Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Capitalism's Aims


Here's what I thought Capitalism was about:

To Give You an Incentive To Succeed at Something


That sounds good on the surface. If making money was an incentive for us to become an astronaut, or a biologist, or a great cartoonist or any kind of productive person who brings new and better things into the world that would be great.

Instead the incentives are to become CEOS or managers at companies that are already big because of some long dead entrepreneurs who did believe in something and our goals are just to find a level of management in which to hide and take advantage of the system - and keep it going even to the point of where it actually loses money.


To Compete - but What kind of competition?Competition 50 years ago compared to competition today.



If financial rewards encouraged us to make better products than our competitors, then products would get better and better all the time, wouldn't they? Is it happening?

I don't think so. All our products are being made in other countries and the only work left here is for managers - people who don't know anything about how the products are made, have no inherent love for the product and would take a job in management at any kind of company at all. How can you manage the making of a product you know nothing about? It happens all the time and is considered today, an all-American wonderful goal.

Managers aren't there to make money for the company, have no natural loyalty to anything except their own personal success-their credits, their bonuses. They jump from company to company like aphids, gobble up as many leaves as they can and then when they kill the veins, hop off to another company at a higher level and destroy even more.

There is no competition anymore.

It used to be that people did compete. Hearst competed with Pulitzer to sell more newspapers by making the best comics and content - by pleasing people. The idea was if your product was better, more fun, easier to use or was cheaper and just as good, then you would be rewarded and live in a mansion and be served by beautiful slave girls. That sounds completely logical to me. That's a system designed around natural human instincts and fosters something that was once known as progress. It gave us telephones, medicine, cars, movies, cartoons, Jazz music, Rock 'N' Roll, comfortable lives for millions (for the first time in history). This system encourages the individual to do great things - which is a democratic ideal.

Musicians competed by making more and more appealing music. Scientists competed by making newer and more astonishing discoveries.

Now the way companies compete is not through free enterprise as the system still pretends, -not by making better and better products, but by squashing any competition from people who actually can make things. Don't let them into the system. Then our products can be crap and the public will have to buy them anyway - because there IS no competition. Replace quality with marketing. Very few people are talented enough to make quality and progress, but anyone can be a marketing executive.

Should Capitalists Have To Obey Laws?

We ordinary people have all kinds of laws we have to obey. We can't just go out and kill someone who likes the girl we want. We can't steal someone else's food or bigger TV. We can't cross the street on a red light or make up our own rules. Otherwise there would be chaos and a fast decline in our safety and quality of life.

So shouldn't capitalists also have laws? They shouldn't be able to cheat the competition and the public should they? But they do. Should people who had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of something be allowed to extend its copyright for decades and profit from it - while destroying it?A completely free market means there are no rules. The people who believe in this assume that it breeds competition, but instead it breeds individual advancement at the expense of the company, the product and the talented and skilled artisans who want to actually make good things.

It leads to decay of the products, the companies, the public and the country - as we have finally witnessed. I have seen this coming for 30 years and was amazed it took so long for things to fall. What held up these huge monster inefficient companies for so long?

One simple regulation that could help (and did once) - Distributors Can't Own Products Or Manufacturing Plants

I'm no expert on rules in general or politics and legislation but some things just seem totally obvious - espcially when they affect the business I'm in.

For example, if I owned Ren and Stimpy, cartoons would be way in advance today than they are.
Why? Because unlike networks who can't tell good from bad, who spend tons of money on waste instead of on the product, I like cartoons and always want to try new things and make each one a little better when I can. Look at the difference between the first few Ren and Stimpy cartoons, and then how they looked just a year later.
They improved just because a bunch of cartoonists finally got a chance to practice and experiment - which hadn't been done in mainstream animation in 30 years. I compete with myself out of sheer boredom and to try to beat out other cartoonists and get the biggest audience. I like people to laugh at what I do. I hire artists who are better than me and lean on them to be more creative all the time. I would constantly feed part of my reward back into the company and make better and better products - until I got too old and boring and some young genius (who probably would have learned at my studio) would come along and make something fresh and better quality. These are all natural good tendencies for my profession (and the country) that our system is designed to squash.

It used to be that a distributor couldn't own a product. For the reason that it could then make its own products and squeeze out other smaller competitors who might be able to make a better product, faster and cheaper.

If we had that regulation, then the networks and movie distributors would be encouraged to hire the most talented creators so that what they distribute would make more money than the other distributors.
the wackiest place on earth - gosh we have so much zany fun here

When a network can own its own studio - like when Nickelodeon built one out of mine and used all the foundation (and money) that I generated and built up through my own natural impulses and urge to compete in a free market, they were then able to make their own cartoons in house and kill off any individuals who could make something better, faster and cheaper. They spent the money on hiring tons of executives, getting a big fancy place and painting it all up in primary colors to make it look like a wacky cartoon studio - and then didn't make a hit for 10 years. Not till Sponge Bob - which snuck by under their noses, and is a primitive imitation of the show that started the whole thing in the first place - and it's stagnant. It barely changes over the years.

Now you could take Genndy or Craig or any number of successful creators and say the same thing. What if they owned their own characters? Where would we be now? A lot further along, I'd say.

In this kind of system, the company has no incentive to hire the best people. Because the best people will believe in something and there are very few of them. But there are tons of people who are happy to take money under any kind of impractical system and these people will do anything to get ahead within a company - even at the expense of the success of the company's product and financial success.


How many huge multi-corporate giants are in debt? Check it out. What happened when AOL bought Warner Bros?

I have lots more theories on this subject, but this is too much to digest without getting an ill stomach, so I'll get on it again later...

Capitalism's great advancements and progress in 50 years.


Collect your own anti-capitalism hero doodles!
caricature 1caricature 2

78 comments:

LimbClock said...

wow, And i thought that us Finnish people were depressed...

You sure you don't have finnish relatives?

Kali Fontecchio said...

Funny Michael Moore drawings.

Dias said...

John,
Good read this morning.

There is a lot to be said (or ranted) about with Capitalism. Just look at what happens to websites as soon as they become the least bit popular. Major companies come along and destroy what was once a good thing. Shoving ads, previews, product showcases, etc in your face.

