The Empire Files .
The Empire Files with Abby Martin
[Abby] Peter Joseph is the founder of The Zeitgeist Movement,
the grassroots worldwide organization that advocates an alternative economic system
based on sustainability, cooperation and human need.
His most recent book 'The New Human Rights Movement'
delivers a startling expose' about the violent oppression that defines our economic order
while issuing an urgent call for global activism to unite to replace it.
I sat down with Joseph to talk about the contradictions and crises of capitalism
and what he advocates to save the future of the planet from catastrophe.
Peter you have a very interesting background
having worked both in advertising and equity trading.
Let's talk about advertising first.
What function does this industry serve in today's society?
[Peter] The best way to explain that is to look at the fact that our economy
is based on consumption,
and advertising is the arm of creating artificial demand.
And without that arm - and it's so polluted as you know,
I can't even imagine what the world be like without advertising -
but without that arm
you wouldn't have people aspiring to things that are highly irrational,
abused by our social inclusion.
When advertising presents something into the community
that seems to be something that some people want
it spreads like a virus and then everybody wants it
because it's an issue of social inclusion which is a part of our biology,
because that's how we identify.
We identify and define ourselves by how others see us
and how we are included in the group.
So it manipulates our most primal sense of humanity
in order to sell things, and again back to my original point:
if you didn't have that arm
in our consumption-based society since the Industrial Revolution,
the economy would collapse.
That's a very unique point to make because
when you first start an economy of this nature
like in the agrarian society and then in the handicraft industry, you're MEETING demand right?
That's the point! and that makes sense.
But at some point this kernel seed had to change
because when you have such a highly efficient productive society that we have now,
at least in the technical sense,
(not in a distribution sense because we have poverty and all that)
at least in the technical sense of what we can create, the efficiency, abundance,
you have to have demand CREATED now.
And that's basically the kernel seed of one of the central flaws
of market economics, your capitalism,
that has come to fruition today.
Not only in destroying human psychology
but destroying the environment simultaneously
because you have an insatiable culture that's been literally generated!
And as I detail in my book, in the National Association of Manufacturers
in the 20th century, they were actually arguing
that consumerism was the best defense against communism and totalitarianism.
They had this incredible PR campaign that went on for,
well it still goes on really but it's echoes of the original intent
to transform society into one that just wants to buy and consume,
and then progress of course being defined by what we produce,
the more stuff we produce, the more you buy the more you own:
that must be progress now!
- It's an incredibly disturbing,
just realization that this does nothing to benefit society,
in fact it's just literally
created to keep society afloat, the economy afloat.
- Yeah, it's a kind of cultural violence.
The more people promote consumeristic values,
vain materialistic values, the more they want, more and more
this and that, the more they flaunt that kind of phenomenon,
the more they create what is termed by Johan Galtung "cultural violence."
Because if you create a society that thrives in this type of self-identification
you're basically also promoting not only the destruction of the environment
but the diminishment of others because you're saying that
"I can afford this, I have the status, and I'm better for that,
and this person can't."
And we see that phenomenally amplified today in the modern world
with the "winning" community and our lovely president and his rhetoric.
It also carries over into misogyny and everything else as I'm sure you know.
Fairly recently he said
"We want to have rich people in charge of the economy
because clearly they must be good at it!"
So we have a complete absence of "where's the sympathy?"
Where is the actual binding
purpose of an economy which is to provide for everyone ideally?
No. So the sickness has become increasingly more palpable.
I often wonder what a world would be like without advertising,
which would be a world without marketing and markets.
And I can tell you it would be a whole lot different
and far more peaceful and sustainable and
amiable, and just humane than what we see today.
- From an insider's perspective how exactly does the stock market work?
The stock market is a proxy system that was developed-...
It was contrived out of the original foundation which
were a board of directors for a company, so a bunch of people,
each have a million dollars, they get together, they invest say 10 of them,
$10 million into a company and then they get dividends, right?
That made basic sense, you know, years ago.
But someone said "You know what? I want to sell this stock
and this guy's gonna buy it from me for a little bit more and I make money off of that."
And then suddenly the exchange system began.
And slowly but surely, the idea of selling artificial shares of nothing effectively,
became a means of making money.
I call it drone warfare economics.
It's just like people that drive drones.
They don't see any kind of humanity as they drop bombs across the world.
The people that trade the stock market have no idea what they're doing
when they're shorting say the currency of some small country,
effectively contributing to that country's decline.
But back to your question, it started off as an innocuous kind of investment strategy
and then it moved into this thing where you have
people artificially trading things for no other purpose.
83% of all stocks are owned by 1% of the population.
It is one giant money-making machine for the elite.
And the financialization of it all because financial services had become so large,
and the money! Only 5% of the US population is in financial services yet
30% of all GDP is taken by that,
and that doesn't even count for all the growth over the years
that is attributed that we know to the upper 1%, upper 10%.
