What’s More Unequal: Sharing or Scam Economies?

The 18th century British literary critic, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, talked about the “reconciliation of opposites,” a phenomenon which Professor Chaumont at the Political Science Institute (“Science Po”) in Paris more than 200 years later tried to teach me meant the Gallic version of “placing contradictions between parentheses.” Today’s unequalizing economies, whether Brexit, French or closer to home, appear to specialize in growing contradictions alongside shrinking parentheses, like breaking down the barriers to unlimited time and space mobility while force-fitting “steerage class” passengers into constricting, overbooked economy airline seats on flights going socially backwards.

Direct causation mirrors direct effects especially when uber-induced by generational first-movers regardless of location. With U.S. student debt reaching $1.3 trillion to “crowd-out” other competitive opportunity cost investments, overseas students increasingly prefer Canadian universities not just based on price-to-job ratios but because they sense more aspirational opening towards cultural and sociopolitical lifestyle freedoms. Patents and start-ups in local-living, virtuous cycle stakeholder economies often follow as some U.S. cluster models have proved.

We find it hard to accept that human destruction and exploitation origins and policies currently drive the world’s social media economy. The U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) built “ARPANET,” the first network to implement the TCP/IP protocol suite and an early user of packet switching networks – both technologies foundational for today’s Internet. The online pornography industry has either given birth to or laser-nurtured cutting edge technology developments (including interactive motion, haptic or tactile avatars, biofeedback or 3D video, and online cash transactions) and rides point on the virtual world’s lobbying for anti-piracy legislation. Losing sight of who we are or want to become, cross-pollinating social media platforms accelerate frenetic hook-ups where technology itself becomes the cultural context but without any satisfying relationship or solidarity conclusion.

“Corporatizing” these trends, America’s top business schools preach the economic and innovation self-fulfillment glories of “creative destruction” despite more than 60,000 U.S. factories closing following NAFTA’s 1992 signing.  America’s concurrent foreign policy failures with regime change derive from our homeland’s hypocritical inability to practice what it preaches. Where are the first-rate teachers, way-showers and empowering institutions proselytizing “decacorn,” domestic “creative reconstruction” enterprises and movements?

Passed-over working class populations and discarded geographies left to rot vote accordingly while locust-elites move on to the next shiny investor-fueled objects of global envy and desire. Multilateral banks and foundation-anointed NGOs lumber along funding bloody post trauma bandages to reconnect and recover some of the shattered and scattered human and ecological detritus. Privileged investor classes get to have it both ways, profiting from first mover messes on the way up and then collecting humanity awards or political appointments for sponsoring downward spiral clean-ups.

In the space of one recent news-cycle week we learned in America that, “Cultural Anxiety, Not Economic Anxiety, Drove White Working Class Voters to Trump;” “The worst thing poor whites are inheriting could be a lack of hope;” and “Working Class Has the Blues, and Elites Lack Answers.” Western democracy election post-mortems show that “divine left” political parties are turning into city-center reservoirs of boomer and millennial elites while unreconstructed right wing parties seize the mantle of ethnocentric working class populism often in rural territories and underserved, disenfranchised suburban ghettoes.

America’s fabled 1980s “laboratories of democracy” no longer are federal or state governments but now cities and township sanctuaries of unfettered individual expression pushing back against one size inequalities inexorably fitting all. Alienated by the general, Americans struggle to find hope in the local and specific. Unable to afford the contradictions contracting our lives, we have no choice but to break and escape from limiting, unequally closing-in parentheses imposed by gasping plutocracies that deprive community oxygen resiliency while locking-in exterritorial, quarterly shareholder reports.

Following in the footsteps of the “Sharing Economy” where workers are increasingly involuntarily shared, our next self-induced exploitation comes from the “Scam Economy” which at least more fairly redistributes from each according to his or her means. Still, like everything else regressive, scam-waste collects at the privileged top where it festers into gated wastelands of would-be leaders without followers or consumption-driven economies without consumers. Soon if not radically abated, this becomes the most expensive tipping point condition increasingly beyond our collective reach such as the cracking, melting fondue ice crystal plains, mountaintops and valleys of a white-solid region once called Antarctica before it returned to water.