[governance] FW: TP: city government exercising policy on Google Applications / consumer rights / Consumer Protection Act / trial period

Paul Lehto lehto.paul at gmail.com
Tue Jul 12 15:10:37 EDT 2011

On 7/12/11, Milton L Mueller <mueller at syr.edu> wrote:
> it was the ABSENCE of control, not its
> presence, that made it successful.

We seem to agree on freedom, or "free government" so to speak, but
even free governments have fairly enormous numbers of laws.  The
"absence of control" in certain areas (only) is the hallmark of free
governments.  But free governments don't have "absence of control" in
any remotely global sense of that word.  Many people call that

> Some local government
> provides a road for a truck to ride on and that means it has an unqualified
> right to regulate anything and everything that happens in global
> communications? What kind of an argument is this?

It's an argument for self-government at a local level.  To have free
government necessarily requires that that the people of a given
jurisdiction be free to make mistakes - to experiment with
over-regulation for example.  What Milton is arguing for is some kind
of top down control that will prevent these rogue local governments
from making the "mistake" of exercising its freedom to regulate, even
if in a "dumb" way.  Milton is right in one sense: without getting
down to the nitty gritty of detail, it's not really possible to
ascertain if a given "dumb" regulation really is dumb, or not.

A good gauge of equity and fairness is to turn the argument around:
What's so good and efficient and just about "100,000 corporations"
each regulating their tiny part of the domain of the Internet with its
own long terms of service document, with each corporation having
freedom of contract to experiment with the legal regulation via
contract law of its own tiny sphere  of the internet.  This is even
more fragmentation and non-uniformity than having every local
municipal *governmental* corporation each experimenting with

If one wants to see really intense and comprehensive regulation of
behavior, check out corporate franchising contracts, which insist on
control of every little facet of human business behavior.  Government
by no means has a monopoly on intense regulation backed up by the
force of law.  Corporations do intense regulation routinely, and call
it all good, and economically efficient and competitive, etc., in the
franchising context to give just one example.

Milton, I'd bet that the sum total of all pages of internet regulation
via corporate contracts and terms of service exceeds the sum total of
all pages of governmental internet regulation.  Both are enforceable
in courts of law.

So what makes corporate regulation superior? It is more voluminous and
detailed, and no user of the internet has any meaningful say or right
to be heard in the creation of the corporate contract terms.  How many
contractual fine print consumer contract clauses have you reviewed
lately?   They are as aggravating as the craziest and stupidest
government regulation, and people have essentially zero recourse with
private corporations, which is worse than the attenuated kinds of
recourse we have in functioning democratic governments.

It's critical to keep in mind at all times, in my opinion, that
Corporate regulation and control of the internet is precisely what we
get in every sphere in which the government (whether for good reasons
or bad) exercises the "absence of control" Milton Mueller is arguing
for.  This corporate regulation via detailed contractual fine print is
progress?  I think not.

Paul Lehto, J.D.

> Sure, insofar as governments secure basic property rights and contractual
> rights and administer justice, a  "legal infrastructure" has been helpful.
> But just as often, govts overstep those bounds and try to obstruct,
> parasitize, over-regulate or overtax. We need to debate the merits of a
> specific intervention; this argument makes no sense in the abstract.

Paul R Lehto, J.D.
P.O. Box 1
Ishpeming, MI  49849
lehto.paul at gmail.com
906-204-4026 (cell)
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