So this is one of the most powerful political centers now simultaneously.
And it's truly despotic that you have
effectively the most powerful and profitable system on the planet now,
one that creates nothing!
It's there to simply make money out of money.
So it's a cancerous disease.
It's what happens in financially mature nations that have
pretty much run out of the angling required to keep
as maximizing profits in a given industry,
so instead they move to financialization
and then it moves into all sorts of other despotic things like
dead peasants insurance.
These are companies like Walmart that would take out insurance on their employees
and get paid when they die!
Things like that. So it's just this commodification of everything,
put a dollar sign on it, no relationship to anything any more,
abstraction become reality once again.
- And high-frequency trading is almost just done with computers-...
- Oh yeah. When I was in trading
it was the start of artificial intelligence and the traders around me were like
"Oh man this is, it's over!"
Once Goldman Sachs gets their supercomputers together-...
Most of these companies when they trade -
it's just a little detail some will find interesting -
the amount of time they're in a trade is pretty much seconds
because they're fronting other orders,
because that's what these companies can do; in other words
they're trading tiny little spreads of pennies
but with heavy amounts of shares in front of other orders.
And then they use computers to do this.
And then they can generate literally millions of dollars off of fractions of time
spent in and out of the market on a
giant micro processing level.
Anyone that thinks today especially that
Wall Street isn't rigged needs to wake up because
there's no way artificial intelligence isn't dominating.
It's pretty much all the big investment banks with their artificial intelligence
versus other people's artificial intelligence at this point.
There's no there's no rhyme or reason to it when it comes to human perception.
So in effect you have this giant money-making machine
that the public has been roped into
such as their retirement
and all the things, the IRAs that for some reason are now connected to the market.
The market is inflationary-driven which gives it its artificial sense of progress,
meaning the more money that we pump into our society
the more it goes into the market, the more it keeps rising.
So yeah, if you put in your retirement into the stock market
it will probably rise.
It'll crash periodically and then people will make a fortune off of that too.
So anyway the whole society has been coerced into this nonsensical participation
that effectively holds up the most giant and powerful political subclass,
the financial sector,
and if anyone wanted to see another level of sanity emerge on this planet
in a step-by-step process rather than complete structural change,
I suggest the abolishment of Wall Street.
There's nothing positive about what this institution does.
And those that say that it's there to help investment,
you can invest in anything with direct money
without the need to go IPO.
The $700 billion float of Apple has nothing to do
with what it actually produces, at all.
It's just what the people are trading and buying and moving the stock around;
it's just a game,
and it's too bad that people are so ignorant about that.
It's a siphoning machine that is taking basically money from the lower class
and bringing it to the upper class through different mechanisms.
- And a lot of people who are middle class/lower class don't invest in Wall Street
because it's just completely too abstract for them.
But everyone participates in debt-based currency
and the way that the currency operates.
How does it make sense that there is more debt than there is currency?
- That's a good question. Mainly because of the interest that's charged.
In capitalism every product has to have something, that makes a profit,
and then in the sale of money, which is what banks do,
they create and sell money effectively.
When they lower and raise interest rates
they're changing the price of what it's going to cost you to get money in a loan.
And then they produce interest obviously and that interest doesn't exist in the money supply.
So you have today about $200 trillion in debt in the world and about
$80 trillion in currency. So what does that mean?
It means that those that are holding the bag in the lower class
are the ones that get screwed when you have economic declines.
There are always going to be bankruptcies and things like that, that happen
in a kind of classism, this structural classism that I call it,
that effectively hurts the lower class.
And the fact that people don't see that either- I mean that goes back 5,000 years.
It has been in lockstep of something else that we're familiar with called slavery!
So debt peonage, slavery, convict leasing.
Even today in certain areas of Asia
they have debt that's passed through generations,
from farmer to child,
and that child has to continue working off its father's debt
and effectively a kind of post-neofuedalism.
So this phenomenon is there,
and it's unfortunate that more people don't see the actual
intrinsic problem of debt.
And the solution to that,
you can argue that you could get rid of a debt-based currency and so on,
and I've had many conversations with people about that
but the question is: why hasn't it happened?
Because it's intrinsic to the function of capitalism.
And it's not even that they act insidiously,
it's just what their job is.
Their job is to make money on nothing and sell it to people
and then when the people can't pay it they take their property.
And that property goes- it's just another funneling system.
Here's another thing I'll mention.
All the money that's made in the world
comes from the lower class taking loans.
So, right now less than 63% of Americans have a thousand dollars in savings.
Yet the lower class, that same subclass
is what takes on all the major loans:
home loans, car loans. That money comes in,
the people buy all this stuff,
and then that money that's spent goes basically right back
up to the upper class again.
