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How Al Gore (and I) Invented the Internet (and Real Net Neutrality)

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(I guess it’s about time I set down this bit of history. In the context of the Net Neutrality debate it seems like something which ought to be made public, and as the youngest participant in these events I may eventually become the last surviving eyewitness. Photo to right is me in 1979 with hair and everything.)

In 1979 I was a junior at Franklin and Marshall College. I was also a fledgling Science Fiction writer with several professionally published stories, a libertarian activist who had worked on a couple of campaigns and formed a chapter of Students of a Libertarian Society and also what passed for a hacker in those early days of computers. Somehow that summer I lucked into the perfect internship in Washington, DC. Because I attended the right high school and with some pull from my mother, who worked for Senator Mac Mathias, I got an internship as a writer and editor for What’s Next newsletter published by the Congressional Clearing House on the Future, which was largely under the oversight of a dynamic young Congressman named Al Gore.

Gore and I had both attended St. Albans School in DC, about 10 years apart. At that point he was in his second term in the House of Representatives and he had decided that his way to make a mark was to become the leading Congressional voice for the emerging world of high tech. The Congressional Clearing House on the Future was his vehicle for doing this. It basically brought in information from the frontiers of science, analyzed it and put it into a form where busy politicians could figure out what to think about it. My job was to do research and write introductory articles on a wide variety of topics, including satellites, solar energy, microwaves, charged particle beam weapons, space exploration and research, and the frontiers of computers and communications. I was good at taking technical topics and summarizing them for a more general audience and got lots of practice at it while I was with the CCF.

As a lowly intern I really had very little direct contact with Congressman Gore. He did call on the phone a few times and I got to field a couple of technical questions in areas where I had some expertise. Apparently somewhere along the way someone must have passed on to him that I knew more about computers than anyone else on staff and I guess I had proved pretty adept at using LexisNexis (one of the very first major online databases) for research, plus I had a background in computer typesetting. So I got pegged to do a lot of work relating to a series of meetings called the Chautauquas for Congress sponsored by CCF and Rep. Gore. These meetings had begun in March and I came in towards the end. They brought together experts from private industry, government, the military, academia and the press to discuss emerging aspects of technology. One of those was computers and communications, and it was the results of that meeting which gave Al Gore some claim to having invented the internet, though to be fair his role in sponsoring the chautauquas was more that of a facilitator who brought the work of many inventors together than that of an actual inventor.

The primary session on computers and telecommunication had taken place in March and I didn’t get to CCF until May, but I got to be involved in the processing of reports from the meetings so I was one of the first people to see the very speculative early proposals for what would become the internet and I got to work at the later sessions, including the June meeting where final reports on various topics were presented. Admittedly, my role at those sessions was mostly to make sure chairs and tables were set up and that snacks were on hand, but I had also gone through the reports and helped prepare summaries of some very interesting discussions, and I got to stand in the back and hear the presentations.

It was the initial panel discussions at the Chautauquas which had led to the first consensus on what would emerge not long afterward as the fledgling internet. The ideas developed there would soon be implemented and the result was a shared network which first became accessible to a rapidly growing segment of the public in the form of Usenet in the early 1980s. It was that concept, of adopting common protocols to bring together existing private and government networks which created the internet as we know it and for which Al Gore has taken credit with some justification, as the point man on bringing all these experts together through these Chautauquas. I guess I can take some small credit to for helping the process along. Looking back at what was discussed at the time it surprises me how perceptive many of the participants were about the implications of technology which was really only just beginning to emerge and also how quickly the ideas were put into action. Usenet first went online by the end of that year.

Although, as a libertarian, I am chronically skeptical of the efforts of government, this experience was one which demonstrated how positive the role of government can be when it is primarily a passive and not an activist role. All the Chautauquas did was to bring people together to share information. There were no official conclusions, no real legislative outcome, no government initiatives to create the internet, just a promotion of ideas and innovation coordinated from a position of governmental neutrality. It did informally give the stamp of approval to government agencies and even the military in opening up their networks and sharing technology, but what it did not do was lay out rules and regulations, though Gore did eventually author legislation formalizing some of the relaxation of access required. The technical and administrative aspects of the internet were left to develop naturally.

