Saturday, September 24, 2011

IT and Libertarians

I've noticed that most of the libertarians I meet work in IT. Based on no evidence whatsoever, I hypothesize that their work environment directly influences their politics. In an IT environment, scarcity of resources isn't really a problem. Most people have computing capacity to spare, and if your current system can't handle, just wait till the next hardware/software upgrade. In their world, the market constantly delivers improvements of all sorts. It's hard for them to imagine a world with problems that the market can't solve, with growth rates in the low single digits.

Much as the Baby Boomers' views were skewed by the world they grew up in, the techies views are skewed by the work they do. The bricks and mortar world just doesn't work like that.


Blogger Yoel Natan said...

Amen. Back in the 1960s Americans had an abiding faith that technology would solve every problem. Then after that faith hit the rocks of reality, in the 1980s that same blind faith was put in the free market system and libertarianism. So finally that led to NAFTA and most-favored nation status for China, meaning they can import directly with minimal duties. Also, I think one provision of NAFTA is that anything Mexicans and Canadians assemble can be brought in duty free into the US no matter where the parts were made. That's an all too obvious recipe for poverty in the US. In the last few years another provision of NAFTA kicked in saying Mexican truckers can drive anywhere in the US, not just the 30 mile economic zone just north of the US-Mexico border. Trucker salaries are now down even further.

Technology brought all kinds of problems, almost as many problems as it solved. Now our free marketism is landing 60 million Americans, and counting, in jobless poverty.

This will all come back to haunt the libertarians soon enough when they find they have to feed and clothe and school a third of Americans through their taxes, and pay down the mounting national debt since there's not enough factories workers paying taxes to support the govt. Each libertarian will end up cursing the day they started listened to the like of Ron Paul and other libertarians, and one doesn't have to be a prophet to see that coming.

11:40 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

It was also very easy to change your prospects by going into IT when the field was just growing -- learning something as simple as Javascript could get you a job. Once all the DOSes and Excels are invented and you need a degree in style sheets to be a webmaster, it won't be such an equal-opportunity field any longer.

Winterspeak blog pointed out how working at Google affects your perspective:

If you've worked at Google, you've probably never felt what it's like to make a mistake in a market, or had to think strategically about a business. "Make it great and make it free" is fun and at Google it also made you rich. Very Googly.

It hasn't worked out well in Android, which is a top 3 priority project at the Googleplex. A series of naive business decisions and strategic blunders meant Google was producing a lot of value, but capturing very little of it.

Still, I think having people's work environment make them feel libertarian is a good thing compared to the alternatives: they could be working in the military, making them feel that things should be managed by command, or in office jobs, making them feel that work is pointless and has no connection to tangible output.

12:30 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

@Yoel Natan

I know it's heresy to say this in today's economy, but the problem is not jobs. The jobs will take care of themselves as the wage differentials in the global marketplace adjust. As China's currency rises (either through appreciation or comparative inflation rates), they will become less competitive and others (including us) more so.

The real problem is that Americans will no longer be able to consume an outsize share of the world's resources. Much of this may be mitigated by technological advances or policy changes that reduce waste, but things aren't going to be as cheap as they were.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...


The military has adjusted tremendously in the last decade. It has delegated a great deal of decision making authority to the lower ranks, as that is the only way it can adjust quickly enough on today's battlefields.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

Just going off the arguments I have over disobeying work rules with the ex-military QA at my job. She's used to orders, not independent questioning -- my attitude sounds very strange to her.

8:11 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Disobeying is different. You make your opinion known, and then you buckle down and do it anyway.

9:59 PM  

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