Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Sarah O'Connor examines how the future of work may echo past practices - including a misleading picture of wages for gig work which is assumed to be more stable than is actually the case. And Astra Taylor discusses how socialism is growing in popular appeal in response to the inequality which has festered under neoliberal capitalism:
(T)he growing popularity of socialism may spring at least in part from the longer-term failures of this negative-branding campaign: Tell enough people struggling to make ends meet that socialism will allow them to consult a doctor without fear of bankruptcy, and perhaps to enjoy a restorative paid vacation now and then, and some are bound to think it sounds like a pretty good idea. That was definitely the gist of a well-traveled social media meme this winter that featured a Fox News segment on Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and the other left-aligned lawmakers sworn in to the 116th Congress; it counterposed sweetly smiling headshots of the alleged socialist insurgents alongside bullet-pointed policy goals, such as free college and Medicare for All, that actually poll quite well in American opinion surveys. The graphic made socialism seem not only appealing, but also au courant, thus inadvertently chipping away at decades of carefully crafted propaganda.

(R)esearch shows that many Americans who receive direct federal benefits, including Medicare and Social Security, wrongly report that they have never received government aid—perhaps because these are services they feel they have paid for, like any other product. The challenge for socialists, then, involves bringing what the political scientist Suzanne Mettler has called the “submerged state” above ground and into the light in order to identify and expand its benefits and beneficiaries, democratize its mechanisms, and decommodify more and more areas of life.

Decommodification is a key element of this process—“There should be no profit motive connected to things that human beings cannot survive without,” as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor put it when we spoke—and not as radical a move as it may seem. Placing things beyond the market purview is hardly an untested or utopian concept. Public schools, for example, are based on the conviction that education is something everyone is entitled to, regardless of their ability to pay. Countries with universal health care have come to a similar determination about medicine, deciding potentially lifesaving medical treatments should not be limited to those who are wealthy enough to afford them. Every minute of every day, we use infrastructure and access information, from public roads to weather forecasts, that are universal and free. This is why democratic socialists are right to focus, for the time being, on proposals like Medicare for All and free college.

But the question at the center of socialism, Taylor continued, is not what services the state should provide—such as whether or not public housing should be more widely available, or whether there should be a jobs guarantee or a basic income or both—but rather who owns the state. “For me, socialism is about the collective control of society by the majority of people,” she says. “Right now, the majority of people, the people who create society’s wealth, never get asked questions about how society should be run.”
- And if we needed any further reminders as to how power is being used primarily to entrench inequality, Jen St. Denis reports on the federal government's lack of action in response to money laundering in Canada. Alex Hemingway rightly questions the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority's eagerness to introduce corporate control into the health care system. And Sharon Riley exposes how Alberta may soon be automating the licensing process for oil and gas wells, ensuring that no human being evaluates the safety and environmental concerns raised by their use.

- Meanwhile, Don Pittis offers a reminder that clean energy already offers more opportunity for workers than dirty fossil fuels - and this before any level of government has planned out a meaningful transition from the latter to the former.

- Finally, Michael Harris writes that we should neither put up with Justin Trudeau's contempt for social and environmental justice, nor buy for a second the view that Andrew Scheer is an acceptable (or the only) alternative.

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