Since that time this has pretty much been the rule of the internet. It’s the wild west. Everyone does what they want to do and no one, including the government, looks at it too closely. The benefits it has produced are enormous. It’s the great revolutionary development of its time on a par with the train and the automobile. It seems almost crazy to do anything which might interfere with it. For a government it might even be a terribly dangerous thing to attempt.

Yet today we see government attempting to get more heavily involved. With the passage of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act we’ve seen government working as a hired thug for corporate interests attempting to control dissemination of data through high-speed transfer portals like BitTorrent. Congress is considering even more draconian legislation to control internet content in Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) very broad Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act. And most recently the FCC has weighed in with its attempt to impose “net neutrality”, ostensibly to protect the interests of citizens, but with the potential to make the government the arbiter of bandwidth allocation and from there of every aspect of access and functionality on the net. Further legislation and further regulation from the FCC is expected and increasingly the focus seems to be shifting to regulating content itself. This carries disturbing implications for free speech in the medium which has become the dominant outlet for public speech in the world.

When the internet was created, this level of government involvement was never the intent. The conclusion coming out of the Chautauquas was that great things would happen if we opened up the netwroks and lifted restrictions and let the people have free and unfettered access to this kind of network, even if at the time we could barely conceive of what it would become. And the cornerstone of the internet as it was created was neutrality. Not as imposed by the government to try to level the playing field according to some contrived criteria, but as it developed naturally by not restricting access and opportunity. That hands-off approach is the definition of true net neutrality.

When asked what role government should play in this process, Professor Manley Irwin, who was on the Panel on Information and Communication commented “The single most important action Congress can take is to get out of the way.” That approach worked brilliantly for 30 years and has brought us incalculable benefits. What justification is there for changing it now?

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About Dave Nalle

  • Clavos

    The most recent ruling by the FCC stands a good chance of creating a two tier Internet wherein those with money will have access not only to better download speeds, but also to much more and better quality information than those who cannot pay what will almost certainly be much higher rates for premium services.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Absolutely excellent article, Dave. Thanks for the interesting background.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    It’s not just here in the US where moves to “control” the Internet are being made. I was reading on the BBC yesterday that the UK government wants to prevent users from accessing porn sites unless they specifically opt in (which would almost certainly involve forking over money, although that’s a separate issue). If that can be accomplished, I doubt it will take long before the government starts looking at what other sorts of material it ought to restrict access to “for the public good”.

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/author/danmiller/ Dan(Miller)

    Judge Tatel of the D.C. Circuit, who wrote the Comcast decision holding that the FCC lacks statutory authority over various aspects of the internet, delivered an interesting lecture to the EPA last year about how agencies exceed their statutory authority. I tried to append a quotation from his address but couldn’t get much of it past the BC comment preview. It’s well worth reading. His comment “read the statute, read the statute, read the statute” pretty much summarizes it.

    The FCC “net neutrality” business is in its very formative stages and network neutrality means different things to different folks. Whether the FCC will move on the really draconian stuff is an open question. Should it do so, I suspect the new Congress will do its best to block it.

    Dan(Miller)

  • zingzing

    4chan to the rescue. take em down.

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/author/danmiller/ Dan(Miller)

    Maybe our beloved Congress could take some lessons from the Scottish Parliament.

    Nah, probably not.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://littleadvisor.com/blog littleadv

    The titles of the FCC rules is misleading, they couldn’t go further off of neutrality with those rules. Allowing IPS’s to police the user actions and punish them as they wish (bandwidth, pricing, disconnecting)? Unheard of!

  • Doug Hunter

    The internet is a utility and the common carrier approach that has been the de facto standard is proper. I don’t understand how the right got on the wrong side of this issue, perhaps they enjoy being the lapdogs of Comcast, et al. ISP’s are jealous of the money content providers are making off of “their service”* (although they seem to forget that no one would want their service in the first place if not for those same content providers–it’s a symbiotic relationship that they want to sacrifice for short term anticompetitive profits). Utilities were subsidized to get them to rural customers and in many other circumstances in the past, if we need subsidies to build out the network or improve the capacity or create an Eisenhower internet superhighway type project to keep up then so be it. What we don’t need to do is hand over the keys to the major ISP’s.

