- Capitalism and Alternatives -

'Effective' demand and internet anecdotes

Posted by: Barry Stoller on October 11, 1999 at 12:33:15:

I'm sure all the neoliberals and libertarians who frequent this debate board were pleased as punch with this Sunday's New York Times Magazine cover story about on Jim Clark, paragon of entrepreneurial acumen.

Yes, folks, it's yet another one of those rags-to-riches business stories that our American media spits out like so many Big Mac wrappers flapping across the American interstate highways:

On the face of it, Jim Clark seemed poorly designed to pursue the new new thing [that's no typo, just the latest fatuity dreamed up by NYT editors to describe the 'technology revolution']. He grew up poor in Plainview, Tex., where poor meant poor. He'd been an indifferent student and a cutup---one of those great bad examples to youth who proved that if you really want to be a success in American life, you have to start by offending your elders.(1)

Oh yes, true believers, it's all there. The occult intellectual virtuosity that required no effort or training whatsoever, his steely determination to change his life, his uncanny entrepreneurial vision, his Gary Cooper independence, and, of course, with the sunset he rides off into, his billions and billions of greenbacks as recompense. This story is as old as the hills.


---But what about all the other anecdotes? You know, the other some 200 million Americans, most of whom drudge entire lives through jobs that are a static horror of ingemination, that pay barely enough to feed their children and satisfy their many creditors? What about those vast masses? Where are their stories?

We hear a lot of anecdotes on this board. Frenchy's are even more heart-rending than Stuart's.

We don't hear too many anecdotes about crushed attempts to escape debt, ill-placed confidence in employer's promises to promote and reward diligent work, life savings instantly erased by a life-threatening illness uncovered by health insurance, and the simple fact that only a fraction of work presently requires---or pays for---any brains whatsoever (no matter how much education you buy). No, we don't hear too many of those anecdotes here.

And you know why?

Only 22% of Americans have internet access at this time.(2) That's because computers are expensive. Those anecdotes about institutional poverty, bad breaks, and simple shortage of decent jobs are not heard here---not because they aren't out there in enormous numbers, but because they are not able to break through the computer-cost barrier to get heard.

Which brings me to Gee's idiotic expression 'effective demand.'

'Effective' demand seems to somehow belittle or negate ineffective demand. If you have, say, cancer and cannot afford a bone-marrow transplant, the market decrees that your affliction lacks effectiveness in demanding health care. Feel any better now?

'Effective' demand likewise censors anecdotes from this debate board. It edits them right out. This whole debate about wealth and poverty on the internet effectively muzzles those who are best qualified to talk about poverty.

Let us keep that mind, ladies and gents!

And now, another amazing American business success story to pacify the savages...


1. Lewis, 'The Search Engine,' New York Times Magazine, 10 October 1999, p. 78.
2. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1998, table 916, p. 573.

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