“Why buy Net Nanny software for $40 when you can get the same protection through regulation for free?”
The article is, overall, about COPA, filters, and “his” idea for porn metatags. Leaving aside the glossed-over First Amendment problems with actually policing the content provider’s use of such metatags for a moment, I’d like to explain why the above-quoted sentence is at least prima facie evidence of Mr. Lessig’s idiocy. Simply put, he used the term “free” in a financial context.
I’ll let an advertiser get away with using “free” from time to time, because puffing and duping are all part of the game. But when it comes to “academic” essays of this nature, I refuse to let it slide. Robert Heinlein said it best: there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.
The choice is not $40 for Net Nanny vs. $0 for regulation. It is $40 for Net Nanny vs. $10 through taxes for you plus $100 taxes for your neighbor plus $30 additional costs for content providers plus $5 additional costs for browser developers, where the taxes are needed to pay for the Congressional aides’ time in drafting the legislation and the hiring of the additional FCC (or whomever is tapped to police) agents and whatever else might stem from this enterprise.
Or maybe it is $40 for Net Nanny vs. $1 through taxes for you plus $.01 through taxes for your neighbor plus less than a penny for everything else. I don’t know. But don’t say “free.” It lets everyone know that you are an idiot.