Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Incredible Economic Costs of Political Censorship


"How'd You Land Her???"

Allow me to explain to you a not-too-uncommon scenario from my youth.

I would walk into a bar, a night club or a dance hall with a girl on my arm that was way, way, WAY out of my league.  While most onlookers would dismiss it as an escort, my friends knew I legitimately landed these dates and would shake their heads and say, "I don't know how he does it."  Sure enough, be it at the bar or later on that week, my friends would ask, "How the hell did you pull off that one?  You're a 5'9" putz, she's a 5'11" goddess.  What in the honest to fuck god's name are you doing???"

And I would tell them the truth.

One, that I was a ballroom dance instructor which allowed me to punch way above my weight.  My personality, looks, or charm had nothing to do with it.  These women were using me to look good on the dance floor and garner attention, not because of anything to do with me personally.

Two - and more importantly - they didn't see the 10 girls before that shot me down, stood me up, or got vomitously drunk on the first date that I had to wade through like waist-high sewage to get this one presentable one to the dance floor.  Like everything it was FAILURE that was the key to success, and all these people saw was the finished product.  Not cleaning out my other date's vomit from my car the previous night.

But just like my friends never saw all the underlying work that went into landing a very attractive date, the same can be said of economic production.  For while we all like to see the shinny new car, the freshly prepared meal, or something as simple as a newly minted book, the amount of pain, agony, toil, headache, bribery, not to mention simple production costs that goes into producing ALL of our economic production is rarely seen or considered.

Dark Matter Economics

I like to call this "Dark Matter Economics" because most of economics is what you DO NOT SEE.   And approaching economics from this "unseen" angle I've been able to explain cryptocurrency, higher tuition prices, higher rent prices, stagnant wages, etc. etc., to non-economic minded people. 

For example, most laymen think the solution to higher tuition is "more money."  The simpleton logic being "more money would make college affordable to more people" which is the exact same logic we use when treating poverty (which if you didn't know BTW, has not been solved).  However, when you change their perspective from one of economics to physics or even simple math, they finally understand that giving students more money is not the solution to, but the cause of higher tuition.  That flooding a market with $500 BILLION a year in loans, scholarships, and parental money only results in more money chasing the same amount of college degrees, driving up tuition.  And instead of demanding billions of dollars more, we should ironically, cut off ALL student scholarships, loans, or financial support and starve the education industry of tuition money. (but that would seem "mean" and so we don't do that...we'll just instead continue to cripple future generations with unnecessary student loans as that seems "compassionate.")

Regardless, the point is that what most people see as economics is the shinny, polished, politically correct final product that they want to see.  And RARELY if EVER do they look under the hood at the ugly underside of the economy to see how this economic engine runs.  As long as the car keeps running, as long as the Titanic keeps floating, your average normie-conformie-inferior doesn't care if their iPhone789XDi-4 destroys the environment, as long as they get their shinny doodad.

But just like the cocktail-sipping elitists on the rapidly-sinking Titanic, there is a cost to such ignorance.

The Shining Beacon of the 2020 Economy

There is not a lot of good that can be said of 2020.  But for all of its drawbacks there is one tremendous silver lining - the content creator economy.

Right now the fastest growing part of the economy is content creation.  Be you a webcam girl, a blogger, a makeup vlogger, an author, or an internet political pundit, as more and more of the economy is automated (or outsourced) a higher percent of our economic production and consumption is online content creation.  Pandemics and riots aside, this is a huge testament as to just how advanced and how far our economy has come where increasing numbers of people today CAN MAKE A LIVING simply talking to one another online by being socialites, philosophers, artists or....girls with big bazooms.  It's a realization of what has been humanity's economic dream come true where we no longer labor or toil, but merely socialize (vitriolic as it can sometimes be on the internet), and from the convenience of our homes no less.  But whereas in the olden days (and by "olden days" I mean 15 years ago) the internet was the wild wild west where everyone could say or do anything, the modern day Big Tech oligopoly that runs the internet has put an end to that today. 

This isn't to say the guardians of the internet do not allow a lot of stuff to go on the internet.  You can find a whole host of things online that would otherwise be considered in poor taste by society.  Everything from webcam girls selling urine online, to leftists' plans to get people doxxed/fired, to the digital-grocery-store-check-out-line-tabloid filth that is Yahoo "News."  It's that they made the damning decision to start regulating content online, period, which has opened a pandora's box for all of us.  A pandora's box that has (and will continue) to cost us billions, more likely, trillions in lost economic production.

