You Want a Totally Unregulated Free-Market? Okay.

April 19th, 2012 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on You Want a Totally Unregulated Free-Market? Okay.)

Some thoughts on why I think the utopia of left-leaning libertarians is the most likely outcome of the current power struggle.

Imagine what would happen if right-wing libertarians actually got what they wanted – a totally free and unregulated marketplace (something I’m in favor of by the way). After all they keep telling us it’s the government that keeps getting in the way of free enterprise. Lets give it to them – lets have free enterprise without government. So what does that mean? For starters it means no more copyright laws. For without government or some other centralized monopolization of force, who would enforce copyrights? It also means no more patents. For without regulation (enforcement), who would enforce patents? It would also mean no more licensing restrictions, fees, permits or other artificial entry barriers  keeping the little guy from competing head on with the big guys. For without fees and permits, anybody can participate in the free market. It also mean no more monopolies. For without laws enforcing “intellectual property”, how could a company corner the market on anything? So no more big companies either. For without government backed market protection or fictional “corporate personhood” laws, how could big companies compete against thousands of little companies innovating faster and more diversely than any large company ever could? If you think patents and copyrights promote innovation rather than stifle it, think again.

Also, no more centralized currencies. For without government backed currencies and centralized banking laws, how could anyone corner the market on freely proliferating and competing currencies? So goodbye to Goldman Sachs and other vampire financial firms. No more patents stifling innovation, and thus no more restrictions keeping anyone from creating super amazing stuff and putting it out on the internet for free, and so fast that any kind of enforcement will be too little, too late. It means hand-held devices that do everything and operate on any frequency. This in turn means rapid decentralized global deployment of totally free and unregulated broadband communications for everyone. No more cell phone companies charging exorbitant fees – actually no more cell phone companies period. No more censorship or information control either. No more mainstream media, and other domineering propaganda channels. No more secrets. No more conspiracies. No more monopolization of power.

I suspect this is not what the current “deregulation crowd” had in mind. They want there to be some kind of centralized enforcement branch to protect their “intellectual property rights”. I think the best argument against this kind of right-wing libertarianism is this – if they insist that at least one centralized institution remain to enforce intellectual  property rights (through threat of incarceration or violence of course), what is to keep that central point of failure from being hijacked by the most rich and powerful to create protection rackets for themselves and thus eliminate their free market? I challenge them to tell me then how such a scenario won’t happen, and an how it is any different than what we have now. From where I’m sitting their “free” market is not really free, but an untenable fantasy. You can’t have it both ways. Either we have a free market and all that implies (above) or you’re back to some kind of oppressive system – in this case corporate feudalism. So here is the naked truth – any right-wing libertarian who says they want a free-market with enforced intellectual property rights, is either deluding themselves or damned liars who are the very tyrants they warn us against.

Of course some would call this anarchy, and what may seem like an inevitable bazaar of violence emerging to dominate it (predicted by people like Bruce Sterling and John Robb). However that problem, as troublesome as it is, is also not sustainable, as more and more of that kind of power flows into the hands of individuals. Because the truth is this – good intentions out number bad ones 20 to 1. The beauty of this logic is simple – the network magnifies good intentions exponentially faster than the bad ones. As the power of the network grows, individuals can create network collectives of transparency and prosperity that far out compete (and out number) any stupid, criminal, secret, malicious or parasitic conspiratorial system. This means that over time the good guys will out compete the bad guys at every turn. Until then expect more medium-size players taking on large incumbents, such as the Mexican cartels taking on the Mexican government. But that unfortunate trend is only temporary as power continues to shift to the edges. Already smaller towns in Mexico have made it nearly impossible for criminal elements to take over their communities. After all, if everything is unregulated, how could criminal/corporate/political cartels ever survive? They won’t.

I should add that the more enlightened right-wing libertarians feel property right contracts should be voluntary and never forced on anyone. They believe that those who choose such contracts will create an economic bloc that will be superior to other types of collectives. I’m fine with that, and their welcome to try. However, they’ll quickly discover they cannot compete when everyone else is not honoring those contracts and remixes and re-engineers any and all innovation to ever higher heights.

Meanwhile trends continue to nip away at “intellectual property” all over the world. China has gotten where it is in largely by ripping off everyone else’s intellectual property, particularly the West’s innovative capital. How’s that working out for the West? Not well. The genie is out of the bottle when it comes to information, so we’re going to see more innovation coming through open information channels, and less through the traditional copyright and patent system. Those who want to create a property rights nirvana are living in a dream world that can no longer exist in a world where anyone can remix and “steal” any electrons and duplicate that knowledge around the world in seconds.

