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Freedom: The Big American Lie (faz.net)
169 points by Riesling 1399 days ago | hide | past | web | 105 comments | favorite



I just saw a newspaper headline today, a photo of Snowden saying "would you hide this man?". I didn't buy it, so I don't know if the article was pro, contra or informative; but it got me thinking... I know it would never happen, but why shouldn't Germany give asylum to Snowden? Oh, because we're full of shit ourselves.

What about other so-called first world countries? Any offers so far? How many non-offers? So, is it really the big American lie?

It would be easier for rest of the world if the US were more free, sure, and the US kinda has it in the mission statement. But it would also be easier for the US if the rest of the world was more free, and it's idiotic to just follow in the shadow of the "market leader in freedom", and then complain when that market leader has a bad day, or a bad decade, or several, and runs off into a ditch. Don't ask what freedom can do for you, but what you can do for freedom, right?

And hey, I'm sure Putin Polonium also tells the Russian people they're free, too. That just as a sanity check. Not that I want to belittle any of it, but realize that in the US you have freedoms of speech and organization others wouldn't even dream of. Use them! Don't fall into the trap of being like Germans, who tend to moan how bad it is, with being content others have it worse... do that other thing, that American thing, where you roll up your sleeves, kick ass and distribute chewing gum :P (those stereotypes are not meant seriously, but well)


True, the only reason Putin and China oppose intervention in Syria is because they have already fought civil wars to crush dissent in their own countries and are worried what kinds of precedents may be set if they allow Assad to be overthrown through foreign intervention. If China can't roll into Tibet with tanks and destroy separatists and if Russia can't bomb the caucuses into federal submission because the UN prevents it their own dictatorships could be screwed.

Putin also said something interesting after that high profile US/Russia intel agent prisoner exchange happened. He was asked if he thought any of the Russian agents had cooperated with the US and leaked information to them, his response was basically they wouldn't be alive if they had.

That said I do enjoy the antics of Russia Today offering Assange a F/T show and Snowden drama in order to punch the US in the balls repeatedly and politically humiliate the current administration over their declining empire and worldwide influence. The US increasingly is becoming all bark and no bite. Countries can now openly defy their bullying and demands without much consequences whereas in 2001 that was a different story.


Well, UK openly said that if Snowden arrives in the UK he won't be allowed into the country, so there you have the "democratic and free" countries. But to be honest, people should be really upset about the stuff he leaked about GCHQ since it turns out to be as bad as NSA, yet people hardly talk about it.


Americans have apparently been so succesful in exporting their culture that they've managed to export american hypocrisy as well ;)


Technically, we imported that from England, and just rebranded it.

We're really good at that sort of thing.


>why shouldn't Germany give asylum to Snowden?

Because we have an extradition treaty with the US?


Does it cover political conflicts? That was really the only legit chance Snowden had of claiming asylum at practically any nation he goes to anyways.


This story has quickly evolved from one of a government violating its citizens rights, to one about Snowden.

Score one (more) for the government-media PR complex.


You know what, this is silly (except for the part about Obama's record on civil liberties and security).

First of all the problem, as it often is, comes from centralization on the internet. If the web was decentralized, as it was meant to be from the beginning, there wouldn't be such outrage. Remember all the outcry of privacy on facebook, no government involved? I do. Or how about companies like Path sucking up your phone records from your phone and sending it to their servers?

At the end of the day, it is we who choose to have an account with a large company running web software so they can "take care of" our email. Giant data centers delivering our movies to our doorstep instead of P2P. It wasn't always like this. People used to run desktop software on their desktop.

It will be like this again, but it will take a long time. My favorite example is how git and mercurial have eclipsed svn a long time ago, and github / bitbucket are way more popular than, say, sourceforge. Bitcoin has gotten a lot of attention over currencies that can be controlled by a central authority. Adobe Cirrus and WebRTC are growing. The same kind of revolution is going to happen in multi user communication platforms. Once that happens, and everything is encrypted end-to-end and there is off-the-record messaging, those using it will take back control.

We can already do almost everything in a decentralized manner except good social networking. Privacy "nuts" can run their email, etc. on a VPN and store encrypted backups in other places. To make it more mainstream, however, we will need friendlier clients. And social networking!

