I reviewed the “technical aspects” of the affidavit, at least the original partial one that can be found here ,and it pretty much confirms what I originally reported in this post, The Background Dope on DHS Recent Seizure of Domains. At the time of my original post on this subject, it was not verifiable whether these “seizures” were a part of an “official operation” or not, or if the instigators behind this were the usual suspects, MPAA,RIAA. When DHS announced this was part of an official operation, Operation In Our Sites 2, I wrote an update post here; and based on a subsequent LA Times article, I posted posted a comment here that reflected the fact that MPAA,RIAA were the ones who were reporting the “violating sites.”
Some notes on the affidavit:
It clearly specifies that the domain seizure was to be executed by going through VeriSign. I detailed the mechanics of how that was done in my original post. However, the affidavit also clearly specifies that the domains were to be transferred in ownership over to DHS/ICE vis a vis their respective registrars. That has not happened yet. That was supposed to be done, but Whois queries against the registrar databases for the domains in question indicate that it has not been done.
The affidavit gets the registrar, the IP Address and the hosting provider for torrent-finder.com wrong. It lists Blue Razor as the registrar, and even though Blue Razor appears to be owned by the same entity that own GoDaddy, it is GoDaddy who is the registrar. The hosting provider for torrent-finder.com is SoftLayer Technologies, located in Dallas, TX, and not Secure Hosting LTD, located in the Bahamas.
Reading the affidavit,particularly as it pertained to torrent-finder.com, I now know why ICE subcontracts out to “private companies” like immixGroup IT Solutions. We are literally dealing Agent Barney Fife, here. Writes Agent Fife:
“Based on my training and experience, queries of public movie listings and my discussion with MPAA representatives, I know that “Secretariat” is a first run movie that was released to the general public for homeviewing.”
Whoa, all that tax-payer funded training gave Agent Fife the requisite specialized knowledge to figure that all out by himself. I’m sure all that experience has trained him to first check with government computers to make sure that information wasn’t classified.
Agent Fife outlines how his specially trained snooping abilities led him to conclude that torrent-finder.com was actually hosting “pirated content.” The problem for Agent Fife, however, is that the “download link” that he clicked on that allowed him to directly download a torrent for “The Town” was actually being hosted by torecache.com in Estonia. We dread the day when agent Fife’s superior training and experience leads him to discover The Google can be used to pull up direct links to torrent files the MPAA disapproves of.
This exhibit A of Hayek’s “how the worst get to the top”….
A former fellow contributor at Freedom Democrats has composed two recent posts, My respectability vs. their legitimacy and Are you on the inside or the outside?, that cautions against radical politics moving from an abstract layer of persuasive speech to one advocating criminal activity. The underlying factor here seems to be that WikiLeaks is raising the stakes, making the abstract suddenly tangible. An abstraction is now drawing some blood…it’s a threat. The cautionary thinking here is not to overplay the hand, not to resort to advocating the equivalent of anarchist bomb throwing, which could not only make one the target of the police(the police state) but which could also threaten to criminalize the abstraction itself, or at the very least, banish it from the topic of polite society.
Now I both agree and disagree with Ricketson. I agree that “anarchist bomb throwing,” whether it’s actually throwing bombs, or executing DDoS attacks against digital targets, is a loser strategy. You can try to cast these things into a type of “civil disobedience” rationale or justify them as defensive actions against Statist aggression, but the bottom line is that they are ineffective and counter-productive. And Ricketson’s point about the “mainstream’ should be taken to heart. The thing about “American radical libertarianism” that separates it from “anarchism” in general is that in America, radical libertarianism is more or less “liberal anarchism, ” and liberal anarchism has never sought to eradicate the “petty Bourgeoisie” as a precursor to some new social order. Indeed, Liberal anarchism embraces the “petty bourgeois” tradition and embraces it as a mainstream tradition. This to no end infuriates a larger segment of anarchist radicals who operate outside the “liberal anarchist tradition.”
Where I disagree with Ricketson perhaps starts with this quote by Janet Napolitano:
“The old view that ‘if we fight the terrorists abroad, we won’t have to fight them here’ is just that – the old view,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told police and firefighters recently.
Ricketson takes his alias from Benjamin Tucker and those who are familiar with libertarian history know that Tucker, after he left the United States and emigrated to France, actually supported World War I on the basis that the German glorification of military culture was such a threat to the “petty bourgeois” liberal tradition that it had to be opposed, even by force. Here I am reminded of the old Barry Goldwater joke, “vote for Goldwater and we will end up in Vietnam.” Well, a wag or two have been known to crack back in the day, “we voted for Goldwater and sure enough, we ended up in Vietnam.” To Tucker’s Ghost I would crack, the United States went to war and yet we ended up with the very thing you dreaded.
