Ron And Rand Paul: Net Neutrality And The Public Domain Are Really Evil Collectivist Plots

from the seriously,-now? dept

I tend to be a pretty big supporter of free market capitalism and the importance of real property rights (not imaginary property rights). As such, I’ve always been intrigued by Ron Paul’s libertarian stance against big government and excessive regulation. I think that position is pretty clearly staked out in my writing over the years. However, I’m perplexed by the new “internet freedom” manifesto from Ron Paul and Rand Paul, which seems like a hodgepodge of poorly thought out concepts — some of which make sense, and some of which do not. While I agree about keeping the government out of internet regulations, the document seems to attack many of those who actually agree with the Pauls by setting up ridiculous strawmen. In particular, the Pauls come out vehemently against both net neutrality as a concept and any effort to expand the public domain — even though both are really about limiting big government.

In fact, in a bizarre twist, the Pauls seem to be supporting massive government subsidies and handouts in this document, even as they insist they’re not.

Now, I agree that the whole “net neutrality” debate has been muddled over the years, but it is entirely possible to be for the end-to-end principles of the internet (which is what most people mean by net neutrality) and against bad regulations trying to “force” neutrality on the internet. But not in the world of the Pauls. To them, any support of a neutral internet must be about “coercive state actions” and “collective rule” over “privately owned broadband high-speed infrastructure.” This makes me curious if the Pauls spoke out against the billions and billions in subsidies and rights of way grants that the government provided the telcos and cable providers to build their networks. Once again, I am against regulating net neutrality — because it’s obvious that the telcos will control that process and the regulations will favor them against the public — but pretending that broadband infrastructure is really “privately owned” when so much of it involved tax-payer-funded subsidies and rights of way is being in denial.

Then there’s the following, where they claim that these evil “collectivists” want to limit “private property rights on the internet” and are saying that “what is considered to be in the public domain should be greatly expanded.” Considering the Pauls were both instrumental in the fight against SOPA and PIPA, you would think that the two of them understood how copyright law is massively abused and how beneficial the public domain is. But apparently not. To them it’s all part of this “collectivist” plot. Earth to the Pauls: copyright is a massive government-granted monopoly privilege. That’s the kind of thing we thought you were against, not for. In this document, you seem to be arguing for one of the largest programs in the world of a centralized government handing out private monopoly privileges.

There are a few other whoppers in there, including the claim that the groups talking about a “right to privacy” rarely care about it when it comes to government snooping — and, in fact, support government surveillance and collection of private citizens’ internet data. That’s funny, because the very groups that the Pauls appear to be slamming… happen to be the same ones who were central in the fight against CISPA, which was all about the government snooping on our internet activity.

Frankly, this document is a joke from two people who should know better. There are some good points in there about limiting government regulation of innovative companies, but when they’re supportive of two of the biggest government handouts around — telco subsidies and copyright — it’s hard to take them seriously when they claim they’re for smaller government and about getting the government out of the internet.

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Comments on “Ron And Rand Paul: Net Neutrality And The Public Domain Are Really Evil Collectivist Plots”

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84 Comments
MrWilson says:

My criticism of libertarianism has always been that they seem to attribute to the government all these bad characteristics of control and abuse and getting too large, but they’re completely blind to the fact that privately owned entities are prone to do the same thing and no amount of a mythical self-regulating free market (which requires a well educated and organized consumer base in order to function – something we’re not likely to achieve under current circumstances) is going to stop human beings from over-reaching and trying to control others regardless of whether they’re in the public or the private sector.

mudlock (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Gee, I don’t know, maybe because he calls HIMSELF one?

(Have I been trolled? I can’t even tell anymore when it comes to libertarians…)

When asked about his political stances by CNN in the lead up to his Senate seat win, he said “Libertarian would be a good description.”

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/05/04/im-very-serious-about-running-ron-pauls-son-says/

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not a chance.
What actually happens is that being unrestrained, the private sector slips in between government and people, usurping the government, alienating it from the will of the people and causing it to legislate so as to favour retention of current power both within the market and in wider society.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Over regulation leads to the exact same problem, just with a different face. Look at organic farming. Regulation has killed it. Corrupt power is corrupt power, be it governmental or corporate. The entire political argument over this concept has been about which of these enemies we should give more power to. How about neither?

mudlock (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

You’re confusing “over regulation” for “incumbent actors engaging in regulatory capture.” (In order to limit competition from new competitors.)

But parent is confusing “under regulation” for “incumbent actors engaging in regulatory capture.” (In order to limit roadblocks between themselves and unrestrained profits.)

