James K. Pinkerton, on Declaration of Independents: "libertarian polemicists, whether they like it or not, will indeed be kept far from real-world politics and real-world victories"

Over at The American Conservative, James P. Pinkerton throws cold water on the "breezy," "gonzo-wannabe," "neo-Whiggish" optimism of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America. A chunk of Pinkerton's critique:

They invoke cyberspace: "The generation raised on the Internet has essentially been raised libertarian." And it's true that for decades theoreticians ranging from Howard Rheingold on the left to George Gilder on the right have rhapsodized about the libertarian potential of cyberspace—everyone free to be you and me, self-organizing in a non-hierarchical way.

Yet a substantial body of counter-utopianism about the World Wide Web has been building in recent years. Authors such as Debora Spar and Tim Wu have argued that the openness of the Net is just a phase in the cycle preceding ineluctable corporate control, while others, such as A.J. Keen, go so far as to envision "digital feudalism"—that is, a few giant castles of Net power, surrounded by microserfs. And Evgeny Morozov predicts a new and fearful wave of Web-based surveillance, a concern echoed by Julian Assange, describing just one component of this Brave Net World.

Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented. Here we have the world's most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to U.S. intelligence.

Even if the U.S. government didn't exist, would we trust Facebook by itself? What do libertarians have to say about the prospect of corporations growing so strong and all-knowing that they become, in effect, their own kind of government?

As for policy prescriptions, Gillespie-and-Welch-style libertarianism is a mixed bag. We might agree that school choice is an idea whose time has come, while exuberant foreign wars and endless nation-building are crazes that need to go. But then we confront other issues: What's the libertarian position on abortion? How about legalizing drugs? Or opening the U.S.-Mexico border? [...]

The authors' solution [to health care], of course, is the free market. Yet the idea of a free market for Medicare was trounced in the May 24 special election in New York, in which mostly Republican voters rejected Rep. Paul Ryan's "empowerment" approach to senior healthcare.

Bonus reading:
* Reason on legalizing drugs.
* Adam Thierer, on Tim Wu and "The Rise of Cybercollectivism"
* Jesse Walker, on The Social Network
* And James P. Pinkerton, from May 2008, on "The State of Libertarianism, 2058: How the Rand Era gave way to the Surveillance Era—and what we can do about it. A speculative flight into the future."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    James K. Pinkerton: talking head wannabe for thirty years and counting. Hey, Jim! Move over for the new wannabe talking heads!

  • ||

    That's not nice. It may be true, but it's not nice.

  • mr simple||

    No, don't you get it? Someone somewhere thinks that the future will take one course based on only their beliefs and that totally disproves libertarianism! I feel so disillusioned.

  • Joe R.||

    Roads!

  • Joshua||

    Roads in Somalia!

  • ||

    I was thinking Clarke's Law...

  • Joshua||

    but that would mean that JP is distinguished. I'm not feeling it.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Yet the idea of a free market for Medicare was trounced in the May 24 special election in New York, in which mostly Republican voters rejected Rep. Paul Ryan's "empowerment" approach to senior healthcare.

    There are a few things wrong with this sentence. And Facebook participation is voluntary.

    It probably didn't help the authors' standing with the reviewer that they have unkind words for Reagan, for whose administration Pinkerton worked.

  • ||

    Not only did he work for Raygun, he killed all them stillwerkers at sandcastle.

  • Bar Student||

    Not only is Facebook voluntary but putting all your information on their is also voluntary. You have to be a huge dumbass to put any important information in your facebook profile.

  • Aqua Buddha||

    Last time I checked, I was allowed to decide what to put on FB and what to leave out and no gun wielding govt agent could tell me otherwise.

  • cmace||

    But what "about about the prospect of corporations growing so strong and all-knowing that they become, in effect, their own kind of government?"

    They've got squads of black shirts!

  • yonemoto||

    it's like you can't be a human being without being on facebook.

  • ||

    Here we have the world's most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to U.S. intelligence.

    It is also available to Churches, families, amateur softball teams, roller derby fans, small businesses, fellow high school graduates, political organizers, the list goes on and on and on....and all the information is posted voluntarily.

    This very odd statment seems to think the benefits of individuals voluntarily organizing are outweighed by the detriments of publicly viewable information being seen by the government.

    Why again is facebook the problem and government not the problem?

    And how would a world without internet social networks be more secure from an over bearing state?

  • Aqua Buddha||

    This very odd statment seems to think the benefits of individuals voluntarily organizing are outweighed by the detriments of publicly viewable information being seen by the government.

