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Silicon Secessionists
Rick Searle   Jan 12, 2014   Utopia or Dystopia  

Lately, there have be weird mumblings about secession coming from an unexpected corner. We’ve come to expect that there are hangers on to the fallen Confederate States of America, or Texans hankering after their lost independent Republic, but Silicon Valley? Really? The idea, at least at first blush, seems absurd.

We have the tycoon founder of PayPal and early FaceBook investor, Peter Thiel, whose hands seem to be in every arch-conservative movement under the sun, and who is a vocal supporter of utopian seasteading. The idea of creating a libertarian oasis of artificial islands beyond the reach of law, regulation and taxes.

Likewise, Zoltan Istvan’s novel The Transhumanist Wager uses the idolatry of Silicon Valley’s Randian individualism and technophilia as lego blocks with which to build an imagined “Transhumania”.  A moveable artificial island that is, again, free from the legal and regulatory control of the state.

A second venture capitalist, Tim Draper, recently proposed shattering mammoth California into six pieces, with Silicon Valley to become its own separate state. There are plans to build a techno-libertarian Galt’s Gulch type city-state in Chile, a geographical choice which given Chile’s brutal experience with right-wing economics via Pinochet and the Chicago-school is loaded with historical irony.

Yet another Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur, Elon Musk, hopes to do better than all of these and move his imagined utopian experiment off of the earth, to Mars. Perhaps, he could get some volunteer’s from Winnipeg whose temperature earlier this month under a “polar vortex” was colder than that around the Curiosity Rover tooling around in the dead red dust of the planet of war.

What in the world is going on?

By far the best articulation of Silicon Valley’s new secessionists urges I have seen comes from  Balaji Srinivasan, who doesn’t consider himself a secessionist along the lines of John C Calhoun at all. In an article for Wired back in November  Srinivasan laid out what I found to be a quite intriguing argument for a kind of Cambrian explosion of new polities. The Internet now allows much easier sorting of individuals based on values and its only a step or two ahead to imagine virtual associations becoming physical ones.

I have to say that I find much to like in the idea of forming small, new political societies as a means of obtaining forms of innovation we sorely lack- namely political and economic innovation. I also think Srinivasan and others  are onto something in that that small societies, which get things right, seem best positioned to navigate the complex landscape of our globalized world. I myself would much prefer a successful democratic-socialist small society, such as a Nordic one like Finland, to a successful capitalist-authoritarian on like Singapore, but the idea of a plurality of political systems operating at a small scale doesn’t bother me in the least as long as belonging to such polities is ultimately voluntary.

​The existence of such societies might even help heal one of the main problems of the larger pluralist societies, such as our own, to which these new communities might remain attached. Pluralist societies are great on diversity, but often bad on something older, and invariably more intolerant types of society had in droves; namely the capacity of culture to form a unified physical and intellectual world- a kind of home- at least for those lucky enough to believe in that world and be granted a good place within it.

Even though I am certain that, like most past efforts  have, the majority of these newly formed polities would fail, as have the utopian experiments in the past, we would no doubt learn something from them. And some might even succeed and become the legacy of those bold enough to dream of the new.

One might wonder, however, why this recent interest in utopian communities has been so strongly represented both by libertarians and Silicon Valley technolphiles? Nothing against libertarian experiments per se, but there are, after all a whole host of other ideological groups that could be expected to be attracted to the idea of forming new political communities where their principles could be brought to fruition. Srinivasan, again, provides us with the most articulate answer to this question.

In a speech I had formerly misattributed to one of the so-called neo-reactionaries (apologies), Srinivasan lays out the case for what he calls “Silicon Valley’s ultimate exit”.

He begins by asking in all seriousness “Is the USA the Microsoft of Nations?”and then goes on to draw the distinction between two different types of responses to institutional failure- Voice versus Exit. Voice essentially means aiming to change an institution from within whereas Exit is flight or in software terms “forking” to form a new institution whether that be anything from a corporation to a state. Srinivasan thinks Exit is an important form of political leverage pressuring a system to adopt reform or face flight.

The problem I see is the logic behind the choice of Exit over Voice which threatens a kind of social disintegration. Indeed, the rationale for Exit behind libertarian flight which Srinivasan draws seems not only to assume an already existent social disintegration, but proposes to act as an accelerant for more.

