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124

Chapter Three

The Speed of Money

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Rushkoff, D. (2017). Chapter Three. In Rushkoff, D. Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity. Portfolio, pp. 124-167

126

Currencies, tokens, and precious metals have indeed been used as means of exchange for thousands of years; but debt-based, interest-bearing, bank-issued central currency is a very particular tool with very particular biases—most significantly, a bias for growth. Capitalism itself is less the driver of this currency than it is the result. Capital is not an ideology so much as an artifact of a kind of money—a way of exploiting a particular operating system that runs on growth.

should think about this more to see how it connects (or otherwise) with more critical perspectives on capitalism

—p.126 by Douglas Rushkoff 1 year, 4 months ago

Currencies, tokens, and precious metals have indeed been used as means of exchange for thousands of years; but debt-based, interest-bearing, bank-issued central currency is a very particular tool with very particular biases—most significantly, a bias for growth. Capitalism itself is less the driver of this currency than it is the result. Capital is not an ideology so much as an artifact of a kind of money—a way of exploiting a particular operating system that runs on growth.

should think about this more to see how it connects (or otherwise) with more critical perspectives on capitalism

—p.126 by Douglas Rushkoff 1 year, 4 months ago
131

[...] Money makes money faster than people or companies can create value. The richest people and companies should, therefore, position themselves as far away from working or creating things, and as close to the money spigot, as possible.

good metaphor. on financial services dominating the economy

(a few pages later, he talks about Jack Welch instructing biz school students to "see productive industries as mere stepping-stones to becoming holding companies. The further up the money chain you can get—the more like a bank issuing money—the better")

—p.131 by Douglas Rushkoff 1 year, 4 months ago

[...] Money makes money faster than people or companies can create value. The richest people and companies should, therefore, position themselves as far away from working or creating things, and as close to the money spigot, as possible.

good metaphor. on financial services dominating the economy

(a few pages later, he talks about Jack Welch instructing biz school students to "see productive industries as mere stepping-stones to becoming holding companies. The further up the money chain you can get—the more like a bank issuing money—the better")

—p.131 by Douglas Rushkoff 1 year, 4 months ago
133

This is the real cause of the severity and longevity of the 2007 crash. Rather than figuring out how to compensate for central currency’s extractive bias, a highly digital finance industry chose to exploit it. The digital perspective that allows us to see money as an operating system doesn’t necessarily motivate people to revise the core code so that it serves people better. That would be a pretty heavy lift, even for the most idealistic among us. So instead, bankers and financiers sought to leverage the structural flaws of the money system for their own gain.

this metaphor is getting a little old by this point, but still worth remembering

instead of refactoring codebase ... think about who the players are in this analogy. in a communal software system, who has the ability to refactor? who has the ability (and incentive) to exploit flaws? it's almost a tragedy of the commons-type scenario

—p.133 by Douglas Rushkoff 1 year, 4 months ago

This is the real cause of the severity and longevity of the 2007 crash. Rather than figuring out how to compensate for central currency’s extractive bias, a highly digital finance industry chose to exploit it. The digital perspective that allows us to see money as an operating system doesn’t necessarily motivate people to revise the core code so that it serves people better. That would be a pretty heavy lift, even for the most idealistic among us. So instead, bankers and financiers sought to leverage the structural flaws of the money system for their own gain.

this metaphor is getting a little old by this point, but still worth remembering

instead of refactoring codebase ... think about who the players are in this analogy. in a communal software system, who has the ability to refactor? who has the ability (and incentive) to exploit flaws? it's almost a tragedy of the commons-type scenario

—p.133 by Douglas Rushkoff 1 year, 4 months ago
136

[...] speculators saw in digital technology a gateway to a new, virtual form of colonialism: a new place to lend and deploy capital, new territory for growth.

