Zero Hedge
0
All posts from Zero Hedge
Zero Hedge in Zero Hedge,

Why They Spy: IT-Powered Feudalism Is Cheaper Than Playing Fair

Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

The amount a state needs to expend on guard labour is a function of how much legitimacy the state holds in its population’s reckoning. A state whose population mainly views the system as fair needs to do less coercion to attain stability. People who believe that they are well-served by the status quo will not work to upset it. States whose populations view the system as illegitimate need to spend more on guard labour.

 

Why spy? Because it’s cheaper than playing fair. Our networks have given the edge to the elites, and unless we seize the means of information, we are headed for a long age of IT-powered feudalism, where property is the exclusive domain of the super-rich, where your surveillance-supercharged Internet of Things treats you as a tenant-farmer of your life, subject to a licence agreement instead of a constitution.

 

From Cory Doctorow’s Guardian article: Technology Should Be Used to Create Social Mobility – Not to Spy on Citizens

At this point, only the most clueless and gullible amongst us thinks that government surveillance has anything to do with stopping terrorism. Nevertheless, it remains as important as ever to explain to people the true reason behind the elimination of the 4th Amendment. Namely, protecting the oligarchy from restless plebs.

Cory Doctorow just wrote an excellent piece on the subject for the Guardian, in which he introduced a new term (at least to me): IT-Powered Feudalism. Here are some excerpts from the piece:

Why spy? That’s the several-million pound question, in the wake of the Snowden revelations. Why would the US continue to wiretap its entire population, given that the only “terrorism” they caught with it was a single attempt to send a small amount of money to Al Shabab?

 

Spying, especially domestic spying, is an aspect of what the Santa Fe Institute economist Samuel Bowles calls guard labour: work that is done to stabilise property relationships, especially the property belonging to the rich.

 

The amount a state needs to expend on guard labour is a function of how much legitimacy the state holds in its population’s reckoning. A state whose population mainly views the system as fair needs to do less coercion to attain stability. People who believe that they are well-served by the status quo will not work to upset it. States whose populations view the system as illegitimate need to spend more on guard labour.

 

It’s easy to see this at work: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, China and North Korea spend disproportionate sums on guard labour. Highly redistributive Nordic states with strong labour laws, steeply progressive taxation and tenant protection spend less on guard labour. They attain social stability through the carrot of social programmes, not the stick of guard labour.

 

This implies that productivity gains in guard labour will make wider wealth gaps sustainable. When coercion gets cheaper, the point at which it makes “economic sense” to allow social mobility moves further along the curve. The evidence for this is in the thing mass surveillance does best, which is not catching terrorists, but disrupting legitimate political opposition, from Occupy to the RCMP’s classification of “anti-petroleum” activists as a threat to national security.

 

Even if you think that hereditary dynasties and extreme wealth for the few and hereditary, extreme poverty for the many is morally fine, the reality is that extreme wealth concentration distorts policy. We want policy to reflect the best available evidence, but when legislators are drawn from, and beholden to, a tiny ruling elite, they can only make evidence-based policy to the extent that the evidence doesn’t inconvenience rich people.

 

And so on. A state that is beholden to a small number of people is also beholden to that elite’s sacred cows. It is incompatible with evidence-based policy.

 

Why spy? Because it’s cheaper than playing fair. Our networks have given the edge to the elites, and unless we seize the means of information, we are headed for a long age of IT-powered feudalism, where property is the exclusive domain of the super-rich, where your surveillance-supercharged Internet of Things treats you as a tenant-farmer of your life, subject to a licence agreement instead of a constitution.

One of the most important observations made above is that: “We want policy to reflect the best available evidence, but when legislators are drawn from, and beholden to, a tiny ruling elite, they can only make evidence-based policy to the extent that the evidence doesn’t inconvenience rich people.”

A perfect example of this was recently inadvertently displayed on NBC’s Sunday morning establishment circus Meet the Press. Here we learned that Lindsay Graham, a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, has never sent an email in his life. Won’t stop him from crafting technology policy though will it?

You have to see it to believe it: