Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.



April 2014

Statists Getting Heartburn Over Free Internet?

Written by , Posted in Big Government, Free Markets

The latest digital scare to captivate the media is the so-called Heartbleed bug, which constitutes a major vulnerability in OpenSSL, a common encryption program. In light of the find, the Washington Post’s Craig Timberg penned an article less about the bug itself and more about his discomfort at the idea that there are systems which operate outside the heavy hand of government or other centralized control. Wringing his hands over the “chaotic nature of the Internet,” Timberg finds it “terrifying” that the internet is “inherently chaotic,” and that there’s “nobody in charge of it all.” Give me a break.

Keep in mind that the Heartbleed bug was discovered by security experts and the news at this stage is just a proof of concept. No major infiltration has yet been attributed to the vulnerability, though it’s apparent lack of a footprint means they may still have occurred. But even if there were, it would hardly justify concern over the internet’s free nature, nor the prevalence of open source programs, which Timberg spends an inordinate amount of time dissecting. Despite his fretting that “volunteers and nonprofit groups that often create [open source software] lack the time and expertise to continually update their work,” such programs nevertheless are found in many ways to outperform enterprise or closed-source developments, or do just as well across a range of metrics. It’s the power of emergent order on display.

Likewise, there is little reason to be great central control would make vulnerability like Heartbleed less likely to occur. If you want an idea of what the internet would be like with “someone in charge of it all,” just look to any of the number of failed Obamacare exchange launches for guidance.

Bugs and vulnerabilities in code are a fact of life. There is nothing that will ever prevent them entirely. But a robust, innovative system unencumbered by centralized, bureaucratic control is far more likely to possess the nimble responsiveness necessary to react quickly and minimize the damage.