Srinivasan’s argument is that Silicon Valley is on the verge of becoming the target of the old elites which he calls “The Paper Belt: based in:Boston with higher ed; New York City with Madison Avenue, books, Wall Street, and newspapers; Los Angeles with movies, music, Hollywood; and, of course, DC with laws and regulations, formally running it.” That Silicon Valley with it’s telecommunications revolution was “putting a horse head in all of their beds. We are becoming stronger than all of them combined.” That the elites of the Paper Belt  “are basically going to try to blame the economy on Silicon Valley, and say that it is iPhone and Google that done did it, not the bailouts and the bankruptcies and the bombings…” And that  “What they’re basically saying is: rule by DC means people are going back to work and the emerging meme is that rule by us is rule by Terminators. We’re going to take all the jobs.”

Given what has actually happened so far Srinivasan’s tone seems almost paranoid. Yes, the shine is off the apple (pun intended) of Silicon Valley, but the most that seems to be happening are discussions about how to get global tech companies to start paying their fair share of taxes. And the Valley has itself woken up to the concerns of civil libertarians that tech companies were being us by the US as a giant listening device.

Srinivasan himself admits that unemployment due to advances in AI and automation is a looming crisis, but rather than help support society, something that even a libertarian like Peter Diamandis has admitted may lead to the requirement for a universal basic income, Srinivasan instead seems to want to run away from the society he helped create.

And therein lies the dark side of what all this Silicon Valley talk of flight is about. As much as it’s about experimentation,or Exit, it’s also about economic blackmail and arbitrage. It’s like a marriage where one partner, rather than engage even in discussions where they contemplate sacrificing some of their needs threatens at the smallest pretense to leave.

Arbitrage has been the tool by which the global, (to bring back the good old Marxist term) bourgeoisie, has been able to garner such favorable conditions for itself over the past generation. “Just try to tax us, and we will move to a place with lower or no taxation”, “Just try to regulate us and we will move to a place with lower or no regulation”, it says.

Yet, both non-excessive taxation, and prudent regulation are the way societies keep themselves intact in the face of the short-sightedness and greed at the base of any pure market. Without them, shared social structures and common infrastructure decays and all costs- pollution etc- are externalized onto the society as a whole. Maybe what we need is not so much more and better tools for people to opt out, which Srinivasan proposes, than a greater number and variety of ways for people to opt in. Better ways of providing the information and tools of Voice that are relevant, accessible, and actionable.

Perhaps what’s happened is that we’ve come almost full round from our start in feudalism. We started with a transnational church and lords locked in the place of their local fiefdoms and moved to nation-states where ruling elites exercised control over a national territory where concern for the broad society underneath along with its natural environment was only fully extended with the expansion of the right to vote almost universally across society.

With the decline of the national state as the fundamental focus of our loyalty we are now torn in multiple directions, between our country, our class, by our religious and philosophical orientations, by our concern for the local or its invisibility, or our concern for the global or its apparent irrelevance.  Yet, despite our virtuality we still belong to physical communities, our neighborhood, country and our shared earth.

Closer to our own time, this hope to escape the problems of society by flight and foundation of new uncorrupted enclaves is an idea buried deep in the founding myth of Silicon Valley. The counter-culture from which many of the innovators of Silicon Valley emerged wanted nothing to do with America’s deep racial and Cold War era problems. They wanted to “drop out” and instead ended up sparking a revolution that not only challenged the whitewashed elites of the “Paper Belt”, but ended up creating a new set of problems, which the responsibility of adulthood should compel them to address.

The elite that has emerged from Silicon Valley is perhaps the first in history dis-attached from any notion of physical space, even the physical space of our shared earth. But “ultimate exit” is an illusion, at least for the vast majority of us, for even if we could settle the stars or retreat into an electron cloud, the distances are far too great and both are too damned cold. 

Images:
http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/11/software-is-reorganizing-the-world-and-cloud
-formations-could-lead-to-physical-nations/
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/12/2013
-a-terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-year-for-the-tech-industry/282656/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/47344460@N04/11058855095/

Rick Searle, an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET, is a writer and educator living the very non-technological Amish country of central Pennsylvania along with his two young daughters. He is an adjunct professor of political science and history for Delaware Valley College and works for the PA Distance Learning Project.



COMMENTS

@ Rick..

My pessimism extends beyond seasonal reflection. When I was younger I had faith that there would be no more Great wars - today, I am not so sure, and for one simple reasoning..

