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We're Living in a Boiling Frog Economy
We need to jump out right now
Writing nerds will be happy to know that it’s not actually a boiling frog analogy — it’s technically an apologue, and it goes something like this:
Once upon a time, there was a frog. A horrible human (statistically speaking, a six-year-old boy raised in, say, New Jersey) threw the frog in a pot of boiling water. The frog immediately jumped out.
So the wicked boy — let’s call him Christopher Christie of Newark — put the frog in a pot of cold water, and slowly raised the temperature until the amphibian hot-potted itself to death.
(Science nerds will be happy to know that one cruel scientist supposedly did, indeed, boil a frog alive, by raising the temperature by 0.002°C per second for a period of 2.5 hours.)
So what is the philosophical point of this particularly well-known apologue?
That humans, roughly speaking, aren’t much smarter than your everyday pond Kermit, and that if a socio-enviro-economic-political environment changes slowly enough, most people will find themselves enduring unfathomable amounts of suffering thanks to creeping normality.
As thousands of astute Surviving Tomorrow readers already know, we are living in a Boiling Frog Economy.
Let’s look at just seven of the ways the Extractor Class is slowly turning up the heat:
Worker output (productivity) has increased more than 250% since 1971, but affordability and worker compensation haven’t risen by half that amount in the past fifty years.
In other words, the reason the globe is now burdened with 2,755 billionaires is that they stole half of all American worker wealth for five straight decades.
And it’s speeding up.
As AI, machine learning, robotics, financialization, and monopolization devour tens of millions of jobs, gigified workers will compete for low wages and poor conditions while billionaires make their $5.5 trillion pandemic gains look like chump change.
Rising prices are caused by many things:
Corporations raising prices (the #1 cause).
Corporate-capture governments printing excess currency.
Corporations creating credit out of thin air.
Corporations monopolizing, colluding, and price-fixing.
Corporations purposefully constricting supply.
Corporations increasing demand and out-bidding consumers for houses, stocks, art, and anything else they value.
You get the point.
Without a revolution, world war, or major economic depression, prices will go up for the rest of our lives and governments will straight-up lie to us about how fast prices are actually going up, constantly manipulating CPI numbers to suit the political narrative.
Corporations are at the beginning of an insidious transition from owning the means of production to also owning the products themselves. Already:
You cannot legally purchase a Netflix original movie or show.
You cannot remote start your Toyota without paying $8/month.
You cannot use Adobe Creative Cloud without paying $40,000 over the course of your career.
These things might seem like mere trifles, but what happens when investment companies suddenly realize they can rent you an IKEA mattress for $99/month on a three-year term? Suddenly, the market “value” of mattresses jumps to $3,600.
It’s why the average house will cost $10+ million in our lifetime.
Next thing you know, you won’t be able to afford to own anything — not even your underwear.
Can you imagine being the person who chopped down the last tree on Easter Island?
What an idiot, we might think.
But that’s what happens when you suffer from landscape amnesia. Which we all do
60,000,000 bison used to roam the plains and make soil for us.
The Great Barrier Reef is no longer great and will be dead within our lifetime.
Cape Cod no longer has cod.
In case you’re wondering what that looks like on a graph, it’s pretty stark:
The reality is that most of us don’t think about water poisoning, deforestation, species collapse, and soil extinction, but as Empires of Food pointed out so well, civilizations that neglect their ecosystem — falling anywhere short of absolute sustainability — inevitably die.
No country on earth has ever tried democracy, but even our so-called “representative” system has been in decline for fifteen straight years thanks to unlimited corporate campaign finance, corporate lobbying, and the well-documented corporate takeover of Congress and the Federal Reserve.
At this point, America has almost certainly reached escape velocity on the corporate usurpation of political power — corporations have already started throwing innocent people in prison.
Privatization and commodification
Now that corporations are solidly in possession of America Inc., it’s simply a matter of privatizing what little remains of the commons, be it public infrastructure or national parks.
Just as the British Conservatives have been waging a decade-long war to privatize the nation’s beloved NHS, American politicians are putting a price tag on everything and selling it off to the highest bidder — including mountains, rivers, lakes; nature itself.
Karl Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the people.”
And he was right — if we understand that faith and religion are different things, and that the vast majority of post-modern society follows the religion of Secularist-Individualism with its rituals of self-worship, celebrity adoration, unlimited accumulation, 24/7 digital distraction, and endless online “theological” wars over politics, identity, and power.
History will look back and ask why the masses allowed their world to fall to the corporatists; It is because they never looked up from their shiny screens.
How frogs live and die
Imagine being thrown overnight into a world where you own nothing, including your own clothes, and rent everything for top dollar on a daily/nightly basis from post-national techno-feudalist monopolies, including overcrowded housing. (It’s the “sharing” economy, remember?) You will work three or more underpaid gig jobs, slaving from sunup to well after sundown just to stay alive, eating bugs and vegan factory-manufactured foods, living much of your lonely life in a digital world because the planet is a hellscape, fighting with complete strangers online, with zero democratic say in how the corporatocracy in which you live operates.
You’d jump out of that pot immediately.
Billions of people already live adjacent to this level of day-to-day desperation, and that’s where the 99% are being pushed by corporations, slowly but surely.
Civilizations typically collapse not with a bang, but with a whimper.
In our case, it will be a low simmer.
But by the time the frogs realize it, we’ll already be fully cooked.
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