Witness the Freest Economy: The Internet

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An
MP3 audio file of this article, read by Floy Lilley, is
available for download
.

One of the
few places in the world not yet plagued by government intervention
is the internet. Although some governments in certain parts of the
world have infiltrated the activities of the internet to varying
degrees, it remains the closest thing to a purely free economy that
we can identify in the modern world.

On the internet,
the beautiful aspects of human nature manifest themselves, and we
see individuals and companies maximizing their talents and resources
for reasons of profit, pleasure, altruism, and mere progress in
itself. Given that the government neither inhibits the activities
of the internet nor props up or favors any particular actors or
individuals, perhaps we are witnessing the closest thing to a free
market that man has ever witnessed.

Although many
consider the America of the 19th century to be the closest thing
to a purely free market, in fact, congressmen constantly acted in
favor of certain individuals, leading in some cases to monopolistic
advantages. Ironically, at the end of the century the government
intervened in an attempt to break up monopolies.

So here we
are in a worldwide web that connects people from all parts of the
world, allowing them to exchange whatever they want with one another.
It is the essence of a free market: voluntary exchange. There is
no use of force or coercion on the internet. No higher authority
effectively controls or dictates the way that we spend our time
online or the activities that we partake in. Although some legal
obstacles inhibit people from accessing certain sites and materials,
given the lack of regulation or enforcement by a higher authority,
users are easily able to circumvent these restrictions and achieve
the things that they want.

As it evolves,
we begin to witness the endless potential that exists within the
internet and the unquantifiable benefits it provides to society.
Although the internet currently represents freedom from both a civil
and a social perspective, I shall examine it from a economic
perspective.

Arguably, the
human race has seen more progress and innovation through the use
of the internet in the past 20 years than through the use of any
innovation known in the history of mankind. As we reflect back over
the last 20 years, we see thousands of amazing success stories.
We see entrepreneurs from all different economic backgrounds and
classes making full use of their skills, ideas, and passions. We
read about success stories such as Facebook and Google,
where very young people have been able to generate massive wealth
while providing a cheap, convenient, and valuable new tool for everyone
across the globe to enjoy. This is the beauty of a system free from
government intervention.

In turn, their
Chinese competitors bring increased competition to both Google
and Facebook, creating incentives for them to improve their
own products and continue to innovate. This example closely resembles
capitalist Americans emulating European technology in the 19th century
or Japanese entrepreneurs emulating Western technology during the
process of their development.

Do patent protection
laws truly promote greater and faster innovation? Some companies
and individuals are able to avert these government-imposed rigidities
online. And the success of this less-inhibited marketplace demonstrates
the lack of need for patent protection laws.

If patent-protection
laws, taxes, and legal-tender laws were completely eliminated from
the internet, we would then see a purely free market. Although this
is not foreseeable given the world’s current political system, we
can still continue to enjoy the advantages of this relatively unfettered
aspect of modern society.

Technological
advancements benefit society for many obvious reasons. In an unfettered
marketplace, innovation reduces costs for businesses and hence prices
for consumers. For example, in the past, some families spent several
hundred dollars every few years just to update their encyclopedia
set, even though all of the content in these encyclopedias was publicly
accessible; the encyclopedia companies merely compiled the information
into a more concise format.

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the rest of the article

October
20, 2009

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