Alas, the big data profiles of teenagers can’t support the same robustness of growth as entire continents of slaves and spices. Besides, consumer research is all about winning some portion of a fixed number of purchases. It doesn’t create more consumption. If anything, technological solutions tend to make markets smaller and less likely to spawn associated industries in shipping, resource management, and labor services. They make the differential between real growth and return on capital worse, not better. This means they push the banks and investors even further away from anything like real earnings until eventually there’s a complete disconnect between capital and value.

big fan of the colonialism metaphor tbh. shoot that shit straight into my veins

I don't agree that it doesn't create more consumption though. Maybe not more overall (perhaps??) but definitely more in certain sectors (useless commodities, experiences, etc)

—p.136 by Douglas Rushkoff 1 year, 4 months ago

[...] speculators saw in digital technology a gateway to a new, virtual form of colonialism: a new place to lend and deploy capital, new territory for growth.

Alas, the big data profiles of teenagers can’t support the same robustness of growth as entire continents of slaves and spices. Besides, consumer research is all about winning some portion of a fixed number of purchases. It doesn’t create more consumption. If anything, technological solutions tend to make markets smaller and less likely to spawn associated industries in shipping, resource management, and labor services. They make the differential between real growth and return on capital worse, not better. This means they push the banks and investors even further away from anything like real earnings until eventually there’s a complete disconnect between capital and value.

big fan of the colonialism metaphor tbh. shoot that shit straight into my veins

I don't agree that it doesn't create more consumption though. Maybe not more overall (perhaps??) but definitely more in certain sectors (useless commodities, experiences, etc)

—p.136 by Douglas Rushkoff 1 year, 4 months ago
142

[...] Credit-card companies are earning 3 or 4 percent on every purchase. That’s more than the growth rate of the entire economy. And it doesn’t even account for the primary source of credit-card company revenue, which is all the interest customers are paying (or further accumulating) on their balances. When a whole marketplace is not only paying up to the bank in the form of debt-based money but also paying a trusted authority to verify transactions, marginal costs become unsustainable. Merchants must mark up their prices to account for all the transaction fees, and commerce slows. Only giant retailers, with the ability to borrow money less expensively or even offer their own credit cards, are capable of reducing these fixed costs by filling some of the roles of the trusted central authority themselves.

connect this to merchants marking up prices to account for costs of advertising. equivalent

—p.142 by Douglas Rushkoff 1 year, 4 months ago

[...] Credit-card companies are earning 3 or 4 percent on every purchase. That’s more than the growth rate of the entire economy. And it doesn’t even account for the primary source of credit-card company revenue, which is all the interest customers are paying (or further accumulating) on their balances. When a whole marketplace is not only paying up to the bank in the form of debt-based money but also paying a trusted authority to verify transactions, marginal costs become unsustainable. Merchants must mark up their prices to account for all the transaction fees, and commerce slows. Only giant retailers, with the ability to borrow money less expensively or even offer their own credit cards, are capable of reducing these fixed costs by filling some of the roles of the trusted central authority themselves.

connect this to merchants marking up prices to account for costs of advertising. equivalent

—p.142 by Douglas Rushkoff 1 year, 4 months ago
152

It’s yet another example of the industrial-age ethos that places human needs and values below those of the greater machines and systems in which we live. By contrast, the digital media environment invites us to look at the systems we use as changeable programs, and people as the end users for whom those systems are built. Computer programs like Bitcoin may be the most explicitly digital expression of this drive to hack economics as if it were an operating system. But the Bitcoin protocols are still more concerned with replicating the functions of money than they are with serving the needs of humans. [...]

that marx quote about systems we create instead dominating ourselves

—p.152 by Douglas Rushkoff 1 year, 4 months ago

It’s yet another example of the industrial-age ethos that places human needs and values below those of the greater machines and systems in which we live. By contrast, the digital media environment invites us to look at the systems we use as changeable programs, and people as the end users for whom those systems are built. Computer programs like Bitcoin may be the most explicitly digital expression of this drive to hack economics as if it were an operating system. But the Bitcoin protocols are still more concerned with replicating the functions of money than they are with serving the needs of humans. [...]

that marx quote about systems we create instead dominating ourselves

—p.152 by Douglas Rushkoff 1 year, 4 months ago