Exits and Exiteers harpers.org

Hari Kunzru, Harper’s:

Ironically, the digital frontier of the Nineties, which for a while was the great hope for exit, was enclosed by men like [Peter] Thiel, who have created a landscape of corporate walled gardens that hasn’t fulfilled the utopian potential of the early internet. The dreams of collaborative software building, universal privacy guaranteed by strong encryption, autonomy, chosen community, and an escape from scarcity — in short, the professed ideals of West Coast libertarianism — have taken a back seat to the imperative to track, extract, and monetize. Instead of a global consciousness, we have a giant machine for selling ads. Since the internet is no longer the delirious, much-desired outside, the space of libertarian freedom must apparently be redefined yet again. Thiel’s aristocratic characterization of exit as an escape — not from a place or from the state, but from politics and the “unthinking demos” — explains much of the chaos of today’s public scene, not just in the United States, but around the world.

As Kunzru writes, the cost of those — like Thiel — who wish to exclude themselves from society while reaping all its benefits is borne by the rest of us.