As Orwell brilliantly elucidated, permanent war is the permanent war of the ruling class against it’s own citizens. It is a destroyer of liberalism. It is the National Security State, not anarchism, which is the threat to the mainstream of a “petty bourgeois” polite society. The horror is to contemplate just exactly what is to become of this “mainstream” under a censorship regime, when uncensored abstraction itself, by definition, is a threat.
In a permanent War on Terror, terrorism is not bomb throwing, rather it is any ideological challenge to the “Status Quo.” When Janet Napolitano states that the guns have turned inward, she doesn’t mean they are pointing at some random asymmetric violent threat, rather she means they are pointing at any systemic abstract threat to the Status Quo. They are aimed at any “institutional alternatives” to the status quo. If these “institutional alternatives” draw any blood, that is, threaten the Status Quo, those guns will fire…and it would be impolite in polite society not to pretend otherwise.
Respectability=see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil…
As has been reported, it looks like ICE, which is the principal investigative arm of DHS, has begun seizing domains under the pretext of IP infringement. But it’s actually not ICE who is executing the mechanics of the seizures. It’s a private company, immixGroup IT Solutions. Here is what is going down.
In May of this year, immixGroup IT Solutions is awarded a one year IT Services contract with DHS. The particulars of this contract:
Under this new contract, immixGroup will provide information technology operational services and support, implementation, and maintenance of DHS ICE C3′s software applications, network and CyberSecurity systems, as well as the maintenance and enhancement of applications that support law enforcement activities.
The contract includes one base year, one 12-month option period, and two six-month option periods; covers all four divisions of C3 (Child Exploitation, Cyber Crimes, Computer Forensics, and Cyber Training); and is critical to C3′s pursuit of criminal activity. immixGroup’s services in this effort include network maintenance, application development and support, forensic lab assistance, data storage maintenance, and information assurance.
On November 24th, immixGroup IT Solutions registered the domain SEIZEDSERVERS.COM, and primary and secondary nameservers, NS1.SEIZEDSERVERS.COM, NS2.SEIZEDSERVERS.COM, with Network Solutions, which is the registrar for this domain. Since the DHS contract is provisionally for one year only, the domain was only registered for one year(expires in one year).
immixGroup IT Solutions is using CaroNet to host their domain, including the authoritative name servers(NS1.SEIZEDSERVERS.COM, NS2.SEIZEDSERVERS.COM) for this domain. They have setup a simple web page, http://seizedservers.com/ or http://188.8.131.52 which is the same “Notification of Seizure” page you will get if you type in one of the seized domains in browser address bar(if you’re paranoid: yes, they are tracking using both Google analytics and piwik).
ICE is not actually “seizing” any servers or forcing hosting companies to remove web content from their servers; what they are doing is using immixGroup IT Solutions to switch the authoritative name servers for these “seized domains.” But they are not doing it at the Registrar level(by contacting the registrar for the domain and forcing them to update the authoritative name server info to point to NS1.SEIZEDSERVERS.COM, NS2.SEIZEDSERVERS.COM), but rather through the agency who controls the top level domain. In this case, all the “seized domains” appear to be .com and the agency/company who has the ICANN contract for this TLD is VeriSign(which also controls .net TLD). The changes are being made at the top-level authoritative name servers for the .com TLD, which would be the [a-m].gtld-servers.net. These are controlled by VeriSign(note: these top-level name servers are also authoritative for .net and .edu TLDs).
So, VeriSign, the owner of the .com TLD, is working in cooperation with DHS, and it appears immixGroup IT Solutions has what we might call an “IT Support Ticket system” setup with VeriSign.
That web servers are not being seized and web content not being deleted can easily be verified by clicking this link, http://184.108.40.206, which is the original IP Address of a seized domain, torrent-finder.com. It’s still up, and it appears it has registered a new domain, torrent-finder.info, that resolves to the original IP address. This site is being hosted by SoftLayer Technologies in Dallas, TX. So, it is certainly within US jurisdiction to be shut down if there was “a case to be made.”
Now the .info TLD is not controlled by VeriSign; it’s controlled by Afilias. So, an interesting little experiment would be to see if the torrent-finder.info domain remains up. As of now, we can only conclude that there is back deal between DHS and VeriSign that makes any .com or .net domain subject to seizure by the actions of immixGroup IT Solutions.