    You know that AT&T publishes lists of every business and personal telephone number, unless you go thru some sort of process, and may them extra, to be left out?

  • ||

    Yet the idea of a free market for Medicare was trounced in the May 24 special election in New York, in which mostly Republican voters rejected Rep. Paul Ryan's "empowerment" approach to senior healthcare.

    I wonder when a Wyoming rep seat special election will speak for the entire nation's view on an issue like medicare.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "libertarian polemicists, whether they like it or not, will indeed be kept far from real-world politics and real-world victories."

    Wait a minute . . . I thought you libertarians have been running the country since 1981 or even earlier. What a gyp!

  • Douglas Fletcher||

    You're a great guitar player -- when are you gonna start playing music?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I'm a libertarian, it ain't no pie in the sky, all my policy planks are guaranteed to satisfy.

    There you go.

  • Aqua Buddha||

    We only have enough power to destroy everything, not enough to actually matter, tho.

  • ||

    "Even if the U.S. government didn't exist, would we trust Facebook by itself? What do libertarians have to say about the prospect of corporations growing so strong and all-knowing that they become, in effect, their own kind of government?"

    Two important points this guy is missin':

    1) A corporation becoming like a government--based on information that its citizens share willingly--is that supposed to be scary? Why would I be frightened about a corporation using information that I give them willingly?

    2) Compared to the U.S. government, corporations are substantially more sensitive to the concerns of their customers. ...certainly more so than governments are sensitive to the concerns of voters.

    Exhibit A: News of the World

    News of the World is by far the best selling tabloid in the U.K.--and they're committing seppuku because they dishonored their corporate honchos and their subscribers so.

    Can you imagine if the NLRB or the CIA or the State Department's intelligence service or any one of a dozen other government agencies took as much responsibility for their mistakes as News of the World is taking?

    The INS approved visa extensions to the 9/11 hijackers months after 9/11!

    When I see the Army Corps of Engineers decide to abolish itself in the wake of some future Katrina?

    Then maybe we start worrying about whether corporations are taking as much responsibility for their mistakes as government as government agencies do.

    Until then? McDonalds is far more concerned about me and what I think than the FDA is--the FDA doesn't give a shit what I think about anything. Facebook is obsessed with what I think--about everything!

    This guy's got it all backwards.

  • robc||

    You left out an earlier point:

    0) Corporations only exist due to government decree.

  • ||

    0) Corporations only exist due to government decree.

    I don't know where you get that from.

    Speaking as someone who's formed a corporation or two, I can tell you that government decree didn't have anything to do with it.

    Me and our investors and my partners pooling our resources and agreeing before hand on how to share the costs, liabilities, and split the profits?

    That had a lot to do with it.

  • omg||

    He is referring specifically to the "limited liability" aspect of corporations. Stakeholders can only lose what they put into the corporation, they can't lose any more then that. That is a market distortion created by the government, and it can in some circumstances have some very negative effects.

  • ||

    I'm sure that's what large landholders said when we outlawed debt servitude--is limited liability any different from personal bankruptcy?

    I'll take the benefits to society of LLCs--over the disadvantages of not having those economic actors--every freaking time.

    I have no problem with individual's liabilities being limited by way of bankruptcy court to their assets--and investors are people too. No really.

    I read recently that in Spain, if you default on a home loan--the bank can go after your children's assets.

    The article seemed to suggest the bank could wait until your children were old enough to work--and then go after their assets!

    A lot of this sounds--once again--like somebody trying to blame Wall Street for what our politicians did on TARP again. No amount of piling on corporations will make our politicians stop squandering our paychecks on bailouts--our politicians are responsible for voting for TARP. Not corporations.

    What's more, making investors even more reluctant to invest in corporations by taking away their limited liability? Would be a really shitty idea if we're trying to encourage investment, encourage hiring and trying to jumpstart economic growth again.

  • Mnemone Jones||

    I wonder what the libertarian argument for abolishing debt slavery would be. Is there even one to be had?

  • yonemoto||

    Yeah, it's lender beware.

  • ||

    I wonder what the libertarian argument for abolishing debt slavery would be. Is there even one to be had?

    I am not following how this is even hard. or why you would have a hard time with it.

    Why would a libertarian have a problem making slavery illegal? It is like wondering if libertarians have a good argument for outlawing Murder.

    And if one cannot buy or sell slaves by law how would it be possible for someone to enter into a contract that could cause a person to become a slave if debt is not payed?

