Wednesday, November 19, 2014

You and your superior conscientiousness are meaningless

We live in a libertarian age. Everyone wants to believe they have some individual power to change the world just by being a "better consumer."  It doesn't work that way.
I try to be an ethical consumer, but I also find myself thinking that that very concept is a farce and leads to a kind of preening self-righteousness—the moral equivalent of bragging that you don’t own a TV when someone asks what you think of Homeland. And it can be tiring to submit each company with which we interact through some personalized better business bureau. We run the risk of attaining false consciousness and, through our supposedly conscious consumption, buttressing the kinds of bad actors we claim to oppose.

The virtue of the regulatory state is that it takes these ethical impulses of ours and cements them as policy. No wonder that cyber-libertarians, like Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, hate regulation; it does the exact opposite of what they claim that their technologies do. Regulation takes responsibility out of individual hands and entrusts it to a larger, more powerful body. There’s good reason for this; civil rights, privacy among them, are a collective matter. The law is supposed to act as a guarantor for us all, especially those who don’t have the resources to fight for their own protections. An infringement on Sarah Lacy’s privacy, or on a nameless Uber driver’s labor rights, is potentially an infringement on mine and yours as well.

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