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Opinion | Barack Obama’s Biggest Mistake - The New York Times
"It rhymes with ‘schneo-liberalism.’ It was an economic disaster and a political dead end."

...

"In 2009, Barack Obama was the most powerful newly elected American president in a generation. Democrats controlled the House and, for about five months in the second half of the year, they enjoyed a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate. For the first six months of his presidency, Obama had an approval rating in the 60s.

Democrats also had a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity presented by a careening global crisis. Across the country, people were losing jobs and homes in numbers not seen since World War II. Just as in the 1930s, the Republican Party’s economic policies were widely thought to have caused the crisis, and Obama and his fellow Democrats were swept into office on a throw-the-bums-out wave.

If he’d been in the mood to press the case, Obama might have found widespread public appetite for the sort of aggressive, interventionist restructuring of the American economy that Franklin D. Roosevelt conjured with the New Deal. One of the inspiring new president’s advisers even hinted that was the plan.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, said days after the 2008 election.

And then Obama took office. And rather than try for a Rooseveltian home run, he bunted: Instead of pushing for an aggressive stimulus to rapidly expand employment and long-term structural reforms in how the economy worked, Obama and his team responded to the recession with a set of smaller emergency measures designed to fix the immediate collapse of financial markets. They succeeded: The recession didn’t turn into a depression, markets were stabilized, and the United States began a period of long, slow growth.

But they could have done so much more. By the time Obama took office, job losses had accelerated so quickly that his advisers calculated the country would need $1.7 trillion in additional spending to get back to full employment. A handful of advisers favored a very large government stimulus of $1.2 trillion; some outside economists — Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, James Galbraith — also favored going to a trillion.

But Obama’s closest advisers declined to push Congress for anything more than $800 billion, which they projected would reduce unemployment to below 8 percent by the 2010 midterms. They were wrong; the stimulus did reduce job losses, but it was far too small to hit the stated goal — unemployment was 9.8 percent in November 2010.

Obama’s advisers also rejected ideas for large infrastructure projects. They offered a plan to prevent just 1.5 million foreclosures — when, ultimately, 10 million Americans lost their homes. And they declined to push for new leadership on Wall Street, let alone much punishment for the recklessness that led to the crisis.

“He chose an economic recovery plan that benefited educated, well-off people much more than the middle class,” writes Reed Hundt, a Democrat who is a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, in his recent history of Obama’s first two years, “A Crisis Wasted.”

A lot of this might be excusable; it was an emergency, and Obama and his team did what they could. But Obama’s longer record on the economy is also coming under fire from the left. The Obama people — many of whom came to the White House from Wall Street and left it for Silicon Valley — seemed entirely too comfortable with the ongoing corporatization of America.

In the Obama years, the government let corporations get bigger and economic power grow more concentrated. Obama’s regulators declined to push antimonopoly measures against Google and Facebook, against airlines and against big food and agriculture companies.

It is true that Obama succeeded in passing a groundbreaking universal health care law. It’s also true that over the course of his presidency, inequality grew, and Obama did little to stop it. While much of the rest of the country struggled to get by, the wealthy got wealthier and multimillionaires and billionaires achieved greater political and cultural power.

What’s the point of returning to this history now, a decade later? Think of it as a cautionary tale — a story that ought to rank at the top of mind for a Democratic electorate that is now choosing between Obama’s vice president and progressives like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who had pushed Obama, during the recovery, to adopt policies with more egalitarian economic effects.

From this distance, the history favors Warren’s approach. As Hundt notes, not only did Obama’s policy ideas produce lackluster economic results (at least in that they failed to hit their stated goals), they failed politically, too. The sluggish recovery in Obama’s first years led to a huge loss for Democrats in the 2010 midterms. Obama was re-elected, but during his time in office, Democrats saw declining national support — and in 2016, of course, they lost the White House to Donald Trump, an outcome that Warren has tied directly to Obama’s early economic decisions.

Why had Obama chosen this elitist path? Another new book, “Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy,” by the antimonopoly scholar Matt Stoller, provides a deeply researched answer. It boils down to this: Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, was the product of a Democratic Party that had forgotten its history and legacy. For much of the 20th century, Democrats’ fundamental politics involved fighting against concentrations of economic power in favor of the rights and liberties of ordinary people. “The fight has always been about whether monopolists run our world, or about whether we the people do,” Stoller writes.

But in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, as Stoller explains, Democrats altered their economic vision. They abandoned New Deal and Great Society liberalism in favor of a new dogma that came to be known as neoliberalism — a view of society in which markets and financial instruments, rather than government policy and direct intervention, are seen as the best way to achieve social ends.

