Monday, November 1, 2021

Workers and Self Portait - Massey Hall Coffee Shop - University Guelph

In the mid 80's these women made a living contributing to their families.

The coffee shop was operated independently of the campus administration, as a co-operative.

University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Lots of immigrants come here today, taking these jobs....

$ value per unit of hour laboured decreased...

Where did those women  in the photo go ?

JP in mirror, self portrait.

It was called Massey Coffee Shop.

jp melville, guelph, university, economics, cooperatives, feminism, coffee, photography, literature, books,

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Matters That Effect Decision = Economic Morals and Precepts

Economic Morals and Precepts
26 February 2019
jp melville

jp melville, economics, moral, image

This is a list that I wrote and have stared at since 2011.
Then it dawned on me about a week ago that lists are common, if incomplete.
A famous list is those darn commandments.
Ten of them.
Which, about 2,000 years ago, someone boiled down to two: love God and love your neighbour.
That's a pretty lean list.
I mean, for living life.
Not a grocery list.

My list is not lean.
Probably somewhat redundant between the points.

Nevertheless, here is my list:

Nobody cares about you.  Even if they do, it does not matter if their care is selfless and they do not seek reciprocity.

One day you will be fifty, or older, whichever comes first.

Every day you will get hungry.

Someone will sell you anything you can imagine.

Money cannot be saved, only earned or spent.

Kids know next to nothing until they are sixteen and none of us much more after that.

You are off your guard if you think humans are interesting.

The only satisfying rewards are found in love, compassion, and pleasure.

Never avoid pain and suffering; mitigate the first, learn from the latter.

Be tolerant, understanding, and loving to those who seek safety and security because they pay the price of your selfishness.

Yes, you have to fight for yourself; yes you are nobody without putting everyone else first.

People are like magnets: if you flip them the right way they come together as one.

All seasons come and go; prepare for all of them one year in advance or you will never have that thing called time.

Fear is the constant companion of everyone you will ever meet, so too the devil and angel in your left and right ears.

For the most part, you seek the constant middle and spend the rest of the time avoiding conflict.

Laws against bullies are a travesty because they inflate the value of an individual; such laws are a distraction from the one bully that matters - the state or group that pressures to conform.

Remember that almost every decision you make is arrived at presuppositionally; you avoid spending time thinking, you are typically not rational, your decisions are biased, you are lazy.

Most of what you think you did not learn, it was taught to you.

An individual is a construct; no such thing exists.

How To...

How To...

26 February 2019
originally drafted around June 2011
hard to say... i am such a slow poke
jp melville

I thought of a subtitle:
Don't Let Your Wants Get Ahead of Your Smarts
One of many lessons in basic economic survival.

Somewhere in the background of this blog idea is a minor bit of consciousness.  Always remember that everything that you buy is being sold to you.  The people who try to sell it to you think all the time about how to sell it to you.  That's a lot of thinking.  Important to note that they are not thinking of your best interests, just how to make a  buck.  You might as well play the game and think about how you want to buy.  Most of the time, you are the only one watching out for Numero Uno.

It adds up, because these days almost everything we do is a financial transaction.  What do they say, if you practice just a little bit every day, after 10,000 efforts you are an expert.  You do have to THINK about it, of course, and that does take some sweat.  Why not?  By the time you are 30 you have probably purchased close to 10,000 things.  That leaves you with another 50 years of easy going on the "how to buy stuff" front.  You can worry about other things and quietly know that you are already an expert in at least one field of life.

Here is a little lesson in  <How To>.

How to Shop for Groceries

One of my mantra's: if you have to do it everyday, you might as well do it well. In the minimum, think about it just a wee bit beyond the "I want" impulse.

Here is a picture of shopping.

jp melville, economics, ottawa, canada

This is my kitchen counter, about once a week.  Not that I am very good at shopping.  But I take pleasure and always pay attention to the prices.  After all, by the end of my life, I may have shopped some 2000 times.  Very modestly, that would be 50 times a year over 40 years.  Sometimes someone else does the shopping, of course.  If in today's dollars I spent $50 each time, that would be $100,000.  If I pay attention to pricing, very modestly I might reduce the price by 5%, which would be $5,000 in my pocket, to spend on something else, of course.

