Renting Your Life

Posted on by

Yves here. The “Crush” ad has allowed for an overdue “hating on Apple” moment. As much as Steve Jobs was a great designer, and the modern Apple has strayed markedly from his vision, Jobs was also very controlling and went as far as he could in restricting users to a closed environment. This sort of capture and tight linkages to other products and services in your ecosystem is a key element in forcing consumers to accept renting rather than owning what were formerly products like particularly editions of software. I stopped getting Adobe Acrobat now that I have to keep renting it. I had to argue with my tech person over buying Microsoft Office rather than renting it. So what if I have to buy it again? I don’t need new features and my last copy survived ten years of OS updates. And I don’t like the spying potential in Microsoft sending me frequent new versions.

The renting problem extends beyond third party products. Nearly all companies of any size store data in “the cloud”. Mind you, this is their data. Except it isn’t. I have had readers explain long form (and I wish I had hoisted those comments into a post back then) that they become hostage to the cloud provider and cannot readily get their data back.

It’s become common to point to the purported Davos Man model of “you will own nothing and be happy.” But this is simply the old sharecropper model in new clothes. As Matt Stoller wrote in his 2010 post, The Debtcropper Society:

A lot of people forget that having debt you can’t pay back really sucks. Debt is not just a credit instrument, it is an instrument of political and economic control.

It’s actually baked into our culture. The phrase ‘the man’, as in ‘fight the man’, referred originally to creditors. ‘The man’ in the 19th century stood for ‘furnishing man’, the merchant that sold 19th century sharecroppers and Southern farmers their supplies for the year, usually on credit. Farmers, often illiterate and certainly unable to understand the arrangements into which they were entering, were charged interest rates of 80-100 percent a year, with a lien places on their crops. When approaching a furnishing agent, who could grant them credit for seeds, equipment, even food itself, a farmer would meekly look down nervously as his debts were marked down in a notebook. At the end of a year, due to deflation and usury, farmers usually owed more than they started the year owing. Their land was often forfeit, and eventually most of them became tenant farmers.

They were in hock to the man, and eventually became slaves to him. This structure, of sharecropping and usury, held together by political violence, continued into the 1960s in some areas of the South. As late as the 1960s, Kennedy would see rural poverty in Arkansas and pronounce it ’shocking’. These were the fruits of usury, a society built on unsustainable debt peonage.

Today, we are in the midst of creating a second sharecropper society.

Back then, a mere 14 year ago, Stoller did not consider leasing of intellectual property or having ownership of critical implements like tractors undermined by intellectual property claims. But it’s another manifestation of his debtcropper model.

Mind you, there is nothing wrong with renting per se if both sides have decent bargaining power and/or relevant laws protect the property rights of renters. In New York City, one of the strong protections afforded to tenants in rent stabilized and controlled apartments was that the landlord had to offer a lease renewal if the tenant was current with the rent. Being able to stay in a rental long-term greatly changes the tenant’s relationship to the property. I was in a building in a good address with a lot of rent stabilized units. Many tenants spent a lot of money fixing them up because they anticipated being there a long time.

But note the Stoller point about sharecroppers blindly accepting their agreements with “the man”. Software and credit card customers are in exactly the same boat.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

A rent-seeking economy, queued up to pay

I want to examine two pieces that touch the same theme: how neoliberalism as an economic system enshrines the extraction of rent over industrial production (the making or real things); and how this trend would end in the failure of the West, absent a climate-crossed future.

I’m making this available to all subscribers since the points are integrated. Musicat the end.

The Sale of Manufacturing to Enrich the Rich

Consider the following pieces as a set.

You Can’t Run Industrial Policy OR A War Economy Under Neoliberalism (Ian Welsh)

Welsh starts by comparing the creation of EV charging stations in the US and China. The US government spent $7.5 billion in subsidies; the Chinese government spent $10 billion roughly. Total stations produced by the $7.5 billion program: seven stations.

  • Total EV charging stations in the US: 186,200.
  • Total in China: seven million, of which 2.2 million are public.

Then he makes his larger point, that the neoliberal system in the US is designed not to produce.

