January 25, 2012 11:29AM

SOPA and Skepticism

Over at Libertarianism.org I have a new blog post on the lesson the technology community should have learned from their campaign against SOPA.

Imagine you’re an expert in some field of technical knowledge. Your field impacts quite a lot of people but most of them don’t understand the details the way you do. One day, Congress proposes legislation called the Make Things Better Act, which, its sponsors say, will make things better.

But wait. The Act happens to deal with exactly the field you’re knowledgeable about. And you know what? It won’t make things better. In fact, it will make things far, far worse. Not only will it make things worse, but any benefits the legislation does create will accrue exclusively to a small but powerful interest group.

So you and your other technically-minded friends mobilize against the Make Things Better Act and, through coordination and outcry, succeed in killing it. Two days later, Congress proposes another piece of legislation called the It’s Good for the Children Act. Except this time the law deals with an area outside your expertise. If you applied the lesson learned from the Make Things Better Act, you might react to this new proposal with skepticism. After all, when you were in a position to evaluate what Congress was really up to, you discovered that it wasn’t working in the interests of the American public but, instead, of a tiny and powerful minority. Couldn’t it be possible the new bill is just be more of the same?

Most likely, though, based on the way people typically react in these situations, you won’t apply that lesson. Instead you’ll say, “Boy this new law is great because my favored political party wrote it and, well, it’s good for the children.”

Read the rest here.