Finally, the web itself was built to be client-server, which kind of indirectly encouraged this sort of centralization. Clients were easy to install -- netscape's business model even involved giving it away for free -- but not many people ran servers. And so it led to this. The long and short of it is, we need more user-friendly opensource servers, standardized protocols, and encryption. Those who care will then run their own servers.


> First of all the problem, as it often is, comes from centralization on the internet.

No, the problem comes from the maliciousness of the US military.

Centralization on the internet got us Google and AWS and the iPad.

(The iPad wouldn't be the iPad if it wasn't locked down with a centralized App Store.)


I'm sorry, but why do you think Google and AWS are the best we can do?

We have to rely on Google to "not be evil". A lot of businesses depend on traffic from google, and if it decides to cut them off, well too bad. Many governments including the US government constantly look into google to prevent a monopoly. You want a monopoly in search? And how about the direction of where your hosted software will go ... when Larry Page took the reins, he decided that Google+ should feature prominently in every product. I agree with him but others may not. And what about killing off Google reader just like that? Do you think people come to rely on these things and then the centralized company can just kill the product?

And as for building stuff "in the cloud", what happens when your AWS availability zone goes down? Lots of big internet sites go down. Centralization on the internet also got us facebook, and when facebook goes down or shuts off a site, "Connect with Facebook" doesn't work on that site anymore until they fix it.

(responding to your edit) As for the iPad, etc. ... yes, the original platforms are usually proprietary walled gardens, but eventually the tech gets commoditized (sometimes after a protracted software patent fight). Rather than expound on it here, you can read my complete thoughts on multiple app stores and reputations: http://magarshak.com/blog/?p=114

NOW THE DISCLAIMERS: I will admit, that Google is also full of extremely bright people and does awesome stuff with all the money it makes. Self-driving cars, google glasses, and much more. But you are still relying on Google to maintain its data liberation and open technologies, and to some extent their commitment has lessened.

Also, Amazon's impressive commitment to low margins is a net win for all of us consumers (including the developers). At the scale that Google and Amazon build, a lot of amazing research is possible. That is the upside of centralization. And I am not saying that we should "abolish" centralized services. Especially the ones which are open and have great tools.

What I AM saying is that the open source foundations need to step up their game and produce SERVERS that are user friendly and easy to install, maintain and run. This new generation of servers should automatically link together. I really do believe that at the end of the day, history has shown that open PLATFORMS lead to the greatest good for humanity, as everyone can build apps on top of them without favoritism. For example Apple's iOS favors twitter and facebook sharing over any other companies, because they made a deal with them. There needs to be competition between the "centralized sector" and the "open source sector", which will lead to the server software becoming commoditized and more user friendly, just as browsers are today.


> I'm sorry, but why do you think Google and AWS are the best we can do?

Please don't set up a straw man. You seem to be claiming that I'm arguing in favor of complete centralization. I'm not.

Google and AWS both need competitors.

That also doesn't mean that we as a society haven't benefitted monumentally from Google and AWS existing.

Centralization has vast benefits. We should not discount those simply because it also makes a juicy target for evildoers. It's throwing the baby out with the bathwater to say "this is the fault of centralization".

Your approach works and benefits people even if we as an industry continue to primarily build centralized services (and we will, because it is tremendously more cost-effective). I encourage you to pursue it in parallel.


I think we're saying the same thing. As I mentioned, I am NOT saying centralization doesn't have benefits -- I even mentioned some major ones, including having enough money to do awesome R&D and move humanity forward. What I am saying is that open source foundations need to step up their game, and build servers that automatically talk to each other, are easy to install, maintain, and are user friendly. Kind of like the new WebRTC P2P client/servers.


I hear what you're saying, but I think it's a bit of a red herring. The real problem is the abuse, not the topology of the Net/Web.

That is, even if we all ran our own email servers, etc., the government could work with the ISPs to protocol-sniff or otherwise hook into our communications if it had the will. At the end of the day, data must be put on the wire (or in the air). Outlaw encryption above NSA-crackable standards (as they did for exported browsers/software) and away they go. This is not to mention wireless carriers which must be centralized to some extent. At the end of the day, it is not a very practical matter for many of these services to be decentralized, especially for those who are not tech savvy.

