25 June 2011

Technology and Liberty

WikiLeaks Central Essay Competition #1:

How can individuals and societies protect themselves against the encroachment and abuse of government power in the modern age?

Continued improvements in technology will eventually render the State obsolete.

A human is, by nature, a capitalist—a producer of capital. As Frank Chodorov wrote in The Rise and Fall of Society, humans seek to satisfy their infinite desires with the least possible net expenditure of labor. Technology continuously improves over time because humans are capable of understanding nature's laws and calculating ways in which producing something today can make life easier in the future. For example, by expending the energy to produce a spear, an early human found hunting and self-defense significantly easier thereafter.

The State is not a producer; it is "a bandit gang writ large," as Murray Rothbard put it. Politics is not a science; it is simply control over other people. In The State, Franz Oppenheimer explained the origin of the State. The origin of the State is the conquest of capital-producing people. The State comes into existence entirely for the purpose of economic exploitation. The conquerors become masters and the producers become their slaves.

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond supports the idea that the State arises out of conquest. Diamond cites, in detail, the example of the Battle of Cajamarca between the Spanish Empire and the Inca Empire. 168 Spanish soldiers massacred an army of approximately 80,000 Incans. The Spaniards won because they had superior technologies such as guns, cannons, and steel.

In recent times, however, people around the world have become convinced of Abraham Lincoln's "propaganda" (as Albert Jay Nock calls it in Our Enemy, the State) that 'democracy' or 'republicanism' is government "of the people, by the
people, for the people." Having a democratic government is considered synonymous with 'liberty' solely because the people have the choice of who their master will be. Unfortunately, democracy necessarily entails that only the worst possible people can rise into these positions of power, as noted by Hans-Hermann Hoppe in "Why Bad Men Rule." The most electable politicians will be the ones who promise to rob society's biggest producers and take control of the most vital aspects of Society—education, agriculture, medicine, and so on.

Regardless of whether the State uses aggressive violence to physically conquer the people or hides behind the mask of "providing social services" in order to psychologically trick the people, the State is the enemy of humanity. Technology may have allowed the State to come into existence, but technology also will eventually render the State as an unnecessary relic that the people will no longer accept.

The two things over which the State demands absolute control are violence and money. The State creates an army in order to protect itself from other States, and it creates a police force in order to protect itself from its own people. The State then convinces the people that the purpose of this monopoly on violence is to keep the people safe. Likewise, the State creates its own currency—or counterfeit money—in order to enrich itself while convincing the people that the currency is safer and more efficient than free-market money, such as gold and silver.

In order to render the State obsolete, technologies must advance to the point that the people no longer accept the State's monopolies on violence on money. Fortunately, the human desire for an easier life through technology inevitably overcomes the State's desire to regulate and control. The most important technological advancements have been the revolutions in the personal computer and Internet.

The Internet is essentially a virtual, laissez-faire Society. The Internet has transformed the concept of liberty more than anything or anyone else in humanity's history. People realize that the voluntary 'phyles' of the Internet work wonderfully despite the absence of rulers with centralized power. Cybercrimes and cyberwarfare certainly exist, but these problems cannot be solved by 'Internet police' nor 'Internet militaries.' Such institutions are just as ineffective in the real world as they are in the digital world. In the digital world, individuals understand that they need to protect themselves with strong passwords and crytography. This idea will continue to spread into the physical world. People will increasingly seek effective, voluntary, technological solutions to crime as opposed to unwillingly giving power to increasingly unpopular and corrupt groups of bullies. The State can exist only as long as the people support it.

Digital currencies have already arisen to challenge the dominance of the State's currency. The anonymity and ease of services such as e-gold and Bitcoin have clear advantages over the State's banks that are subject to draconian regulations that exist solely for tax-collection purposes. The State aggressively prosecutes so-called "money laundering" or "counterfeiting" mechanisms. (Anne M. Tompkins went as far as calling the Liberty dollar "a unique form of domestic terrorism.") But the natural laws of the world cannot be overcome, even with coercion. It is not possible to change human behavior through legislation. Technologies that make global monetary exchange quicker and more convenient will win out. Again, the State will eventually be seen as little more than a dinosaur and a nuisance that lies in Society's way.

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