Tag Archives: predatory capitalism

Concrete Modular Floating Islands Could Solve Poverty, Pollution, and Refugee Crises

There are currently about 100 million people who are living homeless because they had to flee a war zone, and there are just as many homeless people living in “peaceful” countries. A billion people live on less than $2.50 per day, and two more billion people live below the poverty line because they don’t have access to resources or opportunities.

Despite the world spending over $100 billion dollars on humanitarian aid and trillions more on public infrastructure, poverty is only getting worse, because traditional cities separate people from sources of jobs, food, water, utilities, entertainment, and education. The current housing system is designed to make real-estate more expensive, the more conveniently located it is, which means the poorer you are, the more expensive, dangerous, discouraging, unhealthy and opportunity-less your life will be.

If every country pitched in to pool together $50 trillion, they could solve extreme poverty and refugee crises by building a self-sustainable apartment complex/office building in the shape of a ring, 100 miles in diameter, where every resident will have immediate access to food, water, shelter, jobs, and transportation. As long as predatory capitalists don’t take over the city and raise prices and lower wages to extortion levels, every resident would be able to live fear-free for life.

A project of this size would face many hurdles. One of the biggest would be, where to build it? One solution to that problem is to build it on water. This approach would be more expensive, but the benefits might outweigh the cost.

It wouldn’t take much engineering to build a floating city. Instead of building a huge, floating base and then putting a city on top of it, build hollow modules that connect together. Then, a big wave wouldn’t knock any houses or businesses over, because everyone would be living and working “underground.” The surface area could be used to grow food and raise animals.

All you need to make a floating house is a boat hull. You could cast them out of concrete. Engineers have been building hollow concrete boats and caissons for years.

The technology could be easily adapted to mass producing floating houses. Or you could make the hulls out of fiberglass or steel. It might be more expensive, but it would cost less to build a modular fiberglass bobber house than to build a shack in Honolulu or New York City.

Even the sturdiest buoy city would be capsized by a mega wave on the open ocean eventually, but instead of building a monolithic island in international waters, you could connect a line of modular floating homes along the coast of a relatively protected body of water, like the Caspian Sea or the Great Lakes.

If this mega structure were built in the Mediterranean Ocean, you could create a walkable path from Africa to Europe. Refugees wouldn’t use it to invade Europe because they would already have ocean-front property and everything they need to raise a family. You could use that path as a new trade route, and the new most popular tourist destination in the world.

We wouldn’t need to fight over one location for the project. The governments of the world could build one hundred module factories around the world and gradually build a chain around every protected body of water. Life might be so idyllic, the majority of humans will flee the mainland and leave it to Mother Nature.

I believe the environmental benefit of a floating civilization would outweigh the risks. Since all the food, water and utilities would be created in-house, less packaging and transportation would be needed to get the necessities of life from their point of creation to consumption. The modules could be equipped with traps that filter pollution out of the water, and the hulls of the boats would provide new artificial reefs for fish to eat from.

This idea is crazy for being outside the norm, but not because it’s unfeasible. The richest 1,200 people in the world have over $50 trillion sitting in their bank accounts not doing anything. That’s more than enough money to house every refugee and homeless person in the world off-land. Even if governments footed the entire bill themselves, the money they’d save in humanitarian aid and social services would pay for itself quickly. Plus, it would create jobs, lower unemployment, food scarcity and real estate costs.

Sadly, that’s why the governments of the world would never conspire to build this. If governments cared about their people, they wouldn’t have invested their tax dollars on building unsustainable habitats to begin with. The rich need the poor to live in constant fear and danger because that gives them the leverage to exploit the helpless. Our cities are designed to create scarcity because it lowers workers’ and consumers’ bargaining power, which allows businesses to raise prices and lower wages. Extreme poverty and refugee crises exist because the global economy is designed to oppress and exploit the poor.

It’s almost impossible to get rich without gouging your customers and/or employees. So most rich people would be acting contrary to their past behavior if they donated their fortune to building a self-sustainable floating refugee camp, but there are a lot of philanthropists out there with more money than they know what to do with. Hopefully, some of them find the motive to give back to the world they’ve taken so much from.

If compassion and foresight won’t compel the rich to mass-produce floating city modules, greed should. The first person to streamline the process will become the Donald Trump of the seas. After Trump runs America into the ground, building a new nation at sea might be his only hope of redemption. Granted, being the greedy sociopathic narcissist that he is, his city would probably be full of slaves serving masters. However, if he can establish and improve floating island technology, it would be worth it as proof of concept. Then better people can copy his architecture and build the humanitarian communities we’ve been waiting for.

As a compromise, an island-loving billionaire like Mark Zuckerberg, could build a modular island factory, produce a string of islands, and after all the agriculture jobs are filled, train new residents as computer programmers, give them jobs that generate a profit, and keep a portion until the cost of construction is repaid, then give the employee ownership of their module.

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Talk About Saving the World
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Sustainable Monasteries Could Solve Poverty, Pollution, And Refugee Crises

The most popular Youtube vlogger is Pewdiepie, a Swedish man-child who posts videos about playing video games and acting silly in his computer room. Pewdiepie currently posts about one blog each weak, which means, in the time between each of his posts, at least 1,900 civilians died horrible war-related deaths somewhere in the world, and that’s a very conservative estimate.

List of war-related deaths by country. At the top are Syria, South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria

The civilians who survive these conflicts are only technically lucky. Over 22 million people are living in foreign countries right now because they’ve had to flee the apocalyptic death, destruction and destitution in their birth-land. That’s not counting the 65 million people who have fled their homes but haven’t left their country. This means there are about 100 million people who are homeless because they would die if they went home.

There are 65 million forcibly displace people worldwide including refugees, homeless, and stateless people

That number doesn’t count the 100 million people in the world who are just old-fashioned homeless, or the 1.3 billion people who have homes and jobs but are working themselves to death while starving in a shit-covered tin hut with no water, electricity or sanitation.

In conflict zones, it’s hard to get real numbers how many people are suffering, but we know that over 3 billion people live on under $2.50 per day. These statistics don’t highlight a few isolated travesties. Almost half the population of the world lives in extreme poverty, and there are still several billion more who make more than $2.50 per day and live below the poverty level.

