Paul wants to make preserving the Internet along conservative principles the rallying call of the next generation of conservative voters. Whereas the elder Ron Paul has become a leading voice calling for a financial audit of the Federal Reserve System, the younger Rand wants protecting the Internet from government intrusion to be his own claim to political fame.
Sources close to the Paul family told Buzzfeed that Internet regulation (or rather lack thereof) will become the younger statesman’s prime policy objective in the near future. In the first step on Paul’s new digital crusade, the Campaign for Liberty, which was founded by Paul’s father, Rep. Ron Paul, released a four-page manifesto titled “The Technology Revolution.”
The manifesto claims that a technology revolution “is occurring around the world,” largely in spite of wrongheaded government attempts at oversight. Applying time-honored Conservative tenets to the web, the document advocates for less government regulation of the Internet and innovative digital companies, less government intrusion into Internet users’ activity and the abolition of net neutrality. The manifesto ultimately views such a deregulated Internet as a necessary ingredient to economic growth.
“The true technology revolutionaries have little need for big government and never have,” reads the manifesto, pointing to companies such as Apple and Microsoft. “Technology revolutionaries succeed because of the decentralized nature of the Internet, which defies government control [sic]. As a consequence, decentralization has unlocked individual self-empowerment, entrepreneurialism, creativity, innovation and the creation of new markets in ways never before imagined in human history.”
The accuses the Obama administration and some of the technology industry of impeding innovation through “micro-management,” antitrust lawsuits and other methods. Overlooked in the text is the fact that some of the technology luminaries that Paul holds up, namely Apple and Microsoft, are the same firms that observers accuse of stifling further innovation using the very lawsuits condemned in the document.
The manifesto advocates for expanded private property rights on the Internet, and it also dismisses net neutrality — the idea that government and Internet Service Providers should place no restrictions on consumers’ access to the Internet — as “government acting as arbiter and enforcer of what it deems to be ‘neutral.’”
That’s a direct challenge to those such as Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, who advocate a more open-source Internet culture.
“The early Internet was so accidental, it also was free and open in this sense,” wrote Wozniak in an open letter to the FCC about net neutrality. “The Internet has become as important as anything man has ever created. But those freedoms are being chipped away. Please, I beg you, open your senses to the will of the people to keep the Internet as free as possible.”
The Technology Revolution concludes by assessing that the Internet has produced a revolution but it has not “changed everything,” and therefore it can still be best protected by applying conservatism’s “core principles” to it. “This is our revolution. Government needs to get out of the way,” ends the document.
Paul may be likely to receive mixed reviews to the proposals. Internet activists have fiercely debated the best solutions for protecting innovation and creativity on the Internet, and those activists are positioned across party lines and political ideology. For decades, such theories have blended elements of conservative, libertarian and progressive thought.
Internet regulation and other digital issues have caused unlikely alliances to form in Congress. Republican Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden have worked together on several Internet-related bills, for example.
And the Stop Online Piracy Act, better known as SOPA, which galvanized the Internet community to rally against what it considered government intrusion into the Internet, was written by a Republican and had 19 Republican supporters. In the end, however, 113 Republicans either rejected it or were leaning towards rejecting it, according to ProPublica.
The manifesto comes just as dozens of organizations, including some left-leaning progressive groups, have signed FreePress.org’s Declaration of Internet Freedom. Some of the declaration’s principles are not that far off from Paul’s manifesto.
Read the full text of “The Technology Revolution” below, then tell us what you think of it in the comments below.
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