December 2013

Sociability > Profitability

“A man’s true wealth is the good he does in the world.”

— Mohammad

When you think of free market economics, undeniably the most championed principle is deregulation. By removing the obstacles that prevent us from economic exchanges, we become wealthier. Letting individuals be in total control of their financial decisions is the path to prosperity, as the thinking goes. Getting the state out of the way increases the number of transactions that will take place.

Inspired particularly by a book called The Rainforest by Victor Hwang and Greg Horowitt, I want to argue that traditional “free” markets are great, but that they’re not the pinnacle of value-creation.

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3 reasons to throw out the Fisa Improvements Act, without reading it

As some of you may know, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein from California has introduced a bill called the Fisa Improvements Act that she is portraying as a reasonable reform of mass government surveillance. I’ve been skeptical from the beginning, reading headlines like “Stop the NSA ‘Fake Fix’ Bill” from EFF and others. I’ve read through some of the bill, but here’s a list of reasons why this bill should be dumped that don’t even require reading it.

The author of the Patriot Act is sponsoring a more reasonable bill

To my surprise, one author of the USA Patriot Act, Jim Sensenbrenner, is proposing a competing bill with the support of Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, called the USA Freedom Act  (Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-Collection, and Online Monitoring Act). Here’s a summary of what the bill would bring about, including the elimination of the meta-data collection programs often mentioned in the revelations of Edward Snowden this summer, and a closing of the “backdoor” that allowed the NSA to search for data about Americans in collected data that was obtained with non-individualized warrants.

Silicon Valley is revolting in Feinstein’s backyard

Several California tech giants like Google, Facebook, Apple, and others have banded together to call for a reform to government surveillance initiatives to restore trust in the Internet. Crucially, they argue against the provisions in Feinstein’s bill that would continue to allow the meta-data collection programs, in favor of the USA Freedom Act mentioned above. If Feinstein is facing a revolt from the very California companies that she’s supposed to represent, there’s clearly something wrong.

Her donors list shows where her loyalties lie

According to Open Secrets, her biggest donors for the 2009-2014 election cycle include General Atomics, General Dynamics, BAE Systems, and Northrop Grumman, all of which involved in defense contracting. I wouldn’t call it a stretch to say she’s pretty invested in the defense industry, which happens to be the same defense industry the NSA contracts all this mass surveillance work to.

For these reasons, I urge you to write to your Senators to oppose this bill.