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.

 

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The End of the Machine that Produces Fear?

September 11th, 2011 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on The End of the Machine that Produces Fear?)

via P2P Foundation:

Excerpted from David Graeber:

There is very good reason to believe that, in a generation or so, capitalism itself will no longer exist – most obviously, as ecologists keep reminding us, because it’s impossible to maintain an engine of perpetual growth forever on a finite planet, and the current form of capitalism doesn’t seem to be capable of generating the kind of vast technological breakthroughs and mobilizations that would be required for us to start finding and colonizing any other planets. Yet faced with the prospect of capitalism actually ending, the most common reaction – even from those who call themselves “progressives” – is simply fear. We cling to what exists because we can no longer imagine an alternative that wouldn’t be even worse.

How did we get here? My own suspicion is that we are looking at the final effects of the militarization of American capitalism itself. In fact, it could well be said that the last 30 years have seen the construction of a vast bureaucratic apparatus for the creation and maintenance of hopelessness, a giant machine designed, first and foremost, to destroy any sense of possible alternative futures. At its root is a veritable obsession on the part of the rulers of the world – in response to the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s – with ensuring that social movements cannot be seen to grow, flourish or propose alternatives; that those who challenge existing power arrangements can never, under any circumstances, be perceived to win. To do so requires creating a vast apparatus of armies, prisons, police; various forms of private security firms and police and military intelligence apparatus, and propaganda engines of every conceivable variety, most of which do not attack alternatives directly so much as create a pervasive climate of fear, jingoistic conformity and simple despair that renders any thought of changing the world, an idle fantasy.

Maintaining this apparatus seems more important to exponents of the “free market” than maintaining any sort of viable market economy. How else can one explain what happened in the former Soviet Union? One would ordinarily have imagined that the end of the Cold War would have led to the dismantling of the army and the KGB and rebuilding the factories, but in fact what happened was precisely the other way around. This is just an extreme example of what has been happening everywhere. Economically, the apparatus is pure dead weight; all the guns, surveillance cameras and propaganda engines are extraordinarily expensive and really produce nothing, and no doubt it’s yet another element dragging the entire capitalist system down – along with producing the illusion of an endless capitalist future that laid the groundwork for the endless bubbles to begin with. Finance capital became the buying and selling of chunks of that future, and economic freedom, for most of us, was reduced to the right to buy a small piece of one’s own permanent subordination.

In other words, there seems to have been a profound contradiction between the political imperative of establishing capitalism as the only possible way to manage anything, and capitalism’s own unacknowledged need to limit its future horizons lest speculation, predictably, go haywire. When speculation did go berserk, and the whole machine imploded, we were left in the strange situation of not being able to even imagine any other way that things might be arranged. About the only thing we can imagine is catastrophe.

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Judge: File-swapping tools are legal

April 25th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Judge: File-swapping tools are legal)

It’s about bloody time. Full story here. As I’ve said all along, suing file-trading software companies for copyright infringment is precisely the same as suing auto companies for auto-enabled crimes like bank robbery, kidnapping, drive by shootings, and hit and runs.

“Defendants distribute and support software, the users of which can and do choose to employ it for both lawful and unlawful ends,” Wilson wrote in his opinion, released Friday. “Grokster and Streamcast are not significantly different from companies that sell home video recorders or copy machines, both of which can be and are used to infringe copyrights.”

[Update: 3/19/12 – The relentless assault on digital liberty by the copyright cartels in the way of massive bribery of those in power has slowly but continuously moved the entire system towards closing down any and all “legal” means of file sharing. Currently, great efforts are being expended by “pirates” to create better more censorship tools for filesharing, including solar powered airborne servers.]

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WiMax and 802.16

April 13th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on WiMax and 802.16)

Several companies are launching a non-profit group to promote IEEE’s new standard 802.16. I haven’t had time to catch myself up with this new standard, or its potential to democratize telecommunications, but from intial reading it looks promising. From the original story:

The standard — which the IEEE modified in January — is a wireless MAN technology that will connect 802.11 hot-spots to the Internet and provide a wireless extension to cable and DSL for last mile broadband access. 802.16 provides up to 31 miles of linear service area range and allows users connectivity without a direct line of sight to a base station. The technology also provides shared data rates up to 70Mbps, which, according to WiMax, is enough bandwidth to simultaneously support more than 60 businesses with T1-type connectivity and hundreds of homes. Many insiders argue that WiMax could pose a real threat to 3G and other wide area cellular data technologies. They claim that WiMax-powered hot spots could cheaply offer wireless broadband access to citywide areas, bringing Wi-Fi closer to cellular network levels of ubiquity.

