Does the Internet Have a Libertarian Future?

Yes, no matter the State’s dastardly plans, Paul Rosenberg tells Lew Rockwell

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ROCKWELL:  Well, good morning.  This is the Lew Rockwell Show, and how great to have as our guest in studio today, Mr. Paul Rosenberg.  Paul is the CEO of Cryptohippie USA.  Of course, we’ll link to this.  And we’ve published on LRC The Cryptohippie’s Guide to Online Privacy.

Wonderful news.  Recently, he’s started his newsletter online, Free-Man’s Perspective, a great anarchist newsletter.

ROSENBERG:  Thank you.

ROCKWELL:  So Paul is an expert in a whole lot of things, especially everything having to do with what the government is doing to our privacy, and how you can try to protect yourself and how really you can protect yourself despite the fact that we seem to be in some very dark days as far as the police state.

So, Paul, why don’t you tell me, first of all, what got you interested in Libertarianism and Anarcho-Capitalism and so forth?

ROSENBERG:  Oh, my.  Isn’t that a great question?  Where does it really begin?  And honestly, it probably began with my mother, who was an exceptional human being, not for any sort of teaching or anything, just for a sense of what is right and what is good.

But I’ll give you one of my stories.  At some point, at about 16 years old, I found myself, by happenstance, involved with a lot of 30 and 40 and 50 and 60-year-old men at a gym, of all places.  And once the novelty of my youth wore away, I was just another guy sweating and grunting while trying to lift weights and do push-ups.  These guys let it all hang out at the gym.  They were successful businessmen, guys who had been successful and were now broke, guys who were broke and would be successful next year, and athletes and all sorts of people.  And I began thinking about what is right, what is wrong, why, in a more intellectual, you know, adult level of what’s right and what’s wrong.  And one day, by happenstance, I walked by one of my high school classrooms, and it was in-between classes, and I had a moment, and on the wall was a copy of the Declaration of Independence and I read the preamble.  And I read it, and I said, this is right, you know, all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with inalienable rights, and if anything abuses those rights, it should be altered or abolished.  I said, “This is right.”  And the very next thought that just popped out of me was, nobody believes this; nobody acts like this is true; we act like it’s the opposite of this.  And that was really one of my — one of my fundamental moments when I kind of started on this path.  And then, of course, I read all sorts of things for years and all the other things that go along with it.

ROCKWELL:  Tell me about your career, I mean, how you got involved in trying to protect peoples’ privacy.

ROSENBERG:  Well, another long story, which I’ll greatly shorten.  I was in the electrical construction business.  I ended up writing the books and magazines for people in that business, conducting seminars and whatnot in, oh, let’s call it the ’80s at some point.  In my business, the options open to me were the electrical code and something else.  And the electrical code, while it’s a useful document and I appreciate it, I couldn’t bring myself to work with it everyday.  It was just to me deathly boring.  There’s some people who are good people who like it.  Not me.

So I began getting into electronics.  And eventually, that led me into fiber optic.  And I got deeply involved very quickly with fiber optic because no one else was doing it.  It was brand new and I got a chance to just jump in at the base level.  I ended up writing the first standard for the installation of optical cables and things like that.  I was, at one point, president of the Fiber Optic Association.  And it was very tiny.  It was, you know, five — myself and four other guys started it just because it needed to be done and nobody was doing it.  So from that, I ended up finding a wonderful group that doesn’t meet anymore, called the Eris Society, E-R-I-S.  And it met every August, and it was a fascinating place to be.  And then I became friends with some of the Cypherpunks and those sorts of people.  So that brought me into the whole kind of computer and encryption world.  So that’s kind of how I got there.

To start Cryptohippie, I had written a book called A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, and it was first published anonymously.  It was anonymous for some years after it was written.  And on one of these Cypherpunk IRC channels, I got to become friends with this one particular gentleman.  And one day, he says to me, “You’re the guy.”  And I said, “What do you mean”?  He says, “You wrote that book.”  And I said, “Why do you think so”?   (laughing)  And he pled his case, which was a good one.  And long-story-short, he and I took a five-day road trip across Europe; talked about everything under the sun; and when we got done — this gentleman is a real serious computer expert and for — and in some very important specialties.  And we sat in a hotel bar and he says, “Freedom has to exist somewhere in the world.  It has to be kept open somewhere, where people can communicate and where freedom really exists.  It has to be done.”  And I said, “Yes.”  And he said, “I know how to do it.”  And I said, “I know you do.”  And he says, “I can’t do it myself, and I want you to do it with me.”  And that’s how Cryptohippie began.  I wasn’t really looking to do it.

ROCKWELL:  So there is hope, right?  I mean, it’s easy to lose hope these days with everything that’s going on.  But there is hope?

ROSENBERG:  Oh, there’s definitely hope.  But we’re going to have to do a lot of adaptation as time goes on.  We have serious problems in front of us.  But, yes, there’s definitely hope.  You can obtain freedom on the Internet.  It’s not automatic anymore.  I mean, the Internet is horrific in what it has become in many ways.  But, yes, there’s definitely hope.  There’s things we can do.  We just have to do them rather than wait for somebody else to do them for you.

ROCKWELL:  Why don’t you tell us about both what you see as the worst things that are happening right now and then maybe why you don’t have to be subject to them?

