Hurting The Poor, By Helping Them

Yesterday on IRC, we got into a little discussion of the idle, plastic poor in the Western World.i It went a little something like this:

mircea_popescu: Yeah, but you know… back in 1700 there seems to be a complete dearth of bohemian peasants that sat around injecting silicone in their butts to look more like women. So perhaps the problem is that so many poor idiots are also idle. But why ? Cause that’s what I’m trying to understand.
bounce: Or have disposable income to spend.
bitcoinpete: Or access to credit.

mircea_popescu: I mean this welfare nonsense is a) very recent and b) never seems to have been critically considered. For as long as the British Empire endured, the thinking was that the poor have to be kept busy. Lest they become sinful. This somehow switched, 180. and I can’t find when, or why.

bounce: Why? Why do tribe members in darkest Africa /want/ to get mutilated? c’mon, you’re the one with the degree in anthropology, wasn’t it?
mircea_popescu: Well yeah, which is what confounds the example that’s prolly very clear cut to you. Generally they want to be cut for similar reasons to women wanting to be my slaves, it’s an educational experience.

bitcoinpete: It still appears as though the present system exists to keep the poor busy.
mircea_popescu: Does it ?
bitcoinpete: Bread and circuses always.
bounce: o_O? inasmuch all of life is educational, if you believe wossname esotherics. I’d rather say it’s part of being part of the group. we’re social, group-minded animals.

mircea_popescu: bitcoinpete Huge diff between busy and entertained tho.
bitcoinpete: Hmm busy to buy more entertainment.
bounce: Busy or entertained, either will do if it keeps’em from mobbing and overthrowing the ruling elite.
bitcoinpete: New angle?

mircea_popescu: bounce No no, what I mean is quite this : the trannies in florida get the silicone to look a certain way. The African tribesmen get the cut to be a certain way. There’s a meta level of distinction.
bounce: I don’t see it?
mircea_popescu: Similar to the kid that goes to college to learn vs. the kid that goes to college to get the diploma.
bitcoinpete: And it’s set up so both achieve the same nothingness 4 years later.

mircea_popescu: And busy != entertained, because the latter is self-managed, the former is not. Imposing upon the poor is the essence of busywork, not just that they’re occupied, but that they’re occupied with other’s orders. Why are the poor masters of their own life ? What nonsense is this!
bounce: Well, are they?
mircea_popescu: Substantially, yes. Essentially, no. This disconnect is IMO pernicious. Substantially, it’s pernicious to the poor. And this is obvious. But essentially… it is pernicious to everyone. And this has so far gone unnoticed.

And so on. The crux being that our current system fails to educate by choosing to empower. Participation > Achievement, we’re told.

In practise however, empowered individuals see their ideas as far more informed and therefore far more important than they are. Not just by a little bit either. By a fuckload. Thus, the death of expertiseii and the birth of over-confident dodos. This is widespread, making it hard to distinguish the “poor” from the “rich” in the Western World. This is the sad state of affairs in the world’s “Developed Countries,” and it’s this fucktarded lot that are too thick to know how fucktarded they are, and therefore want to spread their measles to the rest of the world in the form of “development” or “progress.” So I had that brewin’ in my noodle.

Then, earlier today, I came across Eli Dourado‘s article on The Umlaut entitled How Net Neutrality Hurts the Poor. Dots started connecting and… here we are.iii So, for your enlightenment and enjoyment, let’s dissect the article and the idea that there’s anything the “Developed Countries” can do to help “Developing Countries:”iv Without further ado, Mr. Dourado:

Who would ever drink Walmart-brand Scotch? It sounded disgusting to me when my micro professor first used the prospect of this “beverage” as an illustration of a more general proposition: “Low-quality X is part of the optimal stock of X.”

The incredibly broken “optimal stock” theory is the reason we have “affordable luxury” and a planet burdened by plastic dishwashers, plastic cars, and plastic food. Low-quality X has no place in this world and neither does some philosophaster’s definition of “optimal.” Their well-heeled guilt doesn’t buy them any brownie points either.

This principle is easy for the relatively well-off to forget. I have no interest in drinking low-quality Scotch, but many people in the world may be able to afford nothing better.

Not being able to afford something just means that you have to earn or save more to get it. This is a good thing.

Rules that remove low-quality Scotch from the marketplace make those people worse off.

This is patent lunacy. People are worse off when they feel entitled to everything for free all the time. Low-quality scotch isn’t a right by any stretch of the imagination. Nor can it possibly be much better than Listerine.

It’s true, the rules may protect those who want only high-quality Scotch: Go to the store and buy any bottle—if mediocre Scotch is banned, then any bottle you pick will be a good one. But this protection for the rich is provided at the expense of the poor. Before we ban low-quality products from the marketplace, we might, as they say, check our privilege.

