I have one key question for you to answer, because based on your answer, you should be in agreement with me about my conclusions. So, here’s the question:
Do you own your own life?
If the answer is “no,” and you think that another individual or collective of individuals (e.g., the government, a king or a dictator) owns your life, then whatever the collective wants to do with you, or any group of individuals that gather together to achieve a common purpose, is at the whim of the masses or any demagogue with a gun.
If, however, you are like me, and you think the answer to the question is “yes,” you do own your own life, you are therefore free to think and act for yourself, associate with who you want and make decisions about how you run your affairs and your business.
And, as long as you are not violating the rights of others who also own their own lives, then you should be free to act according to what you think is in your best interest, even if it turns out those decisions are not in your best interest.
This principle of self-ownership is at the crux of the current debate over social media companies in the wake of the torrent of dysfunction coming from this space. Although already prevalent, this issue really ramped up about a year ago with the banning and de-platforming of then-President Trump and other conservative voices. Twitter began the wave of bans when it initially suspended and then banned the former president’s personal feed.
Now, you may have been outraged by the banning of Mr. Trump from Twitter. You also may think that this sets a bad precedent, and that companies such as Twitter, Meta Platforms (META) and its social media site Facebook, are psychotic in terms of their bias against conservatives, Trump, other non-mainstream groups and really any individuals or groups that they deem violates their rules, standards and practices. And you may indeed be correct.
And, because it is my opinion that you own your own life, you are certainly free to disagree with these companies’ decisions, and you are free to complain about it to them, or to close your account or to otherwise voice your concern about any of the issues surrounding what the proper function of these companies should be.
What you are not free to do, at least if you are being logically consistent, is to question the individuals that created and manage these companies’ right to own their own lives, and that means their right to decide who to permanently ban and who to de-platform, or how they should be able to run their enterprises.
If you agree that you own your own life, then don’t Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg also own their own lives?
Don’t these individuals also have the freedom to make decisions for the companies they created and/or now own, even if those decisions turn out to be bad business moves? If these ideas are unduly biased, the decisions will come back to harm their respective bottom lines, causing them to suffer the consequences.
Indeed, over the past year, both Musk and Zuckerberg have seen their respective net worths plummet, and shareholders in their respective companies also have suffered the consequences. Zuckerberg reportedly lost an estimated $78 billion in net worth last year, as META stock plunged some 63%.
Musk saw his net worth plunge more than anyone in history, with an estimated decline in personal fortune of some $115 billion. Tesla (TSLA) shareholders were largely victims of the backlash against Musk’s move to purchase Twitter and his subsequent self-destructive and bizarre trolling behavior on the platform, behavior that’s caused a backlash among Tesla owners and shareholders. TSLA shares have cratered some 72% over the past year, as Musk’s devalued personal brand has helped take down one of Wall Street’s and corporate America’s greatest success stories.
The wider point here is that both Musk and Zuckerberg are suffering the consequences of their actions, and in a free society where individuals own their own lives, that’s how it should be.
Now, if you think that you do not own your own life, and you think that Musk and Zuckerberg also do not own their own lives, that means you are probably in favor of Big Government telling them — and by extension, you — what to do, what to think, what to feel and what you can and cannot say.
And if you don’t think you own your own life, then you also are likely an advocate of “breaking up Big Tech,” as you think that these entities should, in effect, be socialized and deemed a “public utility.”
You also likely believe that the government should tell these individuals how they should run their companies, whom they should allow on their platforms, how much money they should charge for advertising, who they should hire and how much money their employees should make.
In short, if you don’t think you own your own life, then you are an advocate for telling these people — and by extension all people — what to do, what to think and what to feel.
So, it comes down to the main question: Do you own your own life?
If the answer is yes, then you must also agree that Musk and Zuckerberg and any other person or group of persons also have the same ownership and rights to do with their creations as they choose.
If the answer is no, then like so many people in human history, you will have philosophically sanctioned tyranny.
Something to Say
“You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.”
–F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’ve semi-jokingly said that the reason I became a writer is so that I would have always have something good to read. But the truth is that I chose this path because I have something to say, and I suspect, something positive to contribute to the human condition. In 2023, with your permission and support, I shall continue doing just that.
Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.
In the name of the best within us,