Even if you think artificial economic stimulation makes sense, observers right and left now see that the "Recovery Act" is a cornucopia of over-ripe lemons. Question: Can we find one healthy one and make lemonade?
Enter a proposal that Mark Palmer, former ambassador to Hungary and co-founder of the National Endowment for Democracy, sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Feb. 10. He wants $65 million of the nearly $800 billion to be used to create American jobs and purchase American technology to provide high-tech anti-censorship tools that would advance freedom of information in closed societies.
Background: Chinese, Iranian, and other regimes are maintaining and expanding internet firewalls to isolate and control their people. China's Golden Shield bureaucracy has perhaps 50,000 staffers and ample technology involved in monitoring and censoring internet use, prosecuting unauthorized internet users, and pressuring Google, Yahoo, and Wikipedia and other countries to conform their sites to Leninist lies.
But, to play off John Lennon, imagine . . . that Chinese, Iranians, and others could safely access any American website and any interactive religious discussion, could securely report on political crackdowns and scandals, could read books and magazines previous declared verboten, all at less than one ten-thousandth of the cost of the current stimulus bill.
A Global Internet Freedom consortium (GIF) based in the United States is already annoying China's Golden Shield. GIF systems such as DynaWeb and Ultrasurf now receive a cumulative average of more than 200 million hits per day from Chinese users-all of whom are unmonitored and uncensored by the authorities. Internet users not only in China but also in Syria, Myanmar, and Cuba have gained freedom through GIF, but GIF's servers are now overloaded. Purchase of additional servers and infrastructure tools, and the hiring of additional personnel, would allow many millions more to gain internet freedom.
Ronald Reagan memorably set in motion events that freed Eastern Europe and ended the Cold War when he said in Berlin, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." Congress now has the opportunity to tear down the firewalls.