[Old] capitalism

/Tag:[Old] capitalism

VS: Consumerism Vs. Capitalism

I would like to start a new series called “VS” that basically looks at two words and examines what they mean. This won’t be the official websters dictionary definition but I would like to think that after reading these you, dear reader, might be interested in changing your own usage of them. There are no expectations that these changes will change the world, I am not so far up my own ass that I would think badgering you on the internet would fix something. But instead I would like us both to enjoy this moment and see if something comes of it, worst case scenario I got to evacuate my brain and you got a moment away from the marketing madness that is the rest of the world [If you can get beyond that single ad up above here].

The United States (and arguably all “capitalist” countries) are currently experiencing what they now happily call a “Consumer Culture”. This is usually seen as a perfectly natural thing and even the average person is likely to say things are “pro” or “anti” consumer. The general rules of consumer culture are very simple and I’ll try to detail them, these are not all inclusive because [as with all my writing] this is done stream of consciousness style. [That’s code for it’s probably terrible.]

  • A business should make the maximum amount of money possible.
  • Morality plays no part in business.
  • As long as it is legal it is an acceptable avenue for business (playing off the previous bullet point).

The thing about these rules is that there is no expectation of quality. A for profit business exists explicitly to raise money for its owners or investors, nothing else. It is not here to better your life, to better the world, or to answer any need. In fact there are many instances of businesses creating a need and then filling it. Male engagement rings, cigarettes for women, various fad diets, and just about anything that targets a gender or cultural entity. You “as a consumer” should have no expectations other than to be sold something. Quality, safety, or any other thing you might think is demanded of this business does not exist.

The onus also falls upon you to investigate the products. It is your job as the consumer to figure out if it will make you fat, sick, or even kill you. Unless these things happen widespread there is little chance of the company making them caring or changing course. Large pharmaceuticals in the US has managed to survive pretty impressive death tolls since I’ve been alive. The fines they receive pale in comparison to profits. Generally speaking the common complaints about business and government come back to consumerism. Because there is no sense of moral imperative or humanity in the infrastructure of consumerism it leaves the average person to suffer in its wake.

Initially in a consumer culture there are not major problems because of choice. Simply put if a business starts giving everyone cancer you can just stop shopping there and shop at the nice non-cancer shop down the road. It is with the rise of mega corporations that this most powerful and important of regulators breaks down. Consumerism cannot function without the majority of its content being handled by small (arguably very small) businesses. The moment that changes everything falls apart and people suffer. But are there any good examples of this?

somanychoices

bankingwee

This creates an interesting problem. Like lets say you don’t like the Koch brothers? I can’t blame you, personally they come across as douchebags, but in the US that puts you in quite a pickle! You’d need to stop buying Angel Soft, Brawny, Dixie, Northern, Soft ‘n’ Gentle, Sparkle, Zee, Mardi Gras, Vanity Fair, Stainmaster, UnionGas, Union 76, and Conoco products just to name some of them. If you are like me you just knocked out nearly 100% of the paper products at your store.

So either you go with plastic which is a terrible choice or you give them your money. This is the problem with consumerism, it leads to a monetary vacuum almost by design and your most powerful tool is completely stripped away from you. If a company outsources their customer support, or does anything shady (no matter how small), they are a consumerist company. They are not capitalist.

So Mr. Smarty Penguin, I hear you ask, what do you think a capitalist company is? I’m glad you asked, fake person. A capitalist company has a relatively small list that defines them.

  • Make as much money as possible while causing the least harm possible.
  • Answers needs, does not create needs.
  • Exists to create good in ways that a single citizen could not.

This is not a complete list and it requires that you take it without deception. A person must literally believe, not merely say they do, that they are causing the least harm possible. To find every avenue to accomplish this. If I am creating a company that sells food I want to find the best practice for producing my food. The best practice is not the way that provides maximum yield, it is instead the process that provides the maximum yield that the land can safely sustain. If I am producing plastic products I want to do so with the least amount of waste not because it maximizes profits but because it does so while also minimizing harm to the environment (and by relation all life including people).

