Capitalism – Freedom Toons http://freedomtoons.org/ Sat, 15 Jan 2022 23:08:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8 https://freedomtoons.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/default.png Capitalism – Freedom Toons http://freedomtoons.org/ 32 32 Capitalism at its Worst: Introducing Neocolonial Bro https://freedomtoons.org/capitalism-at-its-worst-introducing-neocolonial-bro/ Sat, 15 Jan 2022 13:56:57 +0000 https://freedomtoons.org/capitalism-at-its-worst-introducing-neocolonial-bro/ WHILE most people were understandably focused on the unleashed pandemic this week, a young entrepreneur I dubbed “Neocolonial Bro” provided a most unwelcome diversion by sharing, via a Twitter thread, his appreciation for the opportunity that the Philippines offered him to exploit cheap foreign labor. Obviously, the local public did not share his enthusiasm, and […]]]>

WHILE most people were understandably focused on the unleashed pandemic this week, a young entrepreneur I dubbed “Neocolonial Bro” provided a most unwelcome diversion by sharing, via a Twitter thread, his appreciation for the opportunity that the Philippines offered him to exploit cheap foreign labor. Obviously, the local public did not share his enthusiasm, and although the subject is not as simple as it seems at first glance, it ultimately reveals the bad sides of foreign investors and the attitude of this government’s laissez-faire approach to worker protection.

First, in the interest of propriety, because I have professional standards and good manners and all that, before I even started taking notes for this story, I made an effort to contact the topic to give him an opportunity to provide additional comments or clarification to his original post. This attempt to reach out went unanswered, and so, I will continue. If the gentleman follows up on this after it’s published, I’ll definitely give him the opportunity to air his side of the story.

His name is Nick Huber, and he’s the co-founder and president of a Florida-based company (I’ll keep my thoughts on Florida to myself for now) called “The Sweaty Startup.” The company specializes in investing in and operating self-storage businesses — which is rare here but ubiquitous in the United States — and at the end of last year, according to its website, had of a portfolio of 42 properties, comprising over one million square feet of space. The company has 34 employees — 18 of them in the Philippines, which is the interesting part of this story — and had a projected 2021 net operating profit of over $6.3 million.

Until the part where he discusses outsourcing his business to the Philippines, Huber’s story is one of an admirable entrepreneur. Having started at a young age with a lawn mowing business, Huber is what we might call a “go-getter”, and reading his website – he’s not shy about sharing his experiences and business thoughts. – it’s immediately obvious that he’s extremely talented. If it weren’t for the whole labor exploitation thing, any potential entrepreneur could probably learn a lot from this guy.

Huber recruited its 18 Philippines-based employees through an online labor broker called Shepherd (supportshepherd.com), which advertises, “We find you amazing employees who cost 80% less than their US counterparts.” For “about $5 an hour,” Huber’s Filipino staff “answer the phones, rent units, underwrite, analyze the competition, direct customers around our properties, handle collections, etc.” He describes them as “grateful, very knowledgeable and having very good English”, and adds: “[W]We were blown away by how much they can do with a little experience and practice.”

Even those unfamiliar with the U.S. job market and pay scales obviously understand that “about $5 an hour” grossly underestimates “highly competent” employees with such a wide menu of complex tasks, and Huber doesn’t s apparently wasn’t expecting the acidic backlash from his Twitter post. provoked. “There’s a lot of hate here,” he said, “but these people aren’t in the trenches trying to run a business.” Huber had some defenders though, with people here and in the US pointing out that $5 an hour equals around P2,000 per day or around P43,000 per month, which is a bit higher than an average salary . in the Philippines.

A question of job value

For reference, the current minimum wage in the state of Florida is $11 per hour. It will increase to $12 per hour on September 30 of this year, then increase by an additional dollar per hour for the next three years until it reaches $15 per hour. While I can’t guess what the same versatile work performed by Huber’s Filipino staff would be worth to a US-based worker, it would certainly be significantly more than $11 an hour.

