To paraphrase the great Mark Twain, “Rumors of Twitter’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”
[Note: This post may be a bit inside-baseball if you don’t follow tech news or aren’t active on Twitter. But it’ll be fun nonetheless!]
If you have been on Twitter recently, especially Thursday night, you would be forgiven for thinking that the world was coming to a rapid and violent end. Bluecheck journalists and media figures have been gnashing their teeth and rending their garments at the purported demise of Twitter now that billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has taken over the site. The Washington Post is on “Twitter death watch,” while the New York Times claims that the microblogging site is “teetering on the edge.” The BBC asked if this really “is the end of Twitter,” and the American equivalent (in terms of public funding, not quality) NPR stated that a Twitter meltdown could be “likely.” Other news outlets have said that the site is in “chaos,” in the process of “imploding,” and “in tatters.” Journalists, pundits, and the so-called “Resistance” accounts who made a name for themselves on the back of their opposition to President Trump treated Thursday night on Twitter like it was the sinking of the Titanic, complete with the band playing on the way down while the lifeboats floated over to Mastodon, Instagram, or Post.News (whatever that is). #RIPTwitter was trending on the site, as users saw the writing on the wall and said their goodbyes to dear friends and random acquaintances.
Of course, all of those people are still on Twitter today, tweeting their daily activities and opinions as though nothing at all had happened. But why were they so terrified and certain that Twitter would completely collapse, and why are so many still saying the same thing?
President Biden has a bad habit of deflecting blame and shifting responsibility, something which may come back to haunt his party in November.
“The buck stops here.” This adage, meant to claim ultimate responsibility and declaim ‘passing the buck’, was a fixture of the Harry Truman White House. The President had it emblazoned on a desk sign, putting himself squarely on the top of the decision-making hierarchy and thus taking credit – and blame – for the state of nation at home and abroad. This attitude has been a model for the office ever since, for good and ill. It has (less often than I would like) led to Presidents taking responsibility for the bad choices of their administrations, but it has also helped along a massive expansion of the power of the President to make decrees from the Oval Office. When the two sides of the coin – making executive decisions and claiming responsibility for them – are both present, things can be balanced. When that coin is weighted heavily in the direction of making choices but denying responsibility for them, political disaster tends to ensue. In bad times for the country, that faulty balance becomes even more noticeable, as rhetoric and reality clash. In the current administration, this issue is not just noticeable, but is a siren blaring at full volume.
The newly-proposed Global Minimum Corporate Tax is an impracticable plan that diminishes American economic sovereignty and competitiveness.
As I write this post, American officials are meeting with their counterparts from the UK, France, Japan, Italy, Canada, and Germany at the G7 Summit currently underway in Cornwall, UK. One of the main issues they are discussing is the promulgation of what they are calling a ‘global minimum corporate tax’, which would involve all seven of the world’s wealthiest democracies agreeing to not move corporate taxes below 15% so as to better capture the profits of large multinational corporations. When I first read that the Biden administration – and particularly Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen – was seeking to push this international agreement on taxes, I was flabbergasted at the fact that any American administration would think this is a good idea. There are several reasons for my skepticism, many of which were expertly laid out by the Wall Street Journal, but this post will focus on one major issue that’s dear to my heart: the fact that the agreement necessarily diminishes American sovereignty for no good purpose.
There have been opinions galore on the most fascinating financial news of the week (and possibly far longer): the Gamestop/Reddit investing drama. Pundits and commentators from all sides of the political spectrum have been weighing in on the saga all week, but I have not yet seen any of these accounts which perfectly captures my feelings on the issue. First off, I’ll do my best to quickly explain what actually happened before diving into my thoughts.
Before I get into the meat of this blog post, I have to start with a few quick thoughts/disclaimers. First, what happened at the Capitol on January 6th was one of the most unpatriotic, abhorrent, depressing domestic political events that I’ve witnessed in my 31 years on this planet. It was an absolute disgrace and all of those rioters who assaulted the seat of our federal government should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I will be writing more in depth about this failed insurrection later this week, as I want to wait for as much information as possible before committing my (many) thoughts to paper (or whatever the Internet equivalent is).
The main purpose of this post is to discuss one of the reactions to the events of the 6th, namely the concurrent banning of President Donald Trump from all social media platforms, as well as the deplatforming of Parler, a Twitter competitor favored by some Trump supporters and right-wing activists. Many have written about this already, but here’s my two cents as someone who is genuinely struggling with how to address this in a way that is consistent with my personal political and ideological framework. I support the right of private companies like Amazon, Twitter, Google, Apple, and Facebook to freely associate with whomever they please. As a free marketeer and a laissez-faire capitalist, I do not wish to see government regulation in most aspects of private commerce; I believe that the free association rights of individuals and businesses are sacrosanct, whether it involves a small-time religious baker in Colorado or a massive Silicon Valley conglomerate. Still, that doesn’t mean that I’m not disturbed by the seemingly coordinated deplatforming based on political speech that we’re seeing now. I’m most concerned by the appearance of coordination among supposedly neutral platforms who compete with one another, whether that coordination was actual cartel-like behavior or if it reflects a high level of ideological groupthink. Both of those options are very disturbing to me when it comes to my support for an absolutist position regarding free speech. Given the dissonance between my two preferred classical liberal positions on free association and speech in this instance, I am not sure what the right approach is. All I can say for certain is that it is a nuanced issue that merits deep consideration and a society-wide debate over our cultural values. Most of these positions and issues have been raised elsewhere, so I do not intend to dive too deeply into that heavily populated pool. However, there is one specific aspect of this issue that I have not seen addressed yet, so I wanted to write a bit more about it: the unforeseen impact of these corporate actions on the soft power of the American government.