Westphalia’s End Part 3: Death From a Thousand Cuts

Westphalia's EndIf you have not read Westphalia’s End Part 1 and Westphalia’s End Part 2 of this series, please do that first: You’ll need them to understand properly.

I have thus far made two primary arguments that the Westphalian order of states is in serious trouble. I’ll now continue with a large number of small arguments. The order of presentation is somewhat arbitrary, so the first point may not be more important than the last:

  • Currency traders prevent currency control: Back in the days when exchange rates were fixed, governments could change them to prevent certain fiscal issues. Now, with currencies being trading world-wide, and in massive amounts, that tool no longer exists. A powerful weapon has been removed from the state’s arsenal.
  • The fiat currency game is being understood and exposed: Knowledge is spreading and light is being shined. People who want to know, can know. And worse, fiat currency may have reached its limit. Several articles would be required to explain this properly, but the welfare-fiat system of the past 40 years is failing, and that is very, very significant. Precious metals, digital currencies and other forms of honest money continue to emerge and spread, even though they are viciously attacked by the US government. How this situation will develop is unknown, but is is a significant problem for the nation-state. The day they can no longer deliver on their promises, their spell will break.
  • Regulation: Governments and their sub-organizations survive and thrive, not by creation, but by restriction. To get what they want, their one tool is to restrict things. But, the more they use that tool, the more they constrain commerce, their one source of money. This is “strangling the goose that lays the golden eggs” and has myriad effects, most of them small.
  • Complexity: Again, much space would be required to explain fully, but complex structures breed more complexity, which feeds back upon itself and strangles itself. Over the past century, and especially over the past 40 years, states have reached a tremendous level of complexity; a level that restricts even simple actions. For example: When everything must be approved by a legal team, not much gets done, and that which is done, is done very slowly.
  • The War On…: Be it drugs, terror, or whatever, this phrase points out cracks in the Westphalian structure. Faced with successful criminal strategies, the state reacts in its natural way – by making ‘war.’
  • Mass polarization: This is already happening because of multiplied choices via the Internet, but it may get stronger if ‘free’ news begins to disappear and people must buy their own. If so, people will begin to surround themselves with others of their own opinion. In the worst case, many will become deeply polarized, conceivably leading to civil wars. However, the progression of this may be in a different direction. We’ll cover that next time.
  • Wikileaks: The new fly in the ointment of legitimacy. The broader Wikileaks strategy is exposing the sins of the state, and it is hard to portray yourself as morally superior when someone keeps exposing your nasty secrets. These guys are committed, motivated and obsessive. They will be very hard to stop.
  • Inertia: Huge organizations lack the ability to turn quickly. They are very often incapable of reaction, even in self-preservation. And it is not just the ability to act that is in question, it is also the ability to see. As is said: to the hammer, everything is a nail. Likewise, state agents have come to see themselves in very specific ways, and they have been consistently rewarded for doing so. Their mental filters will not change easily.
  • Infiltration: Criminals and interest groups are paying off politicians world-wide to get what they want. This is a massive business, much of it ‘legal,’ and it is working beautifully for those involved. If some person or group is necessary to get you elected to office, it’s not hard to justify favors for them. This is happening continuously in every government. To be fair, I should add that some of the people involved have no evil intentions. Many wealthy people and firms buy politicians, not really to grab other people’s money, but simply to protect themselves.
  • Frustration: The average citizen has no real way to change anything. Votes don’t matter for many reasons, but firstly because there are party organizations between themselves and their representatives. The Senator cares about (and obeys) the party more than opinion polls. They know that the party will develop strategies in time for the next election, and will provide them with effective advertising. Many people still hold out hope that their party will eventually grow a spine and do the right thing, but that bias may not hold. If it does not (as we may be seeing already), they will begin to identify with non-state or anti-state organizations and ideologies.
  • Nukes: The nuclear bomb created an unbeatable weapon. When fighting an opponent armed with such a weapon, you cannot face him directly; so, you adapt and attack his organizational method instead. The state is designed for face-on attacks, not for systems subversion.

I’ll conclude this series next time by looking at possible outcomes: Westphalia’s End Part 4.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Westphalia’s End Part 2: Legitimacy & Information

Westphalian OrderIf you have not read Part 1 of the Westphalian Order series, please do that first: You’ll need it to understand what I cover here.

Now, having (I hope) established that the Westphalian order of states is in some trouble, I will proceed to another reason for my pessimism.