Unless there is determined and constructive drive for socioeconomic change, then the world society/Capitalism system cannot endure “as is” for much longer, at least not without gross increase in inequity, poverty and suffering as is imposed by institutional austerity and unemployment and competition for future jobs? When Humans should in fact be contemplating a technological future that is more prosperous and secure for humanity?

Presently we Humans are being sold this necessity for international “Austerity” under the guise of lies that the economic future is not sustainable, (pensions, healthcare, jobs, food, water, etc), when really this austerity is but pure political ideology to maintain the status quo and a corrupt system, with aim to slow down rate of change/socioeconomic progress?

There is no upper limit on Capital growth - this is merely relative/abstract. It is a world socioeconomic Capitalism system based upon pursuit of fast profit/gain from promoting and exploiting global debt, from “individuals to nations”, that is no longer sustainable? And again, what exactly is Capitalism - but this inherent flaw in the Human condition to aspire to attain something for nothing/for as little effort as possible? This is how this entire debt driven corrupt system has been imagined, created and perpetuated?

So what’s the problem? Where is all the money? Who has it? Is there not enough money, or moreover, food in the world? Has all this money drifted off into space never to be seen again? The truth is there is more ethereal debt computerised and catalogued than any nation, (and especially the US), can free itself from, ever? And who is this money owed to exactly? Who is holding the world debt presently?

The world machine has been spinning debt for the greater part of this last century, and will continue, until there is “drastic” change to absolve this debt, to write it off, systematically and rationally and reasonably?

I believe this can be done, and must be done. That the redistribution of world monies can be effected by global debt amnesty and “write off” and through “creative taxation” with aims to “incrementally” redistribute global wealth? This is the “only” way that Capitalism and this corrupt system based upon debt can be reigned in, regulated, re-imagined, and made fit for the near(?) future at least?

Purchase tax alone will not suffice, although I also believe that “creative” variable rates for goods and properties, (taxation on the exchange of sums of monies), can also be utilized to the benefit of regulation of a system aiming to ultimately absolve excessive national debt.


Yet I cannot see any rich person supporting increased income tax any time soon can you?
Moreover, I can see the rich and powerful do “everything” within their means to perpetuate their power and wealth, even at the expense of nation states? The proletariat? Well they are just another (lower) species as seen from the apex of the pyramid?

So where does this leave your views on “Silicon Valley” folks?

“Who” is orchestrating this mass misdirection of future dystopia imagined by Hollywood, (the movies are endless.. yet all end in revolution and feudalism and “guns blazing”)?

Are we all just pawns “paying money” to watch yet more political war and manipulation/propaganda waged by “old money” against “new”!

Even so, “We”, “they”, are still not seeing the greater problem, not imagining the greater positive picture/tableau for the future - that the only way ahead is global socioeconomic reform, (even the secessionists may come to see future economic security as superior to hoarding and escapism)?

There is another option available to those rich and powerful enough in the face of extinction - The “great leveller”?

“No more pensions any more” (and just think about the potential for “Keynesian” rebuild)?

The global debt clock

http://www.economist.com/content/global_debt_clock

 

The reason some people are thinking about creating their own countries is because they want to accelerate technology, so they can live forever.  The US is stifling technology due to bureaucratic inefficiencies and competing agendas.  I predict that a state like Zoltan Istvan’s novel The Transhumanist Wager would accomplish in a lifetime what countries like the US or Japan couldn’t achieve in a century.  Just the ridiculous rules governing medical experiments (i.e. voluntary informed adults, or the terminally ill, as subjects in humane visionary experiments) alone is setting us back decades.

For instance, have you watched the new show Intelligence about a guy with an imbedded chip in his brain which interfaces with the internet?  Never happen in my lifetime with the FDA rules.  How about genetic enhancements?  Never happen in my lifetime with Congress’ social conservatives.  I personally want a full body prosthesis when I get old, but it will never happen given the national security and institutional financial implications in the US.

If I want any of those things, I’ll have to travel outside the US to get them, and then probably won’t be welcome to return unless I keep them secret.  Did you know that US citizens per capita believe in angels more than any country on Earth?  How can such a superstitious people rationally institute wise long range policies?

@CygnusX1:

I am in agreement that what the world needs is more equal distribution and am similarly pessimistic that this will happen absent a catastrophic crisis. (I am currently reading a book on the French Revolution and it has many echoes with our own day even if our own revolution seems extremely unlikely).