Lastly, there has been some speculation that this recent business of “domain seizure” portends the same tactics being used to seize the “wikileaks.org” domain. From a technical standpoint, understand that the .org TLD is not controlled by VeriSign; it is controlled by the Public Interest Registry. An interesting thing however: PIR has contracted out the technical operations to Afilias. So, if we were to see torrent-finder.info similarly seized, then this would mean that Afilias is also in cahoots with DHS, which could imply the .org TLD could be subject to the same type of “domain seizures.” As of now, there is no evidence of that. And, it should be clear, these type of domain seizures are completely different than the 2008 attempted shutdown of wikileaks.org by the US government. In that case, a U.S. District Court issued an injunction ordering Dynadot, which was the registrar for the domain, to remove all traces of Wikileaks from its records. That didn’t hold up.
Donald Boudreaux predicts his recent article in the Freeman, The Power of Freedom, will raise the ire of some libertarians. Boudreaux’s thesis is based on an empirical observation that the regulatory, bureaucratic state has not yet led to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four; indeed, we are, in his words “better fed, clothed, housed, informed, educated, medically cared-for, traveled, rested, and entertained” compared to either, say 1930 or 1980. Boudreaux’s conclusion is that “the power of Freedom” is such that economic and social conditions can withstand or at least adapt to the predatory state. In short, the regulatory, bureaucratic state is not necessarily a “Road to Serfdom.”
It should be pointed out this is not new argument. It’s one made all the time by the political left in discounting Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom,” although the political left has a much more sanguine view of the “Regulatory State” than Boudreaux. I addressed this issue in older post, Hayek, Social Insurance, and Serfdom. If you don’t feel like reading the post, here’s a summation:
Hayek’s argument in “The Road to Serfdom” was specifically against State Socialism, that is, centrally planned regimes that planned against competition. The argument really being made, in the historical context, is that Fabian Socialism and National Socialism led to the same thing, in the end. The likes of George Orwell, who was a man of the left, was in part influenced by Hayek’s work in composing the Socialist dystopias of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four.
To understand Hayek’s more general argument requires one to distinguish between “planning against competition” and “planning for competition.” In the latter sense of planning, things like Social Insurance are not antithetical to a liberal order. In the Hayekian conception, the welfare state itself, if constructed around planning for competition, is not a threat to liberalism. The problem, however, is that politics is not really about the art of “planning for competition.” The state that has the power to plan for competition also has the power to plan against competition. It is the latter which is the direct threat against liberalism.
To bring up Orwell again, I would note he also thought Capitalism would lead to to totalitarianism. His literary works addressed the Socialist path to tyranny. For the capitalist version, we will have to turn to how real life is writing this scenario.
On a number of previous occasions, I have used the term “catastrophic liberal institutional failure.” What I mean by this is the political status quo of permanent war. Liberalism may be compatible with some degree of the welfare state, and may be able to adapt to some degree of political rent-seeking, but it cannot survive the rent-seeking permanent war state. “War is the Health of the State” means simply that war is is the ultimate expression of collectivism. With perpetual war, you have the purest and most naked form of class conflict.
The “permanent war state” is not hyperbole. It is very real. There is a massive intelligence Stasi police apparatus in place. Utterly unaccountable and growing. And it’s not difficult to trigger experiencing the brunt of this. Boudreaux writes we are better-traveled than ever before. Well, I would encourage Boudreaux to assert his civil rights the next time he encounters the TSA when flying or US customs when traveling abroad. I imagine he probably just obeys. To do otherwise would threaten detention and could threaten one’s entire livelihood, if such depends on one’s ability to travel. When we talk about inalienable rights, we surely mean, among other things, the right to travel and the right to work without having to suffer cumbersome duties, restrictions, and permissions. In the National Security State, you have to have permission to travel and to work. This where we are heading and there going to be plenty of people who are going to get very rich from enforcing this.
In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, slogans like “Ignorance is Strength” and “War is Peace” are examples of DoubleThink but they also have empirical meaning. You have to read the tract “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism” to discern their empirical meaning. “Ignorance is Strength” explains how a restricted vocabulary called NewSpeak, which is a limited political vocabulary of invented words that have mutually contradicting meaning based on political context, enforces a doublethink reality. However, the tract itself is not written in NewSpeak, and we learn that “War is Peace” has a clear empirical meaning. That slogan means Peace for the ruling classes. Continuous war is not a war of nation-state ruling classes set against one another. Rather, continuous war is unabated war of the ruling classes against their own subjects.