Obama’s biggest ideas were neoliberal: The Affordable Care Act, his greatest domestic policy achievement, improved access to health care by altering private health-insurance markets. Obama aimed to address the climate crisis by setting up a market for carbon, and his plan for improving education focused on technocratic, standards-based reform. Even Obama’s historical icons were neoliberal — the neoliberals’ patron saint being Alexander Hamilton, the elitist, banker-friendly founding father who would be transformed, in Obama’s neoliberal Camelot, into a beloved immigrant striver with very good flow.

It is tricky to criticize Obama from the left in the Trump era. There’s still widespread nostalgia and good feeling for Obama as a political figure — and, considering the disaster of the current administration, it feels almost churlish to re-examine his years in office. There are also a range of good defenses for Obama’s policies. “I have no doubt that when historians look back on the Obama years, he will and should be given credit for preventing a second Great Depression,” Christina Romer, one of the advisers who had pushed for much greater stimulus, told me.

Obama’s policies were also perfectly in line with prevailing orthodoxy — it’s likely that Hillary Clinton would have pursued similar measures if she’d won the 2008 primary. It is also worth noting that, ahem, parts of the punditocracy shared his market-fetishizing philosophy: I wrote skeptically of antitrust prosecution against Google in 2009, 2010, and 2015.

But that’s exactly why I found Stoller’s book so insightful. The long history of Democratic populism is unknown to most liberals today. Only now, in the age of Sanders and Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are we beginning to relearn the lessons of the past. For at least three decades, neoliberalism has brought the left economic half-measures and political despair. It’s time to demand more."
farhadmanjoo  2008  2009  politics  barackobama  democrats  greatrecession  neoliberalism  economics  missedopportunities  toldyaso  obamacare  unemployment  finance  inequality  banking  elitism  billclinton  policy  2015  antitrust  google  hillaryclinton  2016  donaldtrump  markets  capitalism  liberalism  berniesanders  elizabethwarren  alexandriaocasio-cortez  mattstoller  monopolies  alexanderhamilton  healthcare  newdeal  power  corporations  corporatization  reedhundt  middleclass  crisis  josephstiglitz  jamesgalbraith  paulkrugman  2010  2019 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | Be Afraid of Economic ‘Bigness.’ Be Very Afraid. - The New York Times
"There are many differences between the situation in 1930s and our predicament today. But given what we know, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we are conducting a dangerous economic and political experiment: We have chosen to weaken the laws — the antitrust laws — that are meant to resist the concentration of economic power in the United States and around the world.

From a political perspective, we have recklessly chosen to tolerate global monopolies and oligopolies in finance, media, airlines, telecommunications and elsewhere, to say nothing of the growing size and power of the major technology platforms. In doing so, we have cast aside the safeguards that were supposed to protect democracy against a dangerous marriage of private and public power.

Unfortunately, there are abundant signs that we are suffering the consequences, both in the United States and elsewhere. There is a reason that extremist, populist leaders like Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Xi Jinping of China and Viktor Orban of Hungary have taken center stage, all following some version of the same script. And here in the United States, we have witnessed the anger borne of ordinary citizens who have lost almost any influence over economic policy — and by extension, their lives. The middle class has no political influence over their stagnant wages, tax policy, the price of essential goods or health care. This powerlessness is brewing a powerful feeling of outrage."



"In recent years, we have allowed unhealthy consolidations of hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry; accepted an extraordinarily concentrated banking industry, despite its repeated misfeasance; failed to prevent firms like Facebook from buying up their most effective competitors; allowed AT&T to reconsolidate after a well-deserved breakup in the 1980s; and the list goes on. Over the last two decades, more than 75 percent of United States industries have experienced an increase in concentration, while United States public markets have lost almost 50 percent of their publicly traded firms.

There is a direct link between concentration and the distortion of democratic process. As any undergraduate political science major could tell you, the more concentrated an industry — the fewer members it has — the easier it is to cooperate to achieve its political goals. A group like the middle class is hopelessly disorganized and has limited influence in Congress. But concentrated industries, like the pharmaceutical industry, find it easy to organize to take from the public for their own benefit. Consider the law preventing Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices: That particular lobbying project cost the industry more than $100 million — but it returns some $15 billion a year in higher payments for its products.

We need to figure out how the classic antidote to bigness — the antitrust and other antimonopoly laws — might be recovered and updated to address the specific challenges of our time. For a start, Congress should pass a new Anti-Merger Act reasserting that it meant what it said in 1950, and create new levels of scrutiny for mega-mergers like the proposed union of T-Mobile and Sprint.

But we also need judges who better understand the political as well as economic goals of antitrust. We need prosecutors willing to bring big cases with the courage of trustbusters like Theodore Roosevelt, who brought to heel the empires of J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, and with the economic sophistication of the men and women who challenged AT&T and Microsoft in the 1980s and 1990s. Europe needs to do its part as well, blocking more mergers, especially those like Bayer’s recent acquisition of Monsanto that threaten to put entire global industries in just a few hands.

