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Libertarian Life-Extension Reforms – Video Series by G. Stolyarov II

Libertarian Life-Extension Reforms – Video Series by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
December 10, 2012

This video series is derived from Mr. Stolyarov’s essay, “Political Priorities for Achieving Indefinite Life Extension: A Libertarian Approach“. The series highlights each of the proposed areas of pro-liberty life-extension reforms in an effort to spread these ideas and achieve their broader public consideration.

#1 – Repeal FDA Approval Requirements

Mr. Stolyarov discusses the greatest threat to research on indefinite human life extension: the  current requirement in the United States (and analogous requirements elsewhere in the Western world) that drugs or treatments may not be used, even on willing patients, unless approval for such drugs or treatments is received from the Food and Drug Administration (or an analogous national regulatory organization in other countries).

Such prohibitions on the quick development and marketing of potentially life-saving drugs are not only costly and time-consuming to overcome; they are morally unconscionable in terms of the cost in human lives.

#2 – Abolishing Medical Licensing Protectionism

There are too few doctors in the West today – not enough to deliver affordable, life-saving treatments, and certainly not enough to ensure that, when life-extending discoveries are made, they will rapidly become available to all.

Mr. Stolyarov advocates for the elimination of compulsory licensing requirements for medical professionals, and the replacement of such a system by a competing market of private certifications for various “tiers” of medical care.

#3-4 – Abolishing Medical and Software Patent Monopolies

Patents – legal grants of monopoly privilege – artificially raise the cost and the scarcity of new drugs and new software. Mr. Stolyarov recommends allowing free, open competition to apply to these products as well.

#5 – Reestablishing the Doctor-Patient Relationship

The most reliable and effective medical care occurs when both patients and doctors have full sovereignty over medical treatment and payment. A libertarian system is most likely to prolong individual lives and lead to the rapid discovery of unprecedented life-extending treatments.

Mr. Stolyarov presents the case for political reforms that maximize patient choice and free-market experimentation with various methods of payment for and provision of medical services.

#6 – Medical Research Instead of Military Spending

Mr. Stolyarov concludes his series on libertarian life-extension reforms by offering a way to reduce aggregate government spending while also increasing funding for medical research. If government funds are spent on saving and extending lives rather than destroying them, this would surely be an improvement. Thus, while Mr. Stolyarov does not support increasing aggregate government spending to fund indefinite life extension (or medical research generally), he would advocate a spending-reduction plan where vast amounts of military spending are eliminated and some fraction of such spending is replaced with spending on medical research.

Political Priorities for Achieving Indefinite Life Extension: A Libertarian Approach – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Political Priorities for Achieving Indefinite Life Extension: A Libertarian Approach – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 22, 2012

While the achievement of radical human life extension is primarily a scientific and technical challenge, the political environment in which research takes place is extremely influential as to the rate of progress, as well as whether the research could even occur in the first place, and whether consumers could benefit from the fruits of such research in a sufficiently short timeframe. I, as a libertarian, do not see massive government funding of indefinite life extension as the solution – because of the numerous strings attached and the possibility of such funding distorting and even stalling the course of life-extension research by rendering it subject to pressures by anti-longevity special-interest constituencies. (I can allow an exception for increased government medical spending if it comes at the cost of major reductions in military spending; see my item 6 below for more details.) Rather, my proposed solutions focus on liberating the market, competition, and consumer choice to achieve an unprecedented rapidity of progress in life-extension treatments. This is the fastest and most reliable way to ensure that people living today will benefit from these treatments and will not be among the last generations to perish. Here, I describe six major types of libertarian reforms that could greatly accelerate progress toward indefinite human life extension.

1. Repeal of the requirement for drugs and medical treatments to obtain FDA approval before being used on willing patients. The greatest threat to research on indefinite life extension – and the availability of life-extending treatments to patients – is the current requirement in the United States (and analogous requirements elsewhere in the Western world) that drugs or treatments may not be used, even on willing patients, unless approval for such drugs or treatments is received from the Food and Drug Administration (or an analogous national regulatory organization in other countries). This is a profound violation of patient sovereignty; a person who is terminally ill is unable to choose to take a risk on an unapproved drug or treatment unless this person is fortunate enough to participate in a clinical trial. Even then, once the clinical trial ends, the treatment must be discontinued, even if it was actually successful at prolonging the person’s life. This is not only profoundly tragic, but morally unconscionable as well.

