Next Up: The Age of the Builder

You all know Dominic Cummings. He's the naughty boy that ran the 2016 Vote Leave campaign to take Britain out of the EU. Then he was an aide to Prime Minister Boris Johnson until he wasn't. I just got an email from his Substack, in which he muses about what comes next.

Basically, he speculates whether a subset of the entrepreneurial elite can rescue Britain, or whether the "clown show" will sadly influence "those who can build" to retreat into walled gardens and Cicero's "fishponds."

Maybe, Cummings writes, the answer to "clown show" is Marc Andreessen's idea of "building a full stack alternative decentralised system outside the bureaucracy’s control."


You remember Marc Andreessen. He's the guy that brought us the Netscape browser in the early 1990s and changed the world. Now he's a VC investor and head of Andreessen Horowitz, and he ain't happy.

Back in 2020, Andreessen wasn't happy about the COVID response -- in April 2020 -- and he wrote "It's Time to Build." Why the COVID failure? "We chose not to build."

You don’t just see this smug complacency, this satisfaction with the status quo and the unwillingness to build, in the pandemic, or in healthcare generally. You see it throughout Western life, and specifically throughout American life.

Is the problem money? Not in a country that passed a $2 trillion COVID package in two weeks. No, "the problem is desire."

The problem is inertia. We need to want these things more than we want to prevent these things. The problem is regulatory capture. We need to want new companies to build these things, even if incumbents don’t like it, even if only to force the incumbents to build these things…

Every step of the way, to everyone around us, we should be asking the question, what are you building? What are you building directly, or helping other people to build, or teaching other people to build, or taking care of people who are building?

By January 2022, Marc had Katherine Boyle, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, write about "Building American Dynamism." We thought that COVID was a failure. Then came the Afghanistan withdrawal, loss of trust in "public schools and the medical establishment" and "mainstream newspapers." There's a gaping hole in our world, waiting for something to fill it. Like the tech industry.

Thing is, today the tech sector is not just tech, and not just software. Tech is taking over traditional government functions, from SpaceX in space to Uber and Lyft in city transportation to Palantir in intelligence. So, "some of the most disruptive companies are remaking the physical world with software at their core."

It's odd that I read this just after a pessimistic American Mind piece mourning that reports of the demise of our liberal friends are greatly exaggerated.

I agree. Liberals will rule over us until the day they don't. And the point is, as Dominic Cummings asserts: which is more fake? World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) or the news? Says he, quoting Rick Rubin, cofounder of Def Jam records:

WWE is real and it’s mainstream political news that’s fake.

On the question of fake, Cummings finds that

The entrepreneurs share political news and discuss how surreal it is that mainstream political figures treat obvious fakes as real

The political Insiders talk to me as if they believe their fakes are real and I should start believing them and stop telling people it’s fake.

Of course, politics has always been fake and always will be. It's a narrative, a story, and all stories are fake, whether it's the Romans and their fairy tale of Romulus and Remus, or the Rousseau's tale of the first person enclosing his plot of land, or Ronald Reagan's America as the last best hope of Man on Earth. But we still like them. Until we don't and decide we want a new fake narrative.

So let us fake up a narrative.

Back in the day, after the Romans ran out of other peoples' money, there rose to power the feudal lord, and, in between Crusades to the Holy Land, he and his women loved to listen to troubadours sing Medieval Romances about noble knights of an evening.

But when the German Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and the monarchs ran out of other peoples' money, educated intellectuals that loved to write and print up stories about equality and natural rights in coffee houses all day long rose to power and sacrificed a generation or two in an occasional world war.

But then the Germans invented relativity and quantum mechanics, and now the educated rulers are running out of other peoples' money, and so there arise the builders, building full stack alternative decentralised systems on their laptops with help from VCs and learn-to-coders of a morning. Enough of wars, they say, let's Occupy Mars.

Hmm. The Age of the Builder. I like it.

Christopher Chantrill @chrischantrill runs the go-to site on US government finances, Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.

Image: Public Domain Pictures

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