Tech Is Separating Us; Tech Is Leaving Communities Behind; Capitalism Can Save Us

This post is by Jeff Carter from Points and Figures

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There is a lot of volatility in the news from day to day on tech. It’s interesting to me that Senator Elizabeth Warren is beating the drum on regulating companies like Facebook ($FB), Google ($GOOG) and other Silicon Valley titans. The right wing is echoing her sentiments but for different reasons. They see those companies as oppressive and against free speech along with the way they discriminate against right wing websites, employees who are conservative, causes that are conservative, and conservative speech.

When I was at the i7 in Torino, Italy a well respected Italian computer scientist offered up the idea of regulating the big tech giants. That was September of 2018. Ted Ullyot correctly asked, “How do regulate an opt-in service?” It’s a great question.

Personally, I am a huge fan of free markets, capitalism, and creative destruction.  Why can’t a company come and knock Google off its ?  Crypto and blockchains might have a lot to say about that.  Or not.  We don’t know yet but I am willing to wait and see before we try regulations which will go through the sausage making process and wind up hurting the people they are designed to help.

Layer the above thoughts in with the video I posted by Economist Raghu Rajan on how tech is leaving communities behind and you have an issue.  Political, economic, human, and emotional issue.

Over the past few years, I have driven across the country stopping in all kinds of little hamlets. From California to NY, and Florida to Minnesota we have spent time there. We have noticed that if the internet is bad, or even unavailable in certain areas of the country, communities are being left behind. It is a true digital divide.

Even within small towns there can be discrepancies.  I have fibre internet to my wilderness cabin.  Some of the kids in town have to park in their cars in front of a coffee shop or public library to steal some internet to do homework.

You cannot compete in 21st Century America without access to the internet and great cellular service.

Rajan says we can overcome this with a good dose of capitalism and the future of capitalism lies in strengthening our communities.  His new book is “The Third Pillar”.  It’s pretty clear that communities are breaking down, and with it our institutions.  We are seeing many “respected” institutions laid bare as the kimono opens and we see what they are really about.

Rajan says, “Recently, some communities have been weakened significantly while others have sped ahead. Technological change is creating a new meritocracy, but one that is turning out to be largely hereditary, denying opportunities to many. The many, in economically disadvantaged and thus socially dysfunctional communities, could turn their backs on markets. The consequent imbalances could undermine liberal democratic society.

Put differently, even if opportunity seems open to all (and unfortunately it is not), people don’t enter on the same footing. We ought to give people the capabilities they need to participate in markets. And for that, we need strong communities—to focus on good schools, a safe environment, an informal safety net over the formal safety net, and so on. I also think communities can work well in distributing political and economic power, creating the competition that democracy and capitalism both need. That is, to some extent, the new liberalism we have to discover.”

I don’t buy into the abandonment of maximizing value to shareholders.  I think there is a lot of wisdom in what Hayek and Friedman postulated so long ago.  At the same time, I do think that changing public policy to enable business to serve small niches like smaller communities could really change the face of America and change the cultural and digital divide that exists today.

I also don’t think more government spending and programs are the answer either.  Over the past 50 years, we have created mountains of debt trying to solve problems that are unsolvable by a centralized bureaucracy.  It’s made it a lot worse in many cases.  We can solve these problems are lot faster, and a lot more efficiently by figuring out ways to introduce competition and free markets.  School choice and vouchers is a good example.  Decentralizing the VA and letting vets have a voucher plus insurance to choose their own doctor is another.

Now, add in another layer. Arthur Brooks has put out a new book “Love Your Enemies”. It’s about how decent people can save America from the culture of contempt. Brooks contention is that social media is causing us to separate.

At the same time, I will not compromise with socialists. Neither will a lot of people I know.  Socialism is a path to darkness.  People like AOC need to be stopped in their tracks. They will destroy a lot of humanity in this country.  Socialism’s track record is one of enabling despots and bureaucrats along with crushing human spirit not to mention murdering millions of people.  It hasn’t worked in the past, and it won’t work this time.  Those guys that were in a room together in Philadelphia back in the 1770’s were wise beyond their years, and wise beyond their generation.

There are many on the right and left that have an eerie feeling that America today is similar to the 1850’s.  Are we on the road to a Civil War 2?  Or can it be stopped?   It’s March 15, beware of the ides of March.