Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Outlaw kids

Great presentation at TED by Larry Lessig (though I disagree with Lessig's not taking his own ideas to their logical denouement). His last point is most salient. I remember bringing this point up with my young nephew a couple of years ago. If we don't address the issue of intellectual monopoly, the new generation will experience together a deep contempt for the law, stemming from their natural activity being forced underground.

Update (Nov 29, 2007): John Tehranian has written a paper on the norm/law gap amongst normal citizens, taking as an example one day in the life of a professor, Infringement Nation: Copyright Reform and the Law/Norm Gap. Here's a summary of that paper. How many times do you casually reply to email in one day? 20 casual replies, if copyright law were enforced, would cost this professor some $3 million, if he were to slip up and unwittingly quote his senders' messages. For shame!

Hat tip: Just an Online Minute

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Liberty can bring us together: letter to a Democratic Party voter

I come from a staunch Democratic background, with quite a bit of education in my pocket that refined my liberalism, while retaining the spirit of it all. After having worked for McGovern, having voted for Carter, and having voted for Mondale, I voted for Ron Paul in 1988 after I read Hayek's Road to Serfdom. For some ineffable reason, I have more hope in the long run for Democratic Party voters coming around to liberty than I do for Republican Party types. I see no hope in the Democratic Party itself, given that it learned nothing from its defeat in 1994 over its attempts at health care government domination.

What is the problem with the Democrats? They themselves create much of the mess they fight against, particularly with regard to unjust concentrations of wealth.

Complex, arbitrary laws create barriers to entry that foment cartels and monopolies. Witting and unwitting Democrats create major unintended consequences in their flood of legislation. The witting Democrats profit from a lack of competition and the rise of dependency.

Meanwhile, the law drowns in its own flood. How does the little guy feel when facing this quagmire that has become our legal system? The little guys group into herds for protection.

And I don't feel consoled when Democrats argue to remedy this mess by creating a company-town writ-large. It all smacks of Hayek's Road to Serfdom, which I don't think anyone really wants.

(The Republicans have their own sad demons they foment. As they fight the drug war in Afghanistan, are they not creating a significant material root that nourishes the growth of jihadism? Could the rise of terrorism be akin to the rise of organized crime during Prohibition? It's sad when you fight a beast you nurse. Anyway, back to the subject at hand...)

What's one to do? The parties seem to be pretty much locked in.

Unfortunately, as anyone knows who has tried to go the third-party route, there are artificial political barriers to entry. This leaves our political system vulnerable to stagnation and to the rise of unrestrained factions. Suppose, for argument's sake, all parties but two were illegal. What would be the difference between such a two-party state and a one-party state?

I think the real question is - Are liberals really welcome in either the Democratic or Republican parties?

A liberal is first and foremost someone who believes in rights.

Where can a liberal find his'r'r home?

Anyway it's all very sad, but for some reason I think liberty can bring us together again somehow.

I would recommend your reading Nobel laureate economist's James Buchanan's recent book which is a call for "the ethics of liberalism" and a response to Hayek.

Update (Nov 29, 2007): A hopeful sign. One man amidst "the left" sees the company-town writ-large which John Edwards threatens us with. Matt Stoller writes,
So at the end of the day, if you don't have health care, your wages will be garnished or your credit will be damaged because a collection agency will see to it that you buy your insurance. You might even go bankrupt! And since it's called a mandate, we'll need a new IRS-like bureaucracy to handle all of this, but it won't be the IRS since a mandate is not a tax, it's just a required fee you pay to a private company.
It's a funny thing how incongruities can finally catch up with you.

Stoller also attacks Hillary Clinton, whose central plan would "require a massive Orwellian nightmare to enforce the purchase of private insurance by those least able to afford it."

Speaking myself from the classical liberal diaspora, it's perhaps a first ray of hope, that the warmth of the enlightenment might actually return to freethinking types.

Matt Stoller describes the approach of his website OpenLeft,
It's time to get over the idea that 'the left', liberals, progressives, or anyone who believes that power should be distributed and not concentrated in the hands of a few is a scary hippy. And that's why we called the site 'OpenLeft'; we see our ideas as a mark of pride, not shame. We think that businesses - like Google - have built highly profitable organizations based on principles of sharing information and distributing power. The genuine radical threat at this moment in history is coming from elites who believe that concentrating power, information, and wealth in their hands should be America's priority.

Stoller does defend Barack Obama, recommending that Obama say,
"How is Senator Clinton going to force everyone to sign up for health care insurance? She's mentioned forcing citizens to have a health care insurance card in order to get a job, which is a crazy intrusive idea that is not acceptable."

Why the blind spot on Obama? Conservative HotAir's Bryan Preston points out how Obama, too, flirts with totalitarian doublethink, quoting ABC,
Obama says he would enforce his mandate for health care for all children by fining parents if they refused to allow health care coverage for their children.

"I am happy to be very clear how we enforce mandates for children, and the reason is because children don't have an option."

How kind of Obama to baptise our children into the Democratic Party's way of doing things, parents be damned, despite vague protestations about a "Constantinian Fall" or some such nonsense.

I've worried about our Road to Serfdom for 20 years, which explains my parting company with the Democratic Party. Now, with the cries of Naomi Wolf, it mystifies me how Democrats of good will could call for government control if our form of government is lapsing.

Milton Friedman said our freedom was a rare thing [17:39]. Are we to lose it to the chaos of the ages again? Or shall we stand for liberty?