"How Can We All Communally Waste Our Time Today?"

For example "in the olden days" if I wanted to monetize a video on my YouTube channel I simply clicked on "monetize."  There was no approval process.  No "content editor" going over my video.  Not even an algorithm that would give it the once over.  It was just "monetized" and whatever advertisements ran on it, ran on it.  But without regulation or content editing advertisers soon found out that their ads were potentially running on pro-nazi videos, porn videos, just outright stupid videos, and worst of all....conservative republican videos

At this point, YouTube, advertisers, and the online community at large should have had an adult conversation about how society at large was mature enough to know that if an advertisement for "Crest toothpaste" was found running on a video that advocated abortion, that did NOT mean Crest endorsed abortion.  This was a relatively new technology and that the overhead costs to edit, filter, censor, and discriminate ads would have foisted undue costs on YouTube.  Plus, in trying to regulate speech, YouTube would enter a political morass that would consume incredible resources, arguably making its long-term profitability an impossibility.  There were simpler solutions, such as a rating system or a selection system where advertisers could choose/not choose to run ads on "Rated R" channels or "Rated C" channels ("C" is for "conservative", which today is worse than "X"), which would NOT require a human being or expensively-programmed algorithm.  But despite this, YouTube decided to go the incredibly expensive and political route by employing censors (euphemistically called "content editors") to look for wrong-speech, wrong think, and politically-incorrect messages.

The result? 

Out of my average 20 minute video, if I want it monetized I have to spend about 3 extra minutes going through the process to have it not only monetized, but reviewed.  That's a 15% production loss that could otherwise been spent on additional economic production, additional wealth creation, and the commensurate additional 15% in tax revenue that would go to society.  Spread this across the hundreds of millions of content-creators and we're talking serious macro-economic figures.

Yet, this says nothing of the HORRIFIC financial costs YouTube foisted on itself in now having to employ some poor, unlucky soul that has to manually review my otherwise-painful videos.  Figures are not available for YouTube, but Facebook went on a censor hiring binge a couple years back where an estimated third of its labor force was now "content editors" (I tried to find the original article which I could not, so you're going to have to trust me on this one).  If a third of Big Tech's labor force is editing content, that is tens of billions of dollars per year that could have gone to something else.  10's of billions of dollars in lost economic production.  All of which could have been saved with something as simple as a COSTLESS rating system or a COSTLESS policy statement that "Big Tech is not responsible for what is on its platform."

Then there are the secondary actions of the content creators themselves.  If they've found out Big Tech's censors are unfairly discriminating against them, they may be prone to file lawsuits.  And lawsuits are like the black hole of economic production because nothing good comes of them.

Dennis Prager's suit against YouTube.
Owen' Benjamin's suit against Patreon.
And employees' suits against Big Tech for having a political bias.

It's impossible to add up the total explicit economic costs of these suits, as well as the opportunity costs had these resources been invested elsewhere, but you now have four parties/institutions being tied up, wasting resources that could have otherwise been spent improving society and making us richer.

The plantiffs themselves must spend time and money on the suit.
The battery of lawyers could have spent their time helping entrepreneurs start new businesses or patenting new technologies that would have gone on to further employ people...now they're suing/defending Big Tech.
The defendants themselves I'm sure had better use for the time and money that they now need to defend themselves.
And the judicial system (ie-the taxpayer) has to pay for a judge and a courthouse to hear these unnecessary suits.

Had Big Tech not opened up this can of political worms, all these resources could have been invested instead of pissed away.

But lawsuits against multi-billion dollar corporations make the headlines.  As an economist, I'm also incredibly interested at the micro-economic level where each of the trillions of daily decisions are made by billions of people that - no matter how small - cumulatively add up to our entire economic production. 

I call this "grains of sand in my engine" because every day I can see how one, minor delay or infraction against my production can throw me off and exponentially snowball into much large economic costs.  The lady driving slow in the left lane makes it so I don't make the yellow light.  Missing that light makes me drive faster to get to my appointment.  Driving faster gets me a ticket.  Getting the ticket means I miss my flight.  Missing my flight costs me $200 to get a new one.  Perhaps these delays in real life are not so dramatic, but you get the point.  (I'm sure many of you who are *trying* to work from home are acutely aware of how your wife's presence and petty questions have at least cost you 20% of your total economic production).  Regardless, the point is belaboring each individual within an economy taxes/lowers their economic production and as a whole our macro/national economy takes a hit.

So what is politics but a dump truck full of sand being poured into the US economic engine?