[Y]ou can’t run industrial policy or a war economy under neoliberalism. It’s impossible. …

Washington spends 7.5 billion for 7 charging stations. This isn’t just incompetence, this is corruption. Yes, China and Russia have corruption. Lots of it. It is nothing compared to American and European corruption, not even on the same scale. In China, especially, most corruption is “honest corruption” — you can take a slice, but you have to actually deliver. If X number of homes or charging stations are to be produced, you’ve got to produce them.

Which leads to this:

Simply put, neoliberalism is about unearned money: about capital gains; PE plays where you buy a company with debt, load it with the debt and then dump it; monopolies and oligopolies and getting government to juice asset prices or pay you far more than you deserve for shoddy goods (see mil-industrial complex.)

“The China-built BYD Seagull, a small all-electric hatchback, starts at just less than $10,000 and reportedly banks a profit for the increasingly influential Chinese automaker.” Source: CNBC

All this is true. China’s industrial policy enriches the country at the expense of the rich. U.S. industrial policy enriches the rich at the expense of the country.

As a result (Welsh argues) China now creates good products — like its latest electric cars, which U.S. politicians fear — while we create crap. And now (Welsh would add) there’s no going back for us; the future is theirs.

I’ll add, it would be theirs if it’s anyone’s at all. Sadly, this century will be no one’s.

The message: Don’t count on the donor class to fix this mess. They want it this way.

Finance Capitalism versus Industrial Capitalism: The Rentier Resurgence and Takeover (Michael Hudson)

Thanks to a fascinating piece at Naked Capitalism on Apple’s awkwardly on-the-nose “Crush” ad (see below), I’m pointed to an address given by Michael Hudson on the same theme, the West’s surrender to finance capitalism and what that means for the world:

One must conclude that America has chosen no longer to industrialize but to finance its economy by economic rent—monopoly rent from information technology, banking, and speculation—and leave industry, research, and development to other countries. Even if China and other Asian countries did not exist, there is no way that America can regain its export markets or even its internal market with its current overhead debt and its privatized and financialized education, health care, transportation, and other basic infrastructure.

The underlying problem is not competition from China but neoliberal financialization. Finance capitalism is not industrial capitalism. It is a lapse back into debt peonage and rentier neo-feudalism. Bankers play the role today that landlords played up through the nineteenth century, making fortunes without corresponding value from capital gains for real estate, stocks, and bonds on credit and from debt leveraging—whose carrying charges increase the economy’s cost of living and doing business.

Not much different from Welsh’s point. Welsh carries it further, predicting the collapse of Western hegemony. Hudson makes no such prediction, but like Welsh, identifies the current war between West and East as a fight between economies, not countries:

Today’s new Cold War is a fight to internationalize this rentier capitalism by globally privatizing and financializing transportation, education, health care, prisons and policing, the post office and communications, and other sectors that formerly were kept in the public domain. In Western economies, such privatizations have reversed the drive of industrial capitalism.

Whatever else they’re doing, Russia and China still make things — thus, at least in part, Hudson’s “new Cold War.”

Is Apple a Manufacturer?

To return to Apple for a moment, one product of this thought is that Apple is no longer part of the manufacturing economy, but has become a rent-seeker instead.

Naked Capitalism quotes Jathan Sadowski saying this…

Rather than representing some disruptive new “subscription” paradigm, however, what all these companies are doing — including Apple — is revitalizing of an old form of rentier capitalism that we long associated with landlords and feudalism.

Whether we call it platform capitalism, surveillance capitalism, or just next-gen rentier capitalism, this model for how capital operates uses mediation and enclosure to achieve extraction and control over its subjects. “Rentier” refers to a relationship where an asset owner charges others to access that asset, just as a landlord charges tenants to rent a home the landlord owns.

…and points to a 2019 piece in Salon titled “Pay us forever: Apple wants you to rent your life from them”:

Apple, a tech company renowned for its gadgets, held an event on Monday in which it announced five new offerings, only one of which was an actual gadget (the little under-the-TV box known as the Apple TV). The rest of its new products were “services,” an ethereal category so profitable that it has become the second-biggest revenue generator at the most valuable public company in the world. What “services” refers to, really, are things that you subscribe to and pay for forever, or at least until your subscription terminates. But Apple, like every other subscription business model, would prefer your subscription doesn’t terminate.

