Wednesday, January 1, 2014

You Are Being Exploited!

Let’s say that oil was just discovered on your property. Even Jed Clampett was smart enough to know that you don’t just turn it over to Exxon-Mobil without getting something for it.

But, every day, we are proving that good ole Jed was a damn sight smarter than you or I.

The fact is that each and every one of us, to varying degrees, has become an essential source of raw materials in the new global economy. 

However, we are so hidebound by 18th and19th century concepts of economics and politics that we are allowing those resources to be exploited without compensation. While we quibble and argue about capitalism, socialism, communism, democracy, oligarchy and theocracy the new plutocrats are profiting at our expense.

Every day for decades we have heard talking heads pontificate about the fact that we live in an “information age” and that we operate within an “information economy”.

And within that context we have seen the emergence of the term “data mining”.

Indeed, think about how much of the modern global economy is driven by data derived from mining aggregated information.

But, have you ever stopped to ask about that “mine”. Just whose property is being mined?

OMG! A eureka moment!

That “mine” is us. You and me. But, unlike Jed Clampett, we are getting nothing of value for allowing the new economic oligarchs to have access to our data.

Think about all the financial rewards that are being reaped by credit card companies, Facebook, YouTube, polling firms, banks, and God knows how many others from collecting, analyzing, selling and/or acting upon the information that you make available to them at no real cost to them. In fact, many times you pay them for the privilege of having access to your “mine”.

Unfortunately, the paradigms of the past have made the overwhelming majority of the world’s population the new serfdom in the age of information.

Nothing better exemplifies the consequence of outdated concepts of political economy than the growing awareness of the issue of income inequality in the United States.

The nostrums that are offered, increasing the minimum wage, expanding the social safety net, altering tax policies, or government organized work programs are all based upon a view that the only value provided by human beings is through physical labor or corporate or government sponsored knowledge creation.

These alternatives immediately get caught up in a dispute over capitalism versus socialism, individualism vs. collectivism.

These are vestigial remnants of outdated concepts from the past. Increasingly sophisticated technologies are constantly devaluing physical human labor. Robotics, medical advances extending human longevity, supercomputers, and many other advances are reducing the potential for people to make a living from their ability to find, get and keep a “job”.

But those very technologies arise from the aggregation and mining of data that is the product of individuals, individuals who are not compensated for their contribution to that pool of information.

That matter of information and technology lies at the heart of a new paradigm of political economy.

Information does not exist in a vacuum. It is studied, evaluated and judged. In this process what is “true” is separated from what is not “true”. Through this process information is translated into knowledge. The application of knowledge results in technology, that is new methodologies for accomplishing tasks that were previously accomplished by less efficient means.

What is of crucial importance here is the role that people play in the equation. Without the involvement of the human component there would be no flow of information.

If people provide this fundamental raw material for economic progress, shouldn’t there be a mechanism for compensating them for supplying that product? If not, then aren’t we simply condoning the misappropriation of property?

I would suggest that the implications of such a change in perspective are dramatic and far-reaching. I hope to elaborate upon them during the coming year. 

But, for now, what do you think?

Read the next installment at Building An Economy For The Future


  1. that was California before their ridiculous gun laws, insolvency and big government that led to all of the previous items mentioned. This tv show demonstrates simpler times but remember big banks and the Milton Drysdale's of the world always existed and always will..

    1. Perhaps you should review what has happened with the California economy since Jerry Brown and a Democratic legislature have taken over.

    2. Jerry Browns first terms helped create the reckoning day that California, the 9th worlds largest economy, is in.
      You know living beyond its means for far too long and now is forced to make the cuts that it should of years prior. That means Town halls open three days a week, Libraries two days a week and employees taking furlough days just to stay employed - hmmm Maybe here in Southbridge too but I digress.

      In reviewing Brown's current term he is indeed trying but your democrats are not helping him. Seems courts blocked hundreds of millions in proposed cuts to state health care programs. Also, the Democratic-controlled legislature refused to enact Brown's proposal to trim the social safety net this spring. (per )

      Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said he didn’t regret holding off on budget cuts earlier this year, even if it cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
      So, understand what is going on here. The state refuses to cut spending. The high tax and excessive regulation regime depresses economic activity (unemployment is 11 percent) and thereby lowers revenue. Democrats refuse to cut spending, so they seek tax hikes (bigger than would have been needed if they hadn't kicked the can down the road). And there is some mystery as to why California is sinking further into the red?

      More recently, California has seen some short-term success in stabilizing its finances through spending restraint and a voter-approved tax increase, but the underlying problems remain. Combine a dysfunctional state government, which cannot raise revenues on its own and cuts back just when localities need help, with very generous pension promises and the devastating impact of the 2008 financial collapse, and California is batting three for three. No wonder 10 of the nation’s 32 financially troubled cities are located in California.
      In May the Ny times led with an article that California had too much money. They neglect the fact that California has unfunded liabilities of between $500 billion and $1 trillion.California’s unfunded financial obligations need to be funded before declaring that the state has “too much money.” Besides if they do have too much money the unequal tax on the rich that is driving the rich out of the state should be stopped first or they'll have even more problems down the line. You know like FDR continuing the pain and suffering of the great depression for years longer than it needed to be. Ya those kind of Democrat controlled legislative problems.

      in closing we agree Jerry Brown is doing the job admittedly better than expected. However the democrats continue to stop the cuts and only want to raise taxes despite an 11% unemployment rate which we all know doesn't include those who gave up on looking for a job or the number would be much higher.

    3. While I appreciate the comments, I am not going to pursue this discussion because it really is not related to the topic of the original post. I have put up numerous other posts debating the merits (or lack thereof) of Republican policies and you should direct your comments to those.

  2. Ironically Ken it is this very administration that is helping all the fat cats to "mine" our own country to line their pockets. Consider this: in 2012 Obama's administration (with his knowledge I would imagine)during the greatest Artic ice melt in history gave Shell Oil rights to drill in Alaska's Beaufort Sea saying, (and I am quoting here) "Our pioneering spirit is naturally drawn to the region for the economic opportunities it represents". or when the Bureau of Land Management decided to auction off 316 million tons of taxpayer owned coal in Wyoming's Powder River Basin. It's shit like this Ken that makes me nuts and once again we lose. Sure information mining is detrimental to the American public but so is the selling off of natural resources. Keep in mind the NSA scandal about tapping our phone and "mining" our information under the Homeland Security Act (another Bush initiative that Barrack is quite comfortable with) is no different. Guess you just have to be behind the president...............

  3. Did any of you people read Ken’s article? It’s not about California. It’s not about Alaskan oil drilling.
    I can now see one problem with conservatives – a lack of reading comprehension.
    If this essay appeared as a test question asking for your opinion in college and you gave those responses both of you would have flunked.

    1. perhaps you missed Kens first response making it an open ended topic.
      rebroadcast for you of the college board correction material.
      Ken O'BrienJanuary 1, 2014 at 3:45 PM
      Perhaps you should review what has happened with the California economy since Jerry Brown and a Democratic legislature have taken over.

  4. A lawsuit filed in California accuses Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook of selling users’ private messages to advertisers without their consent. The complaint claims that the network “misleads users into believing they have a secure, private mechanism for communication, when in fact Facebook... mines user data and profits from those data by sharing them with third parties.”


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