As a libertarian, I would prefer to see the FDA abolished altogether and for competing private certification agencies to take its place. But even this transformation does not need to occur in order for the worst current effects of the FDA to be greatly alleviated. The most critical reform needed is to allow unapproved drugs and treatments to be marketed and consumed. If the FDA wishes to strongly differentiate between approved and unapproved treatments, then a strongly worded warning label could be required for unapproved treatments, and patients could even be required to sign a consent form stating that they have been informed of the risks of an unapproved treatment. While this is not a perfect libertarian solution, it is a vast incremental improvement over the status quo, in that hundreds of thousands of people who would die otherwise would at least be able to take several more chances at extending their lives – and some of these attempts will succeed, even if they are pure gambles from the patient’s point of view. Thus, this reform to directly extend many lives and to redress a moral travesty should be the top political priority of advocates of indefinite life extension. Over the coming decades, its effect will be to allow cutting-edge treatments to reach a market sooner and thus to enable data about those treatments’ effects to be gathered more quickly and reliably. Because many treatments take 10-15 years to receive FDA approval, this reform could by itself speed up the real-world advent of indefinite life extension by over a decade.

2. Abolishing medical licensing protectionism. The current system for licensing doctors is highly monopolistic and protectionist – the result of efforts by the American Medical Association in the early 20th century to limit entry into the profession in order to artificially boost incomes for its members. The medical system suffers today from too few doctors and thus vastly inflated patient costs and unacceptable waiting times for appointments. Instead of prohibiting the practice of medicine by all except a select few who have completed an extremely rigorous and cost-prohibitive formal medical schooling, governments in the Western world should allow the market to determine different tiers of medical care for which competing private certifications would emerge. For the most specialized and intricate tasks, high standards of certification would continue to exist, and a practitioner’s credentials and reputation would remain absolutely essential to convincing consumers to put their lives in that practitioner’s hands. But, with regard to routine medical care (e.g., annual check-ups, vaccinations, basic wound treatment), it is not necessary to receive attention from a person with a full-fledged medical degree. Furthermore, competition among certification providers would increase quality of training and lower its price, as well as accelerate the time needed to complete the training. Such a system would allow many more young medical professionals to practice without undertaking enormous debt or serving for years (if not decades) in roles that offer very little remuneration while entailing a great deal of subservience to the hierarchy of some established institution or another. Ultimately, without sufficient doctors to affordably deliver life-extending treatments when they become available, it would not be feasible to extend these treatments to the majority of people. Would there be medical quacks under such a system of privatized certification? There are always quacks, including in the West today – and no regulatory system can prevent those quacks from exploiting willing dupes. But full consumer choice, combined with the strong reputational signals sent by the market, would ensure that the quacks would have a niche audience only and would never predominate over scientifically minded practitioners.

3. Abolishing medical patent monopolies. Medical patents – in essence, legal grants of monopoly for limited periods of time – greatly inflate the cost of drugs and other treatments. Especially in today’s world of rapidly advancing biotechnology, a patent term of 20 years essentially means that no party other than the patent holder (or someone paying royalties to the patent holder) may innovate upon the patented medicine for a generation, all while the technological potential for such innovation becomes glaringly obvious. As much innovation consists of incremental improvements on what already exists, the lack of an ability to create derivative drugs and treatments that tweak current approaches implies that the entire medical field is, for some time, stuck at the first stages of a treatment’s evolution – with all of the expense and unreliability this entails. More appallingly, many pharmaceutical companies today attempt to re-patent drugs that have already entered the public domain, simply because the drugs have been discovered to have effects on a disease different from the one for which they were originally patented. The result of this is that the price of the re-patented drug often spikes by orders of magnitude compared to the price level during the period the drug was subject to competition. Only a vibrant and competitive market, where numerous medical providers can experiment with how to improve particular treatments or create new ones, can allow for the rate of progress needed for the people alive today to benefit from radical life extension. Some may challenge this recommendation with the argument that the monopoly revenues from medical patents are necessary to recoup the sometimes enormous costs that pharmaceutical companies incur in researching and testing the drug and obtaining approval from regulatory agencies such as the FDA. But if the absolute requirement of FDA approval is removed as I recommend, then these costs will plummet dramatically, and drug developers will be able to realize revenues much more quickly than in the status quo. Furthermore, the original developer of an innovation will still always benefit from a first-mover advantage, as it takes time for competitors to catch on. If the original developer can maintain high-quality service and demonstrate the ability to sell a safe product, then the brand-name advantage alone can secure a consistent revenue stream without the need for a patent monopoly.