Regarding our situation: One of the more troubling things to me is that the world’s central banks are indeed trying to effect a kind of slow motion global default- zero level interest rates should cause inflation and the evaporation of debts- but inflation isn’t moving and much of this money seems to be pouring into global stock markets- I fear yet another bubble.

Technology seems to be on the verge of giving us room for an alternative to capitalism but is instead being used to exacerbate capitalism’s underlying inequalities. Where I fault Silicon Valley is in embracing such inequalities as evidence of their “superiority” and in their lack of imagination in imagining any utopia which is anything more than a version of the Randian fantasy we already have on steroids.

@dobermanmac:


“For instance, have you watched the new show Intelligence about a guy with an imbedded chip in his brain which interfaces with the internet?”

There is actually a lot of research going on, right now, in the US on brain-computer-internet interfaces. A good deal of it being done at Duke University by Miguel Nicolelis.

http://www.nicolelislab.net/


I think this idea that regulation regarding human experimentation is slowing down longevity research is a false, and dangerous, one that has been gaining traction with transhumanists at least as evidenced in the work of Steve Fuller and the Trans-humanist Wager. It is not prudent and ethical regulation of human experimentation that is holding back longevity research otherwise the Russians would be among the longest lived people on earth, rather than the shortest.

http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/content/16/3/229.full

“As a result of the isolationist policy of the Communist regime Soviet physicians were not informed about the emergence of the World Medical Association and the Helsinki Declaration which was developed from the Nuremberg Code. The regulation of human experimentation in Russia was and still is in a primitive state. Till the present day, journals publish reports describing ethically unacceptable research. In all medical research and teaching institutions medical scientists do research without prospective ethical review.” 

Rather it’s a matter of us not pouring enough resources into researching the general mechanisms of aging rather than specific diseases. Doing this requires a broad base of public funding and running off to an island just shrinks the amount of resources you have to throw at the problem.

Not sure what the alternative to Capitalism actually looks like, as “everyone” wants to profit from “every” trade and transaction - thus the dilemma of this Human condition?

Although there are obviously losers speculating in markets, as long as one does not continually lose, then loses and wins can keep the banks and us all in business, and ideally earning us a “net” profit, as not all can win/profit all of the time.

Yet the real losers are us borrowers loaded with mortgage and debt almost as indefinitely throughout our lifetime - and the only place to get a loan? The bank, (or a loan shark)?

Banks lend to each other at low to zero interest rates, or even in an economic crises, at the lowest rate as compared to the interest rates they then charge - this is how they earn profit - it’s a one trick pony?


Understanding the Financial crisis

youtube.com/watch?v=qqUGoVez8xg≷


Global debt - the cause and solution

youtube.com/watch?v=RZE71BEx_X8


It may appear reasonable for Thiel and Co to believe that they can create sovereign principality’s and seasteading tax havens, or even future “Islands in the sky” existing such like Monaco, to escape the tax institutions and restrictions of nation states like the US - yet this hardly solves the global problems, and yet still, even these industrialists cannot escape the world, nor looming crisis of Supply and demand, which will affect their business ultimately?

If they think they can escape the world, yet still trade with it to their continual benefit, then they are deluded? Even if they attempt to usurp corporate tax from their safe havens, they will be hit with import tax and embargo if they don’t pay? And especially if they attempt to supply the world with cheap tech and bypass export tax via intermediary small third world nations?

No one can escape the world, as we are all a part of it? No one can watch it burn and remain unscathed?

 

@CygnusX1:

Thanks for the links. You might enjoy David Graeber’s “Debt the first 5,000 years” which I tried to review here (I think it was before my IEET days)


http://utopiaordystopia.com/2012/08/24/pandemonium-kingdom-of-the-quants-3/

Graeber ends his book with reminding us that capitalism is not that old (prior parts of the book lay out the systems that had come before it). Once we recognize that something different will follow it we are free to imagine what this might be, though it is a task I find beyond me.

“No one can escape the world, as we are all a part of it? No one can watch it burn and remain unscathed?”

This is precisely what I was arguing. Unless we invent a “warp drive” (and sadly I don’t think we will) we are stuck with one another on our small planet or in our small solar system the positive aspect of which is that our survival depends on our decision to care for one another.

Whichever way you look at the problem it remains the same, (try and find any other reasoning if you can)? - proliferation of debt both individual/national and the gross unequal distribution of monies to those at the top of the pyramid system? And thus the only way to reconcile this problem is redistribution of this capital more fairly and justly, (through taxation)?