And, yes, we could try to evolve technologies which decentralize more of these services for the masses. And, we can hope that endpoint encryption wouldn't be outlawed (in fact, as we now all know, the NSA now claims the right to hold on to encrypted communications indefinitely as it attempts to crack them), but this is not unlike the cat-and-mouse between virus writers and antivirus companies. Stronger encryption would be cracked, data would traverse some centralized conduit, and the government would get the information.

The problem here is not the topology of the network, but the government's intent and its frank violation of our privacy, period. We are a nation of laws, and the government should be constrained, not by the limits of technology, but to the law itself and to both the letter and spirit of our Constitution.


What do you think of my proposal for “shadow organizations with reputation for verifying software for security holes”

http://magarshak.com/blog/?p=114


First of all the problem, as it often is, comes from centralization on the internet.

Which is a matter of government policy. When the internet was invented, hackers and cypherpunks said it should be decentralized. Lobbyists and Congressmen said it would be subsidized as something along the lines of television: few senders, many receivers. And then ISPs even said: we'll take public subsidies for infrastructure and not even build the infrastructure.

The result is that America and Canada in specific have crappy net access, and the world at large has a centralized internet rather than a decentralized one. Why? Because nobody ever required that we commoners receive publicly-visible IP addresses and symmetric bandwidth with which to run our own servers.


Very well said. These things are certainly relevant. But now that we have WebRTC and Adobe Cirrus, etc. can we start building decentralized, P2P apps?

After all I don't care how the connection is opened as long as it's encrypted I have choice in how it's opened.


May I ask a simple question as a reality check? Granting for the purpose of discussion that the current revelations about NSA in the United States appear to show a slippage to worse conditions from the legal restrictions that originally governed NSA's activities related to Americans living in America, is it genuinely correct, as the article claims, that "idealists have, as the Washington saying puts it, 'nowhere else to go'" besides supporting one major United States political party or the other?

My observation of history is that third-party political movements in the United States have never won the Presidency or a majority in Congress since the fragmented election of 1860 that began the current "two party" system, but the two parties have changed everything about their positions on policy while keeping their names the same. The Democratic Party and Republican Party went through a complete role reversal with each other on many issues from the 1890s to the 1990s, and third-party movements in the United States continue to nudge the parties to respond to popular discontent. United States political parties are not ideological, and have no ideological test for membership. Political parties in the United States are coalitions to aid the efforts of individual candidates to win elections. My state has been governed by a third-party governor quite recently, and I have voted for candidates who are genuinely independent of any party, and candidates endorsed by SEVEN different political parties, in state and federal elections since the 1970s.

As for a broader question about where freedom is available to the common people, what do immigration patterns tell us? The United States is a rare example of a country that has consistent, sustained population growth irrespective of natural increase through immigration. Tens of millions of people around the world have responded to public opinion surveys to indicate that they desire to immigrate to the United States. The United States gains population on a net basis in comparison to almost any other country. If there is a freedom problem here in the United States, where is there not a freedom problem?


Most people that move to the US do it because it is a very prosperous country, not because it is considered particularly free.

People that flee oppression go to Europe, if nothing else because they have a much higher chance of getting to stay there than in the US.


The fact that America's two largest political parties are not inherently ideological is part of what's wrong with them.

The fact that they might change eventually does not help those who want change now.


On the contrary - I find ideological political parties rather abhorrent. No ideology is complete and The Truth.

I would much prefer a party that has clear policy positions that doesn't necessarily hew to any particular belief system across said positions, so long as there is rational justification to believe a particular policy will be effective in achieving an end.


Your point about 'coalitions of candidates' is a great point. This is how the Tea Party is succeeding in taking over the Republican Party at this point, which has led the Republicans in Congress to being far more intransigent than they normally had before.


...rights aren’t ‘rights’ if someone can take ‘em away; they’re privileges. That’s all we’ve ever had in this country: a bill of temporary privileges. And if you read the news, even badly, you know that every year the list gets shorter and shorter.

— George Carlin, “You Have No Rights"


Karl Marx maybe be wrong most of the time, but he is probably right on one assertion: in any society there are mainly two classes: the ruled class and the ruling class. The small numbered ruling class controls the majority ruled class by controlling what they believe. Here are a couple of examples:

There is no ruling class and ruled class.

The ruled class has freedom beyond control from the ruling class.


"It's a club, and you ain't in it."