4. Abolishing software patent monopolies. With the rapid growth of computing power and the Internet, much more medical research is becoming dependent on computation. In some fields such as genome sequencing, the price per computation is declining at a rate even far exceeding that of Moore’s Law. At the same time, ordinary individuals have an unprecedented opportunity to participate in medical research by donating their computer time to distributed computing projects. Software, however, remains artificially scarce because of patent monopolies that have increasingly been utilized by established companies to crush innovation (witness the massively expensive and wasteful patent wars over smartphone and tablet technology). Because most software is not cost-prohibitive even today, the most pernicious effect of software patents is not on price, but on the existence of innovation per se. Because there exist tens of thousands of software patents (many held defensively and not actually utilized to market anything), any inventor of a program that assists in medical, biotechnological, or nanotechnological computations must proceed with extreme caution, lest he run afoul of some obscure patent that is held for the specific purpose of suing people like him out of existence once his product is made known. The predatory nature of the patent litigation system serves to deter many potential innovators from even trying, resulting in numerous foregone discoveries that could further accelerate the rate at which computation could facilitate medical progress. Ideally, all software patents (and all patents generally) should be abolished, and free-market competition should be allowed to reign. But even under a patent system, massive incremental improvements could be made. First, non-commercial uses of a patent should be rendered immune to liability. This would open up a lot of ground for non-profit medical research using distributed computing. Second, for commercial use of patents, a system of legislatively fixed maximum royalties could emerge – where the patent holder would be obligated to allow a competitor to use a particular patented product, provided that a certain price is paid to the patent holder – and litigation would be permanently barred. This approach would continue to give a revenue stream to patent holders while ensuring that the existence of a patent does not prevent a product from coming to market or result in highly uncertain and variable litigation costs.

5. Reestablishing the two-party doctor-patient relationship. The most reliable and effective medical care occurs when the person receiving it has full discretion over the level of treatment to be pursued, while the person delivering it has full discretion over the execution (subject to the wishes of the consumer). When a third party – whether private or governmental – pays the bills, it also assumes the position of being able to dictate the treatment and limit patient choice. Third-party payment systems do not preclude medical progress altogether, but they do limit and distort it in significant ways. They also result in the “rationing” of medical care based on the third party’s resources, rather than those of the patient. Perversely enough, third-party payment systems also discourage charity on the part of doctors. For instance, Medicare in the United States prohibits doctors who accept its reimbursements from treating patients free of charge. Mandates to utilize private health insurance in the United States and governmental health “insurance” elsewhere in the Western world have had the effect of forcing patients to be restricted by powerful third parties in this way. While private third-party payment systems should not be prohibited, all political incentives for third-party medical payment systems should be repealed. In the United States, the pernicious health-insurance mandate of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) should be abolished, as should all requirements and political incentives for employers to provide health insurance. Health insurance should become a product whose purchase is purely discretionary on a free market. This reform would have many beneficial effects. First, by decoupling insurance from employment, it would ensure that those who do rely on third-party payments for medical care will not have those payments discontinued simply because they lose their jobs. Second, insurance companies would be encouraged to become more consumer-friendly, since they will need to deal with consumers directly, rather than enticing employers – whose interests in an insurance product may be different from those of their employees. Third, insurance companies would be entirely subject to market forces – including the most powerful consumer protection imaginable: the right of a consumer to exit from a market entirely. Fourth and most importantly, the cost of medical care would decline dramatically, since it would become subject to direct negotiation between doctors and patients, while doctors would be subject to far less of the costly administrative bureaucracy associated with managing third-party payments.

In countries where government is the third-party payer, the most important reform is to render participation in the government system voluntary. The worst systems of government healthcare are those where private alternatives are prohibited, and such private competition should be permitted immediately, with no strings attached. Better yet, patients should be permitted to opt out of the government systems altogether by being allowed to save on their taxes if they renounce the benefits from such systems and opt for a competing private system instead. Over time, the government systems would shrink to basic “safety nets” for the poorest and least able, while standards of living and medical care would rise to the level that ever fewer people would find themselves in need of such “safety nets”. Eventually, with a sufficiently high level of prosperity and technological advancement, the government healthcare systems could be phased out altogether without adverse health consequences to anyone.

6. Replacement of military spending with medical research. While, as a libertarian, I do not consider medical research to be the proper province of government, there are many worse ways for a government to spend its money – for instance, by actively killing people in wasteful, expensive, and immoral wars. If government funds are spent on saving and extending lives rather than destroying them, this would surely be an improvement. Thus, while I do not support increasing aggregate government spending to fund indefinite life extension (or medical research generally), I would advocate a spending-reduction plan where vast amounts of military spending are eliminated and some fraction of such spending is replaced with spending on medical research. Ideally, this research should be as free from “strings attached” as possible and could be funded through outright unconditional grants to organizations working on indefinite life extension. However, in practice it is virtually impossible to avoid elements of politicization and conditionality in government medical funding. Therefore, this plan should be implemented with the utmost caution. Its effectiveness could be improved by the passage of legislation to expressly prohibit the government from dictating the methods, outcomes, or applications of the research it funds, as well as to prohibit non-researchers from acting as lobbyists for medical research. An alternative to this plan could be to simply lower taxes across the board by the amount of reduction in military spending. This would have the effect of returning wealth to the general public, some of which would be spent on medical research, while another portion of these returned funds would increase consumers’ bargaining power in the medical system, resulting in improved treatments and more patient sovereignty.

Legalize Competing Currencies – Article by Ron Paul

Legalize Competing Currencies – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
August 16, 2012

I recently held a hearing in my congressional subcommittee on the subject of competing currencies.  This is an issue of enormous importance, but unfortunately few Americans understand how the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department impose a strict monopoly on money in America.

