Letter: A victory for freedom or an attack on liberty?
Jared Wlater, of Glenwood Springs, avers in a long letter that can fairly be described as an angry rant (Feb. 28, The Aspen Times) claiming that the recent Federal Communications Commission Internet ruling for Internet neutrality is an “alarming milestone” threatening our “supreme right,” which, he goes on to say, is “liberty,” without specifying liberty as to what. As to speech or voting or researching whatever we wish online or moving wherever and whenever we wish or marrying whomever we wish? Perhaps also as to shooting whomever we wish — getting more popular, these days, that John Wayne/Clint Eastwood/Billy the Kid sort of liberty to whip out a six-shooter and fire at whomever we choose, standing immediately ready to fire again at any counter-shooters. Jihadists in Iraq and Syria enjoy this Wild West liberty today. Their faith is in Muhammad. As to Wlater’s unspecified “liberty,” I’m guessing his faith is in Ayn Rand.
Wlater says the FCC vote marks a “total sea change” in which neither we ourselves (each or together) nor our elected officials in proxy for us any longer get to decide the rules by which we collectively live. He fears that regulators instead, somehow outside of our democratic control, rule us — diminishing our “liberty” so much as to make it effectively or imminently lost.
Incidently, Wlater wrongly asserts the Internet was “constructed … by a vast alliance of private entrepreneurs” when in fact it was created by government-funded international university folk, requiring special legal adjustments later to even allow commercial use. (For a brief, clear history, see any of several websites, such as: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/09/history-internet.)
But let’s focus on Wlater’s more important mistake: that “the FCC decision paves the way to control content.” Wlater ignores the well-versed counterargument that the FCC ruling actually prevents control of content, specifically control by the richest. Anyway, most of us in fact insist on content control in all kinds of media, as to such things as pornography, incitement to jihad, annoying dunning, etc.
To reuse the oft-used highway analogy, the issue was not content but whether to ensure that the “highway lanes” are equal, permitting any small, cheap “vehicle” to go just as fast as any big expensive “vehicle,” disallowing the latter to crowd out the former by paying cash to the highway owners or the highway cops. There may be other reasons to regulate content — pertaining, for example, to jihadists — which is why we now regulate how and who boards aircraft. Hardly anyone wants the Transportation Security Administration to be free-market owned, for then jihadists could get on our planes by simply paying enough into the right pockets.
It seems Wlater is likely one who agrees that dollars are words and that money is the proper measure of our personal liberty — the Libertarian dream that all your liberties should depend on only your own money and your guns, obviating most of government and thus most of the protections of our liberty we now enjoy.
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