Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egyptian Internet

A favorite civil liberties quote by John Gilmore:

"The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."

Libertarians have often paraded that hopeful message as gospel, but Egypt shows that it isn't true.

I've heard civil defense proposals that cell phones should act as text relay stations so that even if towers and satellites are down (say during a hurricane, other natural disaster, or human-made disaster) you can still communicate. I think it is a great idea for a standard, but there are two major reasons why it would be opposed strongly:

(1) First, the idea that people could communicate electronically at some base level without having to pay phone companies will be opposed by the entire communications industry.

(2) Governments will oppose uncensorable and unspyable communications. Including the US government, which has required all mass communications media to be legally spyable with a court order and routinely intercepts and processes all mass communications anyway.

The US internet and (cell) phone services could just as easily be shut down.

In actuality, civil defense phones could be shut down just as easily with denial of service attacks. It's hard to think of a two-way mass communications system that couldn't be shut down with denial of service attacks.

The solution is a citizenry that is attentive to good government, and seeks to change bad features. Libertarianism doesn't solve that problem, because it has no method for deciding what constitutes good government, good life, or anything else.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Austrian Economics: an example of greedy reductionism.

Greedy reductionism is a term coined by Daniel Dennett for pretense of explanation in simpler terms while ignoring or underestimating enormous complexities or layers of understanding.

Cosma Shalizi, in Must Macroeconomic Theories Have Microfoundations?, explains seven ways people insisting on microfoundations (which I think includes Austrians insisting on "action" or "rational man" explanations) are foolish or go wrong.

Brad DeLong (who does permit comments) notices and calls attention to a physics aspect of the article in The Microfoundations of Condensed Matter Physics Was a Doomed Research Program Until the 1920s. The comments are well worth reading.