The Other McCain

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Mead Seems Unaware Of How Perverse Use Of Technology By Government Is Wrecking Liberty

Posted on | February 10, 2012 | 1 Comment

by Smitty

I’ve been mocking Walter Russell Mead’s series on what the next round of Liberalism will look like. Part IV could be summarized as “Ain’t technology swell?”

An inevitable question as we look at the demise of the 20th century economy is how shall we live? As the manufacturing that remains to us becomes more automated, reducing employment even as output climbs; as agriculture continues to need fewer hands; as outsourcing and technological change sweep through the knowledge guilds and the learned professions; and as government downsizing decimates the serried ranks of the bureaucrats and postal workers — what jobs will be left? What will we eat and what will we wear when few if any of us make stuff anymore?
These are natural questions and for millions of Americans they are pressing personal ones. The answers to them will do much to shape the economic structure of the 21st century and that, in turn, will heavily influence the way we re-conceive the American Dream.

What Mead doesn’t seem to grasp is that the word processor has been used to separate people from their liberty. Those who believe in some Rousseau-esque Cosmic Tit-State as the ultimate source of all good have been relentless in burying liberty in regulations.

Thus, Mead’s initial question should be answered firmly: “Absent the continuous rectal exam of the federal government.” Efficient remedies, even if only partially successful, like slugging do not require a phalanx of bureaucrats, reams of regs, and a bunch of borrowing to effect.

via Instapundit


One Response to “Mead Seems Unaware Of How Perverse Use Of Technology By Government Is Wrecking Liberty”

  1. Adjoran
    February 11th, 2012 @ 12:16 am

    Am I to take it that you are essentially in agreement, then, with the comment by John Alsina which reads in part:

    In the physical world, the only way to achieve efficiency and
    stability simulataneously is through precision: the parts in the system
    must be made to increasingly small tolerances. Translated to the sphere
    of politics, that means that in an ultra-efficient (and therefore
    ultra-prosperous) future, stability can be achieved only through rigid
    totalitarian control of the individual.

    Fortunately, the world is not subject to mortal engineering:  while we can always reach a greater understanding of various modalities of human society, we can only hypothesize how they all interweave or what would constitute more efficient designs.  The world functions in a sort of Chaos Theory:  there are certainly patterns, it is just not possible to determine them through observation and inductive reasoning.

    Alsina, and perhaps you (don’t want to put words in your mouth) might retort that the impossibility of doing it hasn’t stopped social engineers or dictators yet, and that much is quite true.  Certainly the arrival and behavior of Obama and the resurgence of Putin seem to confirm the fears.  However, it is easy to look at limited time frames and isolated areas and miss the greater picture.

    Overall, though, a smaller share of humanity lives under despots and absolute monarchs than ever in our existence.  Progress is never linear, of course.  And it is true that technology has enabled assaults on freedom that never were possible without it, it has also granted far more new freedoms.  A century ago, more than 90% of the American public worked in agriculture.  For most, they had no worry about identity theft – but they had nothing to steal, either.  No one could track their movements by their credit card charges – but they had virtually no hope of getting further away from the farm than the State Fair if the harvest was good. 

    Of course it is a mixed bag.  The optimist sees hope and potential in it while the pessimist sees only despair and unease.  But in the last couple hundred thousand years, our species has never been freer or wealthier, largely due to the optimists practicing the constant creative destruction that is free enterprise since long before we dreamed up the concept of currency. 

    We should be vigilant about the future always, but never fearful or pessimistic.  Little good has ever been accomplished by cowering hoarders, and nothing great has.