The Obedience Game

All states of all periods share a common foundation: a group of subjects who accept rulership. Without this, no state can endure. That applies to democratic regimes, socialist regimes, republics, monarchies, theocracies and any other ruling arrangement. If the people are unwilling, the state will fail soon enough.

Though they seldom mention it in public, the operators of states know this. That is why they want to control information flows, and why, in a crisis, they will shut them down. Contrary voices undercut legitimacy, and the states cannot survive without it.Think of it this way: If a state had no more legitimacy than the local Rotary Club, attempts to collect taxes would be widely rebuffed; people might not buy government bonds, obey orders, or even choose to repair government equipment. That state would collapse.

A pristine image of legitimacy is essential to the state, even more so than power. The proof of this was the Church in the middle ages: They had no power to speak of, yet they ruled for a millennium. They were able to do this for one reason: They maintained a monopoly on legitimacy. (I write on this at length, by the way, in Production Versus Plunder.)

The Lost Heyday of Info-Control

The peak of information control came in the mid-20th Century, when perhaps 98% of all American news came out of one or two zip codes in Manhattan. (About the same was true for London and other capital cities.) Furthermore, the people who produced mass-market news were a fairly homogenous bunch. Some of them did excellent work, but there were not many dissenting voices. Party A always fought Party B, but thoughtful questioning of the larger operation was not heard. (Crazy people questioning the larger operation were welcomed, since that helped legitimacy.)

Even cable television didn’t add many dissenting voices, but something else did:

The Accidental Internet

A strange thing that happens when politicians get scared: They grudgingly call in the smart guys and let them loose. Most of us learn about this in elementary school: The smartest kid in the class is more or less abused until the class gets into real trouble; then they run straight to him and promise to do whatever he says. That’s how the Internet was born.

The event that scared the politicians was Sputnik. Russians surging ahead of the US into space meant that they had to pull out all the stops. The resulting Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was where the Internet began.

The Internet is not really a control technology. Designed by the smart kids rather than political types, it is purposely decentralized. That makes it hard to control.

Almost no one saw the Internet coming. Its  explosion in about 1993 surprised almost everyone. And, before long, a lone news geek exposed Bill Clinton as a willful liar and “guys in jammies” brought down the mighty Dan Rather. The game had been changed.

Governments are presently retaking control of the Internet and using it for mass surveillance, but they are treading carefully, and it may be some years before they (along with their mega-corp friends) can clamp down on it altogether. In the meanwhile, ideas that question or oppose state legitimacy are spreading. There is no more gatekeeper.

Publishing

There is also a serious decline of gatekeeping in the publishing business. Rather than requiring the approval of a major publisher (with friends in broadcast media and government, needing publicity help and attending the same cocktail parties), the rogue author can publish himself: either at zero cost as a blogger, or at zero initial investment as a print-on-demand publisher.

Newspapers also are in a state of flux. They began the Internet era by giving away their stories and have suffered continuing losses. Now, they seem to be moving to a pay model. This may save some of them, but it also breaks up what we may call the info-matrix. Once people are cut-off from ‘free’ news, they will begin to choose. And since they are paying this time, they will choose more carefully. This will favor newsletters and other providers of superior content. And, again, the state-friendly gatekeeper is removed from the equation.

Competition

Although it is not widely known, foreign nations are spreading money around Washington and New York to influence media coverage, and some of them are spending shocking amounts. (I strongly suspect that the same is happening in other countries.) So, the state that wants to influence the media in its own country now has competitors, and some percentage of the time, a media outlet will lean toward the foreigner who is paying better.

To retain proper control and influence, a state needs more than some of the intellectuals to comply with them; it needs substantially all of them. The state’s version of events must be the only sane version to be seen; any competing views must be seen as crazy and dangerous. Once truth outside of the authorized stream becomes possible, people will begin to wander, and the state’s brittle legitimacy can be broken.

To continue reading, visit Westphalia’s End Part 3.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Westphalia’s End Part 1: The Sovereignty Trap

Westphalia's End: The Sovereignty TrapThe current world order of nation states is in trouble. In fact, it may be doomed. In this series of articles, I will explain this arrangement (briefly) and then how it is being broken, for reasons both good and bad.

