By Mike Tront

With the exception of the 2015 Net Neutrality ruling by the FCC, the Internet has largely been left alone by the most powerful government on the planet.  This “light touch” regulation has resulted in industry growth that is virtually unmatched in human history.  From AOL, to DSL modems, to fiber optic cable, to 3, 4, and 5G phones, to near ubiquitous Wi-Fi, delivering the Internet to the masses is a story of ever increasing options, exponentially better speeds, and decreasing prices.  The logical next step is worldwide Internet connection to everyone on the planet for free.  However, the 2015 Net Neutrality ruling may have empowered the largest government in the world to slow, and possibly stop, the inevitable future of free Internet access to the world.

How Is Free Internet Access Possible?

The idea of free or low cost Internet being broadcast to the world has been in development by several people and companies for years.  Internet giant Facebook has plans in the works.  Google has plans as well.  A little known company based in New York, called the Media Development Investment Fund, is attempting to throw their hat in the ring by creating something called the Outernet.  An alternative to the Internet that’ll broadcast for free all around the world from cube satellites circling the globe in low Earth orbit.

Perhaps of most interest to libertarians is Nexus Earth.  Nexus is a crypto currency that has teamed up with Vector Space Systems to launch cube satellites into low Earth orbit in order to broadcast their blockchain to the world for free.  The development team of Nexus sees this as a step towards a fully decentralized and free (meaning both no cost to the user and free from government censorship and control) Internet for the world.

Basically, all these organizations are attempting to beam connectivity down from the sky rather than using expensive infrastructure down on Earth.  As these sky-based technologies become cheaper, and as more and more competition enter this market, it’s just a matter of time before the price is driven down to zero for anyone, anywhere to access the Internet.

Current Problems

Like all advancing technologies, this will not go from 0-60 overnight.  There will be incremental advancements.  The current problem with connecting to the Internet from the sky is that it is extremely expensive to send access to the entire Internet this way.  Not only do you have to put hundreds of cube satellites in orbit to have a functioning and fast network, but you have to send data to these satellites from the ground.

Thankfully, launching these cube satellites is becoming cheaper and cheaper.  It’s building the means of sending Internet data to the cube satellites that is going to be one of the biggest (non-regulatory) stumbling blocks.  Until it becomes cost effective to access the entire Internet this way, companies are experimenting by only sending specific websites and applications directly to the user.

How Will Net Neutrality Stop Free Internet Access?

As we’ve heard over and over again, Net Neutrality is in place to prevent Internet Service Providers (ISP) from prioritizing data.  Under this regulation, your ISP can’t decide to block you from accessing a certain website and they can’t send data from one website at faster rate than another website.  The idea is to prevent censorship and to prevent an ISP from holding certain websites hostage unless they (or you) pay an extra fee.

I’m not going to get into these specific concerns here, as they’ve been addressed thoroughly elsewhere and this post is focusing on a different aspect of the debate.  But if you’re interested in hearing a quick, funny take down of these concerns you can check out Why John Oliver is Wrong about Net Neutrality by Andrew Heaton via Reason TV.

If the idea of Net Neutrality is to make sure all ISP’s give full access to all of the Internet, then free Internet beaming down from satellites will be almost impossible to develop.  Net Neutrality will effectively make it illegal for a company to beam free Internet down from satellites unless they can guarantee that the people receiving the Internet will get ALL of the Internet.  In fact, this has already happened.

Facebook has been attempting to beam free Internet to some of the poorest regions of the world.  Regions that have no access to the Internet.  They are doing this by using a combination of drones and satellites to beam down a limited number of useful websites.  They call it Free Basics.  So is Facebook being heralded as an important leader in bringing about much needed Internet access to the third world?

They are not.  According to this Guardian article, Facebook Lures Africa with Free Internet – But What is the Hidden Cost?, there is no shortage of outrage over Facebook not being able to connect the world’s poorest people to the entire Internet for free.  In fact, they aren’t even allowed to offer their Free Basics program in India.  From the article:

It is not the first time Facebook has faced challenges to its initiative. In India, Free Basics was effectively banned after a groundswell of support for net neutrality – a principle affirming that what you look at, who you talk to and what you read is ultimately determined by you, not a business.

