Carl Remick wrote:
> >From: "Carl Remick" <carlremick at hotmail.com>
> >Subject: NYT's wedding announcements
> [Mega-oops! That last e-mail was supposed to go to my wife, not the list.
> Yes, the NYT's social section is sillier than ever, but that's too trivial a
> subject to broach here. The following -- from the current NY Press -- is
> ludicrous also in many respects, but it's a real treat to see a
> right-winger's agony over capitalism behaving the way capitalism always
> Brave New Economy
> By Peter Eavis
> What to do when a good friend, whom you've often defended against unfair
> attacks, starts behaving very badly and playing host to your former enemies?
> Sadly, that's the question conservatives should be asking about capitalism
> as it gets subsumed into the New Economy.
> The New Economy is the name given to the young industries and
> technologiesmost obviously the Internetthat have captured the minds of
> entrepreneurs, fueled dizzying rises in stock markets and now promise a
> clean, shiny prosperity for all. But look at who's behind the New Economy
> and what it stands for. It's a disturbing exercise, because it's largely the
> work of scam-smitten speculators, Third Way politicians and Brave-New-World
> First, the speculation. The boom in tech stocks is around five years old,
> and most people have learned to roll their eyes with mild disapproval at the
> soaring share prices of dot-com companies. Like me, they stopped making
> heartfelt protests about the bubble long ago because it sounds Scrooge-like
> at a time when the Dow brings Christmas every week. Yet what was once a rich
> man's mania has become an epidemic. Trading volumes are smashing records as
> everyone piles into the market, chasing an ever-decreasing number of stocks.
> Last year, the gain in the S&P 500 index, which tracks the prices of 500
> stocks, could be accounted for by a mere 31 companies. Margin debtthe money
> investors borrow to buy stockshas leapt roughly 50 percent in the past six
> months. These are truly 1929-type numbers.
> It's not just America going mad. The market value of Nokia, Finland's mobile
> phone maker, is now $265 billion, nearly twice the size of the country's
> entire economy. And Hong Kong police earlier this month had to restrain
> crowds signing up for Internet flotations.
> Capitalism often goes crazy and markets periodically swoon. But the New
> Economy is more than just another incidence of speculative excess; it's
> doing lasting damage by distorting the traditional values of capitalism and
> replacing them with socialist oneslike a blanket disregard for
> profitability and an obsession with Growth Rates that is reminiscent of the
> Five Year Plans. Barron's in March published a survey showing that 51 public
> Internet companies could easily run out of cash in the next 12 months.
> That's a burn rate to shame any socialist government. In fact, the New
> Entrepreneurs have much in common with what Yugoslav dissident Milovan
> Djilas once dubbed the New Class, the communist apparatchiks who took over
> in Eastern Europe after the war: "The new class is voracious and insatiable,
> just as the bourgeoisie was. But it does not have the virtues of frugality
> and economy that the bourgeoisie had." Indeed, some tech companies are run
> with the flippancy of a frat house. Last summer, for instance, the chief
> executive of software seller Beyond.com appeared on tv just in his boxer
> shorts to promote his ailing company.
> The New Economy has also become a magnet to lefty politicians. One reason is
> that it's a huge source of funds. Two high-tech companies that made large
> donations to the Democrats have benefited hugely from favorable regulatory
> decisions backed by the Clinton-Gore administration, the Boston Globe
> recently reported. For her ludicrous Senate bid, Hillary Clinton received
> donations from the bosses of two women-focused websites, Oxygen.com, which
> promotes voluble new-age chat show host Oprah Winfrey, and iVillage, which
> is making huge losses trying to build an "online community" for chicks.
> With the wiliness of a tech entrepreneur, Tony Blair is using the New
> Economy as an excuse to launch more of his intrusive and unnecessary
> policies. "Helping people in the New Economy, managing change for them, is
> not about protection, but empowerment," he droned in Davos in January. And
> whereas pink politicians used to simply throw money at problems, they now
> throw technology, something that surely makes computer companies, eyeing
> large government orders, very happy. Even America's famously dysfunctional
> education system can be cured by the New Economy, according to Clinton and
> Gore, who strongly back initiatives to get more computers in schools. But
> David Gelernter, the celebrated Yale computer scientist who was nearly
> killed by a Unabomber parcel bomb, had this to say about that approach:
> "Children are not being taught to read, write, know arithmetic and history.
> In those circumstances, to bring a glitzy toy into the classroom seems to me
> to be a disaster."
> But most worrying of all, the New Economy has enabled frightening scientific
> advances that will make Luddites of us all. Indeed, they've made a very
> persuasive Luddite out of one of the brightest pioneers of the New Economy,
> Bill Joy, chief scientist of Sun Microsystems, a genuinely successful tech
> firm. With the passion of a Saul-turned-Paul, Joy recently wrote an essay
> for Wired that rails against innovations that "are being developed almost
> exclusively by corporate enterprises" in an age of "triumphant
> commercialism," his terms for the New Economy.
> Joy's fears center on genetics, nanotechnology (in which objects are created
> through the manipulation of molecules and atoms) and robotics. In as little
> as 30 years, these sciences could be helping us live to 120. Think that's
> freaky? Well, Joy also says that genetics, if allowed to progress along
> current lines, could spawn a super-race. And reengineering plant life may
> even create an inedible, omnipotent weed that could choke out other life on
> the planet. Yes, I know this sounds utterly outlandish, but when someone as
> sane as Joy says all this, it's hard to write it off.
> Now, this Silicon Valley figure who has lived on the cutting edge for many
> years is making a very conservative-sounding clarion call: "The only
> realistic alternative is relinquishment: to limit the development of the
> technologies that are too dangerous, by limiting our pursuit of certain
> kinds of knowledge." He's onto something: It's time to unplug the New
> Economywhile we still can.
> Peter Eavis is a reporter for TheStreet.com.
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