More on Vaidhyanathan and “You”

by on January 2, 2007 · 6 comments

Prof. Vaidhyanathan has left a gracious comment in response to my post last week about his MSNBC article. He rightly takes issue with my characterization of his position as “knee-jerk leftist and old fogeyism.”

As I point out in a subsequent comment, think his article illustrates a couple of interesting ideological divides. One divide is that Prof. Vaidhyanathan is more concerned than I am about the impact of corporate control over the means of communications. But the more interesting divide, in my estimation, is an individualist/communalist divide. Prof. Vaidhyanathan seems to feel that it’s only a revolution if people are able to “forge collective consciousnesses” and tackle big social problems. I’m more inclined to think that individual, incremental, spontaneous social organizations are at least as important.

What’s most fascinating about this is that it doesn’t seem to have any correlation with the traditional left-right divide. Vaidhyanathan clearly hails from the left-hand side of the political spectrum, as does Seth Finkelstein, but you can see similar sentiments from Nick Carr, who I’ve never thought of as a left-winger, and from our friends at the libertarian-leaning Progress and Freedom Foundation.

And of course, there’s yet another axis concerning copyright and patent law, in which Seth, Prof. Vaidhyanathan, and I would generally find ourselves on the same side, with PFF and most of the Washington establishment on the other side.

This is one of the things that makes writing about tech policy so interesting. On most issues, there is a distinctively “conservative” position and a distinctively “liberal” one, with libertarians usually lining up squarely with one side or the other, depending on the particular issue. But in tech policy, the battle lines seem to be more fluid.

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