i wasn't going to bring it up again, but tom did. i still think manufacturing scarcity - for the public, at least - is bad. i'd rather put up with spam than pay to send email, and i think the introduction of a "trusted email network" would practically force all email networks to be "trusted". to the extent that "trusted" means "paid", this is bad. free is not the problem. your neighbor buying herbal viagra is the problem. to the extent that "trusted" doesn't mean "paid", i don't see any difference between the trust we currently give an SMTP server and the trust we'd be giving the new trusted relays. both are just passing the message along, with no understanding of what it contains.
this all reminds me of what jessica was telling me about the high school she's been working at for the past few weeks. every student at the school has to wear an ID badge at all times. it's for security, and while it may seem like overkill, it didn't immediately strike me as being utterly ridiculous until jessica told me what one of her students said, which went something like this:
the kids at columbine who shot everyone were students there, so they would have had ID badges. and anyone who has a gun can just hold someone up and take their ID badge, and then they have an ID badge and a gun.
the point being that manufacturity scarcity creates the illusion of security under the assumption that troublemakers can't afford the cost of making trouble (in this case, getting a badge - in the case of email, getting a signature from a "trusted" server). but this assumption is false. spammers don't care about our rules, and they can afford to find and exploit every loophole in the system to work around the system.
they'll do the equivalent of holding up a student to get an ID badge, if that's what it takes to get into the system. they'll pay someone who's already in the system to join their ranks. they'll find a way. meanwhile, the rest of us will be paying the cost of fooling ourselves.
what doesn't get pointed out often enough in these discussions of what to do about spam is that too many people respond positively to spam. these people not only don't want to get rid of spam - they're willing to pay for it. these same people will be using the new "trusted" email networks, and the spam will follow them in, only it will now be "trusted" spam.