Under the headline, Let’s Nationalize Facebook, there is this summary sentence, Only then will the social network protect users’ rights and share valuable data with researchers.
Ignoring the cornucopia of specious arguments and logical fallacies advanced by Mr. Howard in defense of this journalistic lobotomy, let’s cut right to the chase and address one central issue: the notion that we need to turn stuff over to the government in order to “make it better.”
There’s a certain class of people who have a deep and abiding distrust of the private sector. And while there will never be a lack of examples of bad behavior among companies that exist to provide services, create jobs, and make profits, the silly notion that an entity called “government” will magically do things better is the fruit of nothing more nor less than infantile, wishful thinking.
We all know that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. But this principle does not merely apply to the world of business. It applies to any group of people who exercise influence through power structures and control of purse strings.
The problem of evil is not corporate, nor is it a system called capitalism. It is humanity, in all its breadth. It is folly to believe anything but that (both potential and real) evil resides in the heart of every human. Any and all institutions (collections of humans) that have growing power along with declining accountability WILL, almost without exception, decline into corruption. That includes business monopolies, government bureaucracies, religious organizations, unions….the list goes on. The need, in every case, is a structure of accountability and checks-and-balances that brings necessary exposure and consequences.
Our government was designed to be “limited” for the very reason that people like Mr. Howard will arise in every generation. Under the cloak of “fair” is fear – fear of individual responsibility and/or freely-organized collective effort. Somehow, coercion and regulation is equated with comfort. News Flash: giving the government growing control to limit a free people is not the path to liberty. In which countries has that worked? Will inviting tyranny “protect our rights”? Why, then, did we even engage in the Revolutionary War?
The role of government is to provide the legal framework of checks-and-balances. Its proper place is in the role of law definition and enforcement. And even then, here in the United States, we have a structure within the federal government of checks and balances in order to prevent unjust behavior and rampant exercise of untrammeled power within the various branches. Because, you know, people love power. We’re intoxicated by it.
That is a framework based on the very realistic view of human nature shared by our Founding Fathers. They’d seen the corruption of unaccountable government power. You have to be willfully blind to the lessons of history to think that government is some sort of beneficial institution to whom we must default, as Lord and Savior, when things get a little scary out there in the real world.
“Someone needs to do something!” is the magic incantation that invokes the deity of government. As if that is the one benevolent dictator in the universe.
The notion that government control of Facebook would lead to better privacy is actually pretty funny – until you realize that some folks actually believe this type of notion. And do we really want government bureaucrats data-mining all the personal information on Facebook (because some bozo has now declared this barely-birthed company a “public utility”) for the sake of – research? Please. And, by the way, who gets to pronounce a private enterprise a “utility”? Do we really want any individual or group of people to have that kind of power?
Of course, I can just imagine how accelerated the pace of innovation will be once Facebook and other digital startups are being run by Congress!
The issue at hand is much larger than a suggestion to confiscate Facebook by government fiat. It’s a willfully-blind mentality about human nature and institutions. And a willingness to seek salvation from some benevolent-sounding tyrant because we don’t trust our founding principles.
Abe Lincoln talked about a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We are to rule the government, not the other way around. And it exists to protect our freedom, not to coddle the irresponsible and plunder the productive.
Let’s leave Facebook alone and instead, nationalize some common sense.
Image credit: Wikimedia