The Internet and the Third Estate | Stratechery

Source: The Internet and the Third Estate | Stratechery, by Ben Thompson

Mark Zuckerberg suggested that social media is a “Fifth Estate”; in fact, social media is a means by which the Third Estate — commoners — can seize political power.

in the Middle Ages the principal organizing entity for Europe was the Catholic Church. Relatedly, the Catholic Church also held a de facto monopoly on the distribution of information: most books were in Latin, copied laboriously by hand by monks. … The printing press changed all of this. … the First Estate became not the clergy of the Catholic Church but a national monarch, even as the monarch gave up power to a new kind of meritocratic nobility epitomized by Burke. In other words, Burke’s Fourth Estate was the means by which the Second Estate overthrew the first.

I would go further: just as the Catholic Church ensured its primacy by controlling information, the modern meritocracy has done the same, not so much by controlling the press but rather by incorporating it into a broader national consensus.

my argument [in 2016’s TV Advertising’s Surprising Strength — And Inevitable Fall] is that every part of the media-advertising-industrial complex was threatened by the Internet.

The inescapable reality is that TV advertisers are 20th century companies: built for mass markets, not niches, for brick-and-mortar retailers, not e-commerce. These companies were built on TV, and TV was built on their advertisements, and while they are propping each other up for now, the decline of one will hasten the decline of the other.

There is no reason this reality shouldn’t apply to nation-states as well.

The likelihood any particular message will “break out” is based not on who is propagating said message but on how many users are receptive to hearing it. The power has shifted from the supply side to the demand side. … And, by extension, the most successful politicians in an aggregated world are not those who serve the party but rather those who tell voters what they most want to hear.

If Facebook has the potential for immense influence on politics, why on earth would anyone want the company policing political speech?

China is building its own internet focused on very different values, and is now exporting their vision of the internet to other countries. Until recently, the internet in almost every country outside China has been defined by American platforms with strong free expression values. There’s no guarantee these values will win out. A decade ago, almost all of the major internet platforms were American. Today, six of the top ten are Chinese.

We’re beginning to see this in social media. While our services, like WhatsApp, are used by protesters and activists everywhere due to strong encryption and privacy protections, on TikTok, the Chinese app growing quickly around the world, mentions of these protests are censored, even in the US.

Is that the internet we want?

Indeed, this gets at why the Facebook questions are so critical: the company’s critics that argue that Facebook is too big are making a cogent argument that reconciles concerns about Facebook’s power with a desire to control misinformation; critics that ignore these tradeoffs, though, come across as authoritarians in their own right, disappointed in Facebook only so far as the company fails to leverage its power to enforce their personal preferences.

And so we are back to China. The U.S. specifically and the West broadly is not going to out-authoritarian an avowedly Marxist regime with a demonstrated willingness to use “re-education camps” and omnipresent surveillance to ensure the Second Estate era — that of the cohesive nation-state — remains in place. To fight the Internet’s impact, instead of seeking to understand it and guide the fundamental transformations that will surely follow, is a commitment by the West to lose the fight for the future.

The result of liberalism and conservatism

Every great achievement, every great leap, every great advance we have made as a species is the result of small-l forces of liberalism and heterodoxy braving new ideas and new shores. AND it is the result of small-c conservatism and the successful institutionalization of orthodoxy around those new ideas alongside those that came before that worked.

The Real Problem At Yale Is Not Free Speech | Palladium

Source: The Real Problem At Yale Is Not Free Speech | Palladium, by Natalia Dashan

This is a story about an institution and an elite that have lost themselves.

Pretending to be poor is a lot easier than pretending to be rich—just because there are so many different ways to be poor. … But lying about anything is tricky—you risk being found out—so what were these people trying to accomplish by acting broke? And this raises the broader question: why pretend to be of a social class you are not?

Poor people pretend to be rich to look cool. … Rich people pretend to be poor to fit in.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with haphazard and sometimes warped class signaling. But if you put on a façade for long enough, you end up forgetting that it is a façade. The rich and powerful actually start believing that they are neither of those things. … They forget that they have certain privileges and duties that others do not.

conferences where everybody lifts their champagne glasses to speeches about how we all need to “tear down the Man!” How we need to usurp conventional power structures. … But when you look around at the men and women in their suits and dresses, … you notice that these are the exact same people with the power—they are the Man supposedly causing all those problems that they are giving feel-good speeches about. … They are the people with power who fail to comprehend the meaning of that power. They are abdicating responsibility, and they don’t even know it.

The elite are expected—by everyone else, and by each other—to use their power to make sure society works properly. That is, they are expected to rule benevolently. The reason they are expected to do this is that if they don’t, nobody else can or will. The middle class and the poor do not have the powers and privileges that the rich and elite do, and cannot afford the necessary personal risks. But without active correction towards health and order, society fails. … When they misunderstand both the nature of power and their own power, how can they be expected to coordinate to use that power to rule well? How can they be expected not to abuse it?