The United States seems to constantly forget its own traditions, to forget what this country at its best stands for. We forget that America pioneered a kind of law — antitrust — that in the words of Roosevelt would “teach the masters of the biggest corporations in the land that they were not, and would not be permitted to regard themselves as, above the law.” We have forgotten that antitrust law had more than an economic goal, that it was meant fundamentally as a kind of constitutional safeguard, a check against the political dangers of unaccountable private power.

As the lawyer and consumer advocate Robert Pitofsky warned in 1979, we must not forget the economic origins of totalitarianism, that “massively concentrated economic power, or state intervention induced by that level of concentration, is incompatible with liberal, constitutional democracy.”"
timwu  economics  monopolies  history  bigness  scale  size  2018  telecommunications  healthcare  medicine  governance  democracy  fascism  government  influence  power  bigpharma  law  legal  robertpitofsky  consolidation  mergers  lobbying  middleclass  class  inequality 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Silicon Valley Is Turning Into Its Own Worst Fear
"Consider: Who pursues their goals with monomaniacal focus, oblivious to the possibility of negative consequences? Who adopts a scorched-earth approach to increasing market share? This hypothetical strawberry-picking AI does what every tech startup wishes it could do — grows at an exponential rate and destroys its competitors until it’s achieved an absolute monopoly. The idea of superintelligence is such a poorly defined notion that one could envision it taking almost any form with equal justification: a benevolent genie that solves all the world’s problems, or a mathematician that spends all its time proving theorems so abstract that humans can’t even understand them. But when Silicon Valley tries to imagine superintelligence, what it comes up with is no-holds-barred capitalism."



"Insight is precisely what Musk’s strawberry-picking AI lacks, as do all the other AIs that destroy humanity in similar doomsday scenarios. I used to find it odd that these hypothetical AIs were supposed to be smart enough to solve problems that no human could, yet they were incapable of doing something most every adult has done: taking a step back and asking whether their current course of action is really a good idea. Then I realized that we are already surrounded by machines that demonstrate a complete lack of insight, we just call them corporations. Corporations don’t operate autonomously, of course, and the humans in charge of them are presumably capable of insight, but capitalism doesn’t reward them for using it. On the contrary, capitalism actively erodes this capacity in people by demanding that they replace their own judgment of what “good” means with “whatever the market decides.”"



"
It’d be tempting to say that fearmongering about superintelligent AI is a deliberate ploy by tech behemoths like Google and Facebook to distract us from what they themselves are doing, which is selling their users’ data to advertisers. If you doubt that’s their goal, ask yourself, why doesn’t Facebook offer a paid version that’s ad free and collects no private information? Most of the apps on your smartphone are available in premium versions that remove the ads; if those developers can manage it, why can’t Facebook? Because Facebook doesn’t want to. Its goal as a company is not to connect you to your friends, it’s to show you ads while making you believe that it’s doing you a favor because the ads are targeted.

So it would make sense if Mark Zuckerberg were issuing the loudest warnings about AI, because pointing to a monster on the horizon would be an effective red herring. But he’s not; he’s actually pretty complacent about AI. The fears of superintelligent AI are probably genuine on the part of the doomsayers. That doesn’t mean they reflect a real threat; what they reflect is the inability of technologists to conceive of moderation as a virtue. Billionaires like Bill Gates and Elon Musk assume that a superintelligent AI will stop at nothing to achieve its goals because that’s the attitude they adopted. (Of course, they saw nothing wrong with this strategy when they were the ones engaging in it; it’s only the possibility that someone else might be better at it than they were that gives them cause for concern.)

There’s a saying, popularized by Fredric Jameson, that it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. It’s no surprise that Silicon Valley capitalists don’t want to think about capitalism ending. What’s unexpected is that the way they envision the world ending is through a form of unchecked capitalism, disguised as a superintelligent AI. They have unconsciously created a devil in their own image, a boogeyman whose excesses are precisely their own.

Which brings us back to the importance of insight. Sometimes insight arises spontaneously, but many times it doesn’t. People often get carried away in pursuit of some goal, and they may not realize it until it’s pointed out to them, either by their friends and family or by their therapists. Listening to wake-up calls of this sort is considered a sign of mental health.