    *** The theory being that the low margins of simply being a utility provider don’t allow them to expand service properly, if they were allowed to certain anticompetitive practices they could wrestly money from the content providers and spend it on creating a better network. Bullshit, it’d simply go towards profit with little noticeable improvement and as Clavos noted likely leaving many providers and customers on a lower tier which would in the long term decrease the appeal and usefulness of the internet itself. Short term profits at the expense of long term good.

    Now, I’ve read these debates before and the common refrain is, well, if you don’t like what Comcast is doing go get someone else (as if there were a giant wad of cables coming into my house in the first place). I see where you’re going with it so I propose my own free market alternative. If Comcast doesn’t like the way the internet is, then perhaps they should create from scratch their own alternative network call it Comcastnet where they can charge whomever chooses to be a part of it whatever they want and cutoff service and throttle competitors and do with it as they please. Let’s see how that goes over.

  • Boeke

    Doug Hunter is right. Bulk carriers of internet data should be Common Carriers and insensitive to content. They should be paid a markup on the intrinsic value of the data service they provide. Indeed, that is exactly what the internet was designed to do, and what the proponents of Net neutrality have always advocated.

    The internet is the antithesis of the SNA and Decnet systems that it supplanted, which were centralized command systems whose doom was written in their own narrow objectives.

    The political right HAS gotten on the wrong side of this issue, favoring extortionate monopoly domination against freedom, as they sometimes do, lured by the hope of easy money.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    It’s not really the political right which is on the wrong side here, but the moderate-right political establishment. There’s an overwhelming suspicion of the FCC and the Obama administration and hence this new policy among the grassroots right.

    Dave

  • http://financialpolitics.net/ Sekhar

    Wonderful information indeed.

    I think, government intervention itself is not the culprit here but intervention of such a government that take sides. As majority of the present governments represent corporate interests, rules and regulations are formulated in their favor. If the governments truly represent the interests of the people, perhaps such governments’ intervention will favor net neutrality from the people’s point of view, instead of corporates’.

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/author/danmiller/ Dan(Miller)

    Bulk carriers of internet data should be Common Carriers.

    That may or may not be the case. However, the FCC gets its authority from the Congress, just as the legislative, executive and judicial branches get their authority from the Constitution. The question as I see it is whether the FCC’s “net neutrality” steps, presently modest as they seem to be, are within its statutory authority and whether further FCC attempts to lengthen those steps will be. The question for the FCC should not be whether it thinks an expansion of its jurisdiction would be “good;” administrative agencies generally think that expansions are good. That is a question for the Congress to decide and then for the President to decide before he signs or to vetoes its legislation.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    &qesigThe FCC “net neutrality” business is in its very formative stages and network neutrality means different things to different folks. Whether the FCC will move on the really draconian stuff is an open question. Should it do so, I suspect the new Congress will do its best to block it.

    I hope so. Most members of Congress (or of any other elected political body) give the impression that they don’t really understand the Internet, or indeed basic statistical mathematics. So they glance at a website or two, and get upset by it, and say things like, ‘Fox News is blatantly biased! It’s not fair! There should be an anti-Fox website!’ (There is.)

    The Internet is neutral. Get a large enough sample size and it will be absolutely representative of the population at large. The Internet has now grown so huge that anything – anything – you can conceive of is probably out there somewhere. (As an example, I was bored the other day and randomly Googled ‘exploding gorillas‘ – and received an impressive number of search results.) So there are lots of conservative websites out there. There are also lots of liberal sites. There are lots of racist sites. There are lots of sites advocating tolerance. There are lots of religious sites. There are lots of atheist sites. There are lots of animal rights sites. There are lots of sites for people who like to do things to animals which the animals would rather they didn’t do, such as eat them. I think you catch my drift, which is that the numbers of such websites is almost certainly representative of the numbers of conservatives, liberals, racists, anti-racists, pious folks, non-believers, vegetarians and meat-eaters out there.

    Point is, it seems to take politicians a couple of generations to really ‘get’ new cultural ideas. I mean, it’s only recently that they’ve started to work sports and pop music references into their speeches which occasionally aren’t completely inane.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    I enjoyed your article, but (there’s always a ‘but’ ‘twixt you and me):

    When the internet was created, this level of government involvement was never the intent.

    When the internet was created, it was also probably not in the creators’ minds that the internet would become a crucial utility, the sudden absence of which would be a severe economic blow to much of the developed world…

    …and they probably did not foresee that megacorporations might get to choose who would get priority access to this crucial utility.