Basically, if you have running water, air conditioning, heat, a bed, pornography and an education, you’re one of the most privileged people in the entire world. Drop to your knees and thank God if the worst problem in your life is that nobody loves you.

If you factor in all the money countries and nongovernment agencies spend on humanitarian aid each year, the cost easily eclipses $100 billion dollars each year. The world could afford to spend more money to fight poverty, but it spends over $2 trillion on the militaries which are displacing people. So taxpayers are spending more money on creating humanitarian crises than solving them.

We already spend trillions of dollars every year on infrastructure that is supposed to help people live functionally, but it hasn’t solved the problem because it addresses the problem in a roundabout way that creates more problems than it solves. All the roads, plumbing, and power lines haven’t saved the poor in Detroit or any other major city in the world.

This makes the problem seem unsolvable, but the solution is really very simple. All people need to be happy and healthy are food, clothing, shelter, water, electricity, jobs, transportation and access to markets. If you built a ring-shaped apartment complex with 100 million condos and offices, then dug a man-made river encircling the entire building and used that to water gardens and orchards, you could give the people living there agriculture jobs and a never-ending supply of food and water.

With those problems solved, some workers could specialize in other jobs, which they could reach by walking across the hallway in their apartment complex. Every business would be connected by one road that would never get congested. The bigger you make the diameter of the circular building, the more external markets it would have access to.

Basically, the complex would operate like a secular monastery the size of a major city. You could also think of it as a permanent, self-sustaining refugee camp. As long as the residents don’t have to pay rent, receive an equitable percentage of the profits their work produces, and aren’t overcharged for the goods and services the monastery sells, then everyone will always have everything they need, and nobody would live in destitution or fear thereof.

How would you pay for such a mega project, and who would build it?  It costs about $120 per square foot to build a traditional house, but if you built the refugee camp/monastery using earthbags, you could bring the construction cost down as low as $10 per square foot. Since all that dirt will need to be dug up anyway, you can use the dirt from digging the reservoir/water channel/moat around the complex.

It would take thousands, if not millions of people to build a structure the length of a small country, but earthbag construction is relatively simple. You could simply have the 100 million refugees do the work and then move into the home they built when they’re done. Then they would have a sense of ownership, pride and shared identity with their fellow coworkers/neighbors.

The richest 1,400 people in the world have $5.4 trillion dollars just sitting in their bank accounts, not doing anything. If each apartment unit in the earthbag megastructure is 500 square feet and costs $10 per square foot, you could build 1 billion, eighty-five million units with $5.4 trillion. This figure doesn’t take all the building costs into account, but to put this in perspective, it costs $1 billion per mile to dig an underground tunnel to reduce traffic congestion. You could build a mile of earthbag apartments with a road, gardens, utilities and an aqueduct for far less than $1 billion per mile, especially if you built it in the middle of Africa, Russia or China where property values are low.

We have the money to end extreme poverty in less than five years. We just need to stop spending it on constructing and repairing inefficient cities full of economic dead zones, and build a mega-home that fills all its residents’ basic needs.

The picture below has the aquifer in the center of the building instead of a moat around it, but it still illustrates my proposal.

1. Buy a field. 2. Build a circular sandbag monastery. 3. Build greenhouses. 4. Work and expand. 5. Replace suburbs and refugee camps with sustainable eco-ring monasteries

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

Talk About Saving the World
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What’s The Difference Between Cheap Wine and Expensive Wine?

I wrote this blog after spending three months working at various vineyards in New Zealand and asking all my bosses about the process of winemaking.

Photo of me in a Vineyard somewhere near Hastings, New Zealand

The biggest difference between good wine and bad wine isn’t age. There’s wine that sells for $100 as soon as it comes off the assembly line, and it’s grown from the same grapes that the same vineyard sells for $9 a bottle. Expensive wines aren’t made from some rare, super grape, and cheap wines aren’t made from inferior grapes.The big difference in quality comes from how those grapes were treated during the growing process.

At the beginning of the growing process, every vine is treated the same. They’re planted in long, straight rows. A wooden post as tall as a grown man sticks out of the ground between every four or five plants. Three or four metal wires run perpendicularly between/along the posts. The reason those posts and wires are there is because grape vines aren’t trees. They’re vines, obviously. So, left on their own, they’ll just fall to the ground and grow in the dirt, but that would ruin the grapes. So workers have to come through the rows of plants and tie them to the bottom wire when the grape plants are tall enough to reach. Then, as the vines get taller and bushier, they’ll naturally grab onto the higher wires if their shoots happen to touch them, but a lot of the shoots just fall back down to the ground. So at some point, human beings have to walk down every row in the vineyard and pick up all the low hanging vines and tuck them up through the wires.

This doesn’t just keep the vines out of the dirt. It also gives the leaves maximum exposure to sunlight, and since grapes tend to grow towards the bottom of vines and not the top, that means when the vines are stretched upwards then most of the grape clusters will grow conveniently along the bottom wire where they can be picked without having to dig through tangled vines. There’s still work to be done before the grapes are picked though, and how that work is done will determine whether the grapes will yield premium or cheap wine.

The leaves on the grape plants need sunlight to nourish the grapes. The grapes themselves also need direct exposure to sunlight to ripen properly, but the leaves cover the grapes.  So the leaves around the grapes need to be removed from the vines, but you need to take off as few leaves as possible or else the whole plant won’t get enough light to nourish its fruit. You also need to remove those leaves without damaging the grapes. There are at least three ways to do this:

Some vineyards use sheep. If you put sheep in a vineyard when the grapes are young and sour the sheep will avoid eating them, but they’ll eat all the leaves around the grapes, and since the rest of the vines and leaves are too high for the sheep to reach they pick off just about the right amount of leaves. Inevitably though, the sheep will end up damaging a few grapes and possibly eating too many leaves.

If 100 rows of vines in a vineyard are reserved for making cheap wine then a farmer can just drive a tall, skinny tractor up and down the rows that suck or blows all the leaves off. It’s a cheap and quick method, but it damages the grapes.

The only tool in the universe capable of performing the precision task of delicately removing just the right amount of leaves is a human being. So they’re sent into the vineyards to spend all day, every day in green, roofless hallways shuffling sideways analyzing the bottoms of these walls looking for leaves that cover up the grapes and pulling them off while being careful not to bruise the grapes or remove too many leaves.