This monopoly is maintained using federal counterfeiting laws, which is a bit rich.  If any organization is guilty of counterfeiting dollars, it is our own Treasury.  But those who dare to challenge federal legal tender laws by circulating competing currencies – at least physical currencies – risk going to prison.

Like all federally created monopolies, the federal monopoly on money results in substandard product in the form of our ever-depreciating dollars.

Yet governments have always sought to monopolize the issuance of money, either directly or through the creation of central banks. The expanding role of the Federal Reserve in the 20th century enabled our federal government to grow wildly larger than would have been possible otherwise.  Our Fed, like all central banks, encourages deficits by effectively monetizing Treasury debt.  But the price we pay is the terrible and ongoing debasement of our money.

Allowing individuals and business to use alternate currencies, especially currencies backed by gold and silver, would expose the whole rotten system because the marketplace would prefer such alternate currencies unless and until the Fed suddenly imposed radical discipline on its dollar inflation.

Sadly, Americans are far less free than many others around the world when it comes to protecting themselves against the rapidly depreciating US dollar.  Mexican workers can set up accounts denominated in ounces of silver and take tax-free delivery of that silver whenever they want.  In Singapore and other Asian countries, individuals can set up bank accounts denominated in gold and silver.  Debit cards can be linked to gold and silver accounts so that customers can use gold and silver to make point of sale transactions, a service which is only available to non-Americans.

The obvious solution is to legalize monetary freedom and allow the circulation of parallel and competing currencies.  There is no reason why Americans should not be able to transact, save, and invest using the currency of their choosing.  They should be free to use gold, silver, or other currencies with no legal restrictions or punitive taxation standing in the way.  Restoring the monetary system envisioned by the Constitution is the only way to ensure the economic security of the American people.

After all, if our monetary system is fundamentally sound– and the Federal Reserve indeed stabilizes the dollar as its apologists claim–then why fear competition?  Why do we accept that centralized, monopoly control over our money is compatible with a supposedly free-market economy?  In a free market, the government’s fiat dollar should compete with alternate currencies for the benefit of American consumers, savers, and investors.

As Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises explained, sound money is an instrument that protects our civil liberties against despotic government. Our current monetary system is indeed despotic, and the surest way to correct things simply is to legalize competing currencies.

Representative Ron Paul (R – TX), MD, is a Republican candidate for U. S. President. See his Congressional webpage and his official campaign website

This article has been released by Dr. Paul into the public domain and may be republished by anyone in any manner.

Dead-Tree Luddites – Article by Genevieve LaGreca

Dead-Tree Luddites – Article by Genevieve LaGreca

The New Renaissance Hat
Genevieve LaGreca
May 28, 2012

Imagine you’re living in the 15th century. You’re witnessing a revolution that will profoundly change the world. This revolution doesn’t involve swords and cannons but rather words and books. The cause of this upheaval is the most important invention in more than a thousand years: the printing press, by Johannes Gutenberg.

Within a few decades of its launch, you see the printing press transform the field of bookmaking in ways previously unimaginable. Printed books are far easier, faster, and less costly to produce than the books that had preceded them, which had to be laboriously copied, one page at a time, by hand. In the time it takes to copy one page by hand, the printing press can turn out hundreds or thousands of copies of that same page, thereby making it possible for the first time in history for almost anyone to own books.

Within a century of its creation, the printing press will spread throughout western Europe, producing millions of books, spurring the economic development of industries related to it, such as papermaking, and spreading literacy and knowledge around the world. The printing press will make possible the rapid development of education, science, art, culture — and the rise of mankind from the medieval period to the early-modern age.

Let us further imagine that not everyone in the 15th century is happy about this innovation. Unable to match the benefits of the printing press, the producers of hand-copied books are outraged. The scribes are being put out of business. The penmanship schools that train the scribes, the quill makers that supply their pens, and the manufacturers of the stools and drafting tables that literally support them are seeing a drop in sales. The hand-copied books are now priced too high to compete with the Gutenberg press, so their publishers are experiencing no growth, with no new capital coming into their industry. The sales force for the hand-copied books is also in despair, with their customers now ordering the new printed books from the Gutenberg people, and their lost income being money they can no longer put into their communities. Alas, the monopolistic monster, the printing press, is taking over.

The hand-copied-book interests complain bitterly to the Great Sages at their Hallowed Council of Justice. “Sires,” they cry, “you must stop the predatory pricing and scorched-earth policies of the Gutenberg press. It’s wiping out the competition. How can this be in the public interest?”

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and we see another revolution that is turning the book industry topsy-turvy — the transformation from printed books to electronic ones. This revolution is spearheaded by a modern-day Gutenberg,, the pioneer of the ebook, the Kindle device for reading it, and the online marketplace for publishing and selling it.

