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Sunday, 22 April 2018

The Stopwatch

What happens when a creature with a specialised diet loses access to its food of choice?

One must adapt, of course. Which is easier for some creatures than others. Easy for an omnivore to start feeding more on vegetation, for example, than for an insect that relies exclusively on blood to find nutrition in tree sap. It is this specialisation that can lead to an extinction. When crunch time comes around, and blocks start getting knocked out of the food pyramid, survival relies upon the ability to stand upon what's left.

That doesn't really apply to us any more, of course. We've done a lot to ensure that we have quite a wide net to cast out, and if chickens suddenly vanished from the face of the earth, we wouldn't all starve to death. Aside from the chicken farmers, obviously, they'd be pretty fucked - but that's a byproduct of industrialised life, not so much a rarefied diet.

Money, though - money is a rarefied thing.

And there's so many ways of getting money out of us. So many ways of having us make money to be taken.

It's a pretty good setup. People make stuff. The stuff gets sold. People get paid a small percentage of how much the stuff gets sold for. We've talked about this before, through the medium of cake-making. Classic surplus value argument, right?

Here's the thing: there's only so far that model can be pushed before you are paying the people making the stuff absolutely nothing. Which leads to a problem, because a lot of these places are making things that get bought by the kind of people that work at the place in question.

But I may not have to worry about that, right? Because you can afford to pay your people absolutely nothing - OTHER people will come buy your product and keep your business in the black.

As long as everyone else doesn't get the same idea, right?

What happens then? What happens when nobody is being paid a damn thing, but you still need them to buy your products in order for you to survive?


Well, I mean, that's what minimum wage laws and benefit systems are for, surely. To keep people spending even if they don't have a great job and even if their employer wants to make them work for basically nothing.

A lot of businesses claim they can only stay in business if they pay minimum wage and if that ever goes up, they will be in trouble. This makes my eyebrow twitch. But no matter, that isn't my topic for today.

How do you keep people poor as possible while still taking their goods?

You work out new and interesting ways to take their money, ways that they are required to use.

Nestle owns a shit ton of drinking water. Right near Flint Michigan specifically. If you weren't aware, Flint still doesn't have clean drinking water, which is pretty friggin third world if you imagine how much money will be spent watering golf courses across the US in the next week.

You need water, so they buy the water, and they sell it on.

Whenever you move house, or buy a car, or have to sign a piece of paper for basically anything, charges show up. Handling fees. Charges for the company that deems you worthy of helping to help you, before any other charges are taken out of your wallet.

Go over your bank balance? Charges. Then charges on top of those charges.

The US already has a horribly bureaucratic but thoroughly lucrative engine for extricating cash from individuals for medical treatment - even emergency medical treatment. And even the tiny little "luxuries", such as a mother being able to hold her new baby. Money, just bled right out of people that have no choice other than to spend it.

This places a significant percentage of the population of these countries in a situation wherein a single breakdown of income would be literally catastrophic - and after the debt collectors have had their way (another industry built on profiting from apparent necessity), there's no more there to go back into the system. One more individual, one more household that can't buy the products that are sold by the company that laid them off.

How many of those does it take for a system to crash?

Well, interestingly, we already have a model for that. Back in 2008. The amount of sub-prime mortgages that fell through was actually fairly minor, in order to trigger a financial crisis we've been dealing with for a decade.

The stopwatch is ticking. The parasitic nature of the extraction of money from working folks to other folks keeps going, but sooner or later, the host creature is going to collapse.

Long enough to fill some people's pockets, for sure.

Who cares what happens to the rest of us?

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