The Government Is Not An ISP

from the taking-america-on-line-too-literally dept

An interesting Doc Searls column on net neutraliy argues rightly that the internet shouldn't just be measured in terms of real costs and profits, but also on the opportunity costs of not developing the web to its full potential. Instead of seeing the internet as a business does, in terms of profit-blocking regulations, it should be seen more like the interstate highway system or the national parks, as a public good of incalculable benefit. But public goods have problems too, like misuse, abuse, and the poor upkeep. The tragedy of the commons is a real phenomenon. Searls is making the assumption that just because there's a flaw in the system, the system is irreparably broken and needs to be made public. When businesses regularly discriminated against minorities and women, the government didn't try to nationalize them, instead, powerful laws were put in place to ensure fairness. It took several tries before the laws were made strong enough to work, but it was worth the effort. Heretofore, the law has subsidized corporate abuse of the net, but some of these problems might not exist if there were truly an even playing field. Searls should consider the opportunity costs in his own argument -- what will it do to future investment spending if the government can take away the assets, when it deems them poorly used?
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  1. identicon
    wuufles, 17 Mar 2006 @ 7:01pm

    re: no discrimination

    "Or at least the ones with the above view do. Oh well, more money for me."

    Totally! If you work hard, you'll get ahead (
    between 1979 and 2000 the real income of households in the lowest fifth (the bottom 20% of earners) grew by 6.4%, while that of households in the top fifth grew by 70%. The family income of the top 1% grew by 184%—and that of the top 0.1% or 0.01% grew even faster. Back in 1979 the average income of the top 1% was 133 times that of the bottom 20%; by 2000 the income of the top 1% had risen to 189 times that of the bottom fifth.

    Thirty years ago the average real annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives was $1.3m: 39 times the pay of the average worker. Today it is $37.5m: over 1,000 times the pay of the average worker. In 2001 the top 1% of households earned 20% of all income and held 33.4% of all net worth.

    Of course, this brings up the problem of the selfishness that is required to be successful in an advanced capitalist meritocracy and the urge toward egaltarianism shared deep down in most people. All things considered, we ALL should be rich, as historically cheap (cost vs extraction vs energy return) petroleum basically allows we as humans to pull money right out of the ground, but this is obviously not the case. Perhaps you will get rich, perhaps you will not, but the odds are bad and getting worse.

    ...Back to the article.

    "Searls should consider the opportunity costs in his own argument -- what will it do to future investment spending if the government can take away the assets, when it deems them poorly used? "

    Do you mean to tell me that the government might have the power to expropriate private property without the owner's consent and not be required to compensate for the confiscated(stolen) property??? The government has always had the power of eminent domain -- so either future investment sending is already broken, or is unaffected by it.

    Property rights mean NOTHING when a government exists, if you do not do what they tell you, whatever that law is - you can either dig deep and lobby them with sacks of cash, go to jail or have the honour of being legally put to death by the state.

    Of course, people could always vote for someone competent, but there's no telling what kind of effect that would have on future investment spending.

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