Life in a landlord’s world. They want it this way.

That Apple Ad

As if the thought of this much predation wasn’t enough, the Apple “Crush” ad hits the heart as well. It shows the destruction of what we use to make art — brushes and paint; trumpets, pianos, guitars — plus mannequins and toys, things that bring us delight — compressed with brute force into a hardware platform whose tools we must rent to use.

Play the following with sound off to get the effect.

And in case you missed what Apple did so wrong, here’s the ad in reverse:

Still loving them Apples now?


I couldn’t resist. Here’s a remastered performance of Pink Floyd’s “Money.”

For music theory fans, note this is 7/4 time, counted 3 + 3 + 1. (You might compare this with the 5/4 rhythm in the song “Je suis jalouse” from a previous post.)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. YuShan

    We have come full circle, back to a form of feudalism.

    Recently I have seen a lot of videos and articles about this subject, which makes me a bit more hopeful because awareness is the first step towards people rejecting this.

    But then I realise that I am also living in my own “silo”, just as the tech oligarchs want it, and that the videos and links that I’m presented with isn’t what other people see. The great majority of people will only see funny cat videos or “news” about the Kardashians I guess.

    I’m still hoping that some day a kind of shock (black swan) accident will make people reject the mass surveillance, data gathering, “the cloud”, big tech, the inability to own stuff, etc, but the youngest generation (the one that typically drive revolts) has never known a different world than this…

    1. digi_owl

      Much of it thanks to Varoufakis’ latest, Technofeudalism.

      I see quite a few quibbling over the details of feudalism regarding that title, but notion is compelling. In particular when one consider later states of feudalism when often the estates were left in the hands of overseers while the lords themselves were off elsewhere.

      Another thing is that corporate logos have taken on the air of heraldry. And the employees more and more often behaves with borrowed authority.

      1. chuck roast

        Yanis peels back the onion. He also describes the current economic environment under neoliberalism as ‘gilded stagnation.’ Heraldry indeed.

    2. i just dont like the gravy

      I’m still hoping that some day a kind of shock (black swan) accident

      If you can stick around for another decade, climate catastrophe will do this for you. Keep an eye on sea surface temps this season.

  2. begob

    The guitar solo in Money switches to 4/4, and then the bass kicks back in with 7/4.

    1. diptherio

      I’m literally sitting here counting it out and coming to the same conclusion about the 4/4 solo section as I read this.

    2. Thomas Neuburger

      Nice catch.

      I wondered when I listened if the group was maybe unable to improvise in 7/4. Not easy to do if the drummer doesn’t lay down a marking beat.


  3. digi_owl

    It is crazy to watch computers and the net become what is has become using the very tools that was supposed to liberate humanity, encryption.

    All this is enabled by cryptographic signatures embedded into the very chips of every computer. That is then used to check that the software being run is signed by an entity that police that the software behave in certain ways. And is turn used by services online to send instructions to the computer that its supposed “owner” can’t inspect or countermand.

    Bak in the day home copying of audio tapes, though a violation of strict copyright, was ignored by many nations. Because in order to enforce it they would either have to ban all tape recorders, or place a policeman in every home. Now the very devices that do the copying has become such policemen.

    Back in the day STASI surveillance was implemented to protect DDR’s socialism from capitalist undermining. Now an even more expansive surveillance system gets put in place to enforce capitalist profits…

    1. Ignacio

      I have been working until recently as an “external” agent for a company and what a nightmare it was. Entering their virtual machine took every day for about 15 minutes (of my valuable time) dealing with all those signatures you mention apart from those in my own computer. Before concentrating in any task you had to deal with a series of checks and controls and a never ending number of pop-up windows prompting you to this or that new “service” in a Microsoft environment. At least i went walking to the office! What I found disturbing is how sheepishly people fall in this chaos after having dealt equally sheepishly with the traffic jams to their unstable job positions. This all resulted in a very electric atmosphere in which nothing was dealt with the required paucity and multitasking mistakes were routine. At the end of the day it was all about plugging holes or bailing out water.