That’s right.  Net Neutrality was used by the Indian government as an excuse to stop their people from accessing free Internet services.

Later in the article, this tidbit also stood out:

In April, Reuters revealed that Free Basics had been blocked by Egypt’s increasingly oppressive government after Facebook refused to let it snoop on users.

Imagine that, governments are pushing back against free Internet access because it’s harder to spy on you.

The Future of Free Internet Access

Currently, all major ISP’s support Net Neutrality.  Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon have all issued statements of support.  Yes, they do push back on some of the regulations they face from the FCC, but when it comes to delivering content to their customers, they all wholeheartedly support the idea that all ISP’s should be forced to deliver all of the Internet to their customers.  If I were them, I would too!

They know more than anyone that their business model will soon be obsolete.  It’s only a matter of time.  Who in their right mind would deal with these companies, and pay for their services, if they could get free Internet access from satellites?  It’s not just ISP’s who are scared.  You’d be hard-pressed to find any Internet giant that opposes Net Neutrality.  Again, I would support it too if I were in their shoes!

These businesses will be disrupted as well by free Internet access.  Companies could launch their own satellites and beam down their own service for streaming TV shows and movies.  Their customers wouldn’t need an ISP, they’ll just need a device that is Wi-Fi enabled.  Social media sites, email companies, shopping sites, anyone could do this.  And their customers wouldn’t be confined to any certain geographical region, either.  The entire world would have access to their sites without having to pay for an ISP first.

This is precisely what Nexus Earth, the crypto currency I mentioned earlier, is attempting to do with their blockchain. They have the ambitious plan of giving the entire world free access to their crypto currency.  No Internet connection required.  Just a Wi-Fi enabled device.

As more and more companies utilize this business model, innovation will happen quickly.  This will bring down costs and eventually the entire Internet will be accessible to the entire world for free.

Plenty of billionaires and billion-dollar companies stand to lose money and market share from such a truly free and open decentralized Internet.  It’s no wonder they all support Net Neutrality.  Think about it this way, when’s the last time a group of billionaires got together with the government to conspire to help you out at their personal expense?

 

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By Mike Tront

Even in a stateless world based on the libertarian ideals of self-ownership and private property, prisons may be a necessary evil.  I’ve written many posts based on how criminal justice could look in such a world, all of which I’ll link to at the bottom of this post, but I’ve never dealt directly with prisons.  I put a few ideas in some of those posts, but this post will serve as a stand alone post dealing solely with how prisons could look without a government monopoly and funding through taxation.

What Prisons Won’t Look Like

In a stateless society, prisons would look nothing like they do today.  Even though there are “private” prisons in America, they aren’t private in any sense of the word.  They are completely funded by government and are completely tied to the government court system.  They have all the privileges of a government enforced monopoly.

Without a government to fund prisons, public or “private,” one would imagine that they couldn’t exist at all.  It would be impossible for the current business model of warehousing criminals in giant concrete buildings, for years on end, to exist without forcing people to pay for it.

With that in mind, we need to imagine a model where the prison would fund itself.  Most prisons would most likely be funded voluntarily by the prisoners themselves.

Voluntary Prisons

Before I go into the concept of voluntary prisons, first I have to answer the question of “Who the hell would voluntarily go to prison?!”

Let’s say we have a person that is found guilty of a violent crime and is found to owe $20,000 for restitution, court costs, and costs of capture.  Presumably, this criminal is broke so he won’t be able to pay it back.  The criminal, because of his own violent actions, would have no right to object to the victim from using force to acquire this restitution.  Basically, the criminal is at the mercy of his victim.  Even though the victim would be obligated to use the least amount of force necessary to acquire this restitution, it would probably be in the benefit of the criminal to negotiate favorable terms in paying back what is owed.

Possibly, if the debt is small enough and the criminal seems trustworthy enough (maybe he’s a teenager who is on track to have a productive life, but just made one mistake hanging with the wrong crowd), both sides might just agree to let the criminal go free so long as he agrees to pay a monthly payment until his debt is gone.