    "oh yeah murder is illegal but you entered into a contract that says if you don't pay me then it is legal for me to kill you...."

    WTF???

    I guess you have to a moonbat statist like Mnemone Jones to think one's liberty can be sold like property...i guess when you think of people as cattle for the state such thinking comes easy for you.

  • Mnemone Jones||

    But, Mr Corning, the "slavery" is voluntary. I get the murder thing as being easily side-stepped because of initiation-of-force doctrines, but not debt peonage! Surely libertarians are all about freely entered-into arrangements, right?

  • Joshua||

    The thing about voluntary slavery is that it is only voluntary until it isn't. My position is that a person owns their body always and forever. It is the one thing they can not sell.

  • Mnemone Jones||

    And just why wouldn't one's own liberty be a legitimate, monetizable personal asset, anyway?

    Oh, thanks for the "moonbat statist" swipe. Frustrations with an interlocutor's questions surely justify you acting like a dick.

  • ||

    And just why wouldn't one's own liberty be a legitimate, monetizable personal asset, anyway?

    How is public or private ownership of a person forbidden by any political ideology?

    You are not making a case that libertarianism somehow allows slavery more so then other political ideologies and yet at the same time ignoring staple libertarian beliefs such as Forbidding coercion through violence or threat of violence, The innate moral rights to be free, and the right to choice in voluntary exchange. All of which either forbid slavery explicitly or make it impossible to enforce.

    interlocutor's questions

    Devils advocate is fine and dandy...but usually requires one to put forth a premise along with it.

    I think i am justified in jumping to the conclusion that you were agitating for the sake of your own ideology.

    If you want call up a line judge. I recommend Epi as mediator.

  • Mnemone Jones||

    How is public or private ownership of a person forbidden by any political ideology?

    Generally by being forbidden by force, and of course the ban is enforced by the state through its trademark monopoly on the legitimate use of such force.

    But it does not *naturally* flow from any given theoretical position. If you think it does, you just aren't thinking hard enough. You say that libertarianism as a position obviates slavery in all capacities, and I say your posit that personal liberty cannot be used as a monetizable asset "just 'cause" to be unpersuasive at best. In fact, I bet if you polled libertarians on whether it should be legal to sell oneself into slavery, you'd get a host of different responses, not nearly all of them in opposition.

    Devils advocate is fine and dandy...but usually requires one to put forth a premise along with it.

    Premise: wage indenture is not a priori obviated in Libertopia.

    I think i am justified in jumping to the conclusion that you were agitating for the sake of your own ideology.

    If you think that, you are a fool. I distrust ideologies on the whole because they encourage pat arguments and sloppy thinking. If I am agitating for anything, it is to draw attention to the particular blind-spots in the ideology you favored in your comment. If you were a socialist, I'd be more than happy to rip your assumptions and assertions apart just the same.

  • yonemoto||

    I'm sure that's what large landholders said when we outlawed debt servitude--is limited liability any different from personal bankruptcy?

    Yes. The damage done by personal bankruptcy can only extend to the debt issuers, who basically have to "realign" their fiduciary calculations to take into account the risk of default, which fundamentally existed *anyway* - imagine if a person died before amortizing their debt.

    the proper analogy is corporate bankruptcy to individual bankruptcy.

    A corporation can do plenty of bad shit, like get someone killed due to criminal negligence, break all sorts of contracts, defraud, pollute the environment. If done by an individual, the individual gets sent to jail. The corporation gets dissolved, but the actual, sentient entities responsible for those activities potentially get away with it by jumping ship first, leaving the victims to sue a piece of paper whose assets were already cockroached away.

  • Apogee||

    get someone killed due to criminal negligence, break all sorts of contracts, defraud, pollute the environment.

    To quote Matt & Nick: "Fraud has not been deregulated."

  • Mnemone Jones||

    It's a great sound bite, for sure. What correspondence, if any, the quip possesses with reality is the actual question.

  • ||

    "If done by an individual, the individual gets sent to jail. The corporation gets dissolved, but the actual, sentient entities responsible for those activities potentially get away with it by jumping ship first, leaving the victims to sue a piece of paper whose assets were already cockroached away."

    In terms of limited liability, corporations are like personal bankruptcy. ...and it's absurd to think that an investor would be liable for more that what they pay for a publicly traded stock--should the company's liabilities someday exceed its assets.

    In terms of criminal misconduct, state and federal prosecutors bring criminal charges against corporate officers--all the freaking time.