    It’s the same as with much else of human civilization, Dave – the bigger it gets, the more complicated it gets, the more regulations are absolutely necessary to keep it functioning. This is a FACT of human sociology – the bigger an organization is, the more that additional regulations will be required to maintain the proper function of that organization.

    This isn’t to say that regulations are needed for the sake of regulations – of course not! But net neutrality was absolutely necessary (in a stronger form than we now have) to preserve the internet as it was intended and as it has functioned for the past two decades or so.

  • Clavos

    Doc @ # 13:

    Well put. The crucial point you make is that the net already IS neutral. The last thing we need ids the FCC sticking its nose in and mucking things up

  • Clavos

    This observer, who is not a conservative, has an interesting viewpoint on the grossly misnamed Net Neutrality “initiative” by the FCC.

  • zingzing

    “The last thing we need ids the FCC sticking its nose in and mucking things up.”

    although it’s possible that someone needs to keep it that way. and maybe it’s not possible to keep it that way. although popular revolts are particularly successful. unless they whip out the guns.

    “This observer, who is not a conservative, has an interesting viewpoint on the grossly misnamed Net Neutrality “initiative” by the FCC.”

    that is an interesting perspective. although i don’t know if it’s about the “initiative by the FCC” as much as it is about the unfortunate reality we might face.

    those who make money on the internet have been looking for a way to do it faster and better for a while. exclusivity is a way to do that. i certainly don’t want that to happen, and i think most people don’t, but i think we’re staring down the wrong end of the barrel on this one.

    it’ll be interesting to see where this goes. thing is that the people who want to see this happen may regret it. no one needs a vast majority of the sites out there. and someone’s going to hack your ass. you can’t beat the internet, because the internet has more minds.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    If the governments truly represent the interests of the people, perhaps such governments’ intervention will favor net neutrality from the people’s point of view, instead of corporates’.

    Consider that to favor the interests of the people as a whole, there could not be a favoring of any power group (such as corporations, from your example). Is it possible to prevent those seeking power (power groups) from co-opting gov’t (authority)?

    Consider that people can respond regarding their own interests and need no representatives of same, particularly in a technologically advanced world such as ours.

    Imagine if leaders were not able to install their own judgments but were only to ‘represent’ the actual decisions of the people of various communities. Imagine if the were instantly accountable and removable by the people they represented. One could not ‘buy’ such leaders.

    Couldn’t that work?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    “onsider that people can respond regarding their own interests and need no representatives of same, particularly in a technologically advanced world such as ours.”

    Interesting point, Cindy, reminiscent of Ross Perot’s notion of electronic town-halls, to do away with the idea of representation. Also, the idea of public referendum, made popular in California, comes to mind.

    Of course the idea of making wholesale decisions for as many diverse communities which comprise a country such as ours is also a kind of insanity. Not only does it take away from the autonomy of each of those diverse communities; what’s worse, it propagates the notion of statehood. It is this notion that has got to be degraded by all means possible. Which is precisely why the agenda by Julian Assange is of primary importance.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Imagine if leaders were not able to install their own judgments but were only to ‘represent’ the actual decisions of the people of various communities. Imagine if the were instantly accountable and removable by the people they represented. One could not ‘buy’ such leaders.

    Beats me why you would need leaders if that was their only function.

  • http://financialpolitics.net/ Sekhar

    #18 Maybe we are talking about mere hypothetical government that can not be realized in present day set up unless people themselves take over reins.

  • http://financialpolitics.net/ Sekhar

    #20 I think, Cindy means the leaders who do not see themselves in the role of today’s leaders but those leaders who see themselves as only organizers of the society i.e. only implementing people’s dictates.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Good point, Sekhar. The idea of “leaders” is being debunked, they fall by the wayside.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    20 & 22

    Dr.D,

    You are right Dr.D. You would not need them to ‘lead’ in the traditional sense. I was using the word ‘leaders’ loosely and as more of a begging-the-question sort of way. I should have used some of these handy gadgets: leaders.

    Sekhar,

    By ‘leaders’ I mean nothing more than in this hypothetical example:

    Say we are organized as a town of a size. If we all participated directly in all the decisions that would need to be made on our town level, we would also need to participate in some way with decisions that are made beyond our town level. However things would be organized, we could select ‘leaders/representatives’ who would meet with the ‘leaders/representatives’ of other ‘towns’ to communicate the decisions our own town has arrived at.