      1. Terry Flynn

        Thank you. These days cloud-based systems of voice recognition (to make dictation of physician consultations more efficient) have been rejected round here not because they are inherently unsafe (all NHS data goes onto the Internet) but because the system still can’t deal with regional accents even with AI enhanced understanding of Indian/Chinese/whatever docs!

        I predicted this years ago… But I have no influence these days!

    2. Bugs

      Actually, back in the day of cassette copying, the music industry successfully lobbied in many countries for a private copy tax on the sale of every blank cassette. A band called Bow Wow Wow put out a cassette with only one side recorded to protest the tax and allow their fans to freely record music.

      1. digi_owl

        I know, a similar tax is found on other storage media. But even then big media lawyers tries to get torrent sites and similar shut down, and constantly harass ISPs etc to ID users from IP addresses.

  4. zagonostra

    Jobs was also very controlling and went as far as he could in restricting users to a closed environment. This sort of capture and tight linkages to other products and services in your ecosystem is a key element in forcing consumers to accept renting rather than owning what were formerly products like particularly editions of software.

    This reminds me of Orwell’s O’Brien in 1948. Orwell’s antagonist (protagonist?) wanted a restricted socio/political ecosystem as well. The irony of the 1984 Apple’s Macintosh Commercial is rich on so many levels I couldn’t help watching again.

    1. digi_owl

      Becoming the monster/villain indeed.

      Funny thing is that the “big brother” the ad was targeting was IBM, as the “killer app” of the Apple II was Visicalc. Because it allowed corporate accountants to do work without booking time on the mainframe. This to the point that some supposedly brought their personal Apple II to the office.

      Only for IBM to turn around and release the PC XT, that was made from all off the shelf parts sans the BIOS ROM chip. Thus kicking off the PC clone market once Compaq and others had clean room cloned said chip.

      This then kicking off the rise of Microsoft, who provided DOS to IBM via a non-exclusive contract.

  5. Bryan

    Take it a step further. One can link the consumer-centered rentier schemes like the new iPad and shadowbanning/defunding/hiding of Naked Capitalism content by Google and other of the dominant surveillance entities. They’re linked by the underlying imaginary that “they” always already own the world and the rest of us are mere users of the world.

    The rise of the dominant surveillance platforms mirrors the imagination of the entire lifeworld as a bounded domain that the dominant state and corporate actors have imagined themselves to be the permanent managers of (for reasons of security, efficiency, economic health, etc.). So they have set about constructing the legal and technical conditions that realize that imagined reality. Setting the domain permissions this way further entitles Google and the rest to continuously prospect for datafiable information across the digital and IRL world. In fact this becomes a necessity – “they” “need” to do it, because security is tied to economic health, and knowing everything they can is vital to security, and therefore the world and its information, which is everywhere, must be construed as available for capture, analysis and response. In short, the world is a “platform” which requires continuous management.

    It is as if instead of rights that warrant protection, individuals and platform-dependent business entities have mere licenses to navigate the world as the providers of that license see fit. The “license” is analogous to the “end user licensing agreements” platforms extend to individual users of their “services.” It’s EULA-fication.

    So “Life in a landlord’s world” tells a lot of the story, but “Life as a service” is closer to the reality being intended. It’s their world (as a platform) – we just have access to it as long as we’re permitted to.

    1. Camelotkidd

      The investment bankers that are my private ski clients have a saying when I point out the short sightedness of all of this–I’ll be dead, you’ll be dead (IBD-YBD)
      This article is just further confirmation that you can’t run an empire with neoliberalism as the operating system

  6. Tom Pfotzer

    This line from the article has always resonated with me:

    The message: Don’t count on the donor class to fix this mess. They want it this way.

    Please bear in mind that the 99% currently designs, builds, and operates all these feudal systems, while the 1% _owns_ them.