Heads they win, tails you lose.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

This is not a free-market, has never been a free-market, and that’s the problem. We’ve created a system that allows certain companies and industries to control the government. What is ironic is that so many believe the solution to preventing undue influence in our government is to enlarge government, when in fact, what you are advocating is allowing these very same companies more opportunity and power.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They’re not blind at all, just dishonest. Libertarians are about liberty just like the People’s Repubilic of China is a republic of the people. What they’re truly about is using the name of liberty as a rallying cry to diminish the oversight powers of representative government.

The simple truth is, if the government (any government) lets go of power, it doesn’t just mystically vanish into a beautiful, sparkly rainbow of more freedom for everyone. Someone with the will to power steps in and takes it. There’s generally a bunch of fighting involved along the way, if more than one person wants the power, with collateral damage among the ordinary people until the dust clears.

There are only two types of people who believe in “small government”: those who don’t understand the concept of a power vacuum, and those who wish to create one in order to profit therefrom. I’m not sure which type is scarier.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“What they’re truly about is using the name of liberty as a rallying cry to diminish the oversight powers of representative government.”

Malarky. Letting big business write regulation which is enforceable by government is not any better. You act as if regulation is written by the Average Joe with the little people in mind. Ha. It is written to take advantage of economies of scale to disproportionately hurt small business and competition. You see this across the board, be it food and drugs, farming and agriculture, telecommunications, etc.

What you are describing are conservatives, not libertarians. Do not confuse the two.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What you are describing are conservatives, not libertarians. Do not confuse the two.

Near as I can tell, there are two differences between libertarians and conservatives.

1. A conservative believes in shamelessly handing all of society over to big business. A libertarian believes in shamelessly handing all of society over to big business while preaching to you about how doing so is the only moral way to run your society.
2. Conservatives give lip service to Christianity despite being dead-set against everything Jesus ever said about how to treat your neighbor. Whereas libertarian philosophy values Ayn Rand too highly to even try to hide their contempt for religion. (With Ron Paul being a notable exception: the guy has the gall to claim, with a perfectly straight face, to be both a Christian and an Objectivist. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the two philosophies knows that that’s just flat-out impossible.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

No. True libertarians are against corporate welfare, including subsidies, taxpayer-funded corporate insurance/safety nets, and government-granted monopolies.

The fact is, a naturally-formed monopoly is actually VERY hard to find. In a true free market, where unreasonable risk leads to failure instead of taxpayers footing the bill for your bailout, monopolies cannot easily form.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

@Mason – that may be your perception, but its not fact. Near as I can tell, conservatives and liberals are both two side of the same coin. Both want to control you via big government, though they may be fighting each other for that power to control. Near as I can tell, libertarians believe you should be in control of your own life. Our local libertarian party consists of atheists, agnostics and various religious believers including some hard-core christians. It makes for some interesting debates, but they all realize that trying to force your views on others doesn’t do anything to win them over. There is even room for collectivists, so long as they don’t try to force you to particpate in their collective. In libertarianism, there is a place for everyone so long as you don’t try to force your preference on others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The common denominator in any organization, whether it be government or private enterprise, is people. People are all subject to the same weaknesses, regardless of which type of organization they work for. The biggest difference between government and private enterprise is that government has an exclusive right to use force in enforce their rules. My preference, is that the entity with the right to kill be the most restricted. Call me crazy.

Nick says:

Re: Re:

MrWilson: If a privately owned entity wrongs you, you can sue them, or, at the very least, no longer shop there. You could even spread the word about how they wronged you. Companies do not, as a rule, like bad press. The consumer is king. Is this perfect regulation? No. Only politicians promise perfection. If a government regulator fails then what’s the outcome? They usually ask that you hand them more power and money. Since they have no competition, they have very little incentive to improve.

When we hand over power to the state they rarely, if ever, return it. They often use the power we give them as leverage to attract lobbyists. Google regulatory capture. Handing power to the state is a fools game based on fear. We need to believe in each other more, and politicians less.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If your notions had any reality at all, I could sue big-content for their attacks on my rights which I deem a wrong. In reality, I cannot afford that and would not forebear in court anyway.

I could not buy their stuff. Ok tried that. And so far no difference.

We could protest. Well we have and had some successes but they are still there and the attention of the world is limited. They intend to keep trying and stand a good chance of getting their way eventually.