We need for the machines to wake up, not in the sense of computers becoming self-aware, but in the sense of corporations recognizing the consequences of their behavior. Just as a superintelligent AI ought to realize that covering the planet in strawberry fields isn’t actually in its or anyone else’s best interests, companies in Silicon Valley need to realize that increasing market share isn’t a good reason to ignore all other considerations. Individuals often reevaluate their priorities after experiencing a personal wake-up call. What we need is for companies to do the same — not to abandon capitalism completely, just to rethink the way they practice it. We need them to behave better than the AIs they fear and demonstrate a capacity for insight."
ai  elonmusk  capitalism  siliconvalley  technology  artificialintelligence  tedchiang  2017  insight  intelligence  regulation  governance  government  johnperrybarlow  1996  autonomy  externalcontrols  corporations  corporatism  fredericjameson  excess  growth  monopolies  technosolutionism  ethics  economics  policy  civilization  libertarianism  aynrand  billgates  markzuckerberg 
december 2017 by robertogreco
'Capitalism will always create bullshit jobs' | Owen Jones meets Rutger Bregman - YouTube
"Rutger Bregman is the author of Utopia for Realists and he advocates for more radical solutions to address inequality in society. His ideas include the introduction of a universal basic income, a 15 hour working week and, one which will be hugely popular on YouTube, open borders.

When I went to meet him, he told me politicians have failed to come up with new, radical ideas, instead sticking to an outdated, technocratic form of politics. He argues this has allowed politicians like Geert Wilders and Donald Trump to slowly shift extreme ideas into the mainstream."
rutgerbregman  bullshitjobs  consumerism  utopia  work  labor  davidgraeber  universalbasicincome  2017  inequality  purpose  emotionallabor  society  socialism  leisurearts  artleisure  boredom  stress  workweek  productivity  policy  politics  poverty  health  medicine  openborders  crime  owenjones  socialjustice  progressivism  sustainability  left  us  germany  migration  immigration  capitalism  netherlands  populism  isolationism  violence  pragmatism  realism  privatization  monopolies  ideology  borders  ubi 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Why the Economic Fates of America’s Cities Diverged - The Atlantic
"What accounts for these anomalous and unpredicted trends? The first explanation many people cite is the decline of the Rust Belt, and certainly that played a role."



"Another conventional explanation is that the decline of Heartland cities reflects the growing importance of high-end services and rarified consumption."



"Another explanation for the increase in regional inequality is that it reflects the growing demand for “innovation.” A prominent example of this line of thinking comes from the Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti, whose 2012 book, The New Geography of Jobs, explains the increase in regional inequality as the result of two new supposed mega-trends: markets offering far higher rewards to “innovation,” and innovative people increasingly needing and preferring each other’s company."



"What, then, is the missing piece? A major factor that has not received sufficient attention is the role of public policy. Throughout most of the country’s history, American government at all levels has pursued policies designed to preserve local control of businesses and to check the tendency of a few dominant cities to monopolize power over the rest of the country. These efforts moved to the federal level beginning in the late 19th century and reached a climax of enforcement in the 1960s and ’70s. Yet starting shortly thereafter, each of these policy levers were flipped, one after the other, in the opposite direction, usually in the guise of “deregulation.” Understanding this history, largely forgotten today, is essential to turning the problem of inequality around.

Starting with the country’s founding, government policy worked to ensure that specific towns, cities, and regions would not gain an unwarranted competitive advantage. The very structure of the U.S. Senate reflects a compromise among the Founders meant to balance the power of densely and sparsely populated states. Similarly, the Founders, understanding that private enterprise would not by itself provide broadly distributed postal service (because of the high cost of delivering mail to smaller towns and far-flung cities), wrote into the Constitution that a government monopoly would take on the challenge of providing the necessary cross-subsidization.

Throughout most of the 19th century and much of the 20th, generations of Americans similarly struggled with how to keep railroads from engaging in price discrimination against specific areas or otherwise favoring one town or region over another. Many states set up their own bureaucracies to regulate railroad fares—“to the end,” as the head of the Texas Railroad Commission put it, “that our producers, manufacturers, and merchants may be placed on an equal footing with their rivals in other states.” In 1887, the federal government took over the task of regulating railroad rates with the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Railroads came to be regulated much as telegraph, telephone, and power companies would be—as natural monopolies that were allowed to remain in private hands and earn a profit, but only if they did not engage in pricing or service patterns that would add significantly to the competitive advantage of some regions over others.

Passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890 was another watershed moment in the use of public policy to limit regional inequality. The antitrust movement that sprung up during the Populist and Progressive era was very much about checking regional concentrations of wealth and power. Across the Midwest, hard-pressed farmers formed the “Granger” movement and demanded protection from eastern monopolists controlling railroads, wholesale-grain distribution, and the country’s manufacturing base. The South in this era was also, in the words of the historian C. Vann Woodward, in a “revolt against the East” and its attempts to impose a “colonial economy.”"



"By the 1960s, antitrust enforcement grew to proportions never seen before, while at the same time the broad middle class grew and prospered, overall levels of inequality fell dramatically, and midsize metro areas across the South, the Midwest, and the West Coast achieved a standard of living that converged with that of America’s historically richest cites in the East. Of course, antitrust was not the only cause of the increase in regional equality, but it played a much larger role than most people realize today.