Here’s one way to see the true value of Huber’s workforce, thanks to his transparency on at least some of his company’s basic performance numbers: the 18 Filipino workers make up 52.94% of the workforce. work of his business, and given what he described they do for the company, it would be fair to award them a similar percentage of the company’s $6,315,860 net operating income.

Thus, the Philippine contingent is collectively responsible for $3,343,690 of NOI per year, or approximately $185,760 each. On a standard schedule of 2,080 hours per year, $5 an hour equals an annual salary of $10,400. Assuming there are extras such as vacation and 13th month pay, that adds about 15%, so we can estimate that each employee earns about $11,960 per year.

According to a self-storage trade publication in the United States, a typical profit margin for this industry is 11%; NOI is not the same as profit, but it is close enough that our bottom-of-the-envelope calculation can be used to estimate company revenue. This equates to approximately $1,688,732 in gross earnings for each Filipino employee, which translates to a labor cost to revenue ratio of 0.007.

Here’s the thing: check any small business guide in the US, and it will tell you that labor costs should ideally be between 25 and 35 percent; and depending on the labor market and skills required, it is not uncommon for companies to pay up to 75-80% of their gross income in wages and benefits. So, it could be argued that the work Huber’s Filipino workers do is actually worth about 35 times more (0.25 divided by 0.007) than they are paid for it.

The only reason these workers aren’t being paid what the job should really be worth, which Huber implicitly admits, is that these workers are here, where conditions that bear no relation to the value of the job to the company allow fractions of pennies – wages to the nearest dollar. If that’s not the worst of modern colonialism, I don’t know what is.

What’s really infuriating is that Huber does absolutely nothing wrongful, and in fact, because the colonial mentality still permeates labor regulations here, he actually offers an above average salary at what, from his point of view, is an inconsequential cost. As much fault as can be found in Huber should also be directed at the responsible agencies and decision-makers here for enabling the exploitation, and in fact, hosting it.

As I commented on Twitter when I first came across Huber’s post, the fairest solution, one that would represent fairer pay for local workers while still giving the employer a good deal per compared to workers in his own neighborhood, would be for the government here to mandate that US-based employers pay no less than the prevailing minimum wage in the state where they are located. If Filipinos are as valued as Huber (and many other American employers) have said, then those employers should be prepared to pay them at least what they would be legally obligated to pay to the least qualified employee on their own soil. , and probably more.

[email protected]

Twitter: @benkritz

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Stocks and assets will be turned into NFTs, venture capitalist says https://freedomtoons.org/stocks-and-assets-will-be-turned-into-nfts-venture-capitalist-says/ Fri, 14 Jan 2022 06:53:01 +0000 https://freedomtoons.org/stocks-and-assets-will-be-turned-into-nfts-venture-capitalist-says/ Company shares and real estate will be among the many things that will be turned into non-fungible tokens in the future, according to venture capitalist Bill Tai. The tech investor told CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal on Wednesday that “it’s going to happen” and that “it’s not even a question.” Instead, it’s just a question of when […]]]>

Company shares and real estate will be among the many things that will be turned into non-fungible tokens in the future, according to venture capitalist Bill Tai.

The tech investor told CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal on Wednesday that “it’s going to happen” and that “it’s not even a question.”

Instead, it’s just a question of when it will happen at scale, Tai said at the Crypto Finance conference in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

NFTs are “one of a kind” assets in the digital world that can be bought and sold on the Internet. They are designed to show that someone owns a unique virtual item, such as online photos and videos or even collectible sports cards. It is currently unknown why anyone would want to own an NFT of a stock or what they could do with it.

Over the past year, the number of articles turned into NFTs has increased rapidly. Everything from the World Wide Web’s source code to Jack Dorsey’s first tweet has been sold as NFTs.

