Ron and Rand Paul’s manifesto on “The Technology Revolution,” released the other day, is unexpectedly incomplete, focusing most of its animus not on government security and police agencies, but on what they call “collectivists,” by which they mean those who advance attempts to “regulate competition, infrastructure, privacy and intellectual property.” I think they mean us.
We agree that the Internet has been an incredible catalyst for individual liberty, and that there are many areas where government interference is inappropriate. We agree that our intellectual property regime has become unbalanced and tilted too far toward ownership interests and away from fair use and freedom. And we have always welcomed and appreciated both Pauls as stalwart allies in support of individual privacy rights and in opposition to the Patriot Act and other excesses of the national security establishment.
But we do not agree that opposing any government protections for individuals online is the way to preserve the internet that we all cherish. For example, when it comes to the areas of privacy protection and network neutrality, we believe the government has a key role to play in protecting the internet. A couple of points in that regard:
There is no doubt that there have been many foolish and counterproductive government regulations. But there have also been many that are crucial, and ultimately we must look at them on a case-by-case basis. When government does bad things, it is a result of the flaws all we humans possess, and of the amorality that large bureaucratic organizations often manifest. But both of those apply to companies, the latter especially to big ones such as the telecoms that control our gateways to the Internet, and the advertisers that are devoting all their energy toward figuring out how to most completely spy upon internet users. In such cases, it is not just appropriate for the government to act, but vital.