Sunday, April 19, 2009

Too Strange to Be Fiction

A few ideas that are still in the oven:
Virtual Village. A nation is many things, but viewed through the lens of a pragmatist, it can be reduced to a contract of sorts between people and government. A pragmatist will see obligors and obligees, even employer and employees. A really pragmatic pragmatist will see it less as a contract, which implies (and may even require) the free will of both parties to be validly entered into, than a master-slave relationship. After all, while it's nice to think in terms of liberty and other lofty ideals, the bottom line is that, if you live on earth, you belong to some nation or another.
And while few like to admit it, if you're compelled to pay taxes, you are a slave of sorts. You have a very long leash, granted, but ultimately, if the Man wants you, he knows where to find you and make your life miserable. Conditional liberty, at best.
The pragmatist -- you know, the visionary, assured problem solver so desperately sought in our troubled times -- will view people, ultimately, as tax revenue to some national (or, alluding to our point, "supranational") authority. It matters little to a pragmatist where within the borders of that authority you reside, or what you do with your time, so long as, come April 15, you're paid in full.
When the pragmatic essence of citizenship is stripped down to the tax authority/taxpayer relationship, the physical definition of nationhood ceases to be relevant.
Imagine, then, if inch by legislative inch, some sort of supranational authority is created to tax financial transactions executed on the Internet. All sorts of laudable and, well, pragmatic, sounding reasons can be conjured up to justify such a thing.
Now, in order to consider possible future outcomes, we have to invoke the principle of the "slippery slope," along with its cousin, the dictum that "absolute power corrupts absolutely" -- which we might rephrase thusly: "power corrupts in proportion to its absoluteness." With these time-tested principles in view, considering things like global financial "meltdowns," G20 resolutions to create a "supranational currency," and high-minded calls for "global solutions" and "New World Orders" might add a bit of feasibility to the context.
In light of the realities of these sentiments and the popular delusions that support them, we put on the table (before anybody else, we'll wager) the proposition that national citizenship, in its current form, will be subordinated to "supranational citizenship" -- a compulsive contractual relationship with that "supranational taxing authority."
"Impossible," you snort. "Democracy is on the march worldwide. 'Compulsive governments' are dictatorships and those are so 20th century! People will never part with national citizenship..." Well, there are lots of progressive minded people who'd be in favor some fun sounding experiment like "global citizenship." But there are lots more sane, responsible citizens who'd never countenance such a notion. It's OK, they don't have to. It can happen anyway, finally. And there are, as history rushes on, decreasing odds that it won't, in some fashion.
Think of national citizenship as your underwear, supranational citizenship as the suit you wear to work. You don't need to remove the former to put on the latter. A global taxing authority can be "put on" over your national one in the right political climate (one, say, that traffics in terms of "global solutions," "world presidents," and "global currencies") with the right economic justifications (world financial crises, for example). From there, with a little of the Slippery Slope and Power Dictum effect, you're a citizen of the world, for tax purposes! Sure, you're a citizen of your country, too, but so what? That's just a small part of the world.
So, you'll grant this as a possibility, but stop short of connecting it with "citizenship" and global authority. No worries. It needn't be explicit. It needn't be subjected to a referendum. Was the fact that you cannot conduct any business through any financial institution without disclosing your Social Security Number ever put to a referendum? You cannot even obtain a library card without it anymore.
The point is that absolute authority can be de facto. And it frequently is. No social security number, no bank account. If you start spouting off about your right to privacy and the fact that there is no explicit provision in the Social Security Act that requires you to disclose your unique personal identifier to anyone other than the federal government, the clerk at the library will call security to have you ushered out before you finish the sentence. You might even be hauled in on suspicion of being a "right wing extremist."
Put in these terms, it seems almost inevitable, doesn't it?
We live in very confused times. Not long ago, people were using the term "messiah" and the name "Barack Obama" in the same sentence. The press invoked images of "president of the world." There was a time, not too long before they did, when such blather would have been unthinkable, or about as thinkable as, say, gathering in a park and waiting for the Mother Ship to come for you. But it's not possible to rid the public mind of even that sort of delusion anymore. In times like these, it seems almost anything is possible, and little of it looks like fun.
Nor is to fun walk around thinking about stuff like this, but somebody's got to do it.

update: Zuckerberg proposes free internet for everyone on the planet


Post a Comment

<< Home