- Podcasting "Ideas Lying Around": A theory of change based on shovel-ready ideas.
- Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.
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Podcasting "Ideas Lying Around" (permalink)
This week on my podcast, I read my recent Medium column, "Ideas Lying Around: Milton Friedman was a monster, but he wasn’t wrong about this," which I describe a theory of change for unrigging markets, addressing the climate emergency, building worker power and fixing the imbalance between news publishers and Big Tech:
What is this amazing theory of change, that can do so much to right the world's wrongs? Fittingly, it's the same theory of change that got us into this mess. It's Milton Friedman's theory of change.
Friedman was the archduke of neoliberal economics, the man who led the counter-reformation that destroyed the gains of the New Deal and the Great Society, restored corporate monopolies to primacy over democratically accountable government, gutted labor power, and put the world in the hands of mediocre, narcissistic billionaires who are determined to set it on fire.
We live in Friedman's world, but it wasn't always thus. When Friedman set out to restore America's deposed oligarchs to their Gilded Age thrones, his ideas were incredibly unpopular. The post-war reforms – trustbusting, unions, environmental and labor protections, Social Security, etc – were wildly popular. Year after year, these reforms grew, and the groups who had been excluded from them – women, racialized people, queer people, colonized people – launched liberation movements demanding (and winning) inclusion in this broad prosperity.
Friedman's financiers and acolytes – plutocrats and the temporarily embarrassed millionaires who aspired to join them in despotic rule – loved Friedman's vision, but they were naturally skeptical that he could make it into reality. They had been painfully disabused of the notion that their social inferiors were comforted by a life of forelock-tugging servitude:
How would Friedman convince these sharp-elbowed proles to go back belowstairs and stay there? Friedman had an answer:
Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.
Even the best-run society is subject to exogenous shocks – pandemic, invasion, natural disaster, meteor strike – and in the reeling dislocation of the crisis, people will turn to the loudest, most persistent critics of the failed status quo, desperate for alternatives.
Friedman got his crisis. In 1973, OPEC cut off the global supply of oil, and plunged the world into recession. The source of the recession was obvious: OPEC didn't keep it a secret. But Friedman and his pals were able to convince the people shivering in the dark that their pain was caused by women's lib, labor unions, civil rights and the EPA. In the crisis, his ideas moved from the periphery to the center.
Jimmy Carter got the ball rolling, adopting Friedman's proposals for coddling monopolies and forcing workers out of guaranteed pensions and into the market's rigged casino, where they would bet their 401(k)s against shrewd stock brokers for the chance of a dignified retirement:
Next came Ronald Reagan, who incinerated whole libraries' worth of regulations that protected the American people from corporate predators, gutted unions and ripped out society's steering wheel and brakes and set it rolling towards extinction's cliff, whose brink we can see growing closer daily:
Friedman's been in hell since 2006, but we live in Friedman's world. His ideas are firmly rooted in the center, and the ideas that delivered environmental regulation, decent jobs, and progress on gender and racial equality have been banished to the periphery.
But there will be crises. As Stein's Law goes, "anything that can't go on forever will eventually stop." In every domain of human endeavor, we lurch from crisis to crisis: labor, climate, discrimination, corruption. Each of these crises is terrible, and each one is an opportunity for ideas lying around to rush into the center currently occupied by Friedman's intellectual descendants.
80 years on, Woody Guthrie's 1943 New Year's Resolutions are a hell of a read, and not a day goes by that I don't think of number 19: "Keep hoping machine running."
My hoping machine runs on the creation and spreading of ideas lying around. Last year, Rebecca Giblin and I published Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We'll Win Them Back:
The first half of the book consists of detailed explanations of the scams that the highly concentrated tech and entertainment sectors use to reduce the income of creative workers, even as their own profits rise to never-seen heights. Readers tell us that by the time they're reached the book's midpoint, they hear the dangerous, high-pitched keening that signals an incipient rage aneurysm.
But the second half of the book consists entirely of detailed, shovel-ready, systemic reforms that would make immediate, significant shifts in the pay creative workers get for their labor. None of these are individual solutions: we don't tell you how to shop better or other consumerist theater. You're not going to shop your way out of monopoly capitalism – no more than you're going to recycle your way out of the climate emergency.
These are meant to be ideas lying around – ideas that are more than "let's just make copyright last longer or cover more works," which is all we've done for 40 years, to disastrous effect. After all, giving an artist more copyright to bargain with five publishers, four studios, three labels, two ad-tech companies or the one ebook/audiobook company is like giving your bullied kid extra lunch money. There isn't an amount of lunch money that will get that kid lunch. You've gotta do something about the bullies. Hence the back half of Chokepoint Capitalism – ideas lying around for unrigging labor markets, to be deployed in a crisis.
