The SFFaudio Podcast #603 – READALONG: The People’s Republic Of Walmart by Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #603 -Jesse and Evan Lampe talk about The People’s Republic of Walmart by Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski

Talked about on today’s show:
The People’s Republic of Walmart: How The World’s Biggest Corporations Are Laying The Foundation For Socialism by a couple of dudes, Tantor Audio, that sounds great!, the chinese flag with the Walmart symbol, John Kenneth Galbraith’s New Industrial State, the US economy is planned, American Capitalism, countervailing power, Carnige and J.P. Morgan, only big corporations can manage it and run it, the Adam Smithian idea of the free market, farmer’s co-ops, labour unions, the state, Kaiju battling, a really funny book, this style of humour, they read some books, a lot of facts, this idea of cooperation, as many points for everybody, every player for himself, alliances only temporary, points scored in a cooperative game, Frisbee is a cooperative game, the game is ruined, not ruin your economy, ruin your life, we’re much better at fighting bears when we cooperate, anarchist tid-bits, P.J. Proudhon’s What Is Property, all labour is collective, cobblers, fish-poles, thought experiments, five people on an island, in nature animals do this institutionally, the lone wolf is the starving wolf, beaters, a man hunt, a human hunt, the whole things about humans is the ability to coordinate and plan, I can imagine two years from now, planning for the next day, a book about planning, Cybersyn the Chilean Internet 1971-1973, ARPA, what your goals are, a highly stratified society, you can have that, all a matter of planning, those are all options, massive stratification, YouTube Bad Empanada, explainers on South American countries, Argentina, how Cuba works, Cuba is a planned economy, their next door neighbour is really really mean, steaming from South Africa, if you stop in Havana…, consumer goods from outside of Cuba are highly expensive, if you look at the outcomes, behind the veil of ignorance, good healthcare, education, a house to live in, a job, Cuba has a big big problems, Venezuela’s planning problems are planning problems, Mike Tyson?, everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face, no plan survives contact with the enemy, the Soviet Union was not really that well planned, authoritarian political system, authoritarianism makes bad planning, I don’t need to argue anything else, “command economy”, we’re producing tanks, more tanks!, more pig-iron, melting down their cutlery to make more pig-iron, get an A.I. in charge, a weekly poll of top concerns, no politics just moving things along, Jesse’s roommate is a planner for cargo ships, this is happening all over the world, coordinating ship loading, Walmart’s a terrible evil company but they’re a planned economy, you’re going to stock the shelves, oh yeah, of course, both companies benefit (and consumers too), how Costco works, Price Club, wholesale, retailers looking for supplies for their business, a big tub of mustard, a caterer, if there isn’t a company producing a product for the price they want they make that product, the Kirkland brand, one flavour of Mustard, only Heinz Ketchup, why are their prices so low?, they’re determined to make their profit from Membership Renewal, like gym memberships, fifty different choices, Aldi, the way Amazon does it, back to the mom and pop stores, pearl clutching, protests across america, we are recording on May 31, 2020, how much are they paying their workers?, ask me how I know, climate changer, ecology, shipping from big warehouses directly to consumers, books, let’s make Amazon a public utility, the ecological cost for Amazon, a Minneapolis based bookstores, Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s, two bookshops, natural allies, the Amazon model killed used bookstores, PaperbackSwap, Abebooks.com, Chapters (Indigo), fashion retail with a few books, mall bookstores, Waldenbooks, small towns, high speed internet in rural areas, its evil, California, private power generation, rolling brownouts, crown corporations, ICBC, the profits arent driven into the hands of a small select set of stockholders, BC Hydro, New Westminster, Nelson, when things go wrong, COVID, economies of scale, that’s the point, mom and pop generating their own electricity, NASA products, the cellphone technologies, we attribute to Samsung, LG, and Apple, public funding of basic research, the free market for innovation doesn’t pan out, David Graeber, SCRAM jets, satellites, health care, Cuba’s health outcomes, Cuba exports doctors, what we could have had, Bell Labs, corporate tax rates, incentives, pricing companies into the ground, going public, the way Netflix’s shows go, small companies that are growing, hair and nail salons probably don’t need to be crown corporations, responsive to needs vs. to desires, every grocery store deliver, right to the door, it isn’t a question of ideology at all, what John Kenneth Galbraith talked about, oligopolies set prices, input costs, what is the natural (free) labour costs, what does a worker need to have a good life, how do we achieve that?, absence of ideology, if we want to defeat the Nazis, what should we do?, my whole goal is to survive, how will I some how get through this, default