In a previous post, Modeling Capitalist Regime Change, I made the case that moral hazard will eventually force a regime change in the political framework of markets. I noted the previous two regimes were Keynes/Bretton Woods and Chicago/Washington Consensus. The loss of resiliency of the Chicago framework demands a new political economy framework. It is this regime uncertainty that is the source of the current economic depression. But intellectually, there isn’t any new framework to transition to, at least one that doesn’t involve tearing down the State. So what we are seeing by default is the oligarchicalization of money and credit to enforce an artificially stable equilibrium that has little resiliency. This is why, for example, the US is heavily involved as of late in brokering a deal for increased political control of the currency markets. To enforce an artificial stability of a regime that has little resiliency will require more and more command and control and planning against competition. And in this way, one can see how (political) capitalism can converge to an authoritarian point. And Boudreaux’s empirical observations, which are drawn from previous regimes, are not applicable to the current regime.
On a final note, I would point out that Orwell did not include “Freedom is Slavery” in his little tract within Nineteen Eighty Four. Chapter 2 is missing in “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.” In a sense, “Freedom is Slavery” doesn’t quite fit in with the empirical paradigm of the other two slogans(to do so, it would have to be reversed, “Slavery is Freedom”). I would merely point out, in an empirical sense, not to conflate capitalism with freedom. Boudreaux’s argument, logically extended, could be applied to China as a demonstration of the “power of freedom” at work. When freedom means “the freedom to obey,” the only power it represents is the power of the ruling class.
Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.
The bill didn’t make to the floor but was sent back to committee. It will make it’s way back to the floor the next congressional session.
The Drug Policy Alliance may refer to the Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2010 as a sneaky Drug War bill, but I would use a different adjective to describe this abomination. Written by Republican Drug Warrior and co-sponsored by a Democratic Drug Warrior, this bill, which has exactly the one co-sponsor, has nonetheless been fast-tracked by House Democrats for a vote today. Ah, yes, the Democrats, the party of social liberalism. My ass. Let’s look at the bill’s overview.
To amend the Controlled Substances Act to clarify that persons who enter into a conspiracy within the United States to possess or traffic illegal controlled substances outside the United States, or engage in conduct within the United States to aid or abet drug trafficking outside the United States, may be criminally prosecuted in the United States, and for other purposes.
So, the Controlled Substances Act will essentially be amended to extend it’s jurisdiction over Americans across the globe. Conspiring with a buddy to sample the rich herb in Amsterdam will get you arrested in the United States even before you can get on the plane(or get you arrested upon your return). This goes beyond mere proto-fascism and extends into outright fascism. This is a legal principle that underlies all authoritarian governments, the principle being that you are under a total jurisdictional authority of the Mother/Father State. Back in the day, communist comrades who, for whatever reason, were allowed to venture abroad, would then “disappear” upon their return if they were deemed to have too injudiciously sampled “the freedoms” of their foreign host countries. At stake was the very principle of the authority of the Total State itself.
It should be noted that this bill is expected to pass the house despite having only one co-sponsor, in part because both the Dems and Repubs are utterly captive to the Drug War State, and, in part, because the idea of America being a “safe harbor” for anyone looking to have a good time is offensive to the official moral sensibilities of our puritanical congress critters. And, once again, the Drug War is perhaps the best empirical demonstration of libertarian class conflict. The actions of the ruling class are so flagrant, so despicable, that they can’t be obfuscated by DoubleThink, at least to any person who has any rooting in empirical reality.
So people will bitch and they will become cynical, but, in the end, they will acquiesce to the political reality of the Total State. And they will adjust their lives accordingly. And the move toward the “Pink Police State” becomes inexorable. The Pink Police State is a condition of rule/authority where official life is conservative, militaristic and operates according to a DoubleThink Reality but where unofficial life is not so conservative and it operates more in accordance with empirical reality. In unofficial life, there is no culture war, but in official life, it rages unabatedly, so restricting the political vocabulary that the only reality can be DoubleThink. Everyone’s unofficial life makes them a criminal in official life. Thus the fear and cynicism that will grow regarding the government and particularly the Stasi intelligence and enforcement arms of it. But there will be no challenge to this political reality1. And this is the end game of liberalism in the United States….
1 I should say no ideological challenge. The only challenge is essentially communitarian: e.g, a more “diverse” police force; “open service” in the military, etc.