Westphalia

The agreement that created sovereign states as we know them was called the Peace of Westphalia. This agreement was made between churches and rulers as the Divine Right of Kings was failing, Protestantism was ripping Europe apart, technology was revolutionizing the economic order and new continents were being settled. In other words, the old order had broken apart and a new arrangement was not an option: either the rulers cooperated and adapted or their game fell apart entirely. I’ll spare you the details and simply explain that the agreement was signed in 1648, after the first modern diplomatic congress. The main tenets of the Peace of Westphalia were:

  1. Each prince would have the right to determine the religion of his own state, with the options being Catholicism, Lutheranism or Calvinism. (Of course they gave it a pompous Latin name: cuius regio, eius religio, which simply means “whose region, same religion.”)
  2. Christians were guaranteed the right to practice their religion in public during allotted hours and in private at will, whether or not it was the same religion as the ruler.
  3. The signers agreed to recognize each other’s sovereignty over territories, their agents abroad (to grant them diplomatic immunity), and not to interfere with each other’s shipping.

This agreement is the foundation of the modern state and is held to (fervently) by almost every ‘authority’ on the subject – from Henry Kissinger (by whom I was first acquainted with it) down to your local Poly-Sci instructor.

What, Exactly, Is Sovereignty?

Sovereignty is one of those words that is seldom understood clearly. Nonetheless, the definition is simple. Sovereignty is this: A right to rule that is held to be legitimate. For example:

  • A king of the ancient world was sovereignty personified.
  • The Greeks (followed by the Romans) broke sovereignty into thousands of pieces and made each citizen a partial holder of sovereignty.
  • As Rome devolved, sovereignty went back to the king, but only as authorized by the Roman church. This is what we often call the divine right of kings.

But, as the Right of Kings collapsed, a new order of rulership was required; we are calling that the Westphalian order, and all of us in the West have been living under it since the 17th Century.

Cometh Hobbes, Cometh Rousseau

There was one thing missing from this arrangement, however: With rulership no longer sanctified by God and his Church, what made a ruler ‘legitimate’? Simply seizing power wasn’t enough. People had to see the ruler as legitimate: if not, many would cease to obey.

This gap was rapidly filled by people who began to be called intellectuals. Two of them in particular (Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau) rose to prominence by filling this gap with what is called the social contract.

Both Hobbes and Rousseau, in different ways, provided secular legitimacy to replace the Divine Right of Kings. Both did this by imagining a contract between the rulers and the ruled. This social contract idea legitimized Westphalia’s new form of rulership. As a result, Hobbes and Rousseau are revered to this day.

But, as I say, that form is fracturing, and I shall now begin to explain how:

Al Qaeda’s Hedge

As mentioned, the system of Sovereign States is held with religious fervor by the operators of nation states: They respect borders, and do not cross them without publicly declaring and defending their reasons for doing so.

Criminal groups have begun taking advantage of this strategy. By hiding in a state that can’t or won’t hurt them, they are insulated from the other states of the world. Al Qaeda, for example, hid for a long time in Sudan, then they hid in Afghanistan, and they seem now to be hiding in Pakistan. National borders protect them.

This is probably best defined as a hollow state strategy. A hollow state is one that exists in all outward ways, but that is ‘hollowed-out’ and used by criminal organizations for cover.

Criminal organizations need safe havens, and hollow states provide them. These organizations make massive amounts of money from data theft operations, product piracy, traffic in illegal drugs or in other ways. They can afford to create and support corrupt states, and do so.

Aggrieved nations might want to stop criminals that are stealing their data and pirating their goods, but they are not going to bomb another sovereign nation that has committed no aggression.

Essentially, criminal groups rent a hollow state’s infrastructure and hide behind their sovereignty.

One way to obtain this is to destabilize a small state, so that it is easy to deal with. Renting France might not be possible, but renting a war-torn African nation can be affordable. The ideal hollow state is one with a clear international standing, but with massive internal problems.

Sovereign states, if they take over another state, become responsible for it, and must be seen to maintain their social contract. No such requirements face the criminal organization that creates or finds a hollow state and moves in. So long as a titular government remains in place, nothing else is required.

The Trap

Devotion to the Westphalian ideal of sovereignty and the social contract gives the confirmed criminals of the world a hedge to hide behind. This strategy was held in check under a bi-polar US/Soviet world, but it has since become viable.

The criminals are adapting and are using sovereignty as cover… very effectively. The states cannot adapt. They are caught in a trap of their own making. It looks like this:

  1. They have held up their ruling ethos (sovereign states, the social contract) as the inevitable end of civilized existence.
  2. The overwhelming majority of subjects has come to see the current order as the best possible way to order life. (In this, the Westphalian states succeeded magnificently.)
  3. If the states leave their model and their sanctified image, legitimacy is likely to break. And if it does, everything could fall apart.

