Ron Paul: From Ending the Federal Reserve to Ending Government Interference with the Internet

Buzzfeed reports today on what it says is the planned launch of a fresh campaign for the forces aligned with Ron Paul: Internet freedom.

When Paul's spokesman Jesse Benton was scrambling to end the "Paul drops out" stories triggered by their own announcement in mid-May, he stressed that one of their three primary goals in Republican Party platform influence was "internet freedom" without giving more specifics, as I blogged at the time. Now, those specifics seem worked out, as Buzzfeed reports.

From them, with comments:

Kentucky senator Rand and his father Ron Paul, who has not yet formally conceded the Republican presidential nomination, will throw their weight behind a new online manifesto set to be released today by the Paul-founded Campaign for Liberty. The new push, Paul aides say, will in some ways displace what has been their movement's long-running top priority, shutting down the Federal Reserve Bank. The move is an attempt to stake a libertarian claim to a central public issue of the next decade, and to move from the esoteric terrain of high finance to the everyday world of cable modems and Facebook.

Worth noting that that "esoteric terrain" was an amazing success for the Paul movement, taking one of his pet concerns that no one cared about for decades and getting it into a bill out of the House, a best-selling book, and a national movement. I told the story of that success in this November 2009 Reason feature, "Fed Up."

The manifesto, obtained yesterday by BuzzFeed, is titled "The Technology Revolution" and lays out an argument — in doomsday tones —for keeping the government entirely out of regulating anything online, and for leaving the private sector to shape the new online space.

That entire document can be read here:

"The revolution is occurring around the world," it reads. "It is occurring in the private sector, not the public sector. It is occurring despite wrongheaded attempts by governments to micromanage markets through disastrous industrial policy. And it is driven by the Internet, the single greatest catalyst in history for individual liberty and free markets."

The manifesto quotes Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises and attacks not just the federal government, but also progressive groups that have called for similar measures to keep the Internet largely unregulated: "Today, the road to tyranny is being paved by a collectivist-Industrial complex -- a dangerous brew of wealthy, international NGO's, progressive do-gooders, corporate cronies and sympathetic political elites."

The manifesto lays out five specific battles with government regulation and with liberals who state their goal of online liberty in similar terms, but who view corporate encroachment as a more immediate risk. The Paul manifesto seeks to rein in anti-trust actions against companies in new industries; to stop attempts to impose "Net Neutrality" rules on broadband providers; to prevent government control of online infrastructure; to broaden private control of the wireless spectrum, and shore up "private property rights on the Internet."

The Pauls also take a stand for the growing industry known (and widely criticized) as "big data."

They deride the notion that "private sector data collection practices must be scrutinized and tightly regulated inthe name of 'protecting consumers,' at the same time as government’s warrantless surveillance and collection of private citizens’ Internet data has dramatically increased."

This campaign is supposed to help guarantee an intense and dedicated grassroots effort will have something specific to focus on after Tampa in August:

"We are going to bring to this project the same kind of intensity, resources and energy we brought to the Fed Audit," said one Paul adviser.

The document will serve as a conservative counterpoint to a Declaration of Internet Freedomreleased this week by the left-leaning group Free Press, though the two share some goals. The earlier document was signed by groups including the American Civil Liberties Union as well as Internet companies such as Mozilla, and it backs a government role in maintaining what it sees as a level playing field for consumers.

This is also a new stage for what supporters refer to as the Ron Paul Revolution, and a way to make sure that Ron Paul's followers stay on board with the movement after the congressman's retirement from the House of Representatives. Paul supporters are already Internet-savvy, frequently launching digital campaigns of their own, and skew young. And the new cause gives his son Rand an easier way to connect with them, given that his relationship with his father's supporters has often been fraught.

Internet freedom, Paul insiders say, is going to be Rand's end-the-Fed.

While both Pauls have always been for all sorts of freedom, a specific emphasis on the Internet has never heretofore dominated either of their public statements. With Peter Thiel, founder of the controversial "big data" company Panantir, having made a $2.6 million investment in the (somewhat feckless in the end) superPAC "Endorse Liberty" during campaign season, perhaps the Paul machine sees this as a cause that can energize both grassroots and big money.

Erik Kain at Forbes also writes about this high-tech move by the Pauls, and isn't thrilled about how they are trying to stake distinct ground from the "Declaration of Internet Freedom" crew:

I’ve always had a soft spot for Ron Paul, even though he’s far more conservative and far more libertarian than I am. I have a soft spot for internet freedom as well, and have written about the various threats to that freedom at one time or another.

But I’m a little irked by some of the language of this document, truth be told, even though I’m always happy to see more people up in arms about things like internet censorship.

I’ve argued before that what this country really needs is a Civil Liberties Caucus in congress – not a right-leaning or left-leaning one, either. We need people like Ron Wyden on the left and Ron Paul on the right, even though they may not agree on everything, who are willing to go up against civil-liberty-quashing laws and attempts at censorship...

In other words, the last thing we need is one group of civil liberties advocates calling the other group “internet collectivists.” The stakes are too high. The number of elected officials who even care about blocking a bill like SOPA is frighteningly small to begin with....

