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<nettime> When repression is cheaper than redistribution
Felix Stalder on Mon, 4 Sep 2017 10:39:36 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> When repression is cheaper than redistribution

Recently, the German political scientist Ulrike Guérot argued that
digital technologies changed the political calculus of the ruling
elites: repression is now seen as cheaper than redistribution to
maintain the system.

This research, by the Center for Political Studies (CPS), University of
Michigan, puts numbers to this claim.  Advanced democracies spent just
shy of $9 billion to surveil 74% of their population, at a cost of
$10/person. Now, this of course are not the entire costs of the
apparatus of repression, but just indicates how incredibly cheap
surveillance blanket surveillance has become.

To gain any traction for political change, we need to change this
calculus, by making surveillance and repression expensive again.




While nations worldwide have spent at least $27.1 billion USD (or $7 per
individual) to surveil 4.138 billion individuals (i.e., 73 percent of
the world population), stable autocracies are the highest per-capita
spenders on mass surveillance. In total, authoritarian regimes have
spent $10.967 billion USD to surveil 81 percent of their populations
(0.1 billion individuals), even though this sub-set of states tends to
have the lowest levels of high-technology capabilities. Stable
autocracies have also invested 11-fold more than any other regime-type,
by spending $110 USD per individual surveilled, followed second-highest
by advanced democracies who have invested $8.909 billion USD in total
($11 USD per individual) covering 0.812 billion individuals (74 percent
of their population). In contrast to high-spending dictatorships and
democracies, developing and emerging democracies have invested $4.784
billion USD (or $1-2 per individual) for tracking 2.875 billion people
(72 percent of their population).

It is possible that in a hyper-globalizing environment increasingly
characterized by non-state economic (e.g., multi-national corporations)
and political (e.g., transnational terror organizations) activity,
nation-states have both learned from and mimicked each other’s
investments in mass surveillance as an increasingly central activity in
exercising power over their polities and jurisdictions. It is also
likely that the technological revolution in digitally-enabled big data
and cloud computing capabilities as well as the ubiquitous digital
wiring of global populations (through mobile telephony and digital
communication) have technically enabled states to access and organize
population-wide data on their citizens in ways not possible in previous



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