Enough already with the Internet-bashing. It’s even infected the usually spot-on Chris Matthews. Last night, during a discussion of the Colorado killings, Matthews was bragging that his web-savvy son could find “something called” the Anarchist Cookbook on the Internet. A proud father, he made this sound like his son had found the back-up files to the lost Library of Alexandria. The Anarchist Cookbook teaches how to make bombs and psychedelics, police batons and blister gas. Matthews seemed to imply that this info was kept under lock and key in a vault until the Internet came along.
Well, I’ve had my copy since I was fifteen years old. Of course, my version is actually far more dangerous. Mine is a book. I can carry it with me to my rebel stronghold or to the boys’ bathroom at the high school. The book has been around since 1971. It offers everything a revolutionary needs to know to launch a violent overthrow of the government — or to get really stoned while talking about launching a violent overthrow of the government.
The immediate argument after the massacre was that it must be access to the guns. Well, these kids spent months planning, and anyone who spends months planning to kill people will kill people. Now the argument coming from Al Gore and others is that “It’s the information, stupid.” As if parental controls on webpages would stop these kids from finding out how to make a pipe bomb. When I was growing up, kids wanted to know all sorts of things about drugs and weapons. Guess what? They did. On that front nothing has changed.
The only thing that has changed is that kids want to kill each other. The guns, the how-to, the opportunity have always been there. The only thing that wasn’t was the will, until now.
Anyway, they stole our stuff. And since they took information we can’t just take it back like a baseball glove or action figure of Boba Fett.
So what can we do? We can’t declare war. Espionage is almost never considered an act of war. Besides, who wants a war with China? During the Clinton administration we’ve taken a pasting from the Somalis and we’ve been ineffective against the Iraqis and the Serbs; what are we going to do against a billion Chinese? Trade doesn’t offer much leverage in the first place. And commerce is two-way, so we’d punish ourselves — and the barely recovering Asian economies — as well. Please, no diatribes on Smoot-Hawley from the Go-Pat-Goers.
Well, here’s a thought.
If British Telecom stole ATT blueprints for some new patented phone doo-dad and then developed competing technology, ATT would have an iron-clad lawsuit on its hands. Even if British Telecom invented their own doo-dad all by themselves, ATT could still sue because patents establish temporary monopolies. For years, Phillips, the Dutch electronics firm, tried to sue the United States for stealing its patents on atomic fission. Maybe they were onto something.
Why can’t we sue the Chinese? The technology they stole is probably dripping with patents and copyrights. They desperately want to join the international trading system which is constantly arbitrating intellectual property rights. Let’s stipulate that their entrance into the WTO is contingent upon their acquiescence to our lawsuit.
So what’s a good number? Let’s see, there are the actual damages, probably in the modest billions — compromised security, lost man hours, the need to update systems and technologies — and then there are the punitive damages. Considering that what they stole will give them the power to destroy Western civilization, why not use that as a baseline for picking a fair number?
So let’s see: all of the park benches in the world, plus the museums, dogs, cats, pens, pizza ovens, goods and services, gay and straight porn, the carbon-based life-forms under my fridge, libraries, Bill Clinton’s pants…okay…carry the three, add a zero, got it. $47 trillion, give or take a few cents should cover it.
It may seem odd to put a price tag on Western civilization. But we do it all the time retail, we just never do it wholesale. Still, conservatives were the original anti-materialists and so it is a little distasteful. Which brings me to an interesting question I got from a reader the other day: “Why do conservatives hate Ayn Rand so much?” The short answer can be found in my less than artful segue. She was a conservative materialist and “conservative materialist,” it was decided, was too much of a contradiction for conservatism to countenance.
I don’t want to take this argument too far right now, but I would like to say I like these doctrinal questions. I spent over a year writing a book about the most influential conservatives, which I couldn’t finish on deadline. Since I had to return the advance on the damned thing a couple of years ago, it’d be nice to get some return on the investment.
So if you have questions like “What’s the difference between an ‘economic conservative’ and a ‘libertarian’ ” or “Is a reactionary a conservative who didn’t have his morning bran muffin?” ask away and we’ll try to hash them out here and then maybe take the argument next door to the NR chat room.