    That's how Giuliani got to be the Mayor of New York. How many former CEOs have we seen criminally prosecuted over the past 20 years?

    The answer is lots.

    The perp walk was invented for corporate officers. Go ask Jeffrey Skilling. Go ask Charles Keating.

  • omg||

    I'm not sure I was excusing the government in my post at least, not sure why anyone thinks I was. In fact, I was blaming them for creating the market distortion that is limited liability.

    And don't try to say the distortion isn't serious either - quite the contrary it is very significant.

    If a corporation knows that it is going to be bailed out by something like TARP, how are they going to behave? Shouldn't we let them fail to send the right signals to the rest of the market? There are serious repercussions for this line of action, of course. All of the people employed by the company will be out of work, lots of people will lose money, etc etc, but the alternative (like all government market distortions) is worse and simply prolongs the problem.

    Likewise, if a corporation is only as liable as the money its shareholders has put in you are setting the stage for unethical corporate behavior. If you think these situations are different I would like to know why?

  • ||

    "If a corporation knows that it is going to be bailed out by something like TARP, how are they going to behave?"

    I said this in my initial response--and you still don't seem to get it.

    Corporations did not vote themselves TARP money.

    Stop blaming corporations for what elected politicians did. George Bush gave corporations half of TARP. Barack Obama gave corporations the other half of TARP.

    Congress voted to let those two presidents hand out TARP.

    You're making it look like a shell game--and it isn't. Limiting liability does absolutely nothing to stop our politicians from voting to give corporations more TARP money.

    Nothing will ever shift the responsibility for TARP away from the presidents who orchestrated it and the politicians in Congress who voted to authorize it. All the president's men can go on every Sunday morning talk show from here to eternity--and it will never do anything to shift the responsibility for TARP from Barack Obama and John Boehner and company.

    If you do a little digging, you'll see also that TARP wasn't a voluntary thing either--it was mandatory. In fact, our politicians passed a law specifically prohibiting TARP recipients from paying the TARP money back!

    ...without regulatory approval after passing a beefed up stress test.

    But don't mind that for the moment--just try to remember... Politicians are responsible for what politicians do and the way they vote.

    Not corporations. And taking away the limited liability of corporations will do nothing to shift the responsibility for TARP away from the politicians who orchestrated--and voted for it.

    No matter what anyone says.

  • omg||

    Can you please point out where I blamed corporations for accepting TARP money? Or where I gave the government a pass? Did you even read my post? I'm trying to think of a way you could have missed the point of my post more and I'm coming up short at the moment.

    Hell, it isn't even a long post. It's only 14 lines on my browser. I've just read it over 3 times and I still haven't found the "corporations are responsible for TARP" part. Also curiously missing is the "government is not 100% responsible for TARP". I didn't type the words "government is not 100% responsible for TARP" because the government is 100% responsible for TARP.

  • ||

    Targeting corporations and scrapping limited liability isn't the solution to our politicians handing corporations more of our money.

    Targeting politicians and limiting their ability to interfere in the financial markets is the solution to our politicians handing corporations more of our money.

    Why are we talking about taking away a corporation's limited liability within the context of politicians misusing our money?

    You keep using the old bait and switch. If the problem is what our politicians did with our money, your solution doesn't address the source of the problem. Your proposed solution addresses a scapegoat.

    I won't pretend otherwise.

  • ||

    they can't lose any more then that.

    This is bullshit. If negligence is found then there is no escape. It is only when you work for government that you can kill maim and rape without consequences to your personal liability.

    Furthermore nearly all activities an LLC can do that has the potential to be harmful requires insurance by law.

    anyway the amusing part of the LCC is "EVIL" narrative is that the effects could not hidden and yet they are hidden...or in reality they do not exist.

    If LLCs were causing damage to some third party and not paying that 3rd party for those damages we would be hearing about it everyday in the news....and yet we are not.

    Show me the dead babies killed by LLCs. Otherwise shut the fuck up.

  • Mnemone Jones||

    If LLCs were causing damage to some third party and not paying that 3rd party for those damages we would be hearing about it everyday in the news....and yet we are not.

    Cute. So, if someone were to be able to present an example, it would by default fall under the "known" category and would thus not be an example. After all, "we" (and just who the fuck is "we" in this case?) don't hear about them, right?

    Are they not loud enough for your tired, lying ears?

    If you're looking for examples of unpunished (or underpunished) corporate malfeasance resulting in deaths, why, that would be almost as tiring a list as one of examples of governments going unpunished for malfeasance resulting in deaths.