To get a flavor of how thoroughly the federal government managed competition throughout the economy in the 1960s, consider the case of Brown Shoe Co., Inc. v. United States, in which the Supreme Court blocked a merger that would have given a single distributor a mere 2 percent share of the national shoe market.

Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren explained that the Court was following a clear and long-established desire by Congress to keep many forms of business small and local: “We cannot fail to recognize Congress’ desire to promote competition through the protection of viable, small, locally owned business. Congress appreciated that occasional higher costs and prices might result from the maintenance of fragmented industries and markets. It resolved these competing considerations in favor of decentralization. We must give effect to that decision.”

In 1964, the historian and public intellectual Richard Hofstadter would observe that an “antitrust movement” no longer existed, but only because regulators were managing competition with such effectiveness that monopoly no longer appeared to be a realistic threat. “Today, anybody who knows anything about the conduct of American business,” Hofstadter observed, “knows that the managers of the large corporations do their business with one eye constantly cast over their shoulders at the antitrust division.”

In 1966, the Supreme Court blocked a merger of two supermarket chains in Los Angeles that, had they been allowed to combine, would have controlled just 7.5 percent of the local market. (Today, by contrast there are nearly 40 metro areas in the U.S where Walmart controls half or more of all grocery sales.) Writing for the majority, Justice Harry Blackmun noted the long opposition of Congress and the Court to business combinations that restrained competition “by driving out of business the small dealers and worthy men.”

During this era, other policy levers, large and small, were also pulled in the same direction—such as bank regulation, for example. Since the Great Recession, America has relearned the history of how New Deal legislation such as the Glass-Steagall Act served to contain the risks of financial contagion. Less well remembered is how New Deal-era and subsequent banking regulation long served to contain the growth of banks that were “too big to fail” by pushing power in the banking system out to the hinterland. Into the early 1990s, federal laws severely limited banks headquartered in one state from setting up branches in any other state. State and federal law fostered a dense web of small-scale community banks and locally operated thrifts and credit unions.

Meanwhile, bank mergers, along with mergers of all kinds, faced tough regulatory barriers that included close scrutiny of their effects on the social fabric and political economy of local communities. Lawmakers realized that levels of civic engagement and community trust tended to decline in towns that came under the control of outside ownership, and they resolved not to let that happen in their time.

In other realms, too, federal policy during the New Deal and for several decades afterward pushed strongly to spread regional equality. For example, New Deal programs such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Bonneville Power Administration, and the Rural Electrification Administration dramatically improved the infrastructure of the South and West. During and after World War II, federal spending on the military and the space program also tilted heavily in the Sunbelt’s favor.

The government’s role in regulating prices and levels of service in transportation was also a huge factor in promoting regional equality. In 1952, the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered a 10-percent reduction in railroad freight rates for southern shippers, a political decision that played a substantial role in enabling the South’s economic ascent after the war. The ICC and state governments also ordered railroads to run money-losing long-distance and commuter passenger trains to ensure that far-flung towns and villages remained connected to the national economy.

Into the 1970s, the ICC also closely regulated trucking routes and prices so they did not tilt in favor of any one region. Similarly, the Civil Aeronautics Board made sure that passengers flying to and from small and midsize cities paid roughly the same price per mile as those flying to and from the largest cities. It also required airlines to offer service to less populous areas even when such routes were unprofitable.

Meanwhile, massive public investments in the interstate-highway system and other arterial roads added enormously to regional equality. First, it vastly increased the connectivity of rural areas to major population centers. Second, it facilitated the growth of reasonably priced suburban housing around high-wage metro areas such as New York and Los Angeles, thus making it much more possible than it is now for working-class people to move to or remain in those areas.

Beginning in the late 1970s, however, nearly all the policy levers that had been used to push for greater regional income equality suddenly reversed direction. The first major changes came during Jimmy Carter’s administration. Fearful of inflation, and under the spell of policy entrepreneurs such as Alfred Kahn, Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978. This abolished the Civil Aeronautics Board, which had worked to offer rough regional parity in airfares and levels of service since 1938… [more]
us  cities  policy  economics  history  inequality  via:robinsonmeyer  2016  philliplongman  regulation  deregulation  capitalism  trusts  antitrustlaw  mergers  competition  markets  banks  finance  ronaldreagan  corporatization  intellectualproperty  patents  law  legal  equality  politics  government  rentseeking  innovation  acquisitions  antitrustenforcement  income  detroit  nyc  siliconvalley  technology  banking  peterganong  danielshoag  1950s  1960s  1970s  1980s  1990s  greatdepression  horacegreely  chicago  denver  cleveland  seattle  atlanta  houston  saltlakecity  stlouis  enricomoretti  shermanantitrustact  1890  cvannwoodward  woodrowwilson  1912  claytonantitrustact  louisbrandeis  federalreserve  minneapolis  kansascity  robinson-patmanact  1920s  1930s  miller-tydingsact  fdr  celler-kefauveract  emanuelceller  huberhumphrey  earlwarren  richardhofstadter  harryblackmun  newdeal  interstatecommercecommission  jimmycarter  alfredkahn  airlinederegulationact  1978  memphis  cincinnati  losangeles  airlines  transportation  rail  railroads  1980  texas  florida  1976  amazon  walmart  r 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Learning Networks, Not Teaching Machines
"But what can we say about the Villemard vision of “a learning network”? Does it meet our standards today, our belief in the ways in which networks can transform teaching and learning? I’d imagine it does not because this particular learning network is centralized. In that way, it is more akin to Edison’s vision of the future of education – where the knowledge is delivered by (and this power resides in) whatever replaces the teacher and the textbook. For both Edison and Villemard here, the students are receptors, not transmitters of knowledge.