I don’t fire people because its cheaper to hire them in a country that has less concern for the safety and wellbeing of its people. I also don’t avoid taxes by abusing laws that have been altered or obfuscated by lobbyists. I pay them because I recognize that everything I have accomplished is only possible because of the combined intentions and actions of the society I am a part of. Its a matter of giving back, symbiosis rather than parasitosis.

In fact I think that sums it up nicely. Capitalism is a symbiotic relationship, Consumerism is a parasitic one. The great comedy of this all is that the consumer is seen as the parasite in popular media portrayals when really it is the consumer business that is feeding on them.

Some closing thoughts:

When a business uses HFCS (for instance) you should stop buying their products. Not because it is necessarily going to kill you, but because they have made a statement. They have told you that they are unwilling to use the best ingredients available to feed you. They are looking for the cheapest quality products to maximize the revenue they generate from you. You don’t matter to them, you are not a person but an ATM. When a company ships their customer support overseas they are equally saying that you don’t matter. They don’t want to give you the best support, they want to give you the cheapest support. A consumer company wants to provide you with the least services and quality possible at the highest price possible.

This is not healthy and it benefits you in no way.

By | 2014-07-23T14:37:00+00:00 July 22nd, 2014|Journal|Comments Off on VS: Consumerism Vs. Capitalism

The Problem with Podcasts ~ Critical Mass of Advertising

ClustrMaps is filling with little red dots like an outbreak. ClustrMaps appeals to that avid lover of information that resides somewhere in the recesses of my brain. Naturally I don’t want to bog down the website with too many data acquisition tools as it stumbles across my beliefs about what the internet should and should not be gathering about people. I figure an anonymous blip on your country/state is not too bad. Similarly the advertisement I’m running doesn’t take who you are into account when it displays the image above. Someone goes and bids on my slot judging by what I feature and how many people visit, that’s it.

That segue was terrible but you’ll forgive me if they aren’t all aces. Today I wanted to talk about a major issue I have with advertising and especially how it has impacted both YouTube and Podcasts. Advertising as a field is a very weak industry. Not monetarily, they rake in money hand over foot, but effectively it is quite poor. Advertisements are so very expensive because of how bad and inefficient they are. Basically advertisers gamble on what kind of person is watching something or if they know who is watching they gamble on what those people like or want. People with those products or services approach the advertisers and try to fill in those slots with content that will persuade people to invest in their product or services.

You’ll hear some bollocks about how advertising is ingenious and you will go off and buy what was advertised to you more often than not. If advertising were this effective you wouldn’t see the same advertisements everywhere. They’d only need you to see it once and if they were as wise and effective as they might have you believe the ads would always reach you that one necessary time. Hulu, though not named above, is one of the worst offenders of advertising. They show you not only the same few ads but many times those same ads over, and over, and over. I’ve made a promise to myself to never purchase anything that irritates me and unfortunately Hulu has forced me to not buy a lot of things I actually thought were interesting.

Currently for YouTube and Podcasts the major offenders are NatureBox and Audible. If you’ve listened to just about any podcast anywhere you’ve heard about these two things. If you’ve watched any YouTube show worth its salt you’ve heard of these two things. You’ve probably heard or seen dozens of people express how awesome these services are a dozen or more different ways. I’ve already used one of these services (and found it too expensive) and the other I find interesting, we’ll get into why that’s a problem in a bit.

These advertisers apparently either believe that most people only watch one YouTube show or Podcast OR they think that the listeners and viewers are retarded. I say this because they have all of the people advertising their products lie and say that they have an “exclusive” offer. That same offer being offered across a hundred different sources. Indeed Audible’s offer is available on their site. This is problematic to me because I like advertisers to at least try when they are patronizing me. This kind of blatant potshot at my intellect is incredibly insulting.

