do we get from here to there? Mr. Stolyarov discusses the importance of knowing which game one is playing, and whose, and abstaining from playing the wrong, counterproductive political or insurrectionary games.

Visit the U.S. Transhumanist Party website here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

Become a Foreign Ambassador for the U.S. Transhumanist Party. Fill out our Application Form here.

These videos are available to be republished and redistributed via a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, which allows republication, as long as full credit is given to the author and the content is shared under the terms of the same Creative Commons license.

Does Star Trek Boldly Go Beyond Scarcity? – Article by Frederik Cyrus Roeder

Does Star Trek Boldly Go Beyond Scarcity? – Article by Frederik Cyrus Roeder

The New Renaissance HatFrederik Cyrus Roeder
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As a long-time Trekkie (with several conventions and selfies with William Shatner) and an economist, I was more than delighted when a good friend of mine gave me the recently published book Trekonomics: The Economics Behind Star Trek by Manu Saadia.

Saadia’s highly exciting book attempts to explain the economy of Star Trek and describes the Federation of United Planets (which includes Earth) as a post-scarcity society that no longer uses money because everyone maximizes their utility by just doing what they want to do. The main driving force behind people’s behavior is vanity, not profit. He calls this economic system “Trekonomics.”

Economics Is an Intergalactic Concept

While describing a post-scarcity society, Saadia admits that there are some resources that are scarce. He mainly focuses on dilithium crystals that are the source of energy in the Star Trek universe:

Logic would dictate that near-absolute abundance has driven prices to zero on all but few strategic goods. These strategic goods are of limited use for most people anyway. I do not need a big chunk of dilithium crystals in the course of my everyday life. Matter-antimatter power plants require it, whether on board starships or on the ground, but not me. I am not in the market for it, society as a whole is.

While Saadia praises the replicator (Star Trek’s version of the universal 3D printer) as the driving force behind post-scarcity, he omits the fact that replicators (and holodecks, and warp drives needed in delivery shuttles bringing the latest vintage of Chateau Picard to your cottage on Mars) require energy in order to create food out of nothing.

If there’s a shortage of dilithium, there needs to be a market in order to efficiently allocate energy. Therefore, every individual is interested in a sufficient supply of dilithium crystals. An analogy to our world can be seen in oil dwells or nuclear power plants. While individuals rarely explore oil fields or build power plants, they do purchase their product (energy) on a daily basis.

Even if every one of the tens of billions of citizens of the Federation would act altruistically, it would be impossible to allocate energy to the projects with the highest priority. Only central planning or a market for energy can solve this.

The 24th century’s technological progress has reduced all physical resources to one: energy. Humans and aliens can nearly produce everything out of energy. This is great and probably significantly cuts down value/supply-chains, but there is still scarcity.

Price Controls in the Trek Universe

The value chain of the Federation’s economy most likely includes the following few stakeholders: dilithium explorers and miners, dilithium transporters/shippers, dilithium power plant operators, power grid operators, B2B replicator manufacturers (those replicators that replicate replicators), replicator owners, and replicator maintenance providers. 

Assuming there’s a natural monopoly in running these services, one company or institution running all of this might also be thinkable (though given our experiences with centrally managed energy supply, I would highly doubt that there’s a natural monopoly in the dilithium value chain).

Without a price for the resource energy, a single individual could deplete the Federation’s dilithium supplies by merely replicating a galaxy full of larger-than-life Seven of Nine action figures. Thus a price system for energy is crucial in order to allow consumer choice in the Federation. The only other way to solve this issue would be the creation of the United Socialist Republics of the Galaxy (USRG) and centrally plan the energy distribution. Good luck with queuing for holodeck time in that USRG!

Light-Speed, Among Other Things, Isn’t Immune to Scarcity

Dilithium seems to perfectly qualify as a private good because both rivalry (it is scarce and you need to find it somewhere in deep and hostile space) and exclusivity (it’s pretty easy to cut someone off the energy grid) apply.

