Culture Magazine

When Their Rogue AI Creatures Start Coming After Us, the Rich Digerati Have Plans to Bug out

By Bbenzon @bbenzon

David Bosworth, No Exit: The Uncivil Folly of Libertarian Flight, The Hedgehog Review, Fall 2023.

One of the scandalous revelations of the COVID pandemic was just how many of America's superrich-our digerati, venture capitalists, corporate monopolists, hedge fund managers-had long been planning to abandon their fellow citizens should a dire national crisis arise. While poorly paid EMTs and other frontline health workers were risking their lives caring for the desperately ill, wealthy Americans who had amassed their fortunes during our tech-driven Gilded Age were fueling their private jets and stocking their remote shelters in unabashed displays of their proudly vaunted libertarian creed.

Such plans of escape took two forms: one leading to the private hideaway, the other to the utopian settlement. In the case of the former, the billionaires themselves initiated the project, commissioning fail-safe residences in places such as New Zealand, which, remote from global turmoil and offering government policies hospitable to foreign wealth, has become a favorite destination for today's digerati deserters. [...]

Concerns about natural disasters or possible wars are not the only motivation for the most radical of America's libertarians to secure hideaways or acquire citizenship in foreign lands. For this group of exiteers, paying taxes, submitting to government regulations, or simply living in a society made uncivil in part by the very technologies that have fed their wealth are burdens or dangers to be avoided. According to their credo of freedom über alles, to be a "man without a country" is not a punishment but a privileged exemption from the manacles of communal obligation. Rather than a role defined by duties as well as rights, citizenship for them is just one more consumer option in a competitive global marketplace.

Confounding the image of the survivalist as a loser driven by economic failure or religious fanaticism, other high achievers are prepping for the ultimate disaster in the United States. They have purchased remote properties in Idaho, Montana, and on islands off the coast of Washington State, stocking their retreats with food, fuel, and armaments, and investing in cryptocurrencies to insure their wealth against the imminent collapse of a financial order that has heretofore served them so well. Some preparations are more personal and particular: Reddit CEO Steve Huffman had Lasik surgery in 2015, not for appearances' sake but out of fear that when our society collapsed, as he expected, he would be unable to buy contact lenses.

And then we have the utopians

Despite the contradictions inherent in the desire to create a utopian community populated by radical individualists, several American-led attempts have been made to establish just such a place, all ending in failure. In Adventure Capitalism: A History of Libertarian Exit, From the Era of Decolonization to the Digital Age, historian Raymond B. Craib examines how wealthy activist Michael Oliver conceived, financed, and helped organize three of those futile efforts.7 Oliver's personal history clarifies the likely origins of his zealous pursuit of a libertarian paradise. Born Moses Olitzsky, a Lithuanian Jew and the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust, he immigrated to America after World War II. Adopting a new name, he made his money in Nevada real estate and by dealing in gold and silver coins-commodities long favored by those who fear the sort of social unrest and economic collapse that preceded the war. Utopian true believers are driven by an extreme push-pull of antipodal expectations: a paranoid pessimism that anticipates the imminent breakdown of their social order accompanied by the hope that such a catastrophe will clear the way for a new, uncorrupted Eden. For Oliver, with his traumatic memories of a Europe beset by anarchic violence, the social unrest America suffered in the 1960s was an ominous spectacle that he presumed would end with a new fascist regime.

There's much more at the link.

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