Libertarians are fond of denouncing the power of the mob, but it is easy to
lose sight of the fact that they are actually denouncing coercion by the
mob. Voluntary actions of the mob (in the form of consumers of a product for
example) are a core part of the power of the free market. Sometimes,
however, actions of the mob are downright controversial.
Intellectual elites (ie those of us with televisions) might be aware of recent
on London's train system, but may have missed the South Korean transitory
of the Dog Poop Girl.
For The Great Unwashed, here is a summary:
- Girl's dog does its business on a train.
- Fellow travelers suggest to the girl that it might be appropriate
for her to clean it up.
- Girl gets belligerent, and tells them to f- off (as you do when you are obviously
and inarguably in the wrong).
- Techno-junkie fellow traveler takes pictures of the incident with a mobile phone camera
and posts them on a popular web-site.
- There are calls for the people to try to identify the 'Dog Poop Girl'.
- People not only identify her but (in the resultant web-media feeding frenzy) try to dig
up other dirt on her. Old enemies start posting every sordid detail of her
present, her past, that of her parents and her extended family.
- Publicly humiliated and indelibly stained with the publicity stench, 'Dog Poop Girl' quits her university.
- Bleeding heart bloggers explore whether the behavior of the mob was
George Washington University law professor and privacy specialist, Daniel
J. Solove writes:
Most people would seemingly agree to clean[ing] up after your dog, but having a
permanent record of one's norm violations is upping the sanction to a whole new
level . . . allowing bloggers to act as a cyber-posse, tracking down norm
violators and branding them with digital scarlet letters.
Ah, so the intellectual elite are concerned about the masses having a
permanent record of one's violations. Where does this stop?
Here is a little character test for the reader.
Your score is the highest number you answer 'yes' to.
- Do you have the right to have an opinion about someone?
- Do you have the right to record that opinion in a diary?
- Do you have the right to let someone else read your diary?
- Do you have the right to make a photocopy of that diary, and give the copy to someone else to read?
- Do you have the right to make many photocopies, and give those copies to others to read?
- Do you have the right to use a printing press instead of a photocopy machine?
- Do you have the right to use the internet instead of a photocopy machine?
- Do other people apart from you also have that right?
- Do voluntary groups of people also have that right?
- Do those voluntary groups include those who call themselves 'firms'?
On what moral basis do you prevent someone from letting others know about
someone's past actions? [we are of course talking about opinions or matters of
fact - defamatory lies are a topic for another time]
It is not surprising that society's intellectual elites feel uncomfortable
about commoners having the power to record the past. Like common criminals,
power blocs always like the ability to 'reshape' history to suit their own
purposes - it reduces accountability. But surely if a ten year-old misdemeanor is truly of
no consequence after someone has 'paid their debt to society', then no-one
should care if it is recorded.
Apparently power for the mob is good when used in a coercive way, but very
dangerous when everyone's actions are purely voluntarily.
As for Dog Poop Girl, she probably wishes that someone had just rubbed her
nose in it and moved on.