The Government wants to be in the Business of Tech Censorship

Tech Censorship

The Congress of the United States is haranguing the CEOs of the top technology companies in an effort to justify the tech censorship itch of every politician. The very idea of government choosing what citizens get to read should hopefully make your skin crawl as much as mine. Tech censorship is a bad idea, read on and I’ll tell you why I think so.

Basically, the internet is filled with a bunch of crazy stuff. Go figure. Some idiots choose to believe this nonsense, again, go figure. Because some people are really stupid, the government has decided that I must be protected and the way to do this is to enforce tech censorship. Now, the government has any number of methods by which they can control content, including limited liability laws, which I railed against elsewhere. I’m not going to get into why limited government is vital but I want to focus on the inherent problems with tech censorship.

I think it’s pretty easy to make my case when we simply examine the words of the politicians as they verbally assaulted the CEOs. The tech companies have “too much power.” That’s a rich one coming from politicians who have brutalized the Constitution of the United States, designed largely to limit government power, into a scrap of tissue paper. It is clear politicians don’t want anyone else to have too much power, they find the thought frightening.

The tech companies are accused of, in the same breath, spreading fake news and censoring political speech. Well, when political speech is fake news, it seems irrefutable that we’ve got a Catch 22 on our hands. The proverbial police officer telling a suspect to freeze and raise her or his hands. Tech companies can’t defeat this line of questioning, which is exactly the point. There is nothing the tech companies can do to stop the spread of false information without also censoring political speech. The result of this is that whatever political party happens to be in power can, for all practical purposes, dictate what is “political speech” and what is “fake news”. Do you want politicians making that decision? I don’t.

The answer isn’t giving censorship power to government, the answer is to stop trying to censor at all, you can’t win. The politicians are hoping to trap tech companies by forcing them to censor fake news while calling them out for censoring political speech. The politicians want more power, they want the power to control what you read, what you see. The politicians will stop at nothing to get this power. They are the evil in this situation.

We must dispense with the idea of censorship altogether; despite the fact some people will post vile lies in an attempt to incite violence. We cannot trust government to keep us safe, we must trust ourselves, we must be personally responsible.

Government’s idea of safety is to put us in a dark cave with a plate of food and a bowl of water and then harangue us when we fail to lick its boot and thank it for doing so.

Tom Liberman

The Broken Throne – Available Now!

The-Broken-ThroneIs it better to rule in Tyranny or live in Freedom?

My new novel, The Broken Throne, is now available to everyone for only $2.99.

Read about the book, download a sample, watch a video, join my Goodreads Author group, like me on Facebook, and most of all – Purchase a copy today!

Thanks for your interest!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

 

Amazon Drones, Luddites, and John Maynard Keynes

Amazon DronesThe news story that is catching everyone’s eye this week is from an episodes of 60 Minutes where Amazon owner Jeff Bezos declared that the company is contemplating using drones to deliver packages to customers.

This idea is frightening to a number of people as explained by this article.

The theory is that technology will replace jobs and there will not be enough work to go around. The idea first came to the forefront in the early 19th Century when textile workers began protesting against labor-saving machines like stocking frames, spinning frames, and power looms. This movement eventually became known as the Luddite movement.

A famous economist by the name of John Maynard Keynes promulgated the idea of technological unemployment in the early 1930s. This idea has waxed and waned over the ensuing decades but usually comes to the front when unemployment is high.

Judging by the comments I read; it seems many people today are more than happy to embrace the Luddite argument of technological unemployment. I don’t and I’m going to tell you why.

It’s absolutely true that technology ends jobs, certain kinds of jobs. If tens of thousands of drones are delivering packages and mail all over the United States then we will not need people to drive trucks and deliver goods. What we will need is mechanics, electricians, engineers, and designers to envision, design, build, and maintain the drones.

There was a time when owning a stable was very profitable but the advent of the automobile changed all that. There was a time when being a Chandler (candle maker) was a necessary and important function in society. The same for a blacksmith. Technology ended these jobs but unemployment did not skyrocket. New jobs were created and often better jobs. Skilled jobs that required an education but paid well. Jobs that were interesting and fulfilling.

I think the biggest misconception is that there isn’t going to be any work to be done. Look around. Look at your house, your street, your lawn, your computer network, a nearby bridge, a park, a hiking trail, a power line! Look in any direction and tell me you don’t see work that needs to be done. There is far, far more work to be done than there are people to do it.

Why do we have unemployment? Money. There isn’t enough money to pay people to do the necessary work and things fall into disrepair.

When we free people from delivering packages we make them available to pour concrete, to create art out of lawns, to make beauty where ugliness currently resides.

Will there be a transition as we move into the Automated Age? Absolutely. People who don’t have an education will have an increasingly difficult time finding a job. As automation takes over there will be fewer and fewer unskilled labor positions available.

But the positions that are available will largely be more rewarding and make society a better place. With automated vehicles police officers will focus on crime rather than traffic control. Roadside accidents will vanish, thus reducing the need for emergency vehicles and services. This will lower taxes substantially and reduce the size of government. Car insurance will shrink to nothing. For every awful forecast a Luddite threatens I promise wonders.

I guess I’m saying you can fear the future, fight against it, rail against it, shake your fist in rage or you can revel in the amazing glory that it will bring. The freedom that it will bring. The beauty that it will bring.