However, a question that I had a-brewin' toward the end of your post..

In this day & age would you think it possible to start up an independent company/studio and produce a great body of work for the public without having to answer to say Nickelodeon/Disney/etc?

-Mike

Superdeformed said...

It's almost sad that this is the best economic commentary I've heard the ENTIRE recession.

Chris Silvestre said...

That was a great commentary. In this world of red vs blue people get caught up in sides instead of what really makes sense.

Brian Romero said...

Great post John!

O gato said...

I was listening to NPR radio today and there was a talk about how an old manager or CEO at disney was fired for a more "Hip" one. The irony is that the more "Hip" stuff is doing worse than the stuff that isn't considered hip!

Gad said...

Well if you weren’t American, you’d probably be a socialist.
And that’s a compliment.
Having rules to moderate capital owners and big cooperation, very socialist ideas.

I know then in some European countries they have strict
My teacher works in Europe, and as I understand the system is completely different.
I can’t get into details, because I don’t know much about it.
There are even government funds to encourage individual creators in animation and cinema.

I hope things will change in the USA, I hope Obama more socialist approach will eventually will change things for the better.

Tanuki said...

More fat men in underpants!

Geneva said...

You really hit the nail on the head with what I think is so messed up about Randian libertarianism-- the free market is broken because of exactly what you're talking about.

Well, I'll have you know that I believe in something. I can't be alone in this, and I think there's hope. It just has to sneak past the system in order to make a dent in it.

Hope you're doing well! I've really liked these meaty posts.

introvert said...

Wow, Michael Moore sure does know how to incite action!

All it takes is for him spout a bunch of incoherent dribble about things people should be mad about and make money off of the endeavor, to get someone insightful enough actually offer specific problems with the system as it is.

Our nation is honoring systems instead of people, and as a systems person it's especially sickening to think about.

We need to hear more though. You somehow know how to explain this stuff perfectly to normal common-sense folk.

PaulW said...

Interesting post John,

I regularly have rants about these issues. I was having one today as a matter of fact as we have some real top notch politicians and quality arts in the UK too....

Here is an interesting infographic regarding management I found today:

The Top 8 of 2008 CEO Compensation

The levels of greed in business are quite an eye opener when its portrayed in such a succinct way...

Sven Hoek said...

Those drawings of yours are hilarious. They look just like that fat worm.

Kristina said...

You should make a cartoon about this.

Oscar Baechler said...

Clearly talent has faded over 50 years. How come modern artist can't be more like Elvis, who understood the heart of talent was stealing from Big Mama Cass? (I keed, I keed...but clearly a parallel with Eminem there)

I think when you boil it down, Sean Hannity and Michael Moore believe the same politics, but with different blind spots. Namely, they believe in pragmatist utilitarian meritocracy, and unlike their opponents, THEY understand "personal responsibility." Except Sean Hannity's blind spot is trust fund babies who get a car in exchange for taking a parent-paid SAT prep class, and Michael Moore's blind spot is pot smoking welfare hippies.

thomas said...

The rise of the CEO is a convolution of the "American Dream", and questioning CEO's salaries are tantamount to questioning "The Dream".

If you question the CEO, you have to question yourself, and most people don't want to do that.

They'd have to wake up from the "Dream."

HemlockMan said...

I swear this is my favorite blog. And I'm not even a cartoonist. I'm a novelist, but what the heck.

Capitalism is okay. As long as it's regulated. And I mean HEAVILY regulated. You have to regulate it until those corporate executives feel like their nuts are in the grips of a titanium vise. And then if they break those regulations, you close that vise and leave them with no balls. If you don't do that, then those filthy, greedy dogs will steal everything in sight. If you don't believe it, you must have been in a coma since the Reagan years.

Too bad you don't own REN & STIMPY anymore. That's very sad. REN & STIMPY was often the funniest darned cartoon I've ever seen. I used to laugh my ass off at them. "Space Madness" is the funniest cartoon I have ever, ever seen.

John Scroggins said...

“Instead the incentives are to become CEOS or managers at companies that are already big because of some long dead entrepreneurs who did believe in something and our goals are just to find a level of management in which to hide and take advantage of the system - and keep it going even to the point of where it actually loses money.”


I would ask whether these types, the self-destructive money appropriators (as opposed to money creators) could start a successful company all by themselves. How do these incompetent types maintain giant corporations? There are only 2 possible answers: either they’re not really incompetent, or they’re being granted government favors (tax cuts, subsidies, privileges, etc.) to stay afloat and prevent competition.

“If financial rewards encouraged us to make better products than our competitors, then products would get better and better all the time, wouldn't they? Is it happening?”

This can and should happen in a free market, capitalist economy. Unfortunately, we live in a heavily regulated mixed economy- some freedom and some restrictions.

“I don't think so. All our products are being made in other countries and the only work left here is for managers”

I would ask WHY products are being made in other countries now. And I would submit that due to all sorts of mind boggling rules and regulations imposed by the government, the incentive is to go to other countries to produce in order to avoid these restrictions and government supported unions. I think unions are fine, so long as they aren’t backed by the government. The government’s ONLY function is to secure individual rights. That means to secure each individuals right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This, in effect means to secure us from physical force or fraud.

“Managers aren't there to make money for the company, have no natural loyalty to anything except their own personal success heir credits, their bonuses. They jump from company to company like aphids, gobble up as many leaves as they can and then when they kill the veins, hop off to another company at a higher level and destroy even more.”

Aren’t we all looking out for ourselves and our own personal success? By lying, cheating, and stealing, these people are being self destructive, not self interested. Taking advantage and manipulating others does not equal personal success. Ayn Rand calls these people ‘looters’ since that’s essentially what they’re doing. They’re not creating wealth, they’re just redistributing it.

“Now the way companies compete is not through free enterprise as the system still pretends, -not by making better and better products, but by squashing any competition from people who actually can make things.”
Again, we live in a mixed economy. There is no free enterprise because we have tons of regulations. Think Ranger Smith. In a free market, the ones who made the better products would necessarily be the rich ones because they are more efficient. Today, companies can survive by using government pull to keep competitors out of their own market. In fact, the only way to have a monopoly is by the use of government force (that’s the actual definition of the word). Since government itself has a monopoly on force (police and military) in order secure individual rights, anyone who allies themselves with them necessarily becomes a mob.