What is a person to do in my situation? Let’s say I actually want to try one of those two options to support the stuff I listen to and watch. I’m hit with the paradox of choice because thirty three different people I like are all offering me the same damn deal with the same damn product! I have to choose my favorite child and that’s just totally fucked. So because of this I have not purchased the product at all. It remains unfunded by me and will likely remain unfunded because I can’t just drop in the name of every god damned person that has mentioned it.

Not only that but this inability to do so just makes the advertisements irritating for me. We already know how I handle purchases when the product or service irritates me. So what is a penguin to do?

I’ve got a couple of companies who are forcing people I like to lie and patronize me. Then I’m given no good choice which means I make no choice. That’s pretty irritating.

This problem goes further. This is what is so boned about a global market. Everything is over saturated. There are too many video games coming out, too many shows available, too much music available, too many movies, too many cars, too many cereals, too many pastas, and fuck me there are too many kinds of tape.

Tape! Do you know how long tape has been around? Over a hundred years! Why are there thirty different kinds of tape all at the same price point, with nearly the same quantities, and apparently the exact same level of quality? Why is it that I can walk into a toothpaste aisle and be bombarded with sixty different kinds of toothpaste? What bothers me about all this choice is what it necessitates.

If someone had gotten the answer correct on something like tape they’d be the kind of tape you buy. The moment they stop producing the highest quality tape possible you would stop buying it because someone would most certainly be willing to take smaller income gains to be better than you. But when there are thirty different kinds of tape after a hundred+ years of existing you start to wonder why everyone sucks at it. I’m not even talking about varieties of tape either. Duct tape, masking tape, electrical tape. I get those kinds of variation, I’m talking about basic flippin’ scotch tape.

I love data and I love variety but at a certain point you just see a broken system that is bleeding out before your eyes. Everyone is grasping at straws and its incredibly sad. Look no further than the 60-100 clones of flappy bird coming out every day to see just how bad this can become when the barrier for entry is at absolute zero. The entire business world appears to be full of people who have absolutely no idea what they are doing. I’m not saying this from some kind of throne where I have all the answers, I don’t and (as sad as it makes me to admit) I don’t own an elevated throne.

I’m saying this as an observer. Watching advertisers scratching scraps off the bottom of a dried food pan. Watching manufacturers producing ten different kinds of mouthwash per brand just in the mad hopes that they’ll skim enough people in whole to actually turn a meaningful profit. And naturally with enough money you can brute force these methods to work. This might be one of the many variables that make rich people get richer and poor people get poorer. You need an incredible amount of money to make a losing strategy a winning one.

By | 2014-03-17T22:24:02+00:00 March 17th, 2014|Journal|Comments Off on The Problem with Podcasts ~ Critical Mass of Advertising

How Capitalism necessitates censorship.

  I’ve mentioned before that I’m not too fond of hedonistic capitalism (aka modern capitalism or colloquially just capitalism). There have been various reasons in the past but I just came into conflict with another – Censorship.

  When you are running a business, like say Facebook, you will be confronted with two realizations. The first is that you likely want to maximize your income. The second is that to do this you will need to appeal to the broadest possible audience. The problem with this is that the broader the audience the weaker their combined character. Each demographic in your total population is like another piece of machinery being attached to the original core. With each new layer of complexity you must reduce the number of things your machine can do because you must make sure all the constituent parts don’t break trying to interact with your goal.

  In the case of Facebook this means that they must be very hard on content. Anything that could offend is fair game for blocking or banning. The people who produce this content are going to be less common but the people who would react to this content will be more common. This gives little incentive to protect speech in any way. Let’s look a bit at the numbers.

  The majority of Facebook users are women: 57% to 43% male. This means that if you say anything that would otherwise be harmless to males but might offend women you are more likely to be reported. This also means that Facebook might be (and is) more harsh on content that offends women. Next we look at age. The majority of people using Facebook are over the age of 45. This means that any content that would not offend 0-44 year olds but would offend 45+ year olds is going to be more harshly punished.