A people freed from the mundane and able to create. Robots that make life safer, better, easier, and cheaper.

Not enough work? I don’t think so.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Five Star Book Reviews – for a Price

Five Star ReviewThere is an article in the New York Times that strikes directly to my business model in trying to sell my Sword and Sorcery novels. It turns out most of the five-star reviews you’ve read on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords were likely purchased. The going rate was fifty reviews for $1,000.

Supposedly Amazon and B&N have caught onto the practice and banned the main offender but I’m very skeptical. When I first entered the self-publishing world with The Staff of Naught, I joined a number of author groups all over the internet. I was immediately inundated with offers to review my novel for a fee. I gave a free copy of my book for one of these reviews. I got a four-star review that looked as if the person hadn’t read the book and the review seemed based mostly only the blurb I put as the description.

I had a recent experience that shocked me. One avenue that I use to publicize my novels is to self-pirate it to torrent sites. The torrent site that I use is the immensely popular Demonoid which was recently shut-down by the government. While reading an article on ZDnet I ran across an author who wrote a “good-riddance” letter. I posted my own experience with Demonoid wherein the majority of my book sales stemmed from torrented files that the person read and then purchased. The author who posted the “good-riddance” message got into a bit of a flame war with those who supported Torrenting and some of those people posted negative reviews of her book.

Now comes the shocking part. The author asked Amazon to remove the negative reviews and they did! Apparently this is a common practice. So, not only are positive reviews manufactured but negative ones can be deleted.

My books are priced at $2.99 and a reviewer of The Hammer of Fire, one of two neither of which I solicited in any way, pointed out that while this seems like a small sum there are so many terrible self-published books that even such a minor expense is difficult to make without reviewer proof of a good novel. But, if reviewer proof is manufactured where does that leave the consumer?

Personally, I’m not going to pay for a review ever again, not even for just a copy of the book, and I’ve never asked my friends to write positive reviews. I have asked people who read the book to put an honest review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords.

Don’t think for a moment that is positive review practice is limited to books. And don’t think that competitors aren’t out there writing negative reviews. What’s a writer to do? What’s a consumer to do? It’s a dilemma.

I would suggest finding the author’s blog if they have one and read it to find out about their style. Download the sample and read it. See if they have a GoodReads Author Group where they answer questions. See how they respond to reviews. I have a samples of all my books at my site, you’re currently reading my blog, I have an author group (with six whole members), and I respond to my reviews.

I think there’s a lot of a great writing out there but it’s difficult to find. I think anyone who spends $2.99 on my books will find that they get value for the price. But, in the end the market will determine if that’s true.

Don’t trust reviews, particularly five-star reviews that don’t go into details about the book in question.

Oh, and for sure, BUY MY BOOKS!! 🙂

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

Internet Sale Tax – Coming Soon

Internet Sales TaxLegislation is slowly making its way through Washington D.C. that will institute a Sales Tax on internet purchases. Those in favor of this tax, although most refuse to call it a tax instead using the phrase Collection Issue, say it is unfair that internet sales do not have a sales tax whereas brick and mortar stores do have such a tax.

To understand why it is completely fair that Internet Sales don’t have a sales tax while Brick and Mortar do have one we have to understand the purpose of a Sales Tax, or any tax at all.

The rationale for such taxes is that in order to sell something to a consumer, the product and the customer must get to your store by state and federally built roads. They park in your store on free use parking lots generally built and maintained by municipalities. Stores use utilities; gas, electric, water, sewage, whose infrastructure requires government moneys. Internet sales clearly do not require this upkeep although if there is a warehouse where the product is delivered in the state it does require such resources. The roads used to deliver such a package to your door are also under that umbrella of activity.

However, the trucks that deliver goods pay gas taxes for the upkeep of the road. Gasoline taxes are generally justified as a way to pay for road and bridge building and maintenance. That makes perfect sense to me.

The only real justification for this new tax is the warehousing of goods which need employees to unload and load product for the consumer. These employees need water, heat, parking, etc. That is why Amazon is working out its own sales tax scheme with various states because they are building a network of warehouses all over the U.S. to ensure that your product is delivered promptly.

Now, here is my main point. If we become a society that orders our goods online we will significantly lessen the burden on utilities, parking lots, roads, and other government provided services. Brick and mortar stores will disappear and parks will appear. If we stop driving our cars all over to pick up toothpaste then the government spends less money and our taxes should likewise decrease. But, if we tax internet sales, whose price is lower for natural, capitalistic reasons, we are unfairly benefitting brick and mortar stores! Taxes should be lower on internet sales. This will, and is, creating many positive effects on consumption of gasoline, water, electricity etc! Not that the government should decide this one way or the other. If one business practice is cheaper and people like it then it should win out.

I’m not totally opposed to taxation on internet sales whose goods go through a warehouse in that state or municipality. I’m just saying it should be significantly lower for those specific cases and if there is no warehouse, there should be no tax at all. The reason it is lower is that only large trucks have to deliver the goods as compared to many cars coming and going. Warehouses have fewer employees than equally sized brick and mortar store where one warehouse might replace fifty or more traditional business locations.

The benefits of internet sales are many and we shouldn’t be discouraging this with unfair taxes that help brick and mortar stores under the misguided guise of “fairness”.

Tell me what you think in the comments!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire