Grab Loose Change

July 2nd 2023

It seems like these days everyone is reaching deep into their pockets to find loose change.

The economic situation after covid is full of reports of recovery (except for San Francisco) and a renewed way of life focused around working less in an office but still consuming and partaking in the same activities and products.

Amazon can deliver everything to your door, and that money and time you save on your commute leaves more for you to spend on everything else, and more time to be productive. With less distractions you can get more done and still be responsive to that meeting from your home computer in ways not possible before video technology made being in the same place unimportant.

But there are a few problems here. Firstly the communities around office locations are not getting near the amount of traffic. Where I live most places stay closed on Monday and Tuesday on the main street, and when I go out for lunch by our Southampton office I am often the only one in the restaurant.

I once heard a newscast here in the UK about how if the 400k (roughly) people who left the working economy during covid and never came back to work, did come back to work, the UK government could lower the income tax.

And someone had a great response to it, they said something to the effect of “Covid broke the spell that working more hours for more money is a meaningful way of life”. And I think that is true, and I think that is (mostly) healthy.

I work a ridiculous amount of hours because, well, that’s just what I do. I was the kid at 12 years old spending 4–6 hours making science fiction worlds in 3D graphics programs after school, and before that, around ages 6–10, I would spend hours at a time making small (2–3cm) models if ninja turtles out of sculpey clay. I’ve always been a project person, and so working on what interests me is a more natural activity than say… going to the pub.

So I’m not going to say that working a lot is for everyone, and I’m definitely not going to say that doing something that is fundamentally against where people’s interests are is necessary to maintain our way of life. But what I will say is that the economy in it’s current state is f*cked.

I haven’t seen anyone come out and say it yet. But if you look at a few trends it really seems like a lot of companies are all digging deep into risky programs that they know will upset their customer base to find ways to make ends meet.

For the purpose of this article I will be drawing a thread between a few things. 1.) The riots in France over the age increase for drawing a pension. 2.) Amazon (reportedly) squeezes its suppliers for more share of profit. 3.) Twitter closing off free third party API’s 4.) Reddit closing off free third party API’s 5.) RedHat is closing off the (publicly) open source distribution of their platform. 6.) Netflix closing down friends and family subscriptions that were shared widely.

It’s easy to say individually that any one of these events is the work of a megalomaniac organization that is out of touch with fairness and what its users want and is doomed to fail given how much it has upset the people it would like to be serving.

But it’s unlikely that they all got together and said something to the effect “I know, let’s band together and all act like dicks”. What’s more probable is that they are all listening to the same song, so to speak. And the lyrics of that song go about like this “The economy is f*cked”.

It’s not necessarily a matter of business not working, or of people not participating in work. In my opinion it’s a factor of how much we have relied on consumerism to stabilize our economy. If you are an investor (of any kind) you have a lot of money that you would like to grow faster than if you placed it in a bank account. And likely this means that, while you diversify your investment, you will need to see increases all of the time. This is odd because, let’s be honest, nothing increases all the time.

My satisfaction with myself, the town I live in, my friends, has been increasing over the years. I am happier with who I am and the people around me and the town I live in possibly more than ever before. But, it is not a constant growth situation. There are days when I disappoint myself, when I fail to communicate with the people I love or they fail to communicate with me. Or the town public transportation has an issue, or any number of things that are not always positive all the time.

For investors, this is ok when it happens sporadically distributed across their portfolio, but if growth happens inconsistently in enough places at once, it’s hard to know where to put your money. This means that if consumerism slows in enough places, the economic system is a hard thing to keep up. The pressure to show economic growth as a public company is enormous, and with less emphasis on buying things and going into business locations to do business, steady growth is hard to come by these days.

It’s not clear how and why so many of these instances are related to financial power grabs, but it is clear that their timing is not accidental. And I believe, it is unclear what the way forward is in a world where people are starting to value the things they can provide for themselves (their own home working environment, and time with their loved ones), over the things that will build constant financial growth.

It seems like these days everyone is reaching into their purse trying to find loose change.