Internet and Freedom

Thu Dec 8 16:53:45 MST 1994

     Doug Henwood wrote, in response to my very brief post,
that the Internet "system is physically decentralized, but it
was established by one of the last surviving central planning
institutions - and a very successful one at that - the
Pentagon.  It was sustained with decades of government
subsidies, as were the computer and telecoms technologies

     Let's not quibble.  The government military machine has
given us a host of war-related technologies which have since
been converted to peaceful uses.  There are thousands of
products that have been developed from such technologies, but
if we waited for the government to use these technologies to
benefit or sustain human life, we might as well believe in
the tooth fairy.  Just because the technologies emerged
initially from government action does not disqualify their
use for non-government activities.  And while we KNOW what
emerged from the Pentagon, we will never know the
"opportunity costs" that were exacted, the foregone
opportunities that MIGHT have been pursued by market
participants in the social economy, if the Pentagon had not
been crowding out non-military expenditures through the
expropriation of the taxpayer - and of other peoples
worldwide - to the tune of trillions of dollars over the past
half-century.  Certainly no one here is defending - or should
be defending - the Permanent War Economy, or IBM, or any
other corporations that have slurped at the public trough and
benefitted from subsidies, restrictions, regulations and
other privileges.  Furthermore, no one is saying that the
government is incapable of producing "social products"...
the question is: social products for what use?

     Finally, if you don't like Prodigy, and I, in fact, do
not belong to Prodigy, don't use it.  If the government takes
over, there will be nowhere else to go.  One of the purposes
of decentralization is freedom of access.  Observe that one
of the first institutions that is centralized under any
statist order is the means of COMMUNICATION.  Private
presses, publishers, the very instruments of communication,
are nationalized by the state to suppress dissent.  This is a
tool of authoritarian consolidation and it must be resisted.

     The beauty of any spontaneous order is the ability of
human beings to freely associate with one another, to devise
new and more effective ways to communicate.  That's why I
like this discussion group so much.  It IS a public good
appropriated by each of us for private AND social reasons.
The spontaneous order of this group, like that of the entire
Internet, has evolved in sometimes "chaotic," "unpredictable"
ways.  Let's keep it that way.

                          - Chris
Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, N.Y.U. Department of Politics
INTERNET:  sciabrrc at
  BITNET:  sciabrrc at nyuacf


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