    So, when we pick you Sekhar, as a member of our community to ‘represent’ some number of us. You will only be bearing the results of our decisions, not making your own decisions on our behalf.

    21,

    Yes, exactly.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy
  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    If we all participated directly in all the decisions that would need to be made on our town level, we would also need to participate in some way with decisions that are made beyond our town level. However things would be organized, we could select ‘leaders/representatives’ who would meet with the ‘leaders/representatives’ of other ‘towns’ to communicate the decisions our own town has arrived at.

    They would be delegates, you mean: sort of under the Platonic system, wherein the only person with no say in government is the governor, who is elected to carry out the people’s wishes whether he likes it or not (preferably not). Modern democracy works the other way around. The person running for office decides for himself that he wishes to govern (although he will claim that what he actually wants to do is “serve”), then tells the people what he believes should happen and says, “If this is also what you think, vote for me”. In this way it is the governors, not the governed, who set the agenda. (The governors can be swayed, but seldom completely stopped, by public opinion.)

    The obstacle to your model, Cindy, is that the more “towns” get together to make mutually beneficial decisions, the more they tend to arrive at the conclusion that they’re stronger together rather than separate. This is how the modern political entity known as the country evolved.

    However, there may be a sort of yo-yo effect in operation. When a country becomes too big and unwieldy to function as a unit, it tends to break apart. We’ve seen this in Europe, particularly with the former Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, it happened in South Asia after the British withdrawal and it’s also happening in Africa. There are even rumblings of it here in the US, where states’ rights is a significant issue, although this is a young enough country that the impetus to fracture into 50 (or more) self-governing units isn’t yet stronger than the concept of national identity. (Since the US is, largely, an artificial state, it will take some time before its citizens start to think themselves as, say, North Dakotans first and Americans second.)

    A happy medium would be what I guess is Roger’s ideal, where we can get the human population functioning as small, stable units for most everyday matters of governance and as a global whole when major issues affecting the entire planet need to be addressed. We are, however, going to have to prise loose the death grip of those attracted to political power before that can ever happen. (Perhaps by making it a criminal offence to seek office!)

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Dr. D,

    ‘Units’ can replace ‘towns’ in my example.

    I am going for the familiar, in order for folks to visualize something new within the current physical set-up. To help begin thinking based on how can we do this from where we are now.

    This is part of my attempt to try changing from simply hawking political views and work on helping people see that we can change from where we are.

    Units, counties, communities, camps, groups, zones, territories, families, etc. Pick your name.

    “they’re stronger together rather than separate”

    Indeed they are stronger together. But not in the way they have been taught to think. We do need to break away from the model of hierarchy and power. There are other ways.

    I would expect that this cannot even begin to come about until and unless enough people already have some sense that ‘strength’ should be based on something other than brute control and force.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    (Perhaps by making it a criminal offence to seek office!)

    Good idea! We can do that right after we execute anyone who isn’t a pacifist! ;-)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Cool analysis, Dreadful. In support of it, witness the rise of the Athenian city-state to its position of hegemony, virtually squashing the autonomy of previously independent city-states and asserting its own will. Of course, the Persian invader provided the rationale and the impetus, so the first order of business would be to eliminate the possibility of aggressive behavior of any one community towards another, a tall order, I should say, in this unstable world.

    BTW, the members of the Athenian assembly, if it is to serve as a kind of prototype, were not elected but simply chosen by drawing lots, to serve for one year and one year only. Pericles was a notable exception, having been chosen for twenty consecutive years, again, because of the thread from Persia.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    threat …

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Perhaps criminalization wouldn’t be necessary. We could simply say that exhibiting any ambition to hold office would automatically disqualify that person.

    Another major concern I have with your model, Cindy, is that left to their own devices some “towns” would inevitably adopt draconian policies such as revenge killings, the execution of homosexuals and adulterers and the persecution, enslavement or expulsion of minorities.

    On a global scale, we would have to retain at least the spirit of the UN Declaration of Human Rights in some form.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Re #27

    The strength of a community or a federation of communities is of value only in the face of the possibility of aggression.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    #31 That is indeed a problem. On the one hand, you want to give individual communities the right to self-determination, and on the other …

    Some of the original Star Trek episodes dealt with just such dilemmas.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Indeed they did, Roger. I sometimes think that the world could do much worse than to adopt the constitution and system of governance of the United Federation of Planets.