—George Carlin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wV1lZMTCqf8


"And if you read the news, even badly, you know that every year the list gets shorter and shorter."

Oh sure... I mean, this country started out with slavery, no voting rights for women, use of child labor, gunning down union workers, etc, etc, etc. And today, things are even worse. (/sarcasm)

Please stop fantasizing about the perfect America of yesteryear. It never existed.


All every human society has ever had is priveleges. What exactly did George Carlin think was the alternative? Who the hell else is going to guarantee your right not to be murdered for speaking your mind?


That is such a circular argument that it is impossible to determine where it begins and ends.


Privilege can only be granted, rights can only be seized.

The reverse is the cost of complacence.


> The answer, to a depressing extent, is that our basic freedoms are threatened today because our political system and our very culture make it nearly impossible for us to act.

That's why action should not come as an open fight. History is full of examples when revolutions only lead to blood, after which other elites simply take over and keep exploiting everyone else. Or, alternatively, revolutions fail and after a bloody fight the same elites stay in power.

If you want real change and bloodless revolution, start using Bitcoin. Don't pay them a cut if you disagree with what your money are spent on. It's not democracy that keeps politicians in check. It's simply money. If they have none, they're powerless.


> If you want real change and bloodless revolution

... destroy politicians' careers and make their techniques impossible to maintain.

I've written on this subject before, but I believe that destruction is the most effective means of change in politics today. The obvious way is to dig up as much dirt on politicians as possible and back them into a corner, but 1) that can easily backfire, and 2) it's hard to deal with the systematic problems.

A great example of how to deal with a serious technological hurdle: In Cory Doctorow's book "Little Brother" (absolutely worth a read -- my favorite of all time, FWIW) everyone in the bay area has RFID passes for traveling on BART and paying tolls by car. One of the characters comes up with plans for a device that will suck in IDs from these devices, then randomly swap them with others, preventing the DHS from tracking people based on their location. By distributing this far and wide, the system becomes completely and utterly useless.

I think that things like this are the way forward. Destroy, guide the rebuilding (using positive -- not negative -- means), destroy again if it doesn't fit the proper form. Semi-rapid iteration of government.


>In Cory Doctorow's book...

This is a really cool concept. You have just sold me to read this book man, I'd been putting it off for so long.


Awesome. I strongly recommend both "Little Brother" and "Makers" to every single developer I know. Makers is more directly relevant to techies.


Why do you want a government so much?


"...to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak ... to further the well-being of mankind."

Or if you like

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The moment that you abolish government I will personally get a gang together to make you regret the action. The power vacuum will be filled, and given the opportunity I would much rather be the one wearing the boots than the one getting his face kicked in.

I like to think that most libertarians are mostly confused anarchists, and thus mostly imbeciles, but those that can deny the necessity of government altogether are beyond idiocy into an entirely separate plane of existence. It's beyond even opprobrium; we simply do not live in a world that would permit large groups of humanity to live without some form of government.


In other words, you'd rather have a really big and powerful gang that is impossible to fight, than many more competing small gangs? Totally sold me on the idea.


Setting aside the tendency of small gangs to become large ones, a gang is a form of government in most senses of the term, i.e. it is not anarchy. You'll also need to show that gang warfare is a desirous state.

A government is a local monopoly on the use of force. We do not live in a world that can be made free of violence, therefore government is an unpleasant necessity. Solve the violence issue, and we can talk about abolishing government -- although you should also be aware of the concepts of "market failure" and "natural monopoly".


Interesting. If you look at history, it is precisely governments and empires that produced more violence than anyone else. The bloodiest, most devastating wars are all the result of government action. Even the most bloodiest anarchist in the world cannot come close to what an average "peaceful" state has done in his lifetime.

Violence is inherent, at least at this point of our development, in human species. Question is, what brings about more violence. I would argue, that it's the idea that we need some sort of government. This very idea creates the incentive for sociopaths and bandits to get into politics and allows the ruling class to continuously keep fucking the population.


> I would argue, that it's the idea that we need some sort of government.

It's not an idea at all. It's what OP referred to as a 'power vacuum'.

An anarchy sits at the top of a local maxima, where a little nudge in any direction is enough to set the whole political situation careening toward violence and the acquisition of power all over again.

An anarchy can only survive until the first person gets enough allies to put their boots on the throats of the rest.

