March 22, 2021 | In this issue of The Institutional Risk Analyst, we feature a discussion with political analyst and historian Joe Costello about the state of the American political economy in the age of the internet and social media. He's had long experience working in and following American politics. Along the way he's also worked for political campaigns in Nigeria and Tanzania. Joe has written two books: Of By For and The Politics of Technology.
The IRA: Thank you for taking the time to speak to us Joe. How are you holding up in the age of COVID? We’ve been renovating a house over the past month and literally planned the whole job online. And for the record, the wholesale price of a clear pine 2x4 is now $10 in Westchester County New York, whether you buy lumber online or in person.
Costello: One of the trends we’ve seen with this crisis, for better but also sometimes for worse, is that the push to go to the screen is massive. It is problematic for society in many ways.
The IRA: As one of our favorite mortgage CEOs said to us the other day, you can maintain relationships on Zoom but you cannot build new relationships online. I am not sure that we agree. What is your take on democracy in the age of anti-social media?
Costello: I agree with the observation about building relationships online. But the other, more important point is that the screen – television, computer, or smartphone – has never been democratically controlled. And it still isn’t. That is the real problem of pushing people online to conduct many personal and public tasks. When the internet first emerged three decades ago, I thought i