    Among other things, isn’t money abolished in the world of Star Trek?

  • Doug Hunter

    Cindy, et al.

    We live in a representative democracy. It’s not a different government you’re describing, it’s a different people.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I believe it is abolished as a universal means of exchange, and come to think of it, there isn’t much mention of “money.” Of course, the concept can’t be altogether avoided when it comes to the individual communities. And there is also the problem of trade and exchange between the communities, but I don’t think it insurmountable.

    To tell the truth, I haven’t made up my mind as to the merits or demerits of there being a universal, world-wide currency. The positive aspect is immediately apparent – equalization of value. I can’t think yet of the negatives.

    Anyways, Merry X-mas to you and yours. I should be in California in the next six months or so, for good. And when done, I’ll make certain to visit you in Fresno if you won’t object.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    “dispensed with”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Doug, it’s the very idea of representative government/democracy that is in question here – I’m certain you’ve surmised that much. And in light of that, I really don’t get your point. Could you elaborate?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    We live in a representative democracy. It’s not a different government you’re describing…

    I am describing a direct democracy. It is extremely different.

    It is the difference between directly having a say about what you want and voting every so often and hoping one of the stooges present even knows or cares what you want.

    A direct democracy is very much like what you have when people of equal power come together. Say, you and your wife, you and your friends, etc.

    This is what real freedom and equality is about. A representative democracy really give you no real say.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    It is the difference between determining what the world will be like and having to go along with someone else’s world. Someone else’s world which may benefit you, or which may not.

    But like a child who must answer to a parent, if the world is not to your advantage or liking in a representative democracy, there is not much you can do about it. Unless you already have power, you can pretty much argue to the wind. Because a representative democracy is based on power and hierarchy, not on every person having an equal say in her own destiny.

  • STM

    The best thing about Dave’s piece is his pic from 1979. Lol.

    Dave, skinny ties have come back into fashion :)

  • STM

    I also present the Australian model of governance:

    1) Vote in a federal government every three years

    2) Keep partying, even on election night, no matter the result. No one needs any excuse anyway.

    3) Go for a swim (beach or pool)

    4) Have a barbecue and get drunk.

    5) Get drunk on a weeknight with your mates; twice if need be, but turn up to work the next day, even if you’re so hungover you can’t lift a finger. (Australia’s worth ethic motto: “Play up, front up”).

    6) Keep working, keep paying taxes, but keep both to the absolute minimum necessary for the country to function perfectly, despite whatever it is the politicians are doing.

    7) Pretend to ignore everything of note the government says, but then protest about it in the newspapers, on the web and on talk-back radio, ad infinitum, until the political spin doctors go bananas and the government becomes so worried about its popularity ratings in the polls that it falls into a kind of soporific inaction.

    8) Do all these things over and over again until the next federal election, in the meantime voting for local councils and State legislatures along the way, and using the same criteria as you would for the feds.

    9) Vote in a new federal/state/local government, or give the old one another go.

    10) Repeat as neccessary.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Isn’t that a satire?

    Merry X-mas, Stan.

  • STM

    No Rog, it’s really pretty much how it is. Cheers mate, gave a good one!

  • zingzing

    roger: “I haven’t made up my mind as to the merits or demerits of there being a universal, world-wide currency. The positive aspect is immediately apparent – equalization of value. I can’t think yet of the negatives.”

    would it actually equalize value? or would it thrust billions into poverty? i dunno. one should look at what the euro did to europe. was it a boon? (noting of course that those countries who took on the euro were relatively stable economies as compared to what can be found in many countries around the world.) will it continue to be a boon? (if it is, and will be, then why don’t more countries sign up? or are they not allowed?)

    also, when you have one currency, the effects of a serious recession or depression could be absolutely devastating worldwide. although stronger economies could prop up weaker economies, no one would be immune, and all could fall apart like a house of cards. the troubles of one country would be everyone’s troubles (although that may actually help to reduce amount of wars, or our shared interest in stopping them).

    even today in our “globalized” economy, we have groups like the world bank and the imf that prop up struggling countries, but at a price. to forgive their debts and get their currencies stabilized, they have to submit to a set of demands that opens up their country to multinational investment, creating an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor.