When we talk about the potential for “networked learning” today, I think (I hope) we mean something different. The promise: the Internet – and the Web in particular – enable a readable and a writable platform, where a multitude of voices can express themselves as creators not just consumers and not just through text but through a multitude of media – audio, video, still images, code. These new wires have powerful implications for self-organized learning, some argue – a new participatory culture of learning that need not be managed or monitored by formal educational institutions or by traditional sources of information. The new networks, like the Web itself, ostensibly act as this very postmodern sort of technical infrastructure whereby power is decentralized, distributed.

But it’s not decentralized entirely. It’s certainly not distributed evenly. It never has been. Yet there’s that tendency once again to recast the history of technology as equitable if not equalizing – a nostalgia for a “web we lost” – such as when last year Sir Tim Berners-Lee said it was time to “re-decentralize” his invention, the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee noted – rightly so, I’d say – that “for-profit internet monopolies such as search engines and social networks,” along with government surveillance, threaten the Web’s original, open infrastructure.

Ostensibly open.

I’ve been thinking about this faith we’ve put in online networks – this trust that they are open, for example, or that they flatten hierarchies. I’ve been thinking too, as I’ve researched the history of education technology and teaching machines, about other, older networks. Indeed, many of these networks have not gone away. The telephone company or the television cable company is likely now – in the United States at least – your Internet provider as well. We are building our learning networks on these older technologies. We are building them on and with pre-existing and emerging monopolies.



Despite the promise of the Internet and the Web to “democratize education” – we hear the MOOC proponents talk about this a lot – or to offer this new and radically meritocratic form of “networked learning,” we must remember that our technical infrastructure is controlled by a small number of powerful corporations, alongside – in terms of support, censure, and surveillance, the world’s governments. To repeat David Golumbia, “The network map is not the political territory.”



The Internet and the Web do not exist at the end of history. Technology will change. But the geopolitics, the economic forces will change the Internet and the Web as well. Networks change – canals are replaced by railroads; radio stations are replaced by television and now the Internet. The Internet will be likely replaced by something else. And no doubt, we can see already its consolidation and centralization. We can see the battles for who owns the signal. (The FCC plans soon to license off more wireless spectrum for the “Internet of Things” via auction – that is, to the highest bidder.) We can see the battles for who owns, who controls the network.

Education has not historically fared well when it comes to competing with commercial providers – not on the radio, not on the television, nor I’d argue on new computer-based technologies. These networks have triumphed commercially, politically. In turn, they frame what we mean by network – what we expect them to do, who gets to participate in them and how.

There is no inevitability here. And resistance and alternatives are certainly possible. But we must act to shape the future – to shape the technology and the politics that we want to have. We must act to shape the learning networks we want to have – starting, as I originally intended this talk to address – that we do not want the centralized control, the automation, the teaching machines that Villemard envisioned for us a century ago. If, as some argue, learning networks are powerful new ways for us to organize and share as learners, then we must consider how we can build and wield them (or at least, how they are built and wielded). Networks – not just as analogies, but as what is becoming the very real architecture of how we learn and live.

“The network map is not the political territory.” What territory do we maintain for the future of education? Whose network map are we using to find our way?"
audreywatters  2015  networks  networkedlearning  learning  education  schools  pedagogy  monopolies  power  decentralization  television  tv  content  davidgolumbia  maps  mapping  history  villemard  edtech  centralization  control 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Money in the Bank | Jacobin
"The cultural consensus which continues to dominate this nation is that greed only exists for Cadillac-driving welfare queens and fatcat union bosses. It is never accounted as greedy, for instance, that the entire aim of three decades of dislocating economic policies has been to squeeze blood from a stone, depriving laborers of basic securities so as to legalize labor exploitation. So it is that wrestlers are never “employees” — but rather, independent contractors, who, like the wandering samurai of feudal Japan, or the noble free lances of 12th century England, face the strong likelihood of penury, injury, and an early death. As independent contractors, wrestlers must file state income tax returns in each state that they wrestle — an onerous task — as well as pay a punishing self-employment tax.

