October 10, 2003  ·  Lessig

It is so rare that I am in 100% agreement with the Cato Institute, but there have been important examples in the past (Eldred). Here’s another. There’s a great essay by Doug Bandow titled “Don’t Ban Technology to Solve Copyright Problems,” which appeared in the Washington Times but is not yet on Cato’s site here. Stay tuned, and stay right (as in correct) Cato.

  • http://pobox.com/~joehall joe

    I wonder what CATO’s position is on free/open source software? I could see it going a few ways… competition… property… etc.

  • Cypherpunk

    I would imagine that Cato would be neutral on open source vs closed source software. Either one represents voluntary, cooperative behavior without coercion or force being imposed.

    Harder issues would include government policies to promote one or the other. Generally Cato opposes government intervention in the marketplace, but I believe they do acknowledge that governments in some form should exist. So should a government adopt policies like only purchasing Microsoft software, or alternatively, only purchasing open source software?

    Probably the libertarian position would be that these decisions should be made solely on local economic grounds – that the government agency in question should decide purely on the basis of total cost of ownership over the lifetime of the product, choosing whatever technology is cheapest and most efficient for that agency’s particular requirements.

    Another hard question would be patents, and their potential use to suppress open source projects. Some libertarians oppose patents because the government acts to suppress even independently conceived ideas; others see them as consistent with the fundamental right to own property.

    I wish there were an organization which specialized in analyzing the many challenging net-related issues from a libertarian perspective. All too often I find myself alone in espousing libertarianism on such issues as Trusted Computing. It would be helpful to be able to point to a think tank that had published white papers on questions like these. The http://www.cato.org/tech page seems too oriented towards inside-the-beltway analysis that focuses on cable regulation and FCC policies. I’d like to see a more grass-roots and more radically freedom-oriented libertarianism be promoted.

  • Patrick Ryan

    Cypherpunk,
    Have you seen the work by the New America Foundation?. I believe that they officially do not have a political orientation, although I find many of their views to be somewhat libertarian.