One way I try to be sure to pay the 5% less is simply to have in a corner of my mind a small closet of <things I need>, which means that though I may not need it today, I can buy it today if I see it for a lower price and use it up tomorrow when I need it.  Does not apply to perishables, except in the reverse.  I may want parsley today, but dill is on sale, so I simply change today's menu.

I know that $5,000 may not sound like much over a lifetime.

And by no means do you have to do your shopping my way.

The trick is to think about it in your way, consciously, in your interests.

An important point is that there is primary impact on you, as a result of being conscious on a regular basis about a little thing:  awareness of context and flows (energy flows, time flows, cultural flows = movement).

You can apply the shopping principle to pretty much all the basic economic activities that we experience in a lifetime.  There are not that many of them, really.  Imagine how many times you will become an expert! In, like, these kinds of ways:

How To Fix Things

How To Cook

How To Sleep

How To Care for a Baby (or anyone else, for that matter)

How To Buy a Car (arrange transportation)

How to Manage Money (this arises from the principles described above and applies to the whole list)

How to Spend (ditto)

How to Invest (ditto)

How to Get a Girl (or your choice of emotional attachment)

How to Clean a House

How to Buy a House (or put a roof over your head)

How to Get Married (or affirm your kinship system)

How to Stay Warm

How to Stay Cool

How to Learn

How to Deal with Your Health

How to Do Laundry

How to Do Dishes

How to Relax

Now, in my opinion this list is mostly exhaustive.  Pretty much anything you do can fit under one of these categories.

However, if you really want to be successful in life, like wealthy, a famous artist, or plain old plum satisfied with pretty much anything and modestly in control of your existence, you need to consider this last skill set:

How to Make Things

Once you think about it, you will be surprised at how few people know how to make much of anything.  Most of us just do stuff.  Some of us fix a few things.  Very few actually make anything.

Suggested Read:

Daniel Kahneman "Thinking, Fast and Slow".
Nobel Prize in Economics

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Supply Driven Economics - Free Market My Ass

bella coola, jp melville, canada

Supply Driven Economics – Free Market My Ass
1 Jan 2019


It is hard to give up drink.
I live in a wonderland of economic seers whose prophecies are founded on revisions of history, purposely selective interpretations of spilled intestines and otherwise good literature (sadly including The Wealth of Nations), and general denial of complicated facts, trends, and otherwise palpable realities.

Call the economists, for the most part, armchair fairies, overpaid to wave magic wands, dusting narcotic theories into our heads to turn our eyes from the obvious.

I suggest a viewing of   <Leave No Trace>, by Debra Granik.
Something in the spirit of the film references us, our turning our eyes from the obvious and submitting to the absurd.

Our seers wear the emperor’s new clothes and we laud them for that.
This drives me to drink.

I tell my kids I gotta give it up.  On the wagon, I always wake with a greater sense of self and presence in the broader world.  Still cranky, though.  Just ask the folks who prod me about veganism or personal needs.  The struggle I have is my positive attitude.  Not that I don’t have one, but because in discussions, folks prefer denial.  They call me the critical crank.  And something inside me says that the critical crank is positive.  Because you are taking the bull by the horns.  Dangerous, but positive.  People shoot you for that.

Hey, you, take those invisible undies off and put on something decent, something I can see, touch, smelt, mold.  I am not saying the result has to be mine to control.  But you can’t collectively build a mirage.  Only some can profit from your thirst when they control what sates you.

But the seers don’t like this.  And you get into trouble.  Nobody talks to you because they all want to believe in the invisible truth.  They fear losing the invisible hand that they’ve been told sates them.  Drives me to drink.

This whole self condemnation is not wholly accurate.  There are folk who do find me positive, constructive, get things done kind of guy.  Which is true enough.  A busy body.  Jack of all trades.  Problem solver.  Yet I am beset with doom, a cloud, pointlessness.  Too many if not most drivers, motivators, justifications, arguments, validators and more come to illogical vacuums.  My head spins where the perspective is justified by its argument, rather than concluding a truth.  Probably some philosophical term for this.  These leave me hanging too often by my finger tips from slippery limbs, and I don’t like argument, so I tend to let go, fall to the ground,  pick myself up with my bruises, and wander away, which threatens others.  They all feel abandonment.

Where do I turn to? Usually inside myself.   It is me who struggles with illogic.  Don’t get me wrong, by no means do I hold it against others to believe their point of view.  Their adherence saddens me though, because, in the end, I sense that some kind of violence arises from insisting on a set of values.  Especially those values constructed unwittingly on errant arguments.  Think Ptolemy.  On the other hand, we need a set of values, like a set of rules, as a mechanism for daily function, especially to get along with others.  For social creatures we truly are.