I going to comment on a recent article, Blaming Obama, written by Justin Raimondo at Antiwar.com. The thrust of his article is a critique of a piece, Trapped, written by Harvard Professor Stephen Walt at his blog at Foreign Policy. Walt, to an extent, is attempting to exonerate Obama for his foreign policy actions because Walt thinks Obama is “trapped” in an institutional framework that is far too powerful even for the President of the United States to confront.
Raimondo’s essentially rejects Walt’s claims and argues that Obama is to blame for his actions because he is, in fact, ideologically aligned with this institutional empire. However, I am going to take a different critical approach to Walt’s piece. I am going to accept his argument as a premise to my own argument. And I’m going to outline a logical conclusion in part from such a premise that is, IMHO, a better counter-argument, from a libertarian perspective, than the one Raimondo constructs.
To start with with, it should be noted that Walt is no partisan toadie. He has appeared as guest before on antiwar radio. Walt’s argument more or less is that ideology has driven a plutocratic institutional foreign policy. That is why the blog tagline reads: “A Realist in a Ideological Age.” Here, his argument is that Obama is captive to this Plutocracy. So we start with a premise of Plutocracy. However, I would challenge Walt’s contention that the plutocracy is driven by ideology. Here, I appeal to Orwell’s political theory.1 There is nothing ideological about plutocracy or oligarchy. Indeed, the objective of such is to destroy ideology by destroying language, to make ideology conceptually impossible. The “Age of Plutocracy” leads to the destruction of ideology so that, in the end, there can be no “Age of Ideology” in a Oligarchical World. To think you can counter Oligarchy by countering ideology with “Realpolitik” is mere DoubleThink.
If we assume Obama , a so-called “transitional political figure,” thrust into power behind a popular grassroots phenomenon, is nonetheless powerless against and captive to the Plutocracy implies that the function of “Realpolitik,” in the end, is the use of politics to legitimize the plutocracy. Walt, in his argument, can only conclude, in the end, that Obama is better than the alternative of another Bush. But from my inferred purpose of “Realpolitik,” Obama has served it’s purpose, which is the legitimization of the Oligarchy. In particular, the legitimization of the Unitary Executive conducting permanent secret war. So, in this sense, Obama has actually been “better” for the Plutocracy.
The reality of “reality politics” is that in a post-liberal era, that is an era marked by catastrophic liberal institutional failure, the institutional alternatives are Oligarchy vs Anarchy. In this era, the only real ideological struggle is class conflict. For the sake of humanity, you should probably hope that ideology wins out over “Realpolitik.”2,3
1Orwell’s political theory revolves a ruling class whose objective is not necessarily wealth, but domination and a persistence of a world-view, a persistence of the hierarchical structures of the ruling class(it doesn’t matter who wields the power; as long as the institutions, the hierarchies remain unchanged). This achieved via permanent war and corruption of the language. The objective of the corruption of language is to make consistent thought impossible. This inability for consistent thought is the “goal of the revolution,” so to speak. In Nineteen Eight-Four, of course, holding a consistent thought(2+2=4) is a crime.
2Note: Libertarianism, as a political critique, particularly as a class critique against the State, is highly ideological. However, as a social theory for the institutional arrangement of social orders, sans the State, I hold it to be much less ideological. In a sense then, both Oligarchy and anarchism would lead to a post-ideological world of sorts. Of course, “post-ideological” means something quite different in one context as opposed to the other(in one, no consistent thought; the other, a lack of dogmatism). In the end, it perhaps boils down to which “post-ideological” world you would prefer to live in.
3Put another way: Reason wins out over DoubleThink.
With all the sound and fury surrounding “the Ground Zero Mosque” claptrap, a rather important recent story in the NY Times has been overlooked: The Large-Scale Expansion of Worldwide Secret Military Assassination Operations by the US Government.
From the article we learn:
For its part, the Pentagon is becoming more like the C.I.A. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret “Execute Orders” have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies. With code names like Eager Pawn and Indigo Spade, such programs typically operate with even less transparency and Congressional oversight than traditional covert actions by the C.I.A.
And this is a permanent war:
In a speech in May, Mr. Brennan, an architect of the White House strategy, used this analogy while pledging a “multigenerational” campaign against Al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates.
This reporting in conjunction with the reporting by the Washington Post and the heroic reporting by the likes of Jeremy Scahill paint a very clear, undeniable picture: We have a unaccountable secret government in the business of murder, and a cancerous growth of a secret intelligence institutional apparatus whose primary objective is to perpetuate and preserve this secret government. This a Nixonian wet dream. From a liberal institutional perspective, this is catastrophic failure.