Politics would work much better if people did not kowtow to partisanship and allow their political possessions to be part of their sense of self.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You point may or may not be correct, but your example is ridiculous. Big-content has power because of the monopoly rights given to them by the government. I’m not entirely convinced that minimal government is the answer (though I do lean that way). Can you give an example of disproportionate power given to private entities that doesn’t involve that power being granted by the government?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“Can you give an example of disproportionate power given to private entities that doesn’t involve that power being granted by the government?”

Probably not. Let’s face it, you can vote with your dollar, or you can vote with the ballot. For some reason folks think these two concepts differ. That voting with your dollar never works, and voting at the ballot, does. Nonsense. If we are too lazy to start boycotts, or awareness campaigns, what makes you think we can keep the government any more honest? That somehow that magical ballot vote has an altruistic quality that is just inherently more effective than the dollar vote. As a liberal, I just cannot understand why so many liberals have faith in the government’s ability to regulate anything fairly. If we spent half the time we spent trying to make our massive government work for us, and focused that effort directly at corporations, we could move so much further towards a system of accountability.

It comes down to laziness. “I want to vote once every four years, and that’s all I need to do to keep the world honest. My elected officials will keep everything square for me.” Ha.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:

You seem to think that I was suggesting that we give more power to the government. I wasn’t at all. I said government and private corporations are equally bad because they’re both driven by human beings with a tendency to keep grabbing more power.

I didn’t say it expressly, but the best scenario is where both government and corporate power is minimized. But for the rule of the people to not become a ochlocracy, you need a well educated and organized voting populace and less representation and more direct democratic voting on bills and measures. The problem is that I don’t see an easy way to get there from here and there’s a lot of powerful interests in direct opposition to such a concept.

I also think your concepts of dealing with a privately owned entity are a myth. I, by myself, cannot shut down a large corporation. Not shopping there doesn’t do much if you can’t organize a nationwide boycott and I don’t have any power to organize. I have a day job and I, like my fellow consumers, are too wrapped up in deciding which new glowing rectangle device I’m going to purchase rather than ineffectually trying to take evil corporations down. Companies do not like bad press, but they don’t mind a random rant on the internet that doesn’t reach many people except the ones looking for such a rant, who are likely not going to be your long-term customers anyway. I can’t make poor people stop shopping at Wal-Mart despite the fact that it reinforces low wages and threatens local businesses. They want the lowest prices because they can’t afford much. People who aren’t at the top tiers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs aren’t going to organize to stop anything unless their basic needs are threatened as a whole.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

In a free-market, you don’t need to “deal” with a large corporation with emphasis on “you”. Its none of your business what entities other people decide to trade with, and any attempt to stick your nose in their business is simply an attempt to force your preferences on others. No one forces you to buy at Wal-mart, but the government does force you to deal with anointed utility companies (and soon, health insurance companies.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If a privately owned entity wrongs you, you can sue them, or, at the very least, no longer shop there.

What color is the sky in your world? Do the unicorns and fairies get along together?

You could even spread the word about how they wronged you. Companies do not, as a rule, like bad press.

Exactly – that’s why Apple and Oracle didn’t launch baseless lawsuits against their competition, why Microsoft always plays fair, and why no other company ever does something bad!

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As a Libertarian, I don’t think that you fully understand what it is we believe in. First and formost, we believe that the proper role of government is to protect individuals rights to life liberty and property. Next, we believe that the Federal government was set up under a Constitution to achieve those goals. As long as the Federal Government sticks to its powers granted to IT by the people under the Constitution, all is good. Anything not outlined in the Constitution as power granted to the Federal government is under the power of the States, as their constitutions establish, or to the people.

We do not believe that special privileges should be given to any person or organization above another. We know from history that giving certain groups or people more rights than others will always lead to situations where the rights of all end up limited. For example, licensing systems that are set up to limit competition. All this means that monopolies are not conducive to the theories and ideologies of a libertarian. Which also means that government granted monopolies are not conducive to the libertarian ideologies.

By all means, we should work together to ensure the common good, but the Federal government has a limited role and the states and people should have more power to establish their own quality of life and system of protecting life, liberty and property.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“As a Libertarian, I don’t think that you fully understand what it is we believe in. First and formost, we believe that the proper role of government is to protect individuals rights to life liberty and property. Next, we believe that the Federal government was set up under a Constitution to achieve those goals.”

What you’re describing is more properly referred to as Minarchism.

Bengie says:

Re: Re:

I agree. There is no real difference between private and government “businesses”. One is supposed to answer to the people and one is supposed to answer to the market.

In both situations, when one becomes too powerful, they start to abuse what powers they have.

