It was the creation of a coherent myth in the early 1960s that caused the rise of today's political assumptions. The Goldwater assumptions about the past,present and future were baked into the system by Richard Nixon, brought to fruition by Ronald Reagan, and are now so widely believed under George W. Bush that few in Washington even question them anymore.
This is true for everyone in Washington. It's just as true for Democrats as Republicans, just as true for journalists as pundits. This is what so frustrates those in the Netroots. We've been growing a different myth without realizing it.
This is the Open Source Myth.
The Open Source Myth is based on the Internet. Knowledge should be freely available. You should be free to read any page, link to any page, and use any service that can travel on TCP/IP transport.
The Free Software movement is the radical fringe of this movement, the destination we wish to head toward. The Open Source movement is its mainstream distillation. Minimal regulation, freedom for all business models. But at its heart both movements have the same root -- the Internet.
As a regular user of the resource, you have internalized these values yourself. You assume that you can reach any Web site, Google anyone, send e-mail to anyone, make friends and business associates and gain knowledge freely, subject only to the delays in your pipe.
Network neutrality is the first "wedge issue" of this new political era. Bell and cable companies are suddenly fighting a mass movement, not just lawyers for other businesses but a mass political movement which demands control of its bits at the edge.
But it's just the first such issue.
- Freedom of online travel.
- Freedom of online content.
- An economy defined at the edge, not the center.
There are elements here of both the traditional left and right.
There is a libertarianism here Goldwater would approve of. There is
also an opposition to gatekeepers that Hubert Humphrey would have
The fact that the Open Source Myth now resonates is proven by the details of the network neutrality debate. Each time those in the Bell camp throw up a new argument, it gets knocked down immediately.
The Bells in this case occupy the political center, the corporatist agreement of establishment Washington. But in a time of excess, such a center never holds. It is no more stable today than it was in 1858, or 1894, or 1930, or 1966. It appears powerful, but businesses must adapt or die in the face of the new open source myth. Those businesses which fight the myth will die, and they deserve to die.
Those who believe in the values of the Internet have internalized its values to a greater degree than they ever realized. And these values are at the heart of the Open Source Myth.
My point is that this myth, and these values, are important not just for issues involving the Internet, but for all the issues facing the U.S. today:
- The best way to grow the economy is through working together, as shown in open source.
- The only way to solve the energy and environmental problems is by pooling our knowledge.
- The best way to end wars is through active discussion in a free market of ideas.
- The best way to limit Mexican immigration is to bring that economy the benefits of a free, competitive Internet.
It will be easy to expand the Open Source myth, and the values it inhabits, into a political platform covering all the issues facing us. And the myth and its values can not only win power today, but for a generation to come, because they're accepted by the vast majority of Americans, by just about everyone who uses the Internet.
That's what this blog is tracking.