While Saadia acknowledges the scarcity of dilithium, he misses several other scarce goods:

Private Property: rivalry also exists when it comes to the use of land. Imagine a beautiful cliff in Europe that gives you a perfect view of Saturn during sunset. The cliff has space for exactly one cottage. Who decides who can build and live there? Galactic homesteading is probably a feasible means of solving this problem in times of early inter-planetary exploration, but the moment the galaxy gets more crowded, a land-registry proving property rights will be necessary in order to prevent and solve disputes and facilitate the transfer of ownership.

Unique locations and goods: Saadia admits that there’s a scarcity of seats at Sisko’s restaurant or bottles of the famous Chateau Picard, but as people have overcome the idea of enjoying status, they are not interested in over-consuming such gems in the galaxy.

In trekonomics, the absence of money implies that status is not tied to economic wealth or discretionary spending. Conspicuous consumption and luxury have lost their grip on people’s imaginations. The opposition between plenty and scarcity, which under our current conditions determines a large cross section of prices and purchasing behaviors, is no longer relevant.

This reasoning comes short in explaining how people demand dinner at Sisko’s or a good bottle of wine at all, and what happens if the demand is higher than the supply. Would first customers start hoarding? Are there black markets for these non-replicated goods and experiences?

Incentives: a Terran settler on Mars craves the 2309 vintage of Chateau Picard and wants to get it delivered in light speed from the South of France. How do we incentivize the shuttle pilot (beaming wine spoils the tannins) to stop soaking in the sun in the Mediterranean and swing his body behind the helm of a shuttle? How do we compensate him for the time and energy he spent delivering the wine to the Red Planet? If vanity is the major driving force in trekonomics, one can just hope that someone sees more vanity in the delivery of this excellent wine instead of chugging it day-in day-out himself. A more realistic way of getting people to do (annoying) things is to create incentives (e.g. to pay in dilithium units).

Live long and prosper as long the central planners allow it?

Star Trek Federation is a great thought experiment on what a post-scarcity society could look like. However, there are major shortcomings such as the allocation of property rights, a price system for energy, incentivization of services, and the existence of rivalry.

A free, prosperous, and open society such as the Federation can only function with a price system in place in order to deal with the scarcity of energy. If trekonomics would really be applied in the Federation, we would see a much more repressive version of this interplanetary union forcing its citizens to work in certain professions and rationing energy.

frederik-roeder


Frederik Cyrus Roeder

Fred Roeder is the Vice President of Students for Liberty and member of the Executive Board at Young Voices. He is based in Germany.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

The Science Fiction of Scarcity – Article by Sarah Skwire

The Science Fiction of Scarcity – Article by Sarah Skwire

The New Renaissance HatSarah Skwire
October 6, 2015
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We Have Such Abundance That We Fantasize about Having Less.

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We all know the scene. The urbane starship captain steps up to the console and requests, “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” He waits a second or two until a steaming, perfectly brewed cup shimmers into existence.

From medieval dreams of the Land of Cockaigne, where roofs are shingled with pastries and roasted chickens fly into our waiting mouths, to the Big Rock Candy Mountain’s “cigarette trees” and “lemonade springs,” to Star Trek’s replicator, we have imagined the bright futures and the glorious new worlds that would give us instant abundance.

The “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot” type of scene is such a standby it even has its own parodies, where instant preference satisfaction is not exactly … satisfying.

He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject’s taste buds, a spectroscopic analysis of the subject’s metabolism, and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centers of the subject’s brain to see what was likely to go down well. However, no one knew quite why it did this because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. (Douglas Adams, Restaurant at the End of the Universe)

If we didn’t know what was supposed to happen, and if we didn’t fully expect the future to fulfill our fantasies, and if we didn’t have a certain amount of frustrated experience with modern machines that promise wonders but deliver things that are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike them, the scene wouldn’t be funny.

But I find science fiction most compelling when it goes in the other direction — when instead of imagining the end of scarcity, it imagines the end of abundance. The movie Total Recall imagines life on Mars, where even the air is rationed. The gritty reboot of the television series Battlestar Galactica puts us in world where fewer than 50,000 humans have survived and escaped from an enemy attack. The survivors spend much of their time trying to subsist in space amid constant and growing shortages of food, water, fuel, ammunition, and pretty much everything else.

In works like these — and yes, I know their imaginings are as romantic as the imaginings of Star Trek — we get to watch human beings pushed to their limits, using every bit of their ingenuity in order to survive. It was no accident, after all, that Gene Roddenberry called space “the final frontier.”

