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Made You Think

Jun 5, 2018

Jurgis, too, had heard of America. That was a country where, they said, a man might earn three roubles a day; and Jurgis figured what three roubles a day would mean, with prices as they were where he lived, and decided forthwith that he would go to America and marry, and be a rich man in the bargain. In that country, rich or poor, a man was free, it was said; he did not have to go into the army, he did not have to pay out his money to rascally officials—he might do as he pleased, and count himself as good as any other man.

In this episode of Made You Think, we discuss The Jungle by Upton Sinclair It is a novel that portraits realistically the life at the time of immigrant families. Aimed to promote socialism, it ended conceiving the first laws of consumer protection in the United States after the scandal created by the revelation of meat packing malpractices.

Leave it to me; leave it to me. I will earn more money—I will work harder. Jurgis.”

We cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • The 3-day weekend
  • A list of malpractices in the meatpacking industry that ended
  • Embalmed meat killing soldiers in Spain
  • Children labor in tech startups
  • Monstrous sized apples and food stamps diets
  • Businesses taking advantage of illegal immigrants
  • Fiverr ads in NY and the Gig economy

And much more. Please enjoy, and be sure to grab a copy of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair!

If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to check out our episode on Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, counterpoint to The Jungle, a book that vows for Capitalism, as well as our Recap episode, where we summarize our first 20 books, all under the effects of alcohol :).

Be sure to join our mailing list to find out about what books are coming up, giveaways we're running, special events, and more.


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0:00 – The Jungle It is a book commonly read in High School, but probably the intention gets missed when read young. The content of the story is very dark. At first it seems to be a book about the terrors of the meat industry, but Sinclair aimed at the perils of Capitalism. It shows the problems with pure Laissez-faire economic systems (while other books as Atlas Shrugged critique Top-Down economies).

4:28 –  Sinclair was upset that his book didn’t meet the goal to promote socialism, all it had was the effect of changing how the US regulates the meat industry.  The value of safety nets and consumer protection laws.

7:14 – We didn't had weekends as we know them today. Some people suggest we will be able to mitigate some of the effects of automation by shortening the work week even more. Some startups and companies already offer Summer Fridays, where employees take Friday off. This is backed by noticing that does not affect productivity.

11:47 – Sinclair disavowed Socialism, he said it was not well implemented. Also, that Unions are an equally corrupt part of the system too. However, the book seems quasi religious, as lacks critics to Socialism.

14:39 – The book tells the story of Jurgis, who decides to move from Lithuania to Chicago with his family. He first feel betrayed with his friend, which he thought was rich. At that time, moving was one-way, people didn't have the money to travel back. The experience to moving to a completely extraneous place you never saw and with different language. Practically there is no culture living in complete isolation today, given the spread of the Internet and the English language.

20:02 – Jurgis gets his first job is sweeping guts and parts of cattle into a pit. The joy of having a job and the feeling of being settled. Not being paid for partial clock ours or waiting ours. Investment banking seems like a modern upper middle class version of the same problem.

25:44 – No security. Jurgis get injured and rests at home, without being paid. Hard work spirit. “Leave it to me; leave it to me. I will earn more money—I will work harder.”

26:05 – Sinclair attacks meritocracy. It's not those who work hard that are the ones who are wealthy. The people who had made it are not the people who'd done a good job, it's the people who'd figured out how to rig the system. Meritocracy, honesty (or dishonesty), conditions at birth and luck as the shapers of one's future. Reconciling the victim mentality with the meritocratic attitude.

28:45 – White privilege is probably true, but people started very poor and developed wealth through generations. The leap from "making money to stay alive" to "making money and build wealth". College funds compounding.

32:52 – Part of why we create wealth is to pass it to our children. Taking out inheritance plus giving immigrants upper-middle class quality of life from the start, as Socialism suggest, would take out incentives to create wealth. Socialism as the evolution of King-and-Serve model, in the way that somebody else take care of you once you pay the access to the system.

35:30 – Parents that bring their kids to America but want them to maintain their customs of origin. Contingencies buying a house. Having to send the kids to sustain the mortgage payment. Our senses ignore the static, concentrate on changes.

38:45 – Child labor was common 100 years ago. Is it OK to forbid child labor? Imposing modern values to pre-modern societies. China negating climate protocols. What if children work in tech positions at startups?

43:36 – How bad the meat packing industry was in terms of what went into the final product. A list of malpractices in the meat industry. Embalmed meat killing soldiers in Spain. Poisoned bread for rats. Sausages diluted with potato flour. Diluted or doctored food. The bargain of the peasant and hunter-gatherer lifestyle vs modern society.

49:01 – Optimizing food stamps to get the best diet. Why produce are not nutritious any more. Charging crops by weight as a bad incentive to produce nutritious crops. Size difference between wild and domesticated fruit species. Comparing fruits with candies and soda. Coca tea good for altitude sickness.

56:00 – Drugs and gambling becoming ubiquitous in the US. Libertarian trend legalizing gay marriage, suicide, drugs, poker and weed, MDMA. Cocaine and marijuana schedules for trials for medical treatments. Consuming opioids and tobacco in natural form, reducing cancer and other unwanted long term effects. Overdosing sugar.

1:03:18 – Jurgis back to the job market at Packagetown, finds a job in the fertilizers plants.

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1:08:43 – Jurgis passes through jail. Spoiler alert! Jurgis is blacklisted from all jobs and becomes a bum. Parallel between the beef trust and the communications trust. Jurgis finally gets a better job in Downtown.

1:18:09 – When the supply of work is much greater than the demand. Working by the day. Immigrants taking US jobs working in illegal conditions. Unfair systems that can't be fixed by just replacing the pieces at the top. Businesses aren't much penalized, individuals are, when talking about illegal immigrants.

1:24:24 – The Government job to protect citizens. Markets can take care of most of their problems, but sometimes rules are needed. GMOs at Walmart.

1:26:24 – Jurgis loses all his family and becomes a bum, a modern version of the hunter gatherer. Jurgis gets into the underground. Suggestion that the only way to get rich in America is by breaking the law.

1:32:52 – Jurgis gets back in a meat packing business, but in a better position. Finally gets out of Chicago.

1:35:35 – The book slides down into Socialism. Blind political speeches. Distinguishing Socialism from Communism. Free associations and Patreon. Degrees of Libertarianism. Anarchism. Countries not implementing Socialism properly argument.

1:42:17 – Is Socialism impossible because of Human nature? Strong man arguments for and against Socialism. Orwell and Peterson common background at the Socialist Party. Socialism as a satisfying and seductive system for the intellectual part of our brains.

1:46:00 – Top-down beats Bottom-up messy chaos on paper, but the opposite happens in reality. We tend to give more importance to things that can be measured, but that doesn't mean unmeasured things doesn't exists. Argumentative tactics. The miss of a Socialist hero in the plot. The Gig economy.

1:53:14 – Sinclair shows that each individual who is involved in the system is following the incentives they have. Seeing a true need for government.

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