[Update – 3/27/12 – to my knowledge any and all technologies capable of long-range wireless transmission have been squelched by big business/big government collusion. The last thing incumbents want is a free and unlicensed long-range wireless internet they don’t control. As of this writing, WiMax is the exclusive domain of large incumbent wireless providers, charging a fortune for their oligopolized access.]

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Political Rant

February 14th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Political Rant)

Are you fed up? Are you desperately wanting us to wake up from the mass hysteria and overwhelming stupidity gripping the U.S.? I hesitate to write politically on my blog, because quite frankly I’m a little nervous about how much of what I write will be used against me in the future. It’s a sad state of affairs that I have fallen into this state of self-censorship, but I try to insert my deep political concerns through the technological optimism of this site. Here is what Mitch Ratcliffe had to say earlier today, and I for one am glad he did:

I’m having a lot of trouble blogging about anything having to do with business trends, because the country is taking such rapid steps to total political isolation abroad and total hysteria here at home that the only thing that occurs to me is to say “Well, the worst of times are the best of times to start something new, because when we Americans wake up to just how stupidly this country is being run right now there will be a huge wave of innovative community and technology in response to that awakening.”

Having been Doc’s source on the Code Red rumor, which I got from a friend who is in a position to know, I find the whole thing so surreal and can clearly see how the government and press are colluding to raise the level of fear. It sells missile strikes on the former’s part and commercial time on the latter’s. The exact rumor I heard is this: The nation will be at Code Red on the terror alert scale by Friday and that the alleged target will be New York City.

Who knows if it is true (and that is what I find so frightening — the government now tells us the craziest shit and the media just regurgitates it, and WE buy into it).

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Good News Tidbits Abound

January 23rd, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Good News Tidbits Abound)

Perhaps I am just in a good mood, but I’m seeing a lot positive news tidbits today:

Bush’s support is drying up faster than a prune in the Sahara. Nearly every country in the world stands firmly opposed to this war. The amount of people showing up at anti-war demonstrations is unprecedented. It took years of us being in Viet Nam before we had a similar showing. And we are not talking about fringe activists, hippies and leftist, but also multitudes of war veterans joining this swelling movement. Now there are even members in the top brass of our own military who are questioning Bush’s warmongering. My only concern, is that the Bush cabal will be backed into a corner, and through their desperation will respond in some drastic and devastating way. I’m not saying they will directly commit an act of terrorism against American citizens, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another terrorist attack that will shock the world (think nuclear). I deeply and sincerely hope I’m wrong about this. In the meantime San Francisco is the largest city yet to pass an anti USA PATRIOT Act resolution.

Hillary Rosen is stepping down at the end of this year. She also admitted that file-sharing will eventually supplant the music industry as we know it. I agree with her… something much better and more democratic will take its place.

Continued Growth of Mesh Networks – Locust World is offering a Linux Distribution that turns any Wi-Fi station into a mesh-network node. This is a fantastic development and accelerates the emergence of an ad-hoc decentralized internet consisting primarily of individual users. That means that telcos, backbone providers, and other centralized control centers will become increasingly obsolete.

Open Source Will Win – It may take a while, a long while, but its win is inevitable. For those of you who haven’t noticed, not a day goes by now, that a story doesn’t appear somewhere in the news about the growth of Linux. There are too many stories to reference here. But entire countries, and municipals are giving up Microsoft and other proprietary software for Linux. Its my prediction that by 2010, Linux and open-source software will be the most common and standard running software in every type of device from consumer electronics, to wireless, to desktop and enterprise applications. My prediction is M$ will still be around, but in a much smaller and more legacy role. People will still be able to charge for software, as long as its useful and timely, but open-source will be the dominant paradigm of the software universe.