  • Apogee||

    If you're looking for examples of unpunished (or underpunished) corporate malfeasance resulting in deaths, why, that would be almost as tiring a list as one of examples of governments going unpunished for malfeasance resulting in deaths.

    Unless you factor politics and group membership into the unpunished or underpunished columns.

    It seems your beef is more appropriately placed with the failure of the justice system (civil and criminal) to deal appropriately with malfeasance by both private and government entities.

    Removing the corporate liability structure because of the failure of the justice system ensures nothing other than an inability to protect investment from malicious attachment. It's wealth re-distribution by another form, and it will do nothing to curb abusive practices - it will only ensure that those 'friendly' to the system are able to gain wealth.

  • Mnemone Jones||

    @Apogee

    I agree that LLCs are a powerful instrument for compartmentalizing risk when undertaking capital investments. I get it, I really do. I'm not crazy about some of the lateral legal effects (like treating corporations as "persons" for purposes outside 'the entity to sue and be sued' necessary fiction), but I don't see an easy way to do what LLCs do well.

    And you are right that a big part of my beef is with the failure of legal structures to find just outcomes amidst powerful brokers.

  • ||

    If you're looking for examples of unpunished (or underpunished) corporate malfeasance resulting in deaths, why, that would be almost as tiring a list as one of examples of governments going unpunished for malfeasance resulting in deaths.

    You don't need to present a list for me to tell you which one has the highest body count. Of course your own assessment of which pile of corpses is the highest would be the same...if not then you deserve the moonbat title.

    Are they not loud enough for your tired, lying ears?

    You have to make a peep before you can claim I am not hearing you....and those crickets found in your gaping silence do not count.

  • ||

    Cute. So, if someone were to be able to present an example, it would by default fall under the "known" category and would thus not be an example.

    ah i see...it is unknown and unseen and therefor it must absolutely exist.

    Brilliant.

    I have some advice for you...you of all people should never accuse someone of a confirmation bias.

  • omg||

    Not entirely sure what the vitriol is for, I'm well aware that the government is unsalvageably evil and in fact I think it should be abolished entirely. But the fact remains that limited liability is a government-created market distortion (which should be abolished with the government). Do you disagree with this?

    If a corporation owes money due to debt or damages and it cannot pay, the owners of that company aren't responsible any more than the money they put into the corporation to begin with. There are exceptions, as you said, but generally that is the way the law works ("Piercing the veil" is the word they use for the exceptions). If the law never worked in that way there wouldn't be limited liability laws at all, now would there?

  • Mnemone Jones||

    Not entirely sure what the vitriol is for...

    Well, if you had read the memo, you'd know that anything which questions a deeply held libertarian--I won't even say belief; gut instinct?--notion is automatically STATISM!!!eleventy-one! Set phasers to kill! Yeargh!

    Or so it seems. It would be comical if these folks weren't serious. Oh, who am I kidding? It's comical even though they are serious.

  • ||

    But the fact remains that limited liability is a government-created market distortion (which should be abolished with the government). Do you disagree with this?

    uhhh no.

    I don't want to abolish the government and saying that LLCs are created by government is like saying marriages are created by government.

    Are marriages a market distortion?

    If you want to say government should get out of the business partnership permitting business just like it should get out of the marriage permitting business i have no problem with that....but it is a very small fish to fry.

  • omg||

    I don't want to abolish the government and saying that LLCs are created by government is like saying marriages are created by government.

    I never said that the government "created" LLCs, I said that the government enforces a set of rules governing LLCs that is a market distortion.

    Are marriages a market distortion?

    Well it is sort of stretching the definition of "market" but I suppose you could say they are something of a distortion, although the analogy doesn't line up nicely with that of LLCs. The government provides something of a "contract" that comes with many benefits but is sometimes hard to get out of. The rules and regulations that surround marriage make the institution look very different than it probably would if the government did not interfere with it.

    If you want to say government should get out of the business partnership permitting business just like it should get out of the marriage permitting business i have no problem with that

    I'd rather like the government to go out of existence entirely, which I suppose would preclude business licenses and marriage licences entirely. Business licences are stupid, as everyone who wants to should be able to conduct the business of their choosing as long as they aren't violating the non-aggression principle. I think people should be able to find out how to get married without the government as well.

    No government would also mean then end of LLCs, as otherwise any potential LLC is going to have to travel around with a contract to everyone they might harm at some point in time and have them sign a waiver that says the owners of the company aren't responsible for any more funds then those that they initially put in the company.

