Capitalism the Illusion of Choice

Capitalism the Illusion of Choice


Hello, Neo. Who are you? How many people understand the point of this scene? Really understand it? Relax! I’m not gonna make you watch the whole thing. Whether the Watchowskis intended it or not, this scene serves as a perfect critique of captialism. Wait, Rich, don’t you pitch your books
at the end of every video? Aren’t you participating in capitalism? Yes, because the alternative is starvation. A slave can obey his master to avoid
a whipping and still believe that slavery is wrong. Likewise, a man can sell the fruits of his labour
to survive and still believe that capitalism is wrong. The original Matrix frames its narrative around the conflict between authoritarianism and choice. The machines have imposed harsh living conditions on the humans. Morpheus and his group of subversives are fighting to restore humanity’s ability to choose its own destiny. To choose to leave the Matrix and live in the real world. Or to bend the Matrix to their will. The first film heavily implies that all humans can do what Neo does if they just believe hard enough. What sets Neo apart is not some fundamental aspect of his cyber DNA but his ability to understand that the Matrix is his personal playground. I know that you’re afraid. You’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone. And then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Anything is possible if you just believe it. It’s a pretty shallow narrative. Which explains why it was so popular at the turn of the millenium when there was a real hunger to believe that anything was possible if we just put our minds to it. The power of positive thinking and all that. People still cling to this narrative today. Last year, I had a guy trying to tell me that the only thing I had to do to become a NYT best selling author was to believe it would happen to me. Back in the day, when people asked me about the Matrix, I used to tell them, “Love the fight scenes, hate the story.” But then Reloaded came along. And don’t get me wrong; in many ways, Reloaded is a bloated mess of a film. But it offered what is quite honestly the best critique of the message presented in the original Matrix. As I was saying, she stumbled on a solution whereby Nearly 99% of all test subjects accepted the program as long as they were given a choice. Even if they were only aware of the choice at a near unconscious level. Did you catch that? The Architect is saying that the vast majority of people will go along with a corrupt and oppressive system as long as you let them choose it for themselves. But what about those humans who don’t choose to be compliant little batteries in the robot power plant? What about the ones who want out of the Matrix? Well, you let them choose that. And you apply systems of control to limit the damage they can do. Every few generations, you introduce a specific individual who carries a version of the Matrix source code. Thus explaining why he can manipulate the environment in ways no other human can. You build a mythology around this individual, encouraging the other humans to view him as a religious icon. Thus ensuring that the humans are participating in a rebellion that you have controlled from the outset. You give humans a choice. But you limit their options. That way you remain in control. This is what the Architect is telling Neo. And this happens in real life. This is what capitalism does. A few months ago, a friend of mine told me about a conversation he had with his step dad in which the step dad defended the existence of a gender pay gap by claiming that women do less work and therefore deserve less money. Excuse me for a moment. That’ll do it. I’m good now! The step dad’s argument went something like this: “Now, I’ve worked a lot of warehouse jobs, and many of them specifically state in the posting that the applicant must be able to lift 50 pounds. Women apply for these jobs and get these jobs. But they can’t lift 50 pounds. Now, shouldn’t they be paid a little less for not being able to meet the job requirements? My friend is blind and interested in joining the field of Social Work. So I asked him How would you feel if somebody told you that you should be paid less because the agency specified, in the job posting, that you must have your own car so you can visit families who don’t live on bus routes? Of course, he said, “I wouldn’t apply for that job.” Sounds pretty neat and tidy, right? If you apply for a job, knowing that you can’t meet one of the qualifications, then the company is justified in paying you less because you didn’t have to apply for that job. It was your choice. But let’s look at how this plays out in the real world. A likely scenario looks like this: My friend gets his diploma and eagerly heads off to join the work force. He starts perusing job sites, looking for work in his field. After a week of searching, he finds 23 postings. 21 of which specify that he must have his own car. What should he do now? He drastically lowers his odds of finding a job if he only applies for 2 out of 23 positions. All of his friends and family tell him to apply for as many jobs as possible. So he takes that advice. And he applies to every job he sees, knowing that most list at least one qualification he can’t meet. Several weeks go by in which he applies for every job without a single call back. Just when he’s starting to lose hope, the phone rings. It’s the head recruiter at a social work agency. They’re interested in meeting him for an interview. But here’s the catch. It’s one of the postings that specified the requirement of a car Should my friend be paid less because he can’t meet that requirement? Doesn’t the logic of choice go both ways? After all, if the agency hires him, they do so knowing that he can’t drive. At what point did my friend specifically choose a job that required a car over one that did not? For him, there was no option to take a job that did not require a car. It was this or unemployment. And it’s not like our society is particularly kind to people who choose unemployment. If you’re going to suggest that scenarios like this don’t play out in real life, I can assure you that they do. It may not be the same thing every time, but I would say about 90% of the jobs I’ve applied for have listed at least one qualification that I can’t meet. A young woman in the United States works for a company that does not provide health insurance. Yes, they exist She goes searching for a suitable health care plan. But her meager salary of $25 000 a year coupled with the higher cost of housing in her city means that she can only afford premiums of about $200 a month. The only insurance agency offering plans at that rate is well known for its conservative stance on reproductive care. What’s more, the only doctors in their network refuse to prescribe methods of birth control like the IUD. What does this woman do? It’s easy to look at her and say “You didn’t have to choose that health insurance plan.” In fact, this is where the free market advocates would say something stupid “Well, you just can’t afford to have sex.” “Go get yourself a better job.” This, of course, ignores the fact that wages are going down throughout the entire economy. Ahem…Please note that when Rich says that wages are going down, what he really means is that wages are not keeping pace with inflation. And therefore the spending power of the average citizen has diminished. If this woman were living in a country with public healthcare, she could choose her own doctor with no restrictions If one doctor refused to prescribe the birth control she wanted, for whatever reason, she could simply go to another. No questions asked. It should be noted that market forces are often used in this way, as a form of social control. Want to keep women economically dependent on men? Don’t make birth control illegal. Just make it extremely hard to get. Don’t stifle her ability to choose. Just limit her options. One of the arguments in favour of markets is that they’re supposed to provide for individual choice. So, they’re kind of democratic. It’s quite the opposite. Markets radically restrict choice in a very important way. So take…Let’s be concrete. I have to get home tonight. The market does offer me a choice between a Toyota and a Chevrolet. It does *not* offer me a choice between a car and a subway. We see it again and again How many of you have heard this? “Don’t post your political opinions online.” “Potential employers might see them.” Maybe you think that’s perfectly fair. Maybe you don’t. But it is happening. Employers have fired people for political reasons. Let’s take a look at this article from the New York Times. In 2004, Lynne Gobbell was fired from her job for putting a John Kerry bumper sticker on her car. She later went on to work for the Kerry campaign. So…Good for her, I guess. In 2011, Megan Gellar, a waitress at the Outback Steakhouse, was sacked for wearing a bracelet that expressed her support for the Tea Party. Don’t let it be said that this doesn’t happen to right-wingers. And there have been numerous cases of bosses insinuating that their employees will be fired if they vote for the wrong candidate. Let’s look at this article from 2012. David Siegel, the owner of Westgate Resorts, sent a surprising e-mail to his employees. It said that if President Obama wins reelection and raises Siegel’s taxes, he will have to lay off workers and downsize his company. Note, to make this flagrant abuse of power slightly more palatable, Rich will read Siegel’s company-wide e-mail in a sexy New Orleans accent. Again, this is where the Free Market apologists would insist that if you don’t want a boss who tells you how to vote, just get another job. As if it’s really that simple. In 2017, it took unemployed Canadians an average of 19 weeks to find a job. Over 85 000 people were unemployed for 52 consecutive weeks. Did I mention that 40% of Canadians have only one month’s worth of savings? Quitting an awful job to find a better one really isn’t an option for most people. But hey! You could always search for a job while you’re still employed! Assuming you can find the time. And assuming you trust them not to fire you. While we’re on the subject, you might want to be careful. Because pissing off your boss can get you put on an HR black list. Which will be shared with everyone in your industry! I was probably on four or five of these BEFORE I started speaking out against capitalism. Are you starting to get a sense of just how powerful employers are? A corporation is a private tyranny. A corporation, if you look at its structure, is about as close to the totalitarian model as anything that human beings have created. Control is completely from top down. When you make people’s livelihood, their ability access basic necessities, dependent on employment, you create a pretty strong incentive to not speak out aga inst abuses of power. That’s how we ended up with a system where people are working longer hours for less pay in the service of companies that will trash this planet. 99% of all test subjects will accept the program as long as they’re given a choice. Oppress people, try to control them with brute force, and they will rebel. But if you give them a choice, many will accept oppression. Even if they’re not aware of what they’re doing. Give people a choice between limited options, all of which just happen to serve your interests, and they will accept it, thinking it was their idea. This is how capitalism works. 31 flavours of ice cream but only two political parties. When it’s something trivial, you’ll have so many options you might not be able to choose. Third: escalation of expectations. This hit me when I went to replace my jeans. I wear jeans almost all the time. And there was a time when jeans came in only one flavour, and you bought them And they fit like crap. And they were incredibly uncomfortable. And if you wore them long enough, and washed them enough times, they started to feel okay. So, I went to replace my jeans after years of wearing these old ones, and I said, “I want a pair of jeans. Here’s my size.” The shopkeeper said, “Do you want slim fit, easy fit, relaxed fit? Do you want button fly or zipper fly? Do you want stone washed or acid washed? Do you want them distressed? My jaw dropped, and after I recovered, I said, “I want the kind that used to be the only kind.” But when it’s something important like where you live, where you work, or how your medical bills get paid, you’ll find that you have very little choice at all. My choices are my own And yet, how ironic… for I now find I have no choice at all. We need a system that gives people options. And to do that, we need to make sure that all people’s basic needs are met as a guaranteed human right. Hey, hey, it’s Rich This is the part where I ask you to like, subscribe and click the bell of this channel. And if you like science fiction, then you need to read the Justice Keepers Saga. Head over to Amazon.com where you can pick up the first book for just $3.99 That’s all for today! Bye!

