I very much enjoyed Anupam Chander’s excellent new book, The Electronic Silk Road: How the Web Binds the World Together in Commerce, and can highly recommend it, especially to anyone who is interested in the intersection of cyberlaw and global free trade issues. What follows are some thoughts on the book that I have condensed from a slightly longer review of the book that originally appeared on The Technology Liberation Front blog in late August.
At the heart of Chander’s book lies an old tension that has long haunted trade policy: How do you achieve the benefits of free trade through greater liberalization without completely undermining the sovereign authority of nation-states to continue enforcing their preferred socio-political legal and cultural norms? Chander correctly notes, “States will be loathe to abandon their law in the face of the offerings mediated by the Internet.” “If crossborder flows of information grossly undermine our privacy, security, or the standards of locally delivered services, they will not long be tolerated,” he notes. These are just a few of the reasons that barriers to trade remain and why, as Chander explains, “the flat world of global business and the self-regulating world of cyberspace remain distant ideals.”
Nonetheless, he hopes that we can find a way to achieve a sensible balance between the greater liberalization of markets as well as the preservation of a residual role for states in shaping online commerce and activities. And he hopes to do so through the application of three key principles. Read More