It doesn’t sound difficult to spend 9 hours walking sideways pulling leaves off of vines, and it’s true that there are more difficult jobs in the world, but leaf plucking is a unique form of torture, as every job on a vineyard is in its own way. The leaves grow just low enough that an average sized person has to bend over slightly to grab them. This doesn’t hurt if you do it once, but if you do it for 50 hours a week you’ll be in agony. That’s a fact. Once your back starts hurting from bending forward you can switch to bending your knees so it looks like you’re doing the limbo dance, except instead of going under the wall you go sideways…forever. Eventually, that’s going to hurt too. When that happens you can just fall down on your knees and pick out the leaves at chest height. If you’ve lost the will to get back up you can waddle sideways on your knees and/or crawl down a whole row that way, but you don’t have knee pads. So your knees get beat up on the rocks and twigs. And the ground is covered in a thousand doses of weed killer. So you don’t want what’s down there to get into the cuts, scrapes, and blisters in your hands and knees.

After the leaves are plucked and all the grapes are exposed along the bottom of the rows you can walk along them and see where bunches of grapes are growing at odd angles and smashing into each other. Those need to be separated and pruned. You’ll also find other bunches are growing on tiny, leafless branches that won’t be able to nourish the grapes to ripeness. Those need to be removed so the plant can nourish the grapes that are left. Sometimes there’s just too many grapes. If you remove all these extra grapes then the remaining ones will grow plump and sweet. If you don’t remove these extra grapes you’ll still get some good bunches, but you’ll also get a lot of small, under-ripe sour bunches. If simply drive a tractor down the row and harvest all the small, vinegary grapes along with the ripe, sugary ones together you’ll end up with bottom shelf hobo wine.

If your customer expects wine so pure that it doesn’t give them a headache then millions of people all over the world need to pour into their local vineyards and sacrifice the days of their youth (and/or their “golden years”) in purgatory staring at bunches of grapes, studying them, counting them, thinking about how and why to remove them so that all that’s left at harvest time are big, juicy, sugary grapes.

Once the plucking and snipping are done, then all those ripe, juicy grapes will look like a free gourmet buffet to birds. If you’ve already invested months of wages into having your grape vines groomed then you can’t afford to give your crop away to the birds. If you’re making cheap wine you might be able to afford to lose a few grapes, but if you’re making premium wine you need total security. One way you can keep birds away is by buying an airgun that’s hooked up to a tank and makes a loud blast that sounds like a gunshot every minute or so. But that doesn’t keep all the birds away all the time. Since it’s not cost effective to build a glass roof over a thousand acre vineyard, the next best thing you can do is send workers back into the wailing walls and cover the plants with nets.

Until someone invents an efficient way to put nets over plants workers will have to spend the best days of their irreplaceable lives rolling gigantic spools of nets down rows 50+ yards long in the premium section of most vineyards. Each row will have two nets, one on either side. Then two people, one on either side, will take their net and lift it over the plant where they’ll take a little plastic clip (like the ones that hold bread bags closed) and clip the two nets together. They’ll also need to bend over and reach underneath the green wall to grab the net hanging on the other side so they can pin them together underneath so birds can’t fly up through the bottom of the net. A lot of care needs to be taken to make sure the vines are wrapped up so tight that a bird the size of a cell phone can’t get in, and you can be sure they’ll try. So the workers need to end up putting five to nine clips above and below every plant. They’ll have to use more clips to patch up the holes that have inevitably been ripped in net. In nine hours they’ll go through thousands of clips. So they have to carry a big pouch full of them. It takes a lot of thought and attention to detail to clip the nets together properly. It also takes a strong back, but if you’ve been working in a vineyard for very long you’ve already got a pretty strong back.

Even with a strong back, you’re still going to go home with sore muscles every day, especially if you’re getting paid by how fast you work. As a general rule vineyard workers get paid as little as possible and get as few benefits or breaks as the law will allow in whatever country a vineyard happens to be in, and some places are worse than others. Sometimes, instead of getting minimum wage, farmers will have the workers play their own version of the Hunger Games. In this version, the contestants get paid a few cents for every plant they pluck, trim and/or cover with nets. Whoever pushes themselves the farthest past the brink of human endurance and takes the least amount of breaks and cuts the most corners will be rewarded with slightly more than minimum wage. Everybody else will get less than minimum wage, and I guess that’s the point. The only two groups of people who really win these Hunger Games are the vineyard owners (who win a new mansion) and the rich people who drink pretentiously expensive wine (who win a sweet taste in their mouth for a few minutes). You could say the vineyard workers win a job, but it’s the job of a disposable slave. You would have to be completely morally bankrupt to call the work vineyard laborers do for they pay they receive a good opportunity. It’s not an opportunity. It’s a trap. It’s a waste of life.

This raises an interesting question. Who would willingly agree to this trap? Who would take seasonal work that pays as little as possible leaving you jobless halfway through the year with as little money as possible? There are all types, and most of them are more or less homeless. That’s why they can move with the season, and that’s why they’re desperate enough to put up with being treated like an animal.

You could say, “Yeah, but at least they’re getting paid.” The thing about that is, vineyards are making enough money for the owners to buy mansions and sports cars. If there’s that much money left over after operating costs then there’s enough money to pay the workers enough to see the dentist. If vineyards truly aren’t profitable enough to pay its workers more than slave wages then that means premium means wine can only ever exist in a society where income inequality is so bad that the poor are desperate enough to accept being treated and paid like disposable slaves.

Either way, the main ingredient that goes into making premium wine (and which is largely missing in cheap wine) is the tears of the poor. The two main ingredients that go into making cheap wine (and which is largely missing in premium wine) are vinegar and pollution.

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The Life of the Poor

The Housing Market Is A Crime Against Humanity

 

The legal process of buying a house has been made so complicated that you have to hire a licensed professional who has taken a course on real estate laws to help you buy your home. During the process of buying a house your real estate agent will introduce you to a long line of fees that you won’t understand, don’t agree with, and in many cases, are completely unnecessary. You’ll be forced to lock in an interest rate that changes daily for no other reason than it can. By the time you close the deal on your house you’ll have signed so many papers your hand will hurt.