So while it's true that an anarchy is such that you can effectively only cause people nearby you to be killed, it is an inherently unstable political situation. Witness the stateless tribal areas of Pakistan; despite the lack of the state there is assuredly a boss. The power vacuum has been filled by local tribal warlords.

An anarchy surrounded by Western democracies might even be safe (that is, from external conflict), but a world full of anarchies will not remain a set of anarchies for that long.


A government is a local monopoly on the use of force.

Not according to the authors of the Second Amendment.


You must be confused. The Second Amendment deals with possession, not use.


Whatever you say, I guess.


Yeah, except that, you know, our government is supposed to be us.

But, you can be forgiven for forgetting that fact. It's really hard to remember these days.

Still, for the record, we should all be suspicious of anyone who seeks to disempower the government in a country wherein self-rule is supposed to be the law. There is a third option, and that is restoring the spirit of our government.


I don't understand this. "Supposed to be us" is a meaningless propaganda thing in any country. Much like "for your protection". What they are supposed to be has nothing to do with what they really are. You can't change the system by telling it what it's supposed to be and complaining. The system will listen and ignore.


Yeah, that was pretty much my point. It is propaganda at this point, but it doesn't have to be and shouldn't be.

I wasn't proposing that my HN post (or complaint, as you say) would change the system. I was noting that people have forgotten what the system is even supposed to be. There's a binary false choice between abolishing the "evil government" altogether or just dealing with its egregious violations. In either case, the implicit supposition is that it's this third thing that we're dealing with, outside of the people.

But, there is another choice (put simply, reclaiming our government) and I (and others) actually have ideas around helping to facilitate those changes. Maybe you'll hear about these ideas some day and want to be a part of the change.

But, in any case, it starts with people remembering what our government is supposed to be. And, as of right now, we're nowhere close to even that.


empirical and historical evidence doesn't completely bear out what you are saying:

http://www.eleuthera.it/files/materiali/David_Graeber_Fragme...


> Why do you want a government so much?

Because it's the only way to take proper care of the elderly and the disabled. No anarcho-syndicalist pipe dream has ever convincingly sketched me a scenario where the elderly (without family) do not just waste away in isolation, and the schizophrenics are rotting in the streets.

Now, a government is not a guarantee to fix this (see for example the NYC homeless), but without a government, the weaker groups in society are just shit out of luck.


Empirically speaking, government is utterly horrible about taking care of the elderly and disabled. The mentally disabled historically were far better treated by their communities before the government instituted sanitoria.

Block Island, RI, is a good example of a community thant functions to help each other without government aid. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUxu02GPAqg

And government has been similarly horrible at taking care of the poor. a large part of social equalization in the 1900-1950 era was the ascendancy of private community associations, mutual benefit societies, and so forth. The remnants of these are the Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary club, etc... But these have been squeezed out by government sponsored programs, and we have seen economic inequity rise. Part of this is probably also because the poor have been squeezed by money printing - but that's another issue altogether.

Especially the way that the government engages in charity. By spending money that is borrowed to bail out the poor (the anti-austerity argument) - the government transfers funds to the poor (which, let's assume is fine) by borrowing from the rich and politically connected. But it's a loan, so the rich are getting paid back, with interest. The net resource flow is to the rich, even though you have paid the poor.


Booster clubs have never really taken care of the poor, as Sinclair Lewis eloquently observed.


by his criteria, an honest analysis would conclude: neither has government.


Anarchist societies throughout history took care of the elderly and disabled. Do you have any evidence of your claims that they didn't?


A bunch of people who organize on purpose to put forward a given political ideology is hardly representative of how the mass of the population can be expected to handle a similar social concern.

Sure, the kids may clean their room if you tell them they can have cookies afterwards, but what's the plan when the anarchists have already achieved their goal and removed that external motivator?


I wasn't defining anarchists as you just have. Anarchism has taken a variety of forms throughout history, and the kind you describe is the most rare.

http://www.eleuthera.it/files/materiali/David_Graeber_Fragme...


If elderly without a family is not more than 2-3% of the population, I don't think it's anything that charities wouldn't be able to do.

And that is assuming people are completely irresponsible and don't save during their lifetime. Pensions is just that, but with a middleman.


Because I don't live in a hunter-gatherer tribe geographically separated from other competing tribes.

