The Social Media Upheaval

[Amazon Link]

I bought the Kindle version of this short book after listening to Nick Gillespie's podcast interview with the author, Instapundit and Blogfather Glenn Reynolds. Glenn's a good guy. So's Nick.

Let me come into it this way: one of the core principles of classical liberal democracy is that the populace is best served by a robust climate of free expression. The more the merrier! People can use their reasoning faculties to evaluate outside ideas, concepts, and values. And (generally) make decent decisions about political questions: the scope and powers of government, qualities they desire in their representatives, and the like.

But what if that is becoming less true? Glenn analogizes to the very earliest cities, which sprang up and subsequently self-destructed, because "we" didn't know how easily illnesses can spread in an urban environment.

Glenn argues that the current environment is exhibiting signs of increasing mental illness (or at least dysfunction): increased suicide rates, substance abuse, alienation, and general lack of bonhomie. (A theme echoed in recent books by Jonah Goldberg, Ben Sasse, Arthur C. Brooks, and many others.) He blames, primarily social media for this, specifically Twitter, Facebook, and Google. (I think he leaves Amazon out.)

As a result, we're headed for a sad crack-up of the foundations of American political life, probably presaging a future of authoritarianism and immiseration.

He could be right, of course. I'm not so sure.

His argument is not typically libertarian: use existing antitrust laws to break up those nasty companies. To his libertarian credit, he neatly debunks other regulatory solutions. I don't know whether a breakup would solve anything, though, and it seems like it would involve a lot of wealth destruction.

It's a very short book, and a very quick read. I got the Kindle version; Amazon claims the print version is 68 pages. I think the type must be large and the margins wide.