paradoxes of our times


that we live at a time when the accumulated wealth of the species is unfathomable and we have people who are desperately poor.

Kropotkin writing in the 19th century opined then that had everyone been engaged in producing useful stuff, we would address world poverty. he also said an economic system that was a trifle reasonable would not permit a few people, who by limiting production, increase prices of goods and services.

In his own words

[..]But over and above this, we must take into account all the labour that goes to sheer waste- here, in keeping up the stables, the kennels, and the retinue of the rich, there in pandering to the caprices of society and the depraved tastes of the fashionable mob; there again, in forcing the consumer to buy what he does not need, or foisting an inferior article upon him by means of puffery, and in producing on the other hand wares which are absolutely injurious, but profitable to the manufacturer. What is squandered in this manner would be enough to double the production of useful things. (The Conquest of Bread by Kropotkin)

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

42 thoughts on “paradoxes of our times

  1. Swarn Gill says:

    I can think of more labor waste than just what the rich need. Over here at Halloween and Christmas people buy giant inflatable holiday objects to put in their yard. These things are not overly cheap, but even if it were, it would be an example of a lot of manufacturing and labor going into something that doesn’t really help anybody. You could argue that those workers own a salary, but what if they instead got their salary by making things that people could use? There is a lot of crap that people buy because they’ve been convinced they need it. That’s really the worst part of capitalism.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. renudepride says:

    That consumerism is rampant is a gross understatement. People everywhere crowd to buy what they have little use for and then berate themselves for not being able to find it. The inflatable holiday pieces that litter lawns everywhere are but one example. The commercial adverts that overload the NFL Super Bowl are another. Yet we deny the hungry one meal so that the well-fed have an abundance of snacks to discard the morning after the big game. Seriously, something is definitely out-of-balance here and the disparity needs to be corrected. Naked hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ron says:

    Who gets to decide these things? One man’s sheer waste is another man’s treasure. That’s the beauty of the free market: everyone votes with their wallet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      Good question, Ron. I think any reasonable person would, if they were a little honest be able to tell what really is waste and what is treasure. Especially if this person is not forced by circumstance to use whatever we call waste as treasure. To be certain, I am not talking about household waste than can be used for compost or some such thing.

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  4. foolsmusings says:

    I’ve been saying this forever. Capitalism is deeply flawed and needs to be updated. A society that just produces junk for the sake of producing junk is doomed to failure. Our society and our environment are at a precarious threshold.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. shelldigger says:

    Kropotkin was a wise one. What he said still rings very true.

    I try to limit myself to things I need. But must admit I am weak! I have more telescopes and guitars than what is practical. But none of them are ever lonely for long they all get used and serve specific needs.

    Exhibit A: Every telescope design is a tradeoff. You can have wide field views in one, but it will suffer from lack of power. You can have have high power views in another but it will suffer from a narrow field of view. You can have larger apertures that help with visibility of details, they are more costly.

    Exhibit B: Guitars are similar to telescopes, in that there isn’t really a do it all guitar. You have single coil pickups for brilliant cleans, you have double humbuckers for the down and dirty growls, and you have hybrids between the two a blending of the spectrums. Depending on what you want to do soundwise, it is often necessary to have 6 guitars dammit.

    It is a wonder my wife still loves me 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nan says:

      My other-half would be able to list Exhibits A-Z. He does love to “help the economy.” 😄

      Like

      • shelldigger says:

        Ha! I limit my exhibits to A & B, not for lack of wanting to help the economy, but because of wisdom gained being married for a few years 😉

        Though I did forget to mention my boat problem! I have 2 out there that were brought back fromn the dead and another one that needs a decent burial. The 2 that are in great shape, I probably really only need one. Though there is an argument for having a smaller, deep sided flatbottom boat, for fishing backwaters and the larger tri-hull that makes a great cruiser/open area fishing boat…

        I can’t help it! I possibly have a problem 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Nan says:

          I’ve discovered there’s nearly always “an argument for …” 😀

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        • makagutu says:

          On the contrary, I think there is nothing wrong with bringing back what has been discarded back to life. It should be encouraged

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          • shelldigger says:

            I’m all for it myself, doesn’t hurt that it is almost always cheaper to fix the old rather than buy the new (with electronics being an exception). Also doesn’t hurt to have mechanical inclinations and some sick and twisted mentality that enjoys doing it. 🙂