19 Comments on "Capitalism the Illusion of Choice"


  1. Wow it's almost as though some things are more complicated to produce than others, limiting variety. Fucking capitalism, why can't I vote for a legalise meth party?

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  2. 15 minutes of disjointed pseudo argument, false dichotomy, and other logical fallacies. Start with Hobbes’ “Leviathan” and understand the state of nature. Work your way through some Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill (or just read Thomas Sowell’s “Basic Economics”). A basic class in logic/critical thinking wouldn’t hurt either… smdh

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  3. Right, so after all this, what we are left with is the conclusion that you have to work in capitalism and sometimes the choice isn't a very good one. The main issues with this critique are as follows, the blatant strawmanning of every person in favour of free market capitalism as just as ridiculous as Stefan Molyneux aside:

    1. Why is it that the dichotomy is this crap? Is it an innate flaw of capitalism or created by some form of government policy? You can't just take this whole thing in isolation, damning capitalism as you go. This also goes for a decent amount of your stats.

    2. You aren't arguing against just libertarians, you are arguing against everyone from social democrats to ancaps, so please consider that the size of the state is not a consistent factor for the people you are arguing against or the societies with the economic system you are arguing against.

    3. Giving employers the right of free association is an issue that you highlight whilst amusingly showing one of the key reasons why it is largely a non-issue in practice, that of media influence and actually that if you create the conditions for a good job market, this is an issue in which employers can compete. The black list can easily be broken if there isn't a monopoly.