modes, a William Jamesian approach, what is true is what works, keep your back to the sea, a whole bunch of plans, the only goal is get that Chicken Dinner, SEARS story was basically like porn, Evan’s grandpa, what happened to SEARS?, applying an ideology, on Mother’s Day they had a motorbike on the cover, internal economy, libertarian ideas in economics are idiotic, why not have every single worker in a factor a free agent?, a factory has to be planned, they point to the Soviet Union, AP Economics, that’s not how it works, movies and podcasts, centrally planning podcasts, planned podcasts are pretty bad, transaction costs, if FREE TRADE is so good…, the dismal science, explainers, you’ve got this human being, getting glucose and oxygen to the right places, multicellular organism, it took billions of years for the unspoken agreements between different species to make the cooperation we see in the forest, howling puppies, coordinating and copying is basically what humans do, social ecology, liberated from many of the constraints of nature, if you’re not in favour of multicellular organisms libertarianism might be for you, not having the technology, big data, Walmart as the vanguard of the new planned economy, SEARS’ business model was broken by its directors, SEARS Catalogue, rural communities, that was their success, the model is not different, the scale and the speed, the recommendation system, early on for the web, writing reviews for IMDB.org, how was your call, giving feedback, Facebook and YouTube are exploiting their content creators, if its a public utility, making PDFs, credit in creation for the public good, MP3s and PDFs, wealth that grows, a disincentive, UBI proposal, reviewing butt plugs for Amazon to make Jeff Bezos rich, things to worry about, we should be acquiring patents as a public, Denis Diderot the encyclopedia, maybe farmers in England can learn from this, all the schematics, this is really needed, YouTube is kind of communist, millions of people uploading to help other people, to each according to their needs, helping Sergey Brin get richer, all profits are temporary, MySpace, deleting channels, archive.org, nobody thinks about this right now, the poor social historians, a new dark age for our descendants, there’s no search engine for 1998, why the Soviet System collapsed, Ronald Reagan’s spending on nuclear weapons isn’t the explanation, 15 ethnostates, The Affirmative Action Empire by Terry Martin, Stalin’s ethnic policy, beating the Nazis, the premiere space power for 30 years, disincentives caused by ideology, the consequences of failure, Twitter and YouTube videos are feedback for discontent, wearing masks in the street, remember Covid-19?, ppe products, the looting is happening on the high end, that one looter who looted a carseat and baby stuff, many people are at the end of their rope, one $1,200 cheque, $2,000 enough isn’t enough, voting for Biden is not going to solve all of these problems, funny, a shoutout for Fredric Jameson’s The Archaeology Of The Future, literary theory, a chapter on Philip K. Dick, An American Utopia: Dual Power And The Universal Army, if they don’t like it they can go back to their shit job at Walmart, conscription prevents people wanting war, Red Plenty by Francis Spufford, a Soviet book, the Soviets were ahead, based on the technology, the history of airplanes, the Wright Bros. design was ok, bicycle guys got the right size engine, James Burke’s Connections, centralized data entry, The Iron Heel by Jack London, lot of long speeches, use progress to usher in socialism, comic book stores are different, comixology, if I was in the bookstore, the same reason libraries don’t stock floppies, modern magazines, teeth whitening spas, you can’t get your car fixed through the mail, ideology is always the enemy, let’s do the reasonable thing, use best practices, government keep you hands off my medicare, we’re mad and worried about the wrong things, look at those looters, the biggest wealth transfer in the history of the universe, Reality Winner, Russian interference in the USA election, people need to know about this, the FBI transcripts, a comic tragedy, a bullshit line of argument, you have to read the actual stuff, don’t just read the news, Jonathan Chait is getting paid to tell to you lies, the violence of the everyday is not acknowledged, 40 years of Neo-liberalism is really bad for you, where you gonna fly when they come for you?, cmon man, by the time people hear this maybe Biden will have fixed everything, beautiful sight, protests, sarcasm, The Onion-style wisdom, politicians pretending to be innocent about demonstrations, the Global Times, socialism with Chinese characteristics are superior for what?, ex-pat attitudes, sucking in their own unique ways, a landmass with a legal system, let’s all federate and get on bitcoin, networks of decentralized communities, Venezuela, Iran is sending them gasoline, leaned to heavily on exports, the recent American mercenary capture, the takewaway, build more tanks, retreat to the Urals, clarifying your own thinking, my world isn’t shaken to my core if my shoes aren’t where i put them, wilful blindness, any blue will do, my country right or wrong, I will never apologize for the United States, if you don’t vote for Biden you’re not black, 20 years after The Wire, police incompetence.

