Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And here's one reason Libertarians are not Republicans...

... in the legislation proposed by Illinois Republican Mark Steven Kirk that would create a Federal ban on internet access to MySpace and FaceBook in America's libraries.

Here's the story from Switched:

First, libraries were forced to start filtering out obscene content in 2000. Then came the Patriot Act, which granted the government the right to examine the books you checked out and the sites you visited on a library's public computers. Now, lawmakers are trying to ban children from accessing MySpace and Facebook on library PCs in order to keep the kids safe from sexual predators.

The heavy-handed legislation -- a bill introduced by Representative Mark Steven Kirk of Illinois -- is, of course, being fought by the American Library Association. The library wants to protect people's privacy saying that it is essential if a community is to utilize the library for intellectual pursuits.

You may remember that I took issue a week or two back with liberalgeek's belief that:

I am in favor of sensible restrictions on things that can be easily misused.

While I don't want to paint LG as favoring this particular piece of nanny state insanity (feel free, geek, to take a stand on it whenever), I would like to reprise a tiny part of my rebuttal:

The higher the level of government imposing the restriction on any item, the more sweeping the restriction will be, and the less ability there will be for local conditions to moderate that restriction. It is a direct corollary of this that if the Federal government imposes a restriction for one purpose, it will soon find other purposes for which to use that restriction, purposes that will generally be to the detriment of the civil rights of individual American citizens.

This proposed legislation certainly meets the first criterion: a rigid, inflexible, and sweeping answer to a question that either parents or localities should be answering on their own.

With respect to the second: given advances in cookies, how long will it be before the Feds want to be able to force libraries to track all interactions with their computers and report them to, say, the FBI?

Given that the FBI has already, within the last two weeks, attempted to strong-arm information from a librarian without benefit of a warrant, this hardly seems like a ridiculous slippery slope argument any more, does it?


LiberalGeek said...

Indeed, I see your point. As a geek and a liberal, I abhor the whole library censorship thing. I think that often they are inspired by people that don't understand the fact that information is like water in a basement. It will find a way to get out there. This applies to predators, bomb-making and sexual perversions. You cannot stop.

I can see your point fully. My quote was, I believe, regarding putting restrictions on guns. There are certainly parallels and I have not thought about it in that way before. I will consider this and get back to you if I can formulate a counter. I am pretty well stumped. For example, I suspect that shoulder-launched SAM's should not be available for purchase, but I cannot necessarily make an analogy to Internet access.

Steve Newton said...

That's the issue, isn't it. I no more want people walking down the streets of Wilmington with SAMs than you do, but we have different (though not by any means completely incompatible) ideas about how a free and secure society should be reached.

You place much more faith in public policy and government regulation than I do, and I am obviously willing to tolerate a higher degree of risk in exchange for a larger amount of personal freedom.

If we frame the discussion (and it's not a debate because I really believe we both want the same end point) in those terms, rather than in liberal/conservative/libertarian terms I believe we can make progress without having to appeal to anybody's fears to push through legislation.

I think we (at least you and me) are making progress.

Arthur Torrey said...

The shoulder mount SAM argument is a bit of a straw-man... It is at least potentially possible to get a SAM off the black-market, but it doesn't seem that people do - or at least they aren't using them... Considering that the largest suspected supply is in Muslim hands, there must be a reason more airplanes aren't going up in smoke. (And I don't think "Dept. of Homeland (in)Security has anything to do with it...)

Aside from shooting down planes, it is also worth pointing out that there is actually very little that a SAM would be good for that can't be accomplished with far greater ease, with less expense, and using non-restricted, commercially available off the shelf items (instead of a several thousand $$$ missile...)


Steve Newton said...

I suspect you are reading LG a bit too literally.

I read his comment as using a SAM as shorthand for any large, highly destructive weapon-system that he wouldn't want to see someone carrying down the street.