Because of the new reality of free information, great efforts are now being expended to maintain the old system – SOPA, PIPA, CISPA (expect more nth derivatives), and new threats of violence and incarceration in things like the NDAA (which makes it “legal” to incarcerate or assassinate anyone without due process). The trend however is that monopolization of violence is rapidly vanishing as well. The transition to these new utopias I’m afraid will be quite rocky for a time as both the old power elites do whatever they must to maintain their power, while newer more nimble thugs make a go at at it. But that is a transitional trend not an endpoint, thankfully.



The P2P Endgame

January 7th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on The P2P Endgame)

I just read this on Lessig’s Blog:

As cable companies continue to increase the cost of broadband service, and as telcom monopolies are strengthened by changes in FCC policy, it is now absolutely clear what the broadband endgame will be in the US: wireless. Think of a city where every single street light is a node in a mesh (for an example, see meshnetworks), and thus where the cloud of the internet sits on the street like the fog in San Francisco. For almost nothing, cities could provide IP light, as cities provide street lights. Neutral, end-to-end, fast, and cheap.

Lets hope Lessig is right. I’m dubious. The telecoms will use their power to prevent local governments from installing free wireless, claiming it’s unfair competition, socialism, etc. Ironic isn’t it? It’s OK when the government protects them, but “socialism” or “anti-competitive” when it protects us. It has become obvious to me that the telecoms, with their dying business model, are pulling out all the reguatory stops to maintain their monopolies, even if it means stopping the promise of an open wireless era from ever happening. Imagine if special interests in the early 20th century were successful in stopping the automobile. Lets hope FCC Chairman Michael Powell, in deregulating telecom to the monopolies advantage, applies the same philosophical de-licensing of more spectrum. That will be the day, no, seriously. If you believe the U.S. has ever had anything close to a free-market, I have some freedom fries to sell you. Just look at these telecom deals as collusion-as-usual between big government and big business. And its going to get worse before it gets better. Lets not forget, it was the crown-granted monopoly given to the East-Indian Dutch Trading Company that ultimately led to the American Revolution.

The Endgame (as I see it):

Until the ever evolving tinkering going on by smart people makes the world a better place, the corporations will work day and night to control the government and use it to keep the rest of us in line, through torture and violence if necessary. This means no due process, no checks and balances, death by decree. This may seem like bad news, but there is a silver lining to all of this. They are desperate. People do not take kindly to such brutal repression. Those in charge may think they are winning the game, but they are loosing the playing field. They are grabbing things from their last bag of tricks.

“The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers”, Princess Leia, Star Wars.

For a moment, imagine you were in their shoes. If you were truly secure in your power, would you resort to ever more desperate measures to hold onto it? Think about it. Since it is the system at large, the growing and evolving world that has become the threat, ever more desperate (and futile) means will be made by those in power to stop it. We are likely to see an acceleration of new draconian “laws” and measures passed against the will of the populace or passed in the darkness of night. You can forget about the Constitution. They will own the government, the airwaves and the press. They will lie with impunity. They will do absolutely everything in their power to maintain and grow that power at all cost. Witness the increasing number of “back room” deals already happening between big industry insiders and the government agencies charged with “regulating them”. This is called Regulatory Capture and it is in full swing. There will soon come a turning point, probably sometime in the next 10 years or so, when most people will see the jig is up, the game is rigged and the fix is in. They will realize they’ve been duped and they will either be really pissed off or see it as a tremendous opportunity to start turning things around.

Just to be clear, between now and then, this new corporate elite will use the strong arm of their illegitimate “laws” to maintain their ongoing theft of humanity. As long you depend on them you will feel the pain of this betrayal. The solution will require you to break free of them completely. The big question is this: will the P2P genie now out of the bottle, successful facilitate a global-wide shift in power away from centralized players to everyone else? I believe the answer is yes. I believe this is the question and struggle of our age and we will be remembered for the decisions we make today.

That is the reason why they are trying to stop P2P and other liberating technologies, not for any bullshit reasons like intellectual property, economic growth or national security. They want to stop p2p, because it’s the very thing that will end their monopoly on power forever. Since the transition to these new technologies is inevitable short of total species annihilation, the question is how to transition to this new era as peacefully and harmoniously as possible? Most of us discussing these issues know the answer – trust in the power of the common man, woman, and child. Know that overwhelmingly most people want to do good. Far more harm has come from “leaders” than from anyone else. Most people everywhere want peace, that is the future that beckons us. P2P brings the power to all the people, making it damn near impossible for there to be a monopolization of power ever again. From that time forward things like personal reputation and integrity will matter far more than money and power does today.

Feudalism, and in this case neofeudalism, which they are so desperately trying to impliment, is a dead-end for humanity, and I mean dead end. Without a free and open economy and culture, advances will stop, and we loose our adaptability in the fitness landscape, and thus our survival advantage in the face of the critical challenges that lie ahead. In my very strong opinion, this issue of centralized versus decentralized power is the existential issue of our time. That is why I blog about decentralization and P2P so much, and why it’s so critical we win this. I believe we can, because it is humanity itself, all of us that are fighting for our survival.