Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pod People

From someone I know:

I heard this on the radio this morning, and found this from January. City letting homeless people live in their cars in designated areas. No more living like a hunted animal, hiding from the cops.

This is very generous of the cops, although it's perhaps inevitable -- when that many people are driven into the street, you are pretty much forced to recognize the problem.

But this is still a subsidy. Somehow, someone has to figure out a way to extract wealth from these people. These are people who are so marginal that they can't pay for housing (although housing is pretty expensive). There has to be a medium between extracting $500 a month from someone for a full-fledged apartment, and letting them live for free. How about a big parking lot, with ultra-low maintenance concrete showers and latrines, charge people $3 per day?

Indeed, as market efficiencies expand and people are increasingly forced into pods, this could give rise to "high-end" parking lots, with some trees and decent facilities, where mid-level people can park their living pods.

More thoughts on the inevitable decline:
  • In the mid-century and postwar era, one could earn a good living from labor. This was due to sheer abundance of resources and opportunities, ie: a "boom-town" environment;
  • Technology, efficiency and free trade have turned labor into a cheap superfluous commodity;
  • When people are desperate enough they revolt. But the requirements to keep people passive are relatively few, and can be made cheaply (TV, shiny vehicle, salty fatty food).
  • Will commodity prices, technology and efficiency, and profit motivations produce a world where people are living in pods, eating meals of starch and fat out of drive through windows, and staring at celebrity gossip on little glass screens? And not able to afford anything else?
  • The current system where voters can "change the government" is good in principle. In reality, the government is entrenched and designed for continuity and expansion, not change and responsiveness. Thus, while voters can still register their discontent about the size of their pod or the starch content of their diet, those votes will only be met with rhetoric, viewed on the TV screens. We can't expect the underlying trends to change.
  • Cost of health care will remain prohibitive. Good thing is, when people get sick, they are price-insensitive, and you can extract their last dime out of them. And often they die so they're not around to provoke outrage, people just forget about them.
  • Is this really better than having a population of healthy, educated, confident people? I guess the theory is that a small minority of healthy educated confident people is adequate, they can run things and extract profit from the rest of the population, who are basically reduced to slaves. Lets all hope that our kids get a lucky draw.

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