More than likely, this won’t be the case.  We can assume that the criminal would want to pay back his debt as soon as possible in order to be free.  We can also assume the criminal wants to be as safe and comfortable as possible while paying off this debt.  So why wouldn’t both sides work together in order to find a solution?  Based on whatever skills the criminal may have, there could be many competing prisons that would utilize his labor to pay for keeping him locked up, while at the same time paying off the debt the criminal owes.

Some prisons may even offer programs to teach new skills to prisoners.  This would attract more prisoners, allow the prison to make more profit, and allow the prisoner to pay off his debt sooner.  This has the added benefit of giving the prisoner a new skill he could utilize to make a living once he’s free.

Prisons would also compete based on safety and comfort.  The victim may not care much about this, but if the goal is to get restitution back as soon as possible, and get it back in a way that would involve little or no extra force (which could become costly and dangerous for all sides involved,) there would have to be some incentives for the criminal to want to voluntarily agree to go to a prison.

Will it always go down this easy?  Of course not!  Some criminals may agree to go to voluntary prisons, only to refuse to work or even purposely sabotage their work.  Others simply won’t agree to work to pay back their victims.  Violent criminals are often irrational or just downright evil.  They have no concern for their own safety, their own life, or the lives of the people they hurt.  How will they be dealt with?

Involuntary Prisons

When considering how a prison full of people who have no desire to work off their debt will be funded, the first thought that comes to mind is some kind of forced labor system.  However, I’m not convinced that such a system could be profitable.

We’re talking about the most violent and deranged people on the planet here.  If they are forced to work in some kind of factory, they would have access to any number of objects that could be used as deadly weapons against their captors.  The costs of constantly monitoring, housing, and generally keeping such a business going would far out way the benefits of free labor.

The same goes for any kind of agricultural based forced labor camp.  The costs of keeping these prisoners working and overseeing their every move would be astronomical compared to simply hiring some migrant workers who show up voluntarily, accept meager wages, and go on about their way.

Plus, the idea of forcing someone into slavery, no matter how evil his deeds, is something that people would widely view as wrong.  This could lead to people refusing to do business with forced labor prisons, thus making them even more unprofitable.

With forced labor out of the question, what options do we have left?

One way is charity.  There’s not many people alive who wouldn’t want the most deranged and evil people removed from their world.  With this overwhelming demand to see violent people locked away, we can imagine the market satisfying this demand with prisons funded through charity.  The bulk of this charity would probably come from businesses and individuals who benefit most from seeing violent people locked away somewhere.  Insurance companies and security companies immediately come to mind.

Another way for an involuntary prison to turn a profit without forced labor is by turning it into some kind of tourist attraction.  There is an almost endless fascination the general public has with evil people.  TV shows, movies, and documentaries are made every year showcasing crimes and the people who commit them.  Perhaps there could be a demand for some kind of tourist attraction called “Violent Criminal World.”

You could pay to see the worst of the worst up close and personal.

Another somewhat related idea is for an involuntary prison to have its own reality TV show.  They could produce and sell there own show based on the everyday happenings of the prison.  There could even be a market for people to pay for access to a 24/7 live stream of every camera in the prison.

A percentage of the profits from these ventures could then be dispersed out to the victims of the criminals locked up.

These are just a few ideas.  The beauty of a free market system is that absent of a government forced monopoly, there’s no limit to what entrepreneurs will come up with.  In order to meet the significant demand to keep violent criminals away from non-violent people, we can expect a plethora of options available to the victims of violent criminals.

Quick Overview of a Private Criminal Justice System

For an in depth overview of these topics, I’ll link to the individual posts below.  But I’ll try to give a quick summary of what would occur after a crime has taken place in a stateless society.

So you’re a victim of a violent crime.  A criminal broke into your house, stole valuables, and injured you in the process.  Perhaps they hit you several times and tied you up.  In a free market, we could get insurance that not only covers our property, but covers our body as well.  You can then file a claim with your insurance company for all damages resulting from this crime.