The justification for all of this is to protect you, but after all the charges have been tallied up, your 30 year mortgage will cost you twice the price your house was advertised at, but you won’t know that until after your charismatic real estate agent has made your head spin with 300 pages of legal jargon and schmoozed you into signing your future away so they can get their cut of the closing costs.

The justification for charging you twice what your house is worth is because the bank takes a risk. That excuse is overdramatized to the point of being a lie. In fact, the more your bank overcharges you and the less upfront it is about those charges the more likely you are to default on your loan. Your lending institution will also deflect the blame by saying a lot of the cost is taxes, which only proves the government is complicit in overcharging you for your house. The government doesn’t have to tax you to death on your home. It doesn’t have to make it hard for your family to own your own house. They just do it because that’s the way it’s always been done, and the reason it’s always been done like that it because there’s money to be made in it.

The immediate consequences of this system are obvious: home buyers get screwed out of their money and are set up to default on their loans, but the problem is worse than that. Since there’s so much money to be made selling overpriced houses to suckers, the rich (who can build houses cheaply or buy existing ones with cash so they don’t get screwed on a 30 year mortgage) have a lot of incentive to buy up as much land as they can and build houses as cheaply as possible. This results in cities full of dilapidated houses that require constant repairs being sold at astronomical prices.

If it weren’t so easy to screw over the little guy, property values wouldn’t be so inflated. If property values weren’t so inflated people could afford to pay off their houses and wouldn’t default on their loans. Then lending institutions would not go bankrupt, and governments wouldn’t have to “bail out” lending institutions.

But the system is designed to screw over the little guy, and that causes housing bubbles, which result in millions of people losing their homes and even more never being able to buy one in the first place. And even after the American taxpayers bailed out the lending institutions that screwed them in the first place…the process of buying a house is still exactly the same as it was before. The little guy is still getting systematically ripped off in the exact same ways, and the consequences will continue to remain the same until the fundamentals of the housing market are changed.

If the government was the sole lending institution through which all property purchases were financed it could set low, stable interest rates and eliminate all the predatory fees banks throw into the process just because they can. If the government collected the interest on housing loans it wouldn’t need to impose such oppressive property taxes on homeowners. Those taxes could be slashed or eliminated, increasing the working class’s ability to pay off their mortgages. Real estate agents could still assist home buyers, but they should have a fixed wage set, say $1000 per house. Period. This is a generous sum of money for what’s often less than a week’s worth of work, and it doesn’t incentivize overpricing houses to pump up the realtor’s commission. Building codes should have higher standards. This won’t lower the cost to buy a house, but it will lower the cost to maintain a house, which will increase the likelihood that a home buyer will be able to pay off their mortgage in the long run.

Finally, how much land does one person need? Why does one person need to own 10,000 acres? The more land one person owns the less land there is for everyone else. You can argue that everyone has a right to own as much land as they want, but when there’s no land left for the poor, the effect is the same as denying the poor the right to own land. If a law were put in place limiting the amount of land someone can own or the frequency with which they could flip their property it would prevent housing bubbles. This would kill the big business surrounding the housing market, but that business needs to be killed. It doesn’t benefit society in any way. It’s a drain on society, and when you consider that every dollar a home buyer spends on their mortgage is equal to time spent at work, you ultimately pay for your house with your life. As it stands, the exploitative nature of the housing market steals people’s short, irreplaceable lives. I won’t hesitate to say that it’s a crime against humanity. If all of this money weren’t tied up in the fake fees business it could be released into the economy to stimulate actual businesses that have a real-world benefit to humanity.

But your dearly beloved politicians aren’t talking about that, and they’re not going to, and you should be asking why.

 

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Socialism and Communism
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The Life of the Poor
Oppression in the Workplace
Success and Retirement
The Housing Market
Healthcare in America
The Stock Market
Banks
Taxes
Cryptocurrency
Fixing the Economy
My Tweets About Economics

(Comic) A Brief History Of The Working Class

(Comic) A Brief History Of The Working Class

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Short, dark, surreal, articulate political comics

An Old Man From Jersey Explains Life

An old man sits on the steps to his apartment and explains life to an eight-year-old boy.

Occupy LOL Street

Thee LOL Cats join the Occupy LOL Street movement at Zucchini Park and find ways to address income inequality and corruption.

This Was Your Life

Loki and a friend taunt the dead at the Pearly Gates to the Underworld

Two Conservative Ladies

A satirical take on conservative talking points

Two Feminist Ladies
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The Adventures of Monk and Punk: Journey to Entlantis

A homeless monk and an alcoholic punk team up to create a publishing house to raise money to build a floating monastery.

  • Book 1: Chapter #123456789
  • Book 2: Chapter #123456789

An American Expat Visits The Occupy Auckland Protest: Part 2

 

I visited the Occupy Auckland protest a few weeks ago when it started and wrote about my initial impression in another post. Yesterday I went back with my tent and spent the night. I participated in the general assembly and offered to teach the protesters how to use my formula plot template to write stories about the issues they were trying to raise awareness about, but nobody took me up on the offer. I ate a fantastic meal from their excessive kitchen facilities and spent the rest evening talking with the other campers. Here’s what I took away from the experience.

The “Occupy Auckland” camp is basically a homeless shelter draped in protest signs, and most of the non-homeless occupants seem to come from very low socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. I’m not saying this to be judgmental. I’m pointing it out as an objective observation, and it needs to be pointed out because it has some important implications.

Don’t go to “Occupy Auckland” to meet the people who are going to change the world. Go there to see why the world needs fixing. If you see mentally ill vagrants and dirty hippies there, don’t jump to the conclusion these are irresponsible, clueless moochers who came to Auckland to blow off steam before getting back to their normal lives. Those irresponsible-looking human beings have been occupying one city or another their entire lives. It’s just that nobody ever noticed them before because society kept them kicked in the gutter out of sight of the good shoppers and rugby fans. Now that the human beings the system has failed have come together in conspicuous numbers and occupied a highly-visible public space the world can’t wait to find any excuse to dismiss them again and sweep them back into the gutters so they can get back to their luxurious shopping sprees, binge drinking, mindless television-viewing and whatever other diversionary activities they can come up with to try to make themselves forget that they’re throwing their lives away in a high-stress rat race to nowhere.

