The bipartisan RESTRICT Act is properly named because it will restrict freedom and empower the state.
Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) presented the RESTRICT Act, which stands for Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology, earlier this month. People are talking about the measure as a way for the federal government to prohibit TikTok because of its ties to the Chinese government. But because the RESTRICT Act is written in unclear language and has a wide range of effects, many people are worried that it would hurt free speech and freedom of expression.
But, as Murray Rothbard has said, "human rights don't make sense if you don't talk about them in terms of property rights." You can have an opinion, but that doesn't give you the right to say it in places or on media that you don't own. But if you pay to give a speech at a lecture hall and the government stops you, this might be a violation of your property rights rather than your right to free speech. So, how will the RESTRICT Act affect property rights? Not well. The plan would not only stop private enterprises from doing legal business, but it would also violate the property rights of American residents and companies by setting up a system of digital surveillance that may go on forever.
The RESTRICT Act wants to give the Commerce Department broad new powers to "identify, deter, disrupt, prevent, prohibit, investigate, and mitigate" information and communications technology products "in which any foreign adversary has an interest and that pose an undue or unacceptable risk to U.S. national security or the safety of U.S. persons." China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea are named as foreign foes in the bill. However, the Executive can add or remove foreign governments from the list without Congress keeping an eye on it.
The act doesn't say much about the information and communications technology items it mentions. They include desktop apps, mobile apps, web-based apps, payment platforms, gaming systems, webcams, Wi-Fi networks, drone cameras, home surveillance systems, and even biotechnology.
It's important to point out that the only genuine threat that supposedly hostile governments offer is to Washington's ability to use its military to control the whole world. The problem is caused by America's excessive foreign policy goals, not by these regimes' irrational desire to hurt the American people. As Washington's unipolar moment ends, the best approach to deal with these dangers is to put American foreign policy back in line with reality. The RESTRICT Act doesn't deal with the problem's core cause. Instead, it hurts the rights of the American people.
Our right to property comes from our right to own ourselves in the first place. Our bodies belong only to ourselves. It is wrong and impossible to say that our bodies belong to someone else. Homesteading is a fair way to get property by combining one's work with resources on land that is not held by that person. After a person has homesteaded a piece of land, it can be given as a gift or traded voluntarily. In modern civilizations, this is how most property is acquired in a fair way.
We don't live in a completely libertarian world, which is a shame. But property rights are still crucial, and they ought to be defended as much as possible. So, if someone wants to read, watch, or listen to a foreign government—maybe they want to hear both sides of a geopolitical dispute to learn more—and a website owner is willing to give them that piece of media, both the consumer and the website owner have every right to do so.
Also, the people who own the Internet service provider, the data center, and the optical fiber cables have the right to make part of their infrastructure available for the transfer of information if they think the price is fair. Even if the information came from or was shared with a foreign state, a third party who tried to halt this transaction would be going against the right of the people concerned to own their own property.
The things that the RESTRICT Act wants to stop people from doing are not real crimes. Over and above that, the majority of property rights violations will happen when the government watches private activity to find the appropriate transactions. The bill talks a lot about how the information collected by the director of national intelligence can be used. US intelligence organizations are supposed to focus on acquiring information and running activities outside of the US, but whistleblower Edward Snowden showed that agencies like the National Security Agency spy on all Americans' conversations. The RESTRICT Act might make things worse by making it possible to spy on all digital information, not just communications. The federal government would be breaking our property rights even more if it hacked into devices without our permission.
There's even more to worry about. With its ambiguous phrasing, the measure provides the government a lot of room to decide what kind of information is criminal. We've already seen government officials and their media allies mix together arguments against the establishment with fake news from other countries. Even true news reports have been wrongly called "foreign disinformation" by these people. It's not hard to imagine that these same folks would use the power given to them by the RESTRICT Act to make some different ideas illegal in the name of counterintelligence.
This terrible measure tries to keep the United States from losing its military superiority around the world by making some digital information illegal. In order to stop a phony crime, putting the RESTRICT Act into effect would go against the basic freedom of the American people to own their own property. The bill won't keep you safe from any danger. It's the danger. Don't let it fool you.