No one disputes that our lives are better because of technology. Most of us love the convenience that comes with GPS technology, electronic banking, I-phones, and laptop computers. The computer and the Internet have expanded the realm of free speech and have allowed people all over the world to communicate relatively freely. But we should not conflate such technological convenience with personal freedom. Along with advancing communications technology comes the threat of the advancing state.
The government is utilizing market-driven technological gains to close the gaps in its centralized state inefficiency at the cost of our liberty. The result of advances in such hyper-statism will be a diminishing of economic vitality and technological progress through increasing government management, which is always and necessarily a force conducive to societal stasis.
Modern Western society’s arc has been spectacular: the upward trajectory in intellectual freedom springing from The Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution was embodied in their greatest triumph – America, which subsequently combined innovation and manufacturing muscle to propel itself to first rank among all civilized nations. But now we are in that zenith hour where our perception of freedom’s strength is greater than its actual fragility: We live out freedom on The Internet, on our Kindle, or on our X-box. Liberty is being incrementally expelled to virtual reality, and if we become too remiss, we will be X-boxed in by actual economic and political reality.
Our journey from the highlights to the twilight requires a brief overview to put the perilous state of our freedom in perspective. After the invention of the Gutenberg printing press, publication was free if not fairly tedious. But the technology proved a threat for governments all over the world as radical pamphleteers from Thomas Paine to Alexander Solzhenitsyn gained new forums for their ideas. Dissidents used samizdat or self-publishing to expose politicians for their greed and abuse of power. Open communication is acknowledged as necessary for any free society, but a threat to power-hungry control freaks the world over. As such, censorship is a feature of any repressive regime.
Though we have freedom of expression now, the rampant economic and political abuses being performed daily by the government will almost certainly require an eventual limitation of speech to prevent the multitudes from rising up against it. While the mainstream media has been the statists’ go-to-guys for nearly half a century, the media’s influence is going down, along with America’s ship.
Today, the Internet is like American samizdat on a massive scale. Potentially radical literature like The Constitution is near-instantaneously attainable, eminently storable, ethereal, and deletable. That is why we are in the honeymoon period and our e-playtime will come to a close if we are not aware of the sneaky ways bureaucrats pecking away on their own laptops will get us to choose the means of our virtual enslavement. As the totalitarian left increases its government and union powerbase, the big business right will partner with it to sell us the means of our subservience. They won’t be the ropes to hang us by; they’ll be fiber-optic cables.
We are a people largely in denial and getting larger on our couches. We work mindless jobs beneath our purported educational levels and spend our dwindling excess on pathetic escapism. After rent (forget home ownership), skyrocketing energy bills, and exorbitant student loan repayments, “we dance and drink and screw,” to quote William Shatner’s Common People, “cause there’s nothing else to do.” Only many commoners don’t even have the energy or the appropriate girth to dance and screw. So they watch other people dance and screw, and diddle away hours online.
We need to get a grip on the new state’s instruments of control. Our petty preoccupations with Call of Duty 4 prevent us from getting uppity about undeclared wars in Libya and Yemen. We get atwitter on Twitter, instead of agitated outside of Maxine Water’s office for her indecent trillion dollar job proposal. Reality-TV distract us from actual reality. We watch Dancing with the Stars, instead of dancing with our loved one under the stars. We gawk at ever-more outrageous pornography, instead of buying ever-sexier lingerie for our loved one. And in the end, the only ones getting screwed are us – by the long member of the law.
These opinions are not based on paranoia but a familiarity with the natural modus operandi of the state. The state always wants to strengthen its control over its territory. It will proceed unimpeded until it is opposed. Government advances in our apathy and ignorance, seizing freedom’s territory by fait accompli, and then daring you to get in its grill about it. What are you going to do, shout at the middle-aged lady at the DMV about the new licensing fees? Don’t talk to her, she didn’t write the laws. And if you go to the people who did write the law, they will say that it was passed above board last fall. If you are mad about it, talk to the press for not informing you about it. And if you talk to the press, they will tell you they ran a story on it, in section 23A, in the Lifestyle section.
And if by chance people do catch on to what politicians are up to in time, they will try to bribe the taxpayers with imaginary or yet-to-be-earned dollars. What better way to enslave a people than to bribe them with money they haven’t earned yet?
Let me be clear, I am not arguing that the people in government intend our enslavement. But enslavement becomes the de facto state when technocrats are able to exercise their “management” over citizens. We pay the government money for “civil servants” to surveil us, to keep order, to govern us. It is only a logical extension of their jobs to want to control us and prevent us from making their lives inconvenient. They will use all tools at their disposal to make that task easier.
After all, we are just numbers to the majority of them – really big numbers. For this reason and others, government bureaucracies are hothouses of cognitive dissonance, gravitating to leftist ideas to idealize their mind-numbing, number-crunching jobs. Well, maybe not “number-crunching,” since the progressive Obama administration has made the antiquated notion of budgets obsolete, more like people-crunching.
But bureaucrats and other social engineers don’t look at their jobs this way; indeed, they can’t. It is unnatural for people, especially intellectuals, to think that their jobs are droll without seeking ways to glorify them in some regard. And if bureaucrats are exercising power pragmatically, then how can their brilliant programs be inhumane? Why, they’re just trying to use their big brains to help people! Such thinking explains why Washington is thick with progressives and other leftist counter-revolutionaries who piss away unfathomable trillions on their grandiose ideas.
When you assemble the best and brightest, overpay them, and insulate them far away from the citizens they are ruling (i.e. making rules for), there are two disastrous consequences. First, the development of a paternalistic atmosphere that festers and ferments with increasingly “innovative” and increasingly authoritarian ideas that must be imposed on an increasingly resistant citizenry. And second, further detachment from economic reality, such as material and labor scarcity, leading to increasing demands and decreasing returns. And all of the progressives’ hare-brained ideas are just a keystroke away from coming to a community near you.
Welcome to technocratically managed decline.