Modern Civilization: Impressive, but Not Great

Modern civilization is uniquely capable of rebuilding great cathedrals, but it is uniquely incapable of building great cathedrals. It is capable of spectacular recreation, but it is spectacularly incapable of creation. It commands unprecedented resources, but it often uses them in an unprecedentedly unresourceful manner. It is remarkably long on qualitative potential, but remarkably short on qualitative achievement.

In other words, it is an all-purpose tool without a purpose: an embodiment not so much of a tragically necessary tradeoff, but of a tragically wasted opportunity. Thus, what it needs is not will, but discipline, not progress, but direction, not freedom from arbitrary discrimination, but freedom to prudent discrimination, and not unrestricted self-realization, but the unhampered pursuit of virtue.

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Entrepreneurial Innovation and Crony Corruption

It always starts with entrepreneurial innovators breaking new ground and establishing new avenues for the expression of individual liberty and private initiative. Then, as soon as some of the companies established by those innovators grow sufficiently large and influential, the biggest protection rackets operating in their respective territories (i.e., states and their military-bureaucratic regimes) stop fighting them and proceed to corrupting them with subsidies, “public contracts”, unofficial monopoly privileges, etc.

As a result, such companies become increasingly inefficient, unresponsive to the wishes of their clients, or downright opposed to their original mission statements. As soon as that starts happening, the representatives of political protection rackets start clamoring for imposing “regulations” on the whole industry – that is, subjecting it officially and comprehensively to the dictates of institutionalized aggression. Having been long since thoroughly corrupted, the high-ranking officers of the companies in question happily concur, thereby driving the last nail in the coffin of free competition in the industry under consideration. The ones who have opened new avenues of individual liberty are now all too willing to close them indefinitely.

This is what happened in the mature period of the Industrial Revolution, and this is what is happening now in the mature period of the Information Revolution. However, it follows from the very character of the Information Revolution that today we can be more aware than ever of the recurrent nature of this perfidious process. By the same token, we can also be more effective than ever in finally stopping its recurrence. Crony corporatism is an extension of statism, and statism is an enabler of crony corporatism – thus, tools and resources originally created to promote individual liberty (and knowledge about threats to it) must be used to their fullest in denouncing statism and its pseudo-market allies, lest they be converted into their opposites. If there has ever been a perfect time to renounce statism altogether and be particularly vocal and decisive about it, thereby possibly ending its corruption of libertarian entrepreneurialism, it certainly is right now.

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Trade War, War on Trade, and War for Trade

There is no such thing as a “trade war”, since trade is by definition a peaceful, mutually beneficial activity. However, there is such a thing as the war on trade – that is, the war on the entrepreneurial ethos, cheap and high-quality goods, and peaceful international relations. Fortunately, there is also such a thing as the war for trade – that is, the war on the institutionalized stupidity and malevolence known as politics – and it is a duty of conscience for all people of good will to incessantly and effectively wage the latter in order to avoid the ruinous consequences of the former. No less than global peace and prosperity are at stake.

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The Befuddling Orwellian Slogan of “Hate Speech”

The notion of so-called “hate speech” is totalitarian newspeak at its finest. Everyone has an inalienable right to hate whomever he pleases and be vocal about it. On the other hand, no one has a right to threaten others with physical aggression. However, it is perfectly possible to do the former without doing the latter – even extreme and extremely conspicuous emotional dislike does not logically imply issuing threats of aggression against the object of hatred. The Orwellian project at work here is to blur the crucial distinction between the two and to make the term “hate speech” sufficiently ambiguous to mean one or the other, depending on political expediency.

Thus, accusations of “hate speech” should be ignored by default, and punitive actions based on them should be condemned by default. This appears to me to be the best way to ridicule this term into oblivion, thereby neutralizing its obfuscatory and propagandistic influence. Otherwise we might find out that politically-mandated corporate censorship can do as well as old-fashioned political censorship, and that the more capacious the Orwellian bag of “hate speech” grows, the more brazenly arbitrary this new “soft” censorship will become.

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With Great Blessings Come Great Challenges

The most important lesson of the age of abundance is that unprecedented wealth goes together with unprecedented ingratitude. The most important lesson of the age of mobility is that unprecedented opportunity goes together with unprecedented idleness. The most important lesson of the age of information is that unprecedented access to knowledge goes together with unprecedented exposure to stupidity. And the most important lesson of the age of comfort is that nothing is as uncomfortable as comfort seen as the ultimate goal.

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Liberty, Vice, Virtue, and Self-Discipline

If your liberty makes you lustful, gluttonous, greedy, indolent, angry, envious or boastful, then the problem is with you, not with liberty. It is not the fault of your tools that you break them, and it is not the fault of your gifts that you waste them. The role of liberty is not to make you good, but to allow you to be good: you can be free and bad, but you cannot be unfree and good. So, by all means, fight against your vices, but never be so unreasonable as to attack the very thing that allows you to confront them in the first place.

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