The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Wikipedia strike

Anyone who wanted to look up something on Wikipedia, the Internet encyclopedia, yesterday, was out of luck. The powers-that-be had shut it down (and several other sites such as Reddit had done likewise, but Wikipedia is the most important of the bunch) as a protest against a couple of intellectual-property-rights bills being considered in the Congress. I have not looked closely enough at these bills to say how I feel about them — I suspect that I agree with the people who shut Wikipedia down on the substance of the bills, but I cannot be certain — but I think it was a sublimely silly thing to do.

Usually, a strike is an action by one party to exert pressure on another, where the second directly benefits by the activity of the first and is harmed by the first party's failure to perform. But in this case, the “second party” that they are trying to influence — Congress — can function very well without Wikipedia. They have their own research organization — the Library of Congress — which has direct access to a lot of the material which anyone might have gone to Wikipedia to look up. So shutting Wikipedia down for a day does little to advance their cause. In fact, the public that uses Wikipedia billions of times a month can only become angry at its not being there, and rather than petitioning Congress, they are more likely to turn against Wikipedia.

Several other Internet-related entities — in particular, Google and Yahoo! — have taken the more conventional step of lobbying Congress. And they appear to be — at least, to some extent — successful. Even before the Wikipedia shutdown, key Senators and Representatives had moved into opposition. Even Senator Ben Cardin (from my home state, Maryland), who had sponsored legislation of this type in the past, has moved into opposition.

So did they really need to shut Wikipedia down? I believe not.

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