John Scroggins said...

“Don't let them into the system. Then our products can be crap and the public will have to buy them anyway - because there IS no competition. Replace quality with marketing. Very few people are talented enough to make quality and progress, but anyone can be a marketing executive.”

Again, unless force is used it is impossible for new competitors to enter the market. Its not unfair if a newborn competitor fails. Remember that the huge corporations were once tiny companies that either invented or redefined the market in question. So long as they did so without force or fraud, they have every right to sell crappy products (which would be a contradiction because nobody HONESTLY succeeds by selling inferior goods)

“We ordinary people have all kinds of laws we have to obey. We can't just go out and kill someone who likes the girl we want. We can't steal someone else's food or bigger TV. We can't cross the street on a red light or make up our own rules. Otherwise there would be chaos and a fast decline in our safety and quality of life.”

As men, we all have rights to our own life, our own liberty, and the pursuit of our own happiness. These are rights to ACTIONS, not rights to THINGS. A large company does not have the right to continue on merely because it was profitable in the past. It DOES have a right to pursue whatever action is necessary in order for it to survive, so long as its actions do not interfere with the rights of others (force, fraud, etc.)

“A completely free market means there are no rules. The people who believe in this assume that it breeds competition, but instead it breeds individual advancement at the expense of the company, the product and the talented and skilled artisans who want to actually make good things.”

A completely free market means there are no arbitrary rules enforced on them by the government. Individual rights are the only necessary and logical rules needed. People competing in a free market must observe the rights of others. In a truly free market, there will indeed be thieves and scoundrels that attempt to cheat their way to the top, but they won’t last long by virtue of their actions. They will not have a government mob to back them up. And if it does happen they will eventually be found and brought to justice.

I would ask that you pretend that you exist in a parallel universe. In this universe, there was a separation of State and Economy and you were left free to start an entertainment empire. After many years of hard work, you have managed to defeat the fierce competition and are now head of a gigantic corporation. You got there purely by your own ability. When weasels begin cannibalizing your company, would you allow them to stay there very long? What type of person would? I would argue that you would probably never hire one in the first place (at least not intentionally), and that your goal would be to surround yourself with only the best and brightest talent available. Not only for your own self interest (you value competency) but the survival of your company would depend on it, because at any time some young upstart with new and better ideas could come in and dethrone your massive cartoon empire. But of course, since you’re so big, you could simply try and buy the competition and increase your talent and wealth even more.

I can keep going, but I need a breather. Please let me know what you think.

Your fan,

John

Brade said...

Good stuff, John ;)

But don't you feel we are in a transitional phase in all realms of media, thanks to the internet? Maybe if you created a web-only toon you could eventually reach a wide audience. If it became the ass-kickingest site around, that's more traffic and more cash for you and the animators. Maybe similar to what David Lynch (another fave of mine) is doing with his website these days...

C said...

Pink handed Bugs is so cute. I can't imagine the yeti wanting to pet and hug the Loonatics and name them George.

ClaysAmerica said...

How can we give credence to Michael Moore’s “Capitalism,” when Capitalism is a Marxist term describing European mercantilism, a system of a few elites managing many “maggots?” It has nothing to do with individual freedom and its resulting free market and prosperity; such was known in America. How can the two systems be equated one to the other? It’s like the differences between 19th century and 20th century Democrats, as cited in THE CHANGING FACE OF DEMOCRATS (Amazon.com) and www.claysamerica.com. The first Democrats followed Jefferson to Cleveland and the modern Democrats follow Rousseau, Marx and Obama.

The Artist Aficionado said...

Micheal Moore is a hypocrite with capitalism good artistic analysis John.

Pete Emslie said...

I certainly can't argue with what you're saying here, John. The type of capitalism you cite as being beneficial to all is very true, and using profit as a prime motivation for creating good things should not be anything to be ashamed of. But, alas, as a society we have seemingly lost our ability to aspire to the greatness that past generations have, your comparative examples being duly noted. Today, it's "anything for a quick buck", with the result being shoddy products and mindless "entertainment".

By the way, I hate to accuse you of capitalist exploitation, John, but don't you agree that it's rather cruel to force Kaspar the Bear to wear that scary Michael Moore Halloween costume? I just hope the ASPCA doesn't get wind of this...

Bergsten said...

Hey, John. Long time...

I agree with your comments (not that you should care about that). I do wonder about the timing...

I just finished reading the Ann Rynd novels. If you've made it past the previous sentence, let me emphasize that I read them for their entertainment value (and because somebody loaded me them and I needed something to read). I had (and have) no interest in her group, groupies, etc. Atlas Shrugged could have been 1/3rd as long and you can safely skip any and all diatribes without losing any bit of the story or message.

The POINT of all this is that, for better or worse, she seems to have seen the same problems and came to the same conclusions as (you'll have to trust me on this) "we" have, but did it something like EIGHTY years ago! Which makes her really smart, and/or us really dumb.

I suspect, more realistically, that what you are describing is human nature, sadly it's nothing new -- it's what people will get away with if they can. Which brings us back to the question, "why complain NOW"?

Anyway, Rynd novelizes what happens when all the (true) thinkers and doers go on strike. Don't know about you, but I'M ready!

BTW, separating production and distribution in mass media can't hurt (as in theory it makes for a more equitable distribution of reward), but it really doesn't change who controls the pipeline (if you doubt this, look at how democratized web content really is and who is actually making money).

I sincerely wish to hell that you had been given more creative opportunity. I wish the same of myself, and many others whose work I respect.

Crap. I need a drink.

John Scroggins said...

Hey John, I wanted to finish up on the final parts of your post. These comments are primarily for you to read so if they annoy you or you're not going to read them, don't bother posting them.

“One simple regulation that could help (and did once) - Distributors Can't Own Products Or Manufacturing Plants”

This is a blatant infringement of property rights. If a distributor spends its time, effort, and money creating or maintaining a product then it should be entitled to its earnings (or losses).

“For example, if I owned Ren and Stimpy, cartoons would be way in advance today than they are.”