The only difference between public and private businesses is how you arrange the people. Same people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The common denominator in any organization, whether it be government or private enterprise, is people. People are all subject to the same weaknesses, regardless of which type of organization they work for. The biggest difference between government and private enterprise is that government has an exclusive right to use force in enforce their rules. My preference, is that the entity with the right to kill be the most restricted. Call me crazy.

HiggsLight (profile) says:

Hit the nail on the head.

As such, I’ve always been intrigued by Ron Paul’s libertarian stance against big government and excessive regulation…However, I’m perplexed by the new “internet freedom” manifesto from Ron Paul and Rand Paul, which seems like a hodgepodge of poorly thought out concepts — some of which make sense, and some of which do not.

That line sums up how I’ve viewed the whole of the “Pauls” platform for as long as I’ve been familiar with it. It’s half sensible and half totally nuts. Just like Randian thinking in general.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Fun fact: The constitution libertarians claim to love for its “small government principles” represented an enormous expansion of central government power.

The Founding Fathers originally believed in small government. They thought it was a great idea, so they set up the Articles of Confederation, with an exceptionally weak central government and tons of power in the hands of the states.

The thing is, you never hear about the Articles of Confederation these days, except in history textbooks. You know why? Because the principles involved turned out to be a massive failure when confronted with reality. The government didn’t have enough power to actually keep the country running, and so instead of clinging to a failed ideology and declaring that they just needed to try harder, the Founders were smarter than that. They took a look at the problem and fixed it, creating a new government with a lot more centralized power, because it was the only way to actually make the USA work right.

The only way to have a small government–or at least an effective one–is to have a small nation. Period. Power vacuums show up otherwise, and that’s not pretty. (Just look at Egypt. Looks like they’re fixing to end up worse off now than they were under Mubarak!) And the USA is several times larger today than we were when they established the Constitution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“The constitution libertarians claim to love for its “small government principles” represented an enormous expansion of central government power.”

Why does government like to expand itself? Why do those in power like to expand their powers?

The obvious reason politicians want to expand their power is because the more power they have the more they themselves can benefit from being in a position of power. That is, with more government power they have more power to do things in return for campaign contributions and revolving door favors and they have more people/businesses willing to contribute to their campaigns and offer them revolving door favors. So politicians are generally happy to expand government when it benefits them and to give themselves the power necessary to get a wider audience of people willing to offer them (revolving door and other) favors in return for laws.

mikey4001 (profile) says:

Frankly, this document is a joke from two people who should know better

The elder Paul, perhaps. The younger Paul, no frakkin’ way. I don’t live in Rand Paul country, but my television news broadcast comes from there, and he seems to me to be nothing like his father when it comes to “libertarian” vs. “republican.” Everything he does revolves around more of our money for him and his, or more of his religion for us. If he puts his name on something, it’s quite probably poisonous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Dead on. Rand is in no way, shape, or form his father. Rand is a typical Conservative. Ron is a Libertarian. Any attempt by folks to lump the two Pauls together shows their complete lack of knowledge when it comes to the two. Ron has my vote this year. Rand will never get mine, ever. Not in a million years. That’s how much distance separates the two.

024601 says:

On Being Paul

“Earth to the Pauls: copyright is a massive government-granted monopoly privilege. That’s the kind of thing we thought you were against, not for. In this document, you seem to be arguing for one of the largest programs in the world of a centralized government handing out private monopoly privileges.”

Love R** P***… but this is a glaring inconsistency.

Androgynous Cowherd says:

Maintaining the Playing Field

I tend to be a pretty big supporter of free market capitalism and the importance of real property rights (not imaginary property rights). As such, I’ve always been intrigued by Ron Paul’s libertarian stance against big government and excessive regulation.

Commerce and capitalism take place like a football game on a playing field with Astroturf, balls, goal posts, and the like.

But without a neutral party to operate the stadium, the players themselves must maintain the field, adjudicate field goals, and the like. They can score touchdowns and then use the points to buy parts of the field, and then tilt those parts against the other teams. That leads to an instability where the team that gets ahead first will tend to keep on winning, and that leads to monopoly and dooms innovation. The wealth-creating engine of capitalism grinds to a halt.

This is why the anarcho-capitalists are wrong.

However, excessive government regulation indicates a government excessively willing to intervene. Such a government goes beyond acting as referee and groundskeeper and its intervention becomes actively sought. The teams can then use points they’ve scored to buy favorable alterations to the rules and the playing field, and we’re back in the same boat we were before.