What Amazon has accomplished is truly amazing. With Kindle, it has eliminated the industry middlemen who come between the writer and reader of a book — from agents to publishers to distributors to wholesalers to brick-and-mortar bookstores. Kindle has also eliminated the need for a physical inventory of books, with its high printing, warehousing, and shipping costs. These innovations have resulted in far less expensive books now available to consumers. And the new marketplace of ebooks has been especially advantageous for self-publishers unable to get their books accepted through the traditional channels, who now have an avenue open to them for reaching customers directly.

The popularity of these ground-breaking innovations is enormous, with Kindle books now outselling the combined total of all paperback and hardcover books purchased from Amazon.

Without any middlemen or gatekeepers, with virtually no costs involved, and with self-marketing possible through social media and other Internet channels, electronic publishing is creating a robust market for new writers and books. For example, one novelist who was unable to find an agent or publisher has self-published two of her novels on Kindle. With her books priced at $2.99 and with a 70 percent royalty from Kindle, she earns approximately $2 per book. She is selling 55 books per day, or 20,000 books per year, which amounts to sales of $60,000 and royalties to her of $40,000. (As a simple comparison, without getting into the complexities of book contracts, this author might earn a royalty of approximately 10 percent from a traditional publisher, which would require her to achieve sales of $400,000 to earn as much money as she does self-publishing on Kindle.) Other authors are doing even better, including two self-published novelists who have become members of the Kindle Million Club in copies sold. These writers started with nothing — they were not among the favored few selected by agents and trade publishers, and they had no publicists or book tours — yet, thanks to electronic publishing, they are making a living, with some achieving stunning success.

The low pricing of ebooks, scorned by the traditional publishing interests, is the emerging writer’s new ticket of admission into the book industry. While readers may be highly reluctant to risk $25 in a bookstore to try a new writer’s hardcover work, they are buying the ebooks of new writers priced at or around $2.99 on Kindle. Writers are finding their fans and making money at these prices, and readers, judging by Amazon’s “customer reviews,” are happy with these low-cost books.

The writer-publisher in America dates back to our founding, promoting vigorous free speech and intellectual entrepreneurship. Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, both bestsellers in their day, were self-published. If the American dream is to start with nothing but one’s own talent, motivation, and hard work, and from that achieve success, then in recent times this dream was essentially closed to writers who failed to win the favor of the agents and trade publishers. Prior to the ebook revolution and online marketing spurred by Amazon, there was a stigma attached to self-publishing, despite its long and distinguished tradition in America. The major trade reviewers would not consider a self-published book, which meant that libraries and bookstores, which order based on the reviews, would not carry it. Now, ebooks are not only taking the stigma out of self-publishing but arguably making it the preferred route. Amazon has opened the avenue to pursuing the intellectual’s American dream once again.

Yet the same medieval attacks projected above against the printing press are now being launched against Amazon, with the attackers imploring the modern-day “sages” at the Justice Department to stop the new menace called Amazon.

Leading the charge back to the Middle Ages is the New York Times. Two articles appearing on the front page of its business section on April 16, 2012, illustrate what happens when the Luddites (i.e., those hostile to technological development) meet the statists (i.e., those who look to achieve their ends through government force).

“Daring to Cut Off Amazon” by David Streitfeld praises a publisher-distributor for pulling its printed books out of Amazon. (Amazon discounts not only ebooks but also the printed books it so successfully sells.) The company is Educational Development Corporation, whose CEO, Randall White, laments, “Amazon is squeezing everyone out of the business.… They’re a predator. We’re better off without them.”

One of Mr. White’s concerns was that his sales people were losing business because their customers were buying the company’s books cheaper from Amazon. Sales consultant Christy Reed comments about her local customers, “Yes they got the books for less [from Amazon]. But my earnings go back into our community. Amazon’s do not.” It apparently didn’t occur to her that by buying books cheaper on Amazon, her former customers have more money to spend in her community, and the Amazon staff who replaced her have more money to spend in their communities. But where spending does or doesn’t take place is not the main economic point. The real point is that for the same total spending in the economic system as a whole, people now obtain more books and have money left over to buy more of other things.

“Book Publishing’s Real Nemesis” by David Carr cites the recent antitrust suit brought by the Justice Department against five publishers and Apple, charging they engaged in the price-fixing of ebooks. Instead of condemning this police action against production and trade, Mr. Carr bemoans the fact that the strong arm of the law didn’t go far enough to grip the “monopolistic monolith” Amazon, which “has used its market power to bully and dictate.” Mr. Carr considers it bullying and dictating when a private company (Amazon) sets its terms, and other players (the publishers) are free to do business with it or not. But it’s not bullying and dictating when the compulsory power of the state intervenes to set economic terms and punish businesses arbitrarily?

