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.