Capitalism's Useful Idiots

Hogarth's busted poet -  some things never change
So back in the late 18th early 19th century Mr. Moneybags buys a factory full of machines, hires workers, and by applying the latest in management techniques and technology  increases production, lowers prices,  increases profits, and transforms dispossessed rural laborers into dispossessed urban factory workers.

The critics say that Mr. Moneybags' profits were stolen from his workers,  cheerleaders that Mr. Moneybags deserves his profits for being clever and for providing the rest of us, (who don't work in his factory), with more, lower priced, and better products, and even a better life for his workers, when compared to their former lives as mostly unemployed and starving farm labor.

Because we live in a fair minded quasi democratic society, the workers vs capitalists conflict ended  with an armistice, legislation guaranteeing reasonable treatment for workers, and capitalists having to suck it up, until they discovered the benefits of free trade and the new frontier of emerging labor markets in emerging nations where  fair mindedness and quasi democracy are still waiting in the wings.

So goes the story of capitalism, Marx predicted that capitalism would implode due to its inbuilt tendency to consume itself in the race to the bottom.  What Marx failed to anticipate was another innate tendency, identified by the unknown economist and student of human nature who first said "there's a sucker born every minute".

Imagine if you will, an industry where nearly all the workers work for free and are happy to do so. This industry really exists, the North American Industry Classification System (used by the departments of industry of Canada, USA and Mexico)  calls it the arts, entertainment and recreation industry.

Even though we banished child labor one hundred years ago, if I look out of my backyard, I will see parents dragging their kids into a hockey arena as early as 4 AM. Children as young 6 years old are then brutalized by fat middle aged men, who force them to endlessly skate in circles and assault their peers with sticks.   This is all in the hope that some day one of these little tykes will be spotted by a team scout, and even more hopefully be enslaved by no later than age 16 for a short career of shuttling from one backwater to another in the yet vainer hope that they will achieve fame and fortune as one of a few hundred professional players.

Across the road from the hockey rink is a gymnastic club with a parking lot full of parents,  where presumably the aspiring hockey player's sisters may acquire the acrobatic skills to be a competent pole dancer by the time she is 19.

Teenagers who sneer at cleaning up their rooms, never mind assisting with humble household chores like grass cutting or snow shoveling willingly spend hours and days in unheated unplumbed garages, with equipment capable of generating more noise than an airport full of 747s in order to take gigs for a hundred or so bucks split between the band to perform in dives that should have been condemned twenty years ago.

And then there are the poets, there are more people writing poetry than reading it, observed the late George Carlin, whose wannabees seek humiliation without pay at comedy clubs found in the best strip malls everywhere.

The internet has made it possible for any loser to achieve their 15 minutes of viral fame in  provided they do something outrageous enough, or even better, manage to kill themselves in the attempt, accompanied by clicks that will make someone else rich.  Bloggers, tweeters, you tube auteurs, facebookers, citizen journalists, amateur photographers, and writers fill the internet with an ocean of content for free,  accompanied by appropriately targeted ads paid for by those who sell stuff, to those who sell ads and space for them.

Marx would have been astounded, or not.  Perhaps he would have been too busy posting, tweeting or making videos on You Tube to notice.


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