Mr. Carr quotes Authors Guild president and best-selling author Scott Turow, who worries that the club of authors and publishers will shrink. (Really?) “It is breathtaking to stand back and look at this and believe that this is in the public interest,” complains Mr. Turow about Amazon’s success. He also wonders if Amazon will drive the price of books so low that there will be “no one left to compete with them.” Apparently the “public interest” doesn’t include the millions of customers who choose to buy the mother lode of affordable ebooks from Amazon and who may not welcome his solicitous concern over the low prices they’re paying. And apparently the “public interest” doesn’t include the fresh crop of new authors now sprouting through ebooks, without the benefit of the major publishers and lucky breaks that he had.

The Luddite tone of the attacks against Amazon rings like the following: The electric light will replace the candle. The car will replace the horse and buggy. The cure for tuberculosis will put the sanatoriums out of business. The computer will replace the typewriter.

The statist element lies in the attackers’ desire to enlist the police power of the state to stifle the competition and artificially prop up their businesses.

Granted, it may be disappointing and painful for those whose jobs are thinning out or becoming obsolete due to technological advancements, but that can’t justify government intrusion. Morality is on the side of the people engaged in voluntary trade and against those who urge the Justice Department’s encroachment into their industry. The charges levied against Amazon — as a predator, monopolist, bully, etc. — actually do not apply to a company engaged in voluntary trade, no matter how big its market share, but rather to those trying to preserve their interests through government action.

In the case of Amazon, the ones trying to restrain trade are the attackers themselves. Moreover, not only is morality on the side of Amazon, but so too are the long-run material self-interests of everyone in the economic system. Everyone working will earn money, but, thanks to Amazon and every other innovator of better products or more efficient methods of production, the buying power of the money he earns will be greater. The enemies of productive innovators are, by the same token, antisocial enemies of the general buying public.

The complaints lodged against Amazon would be harmless if the complainers could not use the government to advance their cause. But they can, through antitrust laws. These laws give the state the power to evaluate the price of a company’s product in relation to its competition and to punish companies — severely and arbitrarily — for prices deemed to be unacceptable. If a company’s price for its goods is deemed to be too low, it can be punished for being predatory and destructive of competition. If the price is deemed to be the same as its competitors, it can be punished for collusion and price-fixing. If the price is deemed to be too high, it can be punished for being monopolistic.

Using antitrust laws against the book industry poses an additional grave danger over and above their use against other industries. Because the book industry represents the dissemination of knowledge and ideas, an attempt to regulate the price of books abridges the free flow of ideas and violates our First Amendment right to freedom of the press.

Anyone interested in the survival of a robust book industry — or any other industry — with the free flow of products, the creativity of new business methods, and the preservation of economic freedom and property rights, must support the repeal of these oppressive laws.

The market — comprising the voluntary decisions of millions of free people — determines the pricing of books, the form a book will take, the device it will be read on, the winners and the losers of the competition. If the market chooses an innovative technology and a new direction, then so be it. Let the medieval bookmakers copying their books by hand and their contemporary counterparts using needless paper and ink, warehouses, delivery trucks, and bookstores, adopt the advances or quit!

Totally unlike competition in the animal kingdom, in which the losers are eaten or die of starvation, the losers of an economic competition do not die. At worst, they must relocate in the economic system at a lower level. But in an economic system free enough rapidly to progress, as ours has been for most of the last two and a half centuries, even the lowest-paid workers enjoy a standard of living that surpasses that of the kings and emperors of earlier ages. This is why the Gutenbergs of the world must be left free to dream, to create, and to trade without fear of punishment.

Gen LaGreca is the author of Noble Vision, a novel that won a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year Award and was a finalist in the Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards. After being rejected by dozens of agents and unable to find a trade publisher, it now enjoys steady ranking in the Top 100 Best Sellers in medical and political genre fiction on Kindle. Send her mail. See Genevieve LaGreca’s article archives.

Economist George Reisman contributed to this article.

You can subscribe to future articles by Genevieve LaGreca via this RSS feed.

Copyright © 2012 by Genevieve LaGreca. Permission to reproduce is granted with attribution.

A Barrage of Assaults on Internet Freedom – Video by G. Stolyarov II

A Barrage of Assaults on Internet Freedom – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Even after SOPA/PROTECT IP’s demise, assaults on the Internet in its present form have continued on a variety of fronts. Some of these assaults are in the form of legislation, while others are deployed by nominally private entities that in fact thrive on political connections and special privileges. These attempts would limit harmless individual expression and create the presumption of guilt with respect to online activity — quashing that activity until the accused can demonstrate his innocence.

Mr. Stolyarov focuses on four of these assaults: H.R. 3523 – the dubiously named Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), NSA surveillance, ISP/trade-association cooperation, and Arizona’s House Bill 2549.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational discourse on this issue.