So, the states are prevented from adapting to the threat. They are trapped. This leaves Al Qaeda, et al, with a hedge to hide behind. God only knows what kind of damage will come of this.

Westphalia has a big problem.

(In Westphalia’s End Part 2, we’ll cover the information revolution.)

Paul Rosenberg
Westphalia’s End Part 1: The Sovereignty Trap
FreemansPerspective.com

Why is it So Hard To Save Money Nowadays? The Problem With Thrift

why so hard to save money

Thrift is far more important than is commonly understood, and I will be explaining why in a future dispatch, but first we need to dispel the guilt many of us feel about the topic. There is actually a very good reason why it’s so hard to save money nowadays.

I think most of my readers will recognize the feeling I’m referring to: You read great books on success, such as The Richest Man in Babylon, you understand that saving at least 10% of your paycheck is necessary for success and you go out to do it… but obstacles keep getting in your way.

And then you feel bad. You feel that you have failed. You really don’t want to think about thrift any more.

I’m here to tell you that you were far too hard on yourself. It wasn’t your fault. (Okay, if you were out knocking back brews at a bar four times every week, that was your fault, but I don’t think many readers fall into that category.)

Thrift has been systematically strangled over the past century; it is now just barely possible. You’ve been blaming yourself for the sins of others. And remember, most of those success books were written before thrift was dead.

The Simple Reason it’s so Hard to Save Money in Today’s World…

When analyzing the economics of civilizations, the big question is this: Where does the surplus go?

In Greece, for example, surplus was generated by the labor of slaves, and went to the citizen (property owner), who tended to be a very good judge of where and how to use it best. In Western civilization, surplus was generally left in the hands of the person who earned it, who also tended to be a good judge of how best to use it.

Through the past hundred years of a declining Western civilization, the movement of surplus was radically transformed… it was skimmed away, in thicker and thicker layers, to growing governments in capital cities.

The result of this is the current situation: Essentially all surplus is skimmed away from the producer. This is accomplished with direct taxes, such as income taxes, as well as with the hidden tax of inflation, real estate taxes, sales taxes, and dozens of others. (On your phone bill, electric bill, gasoline, liquor, etc.)

In other words, it’s so hard to save money because the government takes so much of it away.

We are so used to this situation that we fail to remember that it was not always so. And that is why we feel guilty about not being able to save money. And we shouldn’t – a large army of state employees work every day to remove our surplus from our hands. Aside from acting especially stupidly, it really isn’t our fault.

How it was in 1890

If you’re like most of us, you had great-grandparents worked hard, saved their money, and improved their situation in life. It was normal to do so in the later 19th Century, even until the first World War. Great-grandfather got ahead; you work just as hard, but you don’t make much progress. And there is good reason for this: When Great-gramps worked hard, he kept the money.

In Grandpa’s day there was no income tax and no sales tax. (The government survived anyway.) There was no social security tax either, and – believe it or not – the streets were never full of starving old people. Families were able to take care of their own.

We have forgotten that it was once possible for an average person to accumulate money. Mechanics, carpenters, shop owners and people like them filled their bank accounts with gold and silver. It was common for people like bakers and carriage builders to make serious business loans and to retire comfortably, living off of their investments.

Making a Fortune

In those days before mass-taxation and fiat currency, young men would go out to make their fortune. (“Fortune” didn’t mean multiple-billions, it meant enough capital for the rest of your life.) Young men would go to where money was being made, work hard, cooperate with similar young men, learn everything they could from the older men, save, invest, learn how to succeed, then return home as a prosperous adult.

Not every young man went out to build a fortune, and some certainly failed, but these activities were not punished at the time – which made them much easier than they are today. Gathering a fortune was common enough that it was built into the mating strategy of the time. Many women would agree to marriage only after the young man had “made something of himself.” This mating strategy was legislated out of existence, which is too bad, because it was generally a far healthier strategy than what developed in its wake.

Here is a graph depicting the difference between you and your great-grandfather:

why so hard to save money

The top line shows how many years of living expenses your great-grandfather would have accumulated as a hard-working young man. The bottom line shows what you can save.

After working for five years, Great-gramps had seven years of living expenses in the bank. Doing the same things, you’d have less than two.

In the modern world, everyone’s fortune is taxed away as it is being formed, and what is saved is eroded by the creation of currency. Very few of us ever get beyond ‘escape velocity’ to accumulate money. In other words, we work all our lives, just to stay more or less even.
With surplus removed from individuals, all investment capital is forced through institutions. Money is not saved, it is obtained from banks. Finance has been centralized and removed from the hands of individuals.