Because I don't live in a spaceship with nuclear power, an FTL drive and a working replicator to run away from the rest of humanity.

See Sethrin's comment.


Don't we need a social body (government) to enforce contracts? Be they social, financial, etc.

Edit: And to avoid might makes right?


No, we don't. A great talk and an illustration about how law and protection could work in a stateless society: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTYkdEU_B4o by David D. Friedman (an economist AND a lawyer).


Interesting talk, thanks. Basically, rule of law under market conditions/forces. The main benefit is more individual power over law due to market choice by that individual, instead of political choice and the lack of power that offers due to dilution.

That is of course assuming we do not end up with the same M&A activity that leaves only a handful of law market/arbitration agencies (similar to what has happened in many arenas, such as media).

I am going to have to think about that one for awhile...


I don't. Unfortunately, most people do, and I'm a pragmatist at the end of the day.


Please don't make this a case for bitcoin. This is much more serious and complicated issue and will not get solved just by using bitcoin. I think you are over-romanticising the use of bitcoin, nothing else...

Just saying,..


All I said that NSA, Drones and imprisonment of the population for victimless crimes requires money. I would also claim that if taxes were not collected (or would be impossible to collect) with a threat of force, very little number of people would pay them voluntarily. Also, if people were not forced by law to use national currencies for exchanging goods and services, they wouldn't be subject to hidden taxes, such as inflation. Bitcoin makes taxes prohibitively expensive to collect and inflation impossible. How is it an oversimplification then?


> hidden taxes, such as inflation.

Maybe it was a typo, but I think you should double check what inflation means.


The effect of the Federal Reserve increasing the money supply, and making it available to favored banks and the US Treasury at low rates helps cause inflation and has about the same effect as a tax: your holdings are worth less, and somebody else, albeit indirectly, is able to tap into the value that those dollars held.


Sounds like a pretty big stretch to call it a tax in my opinion.


The government has more money and I have less. I'd be interested to hear your suggestions for a better descriptor?


I'm not convinced that the government gets more money when inflation goes up. I've only taken an introductory level economics course, but I'm pretty sure the value of a currency goes down for everyone - government included - when inflation rises.


If it was not forced by law there would be no private property at all.



David Graeber is a left-anarchist whose work backs me up: those anarchist societies don't have private property, they have personal possessions. You don't get capitalist enterprises without a state.


Please make a proper argument, nobody is going to read through all of that.


TLDR; Anarchist systems have existed throughout history both alongside and within, and most certainly in awareness of hierarchical systems which they often explicitly reject.

Most assertions about the nature of those societies are based on ignorance. Most relevant to your comment, they tend(ed) to maintain rules, conventions, personal property, arbitrate disputes, take care of the weak, and do any number of other things considered impossible without government. Various types of egalitarian social order have existed, it isn't one monolithic concept, and it certainly doesn't necessarily result in chaos or might-makes-right.

If you want specific examples and actual information, take the time to read the pdf. It is written by an anthropologist, so it is his gig to footnote all this stuff.


How have these anarchist societies fared after hierarchically-driven societies came through? I don't seem to recall it working out well in Africa, Asia, North America, or South America.


That wasn't the discussion I was responding to. If anything, it bolsters my intuition which is: the fact that anarchist societies historically haven't stood up well to the depredations of authoritarian and warlike organizations is probably the reason we think they can't work.

But to do the other things discussed, other than organized warfare, they seem to work just as well as anything else.

I think this point is important when evaluating the need for government in a variety of other contexts, other than war.


> If anything, it bolsters my intuition which is: the fact that anarchist societies historically haven't stood up well to the depredations of authoritarian and warlike organizations is probably the reason we think they can't work.

Sure, but my intuition is that you cannot simultaneously stamp out all authoritarian/warlike organizations. And even if you could, you'd eventually get one more, which would screw the whole world up again.

The idea is one of those "would be nice in theory/won't work in the real world" types of things. I wish it weren't, I really do. But life is about dealing with the hand you're given, not the hand you'd wished you'd have been dealt.


By that logic we would all still be sitting in mud huts. Progress is about imagining a better future and then working to achieve it.


Well, you get people to not ever rape or murder one another and I'll get political schemes to all settle on anarchist societies where major industrial projects still manage to get funded and no one ever tried to take more by force.


