Lately, I’ve been more or less promoting two ideas on this blog: (1) A Rational Choice Model of the State as The Firm (2) The Firm’s intent to be “market setter” for an internet legal regime. If you subscribe to (1), then (2) follows a logical prediction.
The model of the State as The Firm gives us a form of economic governance that is in competition with the ends of its citizens. This is “the total state,” and it is a first-order liberal violation. The Firm is largely beyond any “democratic accountability.” Indeed, “democracy” is treated as a product by the firm, something that is to be manufactured and churned. We can almost treat the “American Culture War” as the manufacturing plant for churning out American democratic consent. Undoubtedly, that is where it is by and large produced.
The rational choice driving the Firm as a market setter for an internet legal regime is a topic I discussed in some detail in a previous post, “Regulating the Panopticon.” You simply start with the current status quo and observe that “data-analytics” provides the market-setting regime change for the Firm(note: the regime is not the Firm; rather, the regime is the rules of the Political Economy set by the Firm). Finance defined the Chicago-School rules regime of political economy for the past 30 years. Data-analytics will define the new rules regime going forward.1
The rational choice of the Firm gives us a model of the President as CEO. Hence, we shouldn’t be surprised that Obama is contemplating implementing much of the recently filibustered Cybersecurity bill by an executive order. An “Executive Decision,” as the saying goes.
Any outrage of the prospect of a unilateral executive implementation of a national policy with such far-reaching implications mistakenly operates under the presumption that the Presidency is a political office. But it’s not really that. As an office of Political Economy, however, you would find Obama’s statements to be consistent with what you might expect from a CEO. To say that Obama’s Executive Order would violate the constitution is a bit naive. Given the regulatory charge of executive authority bestowed from the wide-range of laws that have passed constitutional mustard, I would say that Obama’s Executive Order most assuredly would not violate it.
And no one is quoting the US Constitution as means to constrain the Firm’s strategy to militarize the internet. The US is actively engaged in repeated, sophisticated cyberattacks to to produce outcomes exactly like this. This is part of an integrated strategy to instigate the very need of a market setter for an internet legal regime.
Political means are more or less powerless to constrain much of the Firm’s actions. The tiny parts that are ostensibly subject to political accountability are a mere formality. My suggestion is to take the laws of political economy seriously. The President of the United States is the CEO of National Security State, Inc, a corporation ultimately chartered by the United States Constitution.
1 Interestingly, a third topic that I’ve intermittently promoted, “The Pink Police State,” perhaps finds its most precise definition within the data-analytics model. The Political Economy of Data-Analytics and Surveillance will not(and simply cannot) produce the traditional capitalist surpluses to support the traditional progressive welfare state. In the classic libertarian perspective(a la, Bastiat), these “transfer payments” are bribes to placate dissent against a political economy of plunder. Of course, the origin of these progressive “transfer payments” is largely labor itself(SS and Medicare, by far the largest components of the “Welfare State,” are labor tax transfers). But the surplus labor base for the continuation of this placating transfer model will shrivel up and wither under a political economy of data-analytics.
The Pink Police State simply replaces the bribe of the progressive transfer model with the bribe of the “libertarian culture” transfer model. The political economy of data-surveillance can bargain “zones of tolerance” and increased “cultural freedom” as means of placation. Of course, these benefits will largely accrue to the “professional classes” and not to those at the margins.
The Pink Police State uses libertarianism to bribe the professional classes.
Well, this post is quoting me as an example, but the same blogger never really bothered to respond to my 2-month old post that addressed the distinction between the libertarian and communitarian versions of liberty.
Our blogger denies the liberal/libertarian definition of liberty, “do as you want, constrained only the harm to others,” on the grounds that we cannot individually define “harm.” Or to be more accurate, “harm” can only carry an agreed upon social definition. This, of course, is the bromide of the communitarian. And our blogger expresses this communitarian version quite clearly:
The voluntary institutions of society (civil society) inculcate and enforce a society’s moral code (1), foster mutual trust and respect (2), and help to preserve cultural similarity (3)
But notice how our blogger suddenly switches gears with this next post, The Intolerant Left, regarding the liberty of Chick-fil-A to sell chicken sandwiches. In this instance, the left-wing communitarians are making the same social argument against the liberty of Chick-fil-A that our blogger employed against the liberal/libertarian definition of liberty in his preceding post. The exact same argument. But to our blogger, the appeal to “Chicago” or “Boston” values is suddenly a cause for a vitriolic spew of viscous hatred regarding the intolerance of the left. It is quite an entertaining rant:
Left-wingers march in lockstep like wind-up toy soldiers. And all it takes to wind them up is to propose a governmental intervention in social or economic affairs — preferably one that flouts a social tradition that is based on decades and centuries of of experience. Why do leftists have so little respect for the wisdom that accrues in social norms? Because leftism is rooted in two psychological tendencies. One of them is adolescent rebellion, which can persist for decades past adolescence. This explains the left’s hatred of conventional authority figures who (usually) represent conservative (civilizing) values (e.g., parents, police officers, military officers, members of the clergy). The other psychological tendency is the urge to dominate others, an urge that leftists project onto conservatives.
But, to repeat, the left-wing communitarian social appeal is the exact social argument that our conservative blogger employed against my libertarian definition earlier. Of course, in one instance, the social argument is perfectly legitimate and is expression of the ultimate meaning of liberty. In the next instance, the social argument is an expression of social dominance rooted in psychological perversion.
Which is the correct interpretation of the social argument? If there is a “correct interpretation” of the social argument among competing social views, then I would dare say that “the harm principle” can likewise be adjudicated outside of the blanketing constraint of any supposed social context.1
The American political dialogue–the culture war– primarily consists of right-wing and left-wing communitarians accusing one another of being liberal2. But, of course, neither group is. The liberal rejects the social argument in favor an epistemological principle of the presumption of liberty. It is a simple principle: claims of harm can be falsifiable and the constraints against liberty have to be demonstrated. Simple. This is the epistemological bulwark against appeals to the authority of the cop, the military and the church. This is the bulwark against the communitarian presumption of social authority asserted by both the communitarian right and left.
1 Any attempt to establish “the more correct” social view among competing theories would have to rely on a scientific method of falsifying the others
2 The right-wing communitarians accuse the left-wing communitarians as “liberal.” The left-wing communitarians accuse the right-wing communitarians as being “libertarian.”