As we enter the twenty-first century, every opinion, interest, and lifestyle known to man seems to have found a home somewhere on the Internet. The new technology and the new form of commerce it has generated have opened up much debate about how to deal with traditional business issues: in particular, privacy, taxation, and contracts.
In October 1999 a group of prominent executives, Hoover fellows, and academics met to discuss Internet public policy, focusing initially on privacy and taxation but then expanding the debate to include issues of contract and jurisdiction as well. Public Policy and the Internet presents the initial findings that framed those discussions and outlines proposals that should guide policymaking in the future.
In "Privacy and Electronic Commerce," Mary J. Cronin surveys opinion and position papers on how to deal with online privacy, the meaning of privacy in electronic commerce, and the arguments between advocates of self-regulation and legislation. Charles E. McLure Jr. looks at fundamental questions of tax policy and the Internet in his contribution, "The Taxation of Electronic Commerce: Background and Proposal," and outlines his proposal for a single, uniform nationwide base for sales and use taxes. Margaret Jane Radin's "Retooling Contract for the Digital Era" evaluates the crisis for contract brought on by the advent of electronic commerce. Taken together, the viewpoints presented in Public Policy and the Internet reinforce the judgment that the future of e-commerce will have as much to do with how policy issues are resolved as with how any technological challenge is overcome.