    Why do I emphasize bottom-up new product development? Because:

    a. The same people that design, build and operate these systems could … design, build, operate and _own_ those very same (or even better) production systems. The 99% _could_ capture the benefits of their own productivity … for themselves

    b. Because every year that goes by reduces the 99%’s capacity to build for themselves. The loss of skills, the consumption of savings to pay current bills, etc. is the slippery slope that results in debt peonage

    You might say “no way Fred Flintstone, living in Mom’s basement, is going to design, build and operate an Apple, or an Amazon”.

    That is correct. Here’s some counterpoint to consider:

    Who built Linux? Linux was, and still is, largely a bottom-up collaborative development effort involving … the 99%. Not the 1%. . Linux was heavily utilized at the outset, and even still is heavily used by Google and Amazon. Apple’s OS was derived from Unix (precursor Linux). All those data systems are running … Linux. It was, and still is, a vital industrial component, built in and for the Commons, and it’s still … in the Commons. It’s just one example of a powerful set of tools we can all use.

    Let’s consider manufacturing a physical product, instead of software.

    Most of the software tools big companies use to design and fabricate their products can be downloaded, for free, from the Linux applications library. These tools are quite often nearly as good (and that’s plenty good enough!) as the commercial versions the Big Guys use. That addresses the design aspect of product development.

    Now let’s consider fabrication of the product. The cost of manufacturing, even in small quantities, is dropping rapidly. Little companies are buying computer-aided manufacturing gear, and making it available to anyone that can design a product. You send them a design file, and they manufacture the part(s). It’s fast and cheap; this makes prototyping (trying out designs to see if they really work) very inexpensive, low-risk, and fast.

    The economics of small-scale design and manufacturing are changing very fast. The barriers to entry are falling rapidly; it doesn’t require all that much capital to play. The tools the Big Guys use to develop new products are now available to the little guys.

    Now take a look around your household. How many of the products you use every day are all that complex? Washing machine, refrigerator, microwave, heater and air conditioner. The house itself. Take a look inside someday, and you’ll see … they’re not that complex. Not at all like a smart-phone or the engine in your car.

    Most products _aren’t that complex_.

    Little guys can design and build new products. The little people can form companies – maybe employee-owned companies, to operate new production systems – either to product those products, or operate production systems based on those new products.

    Think about that. Something very different, very desirable is now very possible. The same people that design, build, and operate new products for _them_ … can do it for _themselves_.

    And capture, for ourselves, much more of the benefits of our own productivity.

    We’re _already_ doing the work; we’re just not getting the full benefit of that work, because we don’t own the product, or the systems that create the product.

    What would we need to do differently in order to own more of what we build?

    1. vao

      There is one, not insignificant, aspect that you forget: IPR, and specifically for manufactured products, patents.

      Even simple objects can be encumbered with patents, so if a community wants to build everyday objects in a bottom-up fashion, it will have to be very careful at eschewing patent-burdened designs and solutions, and designing around them (possibly relying upon approaches whose patents have expired).

      Large corporations have a big stash of patents, many, if not most of which they never actually use in practice, but whose main purpose is essentially to crush competitors, especially smaller one that are becoming troublesome, under a pile of infringement claims.

      Just think about it: if it is a reasonably modern one, the system to open/close your window might well be patented — and that is a fairly mundane artifact.

      1. GF

        Does offering the item for free allow for distribution of items that may be patent-burdened designs?

        1. Tom Pfotzer

          I can’t answer your question, and it’s a good one.

          Even worse, I have a related question that I can’t answer, and maybe someone with intellectual property law background can.

          If you show people how to make a patented product by themselves, and the person does make that product for their own use (not for commercial sale) … is that a patent violation?

          1. vao

            It depends on the law applicable in the countries where the patent is in force. Such exceptions are common:

            1) Using a patent for one’s own non-commercial usage.
            2) Using a patent for researching the properties of the patent itself and of its application.
            3) Using a patent for teaching purposes in educational establishments.

            The notion of “own non-commercial usage” is itself a legal concept that can be tricky to respect. Just to give you an example, there are European countries where your own production strictly reserved for your own usage (e.g. agricultural produce) may be considered as a commercial production and incur VAT if its value exceeds a certain amount.

            So: consult a lawyer.

