The problem with Silicon Valley's libertarians

May 19, 2013

I'm tired of hearing Silicon Valley techheads bitch and moan about laws and government--laws are slowing us down! Government is getting in the way of the advance of technology! Leaving aside the fact that computing and Silicon Valley were built almost single handedly by DARPA, it shows their ignorance of technology in general and computer science in particular.

Laws and government are technology. Our ancestors roaming the African savannah did not know how to organize and run a state of three hundred people, much less one of three hundred million. That technology has developed over the past few thousand years. Law is similar. How many names from early history are associated with a code of law, from Hammurabi to Justinian?

And even in the supposed specialty of Silicon Valley, computing, it's soft headed. Computing is only incidentally about the digital computing machines we use today. The first computers were rooms full of women with adding machines, passing their results around in fixed patterns in order to perform complicated calculations. This is different only in scale from a government.

The clamor for no government by those enamored with software as a cure for all ills can't be taken seriously. To a man, they're all either sociopaths or incapable of systematic thought.

A sociopath wants everything going his way, and objects to anyone stopping him for any reason. There's not much to be done with sociopaths besides kill them. But for those who aren't, this obsession with avoiding compulsion isn't reasoned. It seems more like a holdover from being beaten up and having their lunch money stolen on the playground.

If they really wanted to minimize the compulsion on people, they wouldn't be asking for no government. Most will quickly backtrack and accept some government. After all, you have to have enough force available to compel those who aren't playing nicely to behave. If Mark Zukerberg decides that he wants me dead with no retaliation on himself, there has to be someone with even more teeth than he can hire. And that is the point of a government: we give it a monopoly on legitimate force in our society. After Mark Zukerberg sends his death squads after me, there needs to be a government powerful enough to go pry him out of his mercenary guarded compound in Montana.

But why is that compulsion worse than the compulsions imposed on those suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder or schizophrenia by their disorders? These are severe compulsions, ones that don't go away after someone has taken your lunch money. We are today capable of at least partially lifting these compulsions. Anyone who has allowed as how enough government to protect them from playground bullies is good that won't also accept this isn't reasoning, they've just never gotten over having someone give them a wedgie on the playground.

And if such suffering caused by such continuous compulsions is to be prevented, what about forcing people to come to an environment which is both physically and socially unpleasant to do mindnumbing work, day in and day out, or face the threat of starvation, ruined lives, or possibly being allowed to die of a major medical condition? That seems like compulsion worth preventing to me.

So someone really interested in the freedom from compulsion, the liberty, of his fellow man, would agitate for honest and fair law enforcement, health care for all, and strong labor laws. That should sound familiar: it's socialism.

That's right, a libertarian capable of systematic thought is a socialist. Or a sociopath.

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