Ha! Check our fucking privilege! So much guilt, so much consumerism.

Low-quality Scotch is part of the optimal stock of Scotch. Not everyone can afford a Mercedes: Low-quality cars are part of the optimal stock of cars.

This is funny because Mercedes are basically all shit now. Since 1998, when they merged with Chrysler, their “affordable luxury” push has turned their wares into disposable plastic dishwashers. I wouldn’t wish an off-lease Merc on Mike Hearn.

Sometimes all you need is really basic medical advice: Low-quality doctors (and non-doctors!) are part of the optimal stock of doctors.

If you didn’t think the “optimal stock” theory was absolutely batshit yet, this doctor bit should seal it.

Maybe you just need to get your hair braided, and you don’t need your stylist to know how to do other things: Low-quality stylists are part of the optimal stock of stylists.

Low-quality stylists are for people with low-quality style. That’s it.

I recalled this early economics lesson when I attended NETmundial, the global Internet governance meeting that took place last week in Brazil. A large contingent of civil society participants was deeply upset that the meeting’s final output document did not include the global net neutrality mandate it had been pushing for. It was concerning that nobody seemed to realize that this measure would reduce access to the Internet for the world’s poorest.

This is a fantastic set-up. The world’s leaders on Internet governance just don’t realize what keen-eyed Eli does. So what can he teach them?

In much of the world, the net is not neutral, thanks to companies like Facebook and Google. Facebook Zero is an initiative launched in 2010 to give customers of 50 carriers, mostly in the developing world, access to a lightweight version of Facebook on their WAP-enabled feature phones at no charge. Users can post, like, poke, and comment to their hearts’ content, but if they want to view photos or access non-Facebook sites, they incur the usual data charge. The model has been so successful at growing Facebook adoption in Africa that Google followed suit with a competing offering, Google Free Zone in 2012. Lest anyone think that this is a cruel ploy by evil, for-profit corporations to trap the poor inside their walled gardens, the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation also copied Facebook’s idea with Wikipedia Zero, to great effect.

Did you hear? Retardopedia copied SV’s best advertising platforms! This clearly demonstrates they’re all non-evil! Because non-evil companies never copy evil companies!v

You may think that walled-garden access to Facebook or Google is inferior to neutral Internet access—and you’d be right.

You betcha!

But if the neutralistas got their way, people in developing countries wouldn’t have better Internet access; many of them would have nothing.

OMFG. Not having the Internet isn’t having nothing. Seriously, did Alexander the Great, Caesar, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon have nothing? So much of the world would be better off without the Internet. Ignorance be bliss, y’know? Also, “neutralistas” is a fucktarded term. Unless their opposite is “herpistas.”

Wikimedia notes that in Kenya, mobile service costs can exceed 25 percent of monthly income. “Additionally, nearly 1 in 5 have reported that they will forgo a usual expenditure (such as food) in order to reload phone credit.” Low-quality (free) Internet access, therefore, is part of the optimal stock of Internet access.

In no way, shape, or form does this conclusion follow from the premises. Free internet won’t make Kenyans less hungry. C’mon. Only leaving Kenya can do that.

As if it weren’t enough to connect the world’s poorest for the first time, non-neutrality can also help to fund necessary network buildouts on an ongoing basis. By giving access to Facebook, Google, and Wikipedia away as a loss-leader, carriers are serving with their basic tier of service those who can’t afford more, and habituating those who can afford to click beyond the walled garden to using the mobile web. This price discrimination not only increases access but also raises more revenue than a neutral strategy would.

Developing-world carriers need that revenue if they ever intend to build the kinds of networks that will support widespread Internet use.

The idea that increased carrier revenues result in anything other than increased carrier profit is crazy talk. What’s the incentive of those carrier to “buildout” after the USMegaCorps are gone, as they inevitably will be at some point? Instead, the wealthiest and most powerful members of Kenya or wherever get richer and can therefore purchase even more influence, further entrenching their positions and their interests. This wouldn’t necessarily be harmful to the poor, except that now the poor have access to the worldwide web and its “progressive ideas,” which is most definitely harmful to everyone involved.

Net neutrality, in other words, would not only keep the poorest offline, it would keep investment in poor-country telecom infrastructure down for longer.

I’ll repeat myself again: keeping the poor offline isn’t a bad thing. So keeping telecom investment out also isn’t a bad thing either.

A similar, but less stark, dynamic is playing out in rich countries. Anyone who has ever used their Kindle’s included 3G service has benefited from network non-neutrality; after all, you can’t use it to access non-Amazon services. Absent Amazon’s non-neutral arrangement with wireless carriers, you’d have to pay a nontrivial monthly fee to access books via the cellular network, which would mean that most people would forgo cellular and stick to Wi-Fi. Again, we observe a non-neutral arrangement expanding access and saving people money.