When the insurance company pays your claim, they’ve now bought the right to go after this criminal and recover the damages.  They are now incentivized to solve this crime and apprehend this criminal in order to recoup their losses.  Most likely, they would offer a bounty to anyone who can put enough evidence together in order to secure a conviction in a court that is widely viewed as reputable.

If and when they are able to apprehend the criminal and get enough evidence to secure a conviction, they could then negotiate with the criminal on the best way for him to pay back all the damages, court costs, and costs of capture.

If the criminal is willing, they could agree to a voluntary prison stay until the debt is paid.  If the prisoner is unwilling to negotiate or work, then they could go the involuntary prison route.  Perhaps the involuntary prison company could just pay the insurance company a one time, upfront fee for the right to have the prisoner in their custody.  Or more likely, they’d probably agree to pay a percentage of profits to have him in their prison until the debt is paid.

With competition for prisoners, the invisible hand of the market would steer the outcome toward maximum benefit of all parties, including the criminal.  This would insure that restitution would be paid back as quickly as possible and that prisoners wouldn’t be locked up for longer than they would have to be.  Only the truly heinous criminals would rack up enough damages to be locked away for life.  Other criminals, by working off their debt and possibly learning new skills in the process, would have an opportunity at true rehabilitation.

As always, we can never know exactly how things will shake out after the government monopoly is finally dissolved.  There will never be a perfect system.  Even in a stateless system there can be no guarantee that all criminals will be brought to justice.  There can be no guarantee that there will never be an innocent person locked up.  However, without a monopoly of powerful people in charge, any mistake or corrupt actor at any level of the criminal justice system will not have immunity from prosecution as the prosecutors, judges, politicians, and police officers enjoy today.  This alone will ensure much fairer and equitable results.  That along with unfettered competition will give us the most just and fair system mankind has ever seen.

 

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Please subscribe for free!  I hate spam and will never sell, trade, or give your email address to anyone.  We’ll send you the latest blog posts as well as content and humor that you can’t get from the site.

For further reading on Criminal Justice without the State:

7/20/2016 – A Private Criminal Justice System

7/29/2016 – Capital Punishment In a Libertarian Justice System

8/11/2016 – Crime Solving, Libertarian Style

1/27/2017 – But Without Government, Who Will Prosecute Criminals That Hurt The Poor?

2/03/2017 – Private Criminal Justice:  Who Will Protect The Homeless?

8/03/2017 – Libertarian Courts In a Stateless Society

By Mike Tront

Abortion doesn’t just divide the left and right in America, it divides libertarians as well.  Libertarian economist Walter Block has come up with a solution called “evictionism” in an attempt to bring both sides together and to allow everyone’s rights to be respected.

What Is Evictionism

Block says that an unborn child, from the point of conception, is a human being with all the rights that any innocent human being has.  Block also says that a pregnant woman owns her body and her womb, and has every right to decide if an unborn child may or may not use her body and womb and for how long.

Block says that because the unborn child is an innocent human being, no one has a right to kill it.  However, since the Mother owns her body and her womb, she has every right to have the child removed at any time in the gentlest manner possible.  In other words, an evictionist couldn’t kill the baby and remove the body like abortionists do today.  They would have to keep the child alive and unharmed as much as medically possible.

What evictionism means for unborn children in today’s world is that most children evicted in the third trimester will survive.  Some evicted in the second trimester will survive.  And any child evicted in the first trimester will die.  For the babies evicted before they are viable outside the womb this is a tragedy.  They are innocent and helpless.  This tragedy, however, doesn’t change the fact that no one has the right to the body of another.  The woman is the owner of her body and she has the right to choose who can or can’t be inside of it or live off of it.

In the near future, however, medical technology will allow for babies evicted at even the earliest stages to survive and live full, healthy lives.

This is a quick and simple explanation of evictionism.  For a deeper understanding you can read a comprehensive essay penned by Block and Roy Whitehead here, or you can listen to a Podcast from the Lions of Liberty where they have a deep discussion with Block about evictionism here.  Otherwise I’ll attempt to quickly handle some objections and add some thoughts of my own.

Objections

The main objection is the idea that the unborn baby is not a trespasser, but was invited into the Mother’s womb by the woman and therefore she must be forced to carry it to term.  The argument is that by agreeing to have sex, the Mother took on the potential responsibility of a baby being created.

