July 10, 2012

Ron and Rand Paul: The public domain is an evil collectivist plot


The Pauls, libertarian darlings, have taken up a new crusade — that of internet freedom — outlining their views in a “Technology Revolution” manifesto. The document declares one particular group as the enemy of the internet, the so-called internet “collectivists,” and in doing so denounces the public domain.

According to Erik Kain at Forbes, the manifesto warns of,

“internet collectivists” out to appropriate the language of freedom, the new Manifesto argues that further regulation of the internet will lead to less freedom online rather than more. They argue that any attempt by the government to increase its regulatory power is ludicrous, noting the hypocrisy in advocating that “private sector data collection practices must be scrutinized and tightly regulated in the name of ‘protecting consumers,’ at the same time as government’s warrantless surveillance and collection of private citizens’ Internet data has dramatically increased…”Internet collectivists are clever,” the manifesto reads. “They are masters at hijacking the language of freedom and liberty to disingenuously push for more centralized control. ‘Openness’ means government control of privately owned infrastructure.'”

As Kain notes, dividing internet advocates against censorship between “collectivists” and “libertarians” seems false and slightly pointless, it also ignores the issue of corporate censorship.

The manifesto was immediately picked apart by tech journalists. Mike Masnick on techdirt wrote,

“I’m perplexed by the new “internet freedom” manifesto from Ron Paul and Rand Paul, which seems like a hodgepodge of poorly thought out concepts — some of which make sense, and some of which do not. While I agree about keeping the government out of internet regulations, the document seems to attack many of those who actually agree with the Pauls by setting up ridiculous strawmen. In particular, the Pauls come out vehemently against both net neutrality as a concept and any effort to expand the public domain — even though both are really about limiting big government.”

He goes on to say,

“Earth to the Pauls: copyright is a massive government-granted monopoly privilege. That’s the kind of thing we thought you were against, not for. In this document, you seem to be arguing for one of the largest programs in the world of a centralized government handing out private monopoly privileges.”

The manifesto seems to be a strategy for the Pauls to continue to win the youth vote with a nod to being techno-saavy, and pretty unhelpful for anything else.


Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.