Public gooding with private leverage

Jonathan Zittrain: “I don’t think .gov and .com never work. We too easily underestimate the possibilities of .org — the roles we can play as netizens rather than merely as voters or consumers.” Yesss. Putting a “vs.” between government and business tends to narrow conversation to arguments that miss important points. Such as what .orgs can do.

That’s a big reason why why I love being at the Berkman Center (of which JZ is a founder). Here’s my .org there. It has (speaking toward Cato‘s libertarian sympathies) the intention of liberating the demand side of the marketplace, and making gazillions of dollars for business, without government help.

I believe some .orgs can create public goods with enormous private leverage. I also think some .orgs can also have the effect of lessening .gov urges to mess with .com business. (Heck, Cato itself is a .org.)

Anyway, I urge folks to check out the whole Cato Unbound thing. It’s the tip of a thoughtberg.


  1. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    Breaking my New Year’s Resolution – this is exactly what I think is deeply socially destructive about certain lines of thought, that all end up being about selling consumers to business and trashing a strong public sector.

    Repeating I comment I made on Zittrain’s blog (n.b. optimized to him)

    I understand why you deal with these mind-flayed dogmatists, so I’m not criticizing that _per se_. However, to the extent you try to win them over, I think there’s possible Unintended Consequences of seeming to validate their mental blocks.

    I can very easily imagine a Libertarian reading your piece, and thinking “Yes, exactly, Professor Zittrain shows why government is bad and can’t do anything, and the proper approach is Libertarianism, which is voluntary cooperation, and Wikipedia proves it, look at Jimmy Wales and Hayek etc etc …”

    That wouldn’t strike me as the right lesson to take away from _Code_+10.

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Hi Seth.

    Aside from (or in addition to) all the above, what would strike you as the right lesson(s) to take from _Code_+10?

  3. Seth Finkelstein’s avatar

    1) Regarding the Catoites, the complete and utter discrediting of the Libertarian viewpoint – where’s the cypherpunk anarchocapitalism? The black-market information exchanges? The offshore data-havens? Etc. Versus the DMCA, the Great Firewall Of China, WIPO, etc. Again, I see what JZ is doing, but abstractly, these people should be regarded as laughingstocks without any intellectual credibility at all.

    2) For the same list – the DMCA, the Great Firewall Of China, WIPO, etc – Lessig was very right in spirit, even if he got some of the examples wrong (e.g. Year 2000 problem). As a call for political engagement, that particular idea is even more relevant now than then.

    3) However, I believe there was a wrong turn into the type of technological determinism that _Code_ was arguing against, but more into marketing and hucksterism than Libertarianism, more _Brave New World_ than _1984_.

    One problem is, sadly, there’s not much audience for this type of analysis.

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