That may be true, but unless Nick held you at gunpoint and forced you to sign away the rights then you had every opportunity not to work with them.

“It used to be that a distributor couldn't own a product. For the reason that it could then make its own products and squeeze out other smaller competitors who might be able to make a better product, faster and cheaper.”

Again, unless there is compulsion involved, in a free market no company can force another out of business. You survive or die by your own actions and effort (unless you employ a mob to help you cheat).

“If we had that regulation, then the networks and movie distributors would be encouraged to hire the most talented creators so that what they distribute would make more money than the other distributors.”

I would imagine that a company with a creator owned distribution policy would set a higher standard in the industry than if the government forcibly tied the hands of certain people. Again, if these companies got where they were by legitimate means, then they can waste money and whither in whatever ways they please. It is not the government’s job to enforce companies to do one thing or another; only to punish them when they violate your property rights.

“When a network can own its own studio - like when Nickelodeon built one out of mine and used all the foundation (and money) that I generated and built up through my own natural impulses and urge to compete in a free market, they were then able to make their own cartoons in house and kill off any individuals who could make something better, faster and cheaper.”

Again, you are allowed to deal with them or not and the logical answer to this situation would be: start your own network and outperform what currently exists. Unless Viacom (or CBS rather) obtained government subsidies to start its initial radio corporation, then it had to raise money and start from the bottom at some point. Of course, there’s no telling how many rules and regulations you’d have to through just to obtain the permit… But if making lots of money and putting your vision into reality is valuable to you, then the struggle is ALWAYS worth it.

I too would recommend reading Atlas Shrugged.

Niki said...

I think this would make a funny movie, a guy progesses through a company, caring nothing for the product, while people doing the work get fired left and right because they don't fit in or some other nonsense, he's on top of the world and then it crumbles under his feet, he goes to prison as the patsy, gets out and tries to redo it right. Hopefully it'll set a few folks straight too!

JohnK said...

John, thanks for your comments, but I find them to be very naive and don't take reality into consideration.

I've lived this stuff.

JohnK said...

and yes, I've read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Those were also very naive in my opinion.

Geneva said...

I wouldn't recommend reading Atlas Shrugged (or any Rand book) to anyone who likes reading good books. For that matter, anyone who doesn't have a diagnosis for narcissistic personality disorder/sociopathy. Or isn't extremely naive.

I have a feeling John knows better, but I'm just tossin' this out there for anyone sort of on the fence about it.

alexpereiracartoon@gmail.com said...

Why this people love so much Socialism?
They have try live in Cuba or North Korea?
I live in Brazil, and here is full of this communists,
who worship Che Guevara and Stalin, but love scotch on the rocks and french champagne.

http://alexpereiracartoons.blogspot.com/

Toole said...

Yeah it's naive to ignore the gangsterism in the system. The media deregulation of late 90s synergized media into a handful of giant companies, killed the art of radio broadcasting within ten years, thats the free market. We need the gang we didn't opt in to but do have a say in, the government, to use its coercion for the greater good. Those private Moon Shot contractors didn't organize themselves.

Isaac said...

Whose idea was talking about economics on a cartoon site?

Attributing "telephones, medicine, cars" to capitalism is a mistake that lots of people do. Capitalists have been telling us that all the bounty of the industrial revolution comes from one form or another of capitalism. That's just not true. Scientific progress did not rise because of economic factors. It's the other way around - economic progress was created by the adoption of science and engineering, along with personal and social freedoms.

As to Libertarians being naive - that's completely true. They are just a little less naive than anarchists who think people will spontaneously create better governments once the old ones are destroyed. We do need governments to be as efficient as possible, but past a certain point you become inefficient. Private corporations can be just as inefficient as government entities, and vice versa. The only solution is accountability.

That's where you're being a little naive, Mr Kricfalusi. If executives make more money by stifling creativity, than that's what they'll do. If they lose money without being held accountable, they'll continue losing money. To chance the system, there should be laws that hold executives accountable for losing money.

JohnK said...

"If executives make more money by stifling creativity, than that's what they'll do."

They make more money personally despite wasting the company's money. The companies are so large and unwieldy that no one knows what's really happening anymore.

John Scroggins said...

"For that matter, anyone who doesn't have a diagnosis for narcissistic personality disorder/sociopathy. Or isn't extremely naive.

I suppose that makes me a narcissist/ sociopath/ and completely naive.

Maybe having dreams and doing whatever it takes to achieve them (or die in the process) is pretty darn naive. So when I'm old and grey and reality finally hits me in the face, feel free to come sneer at me and tell me that 'life doesn't work that way'. Until then, I'm going to work hard.

Incidentally, I know of one businessman who has followed Ayn Rand's philosophy to a 'T' and put it to practical use. I quote:

"John Allison is chairman of the board of BB&T Corporation. He began his service with BB&T in 1971, became president in 1987 and was elected chairman and CEO in 1989 (serving as CEO until the end of 2008). During Mr. Allison’s tenure, BB&T has grown from $4.5 billion to $137 billion in assets."

That's alot of money. He has a talk on youtube that may be interesting to listen to.

Oliver_A said...

I'm working part time during my studies as a hardware designer in a smaller computer business, so I know first hand what it means to build up a customer base with specialised quality products. Unlike big companies, we simply have to lay emphasis on quality and originality in order to survive.

In my opinion, the biggest killer of innovation and technical advancement in the free market are patents. In the US, it's very easy for a big company to issue patents on the most trivial concepts, which would have to be fought against in court in order to invalidate them. Unthinkable for a small company with a small business volume. Fortunately, at least in Europe, they sucessfully managed to stop the lobby behind software patents.

Imagine you just want to implement a simple colour chooser for a graphical application (say, for THE new, ultimate cartoon animation program) and having to fear repressions from Adobe because they issued a patent on this simple thing some time ago. Or, even worse, a company has patents in their repertoire, but does not enforce them, allowing people to use those techniques for free. Meanwhile, this company is being bought by another company who is now starting to sue those people to get easy cash.

I guess this perfectly fits your description of no competition.

Haggis McCrablice said...