Not only is sucking Amazon’s cock not “expanding access,” the quality of Amazon’s 3G service is abhorrent. Oh, and it doesn’t save people money.vi

Fortunately, at NETmundial, harder heads (and deeper pockets)vii prevailed, and the net neutrality mandate was stripped from the outcome document, not without much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Despite their setback, stakeholders have vowed to continue pressing the issue in other international fora. While I am saddened by their I-want-a-pony understanding of economic tradeoffs, one has to admire their determination. Perhaps at the next gathering I will have to buy them a round of Walmart Scotch.

The only “I-want-a-pony economics” here is Dourado’s “optimal stock” theory. Giving the poor what rich people have, except worse, is poisonous to everyone and everything.

Cheap scotch and slow Internet are not the solutions to the worlds woes.

They’re symptoms of the problem.

___ ___ ___

  1. Which of the ticking debtbombs could we rightly call “The First World” anymore? Western World it is, then.
  2. Tom Nichols, professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and an adjunct at the Harvard Extension School, has an on-the-money piece on this in The Federalist.
  3. Instead of last night’s sports bar, I’m now rested at the Banff Springs, where the service is exactly as it should be: impeccable.
  4. By now it should be clear that “Developed Countries” have engaged in an unsustainable social and economic experiment. Feeling the obligation to spread their shitty solutions to peoples that are better off without them is only the tip of their broken brain iceberg. So, dear “Developed Countries,” how about you mind your own fucking business?
  5. Except when governments, who mean well but do untold harm, copy the absolutely worst parts of business practise by focusing on the business-like processes, completely neglecting the result. Because who cares about that? Non-evil always copies evil. Non-evil just sucks at it.
  6. Thanks to Stan for calling this one. His “Internet Of The Future” post is also worth a glance.
  7. Deeper pockets usually win. Except maybe in the United States of Egypt, where you can’t even buy your way out.

19 thoughts on “Hurting The Poor, By Helping Them

  1. […] “Developing World” needn’t be hurt by any more USMegaCorps with their non-neutral net and their “progressive ideas.” It’s colonialism or nothing at all. […]

  2. […] In essence, Jeffrey Sachs is hurting poor people by trying to help them. […]

  3. […] is useful in exposing otherwise sheltered children to the world. Unfortunately, hardships that shelter rather than unshelter result in neotenic 30-year-olds with zero fucking coping skills. […]

  4. […] at scales never before seen in the history of humanity. So we have systemic economic fragility and enough plastic to plug a black hole. […]

  5. […] some crud so brainless that you wonder if he himself isn’t “lab modified” à la Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, etc. I mean, he didn’t sound entirely like that dead dude, what’s his […]

  6. […] Since its earliest days, the Internet has always been a means of communication between smart people.i Universities used it to communicate with one another, soon businesses began to adopt it, and only decades later did consumers find that it was an even more effective divertissement than television. In the last decade, the Internet has become untethered from desktop computing and now every meat puppet with a pulse has a biometric smartphone in their pocket (or will soon). Frankly, they deserve to have their heads buried in their closed sandboxes. […]

  7. […] Derpists to unconvincingly derp about block size increases, and he buys LMO food because “optimal stock.” Generally, he swings his stupidity and fleeting power in every destructive way imaginable. […]

  8. […] more trademarks into a closed system just raises the prices of goods and services, or creates more optimal stock where previously none was required. No additional value is created in this way, nor can it be, […]

  9. […] was the low-hanging hacker fruit. But no longer. In the past few years, Apple, in striving for optimal stock, has become ripe for the picking. […]

  10. […] new markets to Western multinationals, purchasing one’s ticket to heaven, and, by providing optimal stock “solutions”, generally ensuring that nothing of import ever emerges from that woebegone continent. […]

  11. […] fucking expensive lunches for everyone in Sydney. Of course, more expensive lunches beget more optimal stock because the God has a sense of humour and sees fit to punish morons, and particularly social […]

  12. […] as Lanier and Turner propose, but markedly hurt them – y’know, just like every other populist effort at “reform” in the long history of […]

  13. […] at scales never before seen in the history of humanity. So we have systemic economic fragility and enough plastic to plug a black hole. […]

  14. […] fat is shameful and unflattering because it signals poverty – either intellectual or material or both. […]

  15. […] This fundamental construct – that of NIYLiii – is entirely and without exception why the nation state as a secular fiction is so monumentally limited and so grossly incompetent in praxis, not to mention why “Chief Economists” are little more than poorly dressed shamans.iv It’s one thing for the upper crust to buy their way to heaven ; it’s quite another for the Church to do so itself, particularly when it’s via outright theft and subsequent redistribution. There’s no bargaining with the devil, after all, and no optimal stock scotch idem. […]

  16. […] You can’t buy your way to heaven. No matter what the jumpsuit says. […]

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