  • Brandon||

    All I see is a confused old man who is terribly frightened of Facebook.

  • roystgnr||

    In his defense, consider the stranglehold Facebook has over him. If he didn't want to be sucked into their grasp, he'd have to give up his home, move up to thousands of miles away from his friends and family, find a new job, learn a completely new set of laws and regulations that are at times deceptively familiar to and at other times stunningly different than those he grew up with, potentially learn a new language...

    Oh, wait, I'm thinking of government, not Facebook. What I meant was, he'd have to use a different web host.

  • ||

    Pinkerton is just mad that he doesn't have the following that Nick and Matt have suddenly amassed. Jealously, plain and simple.

  • Joshua||

    You really think they have a following? Bigger than the 50 people who post on this blog?

  • Platypus||

    Aw man, this guy is more fun than a paranoid schizophrenic during an X-Files marathon...

    Exhibit A.
    Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented. Here we have the world's most comprehensive database about people, ATTACH PARANOID RANT HERE...

    Facebook is only a comprehensive database as an effin' MARKETING tool, you TOOL.

    Don't like it? Delete your damned profile and walk away from it.

  • yonemoto||

    technically speaking, you can't delete your profile.

  • Mnemone Jones||

    If you don't delete it in a highly specific (and unadvertised) way, your info remains accessible to Facebook. In perpetuity.

  • Bar Student||

    And if you read the terms of service when you signed up you would know that.

  • Mnemone Jones||

    While it's a good point so far as it goes, exactly how many people do that? Did you? Do you think that people would expect what amount to flatly unconscionable terms in a boilerplate usage contract? Do you think if they did that when they read it they actually understand it?

    I get the theoretical argument, but where the rubber hits the road is reality, and in that milieu the whole "well, did you read the EULA?" tack borders on farcical.

  • ||

    How about reading the interviews that Zuckerberg gave? As far as I can tell he answered people's privacy concerns in layman's terms by saying that they were idiots if they thought their info posted on Facebook was private.

    What kind of dumbass thinks that by hitting a 'delete' button all of the information is permanently expunged from all of the 'puters hooked up to all of the tubez.

    If you don't want a douchebag internet wunderkind to have all of your personal information, then don't fucking give it to him.

  • Mnemone Jones||

    What kind of dumbass thinks 'delete' means 'delete'? Gee, all of them, I think. It's an easy mistake to make, what with words meaning things and all.

  • Corporate Drone||

    What info? An email address? Zip code? Your IP? Crappy movies you like?

    It's worthless to anyone outside of advertising.

  • ||

    If I'm on trial for sewing dozens of people together nose to anus, my movie preferences will be of great interest to the prosecution.

  • ||

    If?

  • JD the Elder||

    I wonder if the guy has never heard of Lexis Nexis, speaking of massive databases. LN seemed to know every place I had ever lived in the last ten years, whereas Facebook only knows that I am CEO of Yo Mama.

  • ||

    "What's the libertarian position on abortion? How about legalizing drugs? "

    The libertarian position on legalizing drugs is to legalize drugs. Not very mysterious or complicated here.

  • marlok||

    Also, I completely reject the idea that political philosophy should or could dictate one's opinions about the sanctity of a fetus. Does every opinion have to come with a neat liberal or conservative package?

  • Brandon||

    If you're liberal or conservative, yes. And it has to fit into 5 words or less.

  • Mnemone Jones||

    I thought libertarianism fell into a mere three: Non-Aggression Principle.

  • BR||

    You're looking for those other libertarians -- down the hall, on your left.

  • Mnemone Jones||

    This is abuse. You wanted argument, just down the hall.

  • BR||

    I'm not sure what you mean. My point was that Reasonoid libertarians do not generally derive their principles from the non-aggression axiom. That is, they're considered "consequentialists," who talk about how great a free society is without rigidly defining it.

  • Mnemone Jones||

    That last was a quote from Monty Python's Flying Circus. I thought this was the crowd for geektastic references.

    As for the other stuff, while I agree that the article writers tend to seem of a consequentialist bent, the commentariat seem to be, primarily, NAPs.

  • BR||

    In my experience, libertarians working off of "The Axiom" are not shy about telling you this.

  • yonemoto||

    Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented.

    wrong. Google plus. Get with the times!

  • np||

    He does have a point about Facebook et al but it's not the point he's trying to make. They are not scary for what they can do since that's limited by what you voluntary give. No, they are scary for what they can be made to do. Remember, the government is on your friend's list, on whatever "privacy" list you have whether you like it or not.

