Declan McCullagh on Wed, 21 Jun 2000 18:53:39 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> The role of government in the development of the Internet

At 09:32 6/21/2000 -0400, Ronda Hauben wrote:
>There needs to be a summary of this good process and the lessons
>taken to determine how to continue a good role for government
>in the continued development of the Internet.

In theory, this is a nice view. In reality, it doesn't happen.

I would refer you to the accumulated work of several decades of public 
choice theorists. They have pointed out, among other things, that while 
there may be market failures, there are also "government failures." Just 
because a person is a government employee does not automatically mean he 
will look out for the "public interest" -- in fact, he's going to be 
looking out for his own self-interest. History has shown that you can't 
create a structure to isolate the "good" things without having "bad" things 
-- and I think an unacceptable number of bad things -- follow.

Pie-in-the-sky rhetoric may have its place, but let's get down to cool 
reality here for a moment. And let's not forget abuses like these:

>There is an infrastructure of the Internet that needs government

Reasonable people may differ here. I'd rather the Net develop free of 
government meddling.

>If there is to be a continuation of the development that has
>made the Internet an important new human-computer-communications system,
>the public sector has to oversee and protect that development.

What, the same laudable "public sector" of government bureaucrats and 
publicity-hungry legislators who gave us the Clipper Chip, the 
Communications Decency Act, CALEA, proposals to ban unapproved encryption, 
plans to wiretap a huge percentage of simultaneous telephone conversations, 
the DMCA, the "copying software for your mom is a felony" NET Act, plans to 
ban gambling online, plans to require banks to monitor customers for 
"suspicious" activities, the creation of ICANN with a secret board 
selection process approved by the White House, Secret Service databases 
with your drivers' license photo surreptiously acquired from DMVs, Y2K 
liability "immunization" for well-heeled corporations, plans to allow 
secret searches of your home, ECHELONesque surveillance schemes, plans to 
ban anonymity, treaties to limit privacy, restrictions on publication of 
important chemical data online, plans to make it a crime to link to 
drug-related info online, and a host of other schemes noteworthy only for 
how pernicious they are?

Sure, let's let those same folks "continue the development of the Net." 
This from the president who marvels over screen savers 
( That'll be just fab.


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