reede, 13. jaanuar 2012

Occupying Latte Factor

Recently, the social media was flooded with reactions to an angry blog post, ridiculing Vertu’s (Nokia’s luxuy phone range) $200 USB-cable. The rhetoric matched  well with the ever-so-popular rich hate, which has elevated in the light of the events of last year, especially Occupy Wall Street and the like. It seemed to hit a hard spot with many a social democrat hipsters, condemning the excessive spending of the ominous, insanely wealthy 1%. So, fellow business students: regarding expenditure, would you buy a $200 USB cable or a $5 Starbucks latte every workday for a month?
Leaving aside ethical reservations, it is clear that at least a fraction of the insanely wealthy have been able to avoid the “latte factor” at some points in their lives. It’s not the single purchase that counts, it is the combined effect of numerous minuscule expenses that eventually amount to large amounts of assets which could have been invested in better grounds. It is undoubtedly hipsteresque to pout over a decaf wearing the latest Vans and a $1 badge saying “No to Capitalism”, but it is not the 1% who brings economic collapse, it’s all the rest.

Revelation Revolution
Occupy Wall Street think tanks and tilted tents all propagate a new world order. The lack of actual suggestions for solutions has not been left unnoticed, so the more radically inclined began to talk about the inevitable collapse of the society as it is now, after which we will all live in a better brighter bankless world.

Funnily enough, these ideas did not sprout from these gatherings, but have been around for a while already. The Venus Project with headquarters in Florida, US, has long been tackling the demise of the Western hemisphere, horizon turned towards resource-based economy. Circular self-sufficient sustainable cities around the world, connected through a massive global database governing all indicators might sound like from a B-list sci-fi movie, but the fact remains that an inclination towards a different kind of economy has long been around.
Our current system relies on financial derivatives, formulas even financiers cannot quite grasp, interest rates, digital cash and money. There’s a problem with money, though – it fails to feed you. The general idea of resource based economy is to exclude the barter of cash and start treating all we need for life as a mutual resource. Imagine a world where you don’t have to choose between the cable and the coffee, you just take what you want, since everything is common. Despite sounding eerily like something that was already tried and failed in the 20th century, thinkers and innovators find much appeal in this “new” way of thinking.

The simplest critique addresses the human nature – men are greedy. The supporters of the resource-based economy argue that the greatest inventions in history have not been triggered by the urge to earn, but the urge to learn, innovate, enlighten. I argue that they too were greedy, hungry for more knowledge, yearning for further discovery.

The vision of an automated society where machines and technology take the roles of workers so that the workers can take the role of manning the machines suggests that there is no task a computer will be unable to perform instead of a human being in the future. The dream of ultimate equality and brotherhood dates back not to Rousseau, but already to Ancient Greece. Nevertheless, it aggressively disregards another aspect of the human nature – we are not all the same. Similar creatures will quickly become extinct, since a small failure in the system will extinguish all of them. It’s the freaks of nature who force us to evolve. Ultimate equality and consensus is impossible due to the simple fact that resources are limited, and limited resources create competition. The stronger specimens will easily win the competition for the resources, prevail and eventually lead to progress, eliminating the weaker specimens in the system (applicable to any system, not just society).
Therefore, fighting the meritocratic economic system is like fighting sunrise. Progress is caused by being displeased with something and trying to find a solution, thus aiming for universal peace and happiness is aiming for bland stagnation. Even if artificially achieved, competition is still bound to arise and lead to the very same system yet again.

 I encourage the 99% to strive towards becoming the 1% - perhaps somewhere along the way they will learn to appreciate the hard work, the difficult decisions and the sweet bitterness of a small victory. Paradigmatic shifts are always bound to happen, usually through epic cataclysms. Nevertheless, all crises have one thing in common – they pass, and so will this one.
“Rich hate” is a battle of envy versus greed, and neither aspects of the human nature are too glorious – one just tends to create more value than the other. So, instead of loathing the lavishers who get to spend $200 on a piece of plastic, start saving up your latte cash and you might find there’s nothing wrong with that corner office after all.