Because as we know from the growth of the past ten years
all of the major income has gone to the upper ten,
5 to 10 percent.
So it's even worse now, so you see my point?
The people take on all the loans of the entire collective money in society
and then that money is extracted through them through various forms of structural classism
and goes right back up to the upper 1%
and people should be enraged by that.
But they don't see it because it's a structural phenomenon.
It's something that's happening under the surface that isn't readily apparent
and that's why, due to ignorance, no one really reacts on it.
- It seems like no matter who's in the White House -
Obama, Hillary, or Trump -
Goldman Sachs turns out to be the winner,
and even Trump based his whole campaign saying
"I am not a Goldman Sachs shill" and look what his cabinet is stacked with.
How powerful is Wall Street in terms of controlling the political spectrum?
- It's very covert but it's definitely an enormous power
because the financial sector is like the polluting
force that underlies everything.
And it's very difficult for people to understand that
the major corporations have to be in bed with these major banks
and due to financialization they ultimately bleed over into investment banks.
So much money is made by major corporations
that people don't even know about it, has nothing to do with goods and services.
They have to do with this recycling and financialization
and reinvesting and this and that.
There's a whole subclass of all major corporations that reinvest everything that they've done
and they employ Wall Street to do so.
Wall Street, as people have talked about since the American Revolution,
the banking the system has been given this privilege.
I'll say it this way: There's a privilege that banks,
investment banks, commercial banks and effectively the financialization has had,
and it's been unquestioned and that's basically the control
of money and artifacts that relate to money but have no intrinsic value.
Again what's why I advocate the abolition of Wall Street and the entire thing,
these derivatives upon derivatives.
And so we create this housing bubble, right?
So the housing market, abusing the people that are in need
and basically triggering the systemic crisis that
these people at the top made a fortune off of,
but then contributed to public health outcomes such as 500,000 people
that died of cancer because they couldn't get treatment.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg of the financial relationship to public health.
- Let's talk about Empire.
Of course we see US military presence
in over 70% of all the nations on earth.
When you look at military personnel it's almost every single country.
But beyond military hegemony there's the hegemony of US capital of course,
this is more hidden. But how does this financialization underpin the Empire?
- Since the fall of the Soviet Union
and the development of the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, NATO,
underlying all of these higher structure institutions is
neoliberal globalization and financialization.
Those three words have to kind of go together because it's one synergy.
And since the attempt at a different type of social order has been officially squashed-...
The World Bank and the IMF have gone out of its way to make sure neoliberal policy
is employed everywhere and any country that doesn't have an interest,
such as Iran, such as Iraq, such as Syria,
such a long list of countries, there's Libya,
that have tried to do something different or have been on the outs for whatever reason,
that usually have economic roots that go back in history to some degree.
And any country that tries to step out of the way
gets hit with the idea that they are violating human rights
because in this world, at least in the perception of democracy that we have,
neoliberalism is supposed to be right next to it, the idea of free markets.
Of course it's not really free at all.
That's the thing about, it's not really neoliberalism,
because that would mean everything would be open.
That's the TRUE idea of neoliberalism,
that when the people that came up with this word decades ago, they said
"Well, we need some kind of philosophy to counter communism,
we want to promote open free markets across all borders"
and of course no one actually did that.
So it's that war of neoliberal thought
but it's really just a function of
the wealthy class gets the socialist support as usual
and the lower class countries or individuals are the ones that have to suffer through
neoliberal free-market outcomes; they're the ones that get to fight and lose.
But the upper-class states like the United States and Empire,
the United States Empire, it's not susceptible to any of this
because it's just the bully in the room.
It's the big Empire and it has its vassal states that help,
and it has its arm of NATO and it has all its World Bank/IMF institutions
to support its economic worldview, which eventually leads to its territorial
and geopolitical control of other nations,
because that force won't tolerate anything else.
So it's really insidious, so we have now an empire that's built
really on economic coercion more than anything else.
And the military bases are still powerful, they're there and they're clearly functional.
But the economic power yielded in the ideology of neoliberalism
has been the true driving force of control.
But I would definitely argue that their fear of communism
and their fear of losing American Western and effectively capitalist hegemony
brought in this idea of neoliberalism and the idea that
if we don't employ and force this old Adam Smith invisible hand idea across the world then
we're going to lose our seat of control ultimately.
- Expand more on the notion that all wars are class wars.
- You can look at society as a stratified structure
both in the domestic, in any domestic society such as the United States,
where of course you have the rich and the poor and the dwindling middle class,
then you can apply that exact same macro view
to the states, the nation states of the world,
and it's amazing to see how close in resemblance they are.
After World War 2 any country that simply wanted to do something different
outside of again the neoliberal order, had to suffer the same fate.
So the World Bank, what do they do? they impose austerity.