In the case of a voluntary sex act, this is a strong objection.  Libertarians don’t concede that positive obligations exist (no one has the right to force you to take care of them, for example), but they do concede that implied agreements can exist.  For example, if I take you up in my hot air balloon, I don’t have the right to kick you off while we’re in midair.  By taking you up in the balloon, it’s implied that I’m going to safely bring you back down!  In the abortion/evictionism debate, the act of sex is claimed to be an implied agreement with the child if a child is created.

There are two problems with this line of thinking.  The most obvious problem is that some pregnancies aren’t agreed to!  Rape is the main example used, but that’s only a small fraction of potential abortion/eviction cases.  There are also cases of birth control failure. There are cases where one of the parties was told by a doctor that they were infertile, but clearly the doctor was wrong!  There are also cases where the man agreed not to release his seed into the women but did so anyway.  In all of these cases, measures were taken to prevent a pregnancy or the woman simply had no choice.  How can the woman be forced to carry the unborn child to term in these cases where she clearly took appropriate measures to prevent a pregnancy or had no choice in the matter?

While it’s true that the unborn child is an innocent bystander in all these cases, that doesn’t mean it has the right to the woman’s body.  Imagine a scenario where you woke up one day and you find that someone surgically attached an innocent person to your body.  In this highly unlikely scenario, you’d have every right to remove this innocent person.  You wouldn’t have the right to kill the person, but no one could say that you should be forced to live with this arrangement, even if it could be proven that surgically removing this innocent person would lead to their death and keeping them surgically attached would mean they could survive.  In this tragic scenario, the innocent person attached to your body can’t force you to keep them since they have no claim to your body.

The second problem with the implied agreement argument is that the child didn’t even exist when this implied agreement was supposedly made.  For there to be an implied agreement between two or more parties, those parties have to exist!  When the voluntary sex act took place, the future child doesn’t exist and therefore can’t be apart of any implied agreement between it and the Mother.

One could still argue that someone engaging in the act of sex clearly knows that a child could be created.  Therefore they should be held accountable by being forced to carry the baby to term if one is created.  As a believer in the importance of personal responsibility, this argument is hard to combat.  On a base level, I agree with it.  I think people who act irresponsible should deal with the results of their actions.  But just because I think this way doesn’t mean I have the right to violate the person or property of someone when they act irresponsibly.

Take for example if I saw someone leave their car for several hours parked in a bad neighborhood, with the engine running, and the door wide open.  This is an incredibly irresponsible thing to do.  This is almost guaranteeing that someone will steal the car.  If I decided to take the car, does the owner still have a claim to it?  After all, I could claim that the person leaving the car was being irresponsible and should live with the outcome.  They knew something like this could happen!  This would be a ludicrous argument though.  The car is still not my property and it still belongs to the owner, even if they were being irresponsible with it.  We can all agree it was irresponsible for the person to leave it running for hours unattended, and we might not have any sympathy if it gets stolen, but that doesn’t negate the owners right to the car.  In the same way if a women is being irresponsible with her sex life.  At the end of the day, she is still the owner of her body with the right to decide if someone should live in it or not.

The only situation where it would be legitimate to punish a woman who gets an eviction is if there were an agreement between the man and woman prior to the pregnancy.  One example would be if the woman was hired to be a surrogate.  She agreed to rent her womb and body out to the person who paid her and thus would be breaking a contract by getting an eviction.

Another example would be if there were some sort of prior agreement between the couple.  They may have agreed that if she were to get pregnant, they must both consent if there was going to be a removal of an unborn child.  In this situation, the woman would have to get the man to sign off on the removal per their prior agreement.  If the man refused to sign off, but she got the unborn child removed anyway, she could be liable for whatever damages were laid out in the contract.

Guardianship Of The Removed Child

So an unwanted fetus is removed, can they simply ignore it and let it die?  If not, who is the guardian responsible for caring for the child?  This is perhaps the most important issue to be worked out for evictionism to be legitimate.  What I say is that whoever performs the eviction is taking over guardianship of the child.  Since the Mother gave up this right, the person agreeing to do the eviction is also agreeing to take on that responsibility.

