Jay Hanson on Thu, 6 Nov 1997 18:38:24 +0100 (MET)

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nettime-nl: Re: [isg] Governance in Cyberspace

At 03:41 AM 11/5/97 +0100, Felipe Rodriquez wrote:

>Governance in Cyberspace (or what the EU calls the Information Society)
>does not adapt to traditional power structures. These structures, that we
>usually refer to as authorities, are in essence almost always regionally
>bound; their authority and influence stops at the regions- or countries
>border. One of the unique, and unchangeable, properties of Cyberspace is
>that it moves over those borders, and thus in many ways rejects the concept
>of local authority. 

In American-style money-based systems of government, MONEY
is source of all political power.  Here in America, MONEY
buys seductive images (mass media) and sets political agendas.

This is how American money politics works on the local level:


                   BAD DRIVES OUT GOOD
                      by Jay Hanson

Systems that select for failure are often called Greshamite
systems after the English financier Sir Thomas Gresham
(1519?-1579). His name was given to Gresham’s Law, the economic
principle that "bad money drives out good." When depreciated,
mutilated, or debased (bad) money circulates concurrently with
money of high value (e.g., silver or gold), the good money
disappears because of hoarding. As more and more people notice
that good money is being hoarded, more and more good money is
hoarded—runaway positive feedback. Ultimately, the monetary
system fails.

American Democracy can also be seen as a Greshamite system. To
understand why, first consider the theoretical premise of our
political system: a government that is willing to act for the
Common Good. Next, consider two very different candidates for
public office. Ms. Honesty believes in the principle embodied in
our Pledge of Allegiance "... liberty and justice for all." If
Honesty is elected, she will treat everyone fairly and pursue
the Common Good.

Mr. Corruption is a good capitalist who motivated to pursue his
own private gain. He has studied the system carefully and knows
that he can gain political power by rewarding his friends and
punishing his enemies.

Which of these candidates has the advantage? Obviously,
Corruption has the advantage! Here's why:

Mr. Jones is a local developer who has money, employees and
influence. Philosophically, he is an average, self-interested
individual who was trained by television (and to some extent by
his family and formal education) to consume as much as he can. In
fact, Jones can’t even remember ever hearing about public goods.

Will Mr. Jones contribute to Ms. Honesty? No, why should he? If
she wins, Jones will receive justice and fairness from her anyway
(a public good). If she loses, Jones will be punished by Mr.
Corruption for helping her.

Will Mr. Jones contribute to Mr. Corruption? Yes, because Jones
has been promised a change of zoning (a private good) so he can
build his new gated community. Jones writes a check for $2,000 to
Mr. Corruption and has a few dozen employees volunteer to help
out on Corruption’s campaign.

American Democracy tends to elect politicians who are motivated
to maximize their own private gain (there are some rare
exceptions). Runaway positive feedback occurs as politicians need
more and more money to run for public office. As this process
continues, more and more politicians are corrupt.

Bad drives out good and Corruption drives out Honesty. To what
end? In the end, we do not even have a political system
(one-person-one-vote), only an economic system


"Public goods" are goods and services that can be shared by a
whole group of people. Some examples of public goods are national
defense, police protection, government, and environmental
services. As a rule, government must provide public goods for
two reasons:

  1. Private investors won't supply public goods because they
     can't make a profit on them.

  2. Voluntary efforts won't supply public goods because the
     voluntary contribution of any one person exceeds the
     services received by that person. For example, suppose
     the cost of national defense to each taxpayer is worth
     the services each taxpayer receives. But if the entire
     cost were spread out evenly among only those who will
     voluntarily pay, then the individual cost will exceed
     the individual services. Thus, only government can
     supply a national defense through its taxing powers.

     This same principle applies to voluntary efforts at cleaning
     roads, parks, and so on. Voluntary efforts will ultimately
     fail because those who don't contribute (called "free
     riders") can use the services anyway. So there is little
     incentive for volunteers to contribute over the long
     term. Ultimately, volunteers will "burn out".

    [ Civic-minded citizens can even be seen as a form of
      corporate welfare! Instead of corporations paying
      for their social and environmental destruction,
      civic-minded volunteers donate their own time and money
      to keep their communities together while CEOs give
      themselves a million-dollar bonuses! ]

"Private goods" are restricted goods. A couple of examples of
private goods are gated communities and toll roads (only those
who pay can enjoy the services).

America's political system is based on private money: whoever can
raise the most money usually wins. Our private-money political
system naturally exhibits a strong bias towards private goods—and
private profits. This bias towards private goods leads to less
public infrastructure and more private infrastructure (e.g.,
private police, gated communities, etc.). Unfortunately, this
leads to a two-class society: one with private infrastructure
and one with no infrastructure; and ultimately, these will
lead to the disintegration of the state.

Jay --  http://dieoff.org/page1.htm
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