            In any case however, offering a patented object publicly, even for free, constitutes a patent violation. And in many cases, the patent for a process may also apply to the immediate output of that process.

            Yes, IPR is devious stuff; it is not surprising that large corporations like it so much and that free trade agreements spend so many pages dealing with the enforcement of IPR.

            1. Tom Pfotzer


              Thanks again for raising the issue, and your insights. As I said, I hope you’ll weigh in again when next the subject comes up.


      2. Tom Pfotzer


        This is a great point, and thanks for presenting it so well. You’ve ID’d my “first response” move.

        I have a few others in mind. Here’s another: build products that do things other products haven’t attempted yet.

        Here’s an example: products are going to eventually be designed for reclamation. Right now, they’re mostly throw-away.

        The design requirement to build a product that’s easy to reclaim (get the materials back out in some reasonably economic fashion) is going to change the design a lot. That’s gonna bend some engineer’s brains.

        The solution(s) to those sort of problems – the new designs – are likely to be different enough as to obviate/elude many patents.

        The point is to design new products which do fundamentally different things. Like “local”, “reclaim”, “user-repairable”, “forever design – all the parts that break or become obsolete are easily replaceable” … these are product traits that most manufacturers really aren’t interested in doing. They have the GM .vs. Electric Cars syndrome: if I make electric cars, I cannibalize my profitable ICE business. So I drag my feet!”

        The principle is “Be what the competition is unwilling or unable to be”.

        I’m just nicking the edge of the subject, but I am delighted you brought this up. I hope you weigh into the subject discussions.

        1. vao

          The solution(s) to those sort of problems – the new designs – are likely to be different enough as to obviate/elude many patents.

          Not that long ago, many consumer products were actually designed to be repairable and recyclable. About 25-30 years ago, I met an engineer working in one of the major mobile phone manufacturers. His job was precisely to make sure that products could be easily dismantled for reparation and recycling.

          The past 20 years or so have seen products increasingly relying on glueing and soldiering everything — making things exceedingly difficult, or even impossible (“smart” watches, headphones) to repair, and uneconomic to recycle –, stuffing them with unnecessary electronics that generally reduce their life-expectancy with respect to purely mechanical devices, or replacing metallic wear parts with plastic ones (e.g. drums in washing machines).

          Actually, the solutions your are looking for may well lie in designs that are old enough to take into account repairability and reclaimability — and whose corresponding patents have expired, to boot!

  7. Jackiebass63

    Most software isn’t owned by the consumer. You are renting it for a fee. It may be a one time fee or a periodic fee but you don’t own it. If you read the fine print you will see you don’t own it. This has been the case for a long time.

  8. Christopher Smith

    “As much as Steve Jobs was a great designer”

    Nitpicking, but I think Jobs was a great salesperson. The design work was mostly done by others, including Wozniack and Ives.

  9. The Rev Kev

    I’m trying to imagine a future where the corporations get their way. Nearly everybody rents as you have to be either very wealthy or a corporation to actually own land and/or buildings. You can only rent cars and there will be only a small handful of car models to choose from in any case. Same with your furniture. Either your rental is already furnished or else you will have to lease a package of furniture from some corporation. Shared rentals will also be the norm and the apartments are typically very small. Most places will not have a kitchen so order-in is the social norm. You rent your computer and you won’t have copyright to any files that you create unless you have a special license to do so. Moving will be much easier as the typical person may only have personal stuff enough to fit in a suitcase or two. Payments for all these rentals will be friction-less as with the introduction of digital money, the payments are taken from your pay before you even see it. And did I mention the fried bugs special?

  10. David in Friday Harbor

    I experienced the topic under discussion this very weekend.

    Last year I purchased a pair of not inexpensive speakers from a company called Sonos. These speakers work over WiFi and must be connected through an app. While they will work quite well individually, the app had a function that allowed two speakers to play as a “stereo pair” which filled my large living room with sound in the most wonderful way.

    I use the past tense, because this past week Sonos pushed-out a new version of the app that requires the user to reconnect everything to their home WiFi network. The app now went from a 5-star rating to a 1-star rating on the App store because it basically bricks everything. Unlike some users I was able to do a factory re-set and connect the speakers individually to my updated router, but the functionality of the “stereo pair” is lost.

