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The Sovereign Individual: How to Survive and Thrive during the Collapse of the Welfare State Hardcover – 3 February 1997
- ASIN : 0684810077
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster (3 February 1997)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780684810072
- ISBN-13 : 978-0684810072
- Dimensions : 16.51 x 3.81 x 24.77 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 15,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top review from Australia
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Firstly, what is it? A book that breaks up human history into massive 500-1000 year long eras, and concludes that we are currently leaving the industrial era and entering the technology era. In this age, the world will change fundamentally and irreversibly, in ways that are uncomfortable to many, but liberating to others.
And what makes this book so amazing? That they get it broadly bang on, forecasting remote working, video conferencing, crypto currencies, handheld multipurpose computers, social media with personalised news feeds, battles between tech companies and governments, routing profits through low tax jurisdictions... it's all in there. Ok so they don't name "Zoom" and "iPhones", but close enough!
And when you get your head around their explanation of why this is all occurring, you gain a fundamental insight into everything that's going on in the world today (except pandemics, they missed that!). And then you realise this was all written in the 1990s, wow, just wow.
But the downsides... the book is long and repetitive, and whilst many sources are quoted, there's little hard data, you get the impression the sources are just right-leaning historians who agree with the authors.
But the most displeasing aspect is that - whilst the authors may well be correct about the long-term failure of institutions such as the nation state, social welfare, free healthcare, and other things that make life quite pleasant - they don't simply point out its inevitability, they seem to revel in it, almost cheering on the demise of the poor and needy. It leaves a bitter taste.
Nevertheless, if you can get through all that, it will completely change how you see the world, and for that gets 5 stars.
Top reviews from other countries
Some other reviewers here have seen fit to condemn this book for what they perceive to be its authors' unpalatable "extreme far right libertarian" ideology or "selfish misanthropic" attitude. From my reading of the book, these accusations are unfair. The authors do have a detectable libertarian bent, but this does not detract from the rigour of their historical analysis or the clarity of the reasoning by which they arrive at their conclusions and predictions. Throughout the book their concern is reality, and what shape it will take in the future that is now our present.
By any objective measurement, the authors were immensely successful in their efforts, identifying and anticipating the many of the fundamental technological and social forces that have shaped the last twenty years of world history. Among their predictions (written, let us remember, in 1997) are:
- "A decline in the status and power of traditional elites, as well as a decline in the respect accorded the symbols and beliefs that justify the nation-state"
- "An intense, even violent nationalistic reaction centered among those who lose status, income, and power when what they consider to be "ordinary life" is disrupted by political devolution and new market arrangements."
- "...suspicion of and opposition to globalization, free trade, "foreign" ownership and penetration of local economies"
- "...popular hatred of the information elite, rich people, the well-educated, and complaints about capital flight and disappearing jobs"
- "Lifetime employment will disappear as "jobs" increasingly become tasks or "piece work" rather than positions within an organization."
- "Many members of learned professions will be replaced by interactive information-retrieval systems."
- "The new society, and therefore the new culture, will be defined at one end by what machines can do better than people, by automation that will do away with increasing numbers of low-skill tasks, and at the other by the power that information technology gives to people who actually have the talent to take advantage of it."
- "When the state finds itself unable to meet its committed expenditures by raising tax revenues, it will resort to other, more desperate measures. Among them is printing money."
- "...the advent of the Information Age implies another revolution in the character of money. As cybercommerce begins, it will lead inevitably to the cybermoney....This new digital form of money is destined to play a pivotal role in cybercommerce. It will consist of encrypted sequences of multihundred-digit prime numbers. Unique, anonymous, and verifiable, this money will accommodate the largest transactions. It will also be divisible into the tiniest fraction of value. It will be tradable at a keystroke in a multitrillion-dollar wholesale market without borders."
- "Within the next few decades, for example, narrow-casting will replace broadcasting as the method by which individuals obtain their news. This has significant implications. It amounts to a change in the imaginations of millions from first person plural to singular. As individuals themselves begin to serve as their own news editors, selecting what topics and news stories are of interest, it is far less likely that they well choose to indoctrinate themselves in the urgencies of sacrifice to the nation-state. Indeed, their attitudes are more likely to be informed by the global culture to which they relate as consumers of entertainment that by the highly personal "news" narrow-casts to which they may subscribe."
The authors did not come to these startling insights at random. They are derived from a detailed investigation into "megapolitical" historical trends, the most fundamental and important factors that have shaped the successive forms of human society and civilisation so far.
Anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of the technological, social, and political upheavals of the last two decades would be well advised to read this book. To quote from its introduction, "As technology revolutionizes the tools we use, it also antiquates our laws, reshapes our morals, and alters our perceptions. This book explains how."
A cursory understanding of history shows the opposite to be the case: only collectivist feeling and misguided collectivist projects have the ability to cause genocide and suffering at a scale appropriate to label 'extremist'.
The book is profound and insightful. Save yourself; collectivist delusions will only see you trampled under the boot of some statist delusion or another.
If you want to understand current UK Conservative Party thinking this book will open your mind - a lot!!