They keep those countries poor, and destroyed!
And that's a great way.
If there's no infrastructure in these countries to start to develop new ideas or new patterns
then there's no threat so ...
And of course there's "The Grudge."
There's always going to be an element
that is an echo of our economic dominance, US economic dominance,
or just this pattern of economic dominance
that builds in other forms of bias.
And I have no doubt, that Western society with its increasingly jingoistic views and
this reversion back into the xenophobic presence whether it's
claiming that Mexicans are stealing their jobs
or that the Arab communities and Muslim communities are now the hub of
this terrorist ideology and so on,
these things foment AFTER the fact
and create long-term patterns of bias and bigotry.
- I like that you brought up the macro and micro in terms of the
classism in America and also the global classism,
because people talk about the developed world and the underdeveloped world
as if that's just the way it is, instead of the underdeveloped world
actually giving way to why we have a developed, Western world today.
- Colonization as you know very well,
is effectively a sprawling class antagonism.
It's a subjugation.
The poor of the world are not poor because they've been left behind in market capitalism.
They're poor because of these
years of colonization that have destroyed Africa and areas of Latin America.
- You call your new book "a logical train of thought"
from a social psychology perspective.
And let's start with the notion that poverty is violence, right?
Go over some of the casualties that arise from the structural violence
that exist today in this system.
- The big word I use is socioeconomic inequality,
which poverty falls under the umbrella of.
Socioeconomic inequality - basically class stratification -
has been held up as some kind of innovator force,
some force of innovation.
That's about the only defense of it that you'll hear.
They'll say "Well, you got to have poor people that aspire to be rich people,
and that will create the engine of innovation" -
more nonsense that's produced by industry.
That's effectively the only defense I've ever heard, of stratification
other than people claiming it's a biological reality
and there's no other choice than for us to be these primitive primates that stratify
and therefore the bottom rungs will suffer.
It's not just poverty that's the worst form of violence as Gandhi stated.
To be IN a stratified system is against well-being and public health.
That's been proven by a lot of different theorists in epidemiology
where they measured all of these artifacts such as the level of violence.
In fact Dr. James Gilligan which I know you've interviewed,
he's the former head of the study of violence at Harvard,
extremely brilliant man who studied this as a prison psychologist
and his core statement:
"You want to reduce violence in society, reduce inequality."
There's also the psychosocial stress that we are killing each other
through plaques in our arteries from the release of certain stress hormones
that are directly attributed to socioeconomic inequality as well.
In other words the more you're involved in a class-based society, the more you witness
the haves and the have-nots, the more it messes you up.
And there's- it's biologically associated.
So this is an unnatural state.
So poverty and socioeconomic inequality kill about 18 million a year
based on one estimate.
So that is, a couple holocausts in one year.
They say the Soviet Union killed 100 million people in one century of its existence.
We're killing in capitalist inequality, capitalist generated inequality, that many in 6 years.
So the defense of a class-stratified society
is no longer existent in the public health research.
- Under capitalism "there's always going to be people who are poor," right?
Why is this notion that
this is just a constant inevitability that we have to accept:
poverty, unemployment in this system, booms and busts.
This is the most odd thing to me about capitalism
is the acceptance that these things are natural.
- First of all they're massive vehicles of class war.
Every time there's a bust, it doesn't affect- the wealthy can endure that.
So they can find ways to work around it but that creates cheap labor,
boom, better for the owners of the country and the owners of big business and finance.
They take foreclosures,
the financial services sector effectively booms during this
because they're the ones to get to grab up
everything the lower class can't pay for anymore.
And then when the boom starts happening again,
the QE [Quantum Easing] or all the things that the central banks do
invariably go into the powerful corporate and financial sectors
because we still have that philosophy of trickle-down.
We still have the idea that you have to pump money into big business
and effectively the stock market in order to generate more activity that will
"float down" to the lower class.
So yeah, it's really transparent, and no it doesn't have to exist.
- Let's talk about the inefficiencies of the capitalist model
versus the possibilities that exist today with modern technology.
Paint a picture juxtaposing this crazy comparison from food to energy.
- Well the greatest inefficiency would be the fact that
we have poverty at all!
So we talk about this advancement of society and this great productivity.
The most powerful force, the most positive force we do have
of the whole of human civilization is, since the Industrial Revolution
we're able to do more and more and more with less and less and less.
And that is the driving force that can create equitable distribution
and peace on this planet.
So the fact that you have five people now with more wealth
than the bottom half of the world
and you have close to a billion people not getting nutrition met,
and you have what, by Peter Edward of Newcastle University put out
what he called the ethical poverty line,
which is based on lifespan, not the metrics put out by the UN.
And when you use this ethical poverty line you find that 60%
of the world is actually in poverty.
That is lunacy from an efficiency standpoint.
