Posts tagged ‘occident’


Capitalism falls down when it’s rigged

04.12.2019

Martin Wolf, writing in the Financial Times, touches on a few points that resonate with my readings over the years.
   He believes capitalism, as a system, is not a bad one, but it is bad when it is ‘rigged’; and that Aristotle was indeed right (as history has since proved) that a sizeable middle class is necessary for the functioning of a democracy.
   We know that the US, for instance, doesn’t really do much about monopolies, having redefined them since the 1980s as essentially OK if no one gets charged more. Hence, Wolf, citing Prof Thomas Philippon’s The Great Reversal, notes that the spikes in M&A activity in the US has weakened competition. I should note that this isn’t the province of “the right”—Philippon also shows that M&A activity reduced under Nixon.
   I alluded to the lack of competition driving down innovation, but Wolf adds that it has driven up prices (so much for the US’s stance, since people are being charged more), and resulted in lower investment and lower productivity growth.
   In line with some of my recent posts, Wolf says, ‘In the past decade, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft combined have made over 400 acquisitions globally. Dominant companies should not be given a free hand to buy potential rivals. Such market and political power is unacceptable. A refurbishment of competition policy should start from the assumption that mergers and acquisitions need to be properly justified.’
   History shows us that Big Tech’s acquisitions have not been healthy to consumers, especially on the privacy front; they colluded to suppress wages before getting busted. In a serious case, according to one company, Google itself commits outright intellectual property theft: ‘Google would solicit a party to share with it highly confidential trade secrets under a non-disclosure agreement, conduct negotiations with the party, then terminate negotiations with the party professing a lack of interest in the party’s technology, followed by the unlawful use of the party’s trade secrets in its business.’ (The case, Attia v. Google, is ongoing, I believe.) Their own Federal Trade Commission said Google ‘used anticompetitive tactics and abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed Internet users and rivals,’ quoting the Murdoch Press. We see many undesirable patterns with other firms there exercising monopoly powers, some of which I’ve detailed on this blog, and so far, only Europe has had the cohones to slap Google with massive fines (in the milliards, since 2017), though other jurisdictions have begun to investigate.
   As New Zealand seeks to reexamine its Commerce Act, we need to ensure that we don’t merely parrot the US and UK approach.
   Wolf also notes that inequality ‘undermines social mobility; weakens aggregate demand and slows economic growth.’ The central point I’ve made before on Twitter: why would I want people to do poorly when those same people are potentially my customers? It seems to be good capitalism to ensure there’s a healthy base of consumers.

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Posted in business, internet, politics, USA | No Comments »


Reality TV is not everything non-fiction

01.01.2011

I found it very odd that Antiques Roadshow and Mythbusters were nominated for the reality TV category at the Emmy Awards. Based on the vocabulary I grew up with, these are not ‘reality TV’.
   I doubt many of us over a certain age would think of The Gong Show or New Zealand’s Top Town as reality TV. Or Britain’s Got Talent. By this token, is Top Gear a reality show? It is, after all, filmed in the real world.
   I would, however, classify the usual Survivor or The Apprentice as reality TV: shows that have very little reality to them thanks to editing and sensationalism. There should be as little scripting as possible.
   The term reality TV might stem from the fact that if you believe them, you need to get a reality check. That’s probably the easiest way to distinguish one.
   So what is the difference between what I call a reality show—to date the only one I have followed was the first season of That’ll Teach ’Em—and the rest that are based on fact?
   The term was originally given to shows that purported to show reality, as based around voyeurism. Big Brother is the archetype: the idea that you could see everything with as little editing as possible, covering a long period of time. While of course there was editing, you were invited to get a “slice of life” from observation—a bit like an aquarium but humans replacing goldfish.
   The genre extended to those that relied on heavy editing for dramatic effect. Survivor and The Apprentice are perhaps the next best known. There’s a week’s worth of footage to condense into an hour, so there’s a lot of fodder that editors can cut to create heroes and villains and play on our dramatic expectations. The Amazing Race qualifies if we use this definition.
   Where, pray tell, is there “reality” in Britain’s Got Talent and its licensed ilk? We see a performance and some background. If we argue that the background deems it a reality show, then the nightly news must qualify—it, too, provides background to a story. As does 60 Minutes. Or the Miss France telecast on TF1.
   Antiques Roadshow hardly gives us a slice of life greater than a documentary. Where is the long period of time in which we follow Jamie, Adam, Grant, Kari and Tory on Mythbusters? Should we now revise our thinking to include the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World as a reality show, as it is of a similar genre?
   For those of us who dislike the reality genre—because they take up precious time where we snobs can see some decent dramatic programming—the claiming of regular documentary and talent shows as reality TV is surely a sign that the genre has passed its heyday. If The Apprentice in the US continues its downward spiral ratings-wise, one of the biggest shows in that genre will be history, consigned to being something that was “so 2000s”.

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Posted in culture, France, interests, media, New Zealand, TV, UK, USA | 7 Comments »