Protecting the status quo

I can’t help feeling the term “post-factual world” calls out for examination. While it does describe the new age of transitory facts or even “fake news” the problems seem massively far reaching. For instance, if the continue attacks on institutionalized medium succeed in destroying even the limited capacity of media to hold power to account, what then? Does anyone really believe this is in the best interests of the general population especially given has vocal the west has been historically in calling out autocratic and dictatorial regimes for their lack of press freedoms.

Logically, the demise of authoritative voices with regard to truth and facts simply permits the rise of voices that basically lie. Where that leads us is anybody’s guess but my hunch is nowhere good. However it is also obvious that no matter how much some people might wish for certain problems to disappear, saying it isn’t so often has no affect on facts of life. Take the future of work as a illustration.

By now we have all heard the message, the angry white people want the golden days driven by high wage manufacturing jobs to return. Apple got the message and announced it might bring some iPhone manufacturing back to the US. Bill Shorten got the message and launch a foray into temporary work visas and of course Trump has managed to blame everyone for the pitiful state of employment in the US rust belt, without even looking like the great deceiver.

This is all rather ironic since the dawn of neo-liberalism we have seem governments vacate the area of employment, other than to pay themselves handsomely. Instead the “market” has been considered the device best suited to offer people enough employment to get through life. And by now everyone knows that one’s suitability for employment is a function of how far you can mold your humanity into fitting the subservient nature of most work relationships or if you want a simple term, how good a worker you are.

The inconvenient facts about how the system seems to favour men over women, and white people over others are the subject of much argument, but imagine how much better things like jobs will be in the post-factual world. Media inspired arguments will disappear and everyone will be happy. Especially when governments clear all the red and green tape currently holding the business world in check and preventing them from employing everyone.

Now this could happen. It did once, when the US lifted itself out of the Great Depression. They could possibly do it again but there’s is a problem here. No one knows where we end up after the infrastructure boom is over since the last one rather rudely terminated in a bit of a war. My point here is twofold. The economic data that says an infrastructure boom will fix long term employment issues is clouded by the socio-political implications that accompany such a gung-ho economic approach. Before the facts are obliterated in a post-factual world, we need to remember where isolationism and nationalism took the world 70 odd years ago. The second point is that a massive rebuilding project after the war, coupled with some decline in the number of people looking for work due to them being dead and all that and wholesale open slather to consumption led us to the golden post war years, economically. But the economic picture has some political aspects.

Things like the EU and UN and international co-operation were things that were born out of a desire to avoid things like war. The politics of those times reflected people’s concern that we should avoid wars and instead work to make the world a better place. Meanwhile the economics meant people could focus on their jobs. The two fronts if you like tended to co-exist and probably culminated in the social democratic state of the 70’s and early 80’s.

The other elephant in the room is the general anxiety about the technological threat to future work. Most people I speak to about this (which is a very tiny subset of the general population) usually express some concern about whether they will have a job at all in ten or twenty years time. This is not solved by blaming foreigners for stealing your jobs, or blaming major companies for off-shoring their employment base even though anecdotally both claims may be true. Economists tend to dismiss techno fear when it comes to employment by saying it hasn’t happened before but we have never before seen the extent of disruption posed by smart machines and robots. The technotopia where no-one has to work has a serious reality problem where people need to work to live.

I’m optimistic about how we could deal with the second problem but the rise of reactionary isolationism isn’t likely to encourage a mindset where the world’s problems can be positively addressed. The facts are politics like those currently occupying centre stage have are dark side which takes us to dark places.

If only there was a light on the hill.


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