No one can sit there and claim that this is an efficient system
when that's the outcome on the social level.
Now we can talk about the efficiency of a factory and
all the great fruits of technology that people will claim are associated with capitalism
which is nonsense too.
It's our ability to design and
our ingenuity through science and technology that's created this,
not some weird mechanism that's attributed to capitalism.
- And what about food and waste?
- The waste is absolutely insane, you have
40% of all food being wasted because of inefficiencies in the distribution pipeline,
which is staggering. We have globalization moving food all around.
The average American food plate moves about 1400 miles.
There's no reason for any of that, especially now.
If you go down the line of what's possible, you remove
the chaos of human society and its strange beliefs and everything else
and you actually look at what we can do,
then there's no reason for anyone to be hungry obviously.
There could be an incredible state of efficiency and abundance across
food and energy and production.
So when we talk about abundance it so confuses people because they like -
I get attacked all day long with "The world is finite, you can't make an abundance!"
Obviously it's a relative notion!
The Sun will eventually burn out.
It's abundant to us in the long term of time.
So it's not about, suddenly there's a magical amount of everything,
it's about using the efficiency and of course focusing
the economy on the interest to HAVE an abundance
because in our current society, it's the antithesis of what's rewarded:
we reward scarcity.
We want things to be generally scarce; the corporate construct does.
Business doesn't want there to be abundance of anything.
So the pollution of the water supply, that's great!
...for the water bottling companies.
So we're rewarding the exact opposite.
So you can't have sustainability, preservation, efficiency, in a society that rewards the opposite.
And therein lies the great contradiction of the capitalist system.
- And in terms of energy, what is possible right now? I remember reading that
just such a small area in like Africa can power the entire continent
plus part of Europe.
- I do an analysis in the book that just looks at,
it looks at all the basic renewables and each one of them has the capacity
to create a global abundance and meet the current needs.
And you put them all together in a synergy,
then make basic, what's called mixed-use systems.
It's a little bit technical but we don't have
any kind of systemic incorporation in our cities, not like they should be.
Every single house today should have solar panels that not only
power the home as much as possible,
but they run the energy back out into a central grid.
Suddenly everything becomes an attribute of energy development; it's shared.
And you do that, if someone created a society that-
there's a few smaller cities in Europe that are doing that
with outrageous efficiency potential!
So when you put all that together, it's absurd, it's absurd.
Everyone in small pockets and these entrepreneurs are doing their best,
even like Elon Musk and the battery technology,
and they're trying to do something but there's no concentrated focus.
There needs to be basically a Manhattan Project
to figure out what the best solution is globally
to unify the synergies of all of our renewables
and to make them all work! And if we did that,
if we actually got the minds to say all the universities together right now,
a university project across the entire world and said
"We're going to focus on this problem right now!"
What is the combination of renewables? How do we distribute it across the world?
And how do we make it, create an abundance at zero cost effectively?
I guarantee if you did that, it would happen probably in 6 months.
The intent of the business class isn't that they willfully want to repress
sustainable abundant resources and products.
It's that they know deep down
just like everyone knows about a lot of things in their subconscious,
that if they did that they'd make themselves obsolete.
And no business on this planet is trying to make itself obsolete,
no matter how green it claims to be.
But that's what it leads to. If anyone really wants
to improve the ecological state, specifically the type of transformations required
would effectively, [dramatically], would cut
energy industry back by half at a minimum.
There would not be that many people employed, money would not be made anymore,
because we have that ability in technology now
to create things that last, that will work,
that will be modular, updatable, without that need of the servicing and constant
turnover that we see in the current energy industry sector.
- Really quickly let's go back to just what's possible.
Can you explain the notion of vertical farming?
because I don't think a lot of people realize what that is and the potentiality.
- So I did an extrapolation in the book regarding vertical farming
based on a study out of Columbia University,
and what I've calculated crudely -
and I did this deliberately to show the extremity of it -
if you apply vertical farms to the existing agricultural land,
just in theory and it goes to 15-story,
you would produce enough food for 34 trillion people.
Now people say "Well, obviously you have different regional things"
and irrigation so on, but it makes it moot
when you look at that type of number of potential.
And the reduction of- basically vertical farms allow for
extreme reduction in any fertilizer, the need for light and energy,
and the need for water.
And the study, the examples of this that exists in different places-
granted, you're obviously not producing meat.
In truth, human society has to get away from animal agriculture anyway
if it expects to be sustainable.
You have an incredible potential for abundance
and you put these in localized areas.
In New York they've been converting some warehouses to start doing this.
Very small amounts of investment is slowly being put into this but it needs to be
amplified rapidly because with the loss of topsoil,
with 70% of our fresh water going to agriculture?!
In the midst of what is effectively a water crisis?