On those lines: for the past month, EFF and I have been publishing a series called "Saving the News From Big Tech":
This series lays out four "ideas lying around" for fixing the real problem with Big Tech's relationship to the news: stealing money by rigging ads, payments and social media, so that 51% of every ad dollar and 30% of every app-based subscription goes to a tech giant, and news companies have to spend whatever they have left to "boost" their social media posts to reach the subscribers who asked to see their stuff.
News is in (perpetual) crisis, and, as with creative labor markets, the "solution" of first resort is to force tech companies to share their profits with news companies. This makes the news and tech into partners, just at the moment where we're relying on news to investigate tech and expose its rot. It also favors the largest news companies, which are overwhelmingly either billionaires' playthings or skeleton-crewed ghost ships owned by private equity looters.
The ideas (lying around) I develop with EFF are designed to prevent tech from reaping its illegitimate profits, making it weaker and making the press stronger, including indie news outlets, from nonprofits to spunky outlets run by laid-off reporters who are determined to bring their readers real news.
Fiction is also a great way to create ideas lying around. My next novel, The Lost Cause, is a science fiction thriller set in a world where the Green New Deal is underway and people are confronting, rather than denying, the scale and urgency of the climate emergency. It's a novel full of joy, an emotional flythrough of what it would feel like to formulate and execute a plan to save ourselves, rather than hoping that the threat just goes away on its own:
Kim Stanley Robinson describes The Lost Cause thus:
This book looks like our future and feels like our present—it’s an unforgettable vision of what could be. Even a partly good future will require wicked political battles and steadfast solidarity among those fighting for a better world, and here I lived it along with Brooks, Ana Lucía, Phuong, and their comrades in the struggle. Along with the rush of adrenaline I felt a solid surge of hope. May it go like this.
I am a firm believer in the power of ideas lying around, and I admit to feeling a guilty pleasure every time I cite Friedman's own words. I like to think that whenever he hears his words in my mouth, he looks up from the spit he's turning on in Hell, and amuses the demons turning the crank by gargling a curse around the red-hot bar protruding from his jaws.
Here's the podcast episode:
And here's a direct link to the MP3 (hosting courtesy of the Internet Archive, they'll host your stuff for free, forever):
And here's a link to subscribe to my podcast's RSS feed:
Hey look at this (permalink)
- Toronto Tenants Are Uniting in a Mass Rent Strike https://jacobin.com/2023/06/toronto-tenants-union-rent-strike-corporate-landlords-housing-crisis/
France legalizes remotely turning on the camera or microphone of smartphones in criminal investigations https://www-francetvinfo-fr.translate.goog/societe/justice/le-senat-donne-son-feu-vert-a-l-activation-a-distance-des-cameras-ou-micros-des-telephones_5875187.html?_x_tr_sl=auto&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp (h/t Cooper)
This day in history (permalink)
#20yrsago Turing Machines aren’t as universal as they could be https://www.coherenceengine.com/blog/2003_06_01_archive.html#105547327596834731<?a>
#15yrsago Ancient Roman D20 for sale, $18,000 https://www.christies.com/lot/lot-4205385/?intObjectID=4205385
#15yrsago Diesel Sweeties: the ten-volume free Creative Commons licensed collection edition <a "="" 06="" 2008="" canadian-dmca-fine-print="" href="https://www.dieselsweeties.com/ebooks/>https://www.dieselsweeties.com/ebooks/</a>
#15yrsago Canadian DMCA is worse than the American one <a href=" https:="" www.michaelgeist.ca="">https://www.michaelgeist.ca/2008/06/canadian-dmca-fine-print/
#15yrsago Canadian Industry Minister Jim Prentice loads the DMCA, aims it at Canada’s temple, and pulls the trigger https://web.archive.org/web/20080612120601/http://www.ic.gc.ca/cmb/welcomeic.nsf/0365f77a8a847e1e8525655d006e1f91/85256a5d006b9720852574650065cf5b!OpenDocument
#15yrsago One-click site to tell Amazon that you don’t want Audible DRM https://web.archive.org/web/20080612125539/http://callanaudible.org/
#15yrsago Sabotage manual from 1944 advises acting like an average 2008 manager https://web.archive.org/web/20080715195004/community.e2conf.com/servlet/JiveServlet/download/1090-5-1190/OSS Simple Sabotage Manual.pdf
#15yrsago Linda Stone on time management https://www.huffpost.com/entry/is-it-time-to-retire-the_b_106624
#15yrsago William Gibson interviewed on IO9 https://gizmodo.com/william-gibson-talks-to-io9-about-canada-draft-dodging-5015137
#10yrsago Ai Wei Wei on Prism https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/11/nsa-surveillance-us-behaving-like-china
#10yrsago Stopwatching.us: Internet companies and civil liberties groups call for investigation into the surveillance state https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/06/86-civil-liberties-groups-and-internet-companies-demand-end-nsa-spying
#10yrsago Edward Snowden checks out of hotel, whereabouts unknown https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-22850901
#10yrsago Bruce Sterling Augmented World keynote speech https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohatuq8tekk
#10yrsago Hugh Howey on why he favors self-publishing https://www.salon.com/2013/04/04/hugh_howey_self_publishing_is_the_future_and_great_for_writers/
