Sunday, January 09, 2022

The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age

The Sovereign Individual has some great analysis, but I don't quite buy the conclusions. The authors follow history and conclude that the time of the nation state is nearing an end. With the rise in technology and the ability to "work from anywhere", the sovereign individual will arise. They will buy the resources that provide the greatest benefit. Different people may choose different regulatory regimes that suit them better. The large states we have today will splinter off into smaller units that provide greater benefit for like minded people. We will not have a regime like today where people pay large amounts in tax and have very little say in what services are provided.

The authors note that tax rates were highest right after World War II. The nation states had strong military strength and ability to provide "protection" for individuals. The power was much smaller in earlier times when individuals had significant arms themselves and had little dependence on the state.

The "transition" away from nation states is the part that I do not find credible. The nations still have great military power. Furthermore, they also control the infrastructure that allows digital nomads. (For example, Kazakhstan was able to recently shut down the internet in the country.) Blockchains are distributed. However, they rely on communication across fairly tightly controlled networks and enormous amounts of computing power. (Not to mention transportation infrastructure to ship those computers.)

The book had some additional insights on morality. People usually assume that their "morality" is an absolute standard. However, others with different morality assume the same. People with different views appeal to their "higher standard" to advocate for their beliefs. Different sides thus often share the same framework for morality. However, with a different absolute source, agreement is near impossible.

The book is also critical of international income distribution. Places that receive the benefit of international programs without going through the struggles can often be worse of. Cynically, this income distribution is a means to provide more markets for the countries providing the distribution. This can leave the receiver worse of. Even when a country tries it on their own, they can find themselves copying other models. (China is an example of a country that has been copying the western model of development.) Why should we focus on similar models of development? Do we need roads, McDonalds and credit cards to have a healthy lifestyle?

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