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« Indulgences | Main | The stupidest argument against libertarianism *ever* »

May 18, 2010

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Christian Monsieur

Can you imagine what our future looks like if we are dependent on a few large corporations for the software we use? Freedom of choice is great, but I would expect a Libertarian to understand that freedom to enslave ourselves must be guarded against. Fear and entitlement are two of the ways our citizens are seduced into a choice of less freedom.

The Bill of Rights prohibits Congress from making any law prohibiting free speech, free press, and free assembly. But no law is required to remove these rights when a few corporations have a monopoly on the tools we use to communicate.

Would you tear up the Bill of Rights because it doesn't give you the right to restrict speech, the press or free assembly?

In the future, proprietary software will look like enslavement when you have no way out.

Josh

This seems extreme. I mean, why worry about just software? Up until 50 years ago, the printing press was by far the most important tool for dissemination of speech and there were only a handful of companies doing the vast majority of the printing. And up until 10 years ago, the air waves were by far the most important and there again, we only had a handful of companies doing the vast majority of broadcasting. Cars are another method for communication and there are only 1/2 dozen companies building those in this country.

I think the only reason this is even discussed with software and not with earlier forms of communication is simply because it would actually be feasible to say that no on owns software. Printing presses, transmitting antennas (and frequencies), and manufacturing plants are all physical things that cannot reasonably be owned by all, so no one even considers it. However once written, software - like music - has zero marginal cost, so it would be feasible for it to instantly become public domain.

But the fact is, there is no evidence that having small numbers of corporations owning the means of communication leads to enslavement. And the reason is that when it is companies - as opposed to the government - there is the right of exit. At any point you can stop paying for Microsoft or Apple's software without having to quit your job or uproot your family - or go to prison. This option is missing from the government, which is why we need a bill of rights there. And which is why any comparison between the Bill of Rights' prohibitions on Congress and the rights of companies to write - and own - software is pretty thin.

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