Radical libertarians are often accused of being hyperbolic when comparing the State to the Mafia. Well, goddamned if this isn’t Murder, Inc. Some will counter that the US Secret Government is only killing al-qaeda. Well, no it’s not. It is killing innocent people as well. You have to be brain dead not to see how this spirals out of control. The NY Times piece gives an obvious example. The US Secret Government kills an innocent, highly respected official along with a suspected “terrorist.” The leader of the government of the home country has to pay “blood money” to tribal leaders to keep things quiet. The US Secret Government maintains it’s secrecy by bribery. How long before the price of the bribes becomes killing off the political enemies of these leaders? Anyone who tries to expose such an unconscionable corruption becomes an enemy of the State. The likes of a Julian Assange is a thorn in the side of this Secret Government when it comes to Afghanistan or Iraq, but he becomes a mortal threat if he documents outright political assassination. The inevitable putrid corruption of this secret government breeds a ubiquitous intelligence/police apparatus necessary to protect such a grossly corrupt government.
Politics is going to save us? Shit…As this bogus “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy demonstrates, politics continues to be dominated by communitarian distractions. Although I’m not a conspiracy theorist, Obama keeps doing a swell job of impersonating a “Manchurian Candidate.” In the end, it probably doesn’t matter if he were a programmed psychopath or not. The institutional political incentives are such that he is rewarded for acting like one.
Regarding this post at Ezra Klen’s blog by Dylan Matthews, I note, that, apparently, there are many being motivated these days by things partisan to actually read up on what the guy wrote. But Matthews misunderstands Hayek. Hayek, being a liberal, and not a libertarian, always viewed a role(albeit a limited one) for government planning(particularly in areas such as social insurance) in terms of “planning for competition,” but never in terms of “planning against competition.” To me, this is not a particularly subtle distinction, but for some, it apparently is. Most assuredly, Hayek would not have been a supporter of “The Health Care Affordability Act,” which, in effect, ossifies politically connected monopolies operating under the auspices of a Command Planning Board.
From a liberal perspective, it would have been far more preferable to have scrapped our perversely incentivized 3-tier model bloat and enact some sort of dual single-payer/free market(the free market component would operate outside the government model, without any insurance for the most part, where prices would be set according to supply and demand). From a libertarian perspective, the preferable model would be to junk government medicine altogether for free market medicine. Social Insurance would be replaced by mutual aid collectives.
Kenneth Arrow’s famous paper, “Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care,” which is the bible of market failure in health Care, argued that the institutional deviations from a “Free market” in health care in post WW II America were the result of socially organic processes naturally arising as a result of such things as “uncertainty” and “information asymmetry.” The rise, however, of international medical tourism markets empirically argues against the likes of Arrow, instead implying that institutional organization in medicine is far more rooted in Public Choice than market failure.
Returning to Hayek, it should be noted that as I have pointed out on numerous occasions, the Road to Serfdom was a critique of State Socialism, the Fabian Socialism advocated by the likes of George Bernard Shaw that was in intellectual favor at the time, and that this critique derived from the Socialist Calculation Debates. In a previous post, I noted that Shaw, when he was a much younger man, had gone toe to toe with the radical libertarians(in particular, Benjamin Tucker), considering them at the time to be the most articulate and coherent intellectual opposition to the State Socialist paradigm. Shaw made an economic argument against the libertarians, in particular an economic argument against classical economics. When classical economics was overthrown by Neoclassical economics–in particular with the rise of Walrasian Neoclassical equilibrium theory–the Socialists had a mathematical economic model paradigm to underlie their social theory. World War I was seen to have made the empirical case, with centrally planned European war economies able to maintain high employment without any business cycle. From this, a case was made that a Walrasian auctioneer(the central planner) of sorts could supplant or at least simulate the role of the market in terms of equilibrium analysis.
It should be pointed out that in academic economics at the time, in particular in the context of era of global war, this opinion held much sway. It was attacked, however, by notable adherents of a second generation of the Austrian School that proceeded the historical school(noting the historical school played a pivotal role in formulating the marginalist revolution that lay at the foundation of Neoclassical economics). In particular, I’m referring to Mises and Hayek. Mises’ contribution perhaps swayed the academic profession that the Walrasian auctioneer could not supplant the need for any function of the market, but not that the Walrasian auctioneer could not simulate the function of the market. From a historical perspective, Mises is said to have lost the Socialist Calculation debate. Hayek, in addressing why the market could not be simulated by a central planner, would eventually formulate the Knowledge Problem critique. The Knowledge Problem was a generation before it’s time, and really wouldn’t be appreciated until the birth of the information age, when economic scholars would conclude that Hayek, in the end, won the debate.
