Douglas Rushkoff on the Contradictory Numbers of Contemporary Capitalism
In Conversation with Andrew Keen on the Keen On
The coronavirus pandemic is dramatically disrupting not only our daily lives but society itself. This show features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the deeper economic, political, and technological consequences of the pandemic. It’s our new daily podcast trying to make longterm sense out of the chaos of today’s global crisis.
On today’s episode, Douglas Rushkoff, influential author and documentarian, discusses how the current crisis is changing the very structure of life in the United States.
From the episode:
Andrew Keen: There are three numbers on everyone’s mind this morning. There are three million Americans seeking unemployment benefits as a consequence of the Coronavirus crisis. Congress is inching its way towards its two trillion dollar aid bill on the crisis. And while all this is going on, the Dow Jones average that the American stock market is up over 5 percent as we speak. Those three numbers don’t, in my mind, at least add up. I’ve got a guy on today’s show who I think is—I don’t if he’s good at math—but he’s very good at analyzing numbers and the contradictory numbers of contemporary American capitalism. Douglas Rushkoff is a writer, commentator, and critic of American capitalism or at least a contemporary American capitalism. How did those numbers add up in your mind? Three million unemployed, two trillion dollar aid package and the dollar five percent?
Douglas Rushkoff: It all makes sense to me. I mean, not good sense, but a sense. I mean, what’s happening is, most simply, the government printing additional money. It’s not borrowing the money from itself. It’s just going to print two trillion dollars and spill it out as far and wide as it can. But then what will people do with that money? I mean, they’re going to end up spending it at Amazon on general foods, you know? Oh, it’s going to go back up into the same places. So once there’s more money in the system, cash or the dollar is really no longer the thing that’s in short supply.
What will be in short supply are the securities to invest in it. You know, General Electric and and Amazon and Google are not going to be issuing more shares to solve the current problem. If anything, they’re buying back their own shares. So all this money will need somewhere to go once it trickles back up into the coffers of the wealthy. And what are they going to do with it is put it in shares. So when more money is printed, especially money that we know is going to to moveup the system back to the same people who have most of the money, we know that then their securities will have to go up in value.
Andrew Keen: So are you saying it’s a scam?
Douglas Rushkoff: It’s not a scam now, but it’s the way to keep the economy going, and the economy is already a scam. You know, what it’s doing is exposing the underlying inequality in the core operating system of a modern economy. This is a 500 year old Ponzi scheme, a kind of a pump and dump that’s been working.
Named one of the “world’s ten most influential intellectuals” by MIT, Douglas Rushkoff is an author and documentarian who studies human autonomy in a digital age. His twenty books include Team Human, based on his podcast, as well as the bestsellers Present Shock, Throwing Rocks and the Google Bus, Program or Be Programmed, Life Inc, and Media Virus. He also made the PBS Frontline documentaries Generation Like, The Persuaders, and Merchants of Cool. His book Coercion won the Marshall McLuhan Award, and the Media Ecology Association honored him with the first Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity.