Mainstream economists are obsessed with control. Unlike the Austrian tradition, which correctly states that there is no way to control economies, mainstream economists believe that an ideal economy, whatever that is, can be had if a strong enough centralized power forces people to obey the correct plan. This obsession leads them to see doom and gloom in the strangest of places. Consider OpenBazaar. OpenBazaar is a decentralized commerce platform that allows anybody to buy and sell goods online without going through a middleman such as Amazon or eBay. Sounds empowering, doesn’t it? Not according to mainstream economists. To them the idea of OpenBazaar undermines the control they worship and is therefore a threat to humanity:
While Hoffman could be right that OpenBazaar will revolutionize online commerce, its business model could also potentially threaten America’s tech industry. The wild and uncontrollable nature of OpenBazaar’s technology, especially if it winds up being used to facilitate terrorism, could push authorities to launch a broad crackdown on other technologies as well that law enforcement considers an impediment to its work.
And if the potential harm from a marketplace seems limited to you, consider what could happen from the combination of this type of technology with Artificial Intelligence. As AI evolves, even tech visionaries like Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Tesla chief Elon Musk have expressed concern over the ability of humans to control the outcome, especially if machines are eventually able to ‘think’ autonomously. Now apply OpenBazaar’s decentralized and police-resistant model to this and you have a recipe for disaster: machines with free will and the ability to communicate with each other under the human radar. Maybe an Isaac Asimov-inspired fantasy at one time, this is hardly an impossible scenario anymore given the rapid pace of technological development.
You have to admire how he states OpenBazaar could hurt the technology industry and immediately turn around and explain how it could greatly enhance the technology industry by helping artificial intelligence (AI) advance (although, again due to an obsession with power, he sees the advancement of AI as extremely dangerous).
This article shows just how insane of an obsession with power mainstream economists possess. Anything that could be potentially disruptive, which all technology can be, is seen as a threat. Computers were originally feared by many mainstream economists because they stood to replace a lot of human labor. In fact this attitude is still alive. Light bulbs probably had numerous mainstream economists shitting their pants because they would replace the candle.
Here we have a platform that enabled individuals to buy and sell goods without having to go through a middleman or front the expense of running their own commerce front end. It could allow some little old lady in the backwoods of Alabama to sell the excellent arts and crafts she’s known locally for. A manufacturer or parts for old automobiles who only sold locally could setup an online presence and sell to anybody in the world. There is so much potential for this kind of platform but mainstream economists don’t see it because the potential derives from an ability to bypass controls.
Let us also not forget the cost of control. Silk Road was revolutionary not because it allowed people to buy and sell illicit drugs but because it protected people participating in voluntary trade from violent law enforcers. It made the illicit drug trade much safer for everybody involved because the biggest threat to somebody buying or selling illicit drugs is a group of heavily armed trigger happy cops kicking down their door at oh dark thirty in the hopes of finding a little baggy of pot and a dog to shoot (not necessarily in that order). The control mainstream economists worship requires violence and tools that protect people from that violence stand to make the world a safer place. That’s why I don’t believe tools like OpenBazaar are a danger to society. If anything they stand to save a lot of peaceful people from the truncheon of the state.