The Libertarian Internet: Wikipedia, Craigslist, and Ebay

The recent kerfuffle over SOPA got me thinking again about how relatively free the Internet is–not in terms of cost, but as a beacon of freedom.

Consider three of the online world’s greatest success stories, Wikipedia, Craigslist, and Ebay.  Each exists with minimal interference by the managing authority–those who run each site merely set up the forum and restrain abuse (in Wikipedia’s case, by checking edits to articles for accuracy; in Cragslist’s and Ebay’s by monitoring legality and honesty of postings).  Other than that, users are free to participate and contract with each other as they will.  The managing authorities of each site generally stay out of people’s way and let them live.

Isn’t that how government should work?  Maintain a framework for successful societal operations, as per the constitution, but otherwise stay out of the way?

If someone points out problems with these sites (like a Craigslist killer), I’d respond that punitive regulation causes more problems than it solves (OSHA, anyone?).  The freest society is the one that causes the fewest problems.

Truly, the Internet’s success is due to the unfettered innovation of individuals (Facebook, anyone?).  I think it would be hilarious to see a satire of what Wikipedia, Craigslist, and Ebay would look like if they were run by liberal governing ideals.  Does anyone really think that heavy-handed interference and proscription would make them better?


8 comments on “The Libertarian Internet: Wikipedia, Craigslist, and Ebay

  1. Have to agree with you here. Of course, it’s mostly conservatives and the hacks in both parties who are working hard to stifle the internet through legislation like ACTA and SOPA. A free exchange of ideas is a threat to the established order which is based on misinformation and entrenched ideologies on both sides.

    That said, we cannot have absolute freedom because we are human and as such have among us those who will use their freedom to take advantage of others and deny others the same freedoms they enjoy. If employers could be trusted to maintain safe workplaces in spite of the obvious negative impact to their bottom line, then we wouldn’t need OSHA regulations. Unfortunately that is not the case.

  2. Charles: “That said, we cannot have absolute freedom because we are human and as such have among us those who will use their freedom to take advantage of others and deny others the same freedoms they enjoy.”

    Yes. Thus, the Constitution.

  3. The Constitution would suffice if it were in the interests of the most powerful forces in the country to obey it. Unfortunately that is not the case. Free expression in an oligarchy run for the benefit of the few is likely to result in riots like those in Greece. That’s why so little truth leaks out of our media and politicians in both parties agree on economics, militarism and repression of dissent.

  4. This sounds like an argument against “free expression,” which, despite any good intentions behind it, is patently unamerican. Our media may be biased, and there may be corrupt corporate interests doing harm, but nothing justifies curtailing freedom.

  5. SOPA/PIPA and ACTA are quintessentially American; all legislation that is going through is paid for by the lobbyist. And the most vocal supporters of these freedom-killers have been GOP more than Dems.

    And if this goes through, it will give a great opportunity to shut down sites that publish things that are embarrassing to rich corporations or billionaires.

    In other words, that would mean censorship.

    • Both parties are in the pocket of the rich and it is counter-productive to argue which is worse. The question is how do we fix this and get government power into the hands of the people from whom all just powers derive?

    • actually i don’t think that the above is what i started to say exactly. seems i got confused with my own argument and misfired. the coin of the realm (‘net) is exaggeration, anyhow.

      meant more like: it is likely that those who speak for removing income tax and repealing any regulation on sight are more likely to be those paid for by big corporations and the filthy rich. unless the regulation means suppressing information or snooping on our privacy.

      difficult to say who’s more likely to vote for what, unless we follow the money. which naturally is a bit difficult, with the loopholes existing in election funding. often the money really seems to start arriving in someone’s pocket after they leave legislatures, in the figurative sense of the phrase, so it’s difficult to prove any crime.

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