The Internet is an American invention depending on a specifically American vision of society. It was built with American seed money. It represents the best about the way we used to do things: Tell the folks what you want; spring a little money on them; most of it produces nothing; some of it turns out to be the very best investment of the century, perhaps even the best investment in history. Let it run itself as much as possible. Refrain from giving it a captain.
Other countries are utterly incapable of doing anything like this. How do I know? None but one even tried, France. Its government-managed (Post Office owned) Minitel was even accessible to the general public earlier than the Internet. The French closed it about two years ago. It had ceased to serve any purpose side-by-side with the Internet. That was as clear a case of competition between two ways of doing things as might be devised in a real scientific experiment.
The French Minitel (which I used) did good service for many years as an electronic phone book and address finder and it housed a prodigious amount of porn. I almost forgot: It was also a prime venue for prostitutional dates. In spite of these attractions, it was to the Internet as Wisconsin blue cheese is to real, cave-aged French Roquefort (not the stuff they put on your salad, the $26/lb stuff). The main fault in this comparison, of course, is that American cheese makers can only improve their act. Non-Americans are not going to catch up on items such as the Internet because they lack the vision thing.
Other countries claim that they have a right to co-manage the Internet because their citizens use it. That’s it! So, if I clear a path in the bushes for my own use and I let the nice guy next door use it, and also the child molester two houses down, it’s not my path anymore?
Note that this sharing in the name of the often-poisonous concept of sovereignty need not happen, even by their own argument. Other countries’ governments can always block it if they wish. They can and do occasionally deny access to their citizens and take the blow-back. In many countries, the blow-back is also indirectly a blow for freedom.
Letting other countries have a say over the management of the Internet is likely to produce no improvement that I can think of. (But I keep an open mind; please, instruct me.) It’s extremely likely to facilitate despotism in many countries. Try a mental experiment: What’s Vladimir Putin, or the Chinese Mafia masquerading as people’s party going to contribute? The tyrants simply want to do their best to close the windows that let in any fresh air at all.
In other parts of the world, the desire for partial control of the Internet is motivated by cultural jealousy. That would be the case in France, in Spain and in much of Latin America, also to an extent, in China. But governments in those countries don’t need more power over the Internet to combat their citizens’ regrettable proclivity to listen to American music and to buy primarily tickets for American movies (in spite of prodigious government subsidies for the national cinema in France and in Spain). They already have full power to put anything they want on the Internet. I mean loads of bad French movies, even erotic movies where the naked women are pointedly vaguely repulsive. (See my piece “French Movies, Sex, and the Welfare State” [and also “Can Protectionism Ever Be Respectable?” (pdf) in the Independent Review – bc]). The Spaniards are free to place on the Net four or five Spanish-made movies each year and even to try and charge admission. And the government of the so-called “People”, so called “Republic ” of China is always welcome to transmit live on its blog the full sessions of the Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party, for the pleasure of all.
There are plenty of ways with the existing Internet arrangements to combat the poison of American Cultural Imperialism. Best of luck to them. (For God’s sake, with a handful of major exceptions, even our disasters are better than theirs!)
You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of countries where moderate government involvement and decentralization are understood by any significant fraction of the populace. Others don’t know how to do anything decentralized, won’t know for years or centuries.
The worst case scenario is also the most likely, I think: Following the Obama administration’s capitulation, the Internet will end up being “managed” by a UN-like international body run by faceless, brain-dead bureaucrats.
What bothers me in yet this other American retreat at the hands of the Obama administration is its sheer mindlessness, its obvious abandonment of common sense. Contrary to may other conservatives, I don’t think Mr Obama is evil. He is acting pretty much as you would expect from a man who had never accomplished anything in his life before becoming president. I said this during his first campaign in 2008 (but I am too lazy to look for the relevant link . I said it many other times since, including this one).
It’s not that President Obama is bad or even stupid; the problem is that he is ignorant and lazy, including intellectually lazy. And he and his wife sure like their vacations at public expense.
Yeah, I must be a racist: “lazy” is just another racial stereotype, after all. See if I care!
And I am a little ashamed of the dig about the presidential family vacations. I mean his wife was severely deprived for 250 years; she is only catching up. He was not that deprived himself though. His name indicates a coastal origin among the slaving tribes on his father’s side. On his mother’s side he comes from reformed and moderate hippie stock. Hippie like me.