Hayek, meanwhile, at the end the WW II, when WWII central planning exuded overconfidence among the elites about the role of planning in the future, at a time when the role of knowledge and information in society was grasped by few outside of Hayek himself, wrote a political tract that articulated why a Walrasian auctioneer operating in any political institutional and cultural setting would lead to the same institutional result: serfdom. Hayek articulated why things like Fabian Socialism and National Socialism would lead to the same things. Hayek, however, did not view serfdom as the end game of liberalism. That, actually, was George Orwell’s point of view, that capitalism or socialism under liberalism led to the same thing: totalitarianism.
Hayek’s Road to Serfdom was a critique in a historical context aimed at the idea of a “liberal” Fabian Socialism. It was not a critique of the “mixed economies” that would actually emerge, nor did Hayek ever write that liberalism could not adjust. Hayek’s book, if not for Reader’s Digest publishing a condensed version it’s pages, likely would have ended up experiencing the same fate of relative obscurity his other political books suffered from. And it should be noted that Hayek, dismayed perhaps, for being considered an icon of the right, would reject that label with his essay, “Why I am not a Conservative.” All you have to do is read that essay to figure out why the likes of Glenn Beck, who attempt to integrate Hayek with a religious fundamentalist tradition to forge a partisan critique against Obama, is the very personification of the thing Hayek was condemning in his essay.
As a side note, I should probably point out that radical libertarians might side with Orwell to an extent over Hayek, that Capitalism and Socialism under liberal political institutions, in the end, result in the same thing, or at least something that is closely related. In the United States, it is not national Socialism that is the issue, it’s National Corporatism. One or two more internal terrorist attacks, and we are going to experience the full brunt of this. In this sense, I think a Hayekian analysis applies to our current context. But it’s not exactly the same argument Hayek made in The Road to Serfdom.
In a previous post, Internet Kill Switch, I argued that the purpose of “The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010″ was not to engineer backdoor kill switches into the network redundancy of the public internet(which would not only be technically infeasible at this point, but constitute an act of sheer idiocy) but rather to enforce regulatory compliance with “federal rules” for filtering/routing traffic. The predominate type of traffic that would be targeted would be copyright/digital piracy. I also wrote that this would, in a major sense, mark the end of the open internet in that the open cooperation in the forging of standards and protocols(particularly, security protocols) would be more or less subjugated to politics, enforced by the full might and power of the State. So, to whatever degree one might care to debate the role governments played in the formulation and adoption of the “collective internet,” it is clear that while the early efforts were, in effect, “planning for competition,” the role of the State now is increasingly moving toward “planning against competition.”
Frankly, this is not really idle conspiratorial speculation; it is an informed opinion. If you want proof, here’s a recent article illuminating how much the US internal Security Apparatus in entangling it’s tentacles into the enforcement of corporate copyright.
Now, it looks like law enforcement isn’t even trying to hide the fact that they’re taking orders from Hollywood. Dark Helmet points us to the news that Homeland Security proudly announced raids on nine different movie sites, which they accuse of infringing on copyrights. But what’s most interesting is where the announcements about these raids happened: at Disney. And who else was there on stage? Execs from other studios. Yup, Homeland Security isn’t even trying to make the slightest effort to hide the fact that it now works for corporate interests. It will announce legal activity from the companies, which stand to benefit the most from such activity.
The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement gives us the heads up on an enforcement priority of ICE: copyright.
The head of ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], John Morton, says that the number of illegal movie sites is dramatically rising both in the U.S. and abroad, and organized crime is behind some of them. ICE is putting movie piracy front and center in this new initiative, by making its first actions to protect the movie studios’ intellectual property.
I you want to indulge in a bit of conspiracy theory, consider “The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010″ to be the legal enforcement regime for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that is going to be adopted by the United States via Executive fiat, that is, by a mere stroke of the pen of an executive signing agreement.
I keep repeating myself but I think IP, in the end, is perhaps the defining battle line of the early 21st century, and will have the most ultimate repercussions on how humans will be governed or will decide how to govern themselves in the 21st century. Tell me what the “copyright laws” and “intellectual property laws” are at the end of this century, and I can tell you what type of governments prevailed in the end…
A short Quiz. What type of traffic by far constitutes the bulk of “unauthorized traffic” across the public internet? Answer that, and you will know what the so-called “The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010″ intends to address. There is a sophisticated “libertarian class analysis” that can be employed here, but I would caution against being diverted by nonsense of an “internet kill switch.” Tier 1 and Tier 2 providers have invested immensely in redundancy over the years because network down time, resulting from either hardware failure or electrical grid failure(power failure), can be an extinction level event. Even if you flipped off portions of the power grid, you wouldn’t be able to “kill” the public network. And even if, say, you could, it should be noted that “killing” it for even a day would have devastating economic and welfare costs on the global economy, noting that a great deal of global internet traffic flows across the US internet backbone.
