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Money matters

What makes money make money? We do.

When technology goes up against money, which one wins? Take a look at last week’s headlines: Microsoft got a leg up in its unending antitrust trial, record companies finally shut down Napster, and technology companies hemorrhaged more workers. On Thursday, Salon reviewed a new book, “White-Collar Sweatshop,” that sucked the last dregs out of the punctured dot-com balloon. Turns out the ’90s boom was not very prosperous for many of us. According to its author, Jill Andresky, while work hours and demands increased (helped by “always-on, always-connected” mobile gadgets), salaries of white-collar workers have barely nudged upward (in real dollars) since the ’70s; and in fact, starting salaries declined significantly. Salaries of CEOs, on the other hand, have only continued to climb.

What ties these things together? The fact that more often than not, money equals power. We can–and will–argue forever about ethical, business, and technological issues surrounding Microsoft, Napster, and an Internet economy. Meanwhile, Microsoft will prevail, in one fashion or another. The record companies will continue to make money on the backs of musicians and fans. And Wall Street will ensure that making companies more “efficient” means laying off from the bottom up.

In “Tropic of Capricorn,” Henry Miller wrote: “…if you have money or you don’t have money it is the money that counts and money makes money, but what makes money make money?” It’s easy to get sucked into working harder and sacrificing more because of fear, or desire, or some combination of both. It’s easy to feel powerless; but we’re not. Every day we have some power to decide for ourselves whether we will or won’t support a Microsoft or a Sony. We have the power to decide what kind of lifestyle we want, where we will work and live, and how much time we will devote to work. Once in a while, we need to remind ourselves about what society tries hard to make us forget: At any time, we have the power to choose something else.

To read more about “White-Collar Sweatshop,” go to:
http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2001/03/01/sweatshop/index.html

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