What do the protesters want? What would the government have to give them to get them out of the public eye again? On the most basic level, they just want a chance, not just for themselves but for everyone alive today and everyone yet to be born. The only problem is they don’t have the educational or professional background to articulate how to fix the system that failed them and is setting up a whole new generation of unsuspecting human beings to fail as well. That’s why they’re not in politics. That’s why we rely on politicians to manage the system for us. The only problem is that the politicians don’t have the educational or professional background to fix the system either. These days politicians are professional campaigners. They get elected because they can convince naive voters that they’ll represent their needs and interests, but once they get into office they need someone to tell them how to do their job, and the only people with access to the halls of government are professional lobbyists and campaign financiers who have a vested interest in twisting politicians’ arms to represent the interests of the rich, who have a vested interest in exploiting the common worker/voter.

Why is there economic inequality? Because the only way the rich can get richer is by taking a bigger share of the poor’s income, which the top 1% have made legal by buying out the majority share of representation in government. That’s probably the crux of the protester’s message, but then the heads of state knew that before the protesters did. John Key, the prime minister of New Zealand, could walk down to Aotea Square today, set up a tent and sleep on the ground with the protesters tonight. He could raise the minimum wage, make profit sharing mandatory, raise taxes on the rich and make education free. The fact that he hasn’t acknowledged much less addressed the plight of the bottom 1% should be taken as evidence that (just like Barack Obama) he has no intention to….not until they twist his arm like the top 1% have done.

Unfortunately, the protesters don’t know how to do that. To their credit, unlike the top 1%, they’re committed to nonviolence, which is just as well because they’re so disorganized that any attempt at a violent revolution would just result in fruitless rioting. In lieu of that, they’ve resorted to blowing bubbles in banks and harassing bank clerks, who are obviously, downtrodden members of the 99% themselves. At this rate, all John Key needs to do to shut down the protesters is stand back and let them make such a nuisance of themselves that the public asks for the police to evict them back to the gutters they came from.

I saw one beacon of hope at the Occupy Auckland protest, a professional academic from the Auckland University of Technology who has been trying to inject the voice of reason into the general assemblies but getting hopelessly blocked by obstinate factions and individual, attention whoring naysayers within the assembly. If that professor (or the person who takes his place after he throws up his hands in frustrations and quits) can structure the camp into a professional public relations machine then the protesters have a chance at waking up the rest of society to the fact that the homeless and hungry are not anomalies; they’re an inevitable product of a broken system and are only a taste of what’s to come if business continues as usual.

But the protesters aren’t going to be able to do that on their own because they don’t even have the skills to secure meaningful employment for themselves. But rather than faulting them for that, we should learn this valuable lesson from them: The people most oppressed by the system are not the people most responsible for fixing the system. The people most responsible for fixing the system are those with the most power. Everyone knows money is power, but the wealthiest 1% have already drawn a line in the sand to stand against their fellow man. Luckily, money isn’t the most powerful force in the world; knowledge is.

The people with the most responsibility to speak for the poor and uneducated are the professors and university administrators. The derelict campers shouldn’t be picketing outside banks begging clerks to change the system. They should be picketing in front of the universities and begging the academics to come down from their ivory towers to accept their responsibility as the voice of reason, the voice of history, the voice of the people.

 

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An American Expat Visits The Occupy Auckland Protest: Part 1

Photo of protesters sitting on park benches, surrounded by tents and signs at the Occupy Auckland protest

I had a surreal experience the other day. To understand why it was surreal you need to understand that I was born and bred in the Bible Belt of America. I’m a white, Caucasian male who was named after a white, American, Caucasian, male war hero. I’m an honorably discharged veteran of the Iraq war with three rows of ribbons on my ribbon rack. I’m also an expat who just celebrated my two year anniversary of emigrating to New Zealand, and I left America for all the reasons people are protesting on Wall Street today.

Coming from that perspective, I went to the “Occupy Auckland” protest the other day. For those of you who don’t know or couldn’t guess, the “Occupy Auckland” event was inspired by and is being held in solidarity with the “Occupy Wall Street” “movement.”

At the time there were 40 tents camped in a public park directly off of Queen St., in downtown Auckland, which is sort of like a smaller scale version of Times Square. There were two extremely bored police officers wearing neon green reflective vests loitering in the vicinity of the protest grounds. All they had to look at to amuse themselves was a bunch of empty tents (the residents were at professional jobs and would return in the evening), a few bored hippies and a meandering stream of passing rugby tourists.

In a lot of ways, the protest was anticlimactic. The protesters I spoke with said that most of the pedestrians who stopped to talk with them were either mildly curious what the protest was about or wanted to express their support for the movement. The protesters also told me that on the first day of the occupation they held a march down Queen St, which drew an estimated 2000 participants, and they received $2000 in donations in their first weekend, and there has been a regular stream of old women stopping by giving them free home-cooked meals….not that they seemed to need the food because by the time I arrived they had set up a better kitchen than I have in my house.

I literally paid $160 over the past weekend to camp at a campground for 4 days, and I had access to fewer amenities, less camaraderie, less excitement and fewer picture opportunities than I would have had if I would have camped with the protesters on Queen St.

Now I’m thinking about taking my tent over there and going camping for the fun of it. Needless to say, there are a lot of Kiwis hold that the fact the protesters are so comfortable is proof that they have nothing to protest in the first place and should just go home. Even though life in New Zealand is far from perfect, but it’s a lot better than in America. Kiwis are happier and have a quantifiable better standard of living than Americans because the system works better in New Zealand.  There are fewer problems, and the problems they do have, they’ve responded more effectively to. From this perspective, some Kiwis feel the people camping on Queen St. should be celebrating instead of protesting.

Superficially they’re right, but if you trace the problems the Queen St. protesters are standing against below the surface to any depth at all, you’ll understand why all the Occupy movements are relevant and even vital. The root of the problem that all the Occupy movements are protesting against trace back to income inequality. All around the world, it’s the norm for political leadership positions to be given to those with the most money. Laws are passed that maximize profits at the expense of human life. Every business pays their workers as little as possible and charges their customers as much as possible. You literally can’t shit without being taxed or fined or otherwise billed. Poorer people pay a higher percentage of their income to shit. You need a fortune to get an education, and you need an education to get a fortune. People are even getting charged to save their money now, and it’s illegal not to pay the government whatever bizarro number it tells you that you owe the tax collector.

