People talk a lot about “Internet monopolies like Google and Facebook”, as though they are the same kind of thing. Even as astute a commentator as Tim Harford (alias “The Undercover Economist”) lumps them together in statements like “Google dominates search; Facebook is the Goliath of social media; Amazon rules online retail”.
But these “Internet monopolies” actually fall into completely different categories.
Google dominates search because it offers the best general-purpose search engine currently on the market.
From The Screwtape Letters: Letters from a Senior to a Junior Devil, written as a weekly newspaper column in 1941 and published in book form in 1942:
The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger. “To be” means “to be in competition”.
Lewis puts these words in the mouth of his character Screwtape, a senior devil instructing his nephew on how to undermine a human’s progress as a Christian and as a person. They are intended to be too ludicrous to be taken seriously as anything but a satire of the most destructive and appalling philosophies on the market.
Yet somehow this has become completely conventional mainstream political theory in the UK, and now governs everything from how our universities and funded to the progressing privatisation of the NHS.
I think most Leave voters now accept that leaving the European Union will hurt the UK economy. But a lot of people still feel that’s a price worth paying to regain control of immigration.
Brussels insists that freedom of movement is required if we’re to stay in the Single Market, but there may be some wiggle-room regarding exactly what “freedom of movement” means for us.
Are you British? Yes?
Have you voted yet? No?
Then why the heck are you reading this, when you should be on your way to the polling station? GET OUT AND VOTE.
(I won’t tell you who to vote for. Not again.)
It’s been a bit more than six weeks since I said I was giving up on politics, and it’s gone pretty well. Fiona says I am much nicer to be around. I’ve completely stopped searching for political stuff on Twitter (though some inevitably comes my way nonetheless), and — crucially — I’ve blogged nothing at all on the subject.
Now I am breaking my fast a single time, three days before the General Election, to say these two things.
First: vote. Don’t miss this opportunity. Make your voice heard. Even if you are in a safe seat, your vote affects the size of the majority, which will affect how much authority your MP has. Vote.
Here is a fascinating series of four articles.
It starts with Paul Graham’s recent essay Economic Inequality. (Many readers of this blog will know Graham from his many fascinating essays, including Why Nerds Are Unpopular, What You Can’t Say and The Age of the Essay; and from his excellent book Hackers And Painters [Amazon US][Amazon UK].) Graham is broadly in favour of inequality as he sees it largely an honest signal of different ability and willingness to create value for society.
I feel like I can do other stuff now, without feeling nagging anxiety that Important Things are happening that I need to know about, have an opinion about, and tell other people what to think about.
I recommend it.