Category Archives: society

Corona virus, broadband, and Atlanta’s labor-capital symbiosis..

Again, another surreal day in Atlanta.  Midtown and Peachtree Center near empty at rush hour.  It is the end of day one of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom’s “stay in place” edict as citizens are now required to stay in, coming out for only for essential activities i.e. seeing your doctor, heading to the grocery store, buying provisions from a hardware store, etc.

A municipal corporation has to justify its right to assess property and sales taxes by not only making its jurisdiction an attractive one for commerce and trade, but by creating an environment that protects the physical safety of its citizens.  Mayor Lance Bottoms was not ready to wait on Governor Brian Kemp to make up his mind about a state-wide shut down, preferring to go ahead and let Atlanta residents know that her administration was ready to take care of residents within her physical jurisdiction even if it meant pushing social distancing to the extreme.

Pushing social distancing to the extreme in this case means a further separation between the “do” labor versus the “thought” labor who are responsible for feeding capital with the knowledge and information necessary for increasing returns on said capital.  As recent as last week, “thought” labor could engage with “do” labor where a computer programmer making $50 per hour could still engage the cashier at the corner deli who made $10 per hour.  That tangential relationship, no matter how brief, represented some exchange between two worlds that take for granted how much they need each other.

A virus and a broadband connection may be busting up that tangential relationship forever.

My spidey-sense, after receiving these optical signals about where the market and society is going during this pandemic, called on me to help Jeff Bezos add to his fortune by signing up for Amazon Prime.  I am adjusting to staying at home and having to struggle with a tech support that is no longer just a short walk to the next hall.  It is not helping that we have rainy, overcast weather here in Atlanta compounding the feeling that I am working during a never ending weekend due to how slow it is on the street.  Depending on the mood of the clerk or waitress I lucked up on, that tangential brief relationship could have gone to making my day a brighter one.

I believe that Atlanta and other major cities are becoming the ground zero for a future where people will only be found outside jogging either by themselves or with a partner, and ordering food and groceries via broadband, delivered first by a human, then later by driver-less car or drone.  The once a week Uber Eats delivery may become a daily ritual with a greatly reduced tangential relationship with the “do” laborer attached.

Atlanta’s investors should be paying more attention to how the future of social distancing will impact the use of city infrastructure.  If we are spending less time driving on the streets or strolling along the Beltline or through the parks, how long will it take the taxpayer to figure out that she shouldn’t have to pay for this infrastructure?

And while I did see a bunch of people taking their morning stroll along the Beltline, I suspect that was more out of boredom than an attempt to pursue consistent use of the infrastructure.  I could be wrong, especially if more Atlantans find being restricted to home bringing them one step closer to catatonic.

While Atlanta continues to react to social changes brought about by America’s response to a virus, the city should be proactive about what the combination of technology and social distancing will do to Atlanta’s economic and financial structure ten years from now.

Re-wiring government to be innovative.

The oxymoron of government being innovative … 

Government is reactive.  Government takes action only when it is petitioned.  A congressman rarely initiates the legislation process on her whims.  She rather responds to legislation drafted by a constituent.  A judge resolves a conflict only upon a petition brought by a complainant. The executive implements an economic stimulus package or promulgates some rule only upon receiving a request to do so.

Throughout history government has been the spawn not the spawner.  When kinsmen bonded to increase the security around the hunt or to protect permanent dwelling, the resulting security compact and the rules that flowed were put into a binder called government.  Government is not independent of us, but the result of our fears; of our inability to co-exist without considering doing harm to ourselves.

Government or Flying Spaghetti Monster …

I am finding it increasingly amusing how citizen-taxpayers view government as some exogenous variable floating in outer space that embodies human characteristics of love, justice, equity, and what not.  The truth is, government is not a living being but a dumb bot programmed to react to fear, and, if operating effectively, leveraging fear in order to provide to its current ruling factions the leverage they need to maintain political power.  If there is one thing the leading faction must bear in mind is that to maintain power, it must maintain the facade that without government, action taken primarily on the part of the individual is fruitless for the citizen.  Government’s ruling faction must make government look innovative and necessary.

From dumb bot to informed policymaker ….

Given finite resources, government, in order to maintain or increase its faux omniscience must invest as much discretionary and non-discretionary resource into information gathering.  The United States is first and foremost about commerce and trade.  Commerce and trade is driven by private actors, contrary to what the current crop of candidates wish to tell you.  If government is to play any positive role in returns on and to capital, as well as in the increase of commerce and trade, the members of its ruling factions must be ardent students of the “economy” which requires constantly collecting and evaluating information about how the economy is truly constructed and working.

The vision thing …

Along with appreciating vision, members of political factions need to have vision.  Today’s candidates are very good spokesmen for the private sector actors that petition government, but as the United States heads further into the 21st century, members of the ruling factions must be as much engineer as they are marketer.  Members of the ruling factions may have to flip the current script in terms of how they organize government.  Rather than the marketer/salesman being the front man, the front man should be the one with the engineering vision, backed up by surrogate/salesman/marketers who consistently sell the vision.

Communication is a two-way street ….

The tricky part is ensuring that the public is communicating on the same frequency.  The electorate has to be re-wired to think “policy” versus “popularity.”  The public’s view of their government executives, from the President right down to a town mayor, has to be such that they recognize a senior technician who is first and foremost a competent implementer of vision while posing enough swag to get the vote.

Conclusion …

Re-wiring the public’s view will take buy in from the political factions to educate the electorate on critically thinking about the importance of policy, but that come to Jesus moment won’t come to political factions overnight.  That re-wiring of the electorate will have to come from the mass citizenry.  Only then will ruling political factions react.