Technology & Freedom

Ron and Rand Paul launch a crusade for Internet freedom

Ron and Rand Paul launch a crusade for Internet freedom

Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have always been prominent champions of libertarian philosophy. They have chosen Internet freedom as a new focus for their efforts, publishing a manifesto called “The Technology Revolution.” This crusade will rival Rep. Paul’s long quest to “end the Fed” as a top priority for his Campaign for Liberty organization.

As even the most casual acquaintance with Ron Paul or his organization would confirm, putting anything up there next to the Federal Reserve on his top policy shelf is a pretty big deal. Paul still wants to end the Fed, but he wants to make sure a free Internet survives it.

“The Technology Revolution” is a broadside against Net Neutrality, which the Campaign for Liberty manifesto describes as “government acting as arbiter and enforcer of what it deems to be ‘neutral.’” The architects of Net Neutrality are said to be “masters at hijacking the language of freedom and liberty to disingenuously push for more centralized control.” Terms like openness, Internet freedom, and competition are twisted into euphemisms for government control and the dissipation of property rights. It’s reminiscent of the way “social justice” has become a cover for endless injustice, perpetrated by the government against disfavored groups and individuals.

A core belief of the Campaign for Liberty’s Internet manifesto is that “technology is evolving faster than government’s ability to regulate it.” Net Neutrality has been described by its detractors as a solution in search of a problem—a massive assertion of regulatory power to “fix” an Internet that is performing incredibly well. Fast access to staggering amounts of data is available at negligible cost. Websites are easily established and expanded. Power users pay extra for enhanced bandwidth, keeping the cost of basic Internet access for home users amazingly low.

Notably, many of the crisis points Net Neutrality purports to address are predictions—hypothetical problems that might crop up somewhere down the road, if the proper regulatory apparatus is not assembled in advance. Regulators who don’t even understand the state of the Internet today, or how it evolved so quickly into such a remarkable virtual organism, claim the wisdom to predict what it might be doing tomorrow, and design cages that will be able to contain it.

This is not merely a debate about the cost of logging into Facebook pages and playing online games. The Internet has become a truly revolutionary means of communication, following an era when it was widely thought television represented the ultimate technology for the transmission of ideas.

That includes political ideas. Debate has been forever reshaped by a hurricane of electronic pamphlets blowing through virtual space. Old media gatekeepers stand before rusted gates, surrounded by the ruins of collapsed information walls. Stories the mainstream press would rather forget become lodged in the Internet’s undying memory. “Town halls” have become electronic structures containing tens of thousands of online attendees, who come and go as they please. It has become increasingly difficult to find a blockbuster news story that did not begin somewhere on the Internet.

Many areas of American life have been transformed by the power of high-speed online data access. Shopping is not the same experience it used to be, particularly where big-ticket items such as high-end electronics and automobiles are concerned. Profitable business models are built around online commerce, while those too slow to develop an Internet presence find themselves outmaneuvered by tech-savvy competitors. An astonishing range of consumer products now have the ability to access the Internet, making it a constant presence in every room of the American home, and a constant companion on every journey.

The continuing freedom of this amazing resource is a matter of vital concern, as Ron and Rand Paul have declared. The Internet is a frontier that must remain forever wild, if it is to retain its creative energy. What better place to “think outside the box” than an electronic universe of instant communication and flawless memory, where valuable resources are common, but barriers are rare? The freedom of the Internet is closely linked to our future intellectual, economic, and political freedom, since every transaction—from the clash of ideas, to the pricing of a product—is an exchange of data.

“Yes, there will always be problems and challenges that exist in the online universe,” the Campaign for Liberty’s Internet manifesto acknowledges. “These challenges are sometimes significant and important and other times not. Government, however, will never solve them. Markets will. As a matter of principle, we oppose any attempt by Government to tax, regulate, monitor, or control the Internet, and we oppose the Internet collectivists who collaborate with the government against Internet freedom.”

Collectivism requires compulsion, and that is one grim resource that should always be in short supply on the Internet.

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