  Speaking from professional experience in the matter, the ARPU for older people is amazingly high and this means Facebook is going to be extremely militant when dealing with people who offended them. Young people are nice to marketers because they see them as easier to manipulate but they are a matter of quantity over quality (speaking from the business side).

  Generally speaking people are more likely to be offended if they are less intelligent. That might be the most offensive thing I’ve ever written on this website not because it is rude but because it targets the people most likely to be offended thus making it the most offensive. That’s a bit of an ouroboros if I’ve ever seen one. Considering the likely age of users on Facebook this kind of educational background is not very promising.

  75% of Facebook users have no degree of any kind. With nearly half of them being old enough to have lived when degrees actually meant something. So more often than not you are dealing with people who are likely to be on a hair trigger (in theory). With that in mind how many people are on Facebook? The data shows that 845 million people are actively using Facebook. How many of those 845 would Facebook be looking to lose if they allowed content that offended people in each of the categories mentioned.

Female? : 481.65 Million People

45+?: 388.7 Million People

No Degree?: 642.2 Million People

  Naturally they are going to be more critical of content that offends people with limited world knowledge (again presuming that these are people 4+ decades old, college used to be a major source of advanced education and not a job training factory). Anything that is sexual in nature, secular, or politically insensitive is going to get butchered if it gets front page attention.

  How many people would you offend if you said something “rude” in relation to Female 45+ with no Degree? Assuming I’m not about to make an ass out of myself (which is what assuming does I’m told) the math should be 57% * 46% * 75% which leaves us with 19.6%.

  19.6% of 845 Million is 165.62 Million.

Can you think of a life that is completely populated with nothing but comments that would appease 165.62 million people of varying religious backgrounds, upbringings, and countless other factors not included above? What kind of foggy water nonsense that provides no sort of intellectual tingle you’d need to dredge up from the anus of dullness?

  I’m not sure that even Mr. Rogers could provide consistent content that is that mundane and soulless.

  And herein lies another problem I have with capitalism.

  When you want to maximize your profits you must sacrifice something. Something I personally find very important. You must sacrifice your integrity. You must bow down to the lowest common denominator of your constituents and you must give them the world. Because if you don’t someone else will.

  Full Disclosure: I said something today that got a lot of traction and could offend sensitive older women. I’ve been banned from posting on pages until further notice. Which anecdotally suggests I’m not totally full of shit with the above commentary.

By | 2013-10-20T22:19:05+00:00 October 20th, 2013|Journal|Comments Off on How Capitalism necessitates censorship.

The Psychology of Pricing your Video Game

  It is often said that piracy is the source of revenue loss for video games. There doesn’t appear to be any data to support this but much like circumcision it is, for whatever reason, incredibly popular in the US. Whenever a publisher sees a video game being downloaded they equate that as a lost sale. There are many variables that come into play for this kind of act on the customer side but I would like to posit what I suspect is the biggest culprit.

  The price of video games. Now I know you read that and immediately want to remind me that games are cheaper now than they ever have been. That’s cool, even if I’d retort that in my youth I saw people getting maybe one game a season. We played more games by trading between one another. Sure an anecdote of a dozen kids isn’t very good evidence but my entire life has fit that anecdote.

  When you price a product you must take into account supply and demand. Most people think of an individual game as the only supply and that this reality means that each game can be uniquely priced at the current market norm. These days that’s around 60 dollars. However I believe that video games should be seen as a whole. If you wish you could be more accurate by separating games by their “A” value. With indie games being in their own market and “AAA” titles being in one together.

  Lets say I only have budget for 100 dollars in video games a month. If you price your game at 60 dollars that means you think I will only need your game and something small for the entire month. Maybe this is true? Maybe your game will provide me with an entire month worth of entertainment. But you need to answer that as objectively as you possibly can. I know personally I play a lot of games and the vast majority of them are incredibly small time investments.

