6:01 a.m. July 1, 2013

A scribble

Speculative: assuming libertarian kids grow up (which is far from guaranteed—many contemporary socialists do, but others get worse), and further assuming that Hans Hermann Hoppe's craziness doesn't totally infect libertarianism, is there any chance that today's internet generation will push back against interference in private life by both business and government? (Ron and Rand do not count, the Republican party may become more "libertarian", but even if they were sincere it's still fundamentally a conservative party.)

Back channel chatter

  1. No.

  2. Well that was concise…

  3. Anyway, basically what you're saying is that the future will be a bun-fight between morons?

  4. By which I mean: the proportion of people who actually care enough about this to do something is tiny, and I just don't believe it will grow. (The proportion who care enough to vote may even be too low to achieve anything, and although from a pragmatic point of view reigning in government growth probably makes as much sense as tackling individual issues where you perceive abuse, redundancy, market distortion or simply incompetence, it's not nearly as sexy, which means it isn't sexy at all because the rest of it is really Bridget Jones' gray granny pants more than Dr. Carol Marcus' lingerie in the first place.)

    I remember going to a conference session led by teenagers talking about how they viewed the internet. What struck me, beside their naive optimism about the short-term prospects of technology, was that they seemed to be moulding their lives around the constraints imposed by the status quo rather than sitting up and challenging it. (Extrapolate with caution.) Honestly, I see the same happening with a lot of internet-savvy folk who are older, perhaps because even if you effect change it's a process, and you need to safeguard yourself in the meantime. In the 90s that meant using PGP for all your email; these days it means not having a Facebook / Google / whatever account depending on who you're most scared of abusing that relationship. (Although with teenagers, I'm hearing that it's more about avoiding their parents & teachers than concern about the companies involved. Again, extrapolate with caution.)

  5. Well, yes, that's a huge problem. I had a go at deterministic techolovers of both the internet-communist and libertarian variety a few years back, on the basis that this mistake technology for agency. Still think it's the best thing I've ever written.

  6. Of course, I could be wrong. The right charismatic subversive can change anything, which is why we should foster them. (We usually put them in detention in the UK, at least until they're old enough to leave school.) Even so, it's difficult to think of what the resultant society would look like without it feeling very different to what we have now, which is difficult to make happen, because it would involve actual revolution, which involves actual pain. (Even if it's technically bloodless.) Is the hunger for Libertopia sufficient to overcome the barrier of self-interested comfort? (Or the hunger for a Socialist equivalent, for that matter.) Incumbency of social structure is pretty difficult to shift…

  7. Having lived through a failed—albeit small-scale—revolution I don't have a big thing for them. I laugh at socialists cheering them on in far off lands but running a mile from the one in Ireland. It was violent and unpleasant. How surprising!

  8. We like the comforting idea that if we had a revolution now it'd be clean, somehow. And how could we know any different (without reading a book or having a good think)? Mass media fictional depictions of uprising are pretty sanitised in the most part.

  9. When Nelson Mandela keels-over liberal-lefites will be cock-a-hoop calling Tories scum and hypocrites for saying, in the 80s, that he was a terrorist. And yet the same people still say the same about Gerry Adams and co. I can't see any discernible difference between the two, other than that Mandela won. Taking sides is fine, but I prefer it if people don't take both sides at the same time.

  10. I've criticized tech-utopianism for a long time, and I don't think it will be a revolution that pushes back against intrusions into privacy. I think it will look more like this old process:

    1. Shiny new industry comes along, swears it's different.
    2. New industry isn't. Really, it just wants to make money (shocking, I know), so it ends up doing a bunch of creepy, intrusive things to extend its own power and profits. Cooperates and helps along plenty of creepy trends in government in the process.
    3. Hubris being what it is, they eventually go too far and piss off a lot of people.
    4. A backlash, in the form of everything from new legal restrictions to cultural taboos, cuts them back, though they still retain plenty of power. Eventually, the backlash settles, and a new temporary status quo results.

    I don't think this will evolve out of the libertarian movement or anything particularly special about my generation. I actually think it will involve a backlash against the tech sector. The shine is wearing off the corporate side of Silicon Valley and governments continue to act in a bubble without being really aware of the level of anger they're stirring up.

    Eventually they'll do something really clueless and there will be a larger backlash, probably from a hodge-podge of more mainstream factions. It won't result in any sort of utopia, just a truce before the next new thing comes along and the whole cycle starts over. That's the optimistic take, anyway.

  11. Hm. The spacing didn't work out on that list, but I think the point's clear anyway.

  12. What generation is that? How old are you?

  13. On a side note, I think the Pauls have maintained one of the longest-running pieces of charlatan political theater in American history. They've changed views countless times, marshaling whatever bit of the unsatisfied fringe they can make money off of without going so far out as to become irrelevant. In the process, they've gotten reputations for "integrity" despite being perpetual turncoats, including from many people whose rights they would drastically curb. As an exercise in testing the public's amnesia, it's pretty impressive.

  14. I'm 30, Jason, at the old end of the millenials.

  15. OK. I'm not exactly clear when that starts. I've heard 1978, but also 1982.

  16. David, I think the one interesting point is that industry is different to technology. Industry requires money, structures, people, probably experience with whatever's already in place in the world. Technology is just an invention; it can be coopted, and any morality or ideals that the inventor attached to it will be stripped in that process. (Even if they are reapplied, most likely as a fig leaf, that's a debasing step.)

    Jason, don't we always take both sides on most issues like this? End of the day I always suspect that most people would happily support things for their righteous causes that they'd pillory opponents for even suggesting. Maybe not as far as torture, aggressive terror-causing raids, setting fire to people or Pat Robertson, but there's usually a line that you can cross providing the ends justify.

    Adams was a terrorist. Mandela was a terrorist (I distinctly remember in the 80s we both hated Thatcher and thought Mandela was dodgy too*). Shays was a terrorist. Benjamin Lincoln was a terrorist. Or none were, or only some of them; it's all a matter of perspective.

    • I should disclose that I was tiny in the 80s. Tiny, but with the names of cabinet ministers on my tongue.
  17. When Millenials were Gen Y it was considered to start late 70s or early 80s. Then we abandoned that in the last few years, for no terribly obvious reason, and replaced it with Gen Z, or Gen M, and finally Millenials. I was born in 76, and generally think of myself, if I absolutely have to, as fringe X-Y.

  18. Well, yes. 78 here. I have no generation. I need to go and cry now.

  19. I was too young to enjoy the 1990s, but am seriously worried they may represent a cultural and economic high point.

  20. I think we need to introduce the concept of Peak Fun.

  21. As per usual, even the wisest among us can't agree on when the generation starts, but probably just too late for any fun. Or a functioning economy.