So here’s a question for both members of the right and the left (and libertarians!) who care about internet freedom: is it worth setting aside your differences just a little bit and working against a common enemy? Is ideological purity more important than results? Where does principle leave off and pragmatism begin?

Because, quite frankly, I don’t care if you’re a collectivist or if you’re John Galt.

If you want to stop censorship and rein in an increasingly intrusive anti-piracy regime, that’s all I care about. That and the results.'

UPDATE: Timothy Lee at Ars Technica wonders what this campaign will mean for copyright enforcement as a means to crack down on the Internet, and isn't encouraged by what he's seen so far:

we were surprised to see the document denounce the "Internet collectivist" view that "what is considered to be in the public domain should be greatly expanded."....

In a Thursday interview, Campaign for Liberty spokesman Matt Hawes assured Ars that the organization did not intend to endorse today's long copyright terms. "We think the public domain is a terrific part of the Internet," he told us. Rather, he said, the group was worried that "Internet collectivists" would use the phrase "public domain" as "code for getting the government more involved" in copyright issues.

Still, it would be nice for the organization to take a clearer stance against Hollywood-backed copyright legislation that threatens Internet freedom. Ron Paul was an early SOPA opponent, but SOPA is hardly the only example of bad copyright legislation....

More importantly, Congress has already enacted copyright legislation that threatens Internet freedom. Perhaps the most alarming example is the 2008 PRO-IP Act, which gives the federal government the power to seize domain names, servers, and other assets of Internet companies without proving their owners have committed any crime...

My new book on the Paul movement, Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.

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  • Virginian||

    As happy as I was to have the 4chan/reddit/Slashdot/other Internet communities outraged about something the government did, the best post about the whole thing was up at some blog I read...can't remember what it was.

    It was a picture of Mel Gibson in his Braveheart persona with caption "They may touch our balls at the airport....but they will never take our Internet!!"

  • Paul.||

    As happy as I was to have the 4chan/reddit/Slashdot/other Internet communities outraged about something the government did

    Slashdot has been sorely disappointing in the realm of government intervention of the internet.

    They're all convinced that without government intervention, Comast will shape their packets and they won't be able to bitTorrent SkyRim mods anymore. Their solution: Get the government in charge of managing packets.

    So frustrating I don't even go there anymore whenever Net Neutrality comes up.

  • ||

    The best part is that as soon as the government starts managing packets, the media companies will immediately lobby for it to...shape people's packets so they can't torrent stuff.

    Some people are too stupid to comprehend.

  • tarran||

    The problem with Erik Kain's "Can't we all get along" plea is that he is wrong. Full stop.

    The group he champions is not a civil liberties group, but rather laying the groundwork for government control of the internet to benefit the elites. Full stop.

    If you want the internet to be free (as in speech) you cannot point guns at the participants and tell them who they can talk to and when using what format. You have to leave them alone.

  • Tulpa the White||

    "Come together, right now, under me."

  • Brandybuck||

    The new push, Paul aides say, will in some ways displace what has been their movement's long-running top priority, shutting down the Federal Reserve Bank.

    OMG! Sellout! The Insiders got to even Ron himself and turned him to the DARK SIDE! Maybe it's not even Ron Paul at all, maybe he's been replaced by a fetus eating reptilian skinshifter! Someone alert Alex, this news needs to go out NOW!

    PERFECTION OF PURITY NOW! REJECT PRAGMATISM! AAAARGH!

  • ant1sthenes||

    While libertarians have ample reason to be suspicious of the "neutrality" pushed by progressives, it should be noted that allowing state-sanctioned regional monopolies in inherently low-competition markets (telco hardware) to leverage their power to reduce competition in naturally competitive markets (Internet services, content) is not exactly a big win for freedom either.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Yes, but when the technology catches up to that problem it will be a lot easier to overcome telco/cable chicanery than to get rid of a govt regulation that's no longer needed.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Telcos are already fairly regulated. It would be more beneficial to draw a clear line between the low-level hardware and protocol stuff, and the services built on and the content transmitted over the hardware -- a line that slices both the private and public sector. The service and content side would be entirely unregulated, and protected by speech/press. The low-level side would be regulated as a common carrier, in such a way as to open up access as much as possible. The twin evils of regulation and lack of competition would dammed up behind the wall of separation, on the hardware side.

    FWIW, the power industry does the same thing -- actual generation is traded in privately run "markets", transmission is treated more as a common carrier, and is not allowed to favor one source of generation over another (except as market rules permit). It seems to work well enough.

  • Paul.||

    The low-level side would be regulated as a common carrier, in such a way as to open up access as much as possible.

    If I understand what you're saying, you're essentially making the "last mile of copper" argument.

    Unfortunately, the method of internet connection and hardware involved is equally as important as the content on the internet.

    When you start telling carriers how to build their networks and manage their packets, that is a regulation on content, and the disease of that regulation will infect the content side.