– “A Barrage of Assaults on Internet Freedom” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act” – Wikipedia
– “Stop Online Piracy Act” – Wikipedia
– “PROTECT IP Act” – Wikipedia
– “The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)” – James Bamford – Wired Magazine – March 15, 2012
– “NSA vs USA: Total surveillance zooms-in on Americans” – Video from RT
– “RIAA chief: ISPs to start policing copyright by July 1“- Greg Sandoval – cNet – March 14, 2012
– “American ISPs to launch massive copyright spying scheme on July 12” – Stephen C. Webster – Raw Story – March 15, 2012
– “US ranked 26th in global Internet speed, South Korea number one” – Shawn Knight – TechSpot – September 21, 2011
– “Arizona bill could criminalize Internet trolling” – Chris Morris – Yahoo! Games – April 3, 2012
– “Arizona Wants to Outlaw Trolling by Banning ‘Annoying’ Comments” – Paul Lilly – Maximum PC – April 5, 2012

A Barrage of Assaults on Internet Freedom – Article by G. Stolyarov II

A Barrage of Assaults on Internet Freedom – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 11, 2012

           After massive public outrage and activism by major technology companies in January 2012 put an end to the draconian proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act, one might have expected the US political and media establishments to relent in their attempts to suppress Internet freedom. But the assaults on the Internet in its present form have continued on a variety of fronts. Some of these assaults are in the form of legislation, while others are deployed by nominally private entities that in fact thrive on political connections and special privileges. These attempts would limit harmless individual expression and create the presumption of guilt with respect to online activity – quashing that activity until the accused can demonstrate his innocence. Virtually every attempt is promoted under the guise of one of four motivations: “security” against “terrorist” online activities, copyright protection, protection against pornography, or the simple desire not to be offended.

            Consider H.R. 3523 – the dubiously named Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Like most of the worst bills, it is a “bipartisan” creature, sponsored by Representatives Michael Rogers (R-MI), C. A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD), and 29 others. This bill is being advanced with the dual ostensible purpose of “protecting” networks against unspecified “attacks” and enforcing copyright and patent law. The end result of the bill would be a virtually unlimited power of the US federal government (or private companies that would be empowered to “voluntarily” hand over private user data to the federal government) to monitor any and all online activities at any time without a warrant – even if the activities have no relation to online attacks or infringement of patents or copyrights. Furthermore, there is no limitation in CISPA on how the information collected by government agencies and private companies could be used – and no guarantee that it will not be used for purposes other than “cybersecurity.”  Indeed, the agencies to whom CISPA would delegate authority over “cybersecurity” – the National Security Agency and Cybercommand – are military agencies that are permitted to operate in complete secrecy regarding their aims and protocols. This is a common pattern in attempts to gain power over the Internet: a specific series of threats is asserted, but the proposed “remedy” to these threats is so broad and general as to encompass practically every online activity – with no safeguards to preclude nefarious uses, even when including those safeguards would be a matter of basic common sense. This leads to the unsurprising conclusion that the specific threats are a mere convenient excuse for something else.

            The National Security Agency, in the meantime, does not believe that it even requires legal authority (much less Constitutional authority) to construct a massive data center in Bluffdale, Utah (see this article from Wired Magazine and this video from RT) that is intended to capture and store all e-mails, voice mails, online searches, and other Internet activities by all Americans, all under the ostensible aim of somehow enhancing “national security” – as if your phone conversation with a friend or business e-mail could somehow have any conceivable connection to terrorist activity! While this information will do nothing to prevent terrorist attacks, it will allow the federal government to launch investigations of individuals on the basis of information that has hitherto remained off-limits: sensitive health and lifestyle data, details of private lives that individuals would rather not share with the outside world, the misconstrued off-hand remark in an e-mail or text message, legitimate and peaceful entrepreneurship or intellectual expression that are disagreeable to some federal official, or the unintended violation of some obscure federal law that one did not even know existed.  Even today’s deeply convoluted and often inscrutable system of federal laws can be endured by most Americans, simply because the federal government does not have the ability to pry into the minutiae of each of their lives. Of course, there is so much information online that the NSA would not be able to focus on every individual’s activities in real time. But with access to the entire “electronic footprint” of a person, crucial information about such activities could be produced on demand – say, if a powerful politician wished to investigate a vocal critic for tax evasion (as Franklin Roosevelt often did to his political opponents), or if a federal agency sought to catch a prominent activist in an act of indiscretion (as the FBI routinely attempted to do with leaders of the civil-rights movement). Such surveillance will not lead to every technical violation of every obscure prohibition or mandate being recognized and punished – but if you stand out too much and attract notice for other (perfectly legal) reasons, beware!

          Much of the vast information that would come to the NSA would be automatically flagged for containing “suspicious” keywords or patterns of words – without the imposition of a common-sense filter of meaning. There is the real possibility that Americans might be subject to surveillance, investigation, prosecution, or worse, on the basis of a statistical algorithm. The NSA is even working on ways to break some of the codes used by individuals to encrypt their online communications – a deliberate attempt to bypass privacy safeguards which these individuals have intentionally put in place.

