Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Freedom of speech not dependent on property rights

As Ron Paul would say. Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Conscience, are things that fundamentally involve no property but ones own body, a state of affairs that stretches the notion of "property rights" past any accepted definition. Freedom of Speech meant the freedom to make a speech or to talk in public with others without fearing repercussions. And people have been literally taken down off podiums and arrested while giving speeches fairly recently, for example during the IWW free speech fights on the West Coast where speakers tried to talk about Industrial Unionism. Freedom of Conscience or belief, means that you should be able to believe whatever it is you want to believe, about religion, about the government, about society, with no one able to attack you just for having that belief in your head. There's no property involved there. The printing press and the internet are just extensions of the type of speech that used to go on in public squares and in some anachronistic places literally still goes on there. The internet itself makes the issue of speech and private property less clear. I own a computer and subscribe to an ISP, the ISP is linked to a complex system of routers controlled by a lot of different companies, somewhere out there in California is Blogger.com, which is now owned by Google, and I publish writings that I produce via Blogger, but Blogger doesn't own them and I don't pay Blogger anything to use their service. There's money flying back and forth behind the scenes all the time, between Google and Blogger and between different internet backbone components, but neither I nor any of the millions of people who use Blogger see any of it. How is my ability to exercise my speech on this blog dependent on property rights other than that every entity along the way owns itself and some of them try to sell advertising to each other? I own the copyright to all my work, although I really don't care if people use it except if they either want to publish it in a book, charge money for it, or pass it off as their own. It's intellectual property nonetheless, but there are a lot of people out there who use the "Creative Commons" system, which sacrifices large parts of the idea of intellectual property in the name of making information accessible.

To me it looks like a lot of companies are acting in a non-ultra competitive, completely market oriented way that make internet freedom of speech possible. If the corporations who control the internet really wanted to fuck people over they could easily do so, savaging Blogger and a lot of other sites in the interest of marketability or appropriateness of content. We could theoretically set up an alternative site if Blogger got shut down, but considering that Blogger has several million blogs attached to it it would be pretty hard to build ourselves up to and to finance that level of activity. But that gets into another argument, the solution to which I believe is that corporations that control large parts of the media should be nationalized, with a very different government than we have now doing the nationalizing.

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