    4. One both of the Chomsky bits, the first one seems as if it is cut off early and doesn't really say anything particularly, and the second, corporations are by there nature not totalitarian because you don't have to submit to them should there be choice, which again goes back to my 1st point, which is why does this occur?

    5. If you are dependent on employment, you are not necessarily unable to choose. It depends on the state of the sector within which you reside, even now in an era of fairly large monopolies in certain industries, there are still particularly growth industries that give the worker massive power, such as the computing industry.

    6. As you may have noticed, politics and liberal democracy doesn't really work like capitalism does and isn't total freedom.

    7. Sure thing, we would all love that to occur, but that is up to you and others to create this system without it being shit. I personally feel that whilst what we have is by no means perfect, something worse could always be the next step.

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  4. I have got to say, argumentation is not your strong suit. You can only claim the illusion of choice in these situations you bring forward if you have a very narrow view of the world around you.

    Let's sidestep the video and focus on your main two points:
    1. Your only choices in capitalism are to labor or die (therefore, 2).
    2. Capitalism does not give you any real choice.

    I believe the error in your judgement here is that you're looking at this from a very top-down perspective rather than from bottom-up, so let's look at the human condition in a more individualized way before we relate it to the concept of society, and that before we relate it to society in the current state of affairs.

    Imagine for a second that a person were removed from society, maybe the US or Canada, and placed on an island all by themselves with no means of leaving this place. When they first arrive they see that there's plenty of food around in the form of edible plant life and so they feed themselves and live comfortably for maybe a two or three months before they begin to realize that their food supply is exhaustible and will be depleted unless they do something to increase it. This means the person is left with two choices: labor in some way to ensure food for themselves or starve to death.

    In your framework, or at least the framework you used for this video, this would be considered the illusion of choice. But in this instance, the illusion of choice is due to the fact that you must eat in order to survive and food doesn't come from nowhere. This means that regardless of anything anyone does labor must be used to create food. This is extremely basic of course, and I don't mean to talk down to you, I just mean to look at this from a bottom-up perspective.

    Now let's add in any number of people and make a community that a person happens to live in. Maybe they were born there, maybe they just happened to stumble upon it and settled down, it doesn't really matter. In this instance our person in question has lived in the community for some amount of time and has eaten the food and used the shelter of the community, but has contributed nothing to it themselves. One day this person is brought to a meeting with the other community members and is told that they now need to labor in some way in order to continue being a part of this community. They need to repair houses, tend to the livestock, grow crops, pick crops, etc; it doesn't really matter what they do as long as they're doing something that provides a tangible benefit to the community. In the ultimatum they tell the person that unless they do something along those lines, they will be forced to leave the community and may not receive any food or shelter from the community. Is this the illusion of choice? And if it is, does that make it wrong for this community of people to refuse to have people around who take the fruits of their labor without contributing to the survival of the community?

    In the above situation the people don't exchange any form of currency for their labor, but they all work and do work for the other people in their community and in return they all share the benefits of that labor. A group of denizens farm enough food for the whole community, other denizens do other manual labor for the whole community, and so on and so fourth.

    Despite how it might seem, this is not unlike our current state of affairs except that they do not exchange currency for labor or the fruits of labor. So let's take this example and add in currency. So the people who repair houses do that for money which they then give to the farmers for their crops, which they give to their farm hands for their services, and so on and so fourth.

    There are a bunch of things that need to be done, or can be done that people are willing to give a person currency for that they can then exchange for other goods or services. In this situation, just like the previous situations, you still must labor to receive the currency to get those goods or services.

    Does something about the fact that people prefer to exchange currency rather than goods or services directly make this situation oppressive? Does it create the illusion of choice in any way?

    And if this situation isn't oppressive, how does the current state of affairs differ from this in a way that makes it oppressive?

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  5. TL;DR for my longer comment: Even if capitalism didn't exist you would still only have the options of labor or death because that's the only choice that any living being, human or animal, has.