So, a government that maintains the field, judges calls, and occasionally helps injured players get back into the game is desirable, but only if it is very reluctant to rearrange the field, move the goal posts, or change the rules without a compelling reason to do so that betters the game and not just one or a few of the players.

There’s a Goldilocks size of government; government can be too small/powerless (think Somalia) or too big/interventionist (think most of the rest).

… but pretending that broadband infrastructure is really “privately owned” when so much of it involved tax-payer-funded subsidies and rights of way is being in denial.

The fixed-line infrastructure is also a natural monopoly. Natural monopolies should probably be properly regarded as neither a player nor a ball but a part of the field, like astroturf. As such, it should probably be nationalized explicitly, but then capacity leased in a nondiscriminatory, user- and content-neutral manner to anyone who wants to provide a network service over it. As for who will invest in and build out the network? Either that can be done with public monies, or companies might recognize that a rising tide floats all boats and build and donate capacity to the network to improve service overall (while increasing their own value to their customers in the process).

However, it would be crucially important that the government not have power to ban anyone from its use or to control or monitor content (with an exception for monitoring tied to obtaining a warrant), and that the government not price capacity excessively high. If anything, they might even want to run it at a loss and use tax monies to keep it going (and even expand capacity). That would not be tax-and-spend of the usual sort; it would be an investment that could pay dividends in economic growth, which is increasingly linked to tech growth. In particular, more Internet equals more tech startups equals more jobs equals more income tax flowing back into the public coffers.

Androgynous Cowherd says:

Pooperty

Considering the Pauls were both instrumental in the fight against SOPA and PIPA, you would think that the two of them understood how copyright law is massively abused and how beneficial the public domain is.

They are, presumably, more victims of the intentionally-confusing term “intellectual property”.

The fact is, though, that if simply calling it “intellectual property” made it really a form of property, then my cat could derive nourishment from consuming my USB pointing device.

A Guy (profile) says:

Cognitive Dissonance

Libertarianism is about using the government to prevent the tragedy of the commons by assigning limited property rights over common resources. Better education through better technology is not a tragedy. Cheaper and more efficient entertainment options is not a tragedy.

Perhaps these people need a refresher about what LIMITED property rights really means.

chelleliberty (profile) says:

Wow, just... Wow.

I feel like I should kick in something here; I do support Ron Paul because he has tried very hard to hold himself to a consistent libertarian (which, by the way, encompasses a lot of possible views; and Ron is primarily a Rothbardian rather than a Randian but ad hominems are always easier than actual thinking I suppose) and I totally respect the man.

Rand, I think is just another Conservative, who happens to be at least a hell of a lot more on the side of freedom than anyone else in the Senate, but, to me, that really isn’t quite enough to say I support the man. I support any attempts he makes to fight the ever encroaching power of the Federal government, but I don’t see the same in him as I do in Ron.

That said, this manifesto reeks of a jumped shark to me. If you want freedom you gotta be consistent, and *that*–whatever the f*** that is–seems fairly incoherent, and definitely inconsistent on principles of freedom from government. I used to be a minarchist, and certainly have respect for that viewpoint, it just became clear to me over time that asking for minarchy is asking for… the U.S. Federal Government.

There’s the slippery slope as any government with significant unchecked power will continue to agglomerate power to itself; and apparently start vast wars, kill innocent people through various means, decide that consensual or solo actions that don’t even cause harm to others can be enough to put you in jail, etc. etc. etc. etc.

And a piece of paper ain’t gonna save ya from that.

Anyway this supposed liberty-loving manifesto is anything but, and I am starting to think it’s more and more of a shame that Rand entered politics to begin with… Dr. Paul’s name is going to end up associated with the establishment, and I don’t trust Rand for a second to cleave strongly enough to liberal (that’s “classical liberal”) ideals to turn anything back; when you are fighting to row upstream, turning the boat sideways isn’t gonna stop you going over the waterfall. /cheesymetaphor

Opperdienaar says:

To call something government property because government money went in to pay for it, is ridiculous. It is like calling something mafia property, because the mafia put money into it. The tax money is stolen from tax serf against their will, so first pay back that stolen money by selling the infrastructure and liquidating everything, than compensate the victims fro damages and then let’s see what they still own.

Opperdienaar says:

To call something government property because government money went in to pay for it, is ridiculous. It is like calling something mafia property, because the mafia put money into it. The tax money is stolen from tax serf against their will, so first pay back that stolen money by selling the infrastructure and liquidating everything, than compensate the victims fro damages and then let’s see what they still own.

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