What I learned in Washington

The proprietary model is not the only route toward economic growth. Competition and cooperation often go hand-in-hand.

Open source and the Internet are the most important business advances of our time.

Both prove that, when it comes to the knowledge economy, the commons works best. By pooling code, letting every user see it, customize it, fix it and modify it, open source cuts costs and boosts productivity. By enabling free links and open access the Internet does the same thing.

So why did I learn, at this week's Freedom2Connect conference in Washington (that's their legislative panel to the right), that our business-oriented government sees no value in this new business model? The idea of open spectrum is actively opposed by pro-business tech groups like the Progress & Freedom Foundation. The idea of network neutrality is being rejected on Capitol Hill.

The answer I was given was property rights raised to ideology. The property rights of copyright holders should trump the interests of the commons. The property rights of phone companies should trump the interests of the Internet.

This is madness. The proprietary model is not the only route toward economic growth. Competition and cooperation often go hand-in-hand.

Ideology should not trump reality. But at times it does. History writes the results.

Some 40 years ago Democrats let ideology triumph over practicality and lost power for a generation. Some 75 years ago Republicans did the same thing, treating the Depression with high tariffs and tight budgets.

This medium is, in a political sense, a canary in a coal mine. What I found in Washington is it's wheezing. This disconnect between the requirements of reality and ideology is history in the making. And given how the Internet tends to accelerate change, we don't have long to wait for results.

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