The Enemy of the Good

Kerry Howley at Reason has a nice piece up about the recent controversy about Microsoft’s MSN Spaces blog software enforcing Chinese censorship against certain words used in blog entry titles.

I agree that the criticisms of Microsoft are silly, and that those bloggers who want to circumvent restrictions will easily be able to do it.

My main complaint, though, is that it seems to be very common for people to criticize some person or company (particularly Microsoft) by comparing the actions to an imagined ideal, rather than currently realistic alternatives. They are letting the unrealizable perfect become the enemy of the good.

The question is NOT: “Should Microsoft refuse to comply with these restrictive Chinese laws and bring down Chinese repression by the sheer force of its moral rightiousness?” This is just not a realistic possiblity.

The question is: “Would things be better if Microsoft supplied Chinese bloggers with a, somewhat restricted, forum for sharing information and ideas; or none at all?”

These are the realistic alternatives, and the answer seems obvious to me.

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