These are universal themes that are getting worse everywhere. Those statements may be less true in some countries, but “as America goes, so goes the world.” If the economic/political climate continues on its current trajectory then every country in the world will end up in the same dystopia within a lifetime. Soon we will all live in cookie cutter houses doing service level work for no benefits and no securities for our entire lives. We’ll have no medical care, no education, and everything we buy we’ll have to go into debt for. The only legal options we’ll have for escaping the monotony and anxiety of our lives will be tobacco, alcohol, sports, and television. Then we’ll numb ourselves to our numbness and kill ourselves as quickly as possible, not because we’re irresponsible, but because we’re unfulfilled and miserable with the unnatural, inhumane environment we’ve been forced to grow up and live in.

Even if none of that happens to any of us, it is happening to billions of people all over the world right now through no fault of their own. Every country uses varyingly modern versions of the caste system, and they’re all moving towards the American model of corporate dependency.

The Pacific Islanders have a long literary history of complaining about how colonial forces took their islands and gave it to foreigners. Well, American commercialization is the new colonialism. If you want to see what Tonga is going to look like in 30 years, just visit Oahu. It’s going to be ghettos and strip malls separated from ultra-wealthy subdivisions by dull grey roads and concrete walls. The entire world is devolving into Office Space under the American economic model. That’s not the society humans have the potential of building. That’s not humane, and that’s not how anyone wants to live.

It may not look like the protesters are changing the world yet, but they’re already changing people’s minds, and the more time they have to get organized the clearer and more persuasive their message will become. The more that message spreads the harder it will be for any single government to silence the overall movement. The protesters are planting seeds right now that may not bear fruit for a while, but the check’s in the mail, and they may prevent all of Polynesia from getting completely turned into internationally owned chains of strip malls.

 

 

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7 Economic Injustices We All Accept

1: High prices

Everything costs as much as possible. When you see a sign in a store that says, “50% off,” what it really means is “Fuck you 50% less than normal.” Extortion is the norm. It’s half the reason the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poor. It maximizes profits for the rich and minimizes what the poor can afford. High prices are cruel. High prices kill people. High prices create misery. Yet, most of the world’s business owners have decided independently to set prices as high as possible so they can live opulently. Business owners wouldn’t do that if people were more important to them than paper.

 

2: Low wages

Business owners know how big their paycheck is, and they know how small their workers’ paychecks are. Business owners know they couldn’t get their big paycheck without all their employees working their asses off day in and day out for barely enough money to survive. That’s cruel, but it’s the norm.

 

3: Advertising

Businesses spend a lot of time and money trying to manipulate customers into buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have for reasons that aren’t important. Advertisements warp people’s perception of reality and make them act in their own disinterest. That’s cruel, but that’s the norm.

 

4: Subjugation of customer service workers

When an advertisement convinces you to go to a business and spend money on a product or service, you’re going to be greeted by a customer service representative who will be wearing a monkey uniform. You can yell at that person. You can treat that person like shit, and they’ll have to stand there and take it and smile and act like this is the best day of their life and you’re the best person in the world. Their boss will fire them if they stand up for themselves, and they have to take abuse from their boss too. And their boss will yell at them if they don’t work as hard as possible for longer than is healthy. So their lives just suck on every level every day they go to work. That’s the norm. That’s insane. Our society really doesn’t value people.

 

5: Acceptance of sweatshop workers

Most of the stuff you own was made by slaves in sweatshops. Most of the food you eat passed through a slave’s hands at some point between the fields and your kitchen. We know this. We know our iPods were made by people who live in dormitories with suicide nets outside the windows. If you knew that one of our family members had been kidnapped and was being forced to live in those conditions you’d make it your life’s mission to free them, but we don’t feel more than a slight twinge of guilt over it happening to the people it’s actually happening to. If all people are equal then we should be equally concerned for everyone.

 

6: Unequal rights

We take it for granted that women don’t have the right to take their shirts off where men can. We accept that gays can’t get married where straights can. We get offended at the idea of people from another part of the world moving to the part of the world we live in because we take it for granted that they don’t have the right to move. We accept that soldiers and prisoners have had almost all of their rights stripped away. We make excuses to justify these lapses of equality.

 

7: War

War is hell on earth. It’s the worst thing that can happen, and it’s never necessary, but there are lots of wars going on right now, and they’re going to keep going on, and after they end new wars will take their place. Hell is here to stay, and we don’t care. We don’t even care enough to pay attention to which wars are going on or why. We go further out of our way to find out about the latest blockbuster movie coming out, and we’re more emotionally involved in Hollywood stories than stories of people living in war zones. Where do we draw the line?

How bad of an atrocity has to happen before the world puts its foot down if we won’t draw the line at unjust wars? Based on the precedents we’ve set, we clearly don’t value our fellow-man enough to ever draw the line. If we don’t value our fellow-man then we must not understand why our fellow-man is important.

People are important. Every one of us is an animate, sentient, autonomous cosmic supercomputer. We’re the rarest, valuable and most powerful thing in the universe. Any one of us is worth all the money in the universe.

Being the rarest thing in the universe, we have the rarest opportunity to explore and experience the majesty of the inanimate, unconscious and yet uncannily elegant universe we’ve found ourselves in. There are wonders to behold, and we could have them all. We’ve got about seven billion animate, sentient, autonomous cosmic supercomputers we could use to design and create an interstellar chain of utopian planets. But we’re not doing that. We’re forcing them to assemble cheap junk in sweatshops that customers are going to be manipulated into paying too much for.

Not only are we throwing away the future’s potential but we’re throwing away the present as well. When you’re on your death bed the thing you’re going to remember fondest in life is your friends. Everyone you meet is a potential friend whose wonder you can bask in right now. Everyone is has a beautiful universe in their mind, and even if you don’t like someone, there’s someone who loves them because beneath their faults they’re worth loving. Everyone brings beauty into this world, but that beauty is minimized when you’re worked to death at a job that treats you like crap. That takes a diamond and turns it into coal.

It might seem like a lot to ask everyone to value everyone regardless of how different we are, but you shouldn’t have to be guilt-tripped into doing it, because we’re all family, and you don’t have to be guilt tripped into helping your family. No matter how different we are, we’re still human; we’re not just on the same team, we’re on the only team. We’re all we’ve got.