Therefore, it is the evictionist who must do everything in their power to make sure that not only does the fetus survive the procedure, but that it is taken care of once it is safely out.  “But if libertarians don’t believe in positive obligations, how can the guardian be forced to care for the child?” you ask?

This is the same debate around the question of “Is it legitimate for a parent to neglect their child to the point of injury or death?”  It is not legitimate, because when the parent voluntarily took on the guardianship of a child, they have made an implied agreement to not only care for the child, but to make sure that they find someone else to care for the child if they decide to discontinue their guardianship role.

A parent can decide to stop being a guardian, but they can’t just simply let the child die.  By doing this, and not making an effort to drop the child off at an orphanage or with another suitable guardian, they are precluding others from taking on the guardianship of the child.  In essence, a parent can stop being a guardian of a child if they choose, but they can’t stop others from taking over guardianship of the child.  Therefore, they must seek out a new suitable guardian before they are legitimately able to stop caring for the child.

To wrap up this train of thought, anyone agreeing to perform an eviction procedure is also agreeing to become the guardian of the child until they can find another suitable guardian.  An evictionist who removed a child and let it die would be just as much of a criminal as any parent who neglected their child to the point of death.

The Future

Perhaps the best thing to come out of this theory is that in the not too distant future, all unborn children will be able to survive outside the womb.  Technology will soon allow for even the earliest fetuses to survive and develop normally without a human womb.  Once this is the case, both sides of the abortion issue will have no choice but to accept the evictionism argument.  If you’re pro-choice, how can you possibly advocate for the ability of a Mother to kill her fetus if it can just as easily be removed, saved, and survive?  If you’re pro-life, how can you argue that you have the right to force the Mother to carry her baby to term when she can just as easily and safely let an artificial womb incubate the baby?  If the evictionism theory is the only theory that respects the rights of all parties involved in the future, than we have to begrudgingly admit that it is legitimate today.  Our rights don’t change with the times.  They are the same whether we lived 100 years ago or live 100 years from now.

 

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You may also like by Mike Tront:

5/24/16 – What Would It Look Like If The Federal Government Outlawed Abortion

By Mike Tront

With a new wave of political correctness sweeping through America, speech is being stifled at an alarming rate.  Expressing unpopular opinions is getting people banned from Facebook. It’s getting YouTube videos demonetized.  It’s getting websites kicked off of the servers that host them.  It’s getting websites delisted from Google searches.  It’s even getting people fired from their jobs.

Currently, the type of speech being stifled is confined mostly to ideas that I personally find wrong, ignorant, and in some cases completely antithetical to the type of anti-authoritarian free society I want to live in.  However, I also want to live in a society that allows bad ideas to be exposed to rigorous and open debate.  Plus, I’m afraid that once the censorship ball gets rolling, anti-authoritarian libertarian ideas will soon be blacklisted as well.

For now, stifling “objectionable” conservative opinions is the trend of the day.  This is being met with stiff resistance and condemnation from virtually everyone on the right. Sadly, this has also led many prominent republicans to look to the government for a solution.

The Republican Solution

After Google fired James Damore, prominent republican talk show host Tucker Carlson had this to say:

Google should be regulated like the public utility it is to make sure it doesn’t further distort the free flow of information.

Carlson isn’t the only republican thinking this way.  According to this recent article from The Daily Caller, even otherwise pro-market republicans like Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon are on the anti-free market train in regards to Google and other social media platforms.

So what would it look like if popular social media sites became public utilities?  I’m sure if you ask these republicans, they’d assure us that there’d be no government takeover, just a bit more regulation to make things more fair and equal.

Anyone who studies history knows that whenever you give government regulators an inch, they take ten miles!  In order to get the level playing field these republicans want, they’d have to empower government to take over the Google search algorithm to ensure a more fair algorithm for right-leaning sites.  They’d have to take over YouTube’s monetization policy to ensure every creator gets the same pay rate.  They’d have to rewrite Facebook’s user agreement to make sure that no one gets banned for having a conservative opinion.  They’d have to take over Twitter’s algorithm to make sure certain people don’t get shadow banned for having unpopular opinions.