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  6. I think you make a good point, but I think clarifying your views and openness to different solutions up front would have improved the video. Personally, I was worried that this video was secretly advocating for anarcho-communism, which really dampened my enjoyment of it.

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  7. What a sense of entitlement. If a job required you to have a drivers license then you can find another job. Nobody owes you a job. All these women that are not smart enough to program computers, that think they should be given computer programming jobs because they are women have a sense of entitlement.

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  8. The only thing missing from The Matrix Trilogy is Time Travel (though it does I suppose incorporate mutli-verse elements). I am a bit dissapointed that no-one has picked up the baton of 2017's Terminator Genisys? – afterall, The Matrix Trilogy is getting on for 15 to 20 years old now ("The Wachowski Brothers" are now "The Wachowski Sisters"). Am I being satirical with this comment – maybe? But I am not "The One" or "The Oracle" so I couldn't really say (not that they knew either). No, I aint "Agent Smith" either.

    I dunno? See how this floats your… your?… your source code?: –

    "Choice"?….

    Kyle Reese: A straight line… you just go and you don't look back
    Sarah Connor: Where did you hear that?
    Kyle Reese: In a past I shouldn't remember… but I do

    Well, okay then… Was Terminator Genisys a turd wrapped around a diamond?

    What is "Life"? This comment feels long and unworthy. It was a response to a post "Why is it the T1000 from Terminator 2 can time travel when supposedly only living organisms can time travel in the terminator franchise?". I am not a person who is fascinated by killing machines, or longs to build my own terminator one day. I do though think that the terminator films are deeper than just an excuse to display sophisticated hardware. I am kind of b*llshitting in the following comment but I did explore, in a round-a-bout awkward way, some deep themes (hopefully). Maybe worth a scan through I don't know? –

    I'll try and keep this beyond star trek hair brained theory as short and sweet and coherent as possible 😛 (strap yourself in – I'll also get into the satire of time travel as a deivce as well, seeing as I've also thought about that)

    …I think actually. Despite how awful Terminator Genisys was (I just re-watched it… yeh…), it did actually explain time travel in the terminator universe and how "living" things are able to time travel while "non-living" things are not. Why do I think this? Well, its something I have only thought about in the last 5 minutes in the context of why the T-1000 can time travel if I am honest. But I have been looking into time as a concept quite recently: not that I am an expert or anything, but I have been looking into "entropy", "gravity" and "time".

    I won't go massively into it (as I don't have the expertise anyway) but it relates to the definition of "entropy": that, statistically, the number of possible states in a "closed system" will increase, if it is expanding and having new material added to it all the time (i.e. like the expansion of the universe – as in the "entropy"/"number of possible states" of the universe is always increasing with time). So technically, not strictly a "closed system".

    Lastly, just to relate this to gravity and then I'll calm down: as "gravity" increases – in the extreme case of black holes for example – so to does "entropy"… which kind of makes sense if you think of "possible states" being analogous to "information content", in that the more "mass" you have then the more "material information" you have. (I could bring in mathematics concepts of information but jesus christ already basically… and it is a bit beyond me, but "randomness"/"lack of mathematical patterns" [the sequence of numbers of "pi" for example] is related to the concept of "entropy" – for example an "irrational number" (the sqrt of 2 = 1.4142135623730950488016887242097….) contains more entropy than a "rational number" (like 2). Okay. WTF am I going with this?…

    …Well basically, you can think of "life" as being "irrational" – just to be philosophically existential about it, we could say that life has a concrete meaning, but really it doesn't…. (it is more complicated than 2 + 2 = 4). Really there may be no formula for life at all – which get's into the realm of ethics I guess as any "legal framework" is never going to match the irrational nature of life unless that "legal framework" is itself "alive". Not saying there isn't structure to life….