By 2030 I think the stat was
60% of the world would be in a water-stressed area.
There's nothing positive in those trends at all.
So that's one great potential way to not only feed local populations well,
but also to remove the incredible ecological footprint that agriculture is doing today.
- Automation is also used constantly as a talking point
against the rise in labor standards, right? against wage increases
because it will take away these skilled jobs. We saw this in the 80's
with car manufacturers. We see it today with restaurants, fast food industry,
stores, right? CVS, etc.
You encourage automation because you say that it will liberate people.
- Well there's a few levels do it, first -
what has been the greatest source of oppression on this planet
since recorded history? - Labor - Yeah!
So, not only
is it irresponsible for us not to apply automation because it's more efficient,
it's safer, we can create more of an abundance, with less resources.
It's also a dramatic shift in the way human relations has been!
So if we can finally remove that ownership/labor,
that old classist duality,
with the use of automation, that would be profound!
just on that level.
People say silly things too like "Well if you increase the abundance,
we'll just have overpopulation, people will keep reproducing."
It's actually the opposite.
That was the case at the end of the Malthusian trap,
a huge burst of population when we found
hydrocarbons and then the technology boomed.
But when you look at stats now in countries that have overpopulation, they're poor countries.
And when you have countries that actually have decent affluency,
they're NOT reproducing rapidly anymore.
So if you want to stop what people perceive as apparent overpopulation,
which is a dubious word because it's not quantifiably viable-...
There's only overpopulation in our society because our society is so inefficient.
It's not overpopulation because
suddenly we're outdoing the resources of the planet.
But if you create an equitable playing field and you meet people's needs
the population issue will not be an issue.
It would completely create a-...
I can't even emphasize enough what it would do to the psychology of people
to be free of that drudgery and that sense of exploitation of each other.
- How does intellectual property prove to be one of the biggest flaws of this system?
- The main reason is that intellectual property restricts the open flow naturally
and it restricts people's contribution to given ideas.
So intellectual property-...
The whole of industry is pushed by sharing, one way or another.
So some cellphone company makes something,
they invent some kind of proprietary something or another.
They release it under the auspice of all secrecy and then
finally another cellphone company experiences that,
it imitates it, and suddenly a little competitive war that people call innovation continues;
extremely wasteful and completely unnecessary.
So why not just open source all intellectual property across the entire sector
if not in cross-business in general?
You would see exponential increase in efficiency.
If I could sit back and design my own camera
along with millions of others in an open-source community, a collaborative Commons,
you would see the efficiency of that given technology
far transcend what any given boardroom or any even small group of technicians
could ever come up with.
That's the wisdom of crowds.
And that's happening,
like that's what drives our industry in the long run.
But it does it in such a slow way because we're not sharing it directly.
So [if] you want to see a dramatic innovation in this world,
then drop capitalism, because it's inhibiting innovation more than it is anything else,
- Yeah, completely inhibiting the medical field as well
just all these patents on medicine, it's disgusting.
- Think about the people that wanted to make generics.
I document this in the book as well.
There are people suffering from tuberculosis and HIV-related diseases
and they were looking to make their own generics.
And the Western pharmaceutical industry including all the way up to the White House said "Nope!"
"Intellectual property restricts you from
producing this, you have to buy it from us."
And finally they gave them like a, a little bit of a discount.
- Only hundreds of dollars, not thousands per pill!
...per cancer pill.
- You bring up a good point: the medical industry
is the best example of artificial scarcity.
The idea that these pills cost-...
I have a family member that had cancer
and they gave her this little thing and stuck it on her arm
and it was $17,000 for this little piece of plastic
that simply injected the fluid into her.
There's no way!
- You're paying for yachts, you're not paying for plastic.
- This is made by a machine in some pharmaceutical company
in about five minutes
with chemicals that are being mixed that are far from rare or scarce.
It'd be different if they had to go all the way to the Amazon and find something and ...
Yeah, it's the biggest fraud industry out there.
- I think another fraudulent
fundamental basis of the whole system is competition, because
we're all ingrained with the notion that all these technological advancements come from
competition incentivizing of course, the development of these ideas.
You discuss the need to move from competitive to collaborative.
Why is competition not all it's made out to be?
- The first problem with competition in a market system
where everyone's competing for market share, meaning money,
the competition becomes, the innovation that's produced, is artificial.
They're not trying to improve on something to meet a human need
they're trying to improve on something to sell.
A healthy industrial system
isn't trying to artificially create demand once again!
It's there to MEET demand.
In fact you don't want to artificially create demand
because that means you're going to be reducing your sustainability.
You WANT a minimalistic culture.
You don't want what advertising is driving now.
So that's an aside of what you're asking but I think it's a very important point
that people miss when they talk about innovation
through competition especially.
So competition has been proven in many academic journals
to be hideously hindering and neuroses producing.