As attorney and academic Oliver Bateman writes, “most low-level performers and members of the female Diva division operate on short-term guaranteed contracts in the mid–five figures, out of which they must pay for their travel, food and lodging.”

Despite their putative “contracts,” the wrestlers can often be fired by the promotion at any time. The WWE does not pay into Social Security or unemployment insurance for the wrestlers and, in an industry in which late-life financial jeopardy is all too common, provides no pensions.

But the most immediately punishing consequence of this employment status is the lack of any form of company-paid health insurance. McMahon scoffs at this criticism, claiming “anyone who makes the kind of money that they make can easily afford their own healthcare,” and that “most independent contractors have their own healthcare.”"
wrestling  capitalism  history  2014  labor  exploitation  economics  policy  greed  inequality  wwf  vincemcmahon  monopolies 
august 2014 by robertogreco
The internet is fucked | The Verge
In a perfect storm of corporate greed and broken government, the internet has gone from vibrant center of the new economy to burgeoning tool of economic control. Where America once had Rockefeller and Carnegie, it now has Comcast’s Brian Roberts, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam, robber barons for a new age of infrastructure monopoly built on fiber optics and kitty GIFs.

And the power of the new network-industrial complex is immense and unchecked, even by other giants: AT&T blocked Apple’s FaceTime and Google’s Hangouts video chat services for the preposterously silly reason that the apps were "preloaded" on each company’s phones instead of downloaded from an app store. Verizon and AT&T have each blocked the Google Wallet mobile payment system because they’re partners in the competing (and not very good) ISIS service. Comcast customers who stream video on their Xboxes using Microsoft’s services get charged against their data caps, but the Comcast service is tax-free.

We’re really, really fucking this up.

We’re really, really fucking this up.

But we can fix it, I swear. We just have to start telling each other the truth. Not the doublespeak bullshit of regulators and lobbyists, but the actual truth. Once we have the truth, we have the power — the power to demand better not only from our government, but from the companies that serve us as well. "This is a political fight," says Craig Aaron, president of the advocacy group Free Press. "When the internet speaks with a unified voice politicians rip their hair out."

We can do it. Let’s start.

THE INTERNET IS A UTILITY, JUST LIKE WATER AND ELECTRICITY

Go ahead, say it out loud. The internet is a utility.

There, you’ve just skipped past a quarter century of regulatory corruption and lawsuits that still rage to this day and arrived directly at the obvious conclusion. Internet access isn’t a luxury or a choice if you live and participate in the modern economy, it’s a requirement. Have you ever been in an office when the internet goes down? It’s like recess. My friend Paul Miller lived without the internet for a year and I’m still not entirely sure he’s recovered from the experience. The internet isn’t an adjunct to real life; it’s not another place. You don’t do things "on the internet," you just do things. The network is interwoven into every moment of our lives, and we should treat it that way.

Yet the corporations that control internet access insist that they’re providing specialized services that are somehow different than water, power, and telephones. They point to crazy bullshit you don’t want or need like free email addresses and web hosting solutions and goofy personalized search screens as evidence that they’re actually providing "information" services instead of the more highly regulated "telecommunications" services. "Common carrier rules are basically free speech," says the Free Press’ Aaron. "We have all these protections for what happens over landline phones that we’re not extending to data, even though all these people under 25 mostly communicate in data."

It’s time to just end these stupid legal word games and say what we all already know: internet access is a utility. A commodity that should get better and faster and cheaper over time. Anyone who says otherwise is lying for money.

THERE IS ZERO COMPETITION FOR INTERNET ACCESS

None. Zero. Nothing. It is a wasteland. You are standing in the desert and the only thing that grows is higher prices."



NO INTERNET PROVIDER DESERVES SPECIAL TREATMENT



THE FCC IS WEAK AND INEFFECTIVE



"So there’s the entire problem, expressed in four simple ideas: the internet is a utility, there is zero meaningful competition to provide that utility to Americans, all internet providers should be treated equally, and the FCC is doing a miserably ineffective job. The United States should lead the world in broadband deployment and speeds: we should have the lowest prices, the best service, and the most competition. We should have the freest speech and the loudest voices, the best debate and the soundest policy. We are home to the most innovative technology companies in the world, and we should have the broadband networks to match.

We should stop fucking it up.

"There is much greater consensus around the fundamentals of the open internet than this binary up and down debate that’s going on," says former FCC Chairman and current NCTA President Michael Powell. "There is common ground to find an answer."

