Monday, September 13, 2010

The web and governments; Beauty and the beast

The worldwide web (www) and the internet are perhaps the greatest invention that humanity has created to pursue what it wants best -- individual freedom, liberty, personal expression.

It is easy to find lots of people attacking capitalism and the profit motive, using tools that were invented precisely by capitalism and the profit motive -- like blogger, wordpress, facebook, youtube, yahoo, twitter, friendster, and so on. We pay zero tax, we pay zero registration fee, we just register and click "I accept" to the terms and conditions of those online networking providers and we are hooked to our friends and family members anytime, anywhere in the world who have internet connection.

Thus, the web is the beautiful creation that relies on zero coercion, zero force, zero mandatory contributions, among people, between service users and providers. Despite charging zero fee for the users, the profit-motive capitalists and entrepreneurs who started and maintain those online networking sites still make billions of dollars of profit somewhere. Everyone is happy for this voluntary exchange.

Governments, in contrast, rely on force and coercion, on mandatory contribution. For its various "services and programs", bureaucracies that were created, bureaucrats who were hired and politicians who were elected, whether we like them or not, we have to part with our money to sustain them all. We have to part with a portion of our individual freedom to submit to whatever old and new regulations, control and prohibitions that they will enact and implement.

This makes governments the beast.

Recently, a number of governments requested google and youtube to remove certain contents from their sites. Governments can cite all sorts of reasons and alibi, like protecting their "national security", etc. Their goal is one and the same: limit personal freedom and the individuals' right to self-expression.

We would also think that among those governments, those under communist leadership will be on top. It is wrong. It is the supposedly democratic governments like Brazil, Germany, India and the US. Data is from The Economist, September 3, 2010 issue.

Controlling the web will be a preoccupation for many governments, big and small, rich and poor. The beast among ruling administrations, among ruling politicians and bureaucrats, push them to control and regulate people both in the physical and virtual worlds.

We ordinary citizens are lucky that capitalism and the independent capitalists invented the web. If it was any government or the United Nations (UN) bureaucrats who invented it, then they will exercise all forms of control and coercion -- censorship, large-scale spying, threats and harassment -- just to make people toe their political line.

Some guys argue that it was not capitalism but the US military who invented the web and the internet. Really? In the first place, governments and the armies are unproductive units in society that produce no surplus. It is private enterprises, private individuals, hard-working and ambitious individuals, who create surplus for society, a big portion of which is siphoned off to sustain governments and huge armies.

The web and governments.
Beauty and the beast.


Paul C.H. How said...

It is quite true that the US military (with the help of Al Gore) developed the technology that we now recognize as the internet. But we could not conclude from this that any such invention could not have come about in the absence of government.

Besides, it isn't so much technology per se, but its application according to entrepreneurial foresight, that makes the difference in people's lives. The internet as a military tool does not equate to Youtube and Facebook and whatnot.

Bienvenido Oplas Jr said...

Good points Paul, thanks. I like that point -- It's the entrepreneurial foresight, not just internet per se, that makes the difference.

An American friend, David Schellenberger, made a similar comment:
"As discussed in "Government Did Invent the Internet, But the Market Made It Glorious," "almost all of the internet'...s current applications — unforeseen by its original designers — have been developed in the private sector." As the article discusses, the fact that government was involved in the creation of the Internet is a negative, and resulted in an opportunity cost. The market would have created a better system: “[W]e are left with a panoply of lingering inefficiencies, misallocations, abuses, and political favoritism.” More

Anonymous said...

This article simply ROCKS ! That was a great read for me. I simple agree on every word written, keep it up with all the good work.. You have got my Thumbs UP !!!Thank you,


Bienvenido Oplas Jr said...

Thanks for the kind words, Debbie.