Governments Can’t Self-Regulate Surveillance

10/10/2020

Reading Sacha Molitorisz’s Net Privacy: How We Can Be Free in an Age of Surveillance, I have appreciated the background and philosophical backing for protecting privacy. In particular, the relational approach to privacy he describes I think is a brilliant way to expand the scope of what actually constitutes privacy as an individual and societal concern. However, there have been a few points that I do not agree with or wish were explored more; as young as it is, the role blockchain technology has and could play in ensuring net privacy is not even mentioned once. Instead, the chapter I am currently reading speaks of regulation and legislation, talking about the privacy of individuals and society but then falling back on the State or global institutions to uphold it – a tad problematic.

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Loss of Rationality: Kant, Consumerism, and Democracy

06/10/2020

My current read is Net Privacy: How We Can Be Free in an Age of Surveillance, written by Sacha Molitorisz, which is unexpectedly intensely philosophical in its approach. At little over the halfway mark, whilst it seemingly hasn’t answered the question posed by the subtitle, it has still been a fascinating book that I would recommend. Although I do intend on writing a piece on it relating to the commodification of data and privacy, here I want to jump on a bit of a tangent. Molitorisz references Immanuel Kant a number of times, and it is one reference to “rational beings” that I am homing in on.

Because in the modern world, Kant’s rational beings are seemingly dwindling.

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Globalisation Conveniently Works When People Lose

07/09/2020

I am reading Globalization and Its Discontents (damn Americanisation’s), the updated version with the advent of Donald Trump, written by Joseph E. Stiglitz. In it he describes how globalisation has seemingly failed the world, producing discontents with the system. In the 2002 edition, it was mostly the developing world that suffered, but more recently developed countries have increasingly opposed globalisation. Stiglitz argued this is due to gross mismanagement, but as he admits later, even well managed globalisation results in “losers” in the system.

I should preface this by saying that the vision Stiglitz has for a proper globalised world is reasonable enough. It’s a case of capitalism still being capitalism (i.e. not great), but done in a way that ensures poor people don’t just die or get violently exploited because why not. He still believes in massive global institutions like the IMF (although he does criticise them harshly) and the World Bank, relies heavily upon the honesty of corporations and States, and obviously does not even consider the concept of worker ownership – to him “socialism/communism” fell with the USSR.

But even if his conception of a properly managed and globalised world were to exist, he acknowledged there were problems:

“In fact, honest academics always pointed out that there would be winners and losers in globalization. When globalization worked well, the standard theory for globalization went, the winners gained enough so that they could compensate the losers and everyone would be better off.” [My emphasis in both cases].

The key word, as Stiglitz himself immediately admits, is could, because history and the current system quite clearly shows that people on the lower end of the wealth spectrum – the losers – are much worse off whilst the rich continue to generate soaring profits. He calls this an “inconvenient truth”, one that apparently the “honest” academics spoke about, but which many (apparently the ones loud enough to be heard) ignored or obfuscated. Milton Friedman springs to mind, although Stiglitz does refer to Chile (Friedman’s happy little South American “free market” laboratory under Pinochet) as a “success”.

I can’t help but think of the old argument that if wealth needs to be redistributed, it wasn’t being distributed properly in the first place. Stiglitz’s self-critique of globalisation, the fact that his ideal system requires there be people who would lose and puts faith in those who win to act out of the kindness of their hearts (because obviously governments don’t do much) is bizarre. You can be as honest as you want about how unbalanced your system is, regardless of its feasibility compared to other systems, but the fact remains that it is unbalanced.

Even if it did work perfectly as intended, the losers are still dependent on people, factors, and decisions outside of their control, which is one of the major talking points of anti-globalisation arguments. In both a political and workplace context, they are at the mercy of a system that is imposed upon them, and considering that system is basically an open invitation to abuse the rules, it’s no wonder discontent has grown.

I am in favour of a globalised world – there is no escaping the reality that we will become more and more connected and intertwined as time goes on. But globalisation in a capitalist framework is rife with corruption and suffering, and even the preferable variants of it leave people behind who have no way to remedy their situation. There is a book by Noam Chomsky called Internationalization or Extinction that I want to get at some point, because given the name it probably describes a much fairer system than that of the average World Bank economist.

I just thought it was worth highlighting this critique of globalisation brought forward by Stiglitz, and pushing it a bit further to suggest that there may be a better framework to implement it than the limited view he appears to have. So far, I would recommend the book Globalization and Its Discontents, even if just to understand the (decent) capitalist perspective on it, and for its condemnations and analysis of how Trump’s policies will worsen, not alleviate, the issues caused by mismanagement.

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The Contradiction of the Zero-Sum Game

03/09/2020

There is a contradiction in the way the proponents of capitalism approach the concept of the “zero-sum game”, the notion that wealth created or owned in one place must come at the expense of others. This conversation has taken many different forms, from the power of the British Empire on a global scale to national debates over the merits of immigration and welfare. But one on side of the debate, there appears to be a glaring inconsistency in their logic.

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The Cheese Is Capitalist

08/08/2020

I am once more late to the party of outrage and debate on this topic, but recently there was social upheaval over the name of a cheese brand. With or without prior context, you can probably guess who took which side and what arguments were used for or against the pending change. But I just want to make a quick point, mostly to call out a frequently recurring criticism about the motives of corporations to instead smack them back down with an entirely separate criticism. Sorry to upset some people, but Coon cheese – the cheese of contention – is capitalist.

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What About Free Speech?

27/06/2020

Random short rant in response to a comment I saw underneath an Advance Australia post.

“Black Lives Matter are in fact promoting a ‘racial divide’ and perpetuating racism. The left thrive on division.”

So the post claims. Below in the comments, a response not only highlights some people’s ignorance of the Black Lives Matter movement (or any “leftist” movement, whatever that means), but, seemingly without self-awareness of any kind, advocates rather totalitarian methods of combatting them. As the post title suggests, it is, ironically, an attack on free speech.

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Go Read Merchants of Doubt

25/06/2020

Merchants of Doubt, a 2010 book written by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, is a must read. As one of the testimonies on the cover of my copy says, if there is one nonfiction book you read this year, it is the one to go for (obviously try to read more than one, but make Merchants of Doubt a priority). It follows a number of stories that mar the history of scientific progress by telling them from the perspectives of actors we often don’t hear from in the modern “debates”: the scientists themselves.

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Defunding the Police and Changing Focus

21/06/2020

There is a post going around at the moment that is supposedly meant to paint the police in a positive light during the recent global protests again police violence towards native peoples and people of colour. Honestly, it really sounds like the author (unknown, at least I’ve not seen a name with it) is telling the population to submit to power because… it’s power.

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Trump Calls Antifa A “Terrorist Organisation”

01/06/2020

Does it surprise anyone that Trump’s rhetoric has labelled anyone involved in the protests and riots in the US as a “terrorist”? That isn’t hyperbole, that is the implication of him trying to designate Antifa as a terrorist organisation, even though he can’t actually do that on a whim despite how he’s acted during his first term (yes, first, there will probably be a second even after this).

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