There will always be a need for Humans to loan each other monies, for the lender this is investment, for the borrower this is debt. But the whole point is that Capitalism has been corrupted for too long by the heinous greed and laziness of banks who profit on the back of the work of others, (pure idleness), and the hardship/suffering of those in need - therefore remaining “blinkered” Libertarians need wake up that it is the banks that are the “real looters” - not some ghost of socialism/social activism?

How? Well there are two options, either it is “taken” by force, (been done before under communism and revolution, which involves violence), or in using taxation, (another form of force/coercion - realised when you refuse to pay). This is what appears to most Humans and especially to Libertarians as both “unjust” and “violation”(violence).

Yet it is not necessarily what you do, but how you do it? We already subscribe to taxation for every transaction where capital/monies change hands, so taxation is customarily accepted as a normal economic philosophy of complex societies to aid/support infrastructure and the welfare/cooperation of society - so the solution lies within the space for “creativity” of existing tax laws/rates, (like I said at the beginning).

If there are any economists out there reading this, perhaps they have some creative ideas for variable income/purchase tax rates - these can even be reactive to markets on a daily basis, such like stock marked rates - all of these rates are presently fixed and used as “political” tools, set in stone throughout the term of subsequent governments under the guise of openness and stability, yet in reality are used as vote winning bribes for cronies seeking to support their own political careers?

Why shouldn’t we have variable tax rates linked to markets, rather than fixed 34%(US) 45%(UK), top rated income tax?

Why can’t we have a daily market variable rate of purchase/value added tax to/for transactions?

As long as these rates of change are restricted within means to limit damage to markets, then they may prove beneficial to smooth spikes, and actually create enough tax revenues to prevent the need for austerity measures by politicians? This is what the banks do, in agreeing their daily lending rates with each other?


In an economic system that is seen and “accepted” to be “fair and just”, even Libertarians and industrialists like Thiel and Co would then be happy to subscribe and participate, and help shape the future towards a Capitalism model not supported by escalating global debt, but a socioeconomics system where technology will drive the cost of goods and services “down”, (including basic Human needs, healthcare, well being and longevity), and in using “creative” taxation that will not stifle innovation and will not continue to bankrupt the world economy?


I see opportunity to “correct” the ethos and corruption present in global socioeconomics and Capitalism, (politics), yet this is an international problem, and thus requires international solution and cooperation to absolve global debt, and transform income taxation to support the needs of society?

What other use for monies is there other than to support the needs of Humans, “all” Humans?

This is the holistic view - please argue if you see this as incorrect?

CygnusX1:

“There will always be a need for Humans to loan each other monies, for the lender this is investment, for the borrower this is debt. But the whole point is that Capitalism has been corrupted for too long by the heinous greed and laziness of banks who profit on the back of the work of others.”

I think you are bringing up two different issues here. Relying on Graeber, there has always been lending, but there has not always been interest. Islamic civilization had a very robust commercial economy in the middle ages that did not rely on interest, and even today they have a whole alternative banking system where interest isn’t charged- it makes banking unprofitable and acts as a brake on consumption but functions.

In a similar vein, Bitcoin, is an alternative form of non-debt based currency and though it’s likely to crash in its current iteration it might prove a forerunner of new forms of currency.
Leaving aside the question of interest I think is your second issue which is the status of early 21st century banking. The problem here, I think, is concentration. We should have had the balls to break up the big banks after the onset of the crisis. We should have put a firewall between workaday banking and leverage in highly risky markets. This might still happen if there is another bubble and crash in the short run, but these things are impossible for mortals to time.

By “market variable rate” do you mean something like a “Tobin Tax”? If so, I agree it’s not merely that such taxes act as Keynesian stabilizers hopefully keeping extreme bubbles from forming, but they also help avoid the situation we are now in which long term investment is replace by nano-second trades which profit off the noise rather than the signal of the markets.

I am in favour of the Tobin tax also, although by transaction tax, my meaning is a comprehensive tax for every transaction/purchase/exchange of monies - a blasphemous idea for any Libertarian to contemplate/accept - tax is evil allegedly, yet it appears, a necessary evil, until we can contemplate and revisit perhaps a system that provides this ethos of compassion and interest free loans that you hint at, and before ultimately leading to the eventual demise of currency altogether? (don’t think it will disappear anytime soon, the Star Trek franchise speculated political change and the disappearance of money sometime for the mid 22nd century).

