Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”     George Bernard Shaw

January 17, 2006

The Reactions

by Eric

Earlier this month, I talked about CATO Unbound and their topic for this month: Internet Liberation: Alive or Dead?. In fact, I posted an entry titled Thoughts on Technology and Liberty just a day before CATO announced their topic, which I discussed in This Should Be Fun. Now the discussion is in full swing over at CATO.

Jaron Lanier posted the first essay, The Gory Antigora: Illusions of Capitalism and Computers, which has been followed by two more. Eric Raymond has written his Reply to Lanier, which makes some excellent points about Gift Cultures, capitalism, open and closed systems and freedom in general. The most significant point he makes, in my opinion, is in his conclusion.

As I pointed out years ago in Homesteading the Noosphere (which I highly recommend reading!), gift cultures rely on a hefty wealth surplus to keep them afloat. While there are many ways to concentrate such a surplus (patronage by one tyrant or a group of aristocrats can do it) capitalism is the only way to do it that scales up well. Capitalism is every gift culture’s best hope for sustainability.

Glenn Reynolds, the InstaPundit, wrote his Reply to Lanier, as well. And, as I expected, makes some excellent points from the perspective of the technically oriented layperson. Again, it is the concluding paragraph where the point I consider most important is made. Of course, this is how the author’s intended it, but so often we, in reading their writing gain insights or see key points other than where the author intended the strength to be. In any case.

To me, this is another reason why we should favor space exploration and – more significantly, over the long run – space colonization. (As I wrote a while back, “Stephen Hawking says that humanity won’t survive the next thousand years unless we colonize space. I think that Hawking is an optimist.”) And, it happens, the empowerment of individuals and small groups that we’re seeing elsewhere is also going on here, with significant progress in space technology taking place now that it’s moving out of the hands of a government monopoly. Let’s hope it moves fast enough.

And finally, John Perry Barlow has written his Reply to Lanier and it’s posted today. I haven’t yet had an opportunity to read it, but I’m looking forward to what the author of “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” has to say, as well.

I think, between what I’ve written and what Reynolds and Raymond have written, we can show that technology, in general, and, more specifically, the Internet are strong tools for individual liberty and wealth generation. Just as importantly, folks who are thinking like Jaron can be seen to be ignoring the true reality of the interactions between capitalism and gift cultures. Stronger by far than any of the individuals who started us on this path could have ever imagined. I plan, after reading Barlow’s essay, to write my own set of thoughts on this specific topic, much like Kay when she wrote Internet Liberation and the Ingenue. Stay tuned.

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