Both X and Not-X Are True (Apparently)

by Don Boudreaux on May 10, 2016

in Books, Financial Markets, Not from the Onion, Standard of Living

As I reported earlier, Douglas Rushkoff’s new book – Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus – is a parade of confusions and blatant contradictions.  The fantasies or juvenile myths that he uses to reinforce a point that he makes on page X are frequently contradicted on page Y.  For example, on page 53 we are told that

extensive research shows, beyond a reasonable doubt, that technological progress eliminates jobs and leaves average workers worse off than they were before.

[This impoverishment of workers] is not a paradox but the realization of the industrial drive to remove humans from the value equation.*  That’s the big news: the growth of an economy does not mean more jobs or prosperity for the people living in it….

So the middle class hollows out, and the only ones left making money are those depending on the passive returns from their investments.**

Rushkoff then rushes off to make a different point – this new point being that we victims of industrial capitalism work too much and too hard because “[t]he time-is-money ethic became so embedded in our culture that putting in one’s hours now feels like an essential part of life…  Not to work feels unethical” [pp. 56-57].  One result of this excess work is excess production.  We learn on page 57 that

[o]ur industrial capabilities have surpassed our requirements.  We make more stuff than we can use, at least here in the developed world.  Even middle-class Americans rent storage units for their extra stuff.

Some middle-class impoverishment!  Ordinary Americans, according to Rushkoff on page 57, are so impoverished that they are renting “storage units for their extra stuff”!  What kind of “impoverishment” is that?

That Rushkoff seems to be oblivious to contradictions such as this one – which run throughout his book – is, well, odd.


* This sentence is a serving of the word salad that makes up much of this book.  What, I wonder, is a “value equation”?  And how have humans been “removed” from it?

** I have some dear friends who are successful professional investors.  These friends work harder than I work and harder than most other people seem to work.  Their success as investors comes not from their ‘passively’ raking in returns but, rather, from working very, very hard and long hours to increase the chances that their investments will turn a profit.  The notion that most investors lay on the beach while raking in ever-growing returns from their “passive” investments is absurd.


Add a Comment    Share Share    Print    Email

Previous post:

Next post: