Duff: In the Valley, I met anti-statism. I met it in executives from corporations, I met it in the ex-hippie community, the bohemian quarters. There is a very strong anti-statism in America generally, and in particular, California, and in particular-particular, Silicon Valley. And I think it’s a mistaken philosophy.
I have read [Robert] Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, and Murray Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty, and Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom—I’ve read it all, and it’s a flawed philosophy. The ultimate value is not liberty: It is justice. Liberty has to fit within the context of social justice. And where it violates justice, I’m afraid justice trumps liberty.
Libertarianism says that freedom is the paramount value. But I don’t think that’s the case. I’m a follower of John Rawls, the great Harvard political philosopher, and in his Theory of Justice, he makes clear that justice is the paramount virtue in political life.
It should incorporate a great deal of freedom, including some inalienable freedoms, but you cannot trump justice with liberty in the way Tim Cook is doing.
Waddell: Do you think there should be a global norm or theory of how we arrange these values, or is there some amount of wiggle room for Americans and Europeans approaching things differently, or people in the Middle East or China approaching their values in the information society differently?
Duff: I think the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was an attempt at a universal norm, and it includes privacy. I think there are certain things that should transcend nations. If privacy is a human right, then it should transcend national boundaries. But one wouldn’t want to impose one political system on the whole world.
So, certainly, as a European, I wouldn’t want to turn America into Finland. I believe in social democracy, but America isn’t going to turn into that anytime soon.
Waddell: Unless we elect Bernie Sanders.
Duff: Yeah! Well, these earthquakes can happen.
There was a privacy declaration by the European privacy ombudsman called the Madrid Privacy Declaration. That sort of thing is useful. I think Europe has been the gold standard on data protection, so we’ve got something to teach the world.
But it’s difficult. In my last paper, which is still under review, I’m arguing for a concept I call the fellowship of the net. I think that is something that we need to develop, because I think these great social-networking sites can get us only so far. We also need to buy into some ancient ideals of human community and what used to be called brotherhood, but you could maybe now call fellowship or connectivity. These should be universal ideals which could help reintegrate a world that is frighteningly fractured.
So yes, we need to work at a global level. But if you mean impose one political system on the whole world, I wouldn’t support that.