    Of course, I spent an hour on an online chat with a Sonos representative who engaged in the “theater” of walking me through everything that I had already done, since most customers apparently don’t have the gumption to do the factory re-set and to update their routers. I say “theater” because the representative spent the entire chat pretending that the App Store, X, and Reddit weren’t full of people complaining that the problem is that the suits at Sonos had forced the technical folks to release the app in an entirely unstable state because they “needed” to meet some financial target or other.

    I now “own” two pricey Sonos speakers that do not function as intended when purchased. Extrapolate my frustration if my AppleOne subscription bricks and I’ll be heading down to Cupertino to break some windows…

    1. JBird4049

      >>>the problem is that the suits at Sonos had forced the technical folks to release the app in an entirely unstable state because they “needed” to meet some financial target or other.

      In order to meet a likely arbitrary financial target they decided to enrage all their customers while
      also acquiring a reputation for both bad customer service and a unreliable, expensive luxury product?

      This seems a bit foolish. Are they planning to sell the company in the next month or so?

  11. KLG

    The graphing/statistics package I like, both for personal and work use, now costs $230 a year, up from about $100 a few years ago. I have a legacy version on a legacy 27-inch iMac that is not connected to the internet. Back to the future…inconvenient but doable, and on a beautiful, large, high-resolution screen. Maybe not so inconvenient after all.

  12. Albe Vado

    A question about charging stations in China: when it says 2.2 million are public, what does that mean exactly for the other 5 million? Are they in private homes, or are they in businesses and you have to pay to use them? Or a mix of both? Either way, I think it speaks volumes about the strength of the private sector within the framework of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’.

    1. Thomas Neuburger

      I suspect it means privately owned but publicly available. Corporate.

      Can’t confirm, however.


    2. renard

      Either way, I think it speaks volumes about the strength of the private sector within the framework of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’.

      It’s actually not much of a problem if you keep the corporations at bay, at least in terms of political influence. If you maintain the power to tax them – which we in the West lost all along – und if you control the monetary system – which we don’t – you can still handle this in the sense of the common good ‘with socialist characteristics’.

  13. Hickory

    Thomas doesn’t quite nail it. It’s not that “China’s industrial policy enriches the country at the expense of the rich”. It’s that the Chinese rich can get richer, but they have to actually enrich the country while they do it. The US wealthy can get richer without actually enriching the country.

    The rich get richer either way, but one model results in actual production.

    That Ian Welsh piece was hard to read. Obviously the Chinese model is superior in a way, but in another way the Chinese are just as lost as Americans were in the 1950s. Making a more efficient consumer economy with higher industrial output is not the path towards a mutually-respectful relationship with the earth. It’s not the path towards a culture without rich and poor. It’s just a path towards higher industrial output that meets the goals of the industrial planners who control their authoritarian society.

    1. renard

      Yes, they over-urbanised and they over-industrialized, an unfortunate inheritance of a certain concept of socialism as well as of the older capitalist model of consumer-induced industrial growth which it competed.

  14. seabos84

    “rentier” as a phrase is a dud.

    It sounds french or exotic or cool or … IDK.

    I’m 64 & grew up on welfare in a dying industrial town, Holyoke MA. I actually kinda supported some of that neolib crap about the … ha ha ha HA HA HA … “private sector”. I’ve only skimmed 1/2 this article, I really like it. For a few decades, I’ve believed these arguments about us being debt serf$.

    I know I’m even less likely to be invited to the inner sanctum$ of my better$ when I use a phrase such as – ‘lying, thieving, rich pig$’, instead of rentier … it is a cross I’m willing to bear.

    finally – I did NOT say that the concept of rentier is wrong! To ME, It sounds like ‘billionaire’, and who the hell wouldn’t want to be a billionaire!?


  15. Red Mountain

    re: ” … who the hell wouldn’t want to be a billionaire!?”

    Quote from the olden days, when a bottle of cheap wine cost $1.79: “Who needs to be a millionaire when for $1.79 you can feel like one?”

Comments are closed.