Wednesday, August 03, 2005

John Perry Barlow interview

I recently came across an interesting interview with John Perry Barlow that I thought I'd share here. Barlow is perhaps best known as one of the lyricists for the Grateful Dead, and some of the songs he wrote for them include "Cassidy", "Mexicali Blues" (great tune!), "Looks Like Rain", and "Estimated Prophet".

He's been busy with all sorts of things since his days with the Dead. He has recently been doing some good work with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which included penning the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. Here's an excerpt:
Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.


Later on, he even chimes in on the subject of a free market. The following comments seem OK to me:
Yeah, I’m a free-marketeer. I believe in free markets, but like the discussion we just had gives evidence, sometimes you have things that look like free markets but aren’t because of artificial reasons. I’m not very happy with the current state of what calls itself free market economy in the world because you’ve got all these grotesque monopolies that are able to gain the system in a way that’s to their advantage by virtue of their power, and that’s not a free market.

But then he says this:
A real free market has some kind of counter-veiling influence from the government to keep a monopoly in check

Say what? A real free market contains ZERO government intervention in the marketplace. Barlow may be knowledgable about a lot of stuff, but he seems to have missed the boat completely when it comes to free markets. Then again, so many other people also fall into this category. It sure can be frustrating.

10 Comments:

Blogger billy-jay said...

"A real free market has some kind of counter-veiling influence from the government to keep a monopoly in check"

Sounds like a paradox to me.

10:10 PM  
Blogger freeman said...

Indeed it is.

One specific person I can think of offhand who has made similar comments is Robert Kennedy Jr. He calls himself a "free marketeer", then claims that government intervention is needed in order to make the free market run more smoothly.

11:25 PM  
Blogger born to run said...

Even F A Hayek said things to that effect. I would wager that it's likely a result of being indoctrinated about the necessity of government intervention. It's ironic that people turn to the biggest monopoly in existence to deal with smaller "monopolies."

11:30 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

He ought to check out Gabriel Kolko.

But even granted their very real misconceptions, it's nice to see self-styled "progressive" types viewing "free market" as a god-term to appeal to for a change, rather than using the old-fashioned corporate liberal rhetoric.

Free market advocates probably have a bigger place at the table now in the statist party of the Left, than the statist party of the Right. And if nothing else, at least there are fake free-marketeers on BOTH sides now.

10:47 AM  
Blogger jomama said...

And if nothing else, at least there are fake free-marketeers on BOTH sides now.

The state is more or less socialist
or about some kind of control.

Expect no free market friends there
or working to get there.

That's to say nothing of the
"intelligensia" commenting from the
outside.

Guess we'll just have to do it
ourselves.

9:17 PM  
Blogger born to run said...

but, the guy responsible for this lyric:

The Lord made a lady out of Adam's rib.
Next thing you know you got wimmen's lib.

and this song:

There's mosquitoes on the river.
Fish are rising up like birds.
It's been hot for seven weeks now,
Too hot to even speak now.
Did you hear what I just heard?

Say, it might have been a fiddle,
Or it could have been the wind.
But there seems to be a beat, now.
I can feel it in my feet, now.
Listen, here it comes again!

There's a band out on the highway.
They're high-steppin' into town.
They're a rainbow full of sound.
It's fireworks, calliopes and clowns --

Everybody's dancing.
Come on, children. Come on, children,
Come on clap your hands.

Sun went down in honey.
Moon came up in wine.
Stars were spinnin' dizzy,
Lord, the band kept us so busy
We forgot about the time.

They're a band beyond description
Like Jehovah's favorite choir.
People joinin' hand in hand
While the music plays the band.
Lord, they're setting us on fire.


Crazy rooster crowin' midnight.
Balls of lightning roll along.
Old men sing about their dreams.
Women laugh and children scream,
And the band keeps playin' on.

Keep on dancin' through to daylight.
Greet the morning air with song.
No one's noticed, but the band's all packed and gone.
Was it ever here at all?

But they keep on dancing.
C'mon, children. C'mon, children,
Come on clap your hands.

Well, the cool breeze came on Tuesday,
And the corn's a bumper crop.
The fields are full of dancing,
Full of singing and romancing,
'Cause the music never stopped

can't be all bad.

12:48 AM  
Blogger The Fiddler of Policy Land said...

The biggest problems with "free" markets are that some folks don't have anything to sell (skills or abilities) and market failures.

If you don't have anything to sell (folks with extreme disabilities or steel workers), you starve to death. Does it just "suck to be you" if that's your case?

Market failures, like monopolies, arise naturally and allow those who own the monopoly to set prices without market pressures and for their own benefit - to the detriment of everyone else. Other market failures (information assymetry, externalities, public goods) allow producers to take advantage of others, thereby denying the rest of society their property rights.

I've got no problem with making a good living on the free market, but how do you control the abuses without some form of social control?

1:37 AM  
Blogger born to run said...

with the exception of truly disabled people, the law of comparative advantage gives people work even if they aren't the best at anything. monopolies tend to be inherently instable without government support.

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's just saying that there should be a law to stop monopolies. Government enforces law.

11:49 PM  
Blogger freeman said...

born to run provides a couple of good points.

If you don't have anything to sell (folks with extreme disabilities or steel workers), you starve to death. Does it just "suck to be you" if that's your case?

Nope. Sorry. That kind of false picture of the free market won't cut it here. I could see a state capitalist system minus certain social services creating such an environment (and such a scenario is what folks on the left always seem to falsely equate with a free market), but not a genuinely free market. For more on the "work or starve" argument, see this post on the subject by Upaya.

Market failures, like monopolies, arise naturally and allow those who own the monopoly to set prices without market pressures and for their own benefit - to the detriment of everyone else.

Sorry, but this tired ol' argument has been proven false. Someone fetch this man a copy of Gabriel Kolko's The Triumph of Conservatism (and no, Kolko is neither conservative nor right-wing).

Essays online that touch on the same topic include, for starters, Roy Childs's Big Business and the Rise of American Statism and Kevin Carson's Austrian and Marxist Theories of Monopoly-Capital: A Mutualist Synthesis. While I have yet to read it, I do believe that there is a lenghty piece by Joseph Stromberg over at Mises.org that also deals with this subject.

Furthermore, I don't buy into the whole "market failure" nonsense. For starters, the concept doesn't make much sense when you consider that a free market is nothing more than the nexus of voluntary exchanges of goods of services between equal parties that result in some sort of mutual benefit. We're not talking about some sort of planned and centralized system here.

Additionally, if someone winds up being unhappy with a decision he/she made with regards to a free market transaction, what business does this person have to declare "market failure!"? Would you declare "game failure" if you played a board game and lost fair and square? The fact that the current market environment may not be fair for many is due to state interventions that benefit the politically connected at the expense of everyone else. Or, as Kevin Carson stated recently over at his blog: "The evils that Swinney identifies with the Low Road were brought
about by the state--capitalism was created by the state, through a
coercive revolution imposed from above--and depend on state
intervention for their survival. The state, by definition, is a
coercive mechanism; that mechanism is used to create externalities,
and to benefit one class at the expense of another. Any state
intervention in the market results in a zero-sum outcome, in which one
party benefits at another's expense. That is why class exploitation
requires a state."


Then there's the notion of "public goods", which smacks of the type of collectivist thinking that should scare anyone who values freedom. Personally, I think that any good or service that is truly valued would be plentiful and available to all in a genuinely free market. If not, then surely it isn't that valuable at all, and most definitely shouldn't be funded through government coercion. Why must violence always be the answer?

1:07 AM  

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