In the 19th Century, productive people made loans; in the 20th Century, their children shuffled into banks and begged for loans.

Grandpa wasn’t really better than you.

The Worst Part

And the worst part of this was mass demoralization: People began to feel morally weak, which generally happened in the name of compassion.

Here’s how the trick worked:

  1. Your money is taken from you before it can accumulate, leaving you with barely enough to live a reasonable life.
  2. You have nothing left to help those who suffer unjustly; not because you don’t work, but because your surplus is continuously skimmed away.
  3. Politicians imply that you are a bad person for not wanting to help the poor.

Not only do the cultural elite make it almost impossible for you to give, but they insult you for it. Then, of course, they spend the money they skimmed from you on armies of government employees, who deliver a small fraction of your money to the poor.

Your great-grandparents were proud to help their friends and neighbors. They felt good about themselves, they felt compassion for others, and they were proud to make the world a better place. Being robbed of this heritage was far worse than the loss of surplus.

So, the question of why money is so hard to save has been answered. Now if only the steps from here were so simple.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Featured image courtesy of Joyous!, wikipedia.org

Personal and Online Privacy: If you have nothing to hide, why do you care?

Personal and Online Privacy: If you have nothing to hide, why do you care?We’ve all heard the insulting, tyrannical cliché about privacy: If you have nothing to hide, why do you care?

The comeback, if not that it would fall on deaf ears, should be this: Because I value myself.

The real value of privacy is not because it allows us to hide things, it’s that privacy allows us to develop independently – according to our own natures.

In other words, privacy is an essential tool for personal development.

Privacy is a positive good, not merely a tool for hiding things.

Deconstructing the Cliché

Before we get to the core of this issue, we really should deconstruct this dirty slogan we opened with. Consider the implications of the words if you have nothing to hide:

  • First of all, it is an accusation and an insult, implying that you are engaging in evil.
  • Secondly, it is a threat to turn you in to the authorities.
  • Thirdly, it implies that the entity you are hiding from is supremely righteous and morally superior.

Fundamentally, this slogan is a weapon. It is used to intimidate and confuse you; to force you to bow down to authority; to be as cowardly and compliant as the person using it.

The users of such slogans are angry that you are showing them up in courage. They want you to be in the center of the enforcer’s gun-sites, just like they are.

Now, as to the party that these people think we shouldn’t be hiding from… do they mean governments? If so, they are slandering themselves, since they almost certainly complain about governments endlessly.

The idea that a government is somehow morally superior to us is ridiculous. By any objective standard they are far worse than an average working guy. Pretending that our overlords are righteous is a superstition of the basest kind.

Privacy and Self-Development

Let me start with a quote from a French author whose name escapes me at the moment:

Everything from without informs man that he is nothing. All within tells him that he is everything.

It so happens that one of the better psychologists of our time is a friend of mine. He says that up to half of what we are, we owe to the previous choices we’ve made. (The other factors being heredity and environment.) But, whatever the numbers, choice is the only factor we can do anything about

The truth is that our choices form us. They make us what we are.

What we are next year will be a reflection of the choices we make today. But, choices that are imposed on us from outside – edicts, intimidations, fears, manipulations – work against our healthy development.

People wouldn’t go through the work of imposing choices if those people would make the same choices naturally. Only if you want people to choose against nature do you try to push them in a particular direction.

So, the pre-packaged choices that are thrust upon us daily are not working in our interests, they are working in someone else’s interests. Are we really to think that such choices are best for us?

To develop ourselves healthfully, we must develop ourselves by ourselves, without outside pressures.

The less we are able to choose freely, the less we are really ourselves, and the more we become what other people want us to be.

The positive value of privacy is that it stands between us and manipulative outside forces.

Privacy allows us to grow according to our own natures, not according to the demands of a collective.

Privacy is a tool for becoming what we authentically are.

The Hedge of Anonymity

Anonymity allows us to develop our interactions with the outside world in healthy ways, rather than in manipulated ways.

We have all been intimidated by fear of what others might say. This has stopped us from doing and saying many things, and that wasn’t good for us. Intimidation is clearly an enemy. Anonymity protects us from this enemy by removing any way for consequences to come back to us.

