John Gilmore: This is the worst sort of economic protectionism — beggaring your own society for the benefit of an inefficient local industry

“What is wrong is that we have invented the technology to eliminate scarcity, but we are deliberately throwing it away to benefit those who profit from scarcity. We now have the means to duplicate any kind of information that can be compactly represented in digital media. We can replicate it worldwide, to billions of people, for very low costs, affordable by individuals. We are working hard on technologies that will permit other sorts of resources to be duplicated this easily, including arbitrary physical objects (“nanotechnology”; see http://www.foresight.org). The progress of science, technology, and free markets have produced an end to many kinds of scarcity. A hundred years ago, more than 99% of Americans were still using outhouses, and one out of every ten children died in infancy. Now even the poorest Americans have cars, television, telephones, heat, clean water, sanitary sewers — things that the richest millionaires of 1900 could not buy. These technologies promise an end to physical want in the near future. “We should be rejoicing in mutually creating a heaven on earth!” Instead, those crabbed souls who make their living from perpetuating scarcity are sneaking around, convincing co-conspirators to chain our cheap duplication technology so that it won’t make copies — at least not of the kind of goods they want to sell us. This is the worst sort of economic protectionism — beggaring your own society for the benefit of an inefficient local industry. The record and movie distribution companies are careful not to point this out to us, but that is what is happening.”

  • Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Gilmore
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