Every one of us count. We should value each other and treat each other accordingly. When we treat people badly we should be reminded how important we are so we don’t waste the opportunity to live, grow and experience the majesty of existence to the fullest extent possible, together.

 

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Predatory Capitalism Creates Poverty
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Success and Retirement
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Healthcare in America
The Stock Market
Banks
Taxes
Cryptocurrency
Fixing the Economy
My Tweets About Economics

7 Reasons Why Minimum Wage Should Be Higher

Cartoon of a man standing on a huge pile of cash shouting, "Your greed is hurting the economy!" next to a poor person holding up a sign that says, "Raise the minimum wage."

1. It requires specialized skills/attributes

One way high wage earners justify their pay is by saying that not everybody could do their job. So since their skill is so rare then they deserve to be paid more. This point of view overlooks the fact that not everybody can do hard labor  If you took the CEO of a big restaurant chain and made them work in one of their restaurants’ kitchens for three months they’d all fail. Even out of the general public, there’s a significant percentage of people who don’t have the strength or patience to do the jobs minimum wage earners do.

Go ask any kitchen staff, road crew, farm crew, or retail worker about people they’ve seen work at their job for a week and then burn out from exhaustion or didn’t have the mental fortitude to do their jobs. Those who pass the test will always be able to look each other in the eye and know they had the metal to make it while so many others didn’t. But even though minimum wage earners have attributes and skills just as rare any upper-middle-class job. Their paychecks don’t reflect this.

 

2. Compensation for pace

Think of an office romance drama series like Mad Men, Suits or The Office. Imagine if the characters ran as fast as they could everywhere they went, and where ever they went they were always very busy with their hands, and they were always racing the clock while pacing themselves so they could last the day.  And somebody was always yelling at them and threatening them. It would be funny if it wasn’t true.

The longer and faster you have to work the more you have to commit your total life’s attention on what you’re doing. Some people have slow-paced jobs where they can daydream all day, call their friends and family and take long lunches while getting paid very, very well. A lawyer would charge you more for his services if he had to devote his total attention to your case and work as hard as he could none stop for three months straight. But field hands, cooks at chain restaurants, and warehouse staff don’t get paid any extra for how totally they have to devote themselves to their jobs.

 

3. Compensation for inevitable injuries

If you do anything as fast as you can for nine hours a day for a lifetime you’re going to hurt yourself. Just lifting files or typing will give you crippling hand aches in old age. Lifting heavy bags and boxes will take its toll immediately. When you do minimum wage it’s not a matter of if you’ll develop some kind of health problem, it’s a matter of which one you’ll get. And since millions of minimum wage jobs involve handling poisonous material, a lot of people are guaranteed to die from work-related illnesses.

It’s bad enough that people are dying from work-related injuries, but they’re suffering here and now in very real, very graphic ways. Any fry cook can tell you a few stories about burns and cuts they’ve seen kitchen staff get. There are millions of people in the world who have stitch marks on their bodies from on the job injuries they got while working for minimum wage, but they don’t get any compensation. Their employers don’t even offer them health care. If you asked the employer why, they would probably tell you that the accident was the employee’s fault. Even if that were true, these injuries are statistical inevitabilities. If you put 90 million human beings in kitchens around the world working as fast as they can all day for three months cooking over hot stoves, slinging boiling liquids and chopping things with sharp knives, you’re going to end up with millions of injuries. You can repeat the experiment as many times as you want, there will always be injuries. So going to work is like playing the lottery. You might be one of the unlucky ones who fate has doomed. And when that inevitable day comes for some man, woman or child, their employer will probably find some valid excuse for why they don’t have help the person who won the doom lottery inherent in minimum wage work.

 

4. Compensation for degradation of off-duty time

A lawyer would charge you a premium if he had to work all day every day as fast as he can for three months. A lawyer would probably raise that fee after a week after he realizes that working that hard and that long doesn’t leave you any energy to enjoy your free time after work, and in fact, he was probably spending all his evenings just trying to recuperate from the day’s work while prepping himself for another day of marathon work tomorrow. I’m sure a lawyer could write a fantastic explanation of why they should be compensated extra if their professional work degrades the quality of their personal time. So far no lawyer has done minimum wage workers the favor of writing an explanation of why they deserve extra compensation for not being able to fully enjoy their free time.

If a lawyer worked as fast as possible for three months he could pamper himself all along the way with good meals, healthy snacks, massages and a big vacation at the end. Minimum wage earners can’t afford any of that. They don’t get to stop at cafes on the way to work. They have a hard time getting sick days, let alone vacation days. And for them, it’s not just three months. It’s their fate in life. That’s why poor people drink and smoke so much. Their life is fucked. There’s no hope for them. In hopeless times humans tend to turn to religion or hedonism for relief. If minimum wage earners got paid more I predict you would see a decrease in religion and hedonism. Think about that. Minimum wage jobs are so miserable they force people to turn to God or slow, euphoric suicide to cope. That’s morally fucked up. That’s an atrocity. That’s the kind of thing that generations from now, our descendants will look back on us and say, “Damn, that generation was stupid and backward. I’m sure glad we’re not that shamefully stupid and cruel now.” So how about we not be that stupid and cruel now? How about we compensate minimum wage earners for losing their personal lives. Better yet, let’s not take away their personal lives to begin with.

 

5. Compensation for humiliation

Some lawyers get to pick and choose their clients and their price. If a prospective client insults the lawyer or is obviously going to be a pain in the ass to deal with, the lawyer could charge the client extra to make it worth his time. Minimum wage earners get yelled at constantly by bosses and customers. Everyone is allowed to tear them down and use them as punching bags, and the minimum wage earner has to just stand there, wearing a demeaning company uniform and endure emotional and sometimes physical abuse from the people they have to spend almost every day of their life with.

There’s been a lot of research done on the topic of classical conditioning and bullying. If you insult someone and humiliate them every day, they’re going suffer. It’s immoral to do that to somebody. It’s downright sadistic to do that to somebody and then tell them that they have to come back every day for the foreseeable future and endure the same emotional abuse while smiling and pretending like it’s the happiest day of their life, and if they can’t maintain constant perfect bearing they’ll be thrown out into the streets to starve and die in the rain. That’s as messed up as the plot to The Human Centipede 2. If you’re going to have to spend your life eating other people’s shit you should get some kind of compensation for that. Better yet, maybe we should stop sewing retail employee’s mouths to the customer’s asses or giving bosses god-like authority to bully employees.