            The trade associations for establishment media interests, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), have not stopped in their designs to limit internet freedom for people merely suspected of copyright infringement. Having lost the legislative battle (which they will surely attempt to fight again), the RIAA and MPAA have instead decided to partner with the regional-monopoly high-speed internet service providers (ISPs) in order to arrive at a “voluntary” scheme of graduated response against individuals whose usage of Internet bandwidth is deemed “suspicious.”  This arrangement is expected come into effect on July 1, 2012, and would, in practice, largely affect users of torrents (which could be utilized for entirely legal purposes, such as an independent artist or game designer freely “seeding” his own work). The first several times, torrent users would be given warnings and asked to attend RIAA/MPAA-sponsored “educational” courses. Ultimately, after repeated suspicions of “infringement,” the ISPs would be required to severely limit the user’s bandwidth – although it is not clear whether they would be permitted to terminate Internet access for the user altogether. All this would be done without recourse to legal due process, without the presumption of innocence, and without the opportunity for the accused user to demonstrate innocence to a body whose Executive Board will be comprised of RIAA/MPAA leadership anyway.

            While this arrangement may superficially seem like a consensual deal among private trade associations and private ISPs, this is far from the underlying reality. Neither the RIAA/MPAA nor the American ISPs are close to free-market entities. The RIAA and MPAA have routinely attempted to use the force of legislation to limit competition and protect the market dominance of their members – the large film and recording studios whose greatest fear is the open, free, decentralized culture of creation emerging on the Internet. The ISPs grew out of telephone companies with local or regional monopolies on service granted to them by law – a legacy of the breakup of AT&T, which until 1982 was the coercive telephone monopoly in the United States. While the AT&T breakup legalized some measure of competition, it did not provide for a market of truly open entry in each jurisdiction; rather, each of AT&T’s pieces (many of which have since re-consolidated) became a mini-AT&T and has used its monopoly profits to artificially bolster itself in subsequent rounds of technological evolution. As a result of their legal privilege, many large ISPs have been able to engage in quasi-monopolistic practices, including the capping of bandwidth on ostensibly “unlimited” plans, the requirement that customers rent modem equipment which they could easily purchase themselves, byzantine phone “help” lines which seem more designed to deter consumers from calling than to actually offer assistance from real people, and frequent reluctance to improve Internet infrastructure despite the ready technological means to do so. The coercive monopolies of the ISPs have resulted in the United States being in mere 26th place in the world – just slightly ahead of the global average – for Internet download speeds. In South Korea, typical Internet speeds are about four times faster – a tantalizing hint at what a freer, more competitive market could accomplish for consumers.  Some of the greatest harms of unfreedom come not in the form of direct legislative or executive action, but rather from the creatures of unfreedom – the politically privileged entities that would not have existed in a free society and that use their power to make deals amongst themselves at consumers’ expense.

            For those who do not understand that freedom of speech includes freedom to offend, there is a new possible recourse in Arizona’s House Bill 2549 (see here and here), which has already passed both houses of the Arizona Legislature. The bill is intended as a way of deterring online bullying, but it would, among other prohibitions, render it illegal to use “any electronic or digital device” to “annoy or offend” anyone or to “use any obscene, lewd or profane language” – punishable by six months in jail for violations that do not involve actual stalking. If you make a controversial comment about a political or religious subject – or simply offend someone’s tastes in art, sports, or food – you will certainly “annoy” someone and be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor in Arizona. And as for that First Amendment and its guarantee of free speech – bring that up, and you will surely have annoyed someone, so off to jail you go. And if you think that “profane language” is limited to words relating to human bodily functions, a religious fundamentalist might have a rather different understanding of that term, which might involve your disbelief or less fervent belief in the principles of his religion.

          The pattern is clear: a seemingly limited purpose with at least some public sympathy is used as a rationale for unprecedented, sweeping powers of surveillance and punishment – designed to transform the Internet of today from an engine of creativity and individual empowerment into a tamed arm of the establishment. The Internet envisioned by the politicians and lobbyists championing CISPA, NSA surveillance, ISP/trade-association cooperation, and Arizona’s House Bill 2549 is a glorified and technological version of “bread and circuses” for the masses – providing them with plenty of entertainment but within carefully controlled and supervised parameters. The intellectual innovator, the independent artist, the small-scale technologist, the do-it-yourself researcher, the electronic activist, the open-source software designer – all members of the “read-write” Internet culture of individual hyper-empowerment – have no place in the centrally planned world of these political and media elites. The old world in which these elites thrived is rapidly succumbing to the broadly uplifting possibilities of electronic technology – but they will not let their power go without a fight. As the downfall of SOPA and PROTECT IP showed, only massive public outrage can defeat ongoing efforts to limit Internet freedom, the last bastion of largely unfettered liberty that exists in contemporary Western societies. An Internet that continues to be predominantly individualistic and unrestrained can catalyze technological and cultural progress that will make freedom and prosperity in all other areas possible within our lifetimes. An Internet that is placed in shackles will become a mere tragic tool for surveillance and social control.