You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

Collectivists like to throw around words such as bourgeois, proletariat, exploitation, etc. One of the most interesting words they seem to enjoy haphazardly tossing here and there is nationalize. In the eyes of collectivists nationalizing businesses will make them more “socially responsible” by transferring ownership away from a single or handful of wealthy individuals to the public. What actually happens is that the ownership is transferred from a single or handful of individuals to a single or handful of individuals. Nationalization transfers ownership from private individuals to the state, which is why this article in Slate is so incredibly stupid:

Over the last several years, Facebook has become a public good and an important social resource. But as a company, it is behaving badly, and long term, that may cost it: A spring survey found that almost half of Americans believe that Facebook will eventually fade away. Even the business side has been a bit of a disaster lately, with earnings lower than expected and the news that a significant portion of Facebook profiles are fake. If neither users nor investors can be confident in the company, it’s time we start discussing an idea that might seem crazy: nationalizing Facebook.

Let me see if I follow the author’s idea. Facebook has been performing poorly compared to expectations and, in general, behaving badly. The solutions to this problem is to prop Facebook up by nationalizing it. Interesting. Here I thought the best way to deal with a problematic company was to let it go broke and fade into the irrelevance of market failures. If the author’s accusations are true then Facebook is misallocating resources that could be put to more productive uses, shouldn’t we allow those misallocated resources to be freed so that they could be used to provide services that people actually want? Wouldn’t it be wrong to force everybody to continue giving Facebook resources as since shown a propensity to use those resources poorly?

Let’s see what the author has to say:

By “nationalizing Facebook,” I mean public ownership and at least a majority share at first. When nationalizing the company restores the public trust, that controlling interest could be reduced. There are three very good reasons for this drastic step: It could fix the company’s woeful privacy practices, allow the social network to fulfill its true potential for providing social good, and force it to put its valuable data to work on significant social problems.

What? Excuse me, I need to get some Aspirin to continue with this post.

In Odin’s name, where does the author come up with the idea that nationalizing Facebook would fix the company’s woeful privacy practices? The the fuck is “social good” and how does nationalizing help Facebook provide it? What significant social problems can Facebook work on after being nationalized that it couldn’t work on before?

I want to focus on the claim that nationalizing Facebook will improve its privacy practices. As I explained earlier, when a company is nationalized ownership is transferred from private individuals to the state. The state that would gain ownership of Facebook in this case is the United States, the same state that said it was legal to wiretap your phone and track your cellular phone without a warrant. Does that sound like an entity that has the protection of your privacy in mind? I want to emphasize the stupidity the author is advocating:

It would be better to have a national privacy commissioner with real authority, some stringent privacy standards set at the federal level, and programs for making good use of some of the socially valuable data mining that firms like Facebook do. But in the United States, such sweeping innovations are probably too difficult to actually pull off, and nationalization would almost get us there. Facebook would have to rise to First Amendment standards rather than their own terms of service.

Since there are concerns about privacy on Facebook the author wants to put the federal government in charge of enforcing Facebook’s privacy policies. Yes, the same federal government that ruled wiretapping and tracking cellular phones doesn’t even require a warrant. I wonder if the author, fearing babysitters may molest his child, uses the sex offenders registry in the find babysitters.

I’m completely baffled by the author’s claim that putting the federal government in charge of Facebook would require it to rise to Fist Amendment standards when that very same federal government doesn’t itself rise to such standards.

With 80 percent of market share, Facebook is already a monopoly, and being publicly traded hasn’t made it more socially responsible.

No, it’s not a monopoly. Monopolies aren’t defined by arbitrary market shares, monopolies are defined by whether or not competition can freely enter a market. The fact that the state hasn’t made any laws protecting Facebook’s market share, demonstrated by Twitter and Google entering the social networking market unhindered, proves that no monopoly exists. Once again the author makes an accusation that Facebook isn’t “socially responsible” without actually stating what does or doesn’t make a company “socially responsible.”

But Facebook can also make mistakes with political consequences. The company has come under fire for missteps like prohibiting photos of women breast-feeding and suddenly banning “Palestinian” pages at one point. Facebook communications are an important tool for democracy advocates, including those who helped organize the Arab Spring. Yet the user policy of requiring that democratic activists in authoritarian regimes maintain “real” profiles puts activist leaders at risk. And dictators have figured out how they can use Facebook to monitor activist networks and entrap democracy advocates.

But since the security services in Syria, Iran, and China now use Facebook to monitor and entrap activists, public trust in Facebook may be misplaced. Rather than allow Facebook to serve authoritarian interests, if nationalized in the United States, we could make Facebook change its identity policy to allow democracy activists living in dictatorships to use pseudonyms.

Just a second, I need more Aspirin.

How does transferring ownership of Facebook to the federal government stop it from serving authoritarian interests? The United States government is an authoritarian regime.

Nationalizing Facebook would allow more resources to go into data mining for public health and social research.

We must nationalize Facebook to protect user’s privacy by violating their privacy! War is peace! Freedom is slavery! Ignorance is strength! It’s kind of impressive to see an author invalidate almost nine paragraphs of argumentation in one 17 word sentence.

Many academics are finding that big social network data sets can generate surprising and valuable information for addressing social problems—for instance, public health and national security.

National security? I think it’s a well-known fact at this point that the words “national security” are mutually exclusive with “protecting privacy.”

Nationalization could allow us to review the ethical implications of their management decisions.

We’re going to put an entity that assassinates American citizens without a trail in charge of determining whether or not management decisions are ethical? Can anybody explain how that would work out?

I know the author was thinking, “Gosh, nationalizing ownership of Facebook would take ownership away from those evil bourgeois pricks and transfer it to The PeopleTM!” The author must have read a great deal of socialist propaganda and decided the writings about the evils of private ownership were great while the writings about the evils of the United States government could be ignored. Even the most ardent socialist wouldn’t dream of nationalizing Facebook under the current United States regime. Nationalizing Facebook wouldn’t suddenly turn the service into a guardian of privacy, it would merely grant a gross violator of privacy absolute ownership over the service’s data. Facebook wouldn’t be wrenched from the hands of evil bourgeois and put into the hands of The PeopleTM, it would be wrenched from the hands of investors and put into the hands of a state that ceased representing The PeopleTM long ago (if it ever did in the first place).

2 thoughts on “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”

  1. Go easy on the Asprin. Wouldn’t want to get Reye’s Syndrome.

    But, yeah, collectivists are rather stupid. Have you heard about the “post-scarcity gift economy” that will magically materialize once we replace the oppressive voluntary employment relationship with mutualism? I very nearly died laughing at that one.

    1. I usually don’t hear post-scarcity nonsense from mutualists. Mutualists are generally market anarchists that differ from anarcho-capitalists chiefly where the idea of property is concerned (which makes mutualists anti-capitalists). Anarcho-communists are generally the group that like to talk about the post-scarcity world. Many of them believe that scarcity is artificial, created by capitalists to increase their profits. These same people rarely stop to consider the fact that scarcity exists outside of consumer goods. Time, space, and people are all scarce resources. We all have a finite amount of time, no two people can occupy the same space at the same time, and we can’t all be dating the same person at the same time.

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