 

 6. Compensation for investment of labor

You can’t build a company with capital. Investors who provide employers with start-up capital expect a return on their investment, and everyone agrees that this is entirely reasonable. However, you can’t build a company without labor either, and the workers who invest the irreplaceable seconds of their lives at work don’t get dividends. They just get the lowest paycheck legally allowable and a kick in the ass the day they quit, get fired, their contract ends, the company goes bankrupt or gets bought out.

If you invest a few thousand dollars in a company at the right time you can get millions of dollars in return. You can invest a few thousand hours of your life in a company, and you won’t even get a thank you card. You have to be a complete sociopath to think that’s okay.

 

7. It’s the decent thing to do

Why should we pay minimum wage workers more? Because it’s the decent thing to do. That’s why. That’s all that should have to be said. Everybody knows it would make minimum wage workers’ lives better if they worked shorter hours and were paid a higher percentage of company profits. It would make people happier, and we would live in a happier society. That’s what the world is supposed to be like. Are we not good people? At least, don’t we want to be good people? Well… let’s be good to the people holding up the pillars of our economy.

Even if you’re a complete sociopath who doesn’t care about anybody else but yourself and you look at the world through a cold, calculating perspective, you should still want to raise the minimum wage, because the empirical cost/benefit analysis of economic oppression didn’t add up.

 

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Predatory Capitalism Creates Poverty
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The Life of the Rich
The Life of the Poor
Oppression in the Workplace
Success and Retirement
The Housing Market
Healthcare in America
The Stock Market
Banks
Taxes
Cryptocurrency
Fixing the Economy
My Tweets About Economics

7 Ways Workers’ Rights Still Need To Improve

1: Workers should get paid what they’re worth.

Most of the workers at the place I work get paid minimum wage, but the work we do generates millions of dollars of profit for our company every year. The people who generated that money only see a fraction of it. They eat like shit because they can’t afford real food. They drink to forget their shitty lives, and they’ve accepted that they’re going to live shitty, hard-working lives forever. The top two or three people in company live in mansions, do very little work and smile all day, every day.

This describes most companies. The standard business model is based on a modern version of slavery that allows the masters to exploit their workers with plausible deniability. The end result is unmistakable though. The masters make all the money for controlling the means of production while the people running the economy get paid nothing and waste their lives in humiliating servitude.

I know all the excuses for why we should live under corporate slavery, and I don’t buy them. If we ever hope to live in utopia or even just be decent human beings we need to figure out a way to share profits equitably within companies using a better system than supply and demand, which really just amounts to, “screw whoever you can, however you can, whenever you can.”

 

 

2: Workers should not have to take shit from customers.

Worker’s aren’t allowed to verbally abuse their bosses. Parent’s aren’t allowed to verbally abuse their children. Teachers aren’t allowed to verbally abuse their students. You can’t verbally abuse a random person on the street without fear of repercussions. Everyone is protected from verbal abuse except customer service workers. Customers can bitch out customer service workers as hurtfully as they want and the customer service representative has to submit to it. If they demand to be treated with the basic level of human dignity everyone else is afforded under the law they’ll be labeled insubordinate and get fired.

I have no idea how/why my parent’s generation allowed this to happen, but if its’ wrong to verbally abuse people, then it’s blatantly a violation of basic human dignity for a company to force it’s workers to submit to verbal abuse from customers. Customer service representatives need the law to protect them from verbal abuse and give them the right to tell jerks to go screw themselves.

 

 

3: Workers should have more freedom of expression.

People should be allowed to dress however they want. Nobody should have the power over another person to tell them what to wear. Basic human rights don’t get any more basic than that. Being forced to wear uniforms or even conform to certain standards of appearance is humiliating, degrading and oppressive. If we want to live in a free society we can be proud of the very least we can do for our children is let them dress themselves how they want and quit forcing them to conform their identities to the soulless, exploitative standards of professionalism.

 

 

4: Stop drug testing.

Nobody with any intelligence thinks drug testing really accomplishes anything productive. People who use drugs aren’t bad. Most people who use drugs don’t use them at work. The purpose of drug testing is defeated by allowing people to drink alcohol. If there’s a legal way to get high, does it really matter which way you get high? No.

And most high paying jobs don’t drug test. Politicians don’t get drug tested. CEOs don’t get drug tested. Important people don’t get drug tested because important people use drugs, and it doesn’t matter. The only thing drug testing accomplishes is making life harder for people whose lives already suck so bad that the only realistic chance they have at any form of happiness is through ingesting chemicals. Help their lives suck less by ending the practice of drug testing or drug test everybody.

 

 

5: Employers shouldn’t get a carte blanche on contracts.

Workers are exploited, stolen from, abused, humiliated, forced to live in fear and fired with complete disregard for their dignity because people need jobs to eat. This means employers can put anything they want in their contracts and people have to agree to it to get a job. Then when the company wants to abuse their workers they can say, “But you agreed to this. See you signed your contract.” Of course, we signed the contract. We need to eat. So we had to concede to your extortionate demands. Workers should be protected from this kind of unethical treatment by the law.

 

6: Make shorter work weeks.

What are we doing here people? The year 2000 has come and gone. We’re living in the age of technology. There’s no reason to work 9+ hour days 5+ days a week. All we’re doing is lining our masters’ pockets with thicker pads of money. We’re wasting our lives at work, and it’s making us miserable, stressed and volatile. This is so pointless a child can see it. We should be working 7 hour days 4 days a week. You know what will happen if we do? Everyone will be happier. That’s it. So why aren’t we doing it already?

 

 

7: Create one national job board.

People can’t find jobs because networking is more important than skills. The “good old boy” system is outdated and detrimental to the national economy. We should get rid of the millions of avenues business have to advertise jobs and force them all to post on one federally funded job board. That way everyone will have access to every job opportunity.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

Predatory Capitalism Creates Poverty
Socialism and Communism
The Life of the Rich
The Life of the Poor
Oppression in the Workplace
Success and Retirement
The Housing Market
Healthcare in America
The Stock Market
Banks
Taxes
Cryptocurrency
Fixing the Economy
My Tweets About Economics

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