Is is my imagination or does Moore look like the bastard son of Wilbur Cobb in John's sketches?

bergsten said...

@JohnS - I didn't recommend that anybody read anything. But naive or otherwise, Rynd wrote the first and only novels "I've" read that tackled the subject of how "society" treats those driven to create (and it ain't pretty, folks). Maybe JohnK found them naive because they had happy endings. Oops. Sorry.

@JohnK - Yes, I know you lived through this stuff. If it's any consolation (and I know it isn't) you're not alone in this, just more well-known. Also, if not this, they would have found another way to screw you. Also, also, you appear to still be alive and have undiminished passion for your craft and livelihood, so it could have been worse.

Very considerate of you to reply to your commenters...

:: smo :: said...

wow reading though these comments is making my head spin!

here's my short response because this is a touchy subject for me.

john k is right.

thomas said...

It would be nice to see Michael Moore (your version) and George Liquor being neighbors.

Trevor Thompson said...

John Kricfalusi and Marshal Mathers actually agree on something.

Eminem compares himself to Elvis all the time.

Wait!.... John Kricfalusi and Marshal Mathers actually AGREE on something?!? Well, now I've seen everything!

tck, tck.... BOOOM!!!

Kaiser Fate said...

Your Moore caricatures aren't as cute but they seem more faithful.

As far as capitalism goes, I wish I could disagree with you but there's too much evidence to the contrary. Companies deliberately design products to wear out so you will buy new ones. "They don't make them like they used to" is an accurate adage but hey, if you make a product that doesn't break, people won't buy it a second time, or they won't buy the newer version. Petrol companies pay designers millions for the rights to their ingenious water/air/shit-powered cars, which they will not manufacture until every single ounce of fossil fuel is milling around in the atmosphere. You've got to ask, "do these people even care about the world, or the people who live in it, or future generations?" And the answer is no, they only care about money, and they won't have to deal with it when they're buried in their solid gold coffins.

As for the animation industry, I've been thinking about this for a long time. Part of me wants to join a studio for the experience and security. Another part wants to starve to death in order to work on stuff myself and not have it savaged by financiers who don't have an artistic bone in their body. The agony of choice!

A Hard Days Knight, or simply Tim said...

John,

I've gotta say that your postings here are just about the only reasons I venture onto the internet anymore. You hit it out of the ballpark every time.

An interesting thought came to mind after reading this post, (specifically, when I got the the picture of Elvis), was that how we're thrown all this excess as Americans via tee-vee and the internet that it just doesn't seem possible to make the same cultural impact nowadays that someone like Elvis made. Thinking about how reportedly half of the entire country that owned televisions tuned into his '68 comeback-special, that sort of thing just wouldn't happen today. Weren't there just three channels back in the 60's? Now you've got literally thousands to choose from; Elvis' special never would've been noticed. Or The Beatles when they did the Ed Sullivan Show. I feel we've lost something by being granted so much -- and I'm not an older gent reminiscing on the past or anything; I'm 27, feeling like I'm being gypped.

JohnK said...

Actually, that;s the excuse networks have for getting ever diminishing ratings; that there is too much competition from hundreds of other channels. I disagree.


I think that if there was someone as talented and entertaining as Elvis on TV today, he would get huge ratings - far above even the top rated shows today.

Networks get lousy ratings because they put on boring shows about boring people. It's the age of amateurism.


That's my naive belief: if real skill and talent existed and could get in front of the public, it would win - and make tons of money for the capitalists.

I pulled it off once when no one was looking, so I still think it's possible. - and it took 9 years to convince anyone to show it. The trick is to get enough support and just enough time to succeed.

Sven Hoek said...

Letting companies get so big is a huge problem. If someone comes along who can make a product thats better in some way than what the big company offers, how can one compete? The bigger the company the more political pull it has and the less likely that anyone will be able to compete.

The government used to break up big companies that were monopolies, until they started receiving huge contribution from them. Now they are all warm and fuzzy friends. Government and Big Business, otherwise known as fascism. Its awful watching this country go down this road.

bergsten said...

(your call on posting this...)

Apropos of nothing -- I met Lasseter at some Pixar thing some years back. I had been talking with a few friends about designing some sort of specialized input console for doing animation using Maya or the like (basically, the moral equivalent of "mixing board" interfaces for music production software).

Nothing planned, nothing more than an idea and the vague notion that such a thing might be of some productive use. No company, nothing started, nothing to sell.

I explained all this to Lasseter and asked whether he thought Pixar and/or other animation studios might want slash need such a thing (assuming it didn't already exist), and if so, was it worth meeting anybody there to discuss it to see if there was merit?

He said (and it's been years, so this isn't verbatim, but pretty close), "I have an R&D department with forty people. What do I need you for"?

I said, "you got me there John," and moved on. My wife, who had observed all of this, said that I should have complemented him more first.

So, we just did something else instead.

Not sure what the moral to this story is (it's got to somehow involve "who you know"), but at least we didn't build the thing and THEN get screwed...

sharprm said...

I like the doodle at the end. Social issues can make comics weird.

Ardy said...

I still say corporations who rip off consumers and unfairly kill off competition do so through the empowerment of government. Even laws that supposedly protect the consumer or small business are always craftily designed to enhance the profits of those at the top. Or, even when well intended, they achieve the opposite effect. For example, Mike Fontanelli has a great theory on how a law preventing Block Booking killed the golden age of Hollywood and ushered in film mediocrity. The law was meant to protect small theaters from being ripped off by production companies who sold films in packages, but instead ensured the theaters would receive one bloated, watered down, safe, formulaic film at a time. So in my mind, chaos is preferred to the certainty of cultural and economic decline through regulation. At least that way, talented people have the same shot at success as everyone else, meaning they're more likely to succeed.

C said...

I don't know if anyone talented would rise these days. A lot of people I talk to seem addicted to TV. And what is on? Reality shows and shows about boring women who are mean to their husbands. I think the public have become addicted to mediocrity.

