Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ The Sovereign Individual

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Oct 27, 2000

Dr. Lorne Taylor, Alberta's Minister of Innovation and Science, gets it. While on the one hand he is supervising a number of information technology initiatives in Alberta, on the other hand he recommends that people read James Dale Davidson's The Sovereign Individual.

From an Amazon review of the book:

Early in this book they make the point that an enormous amount of the revenue of nation-states derives from a tiny portion of its inhabitants and that the state redistributes this income to their disadvantage. The changes they foresee will remove any benefits to such contributors who will be in a position to seek newer and more favourable jurisdictions. They predict that people of 'wealth and talent' will be able to avoid the strictures of geography and 'predatory taxation' and sketch a world view of Sovereign Individuals who can shop around for protection and advantageous taxation systems.

 Well and good. But there's a lot of morality coming into play here too:

The language of the middle part of the book is pejorative. They talk of 'have-nots'; 'under achievers with credentials' and label the critics of their worldview as neo-LudditesÂ… In the last chapter, on morality and crime, the authors hope for a common and generally accepted moral code based on religion that would introduce some humanity into their scenarios.

What we need to be careful about here is the tendency to misinterpret 'being right' about the forces shaping society with an analysis in terms of contemporary political debate. The discussion about taxes, for example, has nothing to do with their being "predatory" or government "rapacious," as Davidson suggests. It is a simple fact that people will be able to pay their taxes where they choose, and this simple fact has nothing to do with morality and everything to do with technology.

These changes are apolitical. We need governments which will engage in infrastructure projects, such as Alberta's high speed backbone, education projects, such as the Heritage funds, and at the same time, being innovative, entrepreneurial, efficient, flexible and attractive to taxpayers. It's almost impossible to do, and really easy to get wrong.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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