  • ant1sthenes||

    When you start telling carriers how to build their networks and manage their packets, that is a regulation on content, and the disease of that regulation will infect the content side.

    Not really. Well, requiring that they actively discriminate would, but prohibiting them from doing so, not so much. It's the same sort of regulation that prevents the phone company from editing your calls.

  • Paul.||

    But there's the rub. What's discrimination to you might be good service to me.

    It's the same sort of regulation that prevents the phone company from editing your calls.

    Not even close.

    With Net Neutrality regulation as it's being proposed, one couldn't start an internet service provider that specialized in Video streaming. If a company wanted to start an internet service provider that specialized in video streaming by QOSing (prioritizing) packets and streams common to video, that would be illegal.

    That's the rub. everyone thinks that traffic shaping and prioritization is only used for evil. Most often, it's used to guarantee the best experience for a wide swath of users.

    Yes, some carriers might use it to steer users toward their content. But that always falls into that every murky "might". There's been little evidence that that's happened on any large scale, and where it has fits exactly into Wind Rider's comment above.

    It's a temporary industry squabble that will be solved by new technologies and most importantly of all, entirely new business models that both you and I haven't conceived of yet. Trying to solidify internet service provider practices in concrete by regulating them is exactly the wrong way to go. By leaving them free to innovate and yes, piss off their customers, is how we get these new innovations.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Yes, some carriers might use it to steer users toward their content. But that always falls into that every murky "might". There's been little evidence that that's happened on any large scale, and where it has fits exactly into Wind Rider's comment above.

    I don't know about packet management, but certainly most telecoms tend to exempt in-house services from data caps. For services like video that use a lot of bandwidth, that's a pretty big problem.

    At any rate, I think a common carrier law could allow for some general differentiation between different QoS levels, provided that each "product" was available to the public on a competitive, non-discriminatory basis. That is, if AT and T wanted to make a high-QoS video path available for U-Verse, it could do so, but it would have to let Hulu and Netflix bid for access to that same path, under the same terms.

  • Paul.||

    The finest comment on Net Neutrality ever posted in the history of the Internet, by Wind Rider:

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/12.....nt_2056448

  • ant1sthenes||

    I'm optimistic enough to think that consumers can hold back the evil telcos. But I'm also aware that the general tendency of the political classes, and even the electorate, is do-somethingism. It's not a bad idea to have a public "contingency plan" for display to alleviate their concerns, even if you intend to never use it because the events that would require it will not happen..

  • Paul.||

    I'm optimistic enough to think that consumers can hold back the evil telcos.

    They will and they have. Refer back to the AOL analogy. Some of you kids aren't old enough to remember, but for those of us who are, AOL was the way that 90% of everyone got to the internet. Now? Not so much.

  • Tulpa the White||

    I don't think there's any doubt that unnecessarily insulting potential allies is foolish. What good is it going to do to call liberals "internet collectivists"? I thought CfL wasn't just another "rile up the base to get more donations" organization.

  • Paul.||

    I’ve argued before that what this country really needs is a Civil Liberties Caucus in congress – not a right-leaning or left-leaning one, either.

    Sorry dude, that ship sailed. Any discussion of civil liberties now lean Libertarian.

    All the proof you need are the Liberal and Conservative screeds on too much freedom, too much choice.

    May I direct you to MSNBC or Slate for some of the most recent ones?

  • Paul.||

    We need people like Ron Wyden on the left and Ron Paul on the right, even though they may not agree on everything, who are willing to go up against civil-liberty-quashing laws and attempts at censorship...

    Pff, Ron Widen on Civil Liberties:

    •Authorize Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money for federal political campaign contributions and expenditures (including independent expenditures);
    •Allow states to regulate that raising and spending at their level; and
    •Permit Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that could withstand constitutional challenges without prescribing what the reforms should be.

    IN fairness, he's at least trying to limit your speech with a constitutional amendment. Bully to him.

    http://www.wyden.senate.gov/ne.....-elections

  • Mr. FIFY||

    But if we end government interference with the internet, we can't find out what's in the health-care bill until they pass it.

    /Catch-22

  • CE||

    Is ideological purity more important than results?

    Of course.

    Where does principle leave off and pragmatism begin?

    Pragmatism begins with refusing to cede another inch to any effort to restrict freedom, raise spending, increase executive power or introduce new taxes, penalties, fees or mandates.

  • Tulpa the White||

    What you refuse to cede will simply be taken from you by force then. They are stronger than we are right now. Doesn't seem very pragmatic.

    Our only hope is to outclever them, which is NOT a full frontal assault on statism.

  • Coeus||

    Yeah, but our current method of mocking derision isn't working either.

  • Spokanite||

    The internet will come in handy during the coming race war that Ron Paul has repeatedly warned us about!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Actually, if Obama loses, there might well be a race war... started by the leftists, of course.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Doubt it. Outside of the hardcore personality cult, he's been downgraded to "lesser evil" in the mind of many. At any rate, if he loses, it will be because many of those same Democrats didn't find it worthwhile to go to the polls, so I find it hard to believe after a hard day of not voting, that they'll get angry when he loses.

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