Dan Jhonny Valentine said...

dunoo about capitalism,but Cuba is a nice country where a want to retire and have my cartoons made and so on.Let me tell you this story,is about a fisherman who every day went fishing at sea,every day stay and watch the sunset on the beach,just sitting and go out on the ocean to fish just to provide food for him and his family.
One day this great manager comes to the same beach and sit with him while smoking a cigar
,-Listen,said the big boss,why not go out fishing every day?
-why is that,
-cuz you can fish a lot of fishes and with all that you can buy another boat
-why is that?
-so you can have 2 boats,hire someone else and maybe buy another boat or two
-so why do i wanna do that
-so will open a small market in the beggining,and expand after that,a liitle store here,a little store there...
-yeah but why?
-So you'll be a boss,have employes and have a succesufull large bussinessmake money,open another bussiness and so on..
-ok so after that what?
....- you can take your holiday 2 weeks a year ..and sit on the beach...and watch the ocean while smoking a cigar....said the big boss

gabriel valles said...

The problem is not Capitalism or even CEO's.

I agree that there are all kinds of people within companies and corporations that are are incompetent, hiding out and doing nothing, and getting paid way beyond their competence. It all becomes an inbred self perpetuating system of hiring more incompetence, until the company just kills itself. I just left a really high paying job for these reasons. I didn't want to waste any more time doing crappy work.

The thing is, to make the changes needed to do really great work, they would have to cut off their own legs and admit that they were in the way or not needed at all. I don't know very many people that would do that. Not even a noble artist.

What I realized is that you can't make people cut off their own legs.

So I joined a start-up company to learn how to do it myself.

The real problem is that Cartoonist don't care about money (or the craft of making money)or administration or processes. So they tend to leave it to the people who's only "skill" is to deal with money, contracts ,legal, meetings etc. and we expect they'll just take care all the stuff we don't want to deal with for us.

The problem is we take their money and expect that they won't want control or ownership. Even if it's in their own interest to stay out of the way. They rarely do. they want to feel like they made something great too. Skills or no skills.

I would have agreed with you about distribution ten years ago but those rules no longer apply with online distribution. iphone apps, Facebook, and every other way to reach millions of people.

You probably don't remember this but many years ago at a convention, you asked me how to make money from micro payments for your online cartoons. I told you Micro payments weren't a good way to go because the systems weren't ready yet. I told you free is the way to go and to make money on merchandising your characters. Well that has changed now. Micro payments are now a great option. And online distribution is more fluid now than ever before. You could have your own Smart phone, or Facebook, cartoon network if you wanted.

But then the problems becomes, do people really want high quality animation, when they are so conditioned to the bad work out there. With online distribution you'll find out really fast how much people care about a character.

So my point is; Animators, stop waiting around for people to cut their legs off. Make cartoons that people want. If nobody cares make another one. Become an entrepreneur, an inventor,and do what you believe in. Just like Max and Dave,Ub,Walt, and even the Veggie Tales guy.

Why are you people still in California? Get out of there, live somewhere cheap. Grab your nearest nerdy buddy and ask him to help you build your own worldwide cartoon network that you can charge .99 cents for people to see. There is a reason only a handful of Animators have taken this route. Because it's harder and riskier that the comfort of a desk job. But that's what Capitalism is really about isn't it. No risk, no reward.

Bryce Johansen said...

Wow...A depressing post and greasy Fish & chips don't mix well together.

So John, what's the plan?

How do you take down multi-million dollar companies?

Do we wait until everyone gets bored of their rubbish and they simply crumple then we move in and steal their food and bigger TVs then eat their stolen food and TVs?

I know that the natural way to grow more trees is to destroy the old ones...but these multi-million companies ain't natural...they're like those chips I eat...greasy and cheap.

Brian Goss said...

Compare Capitalist and Socialist ideals, and the consequences, JohnK.

Supply being equal to demand is a Capitalist ideal.

Government controlled "sharing everything" is a Socialist ideal.

So, if you had control of Ren and Stimpy in an ideal Capitalist society, you'd have a chance to make a cartoon that equalled the demand of cartoon fans. If someone else was able to make cartoons that came closer to equalling the demand of cartoon fans, they would sell their shows and you wouldn't.

In an ideal Socialist society, the gov't would own Ren and Stimpy, all the while telling you and everyone else that "the people" own Ren and Stimpy. You would only be able to make Ren and Stimpy cartoons the way the Socialist gov't TOLD YOU how to make them...regardless of quality. There would be no competition, and there would be no incentive to try and make a cartoon better.

Oliver_A said...

He said (and it's been years, so this isn't verbatim, but pretty close), "I have an R&D department with forty people. What do I need you for"?

I said, "you got me there John," and moved on.


I don't know how the situation was in real life but basically, how you describe it here, it sounds like he threw the ball in court. Lots of job interviewers ask questions like "Why do you want to work here? Why should we hire you?" and to me, this sounds like a similar situation.

Jizz Wad said...

I still don't really believe it was any better in the 50's or earlier then that. It still must have been fluke and accident that Elvis got big, that Welles got the chance to make 'Citizen Kane'.

Talent and hard work are never enough, you have to have luck, that's what I do not like about capitalism. There were lucky hacks then, and there are lucky hacks now.

Mellanumi said...

Hmmm... some truth in here; I'm still not sure capitalism is to blame. Theoretically, any political structure will work even Autocracy -- but that is if you have a benevolent leader. Given the nature of human nature, democracy and its economic base tend to make it easier to switch regimes and live "freely" through public elections and private enterprise. But no political ideology is incorruptible. I agree with you regarding managers; in my youth, I worked for a film company, whose director of development mistook her lack of imagination for creative impulse, and did a very wonderful hack job on every script she touched. She made lots of money and in the end had nothing to show for her work (not one movie produced). As my life progressed, I was continually astounded by the lack of passion on the parts of higher ups -- it seemed like they all were pursuing paychecks instead of their dreams; the inevitable result of which their product suffered. I think consolidation is a big variable in the equation; there are too many people at the top who benefit from their positions at the expense of others. In regards to government, I think society would be much improved if public officials could only live off a public stipend and could not be allowed to have any financial investments. It doesn't make sense that people are making decisions for us who have a real incentive to vote against the public's interest if it means a heftier pay off. America used to be a producer; but now we are an acquirer and marketer -- we take someone else's product and profit from it -- such as the buying and selling of oil in American dollars means we make a profit without having to drill on our own land. Or hiring programmers in India and Thailand means we can profit off America's need for new software, without allowing that money to trickle back into the system. So we are talking about something deeper than just a political or economic system.