The latest iteration of this kind of scarcity science fiction is Andy Weir’s novel The Martian, the movie version of which premiered October 2. I first learned about The Martian through the XKCD webcomic strip describing the plot as made out of “the scene in Apollo 13 where the guy says ‘we have to figure out how to connect this thing to this thing using this table of parts or the astronauts will all die.’”

I was sold.

And it’s no spoiler to say that this is precisely the plot of The Martian. Astronaut Mark Watney is one of the first people to visit Mars. When the mission goes awry, his crew has to evacuate, and Mark is left behind. Everyone thinks he’s dead.

He’s not, though, and the remainder of the book is caught up in the details of the scarcities he faces, his creative attempts to overcome them, and our nail-biting suspense over whether he can survive one more hour, one more day, and maybe long enough to be rescued. Mark describes his situation like this:

I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab [the atmosphere-controlled habitat in which astronauts from his mission could live without wearing spacesuits] designed to last thirty-one days. If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of these things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

Mark’s assessment of his situation, which ends with, “I’m f—ed,” appears on page 7 of the novel. We spend 360 more pages following his solitary attempts to science his way out of the problem. And if you’re at all like me, you won’t be able to put the book down until you find out what happens. Done well, the movie should convey that same nail-biting suspense.

The Martian, and scarcity science fiction in general, is a good reminder to all of us that the real miracle of the market is not the great individual with the great idea, bringing it to fruition and selling it to all of us. The real miracle of the market is that it reliably supplies us, every day, with all the necessities that Mark Watney has to work for so desperately. And it does that by allowing us to cooperate, and to broaden that cooperation beyond our immediate context, to the extended and anonymous world. That long-distance cooperation allows us to access so many different human skills, strengths, and abilities.

With only himself to rely on, Mark (who is primarily a botanist) is painfully aware of the skills he lacks, skills he relied on in his crewmembers who specialize in chemistry, or engineering, or other sciences. While it becomes clear that his botany skills will be a crucial part of his survival, so are all these others, and without any possibility of cooperating, he has to go it alone. He’s in the position of the folks who try to build a toaster entirely from scratch, or make a sandwich all on their own.

I loved reading The Martian, and I can’t wait to see the movie. Stories like this, and like Battlestar Galactica and others, allow me to explore the limits of the human ability to survive. I’m happy to visit those worlds and to entertain myself with their emotional and suspenseful visions of life on the narrowest of possible margins.

But the world I want to live in is the one where cooperation, through the mechanisms of the market, brings us movies about scarcity and survival, while outside the movie theater we enjoy real-life abundance. And also, maybe one day, a replicator that will allow my own cup of “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot” to shimmer miraculously into being.

Sarah Skwire is a senior fellow at Liberty Fund, Inc. She is a poet and author of the writing textbook Writing with a Thesis.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Let’s Hope Machines Take Our Jobs: We Want Wealth, Not Jobs – Article by Peter St. Onge

Let’s Hope Machines Take Our Jobs: We Want Wealth, Not Jobs – Article by Peter St. Onge

The New Renaissance Hat
Peter St. Onge
June 11, 2015
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The job-threatening rise of the machines is an economically illiterate meme that refuses to die. We’re actually probably in the early stages of it, a bull-market in neo-luddism, if you will. Bastiat’s “Candlemakers’ Petititon” answered this one long ago, but today I’ll run a little thought experiment that owes it all to good old Bastiat.

Let’s say Weird Al Yankovic invents a machine capable of making everything with a single push of a button. The first thing he does is print up a bunch of machines and sell them for a ton. Weird Al is now a billionaire, and there are thousands of make-everything machines.

This diffusion of Weird Al’s new technology replicates the market process, where new tech spreads in proportion to its usefulness. If you doubt this, because of patents, for example, check out Brazil’s experience with AIDS drugs, where they tore up the patents on humanitarian grounds.

Weird Al’s machines will, at a minimum, be mass produced in Brazil. Or China. Or Mozambique.

So, one way or another, we get a bunch of make-everything machines.

