A Look at the Past, a Peek at the Future

Nick Gillespie from Reason TV sits down with the smart, engaging and inspiring Louis Rossetto – founder of the brilliant Wired Magazine – to look at what changed in the twenty years since the publication started, and where things will go next.

As always with anything made by the boys and girls at Reason, this video is well worth 15 minutes of your time.

In 1971 Rossetto co-authored a piece in the New York Times Magazine describing libertarianism as the next great social/political movement for young people, tired of the centralised zero-sum game currently played.

It’s great to see he’s still unrepentant in his outlook. And the evidence is on his side.

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Mandela’s Greatest Legacy Was What He Didn’t Do

As I argue in my book The American Presidents Without The Boring Bits, George Washington’s greatest achievement was that after two terms, he stood down.

The decision to do so baffled (second president) John Adams. Washington had the power of a king. He could have carried on until his death, so why didn’t he?

Any libertarian knows the moral answer to that question. Mandela wasn’t a libertarian in so many ways. But in some of the ways that truly mattered, he stood on our side.

Under the cloud of nearly three decades of incarceration, it would be understandable (but unacceptable) if Nelson Mandela used his newly-given power for revenge. To act more like Robert Mugabe, and less like George Washington.

But leaving prison a changed, and more mature man, he made many of the right choices.

Madiba chose humility over power. He chose truth and reconciliation over force and witch-hunts. He chose freedom for all.

And, like the first American president, he stepped down. That might still baffle some of his supporters. “He could have been like a king. He could have been in power for the rest of his life. Why didn’t he carry on? Why didn’t he grab more power? I don’t get it.” But those of us who call ourselves libertarian get it.

And we know the world is a tiny bit brighter because of him.

The Best Deterrant to Piracy

PiracyEarlier this year, the chief content officer of Netflix, Ted Sarandos, pointed out that in places where Neflix was available, BitTorrent traffic fell. This is an interesting correlation. Cheap, easily available access to content on most devices without restriction encourages people to happily pay for it without looking for illegal alternatives.

One of my sources in Silicon Valley has told me that there are more users of Final Cut Pro X, Apple’s latest incarnation of their professional video editing software, than every Final Cut Suite user they have ever had. Yet the percentage of pirated versions of that software is lower than ever. This is a piece of software that only costs $299 (compared to the old suite which was north of a grand) and basically allows you to run and install it on every Mac you own or are allowed to use, with no restrictions. Improvements and updates occur automatically using the Mac App Store, so you always have the latest and greatest version.

And that same source tells me that Adobe have seen estimated piracy levels fall (though all of this is admittedly hard to quantify) since launching the Adobe Creative Cloud: Full access to the latest versions of all their pro software (a good few grands worth) for about $50 a month.

There’s a pattern here. Lots of films, music, ebooks and software is expensive, and saturated in lots of restrictive DRM (Digital Rights Management, i.e. copy-protection software) that dictates how and where you can use your content. On the other hand, most pirated content online can be used – and re-purposed – in a variety of different ways with no restrictions. In short, it’s more open, and it’s (mostly) free.

But when content creators publish their content without heavy-handed DRM restrictions, and at a much more reasonable price, then a supply-side effect seems to take place, where more people purchase the content and fewer people pirate it. The content producers (and as a novelist, I include myself in that group) earn more money.

Rather than create more rules and more restrictions on how we can use content, I’m hopeful that a cheaper and more open future is the direction we continue to move in.