Time to cash in some civil rights

October 3, 2010

100 billion dollars per year

100 billion dollars per year

100 billion dollars per year

I’m going to keep repeating this statistic until you lose any inclination to question whether I pulled it out of thin air. Because this is the amount of money lost from the US GDP due to piracy

100 billion dollars per year

That staggering statistic is why there’s now a bill in the Senate called the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act.It’s fairly simple:the bill would give the the Department of Justice the ability to effectively block any website that was involved in piracy. Piracy websites go down, industry revenue goes up. Simple.

But when I told someone about this, she immediately responded “But what about freedom of the press?” and that is exactly the point I would like to make.

You see, civil liberties have value. But they’re kind of like home equity—it’s a mysterious kind of value that you can’t really use. You can’t use your home equity to go buy a pizza, and your well-regulated militia doesn’t actually confer any economic benefits to anyone except the guy who writes “You might be a redneck if…”

That’s why the COICA is a great model—it trades in the nebulous, almost-useless value of “freedom of the press” into actual benefit to the American economy., It’s a great model, and I think we need to “cash in” a few of our other civil liberties.

Take freedom of religion, for example. You know what you’re not doing when you’re “praying” and “worshiping”? Buying things. Think about how much better off we’d be, if the only religion allowed based your chances of getting into heaven on how many made-in-the USA automated tomato slicers you possessed?

And while piracy is a big threat to the entertainment industry, you know what’s a bigger threat? Freedom of speech. Think of all the money that could be gained, if only you weren’t allowed to tell anyone that the new Transformers movie is going to suck because it doesn’t have Megan Fox, or complain that all Nickelback songs sound the same. What if it was illegal to tell anyone that Ke$ha has no actual skin, merely a layer of sparkles covering her internal organs, or that Snape kills Dumbledore? Profits. That’s what would happen.

As for the legal system, how about getting rid of the prohibition on excessive bail? Bail is money. We need more money. Who better to take it from than those who have comitted crimes? If you cost the country 100 billion dollars, you should have to pay them back 100 billion dollars. Period.

Obviously, some of these are going to require changes in our daily lives. But in 5 years, when all the movie reviewers are in jail awaiting payment of $500,000 of bail, we’ll all be enjoying a better life in the land of the free.

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