    However, in that sense, public social networks like Facebook aren't the biggest spying machine, your ISPs are.

  • ||

    They may be keeping the Pauls and Gary Johnsom far from real world victories. They are not keeping them far from real world politics. Even the MSM reports on their doings.

    Three politicians at the national level isn't much, but you see their points being co-opted by the other Republican campaigns in the primaries so clearly they have some resonance.

    While I doubt the libertarian platform will be implemented in the near future some of the points may be. That could snowball. I am not saying it will definetly happen but culture and politics are funny beasts. Very hard to predict beyond the short term.

  • cynical||

    Re internet curmudgeonliness:

    I think one reason libertarianism is so split on IP is because we recognize that pirates are the ones developing the technology necessary to protect us from a tyrannical government -- and while they may intend those tools for illicit reasons, they can serve the cause of liberty as a byproduct.

    Contrariwise, even if we grant that IP may be better as a policy in terms of the rights of creators or the economy, we have to consider that unlike physical property rights (which typically require proximity to violate and can thus be enforced by a local government or vigilant owner), protection of IP requires a strong central government with censorship powers and technologies, and we can't ignore the other means to which those powers and technologies can and inevitably will be turned.

    In the old war for independence, smugglers were our natural allies. In the new one, it's pirates.

  • ||

    pirates are the ones developing the technology necessary to protect us from a tyrannical government

    That's going to require evidence.

    protection of IP requires a strong central government with censorship powers and technologies

    No it doesn't. Copyright and patents have been protected since 1789 and the federal govt has had no strong censorship powers at any point since then.

  • cynical||

    That's going to require evidence.

    I was thinking of decentralized DNS when I wrote that.

    But since the essence of piracy, mechanically, is communicating information that the authorities have decided should not be communicated, the counter-tyrannical applications for piracy apps should be obvious.

    Copyright and patents have been protected since 1789 and the federal govt has had no strong censorship powers at any point since then.

    The internet and digital media didn't exist in 1789. Copyright wasn't even necessary at all when works were copied by hand, but the printing press made copying much easier. The internet has made it trivial. As a result, the government has pushed ever more draconian laws in the service of the content industry: the DMCA, ACTA, PROTECT IP, and so forth.

    And copyright in 1789 was a federal issue, thus "central" is definitely accurate. For a copyright regime to be effective, the central authority has to be able to overpower and overrule local or state authorities, so it needs to be relatively strong.

  • Confused||

    The internet and digital media didn't exist in 1789.

    Ah, the old "ethics and principles of property rights are not valid when new inventions are created" argument. I see. Because humans are different now than they were in 1789, and "rights" has a whole new meaning in 2011.

  • roystgnr||

    "Confused" is right; you're completely misunderstanding his argument.

    Imagine that someone invents a "killer app" which somehow lets you type a target into your computer, hit enter, and then later the victim untraceably dies. That wouldn't give a whole new meaning to the ethics and principles of murder, or of violating privacy, but it would sure as hell create a conflict of interest between enforcement of the two.

    With copyright infringement (especially of non-interactive media), the horse has long left the barn, but a "We Give Up, Copyright Infringement Is Legal Now" bill would never get very far, so legislatures still keep trying to pretend that they can find legally and technologically enforceable solutions to a problem that is now held in check primarily by individual ethics.

  • ||

    But since the essence of piracy, mechanically, is communicating information that the authorities have decided should not be communicated

    And the essence of murder is doing things the authorities have decided should not be done. That doesn't make murderers a boon to liberty.

    Dude, the printing press had already been around for centuries in 1789 so mentioning how hard it was to copy things by hand is a red herring. Plenty of authors got screwed by book pirates exploiting loopholes in copyright laws (Dickens and Tolkien come to mind) before computer networks existed.

    You may find it convenient to have people around who are willing to assist you in grabbing for free the fruits of others' labor which they made in the hopes of being paid. That doesn't make it a noble thing. There are plenty of honest applications for which evasion of surveillance is important as well.

  • Paul||

    That's going to require evidence.

    While it's admittedly difficult to provide empiricle evidence to such a claim, it is reasonably clear that things like bittorrent and encrypted darknets are used to move around copyrighted material.

    I don't share some of the legal opinions that the only value this technology has is for illegal activity, but I'd bet better than even odds that most bittorrent activity does just that.

    If you look at the history of the bittorrent protocol, the first adopters of search hosts were The Pirate Bay and MiniNova.com.