Yale students, if they weren’t powerful when they came in (and most of them were), they gain power by being bestowed a Yale degree. What would you do with this power? You don’t want to abuse it; you’re not outright evil. No, you want something different. You want to be absolved of your power. You are ashamed of your power. Why should you have it, and not somebody else—maybe somebody more deserving? You never really signed up for this. You would rather be somebody normal. But not, “normal,” normal. More like normal with options and vacations and money “normal.” Normal but still powerful.

The Gig Economy Is White People [Re-]Discovering Servants | Medium

Source: The Gig Economy Is White People Discovering Servants | Medium, by Indi Samarajiva

If you strip away the hype and get to the core functionality, the gig economy is just a distributed servant class. … The gig economy is just white people re-discovering servants. … It offers the same conveniences as centuries past, or developing countries now, but also comes with the same economic and ethical issues. As much AI or even automation as you throw at it, you still have poorer people doing stuff you don’t want to do for not really enough money. … [gig economy companies] deliver convenience, not prosperity. … For countries that haven’t [recently] had servants the difference seems truly revolutionary, but in reality they are just stepping back into the developing world, hiding the ugly parts behind a gilded screen.

How much immigration is too much? | The Atlantic

Source: How much immigration is too much? | The Atlantic, by David Frum

While it would be destabilizing and impractical to remove all the people who have been living peaceably in this country for many years, it does not follow that any nonfelon who sets foot in the U.S. has a right to stay here.

Demagogues don’t rise by talking about irrelevant issues. Demagogues rise by talking about issues that matter to people, and that more conventional leaders appear unwilling or unable to address. Voters get to decide what the country’s problems are. Political elites have to devise solutions to those problems. If difficult issues go unaddressed by responsible leaders, they will be exploited by irresponsible ones.

Hundreds of millions of people will want to become Americans. Only a relatively small number realistically can. Who should choose which ones do? According to what rules? How will those rules be enforced? … How we choose will shape the future that will in its turn shape us.

what happens when it’s not just one person or 1,000 people or even 1 million people who want to move? What happens when it’s tens or hundreds of millions knocking on the doors of the developed world? And what happens when those vast numbers of newcomers arrive, not in mass-production economies whose factories and mills need every pair of hands they can hire, but in modern knowledge economies that struggle to achieve full employment and steady wage growth?

When natives have lots of children of their own, immigrants look like reinforcements. When natives have few children, immigrants look like replacements.

Anti-immigrant feeling usually runs strongest in places that receive relatively few immigrants … Yet nonmetropolitan places are experiencing immigration in their own way. Mobility between countries appears to have the perverse effect of discouraging mobility within countries—in effect, moating off the most dynamic regions of national economies from their own depressed hinterlands.

Neither the fiscal costs nor the economic benefits of immigration are large enough to force a decision one way or the other. Accept the most negative estimate of immigration’s dollar costs, and the United States could still afford a lot of immigration. Believe the most positive reckoning of the dollar benefits that mass immigration provides, and they are not so large that the United States would be crazy to refuse them. For good or ill, immigration’s most important effects are social and cultural, not economic.

Who should be invited to join with the natives of the United States to build, together, a better life for the Americans of today and tomorrow?

asylum seekers are advancing their interests and those of their families as best they can. Americans have the same responsibility to do what is best for Americans.

Even at lower immigration levels, America will continue to move rapidly toward greater ethnic diversity. … The higher birth rates of the immigrants already living in this country have determined what the American future will look like demographically. The challenge for today’s Americans is to allow that new demography to develop in an environment of social equality and cultural cohesion.

The phrase border security seriously distorts our understanding of illegal immigration. By some tallies, more than half of the most recent immigrants in the country illegally arrived legally—typically as a student or tourist—then overstayed their visa. They obeyed the law when they entered. They broke it by failing to leave. They get away with this because the U.S. concentrates its immigration enforcement on the frontier—while slighting the workplace.

Americans also need to rethink asylum policy. If unemployment, poverty, or disorder in your home country qualifies you for asylum, then hundreds of millions of people qualify—even though virtually none of them has been targeted by the kind of state-sponsored persecution that asylum laws were originally written to redress.

“How to help those displaced by conflict?” and “How should we select our future fellow Americans?” need to be seen as different questions requiring different sets of answers.

With immigration pressures bound to increase, it becomes more imperative than ever to restore the high value of national citizenship, not to denigrate or disparage others but because for many of your fellow citizens—perhaps less affluent, educated, and successful than you—the claim “I am a U.S. citizen” is the only claim they have to any resources or protection.

Yes, borders are arbitrary. And, yes, more people are arguing that we should care as much about people in faraway lands as we do about our fellow Americans. But the practical effect of making this argument is to enable the powerful to care as little for their fellow Americans as they do for people in faraway lands.

Without immigration restrictions, there are no national borders. Without national borders, there are no nation-states. Without nation-states, there are no electorates. Without electorates, there is no democracy. If liberals insist that only fascists will enforce borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals refuse to do.

When somebody seeks to join the American national community, that person is asking the United States to honor a multigenerational commitment to him or her and to each of his or her descendants. Americans are entitled to consider carefully whom they will number among themselves. They would be irresponsible not to consider this carefully—because all of these expensive commitments must be built on a deep agreement that all who live inside the borders of the United States count as “ourselves.”