The second essential step is to recognize how the spectacles of “news” and entertainment distract our attention from this erosion of basic rights.
Hierarchical power structures like city-states arose as problem-solving solutions, not just for the elites who benefited from the concentration of wealth and power but for the citizenry. This dynamic underpins the analysis presented in my recent book Global Crisis, National Renewal: when nation-states and global hierarchies no longer solve the key problems of their populaces, they dissolve and are replaced by some new arrangement.
It’s easy to see how hierarchies benefit the leaders / elites at the top, but there’s always a trade-off to the populace ceding power/control to elites: we will cede control over our lives in exchange for benefits we cannot gain by ourselves, starting with security from invasion and starvation, i.e. the existential threats posed by Nature and other human organizations.
Over time, as energy surpluses and knowledge increased, city-states aggregated into nation-states and empires.These larger organizations were able to solve problems on a larger scale than city-states.
When these entities could no longer solve existential problems (surpluses diminished, elites failed to provide successful leadership, etc.), they eroded and then collapsed, and were replaced with some other more successful organizational arrangement.
Over time, the citizenry of some regions began expanding the benefits nation-states and their elites were expected to provide in exchange for power: the state was expected to secure the rights to individuals’ property and various civil liberties relating to the free exchange of ideas and knowledge, freedom of worship, and having a say in national decisions.
Globally, these basic human rights are being eroded by state-elite over-reach and consolidation of power beyond what the citizenry agreed upon. For example, the citizenry ceded power to the state to protect individuals’ privacy from the surveillance and information-gathering of both the state and private interests.
As Richard Bonugli and I discuss in our podcast on Eroding Civil Liberties and Property Rights, these privacy statutes are still on the books but they are routinely disregarded by both state agencies and private-sector interests with little functional enforcement by state agencies tasked with protecting the citizens’ rights to privacy.
Big Tech routinely harvests private data for profit with little oversight, state agencies collect private data beyond their mandated scope and mobile phones gather private information which others manage to collect or access.
Property rights are also being eroded. Civil forfeiture enables local and national governments to expropriate individuals’ private property without due process, in effect declaring them guilty and effecting punishment (taking their money/property) and then forcing them to prove their innocence via a lengthy, costly, Kafkaesque process.
War by other means now includes sanctions and expropriation of individuals’ assets, not just the assets of other states or state entities (central banks, state-owned corporations, etc.)
What is driving this global erosion of the most basic civil liberties and property rights? As I describe in my book Resistance, Revolution, Liberation, all states share the same ontology, which is to respond to any threats or challenges by increasing their reach and control.
In other words, all states share the same teleological Prime Directive: always expand the state’s control and power.No state has the institutional memory or means to reduce the state’s reach, control or power.
The only limit on state expansion is the citizenry’s resistance to the loss of civil liberties, property rights and having a say in decisions which affect the entire citizenry. If the citizenry do nothing to protect their rights as individuals and communities, the state will nibble away at these until they exist only in name, not in the real world.
The first essential step is to recognize the erosion as real and consequential.Richard and I do our best to further this in our podcast Charles Hugh Smith on Eroding Civil Liberties and Property Rights (31:35 min).
The second essential step is to recognize how the spectacles of “news” and entertainment distract our attention from this erosion of basic rights. Before we know it, we’re in prisons without bars and grateful to get a questionnaire about how we like the torture (i.e. the “entertainment”).
My new book is now available at a 10% discount ($8.95 ebook, $18 print):Self-Reliance in the 21st Century.
My recent books:
A Hacker’s Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).
Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).
The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake (Novel) $4.95 Kindle, $10.95 print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)
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