  It isn’t that the games themselves are short total times. Tetris is technically very short. It is that they lack any replay ability. The content is only interesting a single time. This to me is a recent phenomena (recent as in the last 10 years). It only gets worse with the rise of DLC. Now companies just shrug off that reality and supplement the lack of interesting gameplay with extra content you can pay for.

  The best way to get people to buy your game is to price it at a fraction of what you estimate to be the total budget for video games of your target market. This is why steam sales work so well. Why would I spend 60 dollars on a single “ok” game when I could buy 4-6 games for that amount? There are very few games a year that are good enough to confidently market themselves at the maximum estimated value for video games.

  This is where revenue is lost. If people can’t pirate the game they are extremely unlikely to buy it anyways. I would hazard that most pirates have a lower threshold for how much they are willing to invest into a single game. The psychology of pricing video games needs to be reworked.

By | 2013-10-05T21:42:19+00:00 October 5th, 2013|Journal|Comments Off on The Psychology of Pricing your Video Game

Cookie Clicker Capitalism

  Cookie Clicker is an interesting experience. Effectively it’s a number sheet just like other similar games, but this game presents a narrative that I wanted to touch on. You start humbly enough as a baker with nobody to help you. Each time you click on the giant floating cookie you “bake” 1 cookie. After a bit of clicking you can hire some extra hands to click on the cookie automatically.

  A few more hands and you’ve got yourself a bakery business going. These hands are crucial and you value each and every one of them. Over time you’ll have enough cookies stored up to hire some grandmothers to bake for you. They work faster than your basic hands and quickly outshine the hands. You are now one level disconnected from the hands and will find yourself much more concerned with the grandmothers.

  Over time your bakery chain of grandmothers and helping hands will not be enough and you’ll start some cookie farms. These farms are more efficient than your grandmothers and your helping hands. Over time you’ll find yourself devoting your resources to more and more farms and ignoring your grandmothers and hands all together. They are providing you with income but they could vanish tomorrow and you probably wouldn’t mind.

  More time passes and your farms are churning out enough profit that you’ll buy factories. These factories outshine the farms, grandmothers, and hands without question. A few factories in and you will be producing more from the factories than all your lower tier manufacturers. You could sell them but you opt not to because of achievements, those achievements are really the only thing keeping them employed though.

  Soon the factories lead into mines. The mines outshine the former four, and then after the mines you are traveling in space to harvest more cookies. Your cookie income is daunting and it grows by factors of 10. Eventually you learn how to turn gold to cookies with alchemy labs and your generating tens of thousands of cookies. Further still your massive empire allows you to invest in portals to pull cookies from the great cookieverse.

  Finally you grow to such power that you begin traveling through time to maximize your cookie output to levels never before scene by mankind. You are a god among men, the controller of all that is and every will be. You have become the greatest cookie producer to ever exist and your rule shall be eternal. Your time machines are so grand in their potency and time paradox haberdashery that you could cleanse the world of every hand, grandmother, farm, factory, mine, shipment, alchemy lab, and portal and not be any worse for it.

  Their existence means nothing to you.

  Your time machines produce 217,282 cookies per second which is more than one of each of the previous buildings combined. They render all that lead you to this point null and you lose any sort of connection to those lesser constructs. Buying another granny is like picking up a grain of sand. In the end it changes nothing.

  In this first half I saw in a game about cookies the evolution of the wealthy. My brain just couldn’t connect with the lower tiers of production the moment they were outshined. My time machines are all that have value to me, they are like the highest tier of management at a company. Each tier represents a different tier in the production line until you get down to the minimum wage cursors (which I call helping hands).

  You can afford to buy many times more helping hands than time machines but they are so worthless in comparison that you do not.

  The next half I came across while doing a little research. Because in the beginning I was making only a few fractions of a cookie per second. Over time I was producing 1 cookie, then 2, then ten, and so on. But with increased wealth and improved supply chains the cost increases as well. I quickly noticed that the combined increased income of my newer production options and the cost of expansion had depreciated the value of lower lines exponentially.

