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Increasingly Crowded Info Highway Pushing Libertarians Off To Shoulder

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  • Clore Daniel C
    [Considering the source of this article it s no surprise that the real story was missed. The Internet has indeed been crucial in the growth of libertarianism
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 7, 2000
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      [Considering the source of this article it's no surprise that the real
      story was missed. The Internet has indeed been crucial in the growth of
      libertarianism -- i.e., libertarian socialism -- as the protest movement
      against corporate globalization attests. If the pro-capitalist
      libertarian ideology has in fact diminished, it is probably because the
      Internet has put libertarian socialism on the table and the capitalists
      cannot compete with true libertarianism in the marketplace of ideas. As
      more and more of the public learns about the crimes of capitalist
      states, corporations, and international financial institutions, the
      glossing over of these crimes as inherently "voluntary", and thus
      unworthy of mention, by pro-capitalists has become untenable. -- DC]

      Published: Wednesday, September 6, 2000

      St. Paul/Minneapolis Pioneer Planet

      Sebastian Mallaby
      Syndicated columnist

      Increasingly crowded information highway pushing
      libertarians off to the shoulder

      In real space these days, the clash of ideologies
      sometimes seems muted. In cyberspace, it's only getting
      fiercer. The lone-ranger programmers who pioneered the
      Internet face an onslaught from suits, snoops and
      millions of ordinary mouse potatoes who regard the Net
      as some new kind of TV. As a result, the libertarianism
      that used to dominate cyberpolitics is under assault.

      A decade ago, libertarians believed their triumph was
      inevitable. The Net would empower individuals at the
      expense of government and corporate hierarchies. The
      little guy could disseminate his views without a
      publisher or distributor; the humble activist could
      download reams of free data, and so debate government
      officials on a newly equal footing.

      Peter Huber, a celebrated cyberprophet, proclaimed the
      inversion of George Orwell. Technology would not empower
      Big Brother. Rather, it would subvert him.

      This argument had a Marxian feel. Shifts in the technology
      of production would force shifts in the superstructure of
      ideology, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
      In the revolutionary world to come, digital communes would
      trump outdated national boundaries. The state would wither
      away. The architecture of the Internet would evolve without
      top-down direction. Nobody would own it.

      Instead, programmers would produce and share the code of
      cyberspace under rules resembling the Marxian dictum: From
      each according to his abilities, to each according to his

      None of this now seems inevitable. Nearly all the big Net-
      connected stories of the past year have been about the assault
      on that original libertarian vision. The flap over the FBI's
      Carnivore software is about big government using the Net to
      snoop on unsuspecting citizens. The dot-com buzz is about
      entrepreneurs turning the Internet into a giant shopping mall.
      The AOL-Time Warner merger is about a megacybercorporation
      that wants to own the cable pipes on which the future Internet
      will run. The Microsoft lawsuit features big government vs.
      big business. In all these cases, libertarianism is irrelevant.

      The one exception, arguably, has been the flap over Napster, a
      software that created a sort of dot-commune for music. Anyone
      who logs on to the Napster Web site can live by Lenin's rule:
      You make your computerized music available for copying by other
      visitors to the site and in exchange you get the chance to copy
      everybody else's. No gatekeeper demands to know how much music
      you contribute to the commune, and nobody meters what you take
      away from it. Property rights have been suspended. As Napster's
      boss told a congressional hearing last month, the site is ``a
      return to the original information-sharing approach of the

      The basic problem for libertarians is that cyberspace is getting
      crowded. People can organize their affairs by informal consensus
      when they live in villages; they need lawyers and cops when they
      move to the city. Now that one in two American households has a
      home Internet connection, the Net's scale is more than
      metropolitan. It has crowds, commerce and inevitable conflict.

      When the Internet was small, nobody minded that it was used to
      violate intellectual property; now that it is vast, an army of
      entertainment-industry lawyers has descended upon it. When the
      Internet was small, it would not have occurred to Shawn
      Fanning, Napster's teen-age founder, to guard the rights to
      his software. But because it is vast, Fanning's entrepreneurial
      uncle seized upon Napster's commercial potential and hired a
      grown-up manager to build a company on it.

      The libertarians have not given up. Within the urban landscape
      of the Net there still lurk village-like communities. The open-
      code movement, which develops software cooperatively and free
      of charge, thrives on the energies of villagey hackers. Their
      pride and joy, a free operating system called Linux, is said
      to work better than Microsoft's standard-issue product.

      The open coders argue that, in cyberspace, disparate hackers
      can triumph over urban power centers: They will crack the
      encryption that protects corporate Web sites; they will destroy
      authoritarian order with anarchic viruses; they will devise
      decoys to confuse Carnivore-type eavesdropping programs.
      Perhaps, but the Powers That Be are equally determined.

      Mallaby is a member of the Washington Post editorial page staff.
      Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service.

      Dan Clore

      The Website of Lord We├┐rdgliffe:
      The Dan Clore Necronomicon Page:

      "Tho-ag in Zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo. Zodmanas
      zhiba. All Nyug bosom. Konch-hog not; Thyan-Kam
      not; Lha-Chohan not; Tenbrel Chugnyi not;
      Dharmakaya ceased; Tgenchang not become; Barnang
      and Ssa in Ngovonyidj; alone Tho-og Yinsin in
      night of Sun-chan and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna),
      &c., &c.,"
      -- The Book of Dzyan.
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