It seems to me that for the most part people do not wish to harm others, that they only do so under threat to their own universe.  Both are possible.  The first because we can let people self organize.  Separate states, provinces, cultures of being.  The second is possible because not all self identified groups have quite sufficient resources, intellectual or material, to believe / feel / have a sense of knowing that they can hold their own, wherein violence arises from the anger of inferiority, fear of failed meaning, the conscious underdog.

So I think of balkanization, a kind of fix for overt competition, reducing competition’s more aggressive qualities, by creating space where people can focus on their own sets of values without fear of having to defend themselves from loss of identity, purpose.  A kind of liberation for those who emphasize their drive to create identity, a kind of evolutionary process, with no beginning or end, wherein a group of people co-create their meaning, sense of place in the world.

Agrarian State

Altogether, it seems to me that balkanization requires, broadly speaking, a kind of agrarian aspect.  This could be, in our contemporary small world context, extrapolated to an ecosystems aspect.  People need to have a sense of not just food but also material security.  And with a contemporary sense of vulnerability about world ecosystems, people need to know that they can depend on natural systems around them, on which they depend economically, like forests, lakes, rivers, seas, oceans, coasts, ice, water.  Not everyone, of course, will be operating in a closed, independent system, where all their material needs are satisfied from within their unique balkan group; excepting some remote anthropological past or profoundly isolated recent human grouping, it is hard to imagine that humans have ever lived in such an enclosed, self sufficient state.  To the best of my understanding, we are traders and exchangers, a fundamental aspect of the human condition.

Why, again, would we expect an agrarian-come-ecological systems based quality to any balkan state?  Simply, because of the need for a sense of security, without which we will aggress ourselves towards others.  If I depend on cotton for clothing, the plant grown in a completely separate nation, to maintain a sense of security I need to know that the ecological system on which cotton production depends is treated and maintained in a reasonably healthy state.  That other state owes me that sense of security, just as I owe them my efforts to provide a reasonably secure supply of food, of lumber, or fish, or mineral, whatever the case may be.

Ceteris Paribus

In all this, the balkan state economy founds itself on a measure of ecosystems security.  There can be no theoretical ceteris paribus – all other things being equal.  That is economic theory, soothsayer hogwash.  Generally, there has to be stability.  This is not a free market system, in which supply and demand co-exist to find equilibrium, measured monetarily.  This is an economic system in which stability of supply, measured in both total cost of production and reproducibility of supply, creates value.  Demand increases as reliability increases.

Of course, this is a regulated market.  Proponents of a free market system argue that regulated markets restrict the creation of wealth.  This perspective requires an assumption that markets have ever been unregulated, without which evidence there is no such argument.  For now, I will leave it to only one example of how markets have never been unregulated, an argument viable only with the economic sequitur of ceteris paribus.

All things are not equal in economy, nor are there any externalities that do not impinge on any formula for balance.  Ceteris paribus is not possible in an enclosed system, earth.  All things matter, are affected, influence, and in the end direct trade and ultimately determine value.

So for my one example that begs the question of free market, it is that of militarism.  I cannot imagine or am unaware of any trading state in known history that did so without an association of military power, control, protection, or imposition.  The only free market is an enforced one.


A challenge to many of our present minds is the question of authority.  The idea of authority is a required consideration if only because it exists, is applied, felt, requested and generally present in everyday life.  While some of us harbour an understanding that authority must be checked at all costs, possibly an idealization of democracy, the very idea of checking authority is recognition of its prevalence in our lives.  Related is the idea of freedom, as though democracy and freedom go hand in hand.

But this association is an illusion, in part because neither of the two exist in any polity in any pure form, and in part because if neither of the two exist alone, there is no reason that they therefore co-exist in association.

Authority plays an important role in most if not almost all aspects of our lives: parenting, taxation, nine to five jobs.  You name it.  Even in how we enforce our choice of self identity.  All nation states are authorities.  It is within the rubric of authority that we find freedom.

