The Network State
panel discussion August 24 at 1PM, open to all
Open to all (not just paid subscribers), we will have a panel discussion of Balaji Srinivasan’s The Network State. It will be Wednesday, August 24, at 1 PM NY time. I’ll post the link and information about the panelists when it gets closer to the date.
Meanwhile, you can read my review, which touches on only a few aspects of the book.
I do not think that my neighbors will be content to let me say that because my house is in Balaji-land, I do not have to pay taxes to help pay for the playground that my children use, the roads that I drive on, and other local amenities. I do not think that they will want to exempt me from laws forbidding commercial establishments in residential areas, or laws pertaining to drug or alcohol sales.
Such matters have to be negotiated with each legacy government in order for people to switch over to a network state. Otherwise, if all of one’s obligations to the territory in which one resides remain in place, a network state is nothing more than an add-on set of norms and rules. It is an international club or affinity group or corporate loyalty program. However eloquent TNS may be at describing how network states could be feasible if human social arrangements were starting from scratch, it is silent on what I see as important issues pertaining to getting from here to there.
The network state will inescapably come into conflict with the regular state (even the little local government part of the state) over anything that matters. And so its main usefulness is to provide a basis for organization, coordination, and solidarity to win the little fights when they come or to win the big fight and just take over. That's what happens when religious or criminal groups basically neutralize any possibility of local opposition, though naturally they go about doing so for very different reasons and in very different ways.
So, for example, the Haredi Jews have their own kind of 'network state' to which they are loyal and obedient, which has an alternative normative framework and which provides many alternative approaches to functions for which other usually must turn to the secular government. And what they do is colonize, that is, find some good candidate site or town, show up in huge numbers and all vote the same way (outvoting everyone else), and get their own folks installed in every local elected position and employed as new hires in every other position, so that every decision is made in the way most favorable to the interests of the community in the eyes of the religious leadership that is still plausibly consistent with the overall constraits of the secular legal structure. Any political candidate which has their favor is guaranteed to get all their votes and thus win, and if he runs afoul of their wishes, he is guaranteed to lose, period, full stop. The 'network state' as a machine for its members to come to dominate the regular state (and without violence like with the mafia, cartels, ISIS, FARC or whatever, a big plus!)
Note, however, that massing in close proximity was an indispensable part of this strategy. Without that, the peaceful means by hacking democracy and other public benefits programs wouldn't be available, and a dispersed network state would have to rely on deploying tools and tacitcs further along the spectrum of coercive pressures.
Network state? No problem. Technology is close to the point of exclusion with body embedded RFID or similar technology. Tracking technology opens the way to penalties and incentives as one accesses different geographies. If you use a park or take a stroll, your bank account is debited for a fine or access fee. There might be contingent fees offering discounts for advance payments on future use. Digital tracking potentially privatizes all experiences associated with geography. Future technology may add heart and brain monitoring. Breathing could be taxed to reflect carbon emissions or oxygen use. Jogging and aerobics might become luxury goods, like private jets.