Individual Rights and Freedoms


The Fight for the “Right to Repair”
Smithsonian Magazine | July 13, 2016
“The idea of planned obsolescence is nothing new. But the use of ‘repair prevention’ as a method of making products obsolete is growing, say right to repair proponents. Many companies that manufacture electronics—anything from laptops to refrigerators to your car’s onboard computer—now have restrictions that prevent consumers from having them fixed anywhere besides a licensed repair shop. Some companies use digital locks or copyrighted software to prevent consumers or independent repair people from making changes. Others simply refuse to share their repair manuals. Some add fine print clauses to their user agreements so customers (often unwittingly) promise not to fix their own products.”

Big Tech Squashes New York’s ‘Right To Repair’ Bill
The Huffington Post | June 17, 2016
“New York state legislation that would have required manufacturers to provide information about how to repair devices like the iPhone failed to get a vote, ending any chance of passage this legislative session. Similar measures have met the same fate in Minnesota, Nebraska, Massachusetts and, yes, even previously in New York.

Essentially, politicians never get to vote on so-called right to repair legislation because groups petitioning on behalf of the electronics industry gum up the proceedings.

… Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of The Repair Association, a group of nonprofits and businesses that backed New York’s right to repair legislation, blamed the lack of a vote on lobbyists for major tech companies … Gordon-Byrne said lobbyists from IBM, Apple, Xerox and Cisco were particularly active in working against the legislation. A variety of interests have opposed right to repair measures in the past, including the Consumer Technology Association, to which IBM, Apple and Cisco belong.

Advocates say right to repair laws would protect consumers and help the environment by insuring that devices last longer, thus reducing electronics waste. If you or a business can affordably repair a broken device, you may have less incentive to buy a new one, the logic goes.”

Freedom to Harm
Public Goods Post 
This Post is about the erasure of regulations that is taking place outside of the media spotlight. It takes its title from a 2013 book by Thomas McGarity, who wrote about the consequences of eliminating regulations that protect people and the planet, thereby giving corporations the “freedom to harm.”

Underway today, if out of sight, is the “deconstruction of the administrative state” promised by the Trump White House. This deconstruction is aggressive and violent: it means the demolition of the capacity of our government to protect the safety and health of Americans, to repair and maintain our basic physical infrastructure, to protect the environment and to provide myriad essential public goods and services. Read more…

Letting Robocallers Spam Your Voicemail
Public Goods Post 
The Republican National Committee is backing a move to allow commercial and political robocallers to send spam messages directly into your voicemail. You won’t hear your phone ring, but you will get the message. The petition is under serious consideration by the Federal Communications Commission, now headed by a Trump appointee.

If the petition goes through, robocall access to your voicemail would represent another loss of public goods – those regulations designed to protect us from intrusions upon our privacy, whether enabled by communications conglomerates or new technologies. Read  more …

What Happens When Government is Too Successful?
Public Goods Post | October 2017

Despite decades of efforts by anti-public forces to defund, outsource or dismantle government agencies and programs, most continue to churn out essential services, products and protections every day. They do this quietly and successfully, with little recognition.

Increasingly often, now, the result of such efficiency and effectiveness is an attempt to kill or gut the successful program or bureau.

One such agency is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau whose mission is to protect American consumers from financial abuses and predatory practices. Its two call centers (one in Iowa and one in New Mexico) handle 25,000 calls monthly and 22,000 complaints each month. On behalf of 29,000,000 consumers it has extracted nearly $12 billion in refunds and canceled debts. Further, the CFPB has “curtailed abusive debt collection practices, reformed mortgage lending, publicized and investigated hundreds of thousands of complaints from aggrieved customers of financial institutions…”

The result is an all-out effort to eliminate the agency, or disable it if elimination fails.  Read More …

The Quiet Revolution and a Submerged Para-state
Public Goods Post 
Under normal circumstance, it would be safe to assume that “public goods” are delivered by public agencies.  But current circumstances are far from normal.  Over the last several decades, more and more public goods have been delivered by a para-state, a privatized government virtually hidden from view. We taxpayers still pay, but our money goes to a growing army of corporations on the public payroll.

Private corporations operate programs, deliver services and even manage other contractors. Some citizens receiving public services encounter only private contract workers, so are unaware that they are receiving a government service. While some forms of contract procurement have been in place since the nation’s birth, the very nature of contracting has changed as it has grown in scope. Basic governmental functions are now outsourced to for-profit corporations. Read more…