Here this is not so much Big Tech as it is every company that has decided to pursue a marketing strategy of "CSR" and corporate virtue signalling.  The explicit financial outlays corporations have made to "celebrate diversity" or "celebrate Gay Pride month" or hire something as wasteful as a "Diversity and Inclusion VP" (who then turn around and sue you, ha ha ha!) is a profligate waste of money.  Nike's sanctimonious hiring of Colin Kapernic did nothing to prevent its stores from getting looted, contributing to it's $700 loss this last quarter.  Target's disgusting virtue signaling pandering (as well as its policy to donate 5% of pretax profits to the community) did nothing to prevent its stores from getting torched.  And I'd like to know how Proctor and Gamble's man-hating Gillette ad worked out for Gillette sales (ps - it didn't).

But real cost to the US economy comes at the micro-economic level.  Specifically, "diversity/sensitivity/sexual-harassment/CSR/otherwise-political" meetings.

Why an accountant has to sit through a meeting of any political flavor is beyond any sane, rational person's guess.

Why you're forcing your entire labor force into an "environmentalism" meeting to "save the planet" can only be a statement to your political-radicalism and not your ability to be a manager.

And why you shut down the presses, so you can have some huckster in the form of a "diversity consultant" insult your entire staff by falsely accusing the of rac/sexism, means you're just a grade a political prick who really wants to destroy employee morale. 

With employers replacing merit with traits, they not only piss off their largely un-bigotted labor force, they also heavily disincentivize people to perform their best.  And as they promote people based on the color of their skin and not their content of character, there is a huge talent loss to the corporate sector of the economy.  So when you tally up the costs of:

The explicit financial costs expended on political virtue signaling
Lost economic production do to unnecessary meetings
The demoralization of your employees accusing them of being rac/sexist
The loss of loyalty from your employees
The lower economic production
The exodus of your best talent to competitors or self employment

The total economic costs to society are easily in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

But this is just one example of political grains of sand getting in everybody's engine.  The (largely) leftist political zeitgeist is everywhere in the US. 

I've spent about a week's worth of labor going through THREE different merch sites because Cafepress wont' allow "guns" on their products, Redbubble won't allow anything Corona-related, and Zazzle is just a nightmare of an interface to use. 

A buddy of mine I know uses his wife's SS number as a shell company to get government contracts because "vagina > dick."

Nearly every college student has to waste 2 years and $40,000 taking unnecessary leftist-liberal arts prereqs to get degrees that has nothing to do with them.

And how many death by a thousand cuts do you think these debatably-valid mask mandates are costing society both in terms of micro-economic costs as well as mental illness?

These daily micro-transactions/costs add up, slowing economic production as we waste time jumping over these unnecessary hurdles, all because corporations (among other institutions) insist on politics and political censorship.

And then finally, switching costs.

Though, not major, if corporate politics gets too insulting, people will leave.  This was the case where nearly every corporation converged and universally took a knee, and sent out some kind of lecturing "letter from the CEO" essentially accusing their entire customer base of being rac/sexist.  The taste left in customers' mouths when corporations go political is not pleasant to any one.  But being accused of being "toxic," "racist," "sexist," or plain simple "evil" is not acceptable at all.  And so now many people want to leave certain corporate brands and find new ones.

In the case of Gillette razors, this is simple.  You simply don't buy Gillette or any Proctor and Gamble product.  But what about cell phone providers?  Retirement brokerages?  Banks?  Or anything more infrastructural to your life?

Now we once again have a triple cost of labor.

The customer has to go and research and find a company that isn't a marxist, insulting, sanctimonious, virtue-signaling slime bucket (which is harder than you think as all corporations have jumped on the virtue signaling bandwagon).

The customer also has to change and update all their credit card numbers/billing addresses/EIN/etc. etc. (I got to have this fun experience when I was switching from Patreon to Subscribestar).

The company losing the customer now has to spend resources on closing the account, but not first without having the uneviable customer service rep waste resources trying to plead with you to stay.

Then the company acquiring the new customer has to spend resources setting up your new account.  Happy as they may be to take your apolitical business, they still need to spend resources setting it up.

If corporations had just shut the f up about politics in the first place, following the golden rule of you don't talk politics or religion, they could have kept their clients, saved their money, and people would have been happy with the good product at a fair price they were selling.  But no, corporations had to get woke, they had to introduce politics, and now we all get to spend our afternoons changing usernames and passwords...which, if you didn't know, doesn't improve the economy or society.