JohnK said...

"Supply being equal to demand is a Capitalist ideal.

Government controlled "sharing everything" is a Socialist ideal."

so who's arguing?

I'm a capitalist and and a western democrat (not a political one).

I believe in all our general ideas. I also believe in laws to protect people from criminals and frauds.

And structural rules of the game that are for the common good like the American founders suggested.

Jeffrey said...

"In this day & age would you think it possible to start up an independent company/studio and produce a great body of work for the public without having to answer to say Nickelodeon/Disney/etc?"

This is one gripe I have sometimes while reading posts here, coming from a "punk rock" background as I do. The most important thing that Punk Rock and Hardcore gave the world (more than the music) was the DIY philosophy.

No record label would sign a band? Fine, the band would start their own record label. Rolling Stone wouldn't write about the music? Fine, the kids would start their own fan-zines. 18, 19, and 20 year old kids figuring out how to record, produce, and distribute their own records. They didn't wait for Sony or Capital to come down from on high and give them permission to exist. It extended from punk rock into the 80's, with the independent music movement, and then into the 90's with the independent film movement (with many auteurs, like Jim Jarmusch or Richard Linklater, came from a punk rock background).

So, where is the DIY independent animation scene? Why does it seem like everyone is waiting for some "magic studio" to open up for them where they can finally be independent and create with high quality, instead of stepping up and opening one themselves? (this is what I can't stand about my friends the liberals: complaining about something they're not willing to make any actual effort to change).

I remember first being exposed to John K., Peter Chung, Mike Judge, Craig McCracken, those "Rug Rats" people, and many others at the Spike and Mikes Sick and Twisted Animation Festival in the early 90's. Not from Nickelodeon or Mtv. Did all those wonderful (and many terrible, but...hey..."B" for effort) people have huge studios backing them up when they made their cartoons for that festival?

Obviously I'm simplifying the situation a great deal, and I know that animation is a lot more labor intensive than film or music production. But still, there's a small part of me that sometimes want's to grab the complainers and say to them (in my best Marlon Brando) "Act like a maaaaan!".

...sorry :(
----
on another note:
"I'm not anti-capitalist. Capitalism is a great idea. Someone should try it some day."
Noam Chomsky

Sean Lane said...

This is a great friggin' post MistaK. I was surprised to hear so much truth about the system come out of an old guy's mouth, no offense intended. My dad, being a conservative white man, and probably very similar to how you've always described and parodied your own dad, has always felt like he's going to get rich one day, and does not want companies regulated, failing to seee that them becoming larger is worse for him every year.

I especially like how you lay it all out and then relate it to animation, John. Makes a lot of sense and helps to argue against people who think Dreamworks or Pixar is some kind of pinnacle of a US animation house. It hurts that the other two big countries in animation, France and Japan, are way surpassing us in terms of color theory, design, new animation techniques, seamlessly blending 3D with traditional techniques and MAKING IT WORK, charging less for their animation colleges, teaching their new generation better, and in the end making cartoons that display a penchant for good poses, solid characters, and interesting stories. Japan has a lot of crap though, but they have a lot of great stuff that we never see as our American system imports the lowest bidder and the best prospect of merchandise in terms of anime.

One thing that bothers me as an animator/artist that wants to get better one day is the lack of paying intern opportunities and the way everything is shipped out overseas anyway. If at least we had universal healthcare, the companies could keep some jobs in the US as they wouldn't have to worry about health expenses, but I'm sure they would find another way to disenfranchise US workers without proper rules in place. I've never understood why companies that pride themselves in the American Dream coming true have all of it's hard working staff in China or India.

When you said the owner or manager of the company should be interested in the product and how it works and is made, it rang very true. It's a sad state...

spaz said...

a few years ago i had to bring a large crew back to Toronto to work on a film. we were there for a year. this crew were mostly liberal Americans from San Fransisco. they got to experience "real" socialism and not the idealized SF version. they couldn't it and critical of the way it worked.

Michael said...

Leeuwenhoek the inventor of the microscope was penniless and died that way. He made hundreds of microscopes. What was Einstein's profit motive. Did the Wright brothers do what they did for profit? Did John K think $$$ when he cartooned his first cartoon? Like John K said he wanted enough to pour it back into the project.

It takes a lot of deep thought to get over what happens as we become socialized.
It takes a lot of deep thought getting over being a brainwashed, over-consuming corn-fed domesticated cow.

The best systems thinking I've found on the real problems you describe come from the Zeitgeist Movement. Check them out on YouTube. They've remove money entirely from the equation.

Personally as I've said before, deep down it's this:

...Those who are fulfilling the basic tenants of evolution are pursuing the leading edge of information and making new applications with novel perspectives while at the same time extending the possibility for others to pursue the same leading edge of information building on information. Factoring in figures on overpopulation, over-consumption and existing advancements the bar is now set very high for most people....

Mellanumi said...

John, there is nothing wrong with regulation, but don't you think that there is something dishonest about self-regulation? And at this point, the government is so tied in with international corporations, that any form of self-regulation is like Lyndsey Lohan admitting herself to a rehab AFTER a car crash -- only to avoid doing time? Think about the credit reform? If politicians really wanted to see reform with unscupulous business practices in the credit lending community, they would eliminate the ability of creditors to artificially jack your interest rate up to 30% for missing the payment on another bill -- the legal reasons for a card issuing company to do so are pretty weak and most would agree this is an area where we could impose the rule of law; and yet the only thing creditors have to do now is give you a warning in advance? This was the big change in the consumer bill of rights politicians fought for? So now instead of screwing you right away, the creditors have to notify you in advance that they are going to screw you? Politicians don't want meaningful change because it hurts their pocketbooks. So I'm not sure that any form of regulation will really help. There are always ways around those rules, especially for the lawyers who create them.

Mellanumi said...