Can a technocracy get us there? (my intimation of technocracy is not ala Jethro Knights, but a civilization and society that rationalizes that technology is beneficial, yet not run by technocrats and scientists as these often make for uncompassionate and poor leaders?)

Yet, and without bringing the conversation to the point of absurdity, Roddenberry himself hinted at a future without need of money, a technocracy(?) where star ship captains could not trade or negotiate with this banned substance termed money, carried no petty cash on board, and had to trade equitably with whatever they had available to cater for their needs, (excluding weapons as this is against the prime directive). This ethos carried on throughout.

The ST franchise further extended to cater for the needs of it’s crew/peoples with replicators to provide for basic needs, and reward systems and recreational time in holodecks - and then something strange happened - the Ferengi were introduced into the franchise, (I feel rather cynically yet amusingly/playfully), to provide a balanced point of view regarding that “old philosophy” Capitalism and profit. And as it turns out, the Ferengi are much preferable to even the corporate bankers of today, as at least their philosophy concerning greed is not as subversive nor underhanded and demented as we Humans?

Ferengi - Laws of Acquisition

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Rules_of_Acquisition

Bitcoin you say?

Well any currency that escapes the philosophy of tax will and must be outlawed?

Who was that guy in the US that devised his own currency, and the government took him to court and prosecuted him - he lost his case, (surprise, surprise)? Yet really, if we could all devise our own currencies and avoid paying taxes, then this is tantamount to black market dealing?

Retail banks should be broken up, (RBS debt and liabilities alone were large enough to bankrupt the UK economy in 2008, so PM Gordon Brown had no choice but to bail them out), and the UK is still in process to pursue this, after first instituting directives that banks should insure themselves against future defaults. Will it happen? - like yourself I agree, it may all be swept under the carpet whilst the banks are deemed as behaving themselves - until the next economic catastrophe that is?

 

The power of the Talisman?

“Described by some as the “Rosa Parks of the constitutional currency movement,” Bernard von NotHaus managed over the last decade to get more than 60 million real dollars’ worth of his precious metal-backed currency into circulation across the country.”

nytimes.com/2012/10/25/us/liberty-dollar-creator-awaits-his-fate-behind-bars.html

“I am in favour of the Tobin tax also, although by transaction tax, my meaning is a comprehensive tax for every transaction
/purchase/exchange of monies”

If I understand your meaning this seems like the VAT tax much of Europe already has or the sales tax of my native Pennsylvania. The former certainly raises revenue, but both, in my eyes, appear regressive. You are taxing both the purchase of basic necessities and luxury goods. I am much more in favor of taxing those who can afford it- financial transaction taxes, capital gains taxes, that sort of thing. Though those who have the money to spare currently have legislators in their vice grip. That grip needs to be broken to make any large structural changes possible. 

“Bitcoin you say? Well any currency that escapes the philosophy of tax will and must be outlawed?”

I don’t find Bitcoin interesting as a tax avoidance scheme (which it is), but as a proof of concept that you can have a currency completely disconnected from the support of the sovereign state (which it also is) or a group of such states (as in the EU).

Perhaps this will eventually lean in the direction of the re-democratization of the creation of currency. Something we had before the sovereign state and lost both because of state coercion but also because only states could be depended upon (though this was often a bad bet) to retain a currency’s value and provide a widely accepted means of exchange. 

I can combine that with your:

“….to cater for the needs of it’s crew/peoples with replicators to provide for basic needs, and reward systems and recreational time in holodecks…”

Imagining long term possibilities for 3D printing (though it sets off my perhaps too sensitive hype-meter) and start to see the rough outlines of at least some alternatives to capitalism.  Small political units like city-states or smallish nation-states where a certain level of goods are provided for free but that also leave room for commerce both internally and internationally with an analog of bitcoin being perhaps shared among a constellation of such polities. There is indeed something attractive to me in the urge of some neo-reactionaries to scale down politically.

Where I find them particularly wrong is in imagining this represents an escape. Even the kind of utopian alliance of communities I can at least imagine still leaves us in an interdependent world and it would still leave us in a world with capitalist and state-capitalist powers and their dollars and their renminbi and their armies and all the world’s problems. I do not see any ultimate universal utopia just a constant ebb and flow between our ideals and the cold hand of reality. 

