An image of the U.S. flag is reflected in the lens of a supporter of U.S. Republican presidential candidate, Congressman Ron Paul, at a rally outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 22, 2012. (Daylife)
Ron Paul Takes Up Internet Freedom With New 'Technology Revolution' Manifesto
Young people have been a driving force in the Paul campaign, and the focus on internet freedom should only bolster that support.
Following in the wake of numerous attempts by the government to regulate various aspects of the internet – from SOPA to ACTA and any number of other bills and trade agreements – the document lays out a digital laissez-faire approach to internet freedom.
“The revolution is occurring around the world,” the document reads. “It is occurring in the private sector, not the public sector. It is occurring despite wrongheaded attempts by governments to micromanage markets through disastrous industrial policy. And it is driven by the Internet, the single greatest catalyst in history for individual liberty and free markets.”
Warning of “internet collectivists” out to appropriate the language of freedom, the new Manifesto argues that further regulation of the internet will lead to less freedom online rather than more. They argue that any attempt by the government to increase its regulatory power is ludicrous, noting the hypocrisy in advocating that ”private sector data collection practices must be scrutinized and tightly regulated inthe name of ‘protecting consumers,’ at the same time as government’s warrantless surveillance and collection of private citizens’ Internet data has dramatically increased.”
The new document serves as something of a counterpoint to the recently released Declaration of Internet Freedom, an online petition put together by Free Press which urges an end to censorship but also the promotion of universal access to the internet.
“Internet collectivists are clever,” the manifesto reads. “They are masters at hijacking the language of freedom and liberty to disingenuously pushfor more centralized control. ‘Openness’ means government control of privately owned infrastructure.’Net neutrality’ means government acting as arbiter and enforcer of what it deems to be ‘neutral’.”
I’ve always had a soft spot for Ron Paul, even though he’s far more conservative and far more libertarian than I am. I have a soft spot for internet freedom as well, and have written about the various threats to that freedom at one time or another.
But I’m a little irked by some of the language of this document, truth be told, even though I’m always happy to see more people up in arms about things like internet censorship.
I’ve argued before that what this country really needs is a Civil Liberties Caucus in congress – not a right-leaning or left-leaning one, either. We need people like Ron Wyden on the left and Ron Paul on the right, even though they may not agree on everything, who are willing to go up against civil-liberty-quashing laws and attempts at censorship. I want people to start voting with this as a priority, regardless of ideological labels (a task that is, truthfully, much harder than it sounds.)
In other words, the last thing we need is one group of civil liberties advocates calling the other group “internet collectivists.” The stakes are too high. The number of elected officials who even care about blocking a bill like SOPA is frighteningly small to begin with. It’s all too People’s Front of Judea for me:
Of course, there really are very real philosophical differences between small government advocates like Ron Paul and his civil libertarian colleagues on the left.
Someone like me would happily sign on to the Declaration of Internet Freedom, for instance, and would gladly support government efforts to get more people online.
Is the internet a human right? I’m not sure it matters, honestly. Internet Access is an important piece of our human and societal and economic infrastructure. Investing public dollars to get more people online (especially rural people and the poor) just makes sense, especially when you dispense with the largely fruitless “rights” language that has become a crutch more than anything in political discussion lately. I believe in human rights, but more often than not both the right and the left appropriate rights language and freedom-speak to score political points.
So here’s a question for both members of the right and the left (and libertarians!) who care about internet freedom: is it worth setting aside your differences just a little bit and working against a common enemy? Is ideological purity more important than results? Where does principle leave off and pragmatism begin?
Because, quite frankly, I don’t care if you’re a collectivist or if you’re John Galt.
If you want to stop censorship and rein in an increasingly intrusive anti-piracy regime, that’s all I care about. That and the results.
I’ve reached out to the Campaign For Liberty about the new manifesto and its implications, and will publish something more detailed on the matter soon.