The other day I truly felt old for maybe the first time in my life. I was trying to explain to our twenty-two-year-old office assistant what dialup internet was. She had no clue what I was talking about.
“You know,” I said, “that thing with the static noise and the ba dum, ba dum, ba dum …. chhhhhhhhhhh.” I even pulled my phone out and played the sound clip. She still had no idea what I was talking about.
When I explained how you couldn't use the landline when you were using dialup, I felt like my dad explaining what a party telephone line was.
Dialup is a good example of how in some ways, it was actually a little inconvenient to use new technology. I'm sure when the first cars were manufactured, it was more reliable and practical to continue riding horses.
With dialup, you'd sit there for a minute or so while a web page loaded. If that happened to me right now, I'd probably throw my desktop across the room.
Of course there was a pay-off. Back in the 80s and 90s the internet was a “wild west.” Folks across the world were suddenly able to connect and share information. Ideas were disseminated at a breakneck pace.
And of course, unshackled from the dungeon of their own eccentrisms, our libertarian autist forefathers could finally stop feverishly penning op eds in the local newspapers and start their own blogs and email lists.
For instance, my grandpa was a John Bircher. Pressed into my copy of Fool's Errand is a clipping of the op ed he wrote in opposition to the Gulf War:
My grandfather died in 1994 when I was one year old. My parents tell me he was just starting to dip his toes in the internet.
It is easy to get swept up in the interia of doomerism, especially with all that has been taken from us over the last year. Sometimes a little perspective is in order.
I posit we are currently living through a libertarian golden age.
Hear me out.
When my grandfather passed, the internet was still a lurching dial-up monstrosity. But the foundation was laid for something truly miraculous to take place.
Fast forward to the early to mid 2000s. At that point, the internet went mainstream. It was no longer primarily for hobbyists and gamers. It became much more user friendly. All of a sudden visual and audio media became easier to stream. Social media entered the picture. The internet became even more wild.
As we all know too well, in the 2010s, the grip tightened on the world wide web. It became more regulated, more commercialized. This culminated with big tech’s coordinated censorship campaign during the COVID19 crisis and the 2020 election cycle.
This censorship is a blessing in disguise. Why? Because now the threat of deplatforming has finally made using big tech less tenable than creating / homesteading alternatives. In some ways it's forced us to do so, even though some alternatives have much higher barriers to entry.
Most of these alternatives are decentralized and employ blockchain technology. Some run on or encorporate cryptocurrency. Some, like IPFS, have created an entirely decentralized internet. These alternatives, by their very nature, create and spread the cultural values that we espouse. They will take off. Some already are. When they do, these will be libertarian spaces. Spaces we created.
Remember when YouTube was mostly cat videos, Numa Numa, and 911 conspiracy stuff? These alternatives feel wild like that again. That is a good thing for liberty. This is an opportunity not only to create something new and incredible, but to enjoy the hell out of being part of it all.
Just think about living in a time where the real amount of libertarians could fit in The Green Anchor. Liberty books had to be ordered from a cataloge and the only way to reach people was by penning articles in the local op ed column or by sending letters.
Now there are millions of libertarians in the world. Most of them are just a “Send" button away. That's a reason to be optimistic.
So go forth and homestead these platforms. It's an exciting time! Live it.