Samir’s Selection 06/30/2013 (p.m.)
Real progressives believe in breaking up Google – FT.com
Richard Sennett: “Classic progressivism set great store on the power of technology to build a better society, just as modern progressives do. The difference between progressives then and now concerns market power. Croly believed that there was a natural tendency for markets to generate monopolies. Successful start-ups would end by crushing their competitors and, indeed, extinguishing competition. The reason for this, he said, would be apparent to any reader of Charles Darwin: the struggle for existence meant strong creatures destroyed the weak, eating them or ruining their habitat. Evolution was not like a game in which the losers got a second chance to compete. So it was in markets: the better the winners were, the bigger they became, the more crushing they were.
Like techies today, the classic progressives were meritocrats, believing that the most intelligent individuals should rise to the top, be rewarded for their skills and earn the right to organise other people’s lives. But unlike your garden-variety Silicon Valley billionaire, the progressives of a century ago believed that once in power, the plutocrat would inevitably stifle talent which threatened his or her domain.
Their answer to the Darwinian struggle was not to abolish capitalism entirely, but to use state power to break up monopolies over and again, combating successive waves of successful enterprises as they became too big. This unending process, rather than a one-time action, was the logic of America’s first antitrust laws.
Classic progressives also confronted the social and ethical problem of meritocracy: they saw that success of the few meant failure of the many. Croly’s solution, that breaking up monopolies would set talent free, may seem fanciful, but at least he recognised the problem: economic domination wastes what we now call human capital.”
Prism and the new society | ROUGH TYPE
The emerging Snowden narrative-disgruntled “hacker” steals information from a store of government data that was itself essentially “hacked” from the servers of innocent internet firms-actually serves to mask over the contradictions inherent in the Californian Ideology. The government comes off as incompetent, particularly when it comes to the sacred art of handling data, and the internet firms, their chastity belts only slightly askew, seem like the victims of clumsy governmental overreach. The fact that the narrative may be more or less accurate certainly doesn’t detract from its credibility.
Rather than being undermined, the idea that the social ecosystem needs to be designed and programmed by benevolent corporations (with friendly logos) acting in an open marketplace without government interference may end up gaining more traction. And of course accomplishing that social programming will require more data, which means even more surveillance, of one sort or another.
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