I wholeheartedly agree with your last point. Hit them where it hurts, and that's their wallet. If you dislike what's happening and you notice a certain corporation is associated with that, simply stop using their services and stop giving them money. If you dislike your information being shared, stop using Facebook or any of the other tech giants. They didn't have much incentive to protect their user's privacy, but they would if they noticed people moving away from their services because they can't be trusted.


To be perfectly honest, I wasn't saying exactly that. Yes, you got the point right: if you don't like the services a private company provides - stop paying. It works. With government it has historically been impossible to do, because it controls money supply and extracts taxes with the threat of force (don't want to pay? Go to prison). Bitcoin offers a simple non-violent and effective way out of this, because it would be prohibitively expensive to collect taxes if people used Bitcoin. It would only be possible when they converted it to fiat or physical things big enough to be noticed and tracked (like houses or cars). Thus, my point: use Bitcoin as a unit of exchange and don't pay a cut.


Bitcoin offers very little here. If you are smart about how you interact with it, it might be substantially more anonymous than other digital payment mechanisms. It is not any more anonymous than physical cash, and governments collected taxes just fine when everyone was paying with cash. They do this through audit and threat of force, and that is just as applicable to bitcoin.


Not true. 1) Is gets a lot harder and more expensive to collect taxes when you have to conduct audits 2) It is impossible to collect the inflation tax 3) It's easier to control people when you can close down or freeze their bank accounts for any reason you like.

Bitcoin offers a lot of freedom at a price of learning a little bit about the technology.


1 and 3 are not at all applicable to cash, which was my point - governments have collected taxes in cash since forever, so they can collect taxes in bitcoin.

2 is a point, but I am not convinced it's hugely significant (though will be happy to delve deeper).


>collect the inflation tax

What does this mean? I do not understand.


By printing more money, he government has more money. By increasing the supply of money, the "price" (which is to say "value" - how much you can trade it for) of money goes down. So value moved from "those who hold dollars" to the government, which can be viewed as a sort of tax. By not using dollars, you reduce demand for dollars (hopefully more than you reduce supply through decreased velocity - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velocity_of_money) meaning the government has to print more to pay for the same things and so you lessen the ability to raise money in this way.

I am skeptical about this being significant, because the amount of money raised by printing money has historically been radically lower than the amount of money raised by levying taxes.


You would need a substantial percentage of a population to stop paying taxes to send the government a message. If you do it on your own, you run the risk of getting a message. A coercive one.


The Diamond Age is based in a reality where all countries collapsed due to the advent of cryptocurrency and cryptocommunication which undermined nation states' ability to collect tax. I think this is an eventuality.


One of my favorite books, but the chicken and egg problem is substantial. Hitting the "tax dodger" tipping point requires a huge number of people to break the law before it 1) has any impact at all, and 2) becomes unenforcable.

I think that there's a clever missing step.


Nations are not based only on the ability to collect tax. And a percentage of income or sales are not the only kinds of tax which have been collected in history.


The Diamond Age is also a sickening crapsack world filled with immensely dangerous uncontrolled nanotechnology. And of course the mandatory Neal Stephenson lectures on programming and bizarre sex cults.

That said, Snow Crash was an even worse crapsack to live in.


Here is an alternate dimension too.

If both left and right political wings are full of dubious people, then don't bring them both to power. Create an alternative political party of your own and then compete in the next elections. Vow to kill all the FUD such as mass surveillance, Gitmo, SOPA, PIPA, bring in transparency, bring youth to power etc.

I mean fight 'em with the system, and fight outside the system too as more and more people, I noted, have been suggesting the latter on HN here.

This is how India is currently planning for the 2014 elections. The ground reality is so intense that one cannot describe in words.

We have a legion of corrupt assholes both in our Government and its opposition that is called the congress and BJP duo. These guys have a history of carrying out some of the biggest scams on the planet. Shamelessly. They are known to have killed thousands of innocents, like Congress done away with Sikhs in 1984 [1], BJP done away with Gujrati muslims in Godhra in 2002 [2] and so on ...

Not much of a choice w.r.t democracy, you know!

