On the Campaign for Liberty's Technology Revolution Manifesto

“They are masters at hijacking the language of freedom and liberty to disingenuously push for more centralized control.”
— Campaign for Liberty
The Technology Revolution

Net neutrality is in the news again. A couple of years ago Free Press released a very short “Declaration of Internet Freedom” calling for policy makers to establish five principles of Internet freedom: Expression, Access, Openness, Innovation, and Privacy. The Campaign for Liberty (C4L, a political nonprofit founded by Ron Paul) read those principles as code words for insidious government control of the Internet and responded with their own manifesto, “The Technology Revolution.”

The C4L manifesto is poorly written and reasoned. C4L attributes no authors to the document, but it is bad enough that I have a hard time believing Ron or Rand Paul personally penned it (or even read it before it was released). It begins with a specious dichotomy between “private sector” and “public sector” and goes on to construct the novel terms “Internet collectivists” and “the collectivist-industrial complex” as the villains of Internet freedom.

I’m as much in favor of decentralization and as against government as the next guy, but some of the assertions in the manifesto don’t even pass the most superficial of examinations. They give two examples of why government is unnecessary for technological innovation:

  • “Microsoft ignored the government for years and changed the world by leading the PC revolution.” Yes, Microsoft, an incorporated entity whose initial revenue streams depended almost entirely upon copyright protections, was able to become successful by ignoring the government.

  • Apple “has created several completely new markets out of whole cloth (iPhone, iPad, iTunes, and iPod).” That’s right. Apple single-handedly invented music, microelectronics, telecommunications, and mass manufacturing to create a market for iPhones.

What’s more, “All” — though it’s not clear what the all refers to — “All in less than 5 years, and all without government permission, partnerships, subsidies, or regulations!” (underlined in original). I think C4L is claiming here that the world’s richest corporations have been operating without permission, subsidies, or regulations? I don’t know. That doesn’t seem correct.

As a whole, the manifesto seems to be arguing against government protection of individual Internet users and in favor of government protection of corporate ISPs (including their freedom to abuse individuals). It simultaneously argues against subsidies and centralization but in favor of private monopoly control of telecommunication infrastructure.

The contradictory concepts at the foundation of the C4L manifesto reflect, I think, the confused liberal notion of “private property” (especially as epitomized by US-style libertarians). The term, which in an economic context refers to “private property in the means of production” and specifically the legal right of capital owners to steal appropriate the products that non-owners create with capital, is equivocated in individuals' minds to “private property” in the sense of being secure in ones' own possessions.

By using the same term for very different concepts, the victims of private property (in the capitalist sense) come to associate the very means of their exploitation as being necessary to their security and happiness. Talk about insidious.

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