What happens to the jobs? We’re getting everything for near-free now. So all the production jobs disappear. There are still lots of jobs, of course — child care, gardeners, musicians. But all the production jobs have vanished — something like 20 percent of jobs, maybe up to 50 percent when you include knock-on replacement of people by capital (truck drivers, robot bartenders). Heck, let’s go crazy and say 90 percent of the jobs vanished. Nobody’s got a job outside of preschool or performing on a stage. It’s the end of the world, right?

Well, the key is that, now that everything is made with the push of a button, everything’s extremely cheap. For example, a sixteen-bedroom house or a Lamborghini costs almost nothing. Let’s say they now cost ten cents.

The main expense in such a world is probably surface space. All those dime-a-dozen cars have to park somewhere. It’d take a while to “run out” of space, though — divide the world by the people and you get about twenty acres (eight hectares) for a family of four — about 100 large surburban yards. Add in the oceans — floating islands cost nothing, remember — and triple that. We end up with about 300 homes’ worth of space per family.

What about those unemployed people? Well, when a house or a year’s food costs a dime, they’ll be willing to work really cheap. We’ll work for a penny a day. After all, that’s a new house or a year’s food every two weeks.

Who would hire these workers for a penny? Plenty of people. Heck, if workers cost a penny a day I’d hire several for each of my children, just to keep the kids from getting bored. I’d hire another to cook, one to clean, one to run errands. One to keep track of my mail. One to check Facebook for me. At a penny a day I’d personally hire 100 people, easy. You would too — a buck a day’s nothing.

So the remaining 10 percent of workers who didn’t lose their jobs — babysitters, baristas, musicians — would want 100 workers each. Even at a penny, they’d take them all, and they’d be paying an outrageous rate — a tenth-house per day! That’s a daily rate of $15,000 in today’s terms.

Now, those who kept their jobs would, of course, see dropping wages. A barista who made $12 an hour in the old days would have to compete with the hordes of unemployed workers. Maybe her wage would drop to a penny, too. But, remember, a penny now buys $15,000 worth of stuff.

When the smoke clears, most people would make some extremely low wages — a penny a day. And that extremely low wage would be worth an awful lot — $15,000 a day, implying an annual income north of several million dollars in today’s values. Some lucky few would make a dollar a day — probably the people who are good at things machines cannot do: entertainment, child care, being a good listener, strumming the guitar at the retirement home, and laughing at jokes. At a dollar a day, this super-rich elite that excels at human skills — such as making us laugh — would be billionaires in today’s values.

Either way, there would be nothing we think of even remotely as “poverty.” Sure, there’ll be inequality, but it’ll be relative: “Sarah’s got 200 Lamborghinis and I’ve only got 40.”

The upshot is that wages plunge, but production costs plunge even more. Of course, this is based on the ridiculous Weird Al machine. Why do this? To illustrate the absolute worst-case scenario, when machines make everything for near-nothing.

What about going one step further: That the machine destroys all jobs in the whole world — it makes every single thing for us free, and it even keeps the folks entertained and the warm fuzzies flowing at the old folks’ home.

Well, we’ve already got a case study there — the sun. It gives us warmth and mangos for free. And how do we respond? We sit around and lazily enjoy it. So a machine that truly replaced all jobs would simply mean nobody works anymore — life’s somewhere between a non-stop party and a non-stop pleasant walk in the woods followed by a nice bonfire with friends and chardonnay.

We should all be so lucky that the machines do actually take every last job there is.

Peter St. Onge is an assistant professor at Taiwan’s Fengjia University College of Business. He blogs at Profits of Chaos.
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This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.
Fantasy Bookstore Fights Fantasy Economics – San Francisco Sci-Fi Lovers Do Battle With the Minimum Wage – Article by Gary McGath

Fantasy Bookstore Fights Fantasy Economics – San Francisco Sci-Fi Lovers Do Battle With the Minimum Wage – Article by Gary McGath

The New Renaissance Hat
Gary McGath
May 18, 2015
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Borderlands is an independent bookstore in San Francisco with an enthusiastic following among science fiction fans. It’s not just a place to buy books, but in the words of its mission statement “a social and professional center for readers, writers, publishers, reviewers, artists and other individuals with a strong interest in the fields of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Macabre Fiction.” Authors frequently appear there, and readers meet for discussions.

