The United States Military Declares Julian Assange and WikiLeaks Enemies of the State

When the military of the country you live in declares an organization like Wikileaks an Enemy of the State, which in this case means military personnel who make contact with the organization risk a capital offense, then the country you live in is just one step away from a full blown authoritarian government. Of course, the final step is when the “regulation” is extended to civilians.

Remember Julian Assange is one of us(radical libertarian). At this point anyone who is not officially an “enemy of the State” is just a lip flapper. Julian Assange is a hero. PERIOD….

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Technology is not Freedom

“Copyright bots” are a new “innovation” in data-analytics. The reliability of the data recognition(the content signature) by these distributed platforms, however, is still quite faulty. Wired recently published some of the embarrassing false positives generating by these platform censors which resulted in termination outages on high-profile content providers. Content that has recently been blocked included Michelle Obama’s speech on Youtube, NASA’s broadcast of the Curiosity Rover on Youtube and the Hugo Awards on UStream.

The more interesting point of the story was buried a bit: all major content platform providers are embedding these spy platforms into their infrastructure. This is not an actual legal requirement but it is following a law of political economy.

I browsed over to the website of one of the major players in this field. The tagline of the website reads: “Powering the Internet Video Economy.” The home page splash presentation trumpets the company’s partnership with Hollywood, Professional Sports, and China. I looked at its application platform, a platform, of course that’s patent pending(patenting the enforcement of patents and copyrights). The jargon reads “Rights Management, Content Filtering and Monetization, Business Analytics, Automatic Content Recognition, Search Recommendations.” In plain terms this means they are spying on you to both restrict access to unauthorized access to content and to monetize your viewing habits for “authorized content.” Frankly, why wouldn’t a censoring platform with access to your viewing habits take advantage of it to monetize your preferences to “legitimate” content providers. Its called Capitalism, right?

Content Identification and Data Signature Analysis is an “industry” in its infancy. There is plenty of innovation to be had in the pursuit of economic rents in this sector of political economy. But I would cite as an easy example of how technological innovation is not necessarily going to improve your life and make you more free. In fact, as in this case, its likely to make you substantially less free. This was a point I tried to make in my recent two-part “Internet Freedom” posts. And as I noted, the business of data analytics was at the heart of Peter Thiel’s recent critique of Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Fine, you say. Just don’t watch your content online. No one is forcing you to log on to Google to watch content. But it won’t end there. Currently, all major online content providers are busy integrating content spyware into their infrastructure and platforms. But the same law of political economy driving this will steer a “spy regulatory platform” to the network provider layer, too.

Although it is not a major news or blogosphere focus, the “cybersecurity” executive order publicly contemplated by Barack Obama is quietly moving through The Firm’s channels for executive implementation. A legislative reinforcement will follow eventually. The law of political economy–rent-seeking– predicts the legislative addendum/follow-up to a CEO decree because of competing players(rent-seeking agency) fighting over the specific compliance (rules) regime of the contest.

The broad structure of the contest is defined by the top-level rule:

immunity from liability with respect to network traffic in exchange for compliance

Obama’s CEO Executive Decree will “legally” establish the broad stroke of the top level rule. Namely:

(i) the rule that network providers are, Ab initio, liable for the content payload of traffic over their network infrastructure(more specifically, liable for not filtering/blocking/counteracting “illegal/bad” traffic)

(ii) ex tempore immunity from all liability by following/implementing the rules of the compliance regime

The political economic competition in any “CyberSecurity Act” will be over the compliance rules for ex tempore immunity. Of course, any such “Bill” will be presented as ostensibly resolving the regulatory and legal burdens of network providers interfacing/info sharing with the extensive federal agency framework regarding “cyber attacks.” Every critical piece of infrastructure is plugged into the “public network” so we need a uniform, efficient regulatory framework to deal with the realities of the 21st century. It will even be presented with a “libertarian spin,” a pro-business slant, “reducing the regulatory burdens” on business.

Of course, the current reality of the 21st century is that the primary government agency responsible for coordinating cyber attacks is the United States government. The only agency actually capable of crippling the public network is the United States government.