“Where I find them particularly wrong is in imagining this represents an escape. Even the kind of utopian alliance of communities I can at least imagine still leaves us in an interdependent world and it would still leave us in a world with capitalist and state-capitalist powers and their dollars and their renminbi and their armies and all the world’s problems.”

Exactly! So who is looking at the bigger picture/problem concerning global socioeconomics/debt, and “Capitalism greed”? Who is thinking about real global solutions? Certainly not these entrepreneurs/industrialists, as even they cannot sway political opinion for change, nor in fact propose any “real” solutions - other than perhaps re-modelling some break-away state principality - so do they only care about themselves?

Who has the smarts out there to propose a methodology for guiding a democratic technocracy, where eventually the system/cycle of perpetual debt is broken, and where technology drives the cost of goods down until there is no profit to be had from basic needs - and thus where Capitalism and profiteering has no longer any influence? Capitalism does not destroy goods and services so cheap they are free, it merely has no utility for these and simply ignores them?

It’s more “Tragedy of the commons” - yet this is a poor excuse, applied liberally, and yet more indoctrination?

Tobin tax, VAT, (purchase tax), yes I see this all as transaction tax. Presently VAT is applied widespread at 20% in the UK, and 7.5% on energy! (yes that means pensioners heating their homes are paying 7.5% govt tax!), VAT is omitted for needs deemed as basic, food, and children’s clothing.

Yet why is it 20% on a pair of jeans, and also 20% on a Ferrari? Can we be more creative? Some folks may need the jeans and be struggling with means, yet I cannot imagine some rich dude struggling to pay for a Ferrari - you either want it or you don’t, (and it’s all down to status not affordability, ultimately)?

A Ponzi Pyramid scheme is where “new” investors/investments are encouraged to participate using attractive high/fast profit returns yet “concealing” the ever increasing burden of debt in the system that can never, ever be paid off? Customarily the protagonists attempt to flee when the system begins to implode? Or find some other means/misdirection to reconcile the debts owed?

—-

as a side note - news today!

Reform EU or Britain quits - George Osborne lays down ultimatum

(Strange? I thought he is obliged by mandate to abide by democratic process?)

“Osborne will tell the conference: “The biggest economic risk facing Europe doesn’t come from those who want reform and renegotiation – it comes from a failure to reform and renegotiate.

“It is the status quo which condemns the people of Europe to an ongoing economic crisis and continuing decline.”

Osborne will say the EU suffers from a chronic lack of competitiveness and that the European economy has stalled over the last six years while the Indian economy has grown by a third and the Chinese economy by 50%.

He will say: “Make no mistake, our continent is falling behind. Look at innovation, where Europe’s share of world patent applications nearly halved in the last decade. Look at unemployment, where a quarter of young people looking for work can’t find it. Look at welfare.

“As Angela Merkel has pointed out, Europe accounts for just over 7% of the world’s population, 25% of its economy, and 50% of global social welfare spending. We can’t go on like this.”“

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jan/15/george-osborne-reform-eu-quits-tory-dismantling

What this really translates to is; Our Neo-Liberal UK govt revisited want the “freedom” to continue with imposed Austerity, deconstruct EU progress/legislation and protections of Human rights, employment and jobs, welfare, immigration and education, and pursue their ideology of “Race to the bottom” to drag us all back to the eighties and start the whole boom/bust balloon thingy again?

The emerging “Healthcare” market, (including the potential for that other parasite on society - insurance), will also aid to support the housing/consumer market, and help perpetuate a crony system of increasing debt burden on society/individuals - just add Healthcare to the list of scams.. .com and sub-prime?

“So who is looking at the bigger picture/problem concerning global socioeconomics/debt, and “Capitalism greed”? Who is thinking about real global solutions?”

For whatever its worth, we are. We discuss and dispute support and oppose in the little ways that we can and somehow hope our collective efforts result in the avoidance of catastrophe or perhaps if the stars align help give rise to a better world.

There’s a song by The Shin’s called “Port of Morrow” that I’ve of late taken as my guide in these things.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnCbLwSy9Wc

I saw a photograph
of Cologne in ’27,
and then a postcard after the bombs in ’45.
Must have been a world of evil clowns
that let it happen.
But now I recognize,
dear listeners,
that you were there
and so was I. 

I had at one time had such high hopes for the EU. Alas, no longer: In addition to what you mention, there’s also the fact that the right seems poised to win EU parliamentary elections there. More progressive voices on the continent need to become aware of what a precious thing you could loose should the Union fail.

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