Friday, June 30, 2006

Who Is To Decide What You Are Allowed To Buy (online) ?

There is a pretty interesting discussion over at boing boing related to the condition Google imposes on sellers using their new Google Checkout.
The shocker is not really Google Checkout predatory pricing, but the "content policy," or what you can't buy (or more specifically sell). There is the standard exclusion of nasty stuff that you will see anywhere, but in numerous places it is deliberately ambiguous and broad, and would seem to promote an agenda.
Examples are "tobacco and cigarrettes" and *related products*. So does that mean all those zippo lighter collectors are left out in the cold? Under "weapons" knives are not allowed. So does that include pocket knives, leathermans, and cutlery? Maybe they should have thrown in nail clippers for good measure. Under the "Hacking and cracking materials" would the "how-to guides" and "information" provisions prevent me from selling a guide to defeat censorware like which prevents access to Boing Boing? What about books on security?
Traditionally it has been the job of the state to create and maintain a suitable means of payment. States are still doing this in a very abstract way - but the physical form of payment seems more and more out of date. In earlier days you could do all your business using just the government issued money - not anymore. For example you could not buy a ticket to the world cup in germany without a credit card - literally: it was not just inconvenient without a credit card but impossible. For me these are signs that the kind of money we get from out government starts to loose is function as means of payment. Even for our day to day need we will soon be dependent on professional intermediaries that in fact claim a tax of around 2%. I know that the official currency still underpins these transactions, but you have to agree that money from the state continues to loose a part of its function. Maybe its time that governments "update" their currencies for the digital age. Create an online payment system run by the state.