Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

David Byrne, David Lowery, Creative Content and Money

I can’t remember when I first read David Lowery’s impassioned polemic directed at an NPR intern all the companies who profit from the exploitation of musicians and other creative artists, but I decided to revisit it after reading David Byrne’s more recent lamentations on streaming services and the sorry state of artist compensation in the modern age.

Byrne’s piece bothered me primarily due to this conclusion/claim:

…the whole model is unsustainable as a means of supporting creative work of any kind. Not just music. The inevitable result would seem to be that the internet will suck the creative content out of the whole world until nothing is left. Writers, for example, can’t rely on making money from live performances – what are they supposed to do? Write ad copy?

His argument boils down to this: Unless people can make a living creating art (or, more awkwardly producing “creative content”), then art will cease to exist.

Believing, as I do, that humans are creative by default (though that creative impulse may, sadly, be acculturated out of them over time), I found this claim preposterous.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Trouble with Capitalism

When I was a student, I was a communist sympathizer.

I say “sympathizer” because, while I was never a Communist Party member, I was sympathetic to the critique that capitalism was a system based on exploitation and that the ends of capital were pursued by national governments in the Northern Hemisphere, in the form of colonialism and imperialism, to the detriment of people in the Southern Hemisphere and elsewhere.

(Before you accuse me of being naive about the crimes of communist regimes from Stalin to Pol Pot, please read this post. Generally speaking, I believe that one party rule is a recipe for corruption, incompetence and, at worst, outright gangsterism. I am also opposed to “utopian” politics and, in fact, see utopian inclinations in every political ideology right, left and center.)

I was reminded of these sympathies this morning while reading the New York Times (noted running dog of imperialism and propaganda tool of the CIA).

Exploitation and Disenfranchisement

First I read that corporate profits, as a share of national income, are at their highest point since 1950, while personal income is at it’s lowest point since 1966.

As a way of explaining this state of affairs, the Times wrote:

With millions still out of work, companies face little pressure to raise salaries, while productivity gains allow them to increase sales without adding workers.

In other words, even though businesses are enjoying record profits, they are using unemployment as a hammer both to keep wages low and drive greater productivity from those “lucky” enough to have a job. If that isn’t a case of “exploitation,” I don’t know what is. (I believe that it also gives the lie to GOP contentions, dating back to the Reagan era, that policies which benefit business lead to lower unemployment and “benefit everybody.”) Read the rest of this entry »

A Vote for Communism Is a Vote for Change

2195231359_e8fe7ff3f3_mLately, when in conversation my conservatively inclined contemporaries begin to criticize the liberals, I’ll say, “Hey, I’m a communist. I hate the liberals just as much as you do.” They generally, laugh, presuming me to be joking. One guy even said, “Well, then you must be happy there’s a Marxist in the White House.” [On that note, I’m not sure I understand the equation of Obama’s policies with socialism. “If he’s a socialist,” a friend of mine said, “then why is there so much unemployment?”]

For the record, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the communist party. I am also well aware of the crimes committed by communist parties around the world (and if you really want to head down a rabbit hole, just try to follow some of the disputes that arise when it comes to figuring the actual number of communism’s victims – this post and the accompanying comments are a good example). Furthermore, I categorically reject apologies for or defenses of genocidal atrocities, of whatever magnitude, in the name of unrealized or, even worse, unrealizable ideals. Read the rest of this entry »