But some people don’t know why these intangible assets are sold for so much money. In March, South Carolina-based graphic designer Beeple, real name Mike Winkelmann, sold an NFT for a record $69 million at an auction at Christie’s. In June, an NFT of the web’s source code sold for $5.4 million.

Data from market tracker DappRadar released on Tuesday shows total NFT sales reached $25 billion in 2021 as the speculative crypto-asset grew in popularity. Some of the world’s best-known companies, including Coca-Cola and Gucci, have also sold NFTs.

While some worry about the existence of an NFT bubble, Tai, who has invested in start-ups like Zoom and Scribd, said he expects more and more to be transformed. to NFT as the Internet moves from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0.

“Web 1.0 was read-only,” he said. “Web 2.0 is read-write. Web 3.0 is the instantiation of a wrapper around everything that comes in and out of this screen so that it can move around. So it’s an internet of assets. “

“You can put land titles, real estate, art, designs, anything in there,” he added, explaining that anything can have an address that lets people find it via a Marlet. “It’s the most efficient way over time to assign ownership of really any asset.”

Like many other NFT advocates, Tai is also interested in cryptocurrencies. He described the latest crypto crash that saw bitcoin’s value briefly dip below $40,000 on Monday as “yet another swing,” but he’s optimistic it will rebound.

“I don’t know when it will go up, but it will go up,” he said, adding that cryptocurrencies are at the heart of institutional acceptance.

Elsewhere, the CEO of Seba Bank told CNBC that bitcoin’s price could nearly double to $75,000 this year as more institutional investors begin to embrace it.

“Our internal valuation models indicate a price currently between $50,000 and $75,000,” said the head of the regulated Swiss bank which focuses on cryptocurrencies. “I’m pretty confident we’ll see this level. The question is always the timing.”

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Africa: don’t look up, look around https://freedomtoons.org/africa-dont-look-up-look-around/ Wed, 12 Jan 2022 10:10:14 +0000 https://freedomtoons.org/africa-dont-look-up-look-around/ Don’t Look Up has been celebrated as an influential piece of environmental cinema. But what if this encouraged us to think less about the urgency of mobilizing to fight against climate change? Stanley Kubrick’s famous 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is considered one of the […]]]>

Don’t Look Up has been celebrated as an influential piece of environmental cinema. But what if this encouraged us to think less about the urgency of mobilizing to fight against climate change?

Stanley Kubrick’s famous 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is considered one of the greatest pieces of political satire in 20th century cinema. It parodies the Cold War and the growing anxiety over nuclear destruction in the immediate aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, poking fun at the absurdities of the US government’s “mutually assured destruction” policy. At the time, many critics commented on the film’s effectiveness as anti-nuclear propaganda, claiming that now the truth about nuclear proliferation has been laid bare on the celluloid for everyone to see, its end was surely in sight.

However, Thomas Disch’s 1998 book The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World, which examines the impact of science fiction on popular culture, suggests that Dr. Strangelove had almost all of it. ‘opposite effect. Instead of mobilizing effective action against nuclear proliferation, the film normalized the idea of ​​nuclear catastrophe, making it a less pressing political issue over the following years. As he writes: “The accumulated anxieties of nearly two decades of nuclear anxiety released into laughter saturnalia which, for many of us, actually kept the promise of the subtitle: We Learned. to stop worrying and live with (if not loving) the bomb. “

As counterintuitive as it may sound, “even the strangest love of all, the desire for death,” Disch writes, “can be taught to sing enchantingly.” This phenomenon – whereby popular representations of our anxieties do not address their underlying causes as intended, but rather free us to feel their effects so deeply – is described by philosopher Robert Pfaller as “interpassivity.”

And it is perhaps the idea of ​​interpassivity, which cultural theorists such as Slavoj Žižek and Mark Fisher have further popularized in recent years, that provides the best lens for examining what is arguably the film the most. most discussed of 2021, Don’t Look Up.

