When talking about the internet, we like to assume it is a powerful utility that enhances democracy. But instead of improving our understanding and informing our political choices, social networks and social media actually narrows the debate and closes down free speech. Electorates across the world are being manipulated by tech monopolies that are collating our data and using it to appeal to our prejudices. In short, digital is killing democracy. We went to the Netherlands to meet André Krouwel, a political scientist who thinks differently about the power and influence of social media.
Universal Basic Income (UBI) is one of those ideas that has divided public opinion into two opposing camps: Those who think it would result in disaster, as humans cannot be trusted. The other camp feels that a UBI would be liberating, allowing people to concentrate on the important things in life, not just earning a living. Rutger Bregman is a writer, widely acclaimed for his book, Utopia for Realists. In it, he champions Universal Basic Income and a 15 hour work week. So, we went to the Netherlands to ask him if the time for these ideas has arrived.
The principal objective of the UK tax system, in which the poor pay a higher proportion of tax than the rich, is not to improve the collective well-being of society, but to funnel cash – largely through tax cuts – to the corporate elite. This isn’t free-market capitalism in the formal sense, but socialism for the rich – a form of state capitalism – no different in principle to the old statist economies of the former Soviet Union.
Former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, claims capitalism is making itself obsolete thanks to the technologies it has produced. He argues that because companies like Google and Facebook are powered by social production, the private means of production are becoming obsolete. He says that Artificial Intelligence will be capitalism’s downfall. If wishing made it so…
The Big Four tech giants control most of the world’s information flow, drug and food supply. Google and Facebook tried to manipulate the recent presidential election by prioritising, and sometimes burying content altogether. Throughout the history of human civilisation, including periods of ecclesiastical rule, no entity has had as much power to influence and control the social and political ideals of billions of people with zero oversight or regulation as these tech giants. Democracy’s only hope is for Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter to be broken up and regulated.