    …The universe apparently started off with very low entropy at the time of the big bang. When the universe eventually ends some time way off in the distant future it will have a much higher entropy than what exists in our present moment in time: this is a way of measuring time – lower entropy is in the past, and higher entropy is in the future…

    (god I need to finish this comment… why!!!!!!???)… So. In terminator genisys I think they alluded to all the possible states in regards to all the different alternative time streams. I mean for me this is like entropy: there could be more possible time streams in the future than in the past for example…

    I am trying to say that a fundamental part of "living" things is that they operate probablistically: models of "anxiety" share the same kind of approach. Because we don't know what is going to happen in the future – we just have a range of possible outcomes we can imagine will happen. So in a sense the "living" flesh around the T-800 and the way the T-1000 works matches this abstract nature of life: the T-800 doesn't have anxiety (about being drop in molten metal at the end of T2 for example – it says "I understand now why you cry, but it is something it can never do"), but when the T-1000 drops into the molten metal at the end of T2 it completely spazzes and appears to go into full blown trauma at the demise of it's own existence – the T1000 behaves more like a living thing with anxiety when compared with the T800. In a sense the flesh around the T-800 is like John Carpenter's "The Thing" in that all living tissue tries to survive (it has a minimal sense of "desire"/"consciousness") whereas the whole of the T1000 is like this.

    (f*cking hell) So maybe time travel in the terminator universe requires something living in this abstract sense I am describing?

    In terms of satire: well I think basically the first terminator film was a demonstration of how you could destroy a schmaltzy romantic comedy centered around sarah connor by injecting the absurdity of a time travelling cyborg assassin – I mean in terms of film narrative mechanisms, it is a good way to completely destroy an 80's romance isn't it? As in time travel was maybe being used to destroy morality?

    – And yet we bet on the future all the time.

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  9. Excellent video. The final point is compelling: without social security (meant in the widest possible sense – i.e. guaranteed housing, guaranteed nutrition, guaranteed heating, guaranteed health insurance) capitalism is just another system of coercion and repression. Liked and subscribed.

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  10. The 'choice' seems to be between burning fat or carbohydrates. (to the best of my knowledge the following is correct but I am not an expert). Whilst it seems true that during high intensity exercise you do burn more fat than lower intensity exercise. It seems that proportionally you burn a lot more carbohydrates compared to fat during high intensity exercise than lower intensity exercise. Apparently you do burn more fat during your sleep than when you are awake for example.

    Note: the people plugged into the matrix were asleep essentially.

    But it is not simply a choice between carbohydrates and fats. Per gram, fat contains twice as much energy as carbodydrates – meaning it is more efficient to store energy as fat than carbohydrates (glocuse). So why do we burn more carbohydrates during high intensity exercise? – because the energy from carbohydrates is more readily available than energy from fat: for example when doing poweful muscle movements, this requires a rapid burn of energy which is difficult to attain from fats. Carbohydrates also have the advantage in that fat stores require oxygen to liberate its energy (requiring more work with the heart and lungs to oxygenate the blood) – so if you're running really fast and holding your breath (for example to get out the way of an on coming car about to run you over) you are likely burning a lot of carbohydrates.

    In an emergency situation your stress levels go up with the release of Cortisol with triggers an increase in your blood sugar levels – so enabling your muscles to burn carbohydrates quickly to get you out of danger.

    The down side of high blood sugar levels and the associated hig cortisol levels is that they carry with them health risks: diabetes, heart disease, muscle fatigue, and low testosterone and estrogen levels (so wasting muscle mass and reducing fertility). High cortisol levels correlates with low oxytocin (the "love hormone") levels also.

    So really doing meditation and deep breathing is not only good for you, but also burns excess fat. So wouldn't those "asleep" in the matrix have high oxytocin levels and low cortisol levels?

    It is interesting that when you wake up, serotonin levels go down and dopamine levels go up combined with an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. While in REM sleep oxytocin levels tend to rise.

    As Laurie Anderson said in her song O Superman: 'Cause when love is gone, there's always justice. And when justice is gone, there's always force. And when force is gone, there's always Mom. Hi Mom!.. So hold me, Mom, in your long arms… In your automatic arms. Your electronic arms… Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms.

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