So “re-engineering the internet” will not mean re-engineering redundancy so that any one person or group can effectively shut down the public network. At this point, it would be a massively welfare costly endeavor that is not only impractical, but frankly would introduce an obvious huge security hole. No, “re-engineering the internet” means something else here. It is, in effect, the continued subverting of the evolving IPv6 standards, particularly the security protocols, to political ends. What we end up with is either a de facto or de jure “federal license cartel” gestapo enforced over network management. Networks involved in any significant peering will have to employ “federally certified administrators” who will be involved in ensuring that network routing will be in compliance with federal guidelines, that is to say, federal guidelines on how IP traffic will be analyzed and filtered before routing. If it’s not de jure mandated, then it will be “softly” mandated by offering “liability” protection to those who participate. If you don’t participate, then you will be exposed for full liability for “security breaches.” And what are these security breaches? Chinese or East European hackers stealing state secrets or flooding “critical infrastructure” networks with Denial of Service attacks? Laugh the fuck out loud. No, the greatest incidence, by far, of “unauthorized” traffic is copyrighted digital traffic and piracy. So, it should be plain to see that although this Bill is not being “sold” as a mechanism to combat copyright(it’s being sold in terms of protecting National Security) before passage, the end result will be that this is exactly what it will be used to combat. If you don’t “participate” in following federal guidelines in the filtering and routing of traffic, you will be liable for copyright violations. So, yes, federal guidelines are going to be written to try to stop copyrighted digital work being distributed over bitTorrent. Yes, this will also be used to try to combat the likes of Wikileaks and it’s distributive model of disseminating embarrassing classified information the government doesn’t want you to know about. A simplified but accurate way to think of this is to imagine every border router for every Tier 1 and Tier 2 network being reprogrammed to filter traffic according to “federal guidelines;” guidelines, of course, that will be subject to the political process and influence.
Often, I hear/read ignoramuses parrot the line that the government “invented the internet.” These ignoramuses probably wouldn’t know a protocol from a hole in the wall. This is absurd nonsense, given the amazing breadth and scope of what actually underlies what we collectively refer to as “the internet.” It’s been a cumulative evolution of private, public, and joint public-private action. To elucidate on this really requires an entire book. But I can say the internet, although a decentralized, packet-switched network, does require cooperative, collective action, as coordination problem, to effectively serve as an effective wide-spread communication network; really in a myriad of ways. The Internet Society, since the early 90s, has been the umbrella organization for these many cooperative, often informal groups, such as the IETF. The Internet Society’s stated mission is: “to assure the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.”
The internet as a wide area, decentralized packet-switched network than delivers formatted information that be accessed from a myriad of different hardware devices and nodes can’t work without a plethora of agreed upon standards, up and down the IP stack. Admittedly, there has been a significant informal public-private joint role in this, including the development and adoption of the OSI model itself. However, in using the terminology of Hayek, this informal public-private partnership(and it has been mostly informal, not formal) was “planning for competition” and not against it. However, since the planning of IPv6, the eventual 128 bit internet protocol replacement for the current 32-bit IPv4, I’ve noted that this joint public-private partnership in some areas has become quite a bit more formal, especially in the area of security protocols, noting the NSA has long been involved in the development of “the security” of IPv6, and that planning in some aspects has turned from planning for competition to planning against competition. The future internet is being subverted by politics, which counters the assurance of an open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.” Instead, the future internet is evolving where some are clearly going to benefit more than others.
“The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010″ is rich material for a libertarian class analysis deconstruction. What we are seeing is a formalization of a joint public-private partnership to plan against competition in a communications network that many hold out to be the last remaining bulwark against rogue statism. People like Michael McConnell and the sleazy corporatist symbiosis between the NSA and the likes of Booz Allen Hamilton is in our future, and it only portends the coming corporatist sleaze between government, Corporate Media, and corporate security. Rest assured, the NSA is going to be heavily involved in enforcing “copyright.”
And as I’ve written on many previous occasions, tell me what the copyright laws are at the end of this century, and I can tell you what kind of government humans will have.