Crovitz on The End of the Permissionless Web

by on May 7, 2014 · 0 comments

Few people have been more tireless in their defense of the notion of “permissionless innovation” than Wall Street Journal columnist L. Gordon Crovitz. In his weekly “Information Age” column for the Journal (which appears each Monday), Crovitz has consistently sounded the alarm regarding new threats to Internet freedom, technological freedom, and individual liberties. It was, therefore, a great honor for me to wake up Monday morning and read his latest post, “The End of the Permissionless Web,” which discussed my new book “Permissionless Innovation: The Continuing Case for Comprehensive Technological Freedom.”

“The first generation of the Internet did not go well for regulators,” Crovitz begins his column. “Despite early proposals to register websites and require government approval for business practices, the Internet in the U.S. developed largely without bureaucratic control and became an unstoppable engine of innovation and economic growth.” Unfortunately, he correctly notes:

Regulators don’t plan to make the same mistake with the next generation of innovations. Bureaucrats and prosecutors are moving in to undermine services that use the Internet in new ways to offer everything from getting a taxi to using self-driving cars to finding a place to stay.

This is exactly why I penned my little manifesto. As Crovitz continues on to note in his essay, new regulatory threats to both existing and emerging technologies are popping up on almost a daily basis. He highlights currently battles over Uber, Airbnb, 23andme, commercial drones, and more. And his previous columns have discussed many other efforts to “permission” innovation and force heavy-handed top-down regulatory schemes on fast-paced and rapidly-evolving sectors and technologies. As he argues:

The hardest thing for government regulators to do is to regulate less, which is why the development of the open-innovation Internet was a rare achievement. The regulation the digital economy needs most now is for permissionless innovation to become the default law of the land, not the exception.

Amen, brother! What we need to do is find more constructive ways to deal with some of the fears that motivate calls for regulation. But, as I noted in my little book, how we address these concerns matters greatly. If and when problems develop, there are many less burdensome ways to address them than through preemptive technological controls. The best solutions to complex social problems are almost always organic and “bottom-up” in nature. Luckily, there exists a wide variety of constructive approaches that can be tapped to address or alleviate concerns associated with new innovations. I get very specific about those approaches in Chapter 5 of my book, which is entitled, “Preserving Permissionless Innovation: Principles of Progress.”

So, I hope you’ll download a free copy of the book and take a look. And my sincerest thanks to Gordon Crovitz for featuring it in his excellent new column.


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