Rand is a profound thinker; and many have more ideas in common with her than they think. Often her views are distorted and misrepresented in very profound ways. Her thoughts on Objectivism and its application to art are spot on; of course, I wouldn't expect many of the current zeitgeist to flock to her work and accept her insights. This gut reaction to Rand's work in flippant aphorisms and amphibologies only contributes to a misunderstanding of her work. I think it's fair to say we have achieved decadence in American society. And we've seen how many societies collapse from the same decadence. What makes us think we can't experience the same.

Michael said...

Brade said,

"don't you feel we are in a transitional phase in all realms of media, thanks to the internet?"

I agree. What really helps me when I get annoyed at the current infrastructure
and frightening world-views is to view the larger perspective of where
we are in human social development. We are just a tiny part of this
continuum but the pace of evolution is accelerating exponentially.

Three sources come to mind on this for right now:
"2001: A Space Odyssey", The works of philosopher Ken Wilber and
inventor/futurist Ray Kurzweil.

Starting with "2001", at every juncture in the advancement of human
evolution we will see conflict. We are in a time when world views are
evolving and there will be pain associated with it.
Bone-tool violence, HAL 9000 run amuck and lastly the broken wine
glass.

Then Wilber lays out the continuum and where we are in it. See
my book notes below. I could do without the color-coding Wilber
introduces. I think it takes away from the credibility of the concept.

Finally Ray Kurzweil in his book "The Singularity is Near" presents a
lot of evidence to show how fast we're progressing.

So all this means that the time is ripe for John K to have his own cartoons online. And the time is ripe for John K. to have an online cartoon school. But prepared for some pain.

JohnK said...

Starting a punk band and making quality cartoons don't equate.

It doesn't cost anything to have a 4 man band and doesn't take any skill to play punk music.

Making the kinds of cartoons that the people who come here to find out about cost a lot of money, take a lot of skilled people and take months to make even with a large crew.

There's no analogy here.
The Punk style animation exists. Look at independent Flash films online. If I made anything like those, everyone here would say I've lost my talent.

bergsten said...

@Oliver_A -- your explanation could very possibly be correct, though that's not how it seemed at the time.

This wasn't an "interviewing" event, it was social. I was saying in effect, "I got an idea that may be of value to your group -- do you think it's worth pursuing jointly or at all?"

And what I heard back was, "WE are Pixar. We're smarter than everybody -- if it's worth doing, we can do it ourselves" in a tone of arrogance and dismissal.

I may well have taken it the wrong way, and had "I" needed "them" in the least, I probably would have pressed it further ("OK, who ELSE should I talk to?").

The reason I relate this story here (aside from the fact that it peripherally relates to animation and contains the requisite name-dropping)is that when you scratch the surface of any organization you find people staring back. And people don't always make correct decisions, and even then almost never for the correct reasons. He could well have been tired, sick of being "panhandled," had other things on his mind, secret-stuff-already-in-process, Steve Jobs busting his balls, etc.

Regardless, this was a potentially valuable opportunity crushed by one conversation.

The point being that you can argue philosophies, political and economic systems, separation of duties, legality, ownership, distribution, regulation, and so on, but in the final analysis you still have to deal with people.

And people don't change.

JohnK said...

"Leeuwenhoek the inventor of the microscope was penniless and died that way. He made hundreds of microscopes. What was Einstein's profit motive. Did the Wright brothers do what they did for profit? Did John K think $$$ when he cartooned his first cartoon? Like John K said he wanted enough to pour it back into the project."

That's true. There are a small handful of people who do things they love just because they can't help themselves.

These things can make a lot of money for capitalists who support them, and then the people who generate the good things and resulting wealth should be rewarded for their natural instincts. Then they can do more good for humanity.

We also need an atmosphere and culture that encourages progress like we used to have. That's mising from modern captalism.

Shawn Dickinson said...

>>So, where is the DIY independent animation scene?<<

Right here!:

http://vimeo.com/6898451

Dan Jhonny Valentine said...

sorry Jhon K ...I am crazy...i just think i got an ideea about how lonely you can feel most of the time.....

I.D.R.C. said...


Capitalism has one aim - Capital. We should be discussing Democracy instead.

I.D.R.C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Goss said...

This is one gripe I have sometimes while reading posts here, coming from a "punk rock" background as I do. The most important thing that Punk Rock and Hardcore gave the world (more than the music) was the DIY philosophy.

DIY philosophy existed long before there was such a thing as Punk and Hardcore. Anybody who ever lived off the land was LIVING a the purest DIY philosophy. Look at 19th and early 20th century hillbillies for example: They made everything for themselves and bartered with each other for things they couldn't make themselves; They made their own music, clothes, art, etc.

To suggest Punks invented a philosophy and even a way of life that has been around since man lived in caves is ridiculous.

Zoran Taylor said...

Ah, someone had to bring punk into the equation. Sad thing is, there was actual skill at the root of that music. John Cale of the Velvet Underground was a classically trained musician. Warhol was an excellent draughtsman. Roxy Music made a quantum leap in musicianship between each of their albums. That was avant-garde rock; punk was a retarded version of that and for the most part a disappointment.

Thankfully there are plenty of indie musicians now who possess all the technical skill any reasonable person would require of a pop band. Listen to some Stars or Regina Spektor if you don't believe me.

Dan szilagyi said...

thank you so much for taking the time to post this John, finally someone in the industry makes an actual statement and it's true!

I completely agree with everything you just said.

If i can i'd like to suggest you to read a book called "starting point 1979 - 1996 Hayao Miyazaki " although it's mostly japanese and anime information i think the ideas about good film is evident and Miyazaki himself is critical of japanese animation as well which i admire.

anyway great post!

Mellanumi said...

How can democracy replace capitalism except in the symbolic world of semantics? Democracy is not an economic system; capitalism is. You are talking about two different things. Yet another reason why Moore is full of gas.

I.D.R.C. said...

Mellanumi,

We don not live in a capitalist system, we live in a democratic one.

This is the basis for our values, not the rule of the dollar.

This is why words matter. They change the tenor of the debate.

Can I be any clearer?

Peter Bernard said...

It sounds like you're agreeing with Moore. I agree with this post.

JohnK said...

Hey, I made you long-winded guys a separate post just for all this stuff. Please use "Michael's comments" to continue your arguing.

Thanks!


John