Cloud products, usury, and the death of property
February 20, 2017 § 41 Comments
Human beings used to be reasonably capable of distinguishing reality from imagination, at least in the boots-on-the-ground world of day to day life. Property at one time referred to something real, something which exists in its own right. Thus property could be possessed, repossessed, bought, sold, stolen, consumed, or destroyed independent of the property’s owner or of any other particular persons.
Then along came widespread acceptance of usury. Liberal modernity counts, as one of its crowning achievements, the destruction of chattel slavery. As with all of liberalism’s putative emancipatory achievements, this is illusory. Rather than freeing humanity from the objectification inherent in chattel slavery, liberalism has merely driven this objectification into the subcutaneous socioeconomic metalayer, implanted it under the skin, making it that much more difficult to see and resist. As always liberalism does not actually “free” us from authority as it pretends to do: it simply makes authority sociopathic.
The old tyrannies could at least be seen out in the open. A man knew where he stood. Now the tyranny comes cloaked as the seductress “freedom”. Liberal tyranny boils up from under layers of flesh, lurks inside clinging to the bones as it gnaws away at internal organs and releases its offal into the body. If paganism, Mohammedism, and Rabbinic Judaism are packs of hyenas harrowing Christendom, liberalism is a cancer that eats away at it from within, an alien embryo feeding on its host as it releases a thousand horrors.
But I digress.
Property is objective, that is, it consists of objects independent of any particular human subject or subjects. Owners are human subjects, human beings independent of any particular property. Take away a man’s property and you still have a man.
You can tell who truly owns what by asking what happens when the music stops: by asking what, at the end of the day, secures each person’s claims. In a recourse mortgage the borrower “owns” the house and the lender owns the borrower, because the lender is contractually entitled to collect deficiencies from the borrower if selling the house does not fully discharge the borrower’s contractual obligations. The situation is even worse than that though, because in the case of taxable real estate the sovereign really owns the property and leases it back to the tenant (whom we deceptively label the “owner”). Real estate “owners”, then, don’t really own the actual property. The sovereign owns the property and what the “owners” really own is exclusive leasing rights: a kind of financial security. That isn’t nothing, but there is much less there than meets the eye. Real estate “ownership” where there are property taxes is a form of lie: what is owned is not land and buildings, but a perpetual and exclusive lease on land and buildings.
Products dependent upon cloud software represent a new, technologically enabled phase in non-ownership “ownership”. Cloud software or “Internet of things” products require a “mother ship” somewhere on the Internet in order to work. Without the mother ship they become literally useless; “bricked” in the vernacular. For example you can spend years of your life producing work with a cloud based – or even just cloud licensed – CAD program, under the illusion that you own at least your own actual work product. You don’t own the software, it is merely ‘licensed’ to you, sure. But in fact you don’t even really own your own work product which you produced with the software using your own hands and mind, because you cannot even continue to access your own work without regularly checking in with the mother ship to ensure that license terms are met . If the terms and conditions change, or the company goes out of business or the mother ship crashes for some other reason, you can’t even access the features of your own “property”; not even your own accumulated work.
Cloud products represent a kind of legalized ransomware. As with usury there is a superficial resemblance to legitimate transactions; in this case a resemblance to having sold or leased you some tools with which you can produce your own work; work which you then own. The work you produce with cloud-based ransomware looks like it belongs to you.
But when the music stops your hammer no longer works, there are no other hammers which will work, and all that you have built with the hammer is hostage to the true owner’s terms and conditions. You were never the owner of your own work product in the first place: you rent your own work at the pleasure of the private party who really owns it.
When philosophical anti-realism invades the domain of property, the distinction between persons and property disappears. This erodes the distinction between persons and objects in spheres beyond property and ownership.
If you would like to see the great dehumanization reversed, I can’t really offer much hope. But I’d be happy to hand you a shovel.
 Nota bene: not physical or merely physical, since physicalism is false.
 At least for as long as the tenant continues to make payments, which can be increased at any time without his agreement.