#10yrsago Sesame Street’s materials for kids with an incarcerated parent https://web.archive.org/web/20130629061517/https://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/incarceration
#10yrsago Roundup of responses to the Snowden/NSA leaks https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/12/anger-mounts-congress-telephone-surveillance-programmes
#10yrsago Photos from #OccupyGezi https://occupygezipics.tumblr.com/post/52730157891/taksim-rainbow-tuesday-evening
#10yrsago Greek government shuts down state broadcaster, police force journalists out of the building https://www.yanisvaroufakis.eu/2013/06/11/ert-greek-state-tv-radio-is-dead-a-blacklisted-persons-lament/
#10yrsago Former UK drug czar calls banning marijuana and psychedelics “the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo” https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-worst-case-of-scientific-censorship-since-the-catholic-church-banned-the-works-of-galileo-scientists-call-for-drugs-to-be-legalised-to-allow-proper-study-of-their-properties-8654514.html
#10yrsago Why are the protesters in Gezi Park? https://technosociology.org/?p=1349
#5yrsago Reddit sounds the alarm: the EU internet proposal would end the net as we know it! https://www.reddit.com/r/announcements/comments/8qfw8l/protecting_the_free_and_open_internet_european/
#5yrsago LA’s high-tech, thoughtful water management is cause for cautious optimism about adapting to climate change https://www.wired.com/story/la-is-doing-water-better-than-your-city-yes-that-la/
#5yrsago Feds indict Florida police chief who framed a teen for burglaries so he could boast about perfect record https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/06/11/police-framed-a-teen-for-four-burglaries-so-chief-could-tout-perfect-clearance-rate-feds-say/
#5yrsago Empirical evidence for the Peter Principle (or, why bosses are so incompetent) https://hbr.org/2018/03/research-do-people-really-get-promoted-to-their-level-of-incompetence
#5yrsago The EU’s terrible copyright proposal will “carpet bomb” the whole world’s internet with censorship and surveillance https://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2018/06/11/eu-copyright-law
#5yrsago 70+ internet pioneers to the EU: you are transforming the internet into a “tool for automated surveillance and control” https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/06/internet-luminaries-ring-alarm-eu-copyright-filtering-proposal
#5yrsago The Freeze-Frame Revolution: mutineers unstuck in time, strung out across an aeon https://memex.craphound.com/2018/06/12/the-freeze-frame-revolution-mutineers-unstuck-in-time-strung-out-across-an-aeon/
#5yrsago Eh, too: Canadians will also suffer under the EU’s proposed copyright rules https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-monday-edition-1.4700930/how-canadians-could-get-caught-up-in-the-eu-s-proposed-copyright-law-1.4700935
#5yrsago Norwegian court orders volunteers to take down public domain court verdicts and pay copyright troll’s legal bills https://www.wiumlie.no/2018/rettspraksis/06-11-blog.html
#5yrsago UK security minister proposes “Digital IDs” to enforce online civility https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/online-digital-identification-mob-rule-online-security-minister-ben-wallace-a8390841.html
#5yrsago Infographic: buying games vs pirating them https://www.deviantart.com/dnd01/art/Why-DRM-is-bad-for-the-customer-pdf-file-748886029
#5yrsago Trump won’t stop tearing up official papers so the White House archives employ a staff to tape them back together for the National Archives https://www.politico.com/story/2018/06/10/trump-papers-filing-system-635164
#5yrsago British army targeted “stressed” 16-year-olds on exam-results day with Facebook recruitment ads https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-army-recruit-soldiers-gcse-results-facebook-twitter-child-soliders-international-a8390961.html
#1yrago The Geico STD story is the new McDonald's Hot Coffee story https://pluralistic.net/2022/06/12/hot-coffee/#mcgeico
Today's top sources:
- A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW
The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EDITORIAL REVIEW
Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. ON SUBMISSION
Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. ON SUBMISSION
Latest podcast: Ideas Lying Around https://craphound.com/news/2023/06/11/ideas-lying-around/
- How To Save News Media From Our Tech Overlords (Canadaland)
Most AI is not artificial or intelligent (with James Bridle)
- "Red Team Blues": "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books http://redteamblues.com. Signed copies at Dark Delicacies (US): and Forbidden Planet (UK): https://forbiddenplanet.com/385004-red-team-blues-signed-edition-hardcover/.
"Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin", on how to unrig the markets for creative labor, Beacon Press/Scribe 2022 https://chokepointcapitalism.com
"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html
"How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)
"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html
"Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/.
- The Internet Con: A nonfiction book about interoperability and Big Tech, Verso, September 2023
The Lost Cause: a post-Green New Deal eco-topian novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias, Tor Books, November 2023
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