The People's Republic of Walmart: How the World's Biggest Corporations are Laying the Foundation for Socialism by Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski

Posted by Jesse WillisBecome a Patron!

Review of The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates by Peter T. Leeson

SFFaudio Review

AUDIBLE - The Invisible Hook by Peter T. LeesonThe Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates
By Peter T. Leeson; Read by Jeremy Gage
Audible Download – Approx. 7 Hours 41 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible, Inc.
Published: September 4, 2009
Themes: / Economics / Piracy / History / Slavery / Democracy / Anarchy /

Pack your cutlass and blunderbuss–it’s time to go a-pirating! The Invisible Hook takes readers inside the wily world of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century pirates. With swashbuckling irreverence and devilish wit, Peter Leeson uncovers the hidden economics behind pirates’ notorious, entertaining, and sometimes downright shocking behavior. Why did pirates fly flags of Skull & Bones? Why did they create a “pirate code”? Were pirates really ferocious madmen? And what made them so successful? The Invisible Hook uses economics to examine these and other infamous aspects of piracy. Leeson argues that the pirate customs we know and love resulted from pirates responding rationally to prevailing economic conditions in the pursuit of profits.

I love non-fiction, and I love books that look at history, books that look at history through one lens or another are even better! And so there is much to love in The Invisible Hook. The title is a play on Adam Smith’s elegant metaphor for how markets work, the invisible hand. Most of the examples cited deal with the Atlantic and Caribbean pirates, rather than earlier Roman era or modern day pirates. But we get a sense of how it likely worked in other regions and times. Chapters on the paradoxical attitudes towards pirate slavery, the wildly contradictory stories about piratical impressment, and the chapter on the Jolly Roger, the pirate flag, are absolutely fascinating. And, as something of a piratical hobbyist myself, I’m pleased to report they deliver clear insights only hinted at in other non-fiction books about piracy. You know you’ve got a good book in hand when you find yourself relating the premises, arguments, and conclusions of whole chapters to friends.

How good is the analysis really? That’s kind of hard to tell. Democracy and equality as a function of economics? Wonderful! Seems logical, seems plausible. And that’s the sort of thing you don’t hear often enough. Indeed, economist Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics fame, gets a shout out early on in The Invisible Hook. This is a book in that vein, a kind of entertaining pop-economics, well written, and very thoughtful. But it also boasts the same kind of inarguable psychohistory-style post-analysis of such books. It reminds me of books like William Rosen’s The Most Powerful Idea in the World, and Jared Diamond’s Collapse. Well written history looked at through the lens of a soft science makes the seemingly inexplicable events of history seem almost inevitable. That is to say, this book should be just one of many such on such topics. In the end though how can you not wanto to read a book that makes piracy, as depicted in The Princess Bride, actually very plausible?

But this is not as merry a ship as it might be. As with many book published these days, there’s some bit of puffery. Concepts well illustrated in a paragraph or two are revisited, whole passages nearly reworded, and I’m betting that this for reasons of market driven economics. It might be that each chapter can be looked at on it’s own, textbook style, but listened to as I did, back to back the chapters have a tendency to revisit the same ports too often. This is one of my major complaints about books these days. Too many books are being published with too many words that don’t say different things. At under eight hours even this relatively slim volume, by today’s market standards, but it’s still puffier than any pirate’s shirt really ought be. It is like a pirate cutter on the stalk, slowed down by a sea-anchor of unneeded repetition. Saying the same thing over and over and over. Get my point? Okay, its the market, and to be fair Adam Smith’s own The Wealth Of Nations is a bloody long book, 36 hours! I’d be willing to bet my strong right arm that the original article, as published by Levitt (mentioned in the book), would be an even better audiobook than this very fine one, and no doubt it’d measure at least a peg leg shorter.

Narrator Jeremy Gage is from the old school of audiobook narration, the kind I like. He doesn’t so much as perform a book as read it. His conspiratorial tone typically him a great choice for first-person POV novels, like Lawrence Block’s Burglars Can’t Be Choosers. This is the first non-fiction book I’ve heard him narrate. So now I can say he’s great for non-fiction too.

Posted by Jesse Willis