What could be more socialist than the government stepping in to level the playing field and make sure all views and parties have equal representation, regardless of the desires of the actual platform owners?

Problems With Government Takeover of Social Media

Just the above words should send a chill down anyone’s spine, regardless of their political affiliation.  Even if there was a way for a completely fair and open commission (ha!) to be set up to simply make sure the free flow of information isn’t restricted, does anyone really believe it’ll stay that way?  How many times do we have to witness a well-intended government program get perverted for political and financial gains before we understand that government is never a solution?

Once government takes over the search algorithms and social media user agreements, it’s only a matter of time before they’re tweaked to suit the needs of the people and lobbyists in power.  In fact, there are numerous exceptions to the 1st Amendment, so why wouldn’t the government alter the search algorithms of all search engines to help stamp out potentially unlawful speech?  This would allow government to hide, or even eliminate, vast amounts of content that might fit into such categories as “obscenity,” “false statements of facts,” “fighting words,” “incitement,” and many forms of commercial speech (which is considered less protected.)

Is it really hard to imagine the major news outlets lobbying government to hide independent news outlets because they made “false statements of facts?” (#FakeNews!) Is it really hard to imagine the government hiding or eliminating websites that are generally anti-state under the claim that they may incite people to do violent acts against state actors?  Is it really hard to imagine wealthy corporations lobbying government to make it harder for new companies to advertise on social media sites?

Perhaps the biggest problem with government turning search engines and social media platforms into public utilities is that it turns these social media platforms into legal monopolies, thus preventing any further innovation in this incredibly important field.

The Free Market Solution

Competition is the ultimate equalizer.  No matter how big and influential a company gets, it will never be immune from the constant pressure of competition.  Just in my short lifetime, many corporate giants have been decimated from competition.  Giants like General Motors went from being one of the largest companies in the world to filing for bankruptcy.  Only a government bailout saved it from going out of business completely.  IBM went from being the top computer company on the planet to posting record breaking losses.  Sears was once the largest retailer in America.  Today it’s fighting to stay profitable while closing stores all across the country.  MySpace went from being the largest social media site in the world to being nothing more than a punchline.

What happened to these giants?  Why did they fall so far so fast?  As companies grow, so do their expenses and potential liabilities.  Their workforce becomes bloated.  Their infrastructure, factories, and stores become out of date or obsolete.  They become targets for lawsuits.  Sometimes, even if a company does everything right and makes all the right moves, consumers just change their desires and tastes.

As companies and industries become more profitable, other entrepreneurs are tempted to enter their field in search of some of that juicy profit.  These new competitors have the advantage of being much more nimble and adaptable to the changing needs and desires of consumers.  They aren’t saddled down with layers of bureaucracy.  Even when the top dogs adapt and stay profitable, no one has ever stayed on top forever.

The new wave of social media censorship is just that, new.  Already we’re seeing the market react.  Gab was created last year as a alternative to Twitter. Gab promises no censorship of its users.  DuckDuckGo is a rising alternative to Google.  It’s main selling point is that it doesn’t track its user like Google does.  Not only does it keep your search terms private, but it eliminates the Filter Bubble that plagues other platforms.

It may seem impossible to imagine any company taking over the markets currently dominated by Google, Facebook, and YouTube, but it was once impossible to predict the fall (and the rise again!) of GM and IBM.  There’s no way to predict who or what will knock over these behemoth’s of the Internet, and there’s no way to predict how long it will take.  One prediction I will make is that if the government turns them into public utilities things will only get worse for free speech.  With public utility status also comes the status of legal monopoly.  If you think it’ll be hard for competition to take down popular social media platforms due to their network effects, just wait until they have the power of government behind them as well.

 

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4/20/16 – Why Should Government Keep Bigots In Business?

 

By Mike Tront

In the wake of the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Confederate monuments and statues are being taken down across the U.S. Predictably, the standard right wing response is outrage and the standard left wing response is jubilation.

I can sympathize with both sides here.  Monuments, even of bad events or people, shouldn’t necessarily be forced to be taken down.  However, people who have no desire to fund a particular monument or statue shouldn’t be forced to fund it.

