Mark Zuckerberg’s Americana tour de force generated much speculation over whether the Facebook CEO plans to run for political office. Clearly Mr. Zuckerberg is gifted with more than enough intellect, patience, and strategic foresight to lay groundwork for an eventual run, even one decades away. Still, why the looming sense of urgency from a potential candidate who already controls a network of people larger than any organization of any kind, save maybe religion? The better question may then be: what role is traditional politics now playing in the transformation of Mark Zuckerberg’s half-a-trillion dollar social network into the world’s first trans-border and poli-digital nation?
First, a little perspective. In the second quarter of 2017, there were 2.01 and 1.32 billion monthly and daily active Facebook users, respectively. In other words, this “Facebook Federation” already dwarfs both the European Union and the United States—combined—and by no less than 446 million persons from almost every corner of the world. Facebook’s robust demographics even hold their ground against the two biggest countries on Earth, China and India, who each boast populations of around 1.34 billion. Zuckerberg thus wields subtle but great international political clout, albeit untapped at present.
It’s therefore difficult believing Mark Zuckerberg is truly committed to abdicating an embryonic throne with historic consequence for a more limited public sphere of influence. Furthermore, mere feigning of interest in traditional politics carries the benefit of giving Mr. Zuckerberg real-world experience in the political arena, as well as immediate credibility as a legitimate figure of political power and authority. Mr. Zuckerberg’s debutant of sorts could therefore prove the catalyst behind Facebook’s evolution into the world’s first truly global nation-state, one 50 percent larger than any other.
Fortunately for fervent Facebookians-to-be, the company’s ToS could immediately substitute for the new nation’s constitution and formative body of law. From there, the next logical step involves generating public funds to expand Facebook’s current offerings (read: public services) for Facebook’s users (read: digital denizens), though now to also project power to other, mostly physically-based nation-states. In terms of such self-financing, however, there remains plenty of work to do. While climbing fast, Facebook’s annual earnings stand at just $10 billion currently; the United States, in contrast, brings in over $4.5 trillion every single year by way of personal income, corporate, social insurance and retirement-related taxes.
So how can this epic gap be closed? By ring-fencing user data, most likely, but since such assets are technically Facebook’s legal property anyway, a more realistic scenario involves Amazon Prime-like annual fees for access to account information, in addition to the Facebook platform and broader ecosystem of native and third-party add-on products and services. With Facebook identity logins already integrated throughout the internet, this digital cooperative could take even more unpredictable shapes, forms, and dimensions with respect to organization, reach, and influence.
Outcry against imposed network fees is certainly guaranteed, but potentially fleeting as well. Compulsory obligations could be surprisingly affordable: just $1.50 a day per capita translates to theoretical Facebook tax receipts rivaling in size to those of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. Moreover, the network’s externalities have essentially forever locked in current users, who would anyway be hard-pressed to give up their most widely recognizable digital identity, societal communication channel, and comprehensive electronic biographical record.
By the next presidential election in 2020, we may see the Facebook founder standing shoulder-to-shoulder with various red and blue candidates. That said, Mark Zuckerberg’s platform will likely not center on the merits of changing the current political system from within, but on a rather revolutionary digital alternative, Facebook the Nation-State.
Sources: Facebook, Pew Research, Statista, the CIA World Factbook, OECD & Tax Policy Center