Lessig: Ditch The FCC, Replace It With Innovation Agency

from the stuff-to-think-about... dept

Larry Lessig has a piece in Newsweek suggesting that the new administration abolish the FCC and replace it with something he calls the Innovation Environment Protection Agency (iEPA) -- whose purpose is less about control, and more about getting government out of the way when not necessary. The purpose of such an agency would be: "minimal intervention to maximize innovation," with a core focus on keeping the government away from handing out favors and, more importantly, carefully reviewing any government monopolies to see if they cause net benefit or net harm. He starts off by talking about monopolies on things like spectrum, but says the agency can and should expand to cover monopolies such as copyright and patents.

There's a lot to like in the proposal, in theory. One of my big problems with pretty much any government program is how little effort there is to actually look at the basic question of: is this doing what it's supposed to do? And, if not, how do we change that? The GAO does a little bit in this area, but seems mostly powerless to actually effect change. Can you imagine if there were anyone in the government who was actually looking at some of the studies showing how much harm certain government-backed monopolies do to the economy -- and had the power to do something about it? However, it seems quite likely that, in practice, the iEPA would simply get co-opted by industry types, just as the FCC has, and the end result would be pretty ineffectual, if not downright backwards looking. A government agency designed to get the government out of the way? Not sure it's really possible...
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Filed Under: fcc, innovation, larry lessig, monopolies


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  1. identicon
    Jonathan Lang, 25 Dec 2008 @ 11:34am

    Sounds very nice......

    I think I agree with Mike's point made in the second paragraph of his post here, in that I see no reason why this iEPA would not become a tool of whichever corporation or industry group happens to lobby its members best, just like the FCC is. Mr. Lessig describes his iEPA as consisting of “a staff absolutely barred from industry ties.” Well how exactly would that be accomplished? I mean, we could try to make sure its members aren’t getting any incentives while they are a part of the iEPA, and pay more attention to where they worked before they join the iEPA, but the main lobbying tool used with the FCC seems to be providing its members lucrative jobs or incentives AFTER they leave the FCC. How exactly could something like that be prevented?

    I think what Mr. Lessig is suggesting sounds like a great idea, be it through changes in the FCC or adoption of a new organization entirely, but rather than just saying “the old system doesn’t work, let’s make a new system that works,” we need to be looking more at how the old system went wrong in the first place and how that can be addressed, otherwise we’ll eventually be right back where we are today.

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