So people lately have built a third political party called the 'Aam Aadmi Party' AAP [3], meaning common man party, whose president is Mr. Arvind Kejriwal [4] (A young engineer from IIT and an ex-diplomat of Indian Government.) Ground is swelling with support to put the new face into power, give power back to youth of our country. And yet traditional and powerful media continues to sleep with the incumbents, so a similar situation of dimwit reporting too.

I don't know how the elections in the US work, heard it is complicated and messy, but this is one angle that perhaps you guys could look at: form a party of your own. Call it something else, like a pirate party, and then fight the elections.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1984_anti-Sikh_riots

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Gujarat_violence

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aam_Aadmi_Party

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arvind_Kejriwal


The big problem is that fear is such an effective weapon to use again any such campaign. The establishment would have to spend barely a penny to totally crush such a movement before it got off the ground given the general status quo of relative comfort for most Americans.

The two party system, as alluded to in the article, really is a huge problem for getting momentum on any movement that has any kind of easy sound bite rebuttals. However I think a good place to start would be to proclaim strong support for congresspeople like Udall, and start going after the NSA shills like Kerry.


> The two party system, as alluded to in the article, really is a huge problem ...

Yup! A truly open system would respect as many competing forces as possible. However, in India we've seen several competing parties forming a coalition after the voting is done with. And then they play different equations to their advantage, grab power bring in misery back again.

So it is not as easy as it seems.


There are the very real issues of apathy and media-influenced distractions. For example, here's the last 30 days of Google search traffic on "NSA" vs. "Paula Deen":

http://www.google.com/trends/explore?q=nsa%2C%22paula+deen%2...


What kind of 'third front' do you want? The fact that you don't actually detail what sort of politics it would have makes me suspicious. Who is it that you want me to give power to?


You know what I don't really get? Why do we need anyone to give power to? Keep it to yourself. We've got everything we really need to make ourselves happy and live our lives. Why do people so desperately need someone to reign over them? This sounds like a Stockholm syndrome.


> Who is it that you want me to give power to?

To yourself, I meant.

I removed the term 'third front' because it does contain the political bullshit angle that is certainly suspicious. Thanks for pointing out.


"[T]o a depressing extent, [...] our basic freedoms are threatened today because our political system and our very culture make it nearly impossible for us to act."

Let's act: http://www.meetup.com/Hack-Government-Bay-Area

To the broader point, the two party system certainly pulls "to the center", but it's also somewhat random which middle. Those pushed to the fringes of the Democrats and those pushed to the fringes of the Republicans have some substantial points of disagreement, but have some significant overlap as well. We should see how we can work together to pull both parties to a better place.


Reality check: for all the ills of warrantless wiretapping, computers are still an overwhelmingly positive force for enlightenment, empowerment and liberation of people across the world.


We think we have been enlightened, empowered, and liberated, but really all we have done is concentrate our activity in to one nice easily monitor-able state, which means we can now be more controlled than ever before.

Chat in a park? Good chance its private. Chat on line? Good chance its recorded. I could go on...

Your "reality check", I'm very sorry to say, is exactly the lie we are being sold.


Nobody's claiming computers can't be used for evil. I'm just saying let's not lose sight of all the good stuff they enable which is orthogonal to whether or not their users are being monitored.


Computers have also been crucial in facilitating many, many horrible things - with massive investments by all of the standing militaries and secret police of the world.


The fascinating thing is that this article, which compared to US press, sounds like a liberal paranoid rant, is being published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which is about as liberal as The Wall Street Journal ....

This thing is a PR disaster of the greatest magnitude.


Christ, what a terribly written article.


When you have leftist democrats that are statists and country-club type republicans that don't really believe in limited government, and these two groups make up the majority of congress then there's really no hope until the people wake up to the tyranny that is happening.

But the people are ignorant and all the statist politicians and government officials have to say is "security" and the majority of the sheeple fall right in line - "what do I have to worry about, I'm not doing anything wrong. I dont' care if they're spying, if it's protecting the country".


Well, you made through three quarters of the comment before typing 'sheeple'. That's gotta count for something.

Your first statement I tend to agree with, though 'tyranny' is a strong word often implying rule by a single person.


Well, you made through three quarters of the comment before typing 'sheeple'. That's gotta count for something.

It's weird that your offended by that.

Your first statement I tend to agree with, though 'tyranny' is a strong word often implying rule by a single person.

No, it doesn't imply rule by a single person.




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