Kevin Carson on the average Joe’s daily hell he heaven’izes to endure it tomorrow.
2 Aug 2010 | C4SS
This morning Joe was awakened by his alarm clock. Thanks to patents, which remove incentives to interoperability and modular design, the clock was designed to be thrown away rather than repaired. Thanks to “intellectual property” law, as well, the company was able to outsource actual production and then charge Joe a 1000% brand-name markup while paying the people who made it pennies. The clock was powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy—a regulated monopoly operating on the same cost-plus markup accounting system as most other public utilities, including the military contractors who gave us the $600 toilet seat.
Joe then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility; Joe’s water bill reflects a rate structure which provides below-cost water for large-scale industrial use and agribusiness. Joe watched the news on the kind of legacy broadcast media described by Edward Herman, which thanks to the FCC licensing monopolies is controlled by a handful of corporate gatekeepers.
He watched it while eating his breakfast of General Mills cereal, which thanks to government subsidies was produced at some giant mill in Minneapolis, despite the fact that cereal grains are most economically milled on a small scale near the point of consumption. Joe has no idea what’s in his bacon, because the F.D.A. (at Monsanto’s behest) prohibits labeling food as G.M.O.-free. Most of what he eats is loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, and what little “fresh” produce he eats is shipped from a giant plantation thousands of miles away, thanks to U.S.D.A. subsidies.
Joe took pills which were declared safe under an inspection regime originally created at the behest of the drug cartel itself, the inflated costs of which serve as a useful entry barrier and thereby benefit incumbent producers. He paid a 2000% markup on the pills thanks to government-granted patent monopolies. Joe’s medical plan stopped paying for prescription drugs because his weak union has been making more concessions at every contract renewal. The Wagner Act criminalized most of the really effective techniques, so unions like Joe’s are forced to fight by the bosses’ rules.
Joe drives to work on a government-subsidized highway system, built under the supervision of former auto exec Charlie “What’s Good for GM” Wilson. Joe’s commute takes almost an hour. Thanks to subsidized freeways and subsidized utilities to outlying developments, it’s artificially cheap to build monoculture bedroom communities far removed from where people work and shop. And thanks to zoning laws and other regulations against mixed use development, it’s extremely costly to live near your employer or be able to walk to a neighborhood grocer.
Joe begins his workday. He’s doing the work of a downsized person in addition to his own, the work environment is becoming increasingly hostile and authoritarian, and the micromanagement increasingly demeaning. He finds his face sore from the fake smile he constantly displays to reassure the bosses he’s got his mind right. He got no COLA raise last time around, and his insurance copay and deductible are higher. (It all gets back to the union thing above). The bosses sometimes drop hints about closing the plant down and moving to China, which is a whole lot more profitable thanks to World Bank subsidies to the road and utility infrastructure the offshore factories need, and thanks to W.T.O. enforcement of “intellectual property” law that corporate headquarters use to maintain control of outsourced production overseas.
Joe pays his bills with legal tender created by banks, under the state-granted power to loan the medium of exchange into existence out of thin air and then charge interest on it.
After work Joe finds his kids back home from the public schools, where they’re being processed into human resources who will cheerfully take direction from some authority figure behind a desk for the rest of their lives—just like Joe does. While they were there, the kids were taught about the wonders of Our Free Enterprise System (suitably adjusted, of course, by government action to protect us from corporate power run amok).
When Joe goes to sleep, if he’s a conservative, he will thank the beneficent Free Market for all the good things he enjoys. If he’s a liberal, he’ll give thanks for the interventionist state as a bulwark against unbridled corporate tyranny. And he’ll get a night’s rest, preparing for another day of serving the unholy corporate-state alliance that rules his life from cradle to grave.
Kevin Carson is a research associate at the Center for a Stateless Society, contemporary mutualist author and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy and Organization Theory: An Individualist Anarchist Perspective. Mr. Carson has also written for a variety of internet-based journals and blogs, including Just Things, The Art of the Possible, the P2P Foundation and his own Mutualist Blog.