It is a truth universally acknowledged that many people are alive who shouldn’t be. To say nothing of the teeming masses of the third world, why must the unemployed exist, or those without start-up capital? By what right do they occupy valuable real estate, choking our cities and impeding innovation?
Look: it is no generosity to suffer their existence. Their lives are a burden to themselves and their families. Yet no one seems to have an answer to the problem. Embattled capital must flee to more hospitable shores, slave to the whims of these lumpen masses, while the government does nothing and innovation is held to ransom.
Our dreams refuse to take wing, weighed down by the human waste accumulated in our cities and factories.
What if we have misunderstood the problem? What if more government—not less—is precisely what we need?
While it is true that burdensome government regulations prevent the private sector from innovating solutions—and responsible members of society suffer the consequences of their inaction—a smarter government, one whose priorities are more in line with the needs of the community, might turn out to innovate the future. After all, who is it that cleared the American frontier of its native detritus, making it possible for us to create this great nation of ours through enterprise and innovation? Cowboy vigilantes played their part, of course, but it was the U.S government which made this virgin soil available to be husbanded, giving entrepreneurs the space the needed to operate!
Who built the reservations which gave American Indians the opportunity to mine uranium and give their lives for American nuclear supremacy? The United States of America.
Reservations are not the answer, however. The reservation, the death-camp… these were adequate for their day, but those pre-industrial and Fordist precursors were far too reliant on state support. Let’s be honest: it simply isn’t viable to build gulag archipelagos in our modern economy. We can’t make the trains run on time. What we need is an Uber-reservation for the 21st century. But if we are mindful of our past, perhaps we can imagine the future.
The capital cities of tomorrow will turn to yesterday’s technology, re-born: the Frontier. In the old world, a “frontier” was a “no man’s land” keeping nations apart, distinguishing one country from another through the lines of fences and guards and impunity that separated one regime of law from another. Between the space of French law and German law, for example, there obtained a different law, no-law. You could kill people there, and nobody cared.
In Europe, these spaces were very small, however. It was the United States that recognized the entrepreneurial spirit that could flourish in the spaces of no-law, if they were massively expanded. And so, at the beginning of the 19th century, the American frontier was like it was in Europe, the dividing line between the United States and Indian Country, the space in which vagabond roaming bands of picturesque native peoples were allowed to run free. But the iron laws of economics demanded that they be exterminated, so our founding fathers set out to imagine a solutionnovation. They hacked the frontier: instead of a narrow strip of no-man’s-land separating the United States and its territories from the places where native sovereignty had to be suffered to exist, the fronter became a free-fire zone encompassing everywhere that American law hadn’t yet extended. And just like that, the problem was solved!
What made America great then can make America great again. But in the 21st century, borders will do the work of the frontier, doing everything the reservation and death camp once did, and more. Today, hundreds of people who die crossing the US/Mexico border each year, just as thousands die trying to get from Africa to Europe each year.
We can do better. This is only the beginning.
But to liquidate the excess human beings that clog the arteries of our society, we will need a smart border. It must carefully discriminate between capital and the uncapitalized, between corporate persons and the un-personed.
To build it, we must recognize what has always been true: people without capital are not people.
Without the corporate personhood that gives an individual the right to exist, what are they but parasitic sponges of need, begging for handouts and support from our families and from the government? Without a job and a bank account and a credit score, how can they be said to be a person? The solution has been looking us in the eye, all this time.
America respects the individual. But the masses of interdependent bodies, seething teemingly across and on top of each other, have no rights we need to respect. And there can be no better technology than borders to take individual biological objects—which cohere, which function, which act, which associate, and which are recognizably human—and turn them into an undifferentiable river of meat blood, which can then be disposed of efficiently and deliciously.
Nostalgia for the past would have us defend a way of life that is gone. The rights of man, for example, or the notion that all men are created equal; why, such archaic language screams its sexist obsolescence. No, in a world of flows and movements and circulation, there is no society: there are only individual human beings and a single beautiful river of meat blood, a commons to be dammed, commodified, and consumed.
America is hungry!
As Karl Marx pointed out, history never happens twice, even if you want it to, and you just look silly trying. “Never Again,” as they say. But that’s fine. Why try to re-create the past? No Gatsby, we!
We need to learn from the mistakes and false starts of the past; let us fail forward, fail better.