The Challenge

So the challenge:  exploring the authority that will facilitate balkanized states to function through economies of stable supply.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

My God My Job in the Global Economy - Joe Fresh T&T Can't Buy Me Love

Bangladesh - China – Canada – Joe Fresh T&T Can’t Buy Me Love

my god my job in the global economy

let me tell you
i am a simple man
in a corporate cross-global space
living in hotels
eating in restaurants
walking on streets
swamped in urbanity
a soul among millions
Dakka - Beijing - Vancouver
swimming in a swamp of madness
cars and neon signs
and mergers...

this is no marco polo world

no wilderness
no daemons
no wonder
no treasure
no awe
no sirens

not even conquering

for all is conquered
all has conformed
we export and we import now
we own
we buy
we come laden with oil, wet
we come laden with sport shoes and cell phones and garlic, sweat and grime
we unisex partners, ooooh
come go laden with the same
and call ourselves richer, fairer, peaceable even tolerant for the effort?

but i
with little to do but open my eyes
i can see
the movers and shakers, banga bazaar
the hawkers on the street sides, wangfujing
the gals in the clothing shops, rideau centre
like myself, existing
paying a bill
watching the world move past them, they
like myself
making a penny
maybe two!

your pennies
my pennies
our role on stage is the same,
i earn a buck or two for two years commitment to a god job
good god save the world job
you earn a penny or two for each day making sales
god the dollar and all else pales
who knows what next
maybe me no contract
maybe you no thing to sell
we will all have to hunt
for something new to do
our bodies brains on market shelves

oddly godly jobs
in a monolithic certainty
of ocean going freight ships ploughing the waters of the seven seas
of flares burning through the dark of night above natural gas wells
of women buried beneath rubble a thousand mourned
of men buried beneath their tons of coal
of zero one zero one zero one
one digital voice
one prophet of truth
just buy, sell, and ye shall be blest

so we are all the same
sharing this same god
a nice place to be
this monolithic certainty of conformity

no doubts about you being some… other
no, no stranger no more
just me
just you

maybe for the first time
i can see the servers in the restaurants in this foreign land
servers as people
as persons
as close as possible
we are friends
i must eat
they must make a few dollars
together only for a brief moment
to see if the stranger enjoys the food
myself responding
a tip to him
a tip to her
in english
maybe in what we call chinese

slurping with gusto
holding the cup of hot tea between my hands
grasping the beer glass the man that i must be
i pay, my hungers satisfied
they earn, their weekend movie paid for
sex maybe
human contact
film or skin

i smell the taxi drivers
cigarettes dangling from their lips
the smell of beggars
their children holding my arm

i smell the street
women marching arm in arm
sweat of a man tumbling home

and wow so strange
how i see in others
the meaninglessness of their cars
the emptiness behind cosmetics
all so so much oh my god the same everywhere i go


my eyes wide
god knows my mouth and our hearts sealed
no threat to our dollars or jobs
clothes behind glass
eyes caged behind frames
hearts boxed behind a disney bill of goods

oh, all these people i am supposed to love
they whiz past
gone somewhere
far, far away from here
far from this pavement beneath my feet

and wow so strange
i see on the street
men, neatly trimmed hair, legs hurried
long black trench coats fluttering as they dash
their hands busied with digital devices
other men walking briskly together
climbing into air conditioned cars while rickshaws stream on by

stern, self important
their hands busied with briefcases
far from this pavement beneath my feet...

this pavement beneath my feet...

i stand still on a street corner
grey, polluted sky above
gusting wind tousling my hair
my sanity found in knowing somebody near
even in the smallest way, yes
here i am in Dakka, a concentrated place, yes
here i am in Beijing, bustling millions, yes


here i am with people
some, like the restaurant servers, here together
some, like the men and their briefcases, worlds apart...

but people all the same

and my heart reaches out...

i think we kid ourselves when we say our career keeps us going...

if you take away people, even for half a day
if you take away familiarity for several days
we begin to fall apart...

so it is people
this is human life

we live a kind of mirage
believing that our manifestations are our substance...
the sewer cover with a fish pattern, our washed glass windows,
our machine made gloves...
that this is all our creation
the madness of urbanity
utter destitution in its meaningless

the mirage of false gods…


i think...

these false gods of my modern world
are nothing
for the Venicians loved their Venice
the Mayans their temples
the Algonquin their long houses
and the Greeks their Sirens

these false gods of my modern world
are nothing
for i have you
i have the rickshaw man working for his children
i have the lipsticked woman selling dumplings and her smile to her friends
i have
how meaningless i am...

…provided love.