The Bi-Polar Girlfriend Who Constantly Changes Her Mind

In the end there is no way to tally what the costs of politics, political censorship, and corporate virtue signaling is.  As an economist I would put the back-of-napkin calculations at easily half a trillion in explicit financial costs, but (more importantly) easily two trillion in lost potential economic production.  And this says nothing of the ancillary mental and psychological costs of stress, frustration, anger, even suicide/depression people suffer (least of all, those unfortunate souls who have to sift through all the horrific content being uploaded to Big Tech platforms).  But whatever the number, it is a steep price to pay to either pander to advertisers' political sensibilities, pander to society's preferred politics, or to pander to the political pet-projects of the now-Gen X managerial class who truly believe "diversity" is a marketing strategy.

But for whatever reason Big Tech (and to a larger extent, Corporate America) has decided to commit to politics, that decision forces a difficult situation on the rest of society who maybe just wants a cup of Joe from starbucks and not a "conversation about race."

Can content creators - the real engine of the fastest growing segment of the US economy today - create what they want?  Can they spend the majority of their time creating art and content that makes people happy?  Or do they have to spend half their time in political compliance, making sure the censors are happy, and by necessity lessening the content they truly wished to create?

Additionally, can normal individuals pursue a career absent of politics?  Can I become an engineer?  Can Amy become a doctor?  Can Frank become an accountant?  Or will they have to be a leftist first, and then a professional second?  Perhaps we could ask Brendan Eich.

And if we do go work for a corporation (or any employer for that matter) will we be allowed to work in peace?  Or will the corporate culture be so toxic we will be forced to sit through mindless meetings about race, diversity, sexism, etc. etc., as if the real business meetings weren't painful enough?  Furthermore, will those meetings not just waste our time, but insult us?  Accusing us of sins nobody ever committed?  Accusing us of things we aren't?

And most importantly, how often and quickly will the political zeitgeist change?  Will merely attending a CSR meeting on training day suffice?  Or will we be expected to participate in a pride parade on our weekend?  Donate money to political causes?  Hand over our usernames and passwords to our social media accounts so Komandant Karen in HR can make sure we are thinking correctly in our private lives? (oh wait, that day is already here).

The problem this presents is that no matter how necessary employers are (Big Tech or not), in not only introducing politics to their culture, but mandating employees, customers, clients, and users conform to those politics, they've made themselves very much like a bi-polar girlfriend; somebody impossible to date and somebody impossible to deal with.  They constantly change their minds.  Accuse you of things you didn't do.  Will call the cops on you to falsely accuse you of something.  And try to ruin your reputation in public.  But like all bi-polar girlfriends, there is only one way to deal with them.  You don't.  You find another girlfriend.

Of course with all corporations acting as a monolithic monopoly all going woke and all forcing leftist politics onto the population, the population really doesn't have a choice at this time. But just like dating, other girls will come around and new companies will form, hopefully without the mental illness of political-bi-polarism.  And when that happens, these corporations-cum-political-censors will be dethroned just like myspace.  It may not happen today or tomorrow.  But as Corporate America's politics becomes increasingly leftist AND censory AND fascist, it will pass a point of tolerability, and people will simply do without, simply because it's impossible to do with.  And though I am amazed as to just how far normie-confirmie people will let corporations shove politics up their ass, there will come a point they will not tolerate it anymore, and that's when a real recession will hit.  When people don't show up for work, people go on strike, people no longer apply to the "enviable" "Fortune 500," nobody wants to work in Silicon Valley, and the true sign of a harbinger of economic collapse:

White women stop shopping at-a-then insuffrably-woke, virtue-signaling Target

But until that time, there is only one thing to do.  And that is enjoy your life and Enjoy the Decline.
_______________________

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(which I formerly had at Patreon until Patreon told
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creators and not others which actually IS the definition of racism)

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2 comments:

SM777 said...

I believe that conservatives should sue the sh*t out of Big Tech. If for no other reason, then just to keep in practice. It's amazing how well they can ballroom dance when it becomes clear their pocketbooks are target #1.

So, yes something good does come out of lawsuits if you look at it a certain way.

Also, this is an excellent and extremely true article.

sassed1 2many said...

I can't believe no one commented on this excellent post. This reminded me of Sanity is the Future of Wealth. That was a good read.

Cappy, should I wear boxers or briefs?

Watching the world operating in upside down mode, not sure I have any sanity left.

My girlfriend Gertrude just turned 59 and a half and told me she wants to have kids someday, and is ready to get serious about retirment.