Like other bookstores, Borderlands has found staying in business difficult. It nearly closed early in 2015, and management put the blame for this on the city’s increase in the minimum wage. On February 1, it announced:

In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018.

Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principal [sic] and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage.

Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st.  The cafe will continue to operate until at least the end of this year.

Thanks to sponsorship from its community, Borderlands was able to avoid closing and is still in business, at least for now. Still, its crisis graphically shows one of the damaging consequences of minimum wage laws.

If the cost of something goes up, people will buy less of it, or if they can’t, they’ll make up for it in some other way. This applies to employees as much as to anything else. Some businesses can raise their prices to meet increased labor costs, but books are a highly competitive market, and consumers are very sensitive to price changes.

Small businesses in general have fewer options. A large operation may be able to absorb the cost or find ways to pass it on. It can reduce hours, require extra duties, or replace people with machines. These options don’t work well when the staff is small and the love of what they’re doing is a big reason they stay there.

Borderlands is hardly a unique case. The management was careful not to take a position against the minimum wage, but zero dollars for unemployed workers isn’t a “living wage,” and it’s meaningless to say that putting low-wage employees out of work is “good for San Francisco.” It is individuals, not a city, who have to get food and a place to live.

A paid sponsorship program was the key to Borderlands’ short-term survival. Science fiction fans are heavily networked, and many work in well-paying jobs, so the store benefited from a community with money to spare.

Well-known authors like Seanan McGuire and Cory Doctorow helped publicize the cause. Borderlands deserves credit for its innovative approach, but other businesses aren’t always so lucky, and they will fold without being widely noticed or mourned. Fans of bookstores realized, perhaps too late, that for the industry to survive as a whole, the bookstore must be profitable as a business venture, rather than a charity case.

Minimum-wage increases aren’t magic money. Any cost increase has to come out of something, and low-paying jobs that can’t justify the increase are the first place they’ll come out of. Thinking it happens for free is just fantasy.

Gary McGath is a freelance software engineer living in Nashua, New Hampshire.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.
Diversity in Goals Brings Diversity in Value – Article by Frank Shostak

Diversity in Goals Brings Diversity in Value – Article by Frank Shostak

The New Renaissance Hat
Frank Shostak
November 28, 2014
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A major problem with the mainstream framework of thinking is that people are presented as if a scale of preferences were hard-wired in their heads. Regardless of anything else this scale remains the same all the time. Valuations however, do not exist by themselves regardless of the things to be valued. On this Rothbard wrote,

There can be no valuation without things to be valued. 1

Valuation is the outcome of the mind valuing things. It is a relation between the mind and things.

Purposeful action implies that people assess or evaluate various means at their disposal against their ends. An individual’s ends set the standard for human valuations and thus choices. By choosing a particular end an individual also sets a standard of evaluating various means.

For instance, if my end is to provide a good education for my child, then I will explore various educational institutions and will grade them in accordance with my information regarding the quality of education that these institutions are providing. Observe that the standard of grading these institutions is my end, which, in this case, is to provide my child with a good education. Or, for instance, if my intention is to buy a car, and there are all sorts of cars available in the market, then I have to specify to myself the specific ends that the car will help me achieve. I need to establish whether I plan to drive long distances or just a short distance from my home to the train station and then catch the train. My final end will dictate how I will evaluate various cars. Perhaps I will conclude that for a short distance, a second-hand car will do the trick.

Since an individual’s ends determine the valuations of means and thus his choices, it follows that the same good will be valued differently by an individual as a result of changes in his ends. At any point in time, people have an abundance of ends that they would like to achieve. What limits the attainment of various ends is the scarcity of means. Hence, once a larger variety of means become available, a greater number of ends — or goals — can be accommodated (i.e., people’s living standards will increase).

Another limitation on attaining various goals is the availability of suitable means. Thus to quell my thirst in the desert, I require water. If no one willing to sell water is nearby, any diamonds in my possession will be of no help in this regard.

Frank Shostak is an adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute and a frequent contributor to Mises.org. His consulting firm, Applied Austrian School Economics, provides in-depth assessments and reports of financial markets and global economies. See Frank Shostak’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.