Money – Chapter 9

These are my notes for the K5M Book Club on the book Money, by Jacob Goldstein.

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Chapter 9: But Really: Can Everybody Can Have More Money?

The answer to that questions seems like it’s yes, as long as money is worth less. Or yes, as long as those in power get to stay in power and only the people at the bottom are “disrupted.” Let’s see how it all works out…

“In the long run, we get richer by destroying jobs.” 

I am curious who Jacob Goldstein is including in the “we” of this idea. Coming at this from the point of view of “money” I assume he’s saying it makes more value than it destroys, so the world is richer. But if this is putting more and more money into the hands of less people then you could also easily argue it is making us poorer if you count it as the number of people who have more money, as opposed to just the total amount of money.

Goldstein says that the death of travel agents via Expedia and Kayak means it is cheaper to buy airline tickets. But he is ignoring that the “middle man” has just been replaced with platforms that not only charge their own fees but the airlines have adapted to the machines and “now use artificial intelligence software to re-price their offerings, sometimes dozens of times a day, to maximize revenue.” (NY Times)

So again, we see the rich airlines and the middle men of the platforms enriching themselves while the individual takes on the burden. 

He does admit that while we may get richer as a society, in the case of driverless trucks the change will not improve life for truck drivers

The Luddites

I already told you about the restaurant in Portland, so I’ll leave that alone for now. But I’m still thinking of that baked cookie…

In the early 1800s people could only afford one or two sets of clothes. That makes me think of how in The Expanse the characters on the space ships are always in the same outfits. Space crews are minimalists I guess, which makes sense. 

St. Monday

Oh wow, this is a wonderful idea! Get drunk on Sunday and then take Monday off?!! YES! What a great idea.

Josh has had this idea that we should move to a six day week for a long time. Basically just eliminate one day, say Tuesday, and then let everything else be the same. People are already trying out 4 on and 3 off, so 4 on and 2 off would be great for the worker plus management wouldn’t be losing quite as much time from their employees!

But until then, we should all take Monday off to deal with our hangovers.

The part where the cloth makers must be thinking “there’s got to be a cheaper way to do this” made me think of late night infomercials. 

From wikipedia: A stocking frame was a mechanical knitting machine used in the textiles industry. It was invented by William Lee of Calverton near Nottingham in 1589.  Lee demonstrated the operation of the device to Queen Elizabeth I, hoping to obtain a patent, but she refused, fearing the effects on hand-knitting industries.

By 1598 he was able to knit stockings from silk, as well as wool, but was again refused a patent by James I. Lee moved to France, under the patronage of Henri IV, with his workers and his machines, but was unable to sustain his business. He died in Paris around 1614.

[Time passes…]

The breakthrough with cotton stockings came in 1758 when Jedediah Strutt introduced an attachment for the frame which produced what became known as the “Derby rib”.

Oh, and a legend later developed that Lee had invented the first machine in order to get revenge on a lover who had preferred to concentrate on her knitting rather than attend to him (which seems like a euphemism for sex).

I want to know more about the “local farmer” that bought the rights to the machine! What was the nature of intellectual property law in the 1800s? I mean, Lee was turned down for a patent in the 1500s, so what’s the timeline on this?!

The Underground War Against The Machines

The whole Ned Ludd thing reminds me a little bit of Qanon. Like there is a myth around this person, who doesn’t actually exist, and he is inspiring these acts of violence. The difference is that the Luddites were fighting an industry that actively was taking their jobs and Qanon followers are fighting a society that feels meaningless in a way they can’t articulate. Let’s me honest, Qanon is a lot dumber than the Luddites.

Maybe we need to still be fighting the machines, except this time it’s the software that is eating the world and the bad algorithms that are controlling things. We need to leave notes for the CEOs telling me know they are using detestable algorithms and demand they stop. 

Goldstein says “it’s tempting to should back across history to the Luddites: ‘Trust me. The machines are going to make things so much better.’” But that is a very binary view of the situation. He admits that things didn’t get better. Things didn’t even get better for their kids. To which I’d say, fuck that then! If someone invents a machine that makes it worse for an entire industry and their children just so management can save money, that is not okay just because “these problems are temporary.” The timeframe matters!