The Sovereign Individual | Initial Thoughts and Quotes

This week, I started reading The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg. I’m not far in, but already there have been a number of great quotes that stuck out to me.

The book echoes many thoughts I’ve had a different time about the future of government, education, finance, and society all in one place. When you encounter a book on the cutting edge of technological and societal change, it is mind-blowing to find out that it was published twenty years ago in 1997.

I’ve still got lots to read, but here are my favorite quotes so far:

“Whenever technological change has divorced the old forms from the new moving forces of the economy, moral standards shift, and people begin to treat those in command of the old institutions with growing disdain. This widespread revulsion often comes into evidence well before people develop a new coherent ideology of change.”

On the coming Information Age: “The coming transformation is both good news and bad. The good news is that the Information Revolution will liberate individuals as never before. For the first time, those who can educate and motivate themselves will be almost entirely free to invent their own work and realize the full benefits of their own productivity. Genius will be unleashed, freed from both the oppression of government and the drags of racial and ethnic prejudice. In the information society, no one who is truly able will be detained by the ill-formed opinions of others. It will not matter what most of the people on earth might think of your race, your looks, your age, your sexual proclivities, or the way you wear your hair. In the cybereconomy, they will never see you. The ugly, the fat, the old, the disabled will vie with the young and beautiful on equal terms in utterly color-blind anonymity on the new frontiers of cyberspace.”

“The process by which the nation-state grew over the past five centuries will be put into reverse by the new logic of the information age. Local centers of power will reassert themselves as the state devolves into fragmented overlapping sovereignties.”

On internet money: “When this greatest tax haven of them all is fully open for business, all funds will essentially be offshore funds at the discretion of their owner. This will have cascading consequences. The state has grown used to treating its taxpayers as a farmer treats his cows, keeping them in a field to be milked. Soon, the cows will have wings.

“With the speed of change outracing the moral and economic capacity of many in living generations to adapt, you can expect to see a fierce and indignant resistance to the Information Revolution, notwithstanding its great promise to liberate the future.”

“Market forces, not political majorities, will compel societies to reconfigure themselves in ways that public opinion will neither comprehend nor welcome.”

On what drives change in government: “the most important causes of change are not to be found in political manifestos or in the pronouncements of dead economists, but in the hidden factors that alter the boundaries where power is exercised. Often, subtle changes in climate, topography, microbes, and technology alter the logic of violence. Then transform the way people organize their livelihoods and defend themselves.”
In our view, the key to understanding how societies evolve is to understand factors that determine the costs and rewards of employing violence.

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