    They ain't exactly trading recipes for Grandma's oatmeal raisin cookies.

    I have no problem acknowledging that a popular tool for pirates is also a powerful tool for keeping Big Brother off my back.

    Now, as for the broader spectrum of tools like PGP or other encryption tools, no I don't see any strong link between piracy and the technology.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    Another reason is that some of us believe in actual real physical property rights to do what we want with our own shit, even if somebody else thought of a particular use first. IP isn't compatible with TP(tangible property).

  • 7||

    IP isn't compatible with TP (tangible property).

    Without the concept of intellectual property (the right to own something) your "tangible" property is at the mercy of any random thief, be it your neighbor or your government. After all, "your" house is merely a sheet of paper with some signatures and figures on it. What makes it truly "yours"--your simple possession of it, or the principle that you have the exclusive right to the use and disposal of it?

    "Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his mind."
    -Ayn Rand

  • ||

    I believe the stock response is some pious Lockean bilgewater about mixing labor with land, though I'm not sure how tangible that is either.

    Of course, the lion's share of the labor that mixed with the land in certain areas of the US was slave labor, so I'm not sure how that enters into the equation if one doesn't believe that slaves were legitimately considered property.

  • ||

    Both IP and TP are rights to owning something. The disagreement is over whether one can own something that does not exist.

  • ||

    And as to your Ayn Rand quote, the products of a man's mind only exist as tangible objects. An idea is not a product.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    After all, "your" house is merely a sheet of paper with some signatures and figures on it.

    The finger pointing at the moon isn't the moon, Ms. Rand. As usual you make a very obvious mistake in like line 3 of your proof & then build mountains of bullshit on top of it.

  • Monty||

    No point, except to fuck Tulpa. Last comment nevva.

  • ||

    That usually works better if you wait a week or so.

    Personally I get a kick out of going back to threads from before the dawn of the "reply to this" button -- when the comments were all in chronological order -- and replying all over the place so that the chronologicity is destroyed. It's like copulating a virgin except without the blood.

  • Paul||

    Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented. Here we have the world's most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to U.S. intelligence

    Once again, someone who has no clue what Facebook actually is, and moreover, has no idea how it works.

    Note to the Pinkertons of the world: When you upload your drunk pics to Facebook (or Facebook's successor), other people can see them.

    That does not make Facebook a spying machine. It may make Facebook a conglomeration of dumbasses, but a spying machine? Hardly. I mean, insofar as it can be used as a surveillance tool against the stupid.

    Which is why I can't get overly concerned about freedom in 'murrica when people post their illegal activity on their Wall and then get huffy when law enforcement uses it as evidence against them. That's not spying. That's just you doing illegal shit in the middle of the street while making internet kissyface pictures at the cops driving by.

  • ||

    I think there may be a problem with your Pinkerton quote. All I see is "HERP DERP" repeated over and over again.

  • 7||

    HERP DERP is funny every time. People who repeat it are comic geniuses! And I mean that.

  • ||

    Sandy Vagina?

  • ||

    I don't like Facebook either. That's why I don't have a Facebook account.

    Could it be that statists really see no difference between consensually participating and being forced at gunpoint to obey? How weak-minded does one have to be to live with such a delusion?

  • ||

    What you see as weak-mindedness they see as complexity.

    And I'm complex enough that I won't opine as to "who's right" or other simplistic concerns.

  • rst||

    What do libertarians have to say about the prospect of corporations growing so strong and all-knowing that they become, in effect, their own kind of government?

    Really? Call me when WalMart runs prisons and wields history's most destructive military. Stupid asshole.

  • ||

    Depending on your criteria, the Norks' military could be considered more destructive (largely of their own country). It would take the US military months of constant effort to fuck over a country as bad as North Korea has been.

  • iamtheeviltwin||

    You fail to take into consideration our nukes. The US military could reduce the country to glass in a matter of hours.

    And still have a few left over...

  • GILMORE||

    What do libertarians have to say about the prospect of corporations growing so strong and all-knowing that they become, in effect, their own kind of government?

    Meh. I'll stop 'buying their products', asshat. If only we could do that with our current, one-stop-shop beneficient overlords.

    "Teh corporationz!!!", for all their Evil Greed and Soul Crushing Corporate-yness, have never threatened to put me in jail for failing to regularly pay for non-existent services-rendered.

    Well, OK, MCI did that once. Or at least they just kept sending me bills for a phone line I'd cancelled years earlier.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement