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Excerpt from Welcome to the Machine

Economics and Politics (p. 125)

From chapter "The Panoptic Sort"

Economics and politics have become inextricable. One could argue that they always have been, that, as philosopher John Locke put it, “Government has no other end but the preservation of property.” James Madison seemed to agree, as he insisted that the main goal of the American political system was “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.”Adam Smith, godfather of modern economics and darling of those who are currently killing the planet, agreed as well, stating, “Civil government . . . is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”

Corporations and governments are two wings of bureaucracy, which pursues technological progress as an end in itself. Bureaucracy limits choices of behavior, increases the knowledge and information gap between the haves and have-nots, lowers the average level of public understanding, increases instability in economic markets, and increases unaccountability (and eventually mistrust and resistance) in the political realm. More instability encourages more surveillance and attempts to control, which encourages more mistrust and instability. But few see any alternatives to technological advance, or question the futile strategy of protecting legal rights to privacy with yet another bureaucracy.

“Privacy” is nothing but an illusory freedom when one’s economic and political choices, and even one’s worldview and one’s identity, are constricted by the corporate means of production, the hijacking of political representation, and the propaganda of the mass media. The right to privacy is a perfect cookie to offer the servant whose freedom (time, place, lifestyle, view) is carefully circumscribed. Prisoners shall be granted several hours a day to be left alone to choose among an array of frozen dinners and television shows. If prisoners complain about their frozen dinners or do not watch their television shows, they will no longer be left alone. But if they sufficiently appreciate these granted freedoms, they shall also be let out of work a week or two every year to choose between several theme parks and several automobile tours of the Interstate Highway System.