A profound reversal in attitudes has taken place in the last twenty years. While in the 1960’s the cries of “freedom” and “liberty” came from Progressives, today it is the right that sees liberty under attack. The campaign rhetoric of the four Republican candidates for President all put the defense of liberty at the top of their agenda. They see in Progressives attempts to regulate bad actors in the world’s of finance, health insurance, or environmental pollution a basic attack on the free market. As Rick Santorum said on Super Tuesday about Obamacare, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the beginning of the end of freedom in America. Once the government has control of your life, then they got you.”
I think we need to really consider whether liberty is the value that trumps all others in our society. Let’s take the case of the publisher of backpage.com.
The biggest forum for sex trafficking of under-age girls in the United States appears to be a Web site called Backpage.com. This emporium for girls and women — some under age or forced into prostitution — is in turn owned by an opaque private company called Village Voice Media. Until now it has been unclear who the ultimate owners are.That mystery is solved. The owners turn out to include private equityfinanciers, including Goldman Sachs with a 16 percent stake…
There’s no doubt that many escort ads on Backpage are placed by consenting adults. But it’s equally clear that Backpage plays a major role in the trafficking of minors or women who are coerced. In one recent case in New York City, prosecutors say that a 15-year-old girl was drugged, tied up, raped and sold to johns through Backpage and other sites.Backpage has 70 percent of the market for prostitution ads, according to AIM Group, a trade organization.
Now the State of Washington has passed a law creating criminal penalties for sites like backpage.com for advertising girls under the age of 18. And what is the response from backpage.com–“Censorship”.
“There’s going to have to be a challenge to it,” said Liz McDougall, general counsel for Village Voice Media Holdings. “Otherwise it would effectively shut down an enormous portion of the Internet that currently permits third-party content.”
Now where have I heard that before? The defenders of Kim Dotcom and the other pirates who have lived luxuriously off the stolen work of musicians and filmmakers around the world, say that any attempt to block these sites is censorship. This is utter nonsense. As I have pointed out before, the issue is not Google or Baidu’s precious freedom, but their precious revenues.
How did we get to this point that the Libertarian rhetoric dominates our political debate? The Village Voice’s liberty to service pimps of underage girls, trumps society’s right to protect those girls from exploitation? The selfish individual’s liberty to not buy health insurance and make the rest of us pay for his emergency room care trumps society’s right to create a working health insurance system? Megaupload’s liberty to host stolen movies trumps the artist’s right to get paid for his work?
As I have said before, we must come off the barricades and stop using this foolish rhetoric of censorship and liberty where it really does not apply. You have no right to free food. Why do you think you have a right to free music? It is time for all the parties involved to sit at the table and figure out some solutions that afford the creators of imaginative work to get paid for their considerable labors.