In a recent episode of This Week in Google, Jeff Jarvis, with some support from Leo Laporte, suggested that perhaps, given the incredible importance of the Internet, it should be treated like the highway system, with the government paying companies to build it out, but having state guaranteed access. I enjoy listening to TWIG, and many other programs on the TWIT network, but this idea immediately made me think of an old SNL skit:
Compared to turning the Internet into something like the highway system, the ideas in that clip are absolute genius. Consider what the government routinely does on the highway:
It claims the right to stop and inspect travelers’ cars based on the judgment of the police officer (probable cause)
It levies taxes on machines which use the highways, above and beyond the taxes it already collects on the purchase
It licenses users, charging them for the right to drive, on top of the taxes it already levies on the sales of vehicles and license plates
It mandates insurance, corrupting the insurance industry and incentivizing them to support government policies and donate to political campaigns
It forbids the use of technology to hide the interior of the car (window tinting laws) as well as technology to avoid speeding tickets (bans on radar jammers and detectors)
Turning the Internet into something like the highway system would mean government inspecting Internet traffic, blocking it, or even arresting users for things like copyright violations, setting policies on how traffic is prioritized, banning encryption except for approved encryption which the government can decrypt at will, taxing users for the right to use the Internet, and mandating the purchase of security programs. It is hard to imagine a finer example of a Bad Idea.
Sadness? At a law that, had it passed, would have regulated and taxed the use of a common plant — a lovely weed and an amazing source of industrial fiber as well as widely used herbal remedy? No. All those regulations and taxes would only have skewed the cultivation and marketing of the plant from personal and small-business operations to Big Business. Right now Californians are increasingly cultivating and openly using marijuana. In defiance of the federal government, no less.
But with the initiative, the state would have started cracking down on little producers, and making it harder for small business to provide their customers with the drug. [Keep reading…]
Declaration of Independence (1776): “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”
A Pledge to America (GOP, 2010): “Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course.”
If this goes on, related fellow TLS blogger Daniel Coleman to me, in another 100 years it will be “Whenever a subpoint of policy within a government agenda becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to organize a committee to change those subpoints of policy and replace them with better subpoints.”
Liberty Central, the Establishment’s attempt to co-opt the Tea Party, has a poll asking us to grade the Pledge. Head on over there and tell them what you think of it. Fellow TLS blogger Jacob Huebert has a couple ofgood posts on LewRockwell.com about Liberty Central, the Tea Party, the Pledge, and Glenn Beck.
The Liberty Central poll only lets you grade the Pledge as a whole. Here is a quick graded breakdown of important aspects of the Pledge, with short reactions by me in parentheses:
Just when we thought that the “1099 nightmare” was going to be it for 2010, we learn of the new IRS impositions on internet commerce. These rules target folks selling stuff online. People selling 200 items or making $20k on eBay, for example, shall be subject to reporting rules. People who make a living (or complement their income) by selling trinkets online will be particularly hurt by this. I foresee a reduction in business on Etsy and similar cottage industry sites. Personal sales in the open market might take a hit, at least for marginal sellers. Some might just sell less while others will have to distribute their online activity so that they are not as easy to target. To make things worse, Paypal will be required to report online activity, meaning that they will send the IRS 1099 forms that will have to match each individual seller’s information.
The 1099 nightmare extends from small businesses to tiny one-person operations. Of course, I bet that large companies can only cheer. After all, they already have systems and personnel to deal with the flood of paperwork that the money-thirsty IRS has required from society. A great win for corporatism.
From the Edmonton Journal comes news that some Greenpeace members rappelled off the top of Calgary Tower to hang a banner that read “Separate Oil and State.”
Scott Blasken got this shot from his office window Tuesday morning after Greenpeace unfurled a banner from the Calgary Tower.
Hey, I’m all in favor of separating oil and state. But that means no strategic oil reserves; no taxes, including carbon taxes; no cap-and-trade; no regulations; no moratoriums or bans on offshore or other drilling; no special protections of any kind, including caps on liability for actual damages to private property caused by oil companies;1 no eminent domain (ab)use; and no mercantilistic and imperialistic wars to make the world safe for domestic consumption of foreign oil. But somehow I don’t expect all of this is what the Greenpeace activists confusedly mean by “separate oil and state.” Alas and alack.
I’m not talking about limited liability for shareholders here. I’m referring to caps like the $75 million liability cap that has received so much attention in the wake of the BP oil spill, enacted in 1990 as part of the Oil Pollution Act following the Exxon Valdez spill. ↩