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          • makagutu says:

            I wish I could rip apart engines, add things to them or remove what I don’t like and make it perform better and louder. That would be my joy I just never got to be that hands on

            Like

    • makagutu says:

      Depending on what you want to do soundwise, it is often necessary to have 6 guitars dammit.

      this made me laugh. This is the same with bicycles. You need at least two: one for the off road and one for tarmac and if possible a tandem bike for the happy couple

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Barry says:

    Wealth is a relative term and I’m not sure how meaningful it is. I live a comfortable life. By NZ standards we have a low combined household income: (NZ$45000 or US$31000), but as we own an above average, mortgage-free home and have no debts, I am relatively asset rich. I pay tax at 19% and my sole income is from New Zealand Superannuation (the wife gets superannuation and income from investments) and most social services including health are free. In absolute terms, we’d struggle in the USA while in some other parts of the world I could live a king.

    Interestingly, the New Zealand government is about to change from basing budgets on GDP to budgets that make wellbeing a major consideration. Time will tell whether or not it is workable, considering our rules regulating government spending.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Well, I agree wealth is relative and whenever poverty is written about, it is not in absolute terms but relative to the standard of those around you. For example, if you lived in your own house and had that much income a year, in Nairobi, you would be very comfortable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barry says:

        I find it ironic that as the wealth of NZ rises, so too does the percentage of children who fall below below our arbitrary poverty line. We were once one of the most socially mobile countries. Sadly that is no longer the case, which is another reason why I hope measuring wellness will prove beneficial.

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        • makagutu says:

          This is quite strange.
          One would expect that as wealth goes up, the situation of every one improves

          Liked by 1 person

          • Barry says:

            Huh! We were a very egalitarian society but that has changed in the last 40 years. When adjusted for inflation, the poorest decile are much worse off while the wealthiest decile are very much wealthier. At one time half the nation’s wealth was owned by 30% of the population. Now it’s owned by around 10%.

            As the Prime Minister stated when she first came to office, capitalism has not been kind to some sectors of society and that needs to change.

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          • makagutu says:

            Do you think the 10% wealthiest people are the most hard working, innovative persons or they have just been able to game the system to their advantage?

            Like

          • Barry says:

            Some are hard working – they’re Kiwis after all 😊 but those at the bottom of the ladder work just as hard, sometimes having two or three jobs to make ends meet.

            If you have capital you’re at an advantage as we have no capital gains tax, but many other factors such as stripping the power of trade unions to negotiate on behalf of employees, zero hours contracts and removal of the 40 hour week cause those in lower socio-economic groups to fall further behind. It used to be that poverty here was not usually intergenerational. Today it is. Put it down to a Laseizfaire free market economy we’ve followed since the 1980s. Not everyone gets and equal share of the increase in wealth. The wealthier you are, the bigger the share you get.

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          • makagutu says:

            Unions seem to be losing out everywhere and I don’t know what will be the plight of workers in the foreseeable future. Many opportunities, I think, have been lost to improve the lot of working families.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Barry says:

            Hence wellbeing becoming a major factor in future NZ government budgets. There’s plans to introduce legislation to make in binding on future governments and also require the Reserve Bank to take it into consideration when setting fiscal policy.

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          • Barry says:

            I forgot to mention that unions are having some of their power restored including access to the workplace and the ability to negotiate collective bargaining.

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          • makagutu says:

            That must be good news for working class people

            Liked by 1 person

          • Barry says:

            Employers aren’t happy though

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            They can’t be when they have to ensure their employees are well paid for their labour

            Liked by 1 person

  7. […] this previous post, my friend Ron wrote, and I think it needs further […]

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  8. I’d have to read more Kropotkin to find out if I might agree with any of his principles. Most 19th century treatises on the subject that I’ve heard about say nothing about the human capacity for inefficient or capricious decision making which leads to poverty. Right now we have a global economy which shovels money to those who need it the least. Meanwhile, millions of people go hungry.

    People have tried different rules-systems over the past few centuries to change this state of affairs, to no avail. It’s like human behavior has a gravity to it, where wealth attracts more wealth, and it takes from those high in orbit. All of this, in spite of so-called easy solutions to simple problems of inequity. I have a feeling that if people like Kropotkin were right, we shouldn’t know what poverty is.

    Liked by 1 person

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