Interlude: Net Neutrality and the Idea of Freedom - Part 2

Submitted by Ken Watts on Mon, 11/14/2011 - 14:02

I pointed out, in the previous post, that the recent Republican attack on net neutrality—on your right, for example, to read the daily mull even if your broadband company doesn’t like what I say here—that the Republican attempt to destroy that right is rooted in the specific notion of freedom which big money conservatives and social conservatives share.

The liberal view of freedom is centered in the individual—on the right to live as he or she sees fit, as long as that doesn’t infringe on the rights of others.

The conservative view of freedom is centered on power—on the right of those in power to infringe on the individual’s right to live as he or she sees fit.

Conservatives tend to stand for the right of those with power—be it government or business or teachers in the classroom—to deprive citizens of freedom.

Conservatives in the Republican voting base stand...

  • for the freedom of government to restrict gays from marriage and the military,
  • for the freedom of government to intervene in a woman’s most private decisions,(For more on this, see this series, on freedom.)
  • for the freedom of a teacher to invade the religious life of a child.

The conservatives who fund the party stand...

  • for a corporation’s freedom to force employees to work in unsafe conditions,
  • for a corporation's freedom to pollute everyone’s air and water,
  • for a corporation's freedom to extract as much work from an employee as possible for as little pay as possible,
  • for a corporation's freedom to foreclose a families mortgage,
  • for a corporation's freedom to tell you what you can and can't read on the Internet.

In other words, a laisez-faire market, and the resulting dictatorship of money.

What the voting base and the big money share is their focus on the fundamental freedom of power.

They only tend to stand against the power of government on those occasions when it limits some other power that they happen to favor, such as:

  • The power of state and local government to infringe on voter’s or worker’s rights, or to infringe on the rights of other citizens.
  • The power of employers to exploit their employees.
  • The ability of corporations to abuse their power over consumers.
  • The power of a state or business to discriminate against some minority.
  • The power of corporations to get you to sign away your legal rights.
  • The power of communications companies to decide what they’ll let you see on the internet.

The tie that binds big money and the voting base together is an unholy bargain, rooted in this focus on the freedom of power:

“If you provide the votes we’ll provide the money, and
we’ll use the power thus gained
to force your social agenda on the rest of the country.”

Meanwhile, of course, big money uses the power thus gained for its own purposes.

Like arguing, in Congress, that any attempt by the FCC to limit a corporate stranglehold on the Internet is an abuse of the power of the federal government.

After all, it limits the freedom of corporations to do whatever they like to the rest of us.