November 24, 2004 · Lessig
So months ago, I posted this odd post, titled “INDUCING gun control legislation”. I had to pull the blog post because the Washington Post had accepted something close to this op-ed. At the time, of course, INDUCE was looming. Activists, including Public Knowledge, EFF, and industry has now of course succeeded in stalling the legislation for now.
The basic point of the op-ed is obvious: There’s no difference in principle between regulating p2p manufacturers, and regulating gun manufacturers. Both make products that do harm; if you believe PK/EFF w/r/t p2p, and the NRA w/r/t guns, then both make products that do good too. If you want to be principled and distinguish the two, you’d have to say either that the harm caused by one is much greater than the harm caused the other, or that the good produced by the one is much less than the good produced by the other. By my reckoning, such an effort to distinguish would doom gun manufacturers, not p2p manufacturers.
Anyway, there’s a bit more to the argument in the piece itself. But one point I want to make clear: My argument is about what a principled Congress would do. It is not a prediction. It is of course “naive” to believe Congress believes itself constrained by “principle.” But if principle is absent, then please, let these Congressmen drop the self-righteousness as well.