There are two obvious branches of the economy. There is the market economy, entirely benevolent in nature and identified by its voluntary and mutually beneficial transactions, its natural coordination of scarce resources, and its ability to increase prosperity. And the political economy which is entirely malevolent in nature, and is identified by its reliance on coercion and force, its bureaucratic inefficiencies, and its manipulation of fear, greed, and envy to serve the ends of a select few.
Actors in both spheres of the economy are driven by a desire to better their own lives, the lives of their loved ones, and their community around them.
In the market economy, individuals compete to sell goods and services to other individuals. These voluntary transactions are mutually beneficial to all parties involved the vast majority of the time precisely due to their voluntary nature (no party would voluntarily enter into the transaction unless they felt they were being served through it). Rising to the top in the market economy is immensely difficult, and staying there is precarious. The market moves quickly, and one tiny innovation or improvement in production efficiency can topple even the largest of giants.
This explains why wealthy people who have succeeded in the market economy often find themselves attracted to the political economy. There are no guarantees in the market economy. In the political economy, though; the future for those who are able to enter into it or become partners with those in control is much more certain.
Mark Zuckerberg is steadily embracing the political economy. He built an amazing company, fundamentally transformed communication, created thousands of jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurial marketing, and made a vast fortune for himself. He recently became the 6th richest man in the world – so he’s got nothing to worry about financially for himself and his family for at least the next generation or two. Still, despite being in a better financial position than all but 5 people in the world, it appears that Mr. Zuckerberg’s confidence in the long-term may not be as high as it should be. To boost his confidence, evidence continues to pile up showing that he is indeed embracing the political economy, the establishment, and the powers possessed by the elite.
When a person reaches the level that Zuckerberg has, the world becomes much smaller. Doors open up that the average person doesn’t even know how to find. Meetings with political elites at the highest level become routine. There is a level of access to the levers of power in the world that the rest of us will never even come close to. Getting to that level allows the richest and most powerful people in the world to influence and even control decision making of national and world governments. When sitting at these “decision making” tables, the individuals involved do what individuals do – make deals to better their own lives, and the lives of their loved ones.
What do such people have to offer each other? The better question would be what DON’T they have to offer. Multi-billionaires like Zuckerberg can fund campaigns, donate huge sums to national committees, and offer the services of whatever their company specializes in. Politicians and powerful government officials can pass laws, write regulations, alter tax codes, and directly and indirectly manipulate the market economy.
In Zuckerberg’s case, his Facebook is one of the largest platforms for dissemination of information. Governments and the people who run them desire control over information in order to effectively push their agendas. There is no question that Zuckerberg is doing the bidding of those in power with regards to censoring information on his site. From working for Angel Merkel and the German government to suppress knowledge of problems stemming from middle eastern immigration, to censoring “conservative” news and viewpoints, to banning and threatening individuals and pages that violate “community standards”, to removing harmless anti-Hillary Clinton memes.
Focusing on the last item from the paragraph above, it is readily apparent that Zuckerberg is overtly censoring views that deviate from those favored by the establishment. Liberty Memes, a Facebook group that recently broached 100k likes, produced a hilarious, simple, accurate, and devastating meme in the wake of the FBI’s announcement that Hillary wouldn’t face indictment. The meme was blowing up, and had gar nered 10k likes, 50k shares, and 4 million views before it was removed by Facebook.
Regarding what can be said about public figures, Facebook’s community standards says:
“Attacks on Public Figures: What protection public figures receive on Facebook.
We permit open and critical discussion of people who are featured in the news or have a large public audience based on their profession or chosen activities. We remove credible threats to public figures, as well as hate speech directed at them – just as we do for private individuals.”
Anyone who is willing to buy the line that this meme was a “credible threat” or “hate speech” is probably also in line to purchase a bridge in Brooklyn. Clearly, a partnership has been formed between Zuckerberg and the establishment. He gets to protect his billions, and they get to protect the flow of ideas & information.
So what should be done about this? The short answer: nothing. Facebook is a private company, and they should have the right to limit content however they see fit. They don’t force anyone to use their service, their service is provided for free, and it has for the most part been a positive addition to society.
The long answer is more nuanced. Zuckerberg first of all should be applauded for attempting to avoid paying as much taxes as he can. It’s his money. He earned it. It certainly will be put to better use in his hands than in the hands of some government bureaucracy. The problem is not entirely with Zuckerberg. It is with government. Only an institution that is funded by violence and coercion, that has the power to pull levers and twist knobs to manipulate the economy to their desire, and that can choose winners and losers within the economy is able to attract and ultimately control the richest people in the world.
If this power structure did not exist, market manipulation and favor trading between elites would become a relic “in the dustbin of history.” Without the risk of losing big chunks of his fortune to taxation, Zuckerberg would not have the incen
tive to allow elite figures to control content and information on his site. Without a central authority that has the power to regulate and tax, there would be no government elites for Zuckerberg to lobby and make deals with to protect his business.
Even though nothing should be done to force Facebook to change is its ways, there is plenty that can be done to persuade it to do so. The market economy is powerful. Competition is high in the social media market, and there have been signs that Facebook’s market share is shrinking. This is the power that we have. We can complain and protest. And if The Zuck causes us enough angst, we can leave. What we can’t do is use force. Force and violence is the way of evil people. Force and violence is the way of the government.
In order to eliminate the favors for favors relationship between the rich and the powerful, their levers of power must be taken away. This is not likely to happen in the short run. It may not happen until a complete collapse of the US empire. Regardless, the most important work that we can do today is to spread the ideals of freedom, liberty, responsibility, and the power of the market economy.