Written, produced and directed by Adam McKay, who is best known for his collaborations with comedian Will Ferrell on box office films such as Anchorman and Talladega Nights, Don’t Look Up takes on Dr. Strangelove’s satirical tone as he turns his attention to climate change, social indifference, denial, incompetence and the distorted priorities of the US government.

Longtime environmental activists and climate scientists have praised the film for telling the truth about our horrific collective response – or lack thereof – to the continuing climate collapse. There is a widely shared feeling, as was the case with Dr Strangelove, that this will have a positive impact on societal views and political action around climate change (although it has also been criticized by several critics. ). Like that previous political satire, however, Don’t Look Up may be a textbook case of interpassivity.

Delegation of consumption

Perhaps the clearest description of this phenomenon can be found in Pfaller’s book, Interpassivity: The Aesthetics Of Delegated Enjoyment, in which he describes “an actor who, while playing the role of a deceased person, suddenly becomes tickle the nose with the dust of the stage and sneeze. “The spectators burst out laughing, but Pfaller asks us to think about what exactly is so funny. He writes that as the audience knows” very well that the actor was not dead, it seems he is laughing at the imaginary astonishment of someone who did not know what he knew “.

Other examples of interpassivity include the 1980s practice of obsessively recording television programs onto video cassettes, which Pfaller says performs the strange function of allowing the VCR to “watch” the programs on our behalf. , saving us the work of looking at them ourselves. He also gives the example of museums, which “do not fulfill their main function by being visited”; instead, “their greatest utility is knowing that the art they contain is in good hands and that you don’t have to constantly visit them to see it.”

We can also consider the role of canned laughter in sitcoms, where the goal is not so much to signal us the right time to laugh as to fulfill the function of laughing for us. As Žižek says, interpassivity operates through a kind of delegation of consumption. “Even though, tired of a stupid hard day’s work, all evening we just drowsily stared at the TV screen,” he said, “you can say after the fact that objectively, through each other, we had a great time. “

In general, says Pfaller, “if one act (eg, reading a book) is not possible for some reason, then another (eg, copying the book) can perform the same function.” Photocopying provides “partial relief from the tension that was originally linked to the desire to read the book.”

“Precisely there,” writes Pfaller, “where it is suggested that they become self-aware subjects, people are seizing interpassive means to flee into self-oblivion”.

There is a sense in which Don’t Look Up fulfills this function of interpassivity. Those who favorably, and sometimes smugly, discuss the film as a positive intervention in climate activism are almost like the audience laughing at the actor who accidentally sneezes. They all know the reality of the climate crisis, but have to imagine another viewer – a hypothetical character or even a VCR or a suggested viewing from Netflix, similar to what Žižek calls the Big Other – who had the truth revealed to them. in order to to see the film as effective in this way.

The potential power of cinema

More broadly, it may be that interpassivity in contemporary culture allows us to delegate our hopes, fears, and desires for change to the popular media, disempowering us and suddenly producing a fleeting sense of empowerment. Pixar’s Wall-E, for example, as Fisher writes in his flagship book Capitalist Realism, uses a tongue-in-cheek tone similar to Don’t Look Up. But it is a tone which “nourishes rather than calls out capitalist realism … the film interprets for us our anti-capitalism, allowing us to continue to consume with complete impunity”. The same may be true of some popular forms of contemporary activism.

Sticking to cinema, however, the problem is not that popular cinema can never serve as a call for collective action, catharsis, or acceptance of fate. Darren Aronofsky’s mother! and Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, for example, films that cover an area similar to Don’t Look Up, are at least partially successful in this regard. Instead, the problem is that all too often we let the implementation of our common anxieties and aspirations be outsourced to forms of entertainment that serve as a sort of collective scapegoat. We absolve ourselves of concerns about neocolonialism and the plight of indigenous peoples by encouraging the Avatar Blues when they employ direct militant action to save their planet from extractive capitalism, just as we ease our complicity in animal agriculture by watching Chicken Run.