  A granny was not merely worth her fraction of a farm but that on top of the increased cost of more farms and eventually factories (etc). I could spend a fortune and bankrupt myself producing helping hands before they’d even come close to mimicking the income production of a time machine.

  But am I ever truly becoming more wealthy? It’s a bit like the real world economy now. My income has gone from fractions of a cookie per second to 24.3 million. 24.3 million cookies per second is an immense increase over my start and yet it feels like I am making even less progress than before. And in relativity to expanding production I am. It took only 4 minutes in the beginning for me to buy a new top tier building. Twelve or so hours later it actually decreased to 3.61 minutes (likely because I could finally afford time machines thus they were not skewing the data anymore). Twelve hours from that it took 7.62 minutes. Another 12 hours and it took 11.64 minutes. Finally just before writing this I checked and now it takes 29.66 minutes to expand production.

  I am now producing more cookies than my original operation could have ever dreamed. Millennia would have passed before my beginning venture could reach what I have now. Yet it feels worse now. This is the dilemma of the rich person in a global economy. As your wealth grows the venue you compete in grows and that growth is not necessarily (and unlikely I suspect) to be even to your income. You may get richer at ever accelerating rates but it won’t feel like you are.

  This probably plays a part in why companies try so hard to make everything cheaper. The more things they reduce the cost of along the chain the faster their wealth feels. It might literally be growing quicker but the more important thing is that it feels like it is.

  The big difference between cookie clicker and the real world is that in the real world we have an upper limit to wealth. The greater the disparity the greater the despair. Costs rise to the overall increase of wealth but if wealth is concentrated to a small percentile of the population that inflation will grossly and disproportionately impact those without the new wealth. Imagine living in a world where the future me producing 24.3 million cookies per second was competing with the original me that was producing .3 cookies per second. Heck that first time I checked I was making 255 thousand cookies. That’s a difference of 94 times per second. My future self is growing at a rate 94 times quicker than my past.

  It is a daunting separation that only becomes more pronounced as time passes on. If we existed in this kind of reality inflation would race ahead at such a rate that eventually that smaller company would just collapse in upon its debt. In many ways we are living in that reality.

  Cookie Clicker is to me a lesson in the psychology of economics. It shows you that no amount of great wealth can ever stave off the hedonic treadmill. As your grow wealthier your goals become costlier and your feeling of wealth depreciates. I suspect if we were to study the psychology of millionaires and billionaires we would find a downward curve of happiness to wealth. I imagine a man with a trillion dollars is not a thousand times happier than a man with a billion and that billionaire is not a thousand times happier than the millionaire. But the difference between the millionaire and the billionaire is likely greater than the billionaire and the trillionaire.

  Each time you go down by a factor of 10 the difference is likely greater. A person with a million dollars is likely experiencing a larger growth in happiness over a person with a hundred thousand dollars than the million to billion. So on and so forth.

  Most certainly the person with a dollar is considerably less happy than the person with a hundred dollars.

  This is probably because (at least in part) the ability to live and the impact of each individual dollar on living depreciates as the overall sum increases. Once you hit a certain point the danger of starvation, homelessness, or other poverty related problems slip off. The first great jump in happiness would be being certain of eating and drinking. Next would be housing. I suspect the reason a person with a hundred thousand dollars would be very happy is they would (likely) pass the mark for certainty of health services (being a US citizen this is a big problem).

  But once you’ve covered food, housing, and health, what is left to overcome? At that point you are just increasing wealth and decreasing the weight of purchases on your wealth. Everything becomes relatively less valuable. Again I’m speaking mostly out of my own experience in games and this might all be hogwash.

  Experience the despair of riches yourself!

By | 2013-09-01T22:41:52+00:00 September 1st, 2013|Journal|Comments Off on Cookie Clicker Capitalism