Internet

Dao bless America: The Congress, China, and counter productivity.

Imagine the following scenario: The American congress passes a bill that makes it practically impossible for American Internet companies to operate and compete in the Chinese market, in attempt to prevent censorship and spread freedom. The new law puts a serious dent in American companies’ ability to operate and compete in the Chinese market. In addition, the few publicly listed Chinese media companies that are not government-owned are also damaged, since most of them went public in the US and must comply with American laws. In the meantime, the Chinese people affirm their belief that America is out to harm them and hinder the development of their economy.

Now try this one: Multinational companies continue to develop services in China. The Chinese public is exposed to more and more information from other countries. China’s communication market becomes more open (slowly…) as more foreign and local money is invested inline with financial - and not political - imperatives. The people of China learn to appreciate the benefits of being a free market economy and just can't have enough...

The Internet develops faster than the laws that govern it. It is important for law makers to respond promptly to the challenges this development brings. But promptly should not mean hysterically, or sanctimoniously. Business is still business, and the market still knows best. New law(s) should draw clear lines on Internet companies’ responsibilities for activities the world over, starting with America. There are plenty of questions that need answering. Below are a few suggestions:

1. Are Internet companies obliged to provide Congress with information on users and usage, even for educational and research purposes?

2. Under what circumstances can American lawmakers request an Internet company to block access to copyrighted material (as it now does)?

3. What is the procedure for companies from other industries, less powerful than the Music Industry, to gain such protection?

4. What are the penalties for American Internet companies that currently block content by request from some European governments? What is the procedure by which these web sites are evaluated and selected?

In any case, China should not be singled out. Fellow Americans, have faith in the market’s wisdom. As the great sage Lao Zi wrote 2,500 years ago:

The Market abides in non-action, yet nothing is left undone. If kings and lords observed this, the ten thousand things would develop naturally. If they still desired to act, they would return to the simplicity of formless substance. Without form there is no desire. Without desire there is tranquility. And in this way all things would be at peace.
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