There is the one, single constant we can most assuredly count on – everything changes.
There was a time when we, as a nation, felt protected from most of the rest of the world by two oceans. This illusion was shattered sometime around World War II or shortly thereafter. History has shown that this change in the way we viewed ourselves took quite some time for us to adjust to – not that we would expect much more based on what we know about people in general.
Now, a very different dynamic is taking place, one that is outside the “real world” for all intensive purposes. The “virtual world” is now crossing into our reality with blinding ferocity and once again we seem ill-prepared to accept this. Accept? Heck, we don’t seem capable of adjusting the way we view everything to take this into account.
As an example, I would like to cite this story courtesy of the BBC. On-line gambling is illegal in this country. Incredibly, according to the article I linked to (above) this law is being ignored by a significant number of people and it appears the US government is powerless to do anything about it or has chosen not to.
Online gambling is banned in America, so Partygaming which was set up by an American is based in Gibraltar with no assets in the US.
Its prospectus concedes: “In many countries, including the United States, the group’s activities are considered to be illegal by the relevant authorities.”
But, it adds the crucial clause: “Partygaming and its directors rely on the apparent unwillingness or inability of regulators generally to bring actions against businesses with no physical presence in the country concerned”.
In other words, even if Partygaming were illegal, what could the authorities do?
Not that Americans are exactly shunning the website.
It’s estimated that nine out of every 10 of its dollars last year came from the US.
At $600m those revenues are hefty and generated a profit of $350m in 2004.
Talk about thumbing your nose at authority!
Next up, we have the recently “postponed” act titled 2257. While the law was passed to reduce the number if underaged models being recruited by the Adult Entertainment Industry the reality is that there was no practical way to enforce this legislation – especially as the reality is that many of these sites were simply planning to move their hosting facilities off-shore so as to skirt the law.
The third point I would like to bring up is the recent ruling by the Supreme Court regarding the Grokster case. I don’t want to enter into the debate on whether file sharing is right or wrong but instead focus on whether or not this ruling really has any effect in the greater scheme of things. Even if the entire Western World made this technology illegal with many of the servers located in countries we have little or no control over the net effect (pun intended) is we really can’t do anything meaningful to change this situation.
At this point I think it is safe to say that we will need to rethink what we can and cannot legislate. If we are to assume that we have some form of control over the Internet that doesn’t exist what does this get us? Do we not look like jackasses when we pass laws we cannot enforce? At what point does our inability to understand what we have control over and what we don’t dilute our authority over everything else?
Here’s the thing, if you try to put the fear of the law into people when you can’t enforce it, eventually there is no fear of the law. Whether or not you believe in legislating morality has no bearing on this discussion. The question is what we can exercise control over and what we cannot. The problem in that the line is now a changing boundary as opposed to the one that used to seem as though it was carved in stone.
We will learn and adapt to this new dynamic or lose control over our own destiny.