The other pertinent reality of the 21st century is the inevitability of cloud computing. By “cloud computing,” I mean every computer resource imaginable delivered as a service. These resources include software, storage, platform, infrastructure, security and data. All tied together by a stack of interoperable APIs. It is in this environment where the contest over data analytics will play out. And you really can’t defect from this. More precisely, I would equate any attempt at defection as a “retreat to the woods.” Sans going “Jeremiah Johnson,” you will not be able to escape the data analytics of the cloud.

The ubiquity of cloud computing is inevitable because the internet is a small network. The cloud is much more efficient. A “free market” over a small network almost certainly delivers a cloud computing platform. Simply because that’s where the economic rents are. However, the data-analytics regime over the cloud is going to follow the structure of the rent-seeking contest. According to contest structure I outlined above, the contest will follow a rent-seeking compliance of the panopticon.

Obey the panopticon or starve. That’s not freedom…

Public Choice and The Firm

Some readers may be interested in this little exchange I had with Charles Rowley a few weeks back. Admittedly, I started the commentary with a bit of a snarky entrance, asking how the “Dean of Public Choice” could allow his heart to be captured and uplifted by a politician’s speech(more precisely, the speech of a politician’s wife). However, what followed was civil, and it perhaps sheds some illumination on the methodological differences between “classical liberals” and libertarians.

An important question is why “classical liberals” often seem to have a natural alignment with conservatives? My methodology, which I would deem to be consistent with “classical libertarianism,” finds this alignment to be fatal. But we are given a clue by Rowley’s rejection of the method of “The Firm.” Indeed, Rowley (although he is an admirer of de Jasay and counts him as a good friend) rejects de Jasay’s inclusion within the public choice discipline. Rowley writes:

Jasay’s work is not public choice. Jasay deals with an organic state, not methodological individualism. What would you do if you were the state is his question. There is no such thing as a state. Only a collective of individuals.

I would dispute Rowley’s contention. I think the agency of The Firm is quite real and apparent. Would one likewise say “there is no Microsoft or Google, there is only a collection of individuals?” Indeed, I would submit that the agency of The Firm(as a type of DRO) is a natural consequence of economic rent-seeking. And I would apply this consequence to both political economy and “the free market” by simply adopting the very generic definition of economic rent as “returns in excess of opportunity cost (noting, however, that a legal structure of the firm does not necessarily equal the limited-liability corporation. A DRO can have an arbitrary structure, although a certain degree of verticality and hierarchy is implicit).

In a comment, I outlined a long-winded microeconomic foundation for the Agency of the State. This agency is real. But we can arrive at it via a microeconomic method. As I like to say, I can draw line from Public Choice to de Jasay to the class theory of the French Laissez Faire economists.

Interestingly, in the place of The Firm, Rowley advocated an alternative model of “The Prince,” which is the name I bequeathed to the method that emerges from “The Dictator’s Handbook.” I have not actually the read the book, but it is clear(from reading reviews and Rowley’s comments) that The Prince has universal application–it applies to both institutions of State and Civil Society. So to save “methodological individualism” as a method(almost treating it as an end to be preserved rather than as means), Rowley appears willing to dispense with a compelling insight of liberal social theory: individuals with different interests and ends can nonetheless use reason as a tool to coordinate these interests to mutual advantage.1 This insight simply cannot survive The Prince.

Once again, “classical liberalism” derived from a Public Choice method constrained by the classical liberal bounds regarding the agency of the State is simply not coherent.

1 The Better Angels of our Nature

Conservatism is Collectivism

The old adage is that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, in my case, it’s worth approximately 500,000 words. The intellectual entirety of this blog can be neatly summarized by the graphic above. I would laugh at the farcical irony of it all if not for the fact that those 500,000 words expatiate on an enduring topic: there is no irony in American politics. That’s the genius of the system.

Your guess is as good as mine whether Rich Lowry and the folks at National Review intentionally borrowed from Soviet propaganda or whether soviet propaganda is simply a natural unconscious habit of minds unburdened by irony. The propaganda is that the American presidential election is a contest between the competing world views of Karl Marx vs Ayn Rand. But Ayn is slumming in CCCP drag, and Karl is pimping for Bank of America.

Charles Baudelaire and Keyser Söze are both noted for having uttered the famous phrase: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” But I disagree. I think the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled is having a devil without the details.

(Hat Tip: LRC)