The libertarian solution is pretty simple, but before I delve too deep into how this can easily be solved with libertarian principles, I’d like to look at the hypocrisy on both the right and left that this controversy has exposed.

Right Wing Hypocrisy

For his 2018 budget, Donald Trump is planning on eliminating funding for several federal programs that subsidize the arts.  Including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  The response from republicans is overwhelmingly positive.  The main reasoning for right wing support was summed up by White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney:

“Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?” he asked. “The answer was no.”

So this week it was interesting to see Trump abandon this logic when it came to the removal of publicly funded Confederate art.  He had this to say on Twitter:

 

Nowhere did he say that public funding should be cut for these statues and nowhere did he echo Mulvaney’s point about it being wrong to make a “coal miner” or “single mom” pay for these Confederate Monument Programs. As usual in politics there’s no principle, only tribes.  The right wing tribe views the NEA as overwhelmingly subsidizing liberals and their pet art projects.  On the other hand, they have no problem using public funds for monuments and statues that glorify people and events that liberals hate and conservatives are more likely to enjoy!

Left Wing Hypocrisy

Going back to Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the arts, there’s no shortage of left wing outrage.  It’s hard to find anyone on the left who favors cutting government funding to any arts programs.  But therein lies the hypocrisy.  Aren’t Confederate monuments art?  Regardless of any objectionable actions taken by the Confederates, many of these statues and monuments can be seen as aesthetically pleasing, right?  I’m sure many local artisans were paid well for their work in creating these monuments, what liberal could object to that?

It’s easy to see how people who’ve had ancestors suffer through slavery would object to Confederate monuments, but many religious conservatives could easily object to some of the risque art that’s been funded through the NEA.  Additionally, if democracy is to be held up as an ideal, a majority of Americans believe the Confederate monuments should stay!

It seems a bit hypocritical for liberals to champion funding for arts that largely benefit their constituents and donors, but advocate for public art that doesn’t satisfy their constituents and donors to be torn down.  Especially when a majority of Americans want those particular monuments and statues to stay!

Libertarian Solution

If you’ve read anything I’ve posted before, I’m sure you can guess what the solution is.  Privatization!  The only moral and satisfactory solution to this issue is a complete separation of art and the state.  The conservatives are completely correct in their idea that the “coal miner” and the “single mom” shouldn’t be forced to fund art projects.  The liberals are completely correct in their idea that ancestors of slaves shouldn’t be forced to fund Confederate monuments and statues.

To this end, all funding to the NEA and any similar government programs should be cut immediately.  If you happen to value the type of art that the NEA funds, you are free to donate your own time and money to support these artists and galleries. Similarly, all publicly funded monuments and statues should be defunded.

Additionally, all statues and monuments should be sold off to the highest bidder.  Are you a person who hates what the Confederacy stood for?  Do you want to see these statues destroyed?  Great, I’m sure there will be many fundraisers to buy and destroy these statues.  Are you a Confederacy lover and do you want to see these monuments preserved?  Awesome, there will be plenty of fundraisers to buy and preserve these monuments as well.  You can fund any project you want, or no project at all.  The revenue generated in these sales should then be given back to the taxpayers they were taken from.

The tragedy of government funding the arts is that we are all forced to pay for art we may never view and in some cases we’re forced to pay for art that we find terribly objectionable.  This forces people to take sides and fight, since whichever side wins gets to control where the funds go.  Conversely, whichever side loses has to suffer the consequences of their conqueror possibly using the spoils directly against them.

The libertarian principle of non-aggression tells us that you have no right to force others to pay for your wants.  The libertarian principle of private property tells us that others have no right to stop you from pursuing your own wants on your own property or with your own money.  The beauty of these principles is that it allows all of us to directly fund and pursue the art we personally find enjoyable and important, and it allows those of us that don’t particularly enjoy art to use our funds for something that we do enjoy.

 

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Please subscribe for free!  I hate spam and will never sell, trade, or give your email address to anyone.  We’ll send you the latest blog posts as well as content and humor that you can’t get from the site.

 

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