Free Press president Craig Aaron is blunt. "What we need right now is decisive action," he says. "We can still unfuck the internet.""
broadband  cable  internet  netneutrality  publicutilities  2014  nilaypatel  corruption  regulation  monopolies  monopoly  control  power  access  fcc  competition  us  freespeech 
february 2014 by robertogreco
How VCs Turned My Startup Into A Nightmare
"In the twenty-odd years of its existence, the Web has become the province of virtual monopolies (and the U.S. has become stuck at over 8 percent unemployment) for this exact reason: the inability of those in charge to realize the interconnectedness of the culture. Particularly, the false conviction among the rich that the middle class needs them more than they need the middle class, culminating, perhaps, in the ravings of Edward Conard and his cockamamie trickle-down-on-steroids theories.

So long as we continue to measure "success" — and allocate cultural and political influence — in dollars, we will remain at the mercy of those suffering the curse of Midas — the special gift of paralyzing all they touch through their thirst for gold."
middleclass  wealthdistribution  class  monopolies  finance  capitalism  money  success  edwardconard  venturecapital  venturecapitalism  vc  startups  technology  business  2012  mariabustillos 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Rent-seeking - Wikipedia
"In economics, rent-seeking is an attempt to obtain economic rent by manipulating the social or political environment in which economic activities occur, rather than by creating new wealth, for example, spending money on political lobbying in order to be given a share of wealth that has already been created. A famous example of rent-seeking is the limiting of access to lucrative occupations, as by medieval guilds or modern state certifications and licensures. People accused of rent seeking typically argue that they are indeed creating new wealth (or preventing the reduction of old wealth) by improving quality controls, guaranteeing that charlatans do not prey on a gullible public, and preventing bubbles."

"A simple definition of rent seeking is spending resources in order to gain by increasing one's share of existing wealth, instead of trying to create wealth. The net effect of rent-seeking is to reduce total social wealth, because resources are spent and no new wealth is created. It is important to distinguish rent-seeking from profit-seeking. Profit-seeking is the creation of wealth, while rent-seeking is the use of social institutions such as the power of government to redistribute wealth among different groups without creating new wealth.

Rent-seeking implies extraction of uncompensated value from others without making any contribution to productivity. The origin of the term refers to gaining control of land or other natural resources. An example of rent-seeking in a modern economy is political lobbying for government benefits or subsidies, or to impose regulations on competitors, in order to increase market share.
Studies of rent-seeking focus on efforts to capture special monopoly privileges such as manipulating government regulation of free enterprise competition.[2] The term monopoly privilege rent-seeking is an often-used label for this particular type of rent-seeking. Often-cited examples include a lobby that seeks tariff protection, quotas, subsidies[3], or extension of copyright law.[4]"
motive  finance  community  greedheads  rent-seeking  wealth  access  economics  manipulation  politics  leeches  selfishness  greed  guilds  certification  licenses  via:straup  resources  capitalgoods  economicgrowth  growth  allocationofresources  efficiency  monopolies  monopolyprivileges  competition  regulation  ownership  productivity  subsidies 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Lessig: It's Time to Demolish the FCC - Newsweek
"The solution here is not tinkering. You can't fix DNA. You have to bury it. President Obama should get Congress to shut down FCC & similar vestigial regulators, which put stability & special interests above public good. In their place, Congress should create something we could call Innovation Environment Protection Agency (iEPA), charged with simple founding mission: "minimal intervention to maximize innovation." iEPA's core purpose would be to protect innovation from its 2 historical enemies—excessive government favors, & excessive private monopoly power…

America's economic future depends upon restarting an engine of innovation & technological growth. A first step is to remove government from mix as much as possible…corporate America has come to believe that investments in influencing Washington pay more than investments in building a better mousetrap…We need to kill a philosophy of regulation born w/ 20th century, if we're to make possible a world of innovation in 21st."
innovation  copyright  internet  government  2008  larrylessig  monopolies  restart  influence  corruption  power  patents  communication  stasis  gamechanging 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Newspapers, Universities and the Internet « Esko Kilpi on Interactive Value Creation
"People in the traditional print media have dismissed online writing because of its low average quality. The average quality of the writing online isn’t what the print media are competing against. They’re competing against the best writing online. And often, they’re losing. This is what is going to happen next with teaching. Universities are going to compete against the best bloggers and the very best aggregators of learning content. The sad truth, both when it comes to the newspapers and to the universities, is that if you are used to being a monopoly, you create habits that are hard to overcome when you suddenly face competition. The Internet is now transforming the consumption habits of newspaper customers. There is an even bigger change happening in the learning related habits of people. Hopefully, the universities won’t fight as much against their customers’ new habits as the newspapers do!"
universities  monopolies  newspapers  online  instruction  lectures  teaching  colleges  change  competition  press  media 
march 2010 by robertogreco
Marginal Revolution: Make dentistry cheaper
"In Alaska, the A.D.A. and the state’s dental society had filed a lawsuit to block the program that trained people like Ms. Johnson, who are called dental therapists."
health  policy  credentials  dental  medicine  us  monopolies  politics  money  economics  ada  ama  control 
may 2008 by robertogreco

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