    if we had a worldwide currency, and there was a struggling country, we’d obviously want to offer them help for the sake of our own economy, but it would be in the best interest of the currency to keep them like an addict to our funds which keeps them afloat and, only slightly unfortunately, creates an underclass incapable of surviving in the new economy, while it enriches us. if they can’t hack it, fuck em, eh?

    the complexities of international finance does create a lot of inequalities. unfortunately, the introduction of a worldwide currency may actually make those inequalities worse, and may undermine the sovereignty of a great many peoples to decide their own fate.

    if you want a one-world government, that may be a good thing. but you must realize that the rich and powerful nations will dominate the rest, and unless humanity becomes far more altruistic than it is presently, may actually create a world far more unequal than we see today, if that is possible.

    i say all this while acknowledging that i have very little knowledge of economics (a fact i am currently trying to remedy to a certain degree,) and i may be completely talking out of my ass. but i think i’m presenting fairly simple concepts and their possible outcomes. it’s highly possible i’m completely wrong.

  • zingzing

    “although that may actually help to reduce amount of wars, or our shared interest in stopping them,” i say…

    although that may also make war far more profitable than it already is… and therefore more attractive. destroy a country, create money by rebuilding it and taking all the profit from your new colony.

  • STM

    “although that may actually help to reduce amount of wars, or our shared interest in stopping them,”

    People should play sport instead … proper sport, like cricket, rugby, american football.

    I’m convinced the reason the Germans got so uppity all those years ago was that wanted German youth to be like grqaduates of the playing fields of Eton (or Harvard, if you like), but didn’t play the right sports.

    As for Japan and their predilection for baseball, I can’t really comment … except to say that they probably resented not being invited to play in a World Series, so decided to start their own, slightly different, version.

    At some point, sport MUST replace war on this planet of ours, or we’re all for the high jump.

    Merry Christmas Yanks!!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    #45, got a point there.

  • Doug Hunter

    #38

    And I’ve seen no viable alternative provided. Direct democracy is still subject to propaganda/the person with the most marketing has an advantage. It still means 51% of the population can fuck over the other 49% and indeed in some ways actually makes it easier. For example, if 60% of the population sorta doesn’t want something while 40% feel it is of utmost important our current system does a reasonable job of balancing that, it’s not just how many want something it’s how badly they want it (which has it’s own flipside as well one person desperately wants a $300 million corrupt payday from the feds, 300 million citizens really don’t want to pay $1 each in taxes but it’s not as critical for any one of them).

    The other portion is local decisionmaking, those same ideas were embodied firmly in our constitution which attempted to limit the power of the federal government to a few specific functions and leave everything else to lower bodies (our country was much smaller then so the effect would be even more pronounced). Through civil wars and many “progressive” governments we’ve completely abandoned that, but it’s good to see you’ve come around.

    Just reading through it, it doesn’t sound like the system is so incompatible as the people. You want educated engaged voters (who no doubt agree with your values) and representatives who represent, or if that fails direct voting in their stead (which is indeed different but not remarkably better).

    #31 and #33 indicate that you can’t even get through this simple thought exercise without beginning to make the same compromises that our system has already been through. The “but”‘s have already come out. But what if someone has differnt values and wants to create a society without some of the ‘rights’ as I understand them. Sounds like you’re hammering away towards a bill of rights type document and a powerful fed to keep those who would advocate slavery inline. Welcome to the 1860’s!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Decentralization is the key, and direct democracy does work on a small, communal level. You may have gathered I’m dead-set against statism.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Dave, skinny ties have come back into fashion :)

    How about white tuxes with black shirts?

    Dave

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Or black tuxes with white shirts, worn as everyday business attire?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Decentralization is the key, and direct democracy does work on a small, communal level.

    I was going to make a similar observation, Roger. The running of small towns and communities usually proceeds on quite an amicable level, with very little partisan infighting even though the council members may identify with a particular party.

    Of course, the issues those council members deal with are not, on the whole, of sufficent gravitas to get really worked up and adamant about.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    But they would be if they were to impact the welfare of the community (concerning which there is sufficient divergence of opinion and conflicting interests.) For example, there’s always much ado in California on the matter of zoning regulations. Should there be another 7-11 in a given neighborhood, for instance, or multiple-level housing?

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