There's little evidence to say that the competitive industry of capitalism
actually innovates in a way that's somehow superior to a collaborative system,
especially if people have the same intent.
So you can imagine,
anyone can sit and imagine the building of something -
once again and like an open-source collaborative Commons -
and they know what they want,
they can infer what the next stage would be.
It doesn't take this sort of imposition built on
competitive coercion effectively, to impose the demand upon them.
So if we know what we want and we can infer the next stage of things,
why do we need companies competing against each other?
Now we have the technology to work together.
And again it would be that much more innovative if we did that.
- Yeah, I mean when you look at just even your childhood development,
in school people are incentivized to cheat to get ahead.
And there's always going to be way more losers
and what does that do to the psychology of humanity?
- The general competitive neuroses and fetish,
it reinforces once again the in-group/out-group underlying
Because if you have a society that believes in this type of competitive ethic,
you have a society that,
that says winners and losers are a part of this system and I want to be a winner,
then suddenly you can justify walking over homeless people in the street.
You can justify the bombing of this or that country.
You can justify just about anything that hurts another human being
under the guise that it's just the competitive nature of our world.
- Our whole system today is based on the idea of scarcity
but the opposite of course is true; we have an overabundance
as you're explaining so clearly.
Talk about how the development and stages of market capitalism
got us to where we are today.
- There's a geographical determinism that isn't talked about enough.
When people talk about markets of capitalism they tend to
go back to Adam Smith and say "Well, some
theorists got together and realized that we should have specialized labor" and so on.
That's not how it happened at all.
You go back to the agrarian revolution 10, 12 thousand years ago,
and once people decided it was more efficient for themselves to start to settle
and create farms and the slight scientific advancement that happened with tools,
suddenly you had all the prerequisites for things like property, and protection,
labor specialization and trade.
And within trade, trade strategizing dominance.
And that's the core characteristic: in the book I refer to it as
the root socioeconomic orientation of our society
which again is based on that scarcity and it's also based on competition,
and it's based on trade strategizing dominance which leads to
oppression and deprivation and so on as a competitive outcome.
So the Neolithic Revolution happened and suddenly
society started to build in these structures with all of those things into it.
So, there hasn't been much of a shift.
There have been pockets of people that have lived differently:
aboriginal cultures, Native American cultures.
So the geographical determinism has to be taken into account,
and you see the force of this dominant kind of desert-based culture
and then the stratified societies taking hold
and slowly eradicating all the other groups trying to live a little bit differently.
And suddenly it's manifested as we have today,
with trade strategizing dominance as the virtue of our existence,
the need to compete and win,
and of course the development of countries, borders, and empires.
If it wasn't the United States in this type of climate it would have been someone else,
because it's simply the most efficient state for any group dominance,
to maintain as much total global dominance as they can.
You have to break it, and the only way to break it is to start
with root changes in what STARTED all this
which is effectively the economic perception,
the perception of your survival in your group.
And if you change that
then you'll be able to slowly morph society back into
what was really a pre-Neolithic kind of worldview,
which was all based on community, gift-giving.
99% of human society existed without money and markets;
a lot of people forget that too.
So this isn't some inevitability, the way we live.
What is the Silver Bullet
that can possibly transform this negative trajectory that we're on?
And that is structural change of the economy.
Morality's not going to do it, our free will's not going to do it.
Our rational sense is not going to do it in and of itself
because we are so inhibited and dominated
by the structural psychology generated from our social system.
- And reforms aren't going to do it either, which is
one of the main points of your book is that 21st century activism
has been far too localized.
- Yeah. I don't like to be one to criticize all the well-meaning people
in the activist community but I think it's a constructive conversation to say:
If we don't, if we don't focus on the root
and we keep sparsely drawing attention and this or that protest,
or this or that activist initiative,
to certain pockets of effectively problems,
it just ends up running in place.
The activist initiatives that are required now have to grasp that,
and realize that now
it's time for galvanization towards removing the foundation of our social system,
and that's the market.
We have to start to move away from market economics
as rapidly as we possibly can to save our ecology
and to save the stability of our society in terms of group relationships.
The antagonism that's created with our class system
builds into all the other antagonisms we see
whether it's gender, whether it's race, whether it's nationalistic.
So, it's like that central kernel that keeps amplifying the worst
of our group or anti-group associations.
- How do we socialize and localize the enterprise
and who is standing in the way of this being done?
- Obviously the forefront of it are the ownership classes,
The power structure is defined by the ownership class.
I mean going back to the state, the state has always been comprised
of the heavy business interests of any given society
the heavy economic interests,
even before business was a thing so to speak.
what incentive do they have to want to alter their position?
That's why it's going to take a galvanized force of activists
as the world probably has never seen
in order to overcome this hurdle.
