531 words on Books
Thomas Frank’s book One Market Under God is an analysis of the ‘free market’ in recent years. Armed with plenty of quotes and sources it exhibits many things in that ‘market’ reaching from cynicism to stupidity (I suppose we recently saw an even more convincin example of that recently…). But its main, and in my opinion very true, point is a critique of ‘market populism’.
In public discussions the proverbial ‘market’ is frequently equated with democracy. Whether because, in the opinion of some, capitalism is the same as democracy - an absurd statement in my opinion. Or, not quite as absurdly, because ‘the market’ has populist elements. It rewards the people doing popular things and it crushes those who don’t. In a certain way that’s true without doubt. And this is usually used as an argument to present ‘the market’ as the extension of democracy to everything.
Which is utter bollocks but sounds convincing and clever, so people go for it. And, even better, they’ll ridicule anybody who wants other things that aren’t immediately rewarded by business logic. You know, interesting television, usable software or a good meal.
While I don’t think I want to disagree with the books points, I still found it a bit of a painful read (as in: I started it a year ago but only finished it off now) because it’s 400 pages long and simply doesn’t contain that much content. It reiterates points over and over, it quotes loads of people I don’t know and I don’t see how that strengthens its point. A hundred page explanation of the main ideas, arguments and counterarguments with a few pointers would have been more enjoyable.
The author also seems to go a strange way of collecting loads of absurd statements and implicitly mocking of the people (businesses, conservatives, media, …) making them, but seems to avoid head-on confrontation. To me it seems that there is no point to mock people like O’Reilly or business ‘journalists’. It would suffice that they are pricks or idiots.
The most depressing thing to take from this, is that the system still works. If you get the profits or publicity people will not second guess you. And thus, Microsoft is great, as is Coca Cola, as is Daimler Benz. Those are the heros we have to worship because they make our world so much better. And even in the ‘cultural’ area, it’s all a beauty contest about who gets the most viewers in the end. And if the research shows that the best numbers come from dumbing things down even further, then so be it! And the ‘consumers’ will even be the ones to take the blame because they just got what they wanted, right? Arrgh, on this range of issues I could just go on and on and the business-jerks who gain most from it will also be the ones who seem to ‘win’ the ‘argument’ (heck I’m running out of places to put all those quotes) because people choose eat bad food, watch brain-diarrhea inducing television, ‘read’ gossip magazines or drive inefficient cars. Everything simple, everything wrong. [Almost sorry for the rant.]
Bookmark: 21-06-2000, Greyhound San Diego → San Francisco.