Anonymity allows people to put their ideas into a public square while insulated from shame. So what if some of those thoughts are not good? Once spoken in the public square, they can be tried, analyzed and improved. It is profitable for us that this should occur more, rather than less.

Forget the stories of anonymous people being nasty – those comprise a tiny fraction of the whole and are used for the sake of fear and manipulation. (Humans massively over-respond to fear.)

If You Have Nothing To Hide…

I hide things because I wish to develop in my own way, not in the ways that manipulators wish me to develop. Anyone who says that this is wrong is also telling me that I was born to be a slave.

Only those things that are reliably private are protected from the modern world’s ambient environment of intimidation. It is in those environments that we can develop in our own ways, without obstruction and opposition.

Conditions of privacy or anonymity are almost the only conditions that allow for healthy development.

I think we can all agree that prayer has long been used in personal development. So perhaps Jesus had some of this in mind when he said:

When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.

But if the sloganeers are right, Jesus was a bad man, hiding his evil deeds from morally superior overlords. They would have slapped him with their nasty little slogan, just like they do us:

So, Jesus, why do you need to pray in secret, if you have nothing to hide?

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Credit: This article was inspired by a paper circulating in the darknet called The Treasure of Privacy.

[“Personal and Online Privacy: If you have nothing to hide, why do you care?” was originally published on LewRockwell.com]

The Cure For Surveillance Capitalism

Now that people are gaining some understanding of Surveillance Capitalism, I’d like to explain how we can – and can’t – protect ourselves from it.

Surveillance Capitalism functions on volume: The more data they have on you, the more valuable each piece of data becomes. What your watchers really need is the correlation between What and Who. Once they have that, all the other pieces – when, how much, in response to what and so on – are easy to put together. That’s when they can sell or trade that information profitably. And so you have some idea of just how profitably, consider that Google (Alphabet) took in $162 billion in 2019.

Remember, these people have access to almost everything you send over the Internet. Anything you send without protection becomes theirs – every email, web site visit, chat and wifi login – and the more they gather, then more money they make.

To make things worse, Google gives free tools to web developers. Using them makes the developer’s job easier, but it also redirects the information that goes through all those sites right back to Google. If you run Firefox or Brave with the NoScript extension (and I highly recommend that you do), you’ll see this almost every time you look.

And let’s be clear about one thing: Surveillance Capitalists wouldn’t fight for your information unless they meant to use it in ways you wouldn’t.

Back in 2009, Google’s boss bragged that he knew what you’d be doing on Tuesday morning, and sadly he wasn’t lying. It has become worse every year since.

The Exits

Surveillance is a real-life Matrix. The very model of the Internet over the past fifteen years – the “forever free stuff” model – is Surveillance Capitalism incarnate. Everything has been rigged against the sanctity of your identity and your personal information. Stealing and using your data is the only way most of these businesses can make money.

So, since a Matrix can’t allow its victims an easy escape, we can more or less forget about some new law saving us. Laws are passed only if political donors will be protected, and surveillance capitalists are among the biggest donors. Laws that gut their business model will not be permitted. Perhaps a few small steps will be made, but you’re never going to influence Senator X better than Facebook or Google.

The first way to escape, then, is simply to not give them data. And that means either avoiding the Internet altogether, or finding ways to avoid the correlation between What and Who. And we do that with systems that look like this:

What you’re seeing here are cryptographically secure mixes. Internet signals (from Persons A, B, C and D) run through two or more random cascades, making identity very difficult to track. What is separated from Who.

Doing this well requires at least two “hops” in separate jurisdictions, so that correlation stays ahead of professional surveillors.

Now I’m going to give you a list of things you want for separating your What from your Who. This is tech jargon, so don’t worry about it until you need to ask questions about anonymity systems. Then pull out this list and ask if they have each item:

  • A jurisdictionally aware network.
  • Anonymous authentication.
  • Their own DNS server
  • Their own key infrastructure.

Encryption Isn’t Enough

Encryption seems to be on everyone’s lips these days, and while encryption is a wonderful and essential technology, it doesn’t separate What from Who. If your Internet traffic isn’t anonymized, surveillance still blows through it. It boils down to this:

  • Encrypted means only that your message can’t be read. It can still be seen. Anyone can learn who you speak to, when, and for how long.
  • Anonymity means that no one knows who is speaking to whom.

So then, you need both encryption and anonymity. Otherwise the people who buy data sets from Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter will still know everything essential about you: Which sibling you communicate with most often, which vacation you’re interested in, which co-worker you’re closest to and so on, without much limit.

Now you know.