And I'm not promoting any kind of violence or anything
but there has to be something that stops this thing in its tracks
before the ecological ...
The ecological crisis, if it is allowed to materialize in the way the trajectories show,
between climate change, between the water scarcity,
between all the other levels of pollution
that are coming to fruition, the incredible amount of waste,
more plastic in the ocean by 2050, more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
- Good god!
- The general destruction of the oceans overall because of
various factors that are happening.
If this is allowed to materialize, and this is what I argue at the end of the book,
it will just create that much more class antagonism
and make it that much more difficult for us to pull out of this horrible
in-group/out-group phenomenon and the oppression that we see.
So there's a time limit ticking down
because if things start getting literally scarce-...
Remember the first and second world war were dominance wars.
They weren't based on scarcity.
The kind of wars in the future if scarcity hits like it's going to
if we don't change, it's going to be cataclysmic.
The human society hasn't seen that yet,
hasn't seen an actual resource war, not a real one.
Not when water is now limited and people are going to go to war over it.
And it's ridiculous to even think that would happen,
frankly because we have all the technology to resolve it.
But the arrogance of the people that are in power and
the myopic view of the business community is such that again,
they blinker these things out in favor of the general structure
and they're willing to forego the well-being of others, euphemistically
in order to preserve their positions so ...
No more respect needs to be placed on the billionaires of this world or the political establishment.
I'm not saying that people should be just arbitrarily ridiculed
but we have to break the cultural violence, this need,
this incessant impulsive thing that's happened in society where we worship
class and status and billionaires! and it hasn't gotten better!
It hasn't, it's gotten much worse,
as again I think the Trump selection signifies.
And we can't, we should loathe people:
anyone that's a billionaire that doesn't say
"I'm sorry I'm a billionaire but I'm gonna do my best,"
that's someone you would respect.
Anyone that doesn't question the fact that,
that doesn't raise the issue that it's wrong for it even to be possible
that a billionaire can exist in this planet,
it's just as it's wrong that someone should be sleeping on the street in their life.
If that isn't pointed out
then the neuroses will continue.
- It certainly is not going to last, and your book
is incredible, again everyone check it out: The New Human Rights Movement.
The end vision for this book
is a beautifully democratized symbiotic ecosystem almost
where people are collaboratively growing society. ( - Yeah.)
Talk about how you lay that vision out.
- Well, in terms of transition there are
five steps, so I try to be
as direct as I can because it's very easy to just bring up a theory.
So the five steps are (1) the application of automation that we've talked about,
(2) the access of things as opposed to property,
which doesn't necessarily mean that suddenly no property exists,
it means that the society is incentivized to share what it has.
Then there's (3) open source which builds into the access phenomenon;
open source is what will create the innovation.
Then there's (4) the localization phenomenon,
that's where we finally realize, we keep a global sense,
but we realize we don't need to have all of this industry spread all over the world
in order to satisfy the community on the other side of the world.
That one and then the other one is this more
difficult thing to bring up called (5) digitized networked feedback,
which all that really means [is]
you track all the transactions that are happening, economic transactions,
and it can be within a monetary system or without.
And you have all the feedback that you need
to know what's happening in an industry.
So you put all these together
and you end up with a system that incentivizes people working together,
incentivize people sharing,
all those Kindergarten things that we're taught, remember?
all those things that we're supposed to have in our values that are
completely robbed of us as we grow older and we realize that
all the things we were taught as children that are ideal values were apparently wrong
because no one ascribed to them anymore,
And you have a non-competitive society obviously,
and you have a society that's actually sustainability-focused
because we're understanding what we're doing.
So, it creates peaceful coexistence,
more peaceful coexistence,
and peaceful coexistence with nature
meaning we're not over-exploiting.
And the only caveat to that and I want to bring this back up,
because this isn't a totally deterministic mechanistic view,
is that we have to have a mature culture that doesn't thrive
on this over-consuming, materialistic,
That's the great argument I hear from people.
But I envision a world where people are actually able
to get what they need and it becomes a social reality as opposed
to a material and vindictive and status-based reality.
It doesn't mean that hierarchy doesn't exist
in the future or in an idealized society
because there are other things that we do.
I'm not a visual artist, you're a visual artist. I'm a musician.
There are natural hierarchies that happen
and we respect those hierarchies because we appreciate the talents of people,
not because they're,
they had more money than you, therefore you're supposed to glamorize them
and look up to them as though they're better than you.
That is a complete contrivance.
So there's always going to be a natural hierarchy which is good,
because that proves our group mind, it proves our collaborative sense that
you can do things that I can't do, and so on and so forth,
that's what motivates the collaborative sense and the power
of our society as a civilization.
And if we can bring that formula together
we could get everything back on track.
The Empire Files
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Produced & Written by Mike Prysner
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