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Paticipatory Democracy in Korea

January 2nd, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Paticipatory Democracy in Korea)

In South Korea, it’s the mouse that roars. Using the internet, Korea’s new president, Mr. Roh. was able to pull off a victory using the grass-roots support empowered by internet activism.

The Internet allowed Mr. Roh to liberate himself from “black money” — corporate donations that are South Korea’s traditional form of campaign financing. Largely through Internet-based campaign groups, Mr. Roh raised the equivalent of about $1-billion from more than 180,000 individual donors.

The newly elected Mr. Roh… is promising to use the Internet to make the government more open and transparent.

Meanwhile here in the good ol USA, petty fascism continues. Lawerence Lessig writes:

People on both the left and right  boil in this space about what’s happening outside. Yet outside blog space, there is just more of the same. The Times writes about Democratic hopefuls rallying to attack Bush for not making America safe enough. Wonderful. Who ever wins in 2004, we can be assured of more petty fascism to keep America safe.

Where is the candidate who asks: Must we sell our soul to win this war? Where is the political party that demands respect for principles that I thought were fundamental. If we must detain Arabs, must we do so inhumanely? If we must frisk every air traveler, can’t we at least build in checks to the system to assure that it is not abused? If we must fight to defend America, can it at least be America that we defend?

I’m all with Dave that this space will be the space for political action in the future. If only the future comes soon enough.

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Divided We Stand

December 18th, 2002 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Divided We Stand)

Over a year ago this article appeared in Wired Magazine, and its even more relevant today. It talks about how the best way to minimize the damage caused by decentralized rogue terrorists is to decentralize our vunerabilities. It’s completely obvious. But predicitably the response to the 9-11 tragedy has been a further consolidation of power and control. I challenge anyone who doubts my claim that those who in control have no desire to stop terrorism, to demonstrate how a single one of their so-called “solutions to terrorism”, will actually do anything to stop highly motivated maniacs from doing something like this again. So next time we are attacked by terrorists, think about what this articles proposes, and then watch as the response is exactly the opposite. Then you will see who is really to blame for all the mess we’re in.

 

UPDATE:

12/20/02, 9:36am

What did I tell you, from Destroying the Net by trying to protect it.

The New York Times reports that the Bush Administration is planning to monitor all Net communications. The plan would require ISPs to build a centralized system for surveillance of data and users.This is sheer idiocy, because it will actually increase the risks to the national information infrastructure. From its inception, the Net was conceived as a distributed system that could reorganize around failures (in the case of the original designs, the Net was built to route around damage caused by nuclear weapons). Centralizing all network communications to facilitate surveillance will create a huge, ripe and easily attacked target, reducing the reliability and performance of the Internet on the whole and for each individual user. Likewise, the plan would invade the digital borders of other countries, creating many conflicts that don’t impede communication today.

This is foolishness, utter and complete. The benefits we got from the Net will be obliterated by human stupidity, which, if this plan is adopted, will create barriers between people and nations that are as impenetrable as a Prussian bureaucracy.

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Supernova: Decentralization and Control

December 9th, 2002 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Supernova: Decentralization and Control)

Some take-aways from Supernova so far – first the obvious – decentralized networks are simply superior to any other form of network architecture, in terms of redundancy and resiliency. The question is will this technical decentralization actually result in political decentralization? Participatory democracy is possible, but will it ever flourish? Already the Feds consider wifi a terrorist threat. And now the big-boys are creating Cosmeta with the potential of co-opting this technology before it ever gets out of the gate.

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Hackers Helping Freedom?

November 22nd, 2002 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Hackers Helping Freedom?)

From an article by Dan Gillmor:

The pro-democracy Six/Four project from Hacktivismo is a potentially valuable step to protect political dissidents and other people who have the quaint idea that their access to information shouldn’t be thwarted by government-run firewalls in places like China and Saudi Arabia.The basic idea is to use the Internet’s decentralized nature in a way that lets people create anonymous, secure data tunnels from here to there and everywhere. If this works, governments will be harder-pressed to prevent their people from communicating freely and seeing online material that, for whatever reason, is considered objectionable.

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