ROSENBERG:  OK.  What’s going on now, first of all, surveillance is everywhere on the Internet.  It is a surveillance web.  It is becoming a manipulation web, too.  The first little signs of that were the Google ads, where you type in — you send an e-mail to your friend about your car breaking down and then you get ads for car companies on the Google ads.  That’s advertising, we can call it, which it is also, but it’s manipulation.  And it’s getting much, much, much better.  There are systems now where they capture your face as you walk into a store and then they have your full profile and can tell the sales people what to sell you.  And it just goes on from there with — there are professional psychologists being employed right now to, you know, come up with plans for manipulating people and how to get them to do it a little bit this way.

I mean, it’s just kind of horrific to talk about, but there’s a guy who works for Obama named Cass Sunstein —

ROCKWELL:  Oh, yeah.

ROSENBERG:  — and this is kind of his job.  And he is at the very highest levels, as is his wife, at the very highest levels of American government.  And he’s written books and scholarly papers about manipulating people online.  And I don’t know what they’re doing now but he has been, for four or five years now, at the very highest levels.  So I don’t know what he’s doing but I really —

ROCKWELL:  It’s not good.

ROSENBERG:  Yeah.  I really doubt that it’s good for us.  So that’s going on.

The other problem is what’s going on in the back rooms among the engineers.  The protocols, the methods by which the Internet works, are being changed; not to get too technical, but the one that’s called BGP, Border Gateway Protocol, which was completely anarchic.  And occasional problems.  There’s one particular way you can use it to do something kind of nefarious but there were very few problems with how the Internet works because of it.  Well, they’re rewriting it and calling it BGPsec, because it’s secure now.  But it essentially gives whoever is at the highest levels of ICANN, the people who assign Internet names, the ability to hijack anybody, anytime, anywhere they want.  Now, it’s kind of a complicated explanation; I won’t go into it.  But that’s going on.  And there’s problems going on with the registration requirements for domains going forward.

So the entire Internet is kind of being — it’s kind of a re-conquest that’s going on.  It got out of control.  They weren’t expecting it.  The roots actually go back to Sputnik when they essentially scared the people in power in the United States.  And they kind of let the smart guys loose — and that’s not exactly an absolutely correct explanation but it’s kind of true — and the Internet grew out of it.  And nobody saw it coming outside of a couple sci-fi authors.  Just a couple.  And it got out of control and they’re essentially taking it back.  So we have a lot of problems with that.

In terms of avoiding the problems, it can definitely be done.  Our company does it.  There are ways to do it by yourself, but it’s hard.  You have to get on the TOR network or the I2P network.  You have to get encryption and use encryption.  It’s free.  You can get text encryption for free and have been able to for 20 years.  But you have to get it; you have to use it.  And there’s other tricks.  There’s special chat programs to use, things like that.

There are privacy services that exist.  Without sounding like I’m self-promoting, I don’t like any of them.  They are mostly what we call single-hop proxies.  They were very cool in 1995.  They’re not so cool any more.  They’re cheap.  You know, they’re real cheap and easy to do, but they’re not terribly good.  So you either have to work and use TOR or I2P, encryption, all of that, or you buy a service like ours and you have to pay.  That’s the only way it can really be done.

In the future, if things get worse and worse, they will eventually shut down privacy services under whatever — you know, there’ll be — a bomb will go off somewhere and they’ll blame whatever group they blame and they’ll start taking services off line.  At that point — there’s a couple of intermediate steps but, at that point, we’ll probably have to build our own networks.  And it’s not hard.  You can take the same equipment you’d use to run Wi-Fi at your house and set up a mesh network in your neighborhood.  It’s almost trivially easy.  And then, of course, you’d need some long-distance links.  So we could set up our own Internets.  It’s not terribly hard.  You wouldn’t have the, you know, screaming, streaming graphics that you have now but we could all communicate.  Even in the face of a complete, you know, dollar meltdown, welfare riots and everything else, we could still communicate if we actually do it rather than sit around waiting for somebody else or waiting for somebody to give us permission.

ROCKWELL:  Well, that’s great to know.  And I tend to think also that you never lose all hope —

ROSENBERG:  Right.

ROCKWELL:  — if only because the state is fundamentally a very stupid organization.  Maybe, smart people at the top of it, but just the bureaucracy is not a — is slow moving and stupid.  I mean, they couldn’t stop a bomb in Boston despite the trillion dollars and —

ROSENBERG:  Right.

ROCKWELL:  — thousands of spies and —

ROSENBERG:  And everybody giving up all their civil rights and all that.

ROCKWELL:  No.  And cameras everywhere and so forth —

ROSENBERG:  Right.

ROCKWELL:  — they couldn’t do it.

ROSENBERG:  I don’t know what we’d give up next.

ROCKWELL:  Yeah.  Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

Well —

(LAUGHTER)

Maybe, we give up our taxes.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSENBERG:  That would be good.

(LAUGHTER)

ROCKWELL:  Well, great.  Thanks so much, Paul, for coming on.

ROSENBERG:  Oh, my pleasure.

ROCKWELL:  And I want to mention your books, A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, The Words of the Founders, and Production Versus Plunder.  Of course, your wonderful blog, which I’d love to link to, Free-Man’s Perspective.

ROSENBERG:  Thank you.

ROCKWELL:  And we’ll link also to Cryptohippie USA and your Facebook and everything else.

And it’s an honor to have you here.

ROSENBERG:  Oh, I’m pleased to be here.

ROCKWELL:  Keep up the great work you’re doing.

ROSENBERG:  I shall.  Thank you.

ROCKWELL:  OK.  Wonderful.

Well, thanks so much for listening to the Lew Rockwell Show today. Take a look at all the podcasts. There have been hundreds of them. There’s a link on the upper right-hand corner